I was recently posed a question to which I gave a rather short “off the top of my head” answer, but got me to thinking about and researching more thoroughly.
Then I was asked a similar question again a couple of weeks later, so here is my rather lengthy answer to both which are:
1) “Why should I believe any of the miracles in the Bible actually happened?”
2) “Can miracles happen today?”
I’ll give my response to the first question now, and the second in pt.2.
I usually respond to the question with one of my own, “Why shouldn’t I believe the miracles recorded in the Bible actually happened?”
I do this to get the questioner to clarify why he objects to a belief in miracles. The great majority of people asking why they should believe the Biblical account of miraculous events ask from a perspective that denies the possibility of miracles as ‘anti-scientific’, or impossible violations of the laws of nature, or that the Bible is just a bunch of made-up stories with no historical foundation.
I have found that without exception, once I’ve gotten a skeptic to voice the foundational reason they disbelieve Biblical miracles, it has boiled down to “miracles can’t happen, so miracles didn’t happen”.
it’s very much like the irrational “if science can’t prove it, it can’t be true” argument. If you start from a position of incontrovertible denial, no evidence will be convincing. However, the goal is to present the truth in the best way possible; what people do with it is up to them.
So why do I believe that the miracles recorded in the Bible actually happened? It has to do with the trustworthiness of the the Biblical accounts in other matters, the nature of the miracles themselves, and the fact that there is no law of nature that precludes the possibility of miracles. I’ll explain that last point first.
First, as usual, we need to define just what laws of nature and miracles are. The laws of nature are general descriptions of what we can expect to occur based on data obtained by a large body of empirical observations (these are often also referred to as ‘scientific laws’). They do not dictate what occurs, they describe what will occur unless affected by an outside influence.A miracle is an occurrence that seems to violate a law of nature.
Again, scientific laws (or laws of nature) only describe what can reliably be expected to happen; they do not force what will happen. This is in keeping with a Christian worldview – God has created and maintains order in the physical realm, but reserves the right to disrupt that order as He sees fit.
Unlike the vast majority of ’miracles’ of fairy tales, myths, and fable, the miracles presented in the Bible have much more than entertainment or ‘wow’ value. Each miracle recorded had both a specific and general purpose (or purposes). The specific purpose is the effect on the circumstances involved with the miracle (the healing of a blind man, fire from heaven, a staff transforming to a snake, etc.). The general purposes are threefold:
1) To demonstrate the power of God over His creation and the affairs of man.
2) To confirm the position and authority of God’s human messengers; prophets and apostles. In the case of Jesus, to demonstrate the legitimacy of His claim to be both Messiah and Lord.
3) To encourage God’s people to repentance and obedience.
Notice that unlike many modern-day charlatans and people, creatures, and gods of fable and myth NONE of the Biblical miracles are done for money or temporal gain, self-promotion, spite, or “just because I can”. Each miracle occurred for the express purpose of glorifying God. The miracles of the Bible are not just random stories inserted to make a more interesting tale; they are part of the message of the Word.
So why is that important? Since they are integral parts of the narrative, we can evaluate them in the same way we evaluate any other historical document. Having dealt in previous posts with the textual reliability of the Bible, we can concentrate here on the historical reliability.
I am, because no convincing evidence to the contrary has been shown to me, taking the Bible as text that claims to be historically reliable. So, if the Bible is accurate about those historical events that can be ‘fact checked’ against other reliable sources, then we should as we do with all other historical narratives consider it accurate in the record of those events which cannot be verified, unless proven false.
I’ve shown in previous articles that the Bible is historically reliable, so, in order to be intellectually honest I MUST believe the Biblical accounts of the miraculous to be accurate since there are is no valid historical or scientific evidence to the contrary.
Next time, I’ll take a look at the question of whether miracles can occur today. Until then, here are a few links to look at:
Although most laypeople use ‘laws of nature’ and ‘scientific law’ interchangeably, there are some differences. Although these differences are not relevant to this article, you might find this article interesting, and it does give a more detailed explanation that those given above.
Entitled Science, Doubt, and Miracles this article goes a bit more in depth about how science, natural laws, and miracles are not mutually exclusive.
This article at Cross-examined shows how some of the popular ‘scientific’ theories are at least as hard to believe as the Biblical miracles.
For those of you with a philisophical bent, “What Place Do Miracles Have in Apologetics?” will be very interesting as well as helpful.