“One time, I was at this party… and I was sitting on the couch with Amanda McKinney. She was just sitting there, looking beautiful. So, I lean in to kiss her, and I realize I have gum in my mouth. So, I turn to spit it out and put it in a paper cup. I turn back, and Amanda McKinney throws up all over herself. I knew the moment it happened, it was a miracle. I could have been kissing her when she threw up. It would have scarred me for life. I may never have recovered.” – Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) in the movie “Signs” explaining why he believes in miracles.
“There is not to be found, in all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good sense, education and learning, as to secure us against all delusion in themselves.” – David Hume explaining why he doesn’t believe in miracles.
“Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.” – John 20:29-30
Something I hear, probably more often than anything else, in denying God’s presence in a modern world is this idea that He did miracles in the Bible, but doesn’t do miracles today. I don’t see it. I hate to generalize, but it seems that often the folks who don’t believe that miracles happen today are the same folks who don’t believe that miracles happen at all. There is a story of certian Indigenous tribes in North America who, when Columbus’ ships were arriving, could not see them. It is said that it was their shaman’s who alerted them to the arrival of these ships. The reason they couldn’t see them was because they had no concept of them. There was no notion whatsoever in their minds of these huge ships arriving from over the horizion, and so their minds just blanked them out.
I don’t know if that’s true. A huge part of me doubts it very much. For the most part I think it’s a very condescending way of looking at Indigenous culture. But I think what we can learn from this story holds very true. If you don’t believe in miracles, you will never see one. People are looking for a miracle. People want signs and wonders. But they want them to be scientifically explainable. They want miracles that can be repeated in a lab. But if that’s the only way to believe in a miracle, then you’ve negated the miracle. Arthur C. Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magick.” What follows in the scientific mind is the idea that anything that smells of a miracle must be some form of technology. In other words, we fear things we can’t control. If we can label it, if we can prove it, if we can repeat it in a lab, then we are its master. We have, in effect, taken a miracle and put it in a harness to do our will. We have said to God, “you will serve me.”
So, the question is not, “does God still perform miracles?” The question is, “Do you believe that God ever performed miracles?” If He did, then He still does. We just need to look with different eyes. If He didn’t, or if you don’t believe in things that can’t be proved by science, then is it fair to require proof of something that is not provable?
The thing that I hear most underlying this idea of miracles, though, is the idea that God doesn’t perform miracles because I can’t do magick. In other words, Jesus and others in the Bible spoke and healed the sick and raised the dead. If I don’t have that power here and now, then must it mean that God doesn’t work that way, or that He never did? Of course not. Before I sound too harsh towards people who want to do miracles, let me say one thing. What really leads to this mentality is the good and honest belief that there is something wrong with this world. This world needs to be put right. The miracles of the Bible, and the miracles that happen today (if we choose to see them) don’t happen every time we think that they should. They don’t even happen every time that they actually should. That is the reason that God is re-making heaven and earth. We have to remember that when Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead, the people did not remain alive and well forever. Miracles in the Bible were referred to as “signs and wonders.” They were signs that pointed to a future perfected world without sickness or death. But they did not last forever. In looking for miracles we have to be careful that we are looking for a miracle, and not for premature perfection.
I’d like to leave you with a song. “Waiting for a Miracle” written by Bruce Cockburn and performed by the Jerry Garcia Band. Enjoy…