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How can Miracles be Possible?

Many people say they are unable to believe what the Bible says about God because they are unable to believe that miracles happened. They are at least clearly able to see what some liberal theologians can't - that belief in the God of the Bible implies belief in the miraculous. To deny the miraculous is to deny God himself. If miracles did not happen, then the resurrection did not happen and our faith is therefore in vain (1 Cor 15:32). So as Christians we must argue that miracles did happen - and ask our friends why they believe they didn't. We will normally receive one of four answers:

  1. Miracles didn't happen because there is no evidence they happened.
    It is necessary here to present the evidence for selected biblical miracles - pointing out that many of them convinced hardened sceptics, surprised even the faithful and were accepted as facts by eyewitnesses who had strong vested interests in not believing. This will usually push the person on to one of the other three arguments or a discussion about the reliability of the Bible as a historical record.
  2. Miracles didn't happen because there are natural explanations of what happened.
    People who use this argument will generally give examples of natural explanations for miraculous events - for instance Sodom was destroyed by a volcano, the Red Sea parted because of a strong wind, the Jordan dried up because of a landslide. The implication is that because a reasonable natural explanation can be found, there are no grounds for claiming God was the cause.

    The first thing to assert is that because we can find a natural explanation for some event does not mean that God was not involved. The God of the Bible is the sustainer of the universe (Heb 1:3). It is He who covers the sky with clouds, supplies the earth with rain, makes the grass grow and sends the snow, frost, hail and breezes (Ps 147:8-18). Furthermore it is God who installs kings (Dan 4:17; Rom 13:1) and removes them (Is 40:23), indeed it is even God who determines the throw of the dice (Pr 16:33). God works in and through natural events and the fact that natural explanations for miracles can be found should not disturb someone with biblical faith (Ex 14:21). Natural events are part of God's providence.

    Secondly, there are many miracles in the Bible for which no natural explanation can be found - a stick turning into a snake (Ex 4:2-4), an iron axe-head floating (2 Ki 6:6) or the instantaneous healing of congenital blindness (Jn 9:1-34). They run completely counter to the laws of nature.

  3. Miracles didn't happen because miracles can't happen.
    Some people argue that miracles are impossible because they break the laws of science - but this is based on a misunderstanding of what scientific theory is.

    Scientific theories are not prescriptive but descriptive. They do not prescribe how nature must behave. Rather they describe how nature has behaved in the past - as a basis of predicting how it might behave in the future. Accordingly no scientific theory is carved in letters of stone. Any theory can be disproved by a single fact, which means that scientific theories are often being updated in the light of new observations.

    A true scientist does not ignore facts which don't fit his theory. Rather he modifies his theory to accommodate these facts. We accept that miracles happened because reliable witnesses observed them. Whether or not we can explain them in terms of existing scientific theories is irrelevant.

  4. Miracles didn't happen because I have never seen a miracle.
    Occasionally people claim that they only believe what they have seen with their own eyes. However, if pressed, they will readily admit to believing many other things on the basis of oral or written testimony.

    The real reason people fail to believe the biblical reports of miracles is because they fail to believe in God himself. Once one believes in an omnipotent being who created and sustains the universe, miracles cease to be an intellectual problem. Similarly once one believes that such a God could become a man, such issues as the virgin birth, the healing miracles of Jesus and indeed, the resurrection itself, pale into insignificance.

Bible References

If miracles did not happen, then the resurrection did not happen and our faith is therefore in vain.

1 Cor 15v32
If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, 'Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.'

Natural explanations for what happened

The God of the Bible is the sustainer of the universe.
Heb 1v3
The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his word. After he had proved purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Ps 147v8-18
He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.

God installs kings and removes them.
Dan 4v17
'The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men'.

Rom 13v1
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Is 40v23
He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.

Pr 16v33
The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

God can work in and through natural events.
Ex 14v21
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided.

There are miracles in the Bible for which there is no natural explanation.
Ex 4v2-4
Moses threw (the staff) on the ground and it became a snake.

2 Ki 6v6
The man of God asked, 'Where did (the iron axe-head) fall?' When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there and made the iron float.

Jn 9v1-34
As he went along he saw a man blind from birth... So the man went and washed and came home seeing.

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