Do Miracles Happen?
Many critics of the bible will point to miracles in the bible as proof that you cannot trust it. Miracles are impossible, they say. Oftentimes, Christians will not know how to answer these criticisms. So, it might be instructive to start answering this subject at the beginning.
Definition of a miracle – a miracle is a divine intervention in the regular course of the world that produces a purposeful and unusual event that would not have occurred otherwise.
In this definition, miracles violate the physical laws of nature. This should come as no surprise because the God who invented the physical laws of nature can momentarily overrule them, if He so desires.
This is different than saying miracles are just science that we haven’t discovered yet, much like Luke Skywalker uses the Force (natural laws) to do his incredible deeds. This is not ‘supernatural’, but what we would call ‘super-normal’. Christians don’t deny that super-normal events can happen. They happen all the time. Aircraft in flight would be super-normal to someone from the 1600’s. It may seem like a miracle to them but it’s only super-normal, not supernatural.
Biblical miracles differ from other religions miracles in 3 ways:
1) power…this comes from the God who created the whole universe and its physical laws.
2) purpose or signs…they confirm God’s message and His messenger. Because the God of the Bible is good, miracles only produce results that are good and beneficial
3) wonder…biblical miracles are meant to produce amazement and wonder of God. They are not for mere entertainment.
Miracles in the Old Testament:
1) power…to create (Jeremiah 10:2)…to defeat enemies (Exodus 15:5,6)
2) purpose or signs…to confirm the authority of Moses (Exodus 3:12 & 4:3-8)…to confirm God’s message (Judges 6:17 & Isaiah 38:7 & Jeremiah 44:29)
3) wonder…used a lot with ‘signs’ (Exodus 7:3 & Deuteronomy 26:8)
All of the miracles were meant to draw attention to what God was saying to Israel.
Miracles in the New Testament:
1) power…of the gospel (Romans 1:16)…of miracles (Matthew 11:20 & 1st Corinthians 12:10)
2) purpose or signs…Jesus’ miracles (John 2:11 & 6:2)…apostles miracles (Acts 2:43 & 4:16)…of the resurrection (Matthew 12:39, 40)
3) wonder… used 16 times, always with the word ‘sign’ (Matthew 24:24 & Acts 6:8)
All of the miracles were meant to draw attention to Jesus and His ministry.
What is the difference between biblical miracles and those of other religion’s miracles or magic?
-biblical miracles are always used in the above 3 ways.
-other religions miracles are rarely, if ever, used in these 3 ways.
-magic is man’s manipulation of the normal or super-normal forces.
-magic & other religions miracles often use occultic means to accomplish them. Miracles that use occultic means to accomplish them are what Christians call ‘demonic’.
Here’s a table delineating the differences:
Biblical miracles; Magic;
under God’s control under man’s control
not available on command available on command
supernatural normal or supernormal
never associated w/occult practices often associated w/occult practices
very specific prophecy very general prophecy
prophecy always comes true prophecy is often false
Here are some very specific bible prophecies:
-God foretold the coming destruction of Jerusalem (Isaiah 22:1-25)
-God foretold the Persian rulers name who would return the Jews to their homeland 150 years before it happened (Isaiah 44:28 & 45:1)
-God foretold of Jesus’ birth 700 years before it happened and the city in which it would happen (Micah 5:2)
-God predicted the Jesus’ triumphal entry in Jerusalem to the exact day, in 538BC (Daniel 9:24-26)
-Jesus predicted His own death (Mark 8:31), how He would die (Matthew 16:24) and His own resurrection on the 3rd day (Matthew 12:39, 40)
These are only a few of the hundreds of bible prophecies that have come true in exact detail. There is nothing in any of the occult or other religions that comes close to these numbers or specificity.
Some examples of biblical miracles:
-creating something out of nothing (Genesis 1:1)
-the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:13-31)
-the feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14:13-21)
-calming the storm (Matthew 8:23-27)
-Jarius’s daughter raised from the dead (Matthew 9:18-26)
-Jesus heals a paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8)
-a shriveled hand is restored (Matthew 12:9-13)
-blind Bartimaeus receives sight (Matthew 20:29-34)
-Jesus restores a man’s ear (Luke 22:49-51)
-Lazarus is raised from the dead after more than 3 days in a tomb (John 11:1-45)
-the resurrection of Jesus Christ
These are only a few of the many miracles that are in the bible.
Are miracles possible?
With the natural laws, they will happen every time except when miracles occur, which would be rarely. Some people define science as just being confined to the natural world. But they make the mistake of assuming these natural laws are absolute, that nothing could ever violate them. In describing reality this way, they automatically reject anything supernatural. They mistakenly make an a priori assumption that these natural laws are inviolable, that these laws are all that there is to our reality. But how do they know that? To say these laws are all there is to our reality, they would have to completely understand all of reality.
While we know that a larger mass will attract a smaller mass (that’s why the Earth attracts your body to its surface), we don’t exactly understand why. As of right now, there are several competing theories of gravity. So, there is a law of gravity but several theories as to why gravity exists and acts the way it does.
It also makes sense that since the God of the Bible made these natural laws, that He can supercede them whenever He desires. The question then becomes how do we know that the God of the Bible exists. That’s a question that we answer elsewhere on this website.
We not only have the biblical examples but we have many miracles going on today. People are being supernaturally healed after someone prays for them. You can only discount these miracles by already making up your mind in advance that miracles don’t exist. How’s that for denying reality? If the God of the Bible exists, miracles are to be expected, though they would be rare.
Are miracles scientific?
Most scientists cannot prove that miracles don’t happen, they just assume it. Some scientists assume that miracles will be proven to be explainable in the future. That would make them supernormal. While this has happened in some cases, it hasn’t happened in many other cases. And how would scientists prove this? Their a priori assumption is that miracles are impossible, so there must be a normal or supernormal explanation for it. But that’s an assumption that they can’t prove.
Scientists also say that explanations must have some predictive value. Prophecies have predictive value. The God of the Bible warned Israel about the 70 year Babylonian captivity and when it would be ending. Something can have a random chance or an intelligent cause. God has a purpose for each miracle and communicates it clearly. With the Babylonian captivity prophecy, science tells us not to look for a natural solution, as there clearly isn’t one. Its clearly an intelligent supernatural cause.
The scientific method requires the following:
1) observation of an event
2) measurement of that event
3) repetition of that event
4) formulation of steps 1-3 into a hypothesis or theory.
There are many things that the scientific method cannot be used on, yet we accept them as factual. Anything in the past, emotions like love, hate, joy, etc. are all examples of things that the scientific method cannot be used on. But when a scientist is presented with an irrefutable event that has been witnessed by many credible people and the time lapse between the event and its earliest record of it is small, he can safely assume that it has happened. That is, unless his a priori assumption is that miracles are impossible. This assumption is really a “faith” belief.
But what about the STEP study (Study of the Therapeutic Effects on Intercessory Prayer, a 10 year study by the Harvard Medical School) that showed no difference between those prayed for and those not. The problem with this study is that most of the people praying were from the Unity School of Christianity, which is a cult. Unity leaders have long denied that prayer works miracles and have even called petitionary prayer useless. They don’t believe in miracles or the personal God of the bible. There have been solid scientific studies done on prayer before and after the STEP study that have reached very different conclusions.
Dr. Randolph Byrd published a prayer study in 1988 in the peer-reviewed Southern Medical Journal that showed that born-again Christians praying for one group of patients, that this group had less congestive heart failure, fewer cardiac arrests and other healthier results. A replicative study done by Dr. William S. Harris a decade later showed the same results. It was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School also had similar results in his studies. Dr. Candy Gunther Brown has done several controlled studies on Christian prayer’s effects on healing. They all show the same thing, especially in Charismatic/Pentecostal prayer circles, and especially in Africa and Brazil. These results have also been published in the peer-reviewed Southern Medical Journal. These results are documented in Lee Strobel’s book, “The Case for Miracles”. Several Christian groups here in America have noticed the same thing. Andrew Womack’s group in Colorado Springs, CO is having quite a bit of success with healings due to prayer. See https://www.awmi.net/
Also read about the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, California at https://bssm.net/school/introduction/.
Mount Hope Church in Lansing, Michigan has Gliead Healing Center at Gliead Healing Center.
Other great sources are…
Dr. Craig Keener
Drs Habermas & Keener
Beeson Divinity School on Miracles
Real science realizes its boundaries and won’t make unverifiable assumptions to fit their observations to their theory. Real science makes room for the supernatural even if it cannot prove it scientifically.
Are miracles historical?
We should report miracles in history if they are open to investigation as any other historical event/document is. We should ask the following questions:
1) did enough reliable witnesses experience the miracle?
2) are the witnesses prejudiced?
3) do eyewitnesses contradict each other?
4) are there enough eyewitnesses?
5) is the miracle in a trusted, well proven piece of literature?
6) does the account of the miracle make sense? Is it just a WOW factor or does it fit into a narrative of a wider story?
7) was there time for these miracles to be falsified?
8) what is the time gap between when the document that the miracle is in and the actual event itself? The smaller the time gap, the more accurate the document is assumed to be.
In all of these cases, the bible stands way above all other religious literature accounts as religious miracles. Take the resurrection of Jesus as an example;
-all 27 books of the New Testament claim the resurrection happened or that it is the basis of their writers ministry.
-these 27 New Testament books were all written within 70 years of the miracles. That’s an incredibly short period of time compared to other religious accounts of miracles, some of which are over a 1,000 year difference.
-there is no hint that any New Testament writers ever falsified their accounts. Their writings would be accepted as valid by any unbiased jury. The great Harvard University legal scholar on historical testimony, Simon Greenleaf, said their writings show no signs of perjury. J. Warner Wallace, the nationally recognized cold case detective, and Lee Strobel, the lawyer-reporter, have verified the New Testament accounts as trustworthy, accurate and true. This can be said of no other ancient religious literature.
-the post-resurrection Jesus appeared to over 500 witnesses, even to some unbelievers (Acts 9) and skeptics (John 7:5 & 1st Corinthians 15:7). When women reported it, His closest disciples didn’t believe them. They had to experience it for themselves (Luke 24:11, 25, 41). Thomas, one of His disciples, refused to believe until he saw Jesus himself (John 20:25).
-witnesses to His resurrection had nothing to gain. They were threatened and persecuted (Acts 4, 5 & 8). All of the apostles, except John, died violent deaths because of their testimony. None of them ever got rich and publicly recognized.
-the New Testament miracles are vastly different than other religious miracles. There’s a big difference between walking on hot coals, a feat that many could be taught to do, and walking on water (John 6). There’s a big difference between healing a person of a migraine headache and healing a person born blind (John 9). A few faith healers raise up a sick person, Jesus raised up a dead person. And He waited until his body started to decompose (after 3 days, John 11).
FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions):
1) There are many types of healing in today’s world. Are they all from the biblical God?
Answer) No! Biblical miracles must meet the 3 tests that we talked about earlier.
If it doesn’t meet these 3 parts, its not from the biblical God. In essence, if it doesn’t bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ, its either supernormal or demonic.
2) Is healing or the working of miracles a spiritual gift?
Answer) Yes, it is. God heals in 3 ways…
A) thru medicine
B) thru the prayers of His people
C) thru certain believers who have the gift of healing/miracles (1st Corinthians 12:9, 10)
3) Do all Christians have the gift of healing/miracles?
Answer) No! All Christians can do A & B above but not all Christians have C, the gift of healing/miracles. There are a few believers that God has given this gift to. For example, all believers need to evangelize but there are some who have the gift of evangelism. The late Billy Graham had this gift. While all believers should be compassionate, Mother Teresa had the gift of compassion. While all believers are called to pray, my wife has the gift of intercessory prayer. She prays a good portion of the day. She can even pray while she grocery shops.
4) Why does God work miracles for some people but not for others?
Answer) We don’t know because we don’t know the mind of God. Romans 8:28 says that all things work together for good but not that all things are good. Even if things don’t work out like we wanted them to, we can still trust God that we will one day know why.
Isaiah 55:8,9 says that His ways are better than ours even if we don’t understand why. He has done enough in my life to earn my trust that when something bad happens, I can still trust Him with my life even though I may not understand everything He does or doesn’t do.
5) Does faith in miracles matter?
Answer) God can work miracles regardless of our faith. But, in some cases, faith does make a big difference in the working of miracles. James 5:16 says that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Mark 6:5, 6 says that Jesus didn’t do many miracles in His hometown because of their lack of faith. In Matthew 9:22, Luke 17:19 & 18:42, Jesus says that the person’s faith has made them well. Healing is sometimes stymied by a lack of faith (Matthew 13:58). In the same way, salvation comes to a sinner thru faith. Everyone who is saved must believe, but it is the power of Christ that saves, not the power of faith. Faith is only the instrument, not the power itself.
But even the most righteous people, like Peter and Paul, suffered greatly. So, you should not suppose that great faith will cure every situation. Its not your faith that does miracles, its God that does miracles.
6) Do miracles come from us or from the God of the Bible?
Answer) God does the miracle. It may be thru us or He may do it directly. God can also work thru medicine. In James 5:15, 16 oil was medicinal in ancient times. So, God could be saying, have the elders pray for you and take your medicine. It’s interesting that James talks about prayer, then medicine, then prayer again.
Years ago, God healed me of throat cancer thru radiation and chemotherapy. This was not a supernatural healing but a normal healing. But God guided researchers over the years to find this cure for cancer. I thank God for those in the medical field who seek to help the sick and suffering. So, God can heal any way He choses to.
Remember, the ultimate healing is for God to take a believer to their heavenly home. We often don’t think of death as healing for a believer, but it is.
I know there is much more that is not covered in this brief article, but I hope it has answered some foundational questions about miracles. Please check out the references below for more detailed information. Let me know if you have any more detailed resources. I would appreciate it greatly.
The Case for Miracles by Lee Strobel…highly recommended
In Defense of Miracles by Habermas & Gerivett
Miracles and the Modern Mind by Norm Geisler
Miracles by C.S. Lewis
When Skeptics Ask by Norm Geisler & Ronald Brooks
Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics by Norm Geisler
https://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/category/miracles/ scroll down to post#7.
For His Kingdom,