Ever since I posted my complaint over Jason Westerfield’s little book God Come to Me his fans have let me have it.
One of the dominant accusations looks like this:
“Damien [sic] does not believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit or miracles for today; that is a damnable heresy…”
There are three things wrong with that statement.
1. I do believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It’s that our definitions probably differ wildly. [See my post The Trick to Finding Your Spiritual Gifts.]
2. I do believe in miracles today. I just don’t believe they are normative. At all. Otherwise they wouldn’t be miracles, would they? More on this in a minute.
3. Even if I didn’t believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit or miracles, it would NOT be a damnable heresy. Since when was salvation dependent on anything outside of Christ?
What most intrigues me about Westerfield and Co. is this presumption that miracles were normative throughout the Bible. Jason said it best: “After reading about Abraham and others in the Bible, I came to the conclusion that if all of this was happening to them, then it should be happening to me.”
Okay. But why? Why should they be a normal part of Jason’s and every Christian’s life?
Pagan Miracles v. Biblical Miracles
Yes, miracles occurred pretty frequently during Jesus’ ministry, but only for 3 years, mind you…not the entire 33.
And true, the early church was a hotbed for miracles. But there was a reason for that.
However, from front to back, the biblical narratives do not portray a world saturated with miracles…the kind of world Jason Westerfield, John Crowder and the would have you believe we should live in.
Unlike the pagan mythologies of ancient history where gods constantly disrupt ordinary human affairs, the Bible inserts miracles on a very limited basis.
That’s why the supernaturalism found in the Bible stands out–because its miracles are NOT commonplace.
In fact, the relative infrequency of biblical miracles may be seen in the fact that they constitute a small, albeit important, part of the narratives spanning over two thousand years from Abraham to the apostolic era.
Miracles in the Book of Joshua
Furthermore, certain biblical periods are marked by an increase in spiritual warfare and miracles. Moses and the Exodus are an obvious Old Testament example. The life and work of Jesus is the New Testament equivalent.
Israel’s conquest of Canaan is another.
The book of Joshua records three such miracles: the drying up of the Jordan river, the collapse of Jericho and the stalling of the sun.
Nothing normative about these extraordinary events that occurred over a six year period.
Instead they hammer home this point: Israel’s conquest of Canaan was God’s sovereign work…and God’s sovereign work alone. What we don’t see is any suggestion that these miracles should be happening to us. Today.
Do I Believe Miracles Occur Today?
Here’s what I’m not saying: Miracles don’t occur. I think they can. I believe in a supernatural God who created the universe. That’s a miracle. But you’re going to have to do better than straightening a spine to convince me miracles occur today.
You’re going to have to stop a storm in it’s tracks. Raise a man dead for four days back to life. Cure a life-time cripple. Cast out 2,000 demons.
If you can substantiate such a claim, then you’ll have my attention.
But remember, biblical miracles had a singular purpose: unmistakably declare the sovereignty and character of God…rather than provide humans with a thrill that can lead one to a dangerous distraction.