Miracle on Demand

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Last night I sat down with a C.S. Lewis essay titled “Miracles.” Lewis is my favorite author, but I wasn’t expecting much from this topic.

It’s not that I’m not interested in the mystical, it’s just that miracles aren’t very effective. People who don’t want supernatural evidence for God will grit their teeth and explain away a cosmic whamboozie, even if one smacks them upside the head. Miracles aren’t a riddle for science, reason, or intellect to crack. They aren’t some kind of cognitive hurdle to overcome. They are revelatory. They generally reveal what observers have already decided about God, based on old wounds and old battles. That’s why I wasn’t all that eager to engage. The topic didn’t seem very practical.

However, Lewis takes an angle I wasn’t expecting. He writes that miracles tend to be supernaturally-condensed versions of divine engagements that happen to us every day. For example, 5000 people are fed from five barley loaves. “That couldn’t have happened!” we shout.

Then a smart guy pipes up, “Hey, those people must have shared the bread they were hiding! It was like New York City after 9/11. Everybody jumped in. Jesus was a persuasive speaker, and cold hearts were warmed. That was the real miracle.”

It’s a compromise that jazzes us. It bridges the seemingly uncomfortable gap between science and faith. It also makes us feel intelligent, because people 2000 years ago must have been too dumb to recognize everyone was just sharing bread, and boy, we are smarter than that now.

What this interpretation misses, though, is that the miracle of the fishes and the loaves compressed an everyday wonder into a single moment. Every time a tiny seed of wheat is grown, a harvest is multiplied from nearly nothing. Feeding 5000 did not just happen once by the presence of Christ, it has happened for thousands of years, ever since God made the earth to flourish from planting, through processing and baking. Of course, the compression is not exact. Jesus was doing something unique in this moment. However, it is also the sort of work that urges to see beyond it, to the fact that Christ multiplies grain for our benefit so often that we don’t even tend to notice it. We are so numb to the everyday-miraculous that the only way we can understand the divine gift of our daily sustenance is by finding the wonder suddenly condensed. It is then that we are forced to see that God is the one who fills us all along.

Or consider the Virgin Birth. Crude, non-believing men (thinking they have found a way to be witty) make jokes suggesting that Christ’s conception required God to be adulterous with a virgin. (Haw Haw Haw. Aren’t we clever?) Yet, is not God entering into a woman’s womb every time He uses a sperm and a egg to knit together life? Was not this miracle thematically connected in theme to billions of others hardly noted?

Or take the Bible’s claims that water was turned into wine. The world-wise say the water soaked up the flavor of the wine jugs. Those people were drunk, after all. They didn’t know any better. Rationalists work so hard to patch it all up, missing the greater wonder that every time rain falls and waters the grape vines, every time the chemical process of fermentation occurs, there is a Divine gift, the changing of water to wine.

A miracle condenses the miraculous so that we notice it is wonderful. It jolts us out of this lavish, sustaining grace that carries us from birth to death.

Now I will tell you why I needed to read this essay. I needed it because this concept also applies to rescue.

For several years, I’ve been disappointed that God’s rescue is so slow. I’ve seen bad people do bad things without consequence, and I’ve seen good people suffer in ways that aren’t fair. I’ve prayed and prayed, and God refuses to do what I want.

I’ve wanted an angel from heaven (pow!), or waters divided (shazaam!), or fire and brimstone (zonk!). I have wanted God to get down here right now and compress this painful, terrible, laborious process of learning faith into a single moment of deliverance.

I have wanted “That’ll teach them” and “Atta girl.” I have wanted every question and consequence packed into a nice little Reader’s Digest ending.

Yet it is also possible that God is working out the miracle of my rescue more slowly, like the growing of wheat. And it’s possible that the process itself, this laborious, painful, confusing process, will train my heart in ways that an immediate answer would not. It is possible that God loves me enough to let the water inside me turn to wine over decades instead of overnight.

That slow work is humiliating, and sometimes and it feels like dying. I am stripped down and impoverished. This is the tragedy; and yet, this is the miracle, too.

What a sweet thing to be led through time and suffering into sanctification. What a beautiful thing to engage with a God who doesn’t always make things easy, but who allows me to work through the physics, and the biology, and the economics, the conflict, and the labor of the patterns he has written deep in the earth. It is a classroom fit for another world.

Not my will, but Thine.

Rebecca Reynolds teaches Classical Rhetoric and Philosophy of Faith in eastern Tennessee, and is a contributor to the Story Warren website. She’s the author and illustrator of the pediatric series From the Medical Files of Dr. Phineas C. Bones and collaborated with Ron Block as the lyricist for his critcally-acclaimed album, Walking Song. She lives in Kingsport, Tennessee, with her husband and three children.


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  1. Chinwe

    “We are so numb to the miraculous that the only way we can understand the divine gift of our daily bread is by finding the wonder suddenly compressed. It is then that we are forced to see that God is the one who fills us all along…A miracle simply condenses the miraculous so that we notice it is wonderful. It jolts us out of this lavish, sustaining grace that carries us from birth to death.”

    So good!

    I just read this same essay this morning! I was particularly struck by this passage: “Divine reality is like a fugue. All His acts are different, but they all rhyme or echo to one another. It is this that makes Christianity so difficult to talk about. Fix your mind on any one story or any one doctrine and it becomes at once a magnet to which truth and glory come rushing from all levels of being. Our featureless pantheistic unities and glib rationalist distinctions are alike defeated by the seamless, yet ever-varying texture of reality, the liveness, the elusiveness, the intertwined harmonies of the multi-dimensional fertility of God. But if this is the difficulty, it is also one of the firm grounds of our belief. To think that this was a fable, a product of our own brains as they are a product of matter, would be to believe that this vast symphonic splendour had come out of something much smaller and emptier than itself. It is not so.”

    Man, could this dude write! Thanks for sharing your helpful reflections here Rebecca.

  2. David Mitchel

    @

    A related quote from CSL’s Introduction to St Athanasius’s On the Incarnation:

    [Athanasius’s] approach to the Miracles is badly needed today, for it is the final answer to those who object to them as “arbitrary and meaningless violations of the laws of Nature.” They are here shown to be rather the re-telling in capital letters of the same message which Nature writes in her crabbed cursive hand; the very operations one would expect of Him who was so full of life that when He wished to die He had to “borrow death from others.”

  3. John Covil

    This is a very beautiful post revealing a deep and deeply comforting truth. What I have to add is not anywhere near as important and only tangentially related:

    The post reminds me of something I saw on the History Channel several years ago that was attempting to explain away the parting of the Red Sea. It was on one of the several Bible shows they’ve done featuring people of various beliefs talking about the account in the Bible. And the naturalist answer to the parting of the Red Sea was (as best I can remember) a complicated meteorological event of winds following a specific pattern and striking the exact right spot to part the waters.

    Presumably the person offering the explanation thought it clever, but it really doesn’t answer a thing. Because even if you find what seems to be a ‘natural’ explanation for the apparently supernatural phenomenon, you still haven’t given answer as to _why_ that particular meteorological event happened at just the right time to help the Israelites escape the Egyptians (and never mind it happening again at the Jordan). If you want to reject the narrative, then reject the narrative. But materialistic explanations of miracles only answer the ‘why’ in the most shallow, and ultimately insignificant way. One wonders why he tried. And of course, left unaddressed was what you described: the even deeper miracle of a God knitting together Creation to his glory and to our joy.

  4. Esther O'Reilly

    I would have to re-read Lewis’s entire essay to get full context for the gist of it here, but I would cautiously submit that it’s still a good exercise not to cheapen the word “miracle” by over-use. What’s that old Bill Gaither Trio song—“I Know It’s a Miracle.” It goes something like this:

    What drives the stars without making a sound, why don’t they crash when they’re spinning around
    What holds me up when the world’s upside down, I know, it’s a miracle
    Who tells the ocean where to stop on the sand, what keeps the water back from drowning the land
    Who makes the rules, I don’t understand, I know, it’s a miracle

    Chorus:
    It’s a miracle, just to know, God is with me wherever I go
    It’s a miracle as big as can be, that He can make a miracle of me
    A miracle of me

    There are other lyrics like “Who puts the salt in when it gets to the sea, I know it’s a miracle!” and so on. This song annoys me to no end, because they’re over-saturating the word “miracle” to apply to things that are certainly WONDROUS, but not “miraculous” in the precise definition of the word. Rebecca, I’m sure you have no intention of furthering this over-saturation, but I am curious, in what way would you say your approach differs from that described in this song? (Setting aside the fact that it’s just plain bad poetry, of course!)

  5. Rebecca Reynolds

    @rebeccareynolds

    Hmmmm. I’m not sure what you mean by the definition. It seems to me that Greek forms of the word sēmeion (sometimes translated “miracle” in the NT) are also used to refer to events that do not defy the natural order. In fact, an interesting play on the duality of that root word can be found in Luke 11:29-30, where Jesus is questioned about producing a miracle. He says that the only miracle those people would see was the same miracle as the people of Nineveh had upon receiving Jonah. This word was also used in Matthew 16:3 during a rebuke in which Jesus says that hypocrites could read the sky, but not the signs of the times. And when Judas kisses Jesus to betray him, the kiss was called a form of sēmeion. So, that specific word seems to carry multiple meanings in the Scripture.

    Dynamis is another word used to describe miracles in the New Testament. That word tends to be used to describe the power fueling God’s work. However, in Matthew 24:30, we also see this word used to describe the natural powers of the heavens in their current state. So, I don’t think that word is limited to the supernatural, either.

    However, this sort of analysis seems to distract from the bigger point I’m trying to make. When I read back through what we would traditionally consider miracles in the New Testament, I don’t often find Jesus standing back pointing at his unusual accomplishment and shouting, “See that! See what I just did?” Rather, He’s almost detached at times, as if the thing that wows us is no big deal to him, and maybe should be to us, either.

    I think that’s because the same God who bends physics created it in the first place, and he could just have easily made water so that it always turned to wine, or bread so that it multiplies every time upon being broken. Natural laws are simply the way the miracle of creation is sustained over time.

    Nothing exists that didn’t begin with a miracle. Was the first bird created in Eden by the voice of God a miracle? Was the one billionth bird created by the voice of God creating a bird that could create other birds a miracle? I say yes on both counts.

    Colossians 1:17 states that by Jesus all things hold together. What if that’s true? Goodness sakes. What if it is? What if every single atom would function differently were he not actively involved with it?

    Maybe I have too much childish wonder left in me, but I guess I do think that whether the stars do or don’t crash into one another, it’s a miracle that they would burn and move at all. To say any less, I would have to admit that Christ isn’t really sustaining them after all. (Though I do hope some of the stars sing and don’t do all their starry duties in silence.)

    After that terrible tsunami a few years back, I am more aware that the ocean being held back from the sand is also something miraculous. (We considered it a miracle that the land and the sea were divided in Genesis 1. When did the sustenance of that division cease to become miraculous?) When I am standing in the waves now, I don’t take for granted that all of that power stays put. As I get older, I am learning to be as humbled by God’s hand in keeping the sea orderly as I would be to see him divide it like he did for Moses.

    God created the laws of physics and biology when he spoke them into being, but that doesn’t make those laws any less miraculous today when they follow his lead. When I consider this, it’s overwhelming.

    Chesterton wrote, “It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

    I love that.

  6. Walt

    I have owned Lewis’ book, “Miracles”, for many years and have read it several times. It, to me, is his greatest apologetic work. (I’m not sure if this is different from the essay that is referenced here — the book certainly takes longer than an evening to read and grapple with — perhaps you just read part of it?)

    Lewis defines ‘miracle’ as the Supernatural breaking into the natural world. Christians recognize that these two realms coexist, and, indeed, interact with each other!

    The book contains a wonderful explanation of the cycle of death/resurrection is seen in creation and personified in Jesus.

  7. Rebecca Reynolds

    @rebeccareynolds

    Walt, yes. The very concept of the supernatural requires that there be “normal stability of nature” to begin with, and Lewis indicates that as a foundational premise in this essay as well.

    However, what I find most interesting and helpful in this essay is the idea that miracles tend to compress the everyday engagement of the divine with nature. Lewis writes, “The miracles in fact are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” The reason this is interesting to me is because it urges me to see that God is moving/providing/sustaining/redeeming every single day instead of just focusing on those times when he wows me.

    Too much of modern Christianity seems to be looking for an emotional high where God “proves himself.” This is not a new expectation. The New Testament is full of people who wanted the same thing from God.

    Yet, when the disciples looked at Jesus in fear after he calmed the storm, they were awed that even the wind and the seas obey him. If they had known him better (as he implied with his rebuke) they would have know that the wind and the seas were under his authority all along.

    The same is true for us. Maturity begins to see the miraculous in more of life instead of less of it.

    I am not denying (nor does Lewis) that God has established a physical order that breaks when he performs supernatural events. I’m saying that as we grow, we will not just believe in miracles in the traditional sense, but begin to see the miraculous in what is sustained by Jesus every moment of every day.

    It seems like it was Paul Fussell’s book _Poetic Meter and Poetic Rhyme_ that described excellent poets as those who understand poetic patterns well enough to break them intentionally for effect. Supernatural miracles remind me of this concept. They are like a moment in a brilliant poem in which the poet first establishes a rhythm, then breaks it for emphasis.

    When I see Jesus responding to those who are stunned by his supernatural abilities, it is both sad and humorous, because they are awed when He is strong enough to break form, when he has, in fact, written the entire poem.

    One of my favorite stories in the New Testament is that of the Gentile Centurion who takes the miraculous in the proper context. That man is so pragmatic about his request for healing. He says, “For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

    The Centurion perceives the miraculous healing ability of Jesus as simply an extension of His existing power. This is one of the few places we see Jesus marvel, because someone finally came close to understanding what the supernatural actually meant about the even greater miracle of the natural.

  8. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Beyond the Lewis quotes on “miracles in fact are a retelling in small letters of the very same story,” Chesterton talks a lot about this idea of the “regular” world being miraculous. He writes in Orthodoxy, after the quote Rebecca used (about God making daisies and “do it again”): “I had always vaguely felt facts to be miracles in the sense that they are wonderful: now I began to think them miracles in the stricter sense that they were WILFUL. I mean that they were, or might be, repeated exercises of some will. In short, I had always believed that the world involved magic: now I thought that perhaps it involved a magician.” (That is, “a miracle-worker”) Note particularly that Chesterton felt his sense of “wonder” heighten into feeling that the world was “miraculous.”

    I think it is important here to not get caught up in an exact word-definition and instead see the actual point being made. Chesterton writes, “I felt in my bones; first, that this world does not explain itself. It may be a miracle with a supernatural explanation…” Here he uses the word “miracle” in the same sense as Rebecca. Chesterton makes the argument against materialism that since the entire universe is a miracle, that is, since grain growing multiplies bread for millions, and grape juice fermenting makes wine to make glad the heart of man (those usual ways God does the miraculous), then what we call “the miraculous” (those insertions by God into the “usual” course of events) are simply a sped-up version.

    If we get caught up having to have the word “miracle” mean only “an exception to the laws of nature” (which Chesterton says are not really laws at all, because there is no real way to synthesize a reason why an egg turns into a chicken), then we will miss the point here – that real miracles, the miracles of a God who loves us and gives all manner of blessings every day, the miracle of a Colorado sunset, or the cool spray flinging off a waterfall, or the bursting crunch and flavor of an excellent Braeburn, are all around us every day. And that what we see as God’s miraculous intrusions into our temporal world are really just sped-up versions of what he does every day. And that isn’t even counting the miracles he does in and through his people, changing lives and wills hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, and using former drug dealers, ex gang members, and even formerly self-righteous religious people to instead reveal the greatness and goodness of God to the world.

    George MacDonald gives much the same idea in Unspoken Sermons: “The miracles of Jesus were the ordinary works of his Father, wrought small and swift that we might take them in. The lesson of them was that help is always within God’s reach when his children want it–their design, to show what God is….The mission undertaken by the Son, was not to show himself as having all power in heaven and earth, but to reveal his Father, to show him to men such as he is, that men may know him, and knowing, trust him.”

    I understand the semantics of wanting to reserve “miracle” for the intrusions into the usual. But the word can be used in both senses.

  9. Alex J. Taylor

    Great article! One little factual error should be corrected, though: The Immaculate Conception is a Roman Catholic dogma referring to Joachim and Anna’s conception of the Virgin Mary—not to her own later conception of Christ.

  10. Esther O'Reilly

    Rebecca, you wrote:

    “When I read back through what we would traditionally consider miracles in the New Testament, I don’t find Jesus standing back pointing at his unusual accomplishment and shouting, ‘See that! See what I just did?’ Rather, He’s almost detached at times, as if the thing that wows us is no big deal to him, and maybe should be to us, either.”

    If this really was Jesus’ attitude towards his own miracles, then why do we find him repeatedly drawing people’s attention to them in the gospels, using them as evidence of his divinity? Here is just a sample of references:

    Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. (John 14:11)

    So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. (Luke 7:22)

    “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk ‘? 10″But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins “– He said to the paralytic,11″I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.”… (Mark 2:9-11)

    That last verse in particular sounds very much like “See that! See what I just did?” It’s (supposed to be!) a clue to the Jews that he’s not blaspheming when he says that he has divine power.

    Even though Lewis uses that distinction between “natural miracles” (or compressing miracles) and miracles like raising people from the dead, I am quite certain that Lewis wouldn’t say Jesus thought his own miracles were no big deal.

  11. Pete Peterson

    @pete

    Esther,

    I appreciate your challenge of Rebecca’s post, but you’re being disingenuous. There are plenty of passages that support exactly what Rebecca is saying. The point here is that the manner in which Christ demonstrated his divine power was complex and is open to a wealth of perspectives—yours included; Rebecca’s included. Let’s keep the discussion on topic and avoid the temptation to derail the conversation.

  12. Rebecca Reynolds

    @rebeccareynolds

    Thanks, Pete. Esther, thanks to you for your input as well.

    When I was in my late twenties and early thirties, I spent probably too much time in online forums watching people debate various theological issues. There were some threads in which volley was healthy, because different opinions helped enhance mutual discovery. There were other times when argument seemed counterproductive, because the goal became more personal as the conversation progressed. Individuals began trying to look smart instead of working together to understand a new angle.

    It was almost like loneliness, anger, and insecurity from other areas of life worked their way into a topical conversation, and learning was corrupted as hurt people attempted to find some sort of personal validation in online conversation.

    I don’t mean that you are doing this. However, because of my experience with that sort of exchange, and because I don’t want to do that, I’m going to be careful about how I respond.

    I’m so glad that you are interested in the miracles of Jesus, and I trust Him to reveal to both us us what he means by them. Perhaps our life pathways are different enough that God is working the same Scriptures into different lessons in us. I love that His care is so individual at times.

    In the past, I’ve gotten all huffy about someone’s difference in interpretation, only to be sorry later, when I realized that God was simply teaching that person something different than what He was teaching me. That’s why it’s becoming easier and easier for me to listen to a different stance, appreciate it, and trust the Lord with it.

    Because I don’t want to fall into a proud debate that becomes more about ego than discovery, I’d like to thank you for your thoughts and assure you that I will think them over sincerely. However, I’d rather not wrestle over this topic indefinitely. I like a lot of what you are learning, and I’m cheering for you.

    I’m glad that you are curious, and that you dig into the Scriptures to find answers. It’s wonderful to see that. May God bless us both on our search.

  13. Esther O'Reilly

    Hey again Rebecca. I certainly don’t feel huffy. 😉 C. S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors too. I was just somewhat surprised to see this particular interpretation and didn’t see any harm in gently pointing out a few scriptures. Believe me, I’m not looking for a debate!

  14. Matthew Benefiel

    I’ll have to read the essay, this is one of those things where you may have sub-consciously understood this idea, but never really grasped it as a fore-most thought. Two thoughts:

    First for Esther in Mark 2:9-11, Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees who were incredulous at His forgiveness of sins. Christ used many if not all of his miracles as proof of His Godhead and Power, but He also knew many would not believe even then. I guess I’ve come to see that passage as Christ saying the forgiveness was the greater of the two. I’m not sure on my point here honestly, just adding some more detail. I suppose those who had open ears would suddenly say “if he can heal then He truly can forgive sins!” I do know that God constantly called on the Israelites to look back on miracles such as the parting of the waters and plagues and then go on to essentially say; “Do you not now trust me in the smaller things?” God could have allowed the Israelites to leave Egypt without any incident, but he chose to show His power in the parting of the waters and the wiping out of the Egyptian army to show Israel they should trust Him in all things. I know I’ve wished for miracles at times, but then look back at God’s Word and the miracles there and realized that God will get me through in His way, for He is faithful.

    Second to this statement: “That slow work is humiliating, and sometimes and it feels like dying.” I think we are dying. I find myself wondering how often I will fall to certain temptations and how long must I pray for someone to turn back to God and I’m finding more and more that the answer is in the question in way. I will keep falling the more I insist of not treating that part of my heart and I should continue to pray for that person/s even well after they turn back to God, because God wants me to walk in His footsteps without wavering. The moment I step out I’m falling back again because I’m depending on myself. It’s a slow death to self and a wonderful chastisement.

  15. Esther O'Reilly

    Matthew, yes, exactly! That’s why the passage is so brilliant. On the one hand, you could say it’s “easier” in a superficial sense to SAY, “Hey, your sins are forgiven,” because who would know? There’s no way to say, “Ha, I know for a fact that this man’s sins *weren’t* forgiven.” But you’re putting yourself out there more when you make a healing claim. That’s why charlatans are careful to wheel the truly paralyzed people off to the side and ignore them at healing meetings, precisely because they know they’ll be embarrassed if they actually take a hard case.

    However, as you say, Jesus is pointing out that the power to forgive sins is even more limited. There’s exactly one person who can do that: God. As we see in Acts, healing power isn’t necessarily limited to God, since the disciples are also able to perform some similar miracles. But even though the ultimate point is that forgiveness of sin is the greatest miracle of all, it shows that Jesus regards offering tangibly miraculous proof of who he is as a vital part of his ministry.

  16. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Jesus said to Thomas, “You now believe because you’ve seen. Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet believe.” It is a slap to needing the miraculous. The same attitude is found in the statement Esther quoted: “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.” That little phrase “at least” says a lot.

    In Christianity we so often want the cart before the horse. We want the big miracles, and then we will believe. But it was said in Capernaum that “He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.” The faith preceded the miracles. “Your faith has made you whole.”

    Also, if we look at the greater narrative, many of the miracles Jesus did seemed designed in part to expose the unbelief residing in the Pharisees, like those dye tablets that used to show up how well a kid was brushing his teeth. If we think Jesus was trying to build the faith of the people on miracles, it does some good to consider they crucified him anyway, and then used the Crucifixion to prove he was cursed by God and not the Messiah. The Resurrection is the only miracle (in the special-event sense of the word) on which we can really build.

    Also, I would suggest reading the full Lewis essay again to get the context of Rebecca’s article. What she does is simply follow lines of thought from his essay.

  17. Esther O'Reilly

    Ron, that’s a good word on the sorts of ridiculous demands we sometimes hear scoffers make today. I forget which skeptic it was who said, “I’ll only believe if God spells out a personalized message for me in the stars.” Obviously, we know he would find some way to explain even that away. In general, I’m very leery of contemporary church denominations that construct their entire theology around the prevalence of signs and wonders today. This far out from the events of the gospels, that seems like a very shaky foundation.

    And as you say, we can find gospel passages where Jesus says certain people would not believe “even though one were to rise from the dead.” There’s also the passage where Jesus is explaining a parable to his followers and says that “those who are without” are simply not going to get it. If their hearts were set on disbelief, Jesus simply moved on (“the dwarves are for the dwarves” and all that). On the other hand, we also see Jesus saying that if his signs and wonders had been performed in Sodom, they would have repented and believed.

    It is also a fascinating question why the Jews rejected Jesus despite his miracles. He exposed the faulty logic in their theory that he used black magic, but they still clung to the belief that whatever the explanation, he couldn’t be divine. Michael Brown has done some excellent work on Messianic prophecy where he discusses this very question in detail. Probably, the Jews justified it to themselves by saying that he couldn’t be the Messiah, because he wasn’t a conquering Messiah, and certain prophecies imply a kind of earthly show of force that Jesus explicitly eschewed. And yet, God also specifically put prophecies of a suffering, servant Messiah in the Old Testament as reference passages for the time when he would send Jesus. Among these passages are prophecies about healing miracles, which Jesus was fulfilling. So the Jews should have had all the information they needed to put the pieces together, and his miracles should have been a piece in that puzzle. God in His omniscience obviously knew they would crucify Jesus anyway, but this way, they had no excuse.

  18. Adam Huntley

    Very good article. It is true that we should see the glorious ways in which God amazingly (note I’m not saying miraculously) makes the world work (seed to wheat, seed to grape etc.)

    But I would say that if miracles happened everyday then they wouldn’t call them miracles they would just call them ‘regulars’. The English word for miracles assumes an unusual break from the way things normally work.

    The quote, “What this interpretation misses, though, is that the miracle of the fishes and the loaves compressed an everyday wonder into a single moment. Every time a tiny seed of wheat is grown, a harvest is multiplied from nearly nothing.”

    is not analogous because Jesus didn’t grow wheat from a seed real quick whilst super-duper quick threshing-crushing-grinding-mixing-kneading-baking. He made bread from bread. Or bread from nothing (however one takes it). He didn’t send a little fish through it’s life cycle.

    This is not just nit-picking. The examples used here are not exactly everyday occurances in concentrate. Otherwise I would set out my already baked loaves and see them slowly multiply. If that did happen (even slowly) that would be a miracle.

    However. The overall point is good. There is much wonder, joy, and comfort to be had in seeing the amazing way that God runs his world and provides for his people.

  19. Rebecca Reynolds

    Thanks, Adam. The confusion was due to a lack of clarity on my part. I want back and tried to explain what I meant more clearly. Hope that helps. Becca

  20. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    From God in the Dock, “Miracles”, by C.S. Lewis: ”

    “There is an activity of God displayed throughout creation, a wholesale activity let us say which men refuse to recognize. The miracles done by God incarnate, living as a man in Palestine, perform the very same things as this wholesale activity, but at a different speed and on a smaller scale. One of their chief purposes is that men, having seen a thing done by personal power on the small scale, may recognize, when they see the same thing done on the large scale, that the power behind it is also personal— is indeed the very same person who lived among us two thousand years ago. The miracles in fact are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see. Of that larger script part is already visible, part is still unsolved. In other words, some of the miracles do locally what God has already done universally : others do locally what He has not yet done, but will do. In that sense, and from our human point of view, some are reminders and others prophecies. God creates the vine and teaches it to draw up water by its roots and, with the aid of the sun, to turn that water into a juice which will ferment and take on certain qualities. Thus every year, from Noah’s time till ours, God turns water into wine. That, men fail to see. Either like the Pagans they refer the process to some finite spirit, Bacchus or Dionysus: or else, like the moderns, they attribute real and ultimate causality to the chemical and other material phenomena which are all that our senses can discover in it. But when Christ at Cana makes water into wine, the mask is off. The miracle has only half its effect if it only convinces us that Christ is God: it will have its full effect if whenever we see a vineyard or drink a glass of wine we remember that here works He who sat at the wedding party in Cana. Every year God makes a little corn into much corn: the seed is sown and there is an increase, and men, according to the fashion of their age, say ‘It is Ceres, it is Adonis, it is the Corn-King,’ or else ‘It is the laws of Nature.’ The close-up, the translation, of this annual wonder is the feeding of the five thousand. Bread is not made there of nothing. Bread is not made of stones, as the Devil once suggested to Our Lord in vain. A little bread is made into much bread. The Son will do nothing but what He sees the Father do.”

  21. Rebecca Reynolds

    Thanks, Ron. Great excerpt.

    I think authors like Lewis and Chesterton sometimes require a bit of trust. If we go in trying to parse their writing into atoms, we can miss the larger beauty of what they are saying.

    _Othodoxy,_ for instance, drives my students mad every year because they are more accustomed to linear apologetic pablum than nuance and metaphor. For a while they think GKC is just a fool… that is, until they begin to realize he is doing something brilliant. (I’m not saying he is all correct. I disagree with him some. Still, I find his work masterful.)

    It’s healthy to note, like Sayers did, that all language is metaphorical. That doesn’t mean there is no definite truth, it just means part of wisdom is the ability to zoom in and out to hear the truest truth. Sometimes that’s a difficult thing to know.

  22. Esther O'Reilly

    Thanks, Ron, good to have that here for a reference. I don’t really disagree with anything Lewis is actually saying there. I just have a different opinion about how much can be extracted from it.

  23. Matthew Benefiel

    I’m still thinking about all this and connecting pieces. I was watching a show on PBS about the Braxton-Higgs particle (a.k.a. “the God particle”) and it intrigued me, because here in this “scientific age” we have become the greater fools. As we continue to dive deeper and deeper into how the world is pieced together we completely miss the forest in the trees. Perhaps the God particle is apply named, and perhaps the theory is correct in it being the key to how matter (everything) is connected, but it screams all the more about a Designer, someone that put it all in place and made it, and makes it, keeps it together. Instead you get theories of a super stable universe that suddenly “banged” into being when the Braxton-Higgs causes an instability. Yet there is a problem, there is an enormous amount of energy that just happens to be (existed beforehand all contained in particles), it can’t come for free. Our world is governed by rules and tradeoffs, you cannot break the rules, but you can take here, but have to give there. I think this ties into the miracles. How often does Christ say to His disciples: “have you no faith?” They watched Him break the rules He set in place, yet they continued to doubt the simple things. What is a miracle to a God who created all things, who set the balance, and makes possible the imbalance? They watched in amazement, then like us all gave way to anxieties and fears. Throughout the bible we see amazing miracles, yet in our day we forget that gravity is held constant by God, that the rules are no less amazing because they have always been that way. We make it worse by giving all the credit to science as if the study itself made all this possible. So tying it all together (I think), a miracle in and off itself has no benefit without the greater picture, that we should trust God in all things. Just like the cross has no benefit if we forget the Man who died upon it, then rose again to bring us to new life. “If He is for us, who can be against us?”

  24. John Covil

    Scientific discovery is great, but isn’t it interesting how we have to unlean what we’ve discovered. As mentioned, atoms were supposed to be irreducible. Hence the name. And yet we soon find subatomic particles. If the Lord tarries, I wouldn’t be surprised to find it just fractals continuously.

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