Monday, March 7, 2011

Regarding Faith: An Observation

It is starting to seem to me that there are fewer Christians today that believe in miracles the way I do.

There are good people out there, some in prominent positions, who believe in God and they believe in miracles to a point, but not the way I do. In the end, I very much believe in a God who raises dead things, and the more I interact with some people the more I just don't think they do. Oh, they believe God HAS raised dead things, or raised dead people, and certainly believe in a resurrected Christ, but I don't get a sense of real active present belief in such things from many of them. Not in the same way. They believe in a God who uses people to effect change, but I'm not convinced they believe in a God who actively does unbelievable things. I have no specific people in mind here, this is just a general realization I'm coming to.

You'll find it in even the dilution of the word "miracle". How many times someone calls a new baby a miracle. It's not. A miracle is a supernatural event, usually of God's intervention (though not necessarily). A miracle is a bending of the expected to the fortunate unexpected. But there's nothing inherently miraculous about reproduction; it's the way of nature as designed. There are certain instances where a birth is a miracle. When a person is infertile and can't get pregnant no matter what they do, then God answers prayer and gives pregnancy, that is a miracle. But just because something is good doesn't make it miraculous. Nor does it even mean that God was involved in it.

"It's a miracle I made it on time today!" That sort of statement makes light of the truly miraculous. I think many out there define miracle in this way; something fortuitous that I didn't plan on. And so when you ask if people believe in miracles, they will heartily say yes. But do they REALLY believe in the very supernatural? In sudden unexplainable healing? In the raising of the dead? In multiplication of monies or something tangible? Some will believe several of those, but not necessarily all. They'll agree that these things occur in Scripture, but if you suggest "let's pray that God doubles the amount of coffee in this pot" they'll look at you like you are crazy. Now, is God always going around doubling coffee in the pot? No. And he is likely not going to in most instances. But do I believe that with enough faith should the situation arise, I can pray and he might do it? Yes. Yes I do. Why? Because I'm just stupid enough to believe in miracles.

Jesus didn't do many miracles in Nazareth says the Scripture because the people lacked faith. Perhaps we see less of this sort of thing because we really don't allow ourselves to have faith in such things anymore. If a situation is dire, the reaction might be to take whatever response is the obvious (or only) one possible. But why do we not at least ask for the impossible? I still believe in impossible things. I'm sorry for those who don't. I'm tired of the dilution of the supernatural in our world; the self-actualization, the seeing things without perceptive eyes, the prayer that seems to only be for wisdom to make good sensible decisions (not against praying for wisdom, but it seems to be all some people do; wisdom in going ahead with natural thinking). We teach our children there are no such things as monsters or ghosts. Some are offended by A Christmas Carol because it's a ghost story. I remember VeggieTales' Easter Carol making a point that "there's no such thing as ghosts". And yet what was the apparition of Samuel that appeared to Saul at Endor? If we believe in the Bible as truth, can't we really believe it, even if it makes us sound ridiculous?

The Easter season is approaching, and I for one am looking for miracles to confound the wise; I want to see real supernatural resurrections. Do we believe or don't we that all things are possible?

For the record, I believe in witches, ghosts, demons, angels, dragons, curses, miracles, and a resurrected Christ. And I consider that being realistic.

UPDATE: I've been reading Clinton Heylin's recent book on the songs of Bob Dylan, Still On the Road. I'm in the chapter on Slow Train Coming during his evangelistic Christian period in '79 and '80, and came across a quote from Dylan that applies to exactly what I'm talking about here. In late November 1979, here's what Bob said to the crowd in Santa Monica:
"I don't know what kind of God you believe in, but I believe in a God that can raise the dead. He does it all the time, every day. Now there's certain men, you know, many of them who live right in this town, who seek to lead you astray. You be careful now. The real God, the real God, the one and only God, he don't make promises that he don't keep. That's how you can tell he's the real God."
Thanks, Bob. That's a nice timely affirmation.


  1. God don't make no promises he don't keep, but you don't get them on your terms. Miracles were not granted in the Bible just cause somebody wanted one. They came to those without expectations or demands.
    We are given much, especially in this country and it is up to us to make the most of it.

  2. "Miracles were not granted in the Bible just cause somebody wanted one. They came to those without expectations or demands."

    This is not always the case. And Jesus himself said if you have faith of but a mustard seed, you can say to the mountain "Be moved!" and it will move. Miracles don't come just in times without expectation; they come with faith. Faith is SUBSTANTIAL. It is the substantce of things hopedfor and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11). Furthermore, Paul tells us "Hope does not disappoint." What of the healing of the Centurion's servant? He came to Jesus expecting a miracle, with faith that Christ could heal without even going over there. Or the bleeding woman who touched the hem of his garment.

    Even in the older times, the people of Israel were admonished to remember the miraculous things God did (that's what Passover is all about), as a reminder of the God they serve.

    It may be a comfy worldview for you to believe that God mostly stays out of our business and we have to make do with what we have. But from a Bible stand-point, you're wrong.