Tuesday, June 24, 2008

In Search of the Holy Grail (Real Miracles)

To even question the existence of miracles is a sacrilege in the eyes of many Christians. Woven into the very fabric of Christendom over the ages (but not every where and all the time) is the concept that not only do miracles occur, but they are quite common.

When I was with The Navigators and in many of the Evangelical churches that I attended, it was assumed, even anticipated that miracles would occur every day . . . well, at least once a month. When I was involved with charismatics, we believed that miracles occurred in every minute of every day. To even question whether or not something was a miracle was to appear as a very “unspiritual” person or a “babe in Christ” and questioning God himself.

First I must define what I mean by miracles. Miracles are where God works directly outside His laws of physics.

Next, I want to define my perspective. I am not questioning whether or not COULD God do a miracle. Evangelicals often mistake me for a “liberal” or “materialist.” I am not at all. The materialist (speaking philosophically here) does not believe that there is even a spiritual realm, and certainly not in a divine creator. Therefore, according to them, nothing can ever happen outside the laws of physics.

Did God do miracles? Of course! Scripture documents clearly that miracles occurred in both the old and new testaments. I have no doubt about that. If I had lived at the time of Christ and observed my friend, Lazarus, raised from the dead, I would have observed a real miracle in time and space (verses my imagination or wishful thinking).

My simple question is do miracles occur now and if so how often? It is not a theological question. I’m not stating, that from scripture, somehow I’ve concluded that God was very clear that miracles would cease at a certain time in history. My question is a pragmatic and honest question about observations in real life.

I do know that we are all deeply fallen and selfish. Our hearts (emotions and psychological make up) is flawed and deceitful. I know from scripture and personal experience that people believe very strongly things that are not true, including Christians. Our reason, as well as our emotions and will are fallen. Self-delusion is very, very common because of the effect of the fall on us.

I also know, and Evangelicals should not be in disagreement with this, that while Satan is the lord of lies, God is the God of truth. It IS our responsibility to “test the spirits” if they are true or not. It is NOT unspiritual (unless you are a Dualist) to raise your eyebrows when someone speaks of a miracles happening. In this way, I am more of a fundamentalist than even the most fundamentalists because I believe that we should be very strict with truth . . . not shading it, even not shading it to “honor God.”

There is intense peer pressure in Evangelical groups, especially the really “hard-core” ones like The Navigators, or charismatic groups to see miracles in everything. The reason is that they are Dualistic. They believe that the laws of physics, (which, by the way, God created and said was very good), are inferior to God working outside His laws. So to them, miracles are superior to God’s natural laws of cause and effect. “Joe got better from his cancer because God cured him,” sounds much more spiritual than, “Joe got better because the chemotherapy worked.”

The peer pressure is to look like a strong Christian, to feel good about your faith, to feel that you are doing things for God and He is blessing you . . . so there is a very strong psychological pressure to see miracles.

But, a true Christian wants truth above all else (because we serve a God of truth). It is much more honorable to say that something came from the laws of physics, if they indeed come from the natural laws, than to lie and say that it was a miracle.

Does God do miracles now? I’m honestly not sure. Again, this is not a theological position but an observation of real life. I’ve been a Christian for 38 years. I’ve been around thousands of Christians during this time. I’ve witnessed many, many claims of miracles . . . but ALL OF THEM WERE WIMPY MIRACLES. They were so anemic, that it was in the arena of bending spoons or sawing a woman in half with a trick box. How silly. I mean to relegate the God whom created the 14 billion light-year plus universe with a spoken word to doing silly card tricks? Give me a break!

What do I mean about wimpy miracles? I mean, sitting in on a Full Gospel Business Men’s meeting in 1978 where the leader was “stretching legs” as a miracle. That’s an outrage and insulting to the God of Heaven. Surely if God was going to do a miracle he would not be in the business of stretching legs (which any magician can do with a slight of hand.)

It reminds me of the old movie “Oh God” staring George Burns and John Denver. When God (played by George) appeared in court, the judge asked him to prove that he was God. The fist thing he did was a card trick. He did move on to a disappearing act. But this is how silly this whole pretense is. Is God, the creator of the cosmos, just a circus performer? Does he put people in a box and tries to saw them in half? That’s the idea of the TV faith healer-performers and most of the miracles that we hear about every day.

Does God still do miracles? I do believe that 99.99% of what we call miracles are not. They are wishful thinking, imagination or someone being slight of hand. But lying is not innocent. Lying is sin, even if you are “lying for Jesus.” Then that’s even a worse sin in my book.

This is what a real miracle would look like. Someone died and is buried in the ground for three days (starting to decay) and God brings them back to life, restores them to good health. Someone is missing a leg (from the hip) for 50 years. God causes that limb to immediately re-grow to full condition. That is a far cry than “stretching legs” or being touched on the forehead and falling backwards and now your migraines seem less severe.

What about this. Someone who has never, ever studied Mandarin Chinese, immediately starts speaking fluent Mandarin . . . in the Chengdu dialect. Now that’s really speaking in tongues, not some emotionally induced gibberish.

I know that to even suggest that speaking in tongues is not a real miracle makes many Christians mad as hell. But I’ve spoken in tongues before (in 1976). I can honestly say that it is an emotional fraud. Am I a bad guy for pointing that out? It seems like it. Show me one real miracle and I will say, “Hum. God really still does do miracles.”

“Who are you to judge if I’m speaking in tongues?” A well-meaning Christian would ask me. Who am I to judge? I am a Christian and we Christians are in the business of selling truth and only truth. We MUST speak truth at all times. Start speaking Mandarin (having never studied) and I will shout for joy over your miracle. But I can not glory in your pretending. Lying is sin and to shout for joy over sin is not healthy. Pretending is NOT HEALTHY. Pretending does not draw people to the true Christ!

When I say I’m not sure if God still does miracles, it has nothing to do with His abilities. Every time I enter this discussion with other Christians, they start saying things like, “You are trying to dethrone God!” or “My God is tremendous, your God is impotent.” They are totally missing my point. My point is, because God is tremendous and because God is a God of truth . . . then I desire truth over appearance.

Someone could say that I don’t wear skirts. That doesn’t mean that I CAN”T wear skirts or I don’t have the power to wear skirts. I simply mean that I don’t. I think there is a very good reason that God doesn’t do what we call miracles. It is really simple. God created a wonderful universe. The Newton’s Laws are all God breathed. They are wonderful. All the rules of probability, friction, gravity, biochemistry . . . all ARE GOD’s STUFF. So how ridicules it is that we expect God to do something outside what he has done already to prove that he his great. Do you understand?

It is like you build this huge playground (playground=universe) for your son . . . but you son says, “Dad, if you really love me, you will do something different than what you’ve made for me.” HUH?

This whole problem (of favoring pretend miracles over natural events) has its foundation in Platonic Dualism. When you believe that this wonderful world, which God has created, is evil or inferior, then you want things outside of this world to prove that God is great or loves you (miracles in other words).

Does God still do things outside of His wonderful laws? I don’t know. You’ll be the first to know if I ever see a real miracle, but I am really, really happy with the universe which God has made.

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