Is it a Miracle?
A person cannot read many pages from the New Testament (or the Old Testament for that matter) without coming across a miracle. Miracles spatter the pages of the Bible like polka dots on a Dalmatian: the 10 plagues in Egypt; healing of people with leprosy; the resurrection of dead people; the virgin birth; etc. Yet many educated people deny the idea that miracles were either real or possible. They maintain instead that the wonders documented in the Bible must have been fictitious, or had a purely natural explanation. Did Jesus and others in the Bible perform mighty miracles, or are the stories merely “wishful thinking” on the part of superstitious, unscientific fanatics?
WHAT IS A MIRACLE?
In order to decide if miracles actually occurred, we first must understand the definition of a miracle. A miracle is an event that defies natural laws and that can be accounted for only by a supernatural explanation. For example, walking on a road is not a miracle. But defying the law of gravity and walking on water is. There is nothing extraordinary about reviving a person by using CPR. But there is something miraculous about raising a person who has been dead for several days.
SOME JUST SAY “NO” TO MIRACLES
Some people adamantly claim that any type of miracle is absolutely impossible. Why do they say “no” to miracles? There are many reasons, but perhaps the most important is that they do not believe that God exists (or that if He does, He does not intervene in the natural world). A person who believes that the Universe and its contents evolved through natural processes over billions of years cannot believe in miracles because he or she thinks that nothing exists outside of nature. As the late, eminent astronomer of Cornell University, Carl Sagan, put it: “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be” (1980, p. 4). Since a miracle is an event that has a supernatural explanation, no such event ever could occur in a world where only natural forces operate. Once a person denies the greatest miracle of all—creation at the hand of God—then he or she is forced to deny that miracles of any kind can occur.
Those who hold to such a view are correct about one thing: If God does not exist (or if He does but is unwilling to intervene in His creation) then miracles cannot occur. On the other hand, if God does exist (and it can be argued convincingly that He does!), then miracles not only are possible, but also probable. It makes perfectly good sense to conclude that if God created this Universe, then on occasion He might intervene through miracles to accomplish His divine purposes.
GOD WOULDN’T BREAK THE LAW, WOULD HE?
Another idea suggests that God did, in fact, create the Universe, but that His activities stopped at creation. Afterwards, He no longer intervened in this world through miracles, because that would break the natural laws that He had established at the time of creation.
The problem with this idea is that it does not consider the fact that the natural laws do not apply to God (since He is not a “natural” Being). The laws of nature are inviolate, and cannot be broken. For instance, the First Law of Thermodynamics states that matter or energy can be neither created nor destroyed in nature. The two words “in nature” must be included for the law to be worded correctly. Nothing in nature—man, beasts, or matter—can break this law. However, since God is not part of nature, the law obviously does not apply to Him.
To illustrate, think of the Universe as one room. God established natural laws that apply to everything in that room, and then He locked the door. It is impossible for matter or energy to be created or destroyed in that room. But, suppose that God unlocks the door and puts another chair in the room or takes a chair out of the room. Did God break the law He established in the room? No, because everything in the room (Universe) still functions according to the natural laws, but since God is outside of the room then the laws that operate inside the room do not apply to Him.
Miracles are only impossible in a world with no God, or a non-intervening Deity. Once God’s existence and His ability to operate in the natural world are established, it makes perfect sense to conclude that He occasionally might do supernatural things to accomplish His goals. God is not a cosmic bandit Who sneaks around “breaking the rules” of nature. Rather, He is the sovereign Creator Who reserves the right to operate whenever and however He sees fit.
Sagan, Carl (1980), Cosmos (New York: Random House).