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How do you square Jesus' miracles with reality?

MIRACLES: Real or Contrived? 

Drawing Jesus Walking on WaterWe used to wonder whether Jesus’ miracles could be myth. But as we studied the evidence and logic for the truth claims of Christianity, we became convinced that the miracles related in the Bible actually happened! Here are 10 reasons why:

1. Some people want to give naturalistic or scientific explanations for the miracles. But miracles, by definition, fall outside scientific explanations. Miracles are God’s intervention in nature. If God exists, miracles are possible—even probable. To say that miracles can’t exist is really atheism.

2. If God could create the universe out of nothing, His other miracles would be a piece of cake.

3. The factual nature of the miracle stories is evident from the text of Scripture. Some people think that perhaps, for example, the people Jesus healed were not really sick in the first place. But such explanations are not faithful to the text. There were witnesses to the healings—before and after. Or to say that Jesus’ turning water into wine can be explained by some sleight of hand is specious. There is nothing in the description of the miraculous events that remotely suggests that we should look for naturalistic explanations for the miracles. They are presented in the text as truly supernatural.

4. The miracle stories are not embellished like mythology. They are straightforward, matter-of-fact historical narrative accounts. As C. S. Lewis, a professor of Medieval and Renaissance English, stated, “I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this [the biblical miracles].” (Quote from Lewis’ essay, “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism.”)

5. There was not enough time after the events took place for myths to have crept into the accounts. As we discuss elsewhere on our site the New Testament was written entirely by eyewitnesses or interviewers of eyewitnesses (http://www.faithfacts.org/search-for-truth/questions-of-christians/how-do-you-know-that-the-bible-is-true and http://www.faithfacts.org/search-for-truth/maps). The miracle accounts are part of the text from the very beginning.

6. Not only did the writers of the Bible attest to Jesus’ miracles (John 2:11, et al) but Jesus himself based his claim of divinity partly on his miracles (Matthew 11:4-6, Luke 7:22-23, John 10:25, 38, John 14:11, John 15:24)! Was Jesus a fraud? We think not. It is clear from the biblical texts, that the writers of the New Testament considered the miracles genuine evidence for Christ's divinity. They considered them to be from God (John 3:2, John 20:30-31, Acts 2:22), “convincing proofs” (Acts 1:3, Hebrews 2:3-4) and not “cleverly devised myths” (2 Peter 1:16). If this evidence comes unglued, so does much of the story of who Jesus is! But it does not come unglued—it stands firm in light of examination  (http://www.faithfacts.org/search-for-truth/questions-of-christians/how-can-you-say-that-jesus-is-god).

7. Jesus’ greatest miracle, the resurrection, has overwhelming evidence in its favor. We discuss this in an article “Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ” (http://www.faithfacts.org/search-for-truth/contemporary-scholarship). Certainly, if the resurrection is a fact of history, Jesus’ other miracles are believable.

8. St. Paul flatly states (1 Corinthians 15:14) that if the resurrection is not a fact of history, our faith is in vain. Thus, he insists that to deny the resurrection is to deny the Christian faith. But Paul makes it a point to say that there were over 500 witnesses who actually saw Jesus after the resurrection, and that many were still alive at the time of his writing—so doubters could go check it out with the survivors (1 Corinthians 15:8). Note: Read all of the passage 1 Corinthians 15:1-8.

9. To deny the miracles leaves the Bible as a secular book, which gives one the option of ignoring it. If you start throwing out the miracles, you will likely begin picking and choosing among other things you like or don’t like in the Bible. Speaking now to those professing Christians who want to dismiss the miracle accounts, we believe you do so at the risk of making Christianity devoid of its power. Why not dismiss anything you don’t like or find difficult to believe or to do? What about Jesus’ other extraordinary teachings? If we don’t like to love our enemies, let’s just ignore that one! Or if we don’t believe in God’s wrath, let’s just toss that idea too. Or what about the afterlife—that one is difficult to swallow for some, so why not dismiss that idea as unscientific as well? It seems to us, that the Christian faith does not leave room for picking and choosing doctrines without emasculating the faith. Further, if God does not intervene in history, he does not intervene in your life either—and your prayers are empty petitions to a God who does not care or is impotent to act. And your hope of eternal life is not much more than a psychological crutch.

10. There is no compelling reason to doubt the Bible. The evidence supports the reliability of Scripture throughout (http://www.faithfacts.org/search-for-truth/questions-of-christians/how-do-you-know-that-the-bible-is-true and http://www.faithfacts.org/search-for-truth/maps). As put by scholar Norman Geisler in the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, a “demythological approach to miracles and the New Testament documents in general is unjustified. First and foremost, it is contrary to the overwhelming evidence for the authenticity of the New Testament documents.” A high view of Scripture is demonstrably correct from the evidence. A high view of Scripture demands that the miracles happened. Again, speaking especially to Christians who have a low view of Scripture, everything we know about Jesus comes from the Bible. So a low view of the Bible leaves one with no sound basis for believing anything even about Jesus.

In summary, there is no valid reason to doubt the miracle accounts, and many good reasons to believe that they actually happened—just as the Bible says.

Because the resurrection is so important to Christianity, let's explore this further:

In order to confirm by way of proof the resurrection event, one can apply the same principles of evidence that would be acceptable as proof in a court of law. Many scholars in history have done so.

The evidence for Jesus' death and resurrection is overwhelming. The New Testament contains six independent testimonies to the fact of the resurrection. These six men (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, and Paul) wrote 24 of the 27 books of the New Testament. Included in their testimonies are various eyewitness accounts as well as reports of other interviewed witnesses of the risen Jesus, including one of over 500 people at one time.

Were these witnesses credible? Critical minds who have considered their testimony point out that these witnesses were both competent and honest. For example, they had no impure motives for their testimony, such as fear, money, or ambition. They had the opportunity to know the truth, were mentally capable, were not gullible, and the documents of their testimony are reliable. There was more than an adequate number of witnesses to verify truth. And there is no contrary evidence.

Simon Greenleaf, Professor of law at Harvard from 1833 to 1848 has been called the greatest authority on legal evidences in the history of the world. When Greenleaf applied legal evidences to the resurrection event, he concluded that it was an historical reality, and that anyone who examined the evidence for it honestly would be convinced this was the case.

In the 1930s a British journalist who was trained in the law, named Frank Morrison, set out to do the world a favor by once and for all exposing the superstition of Christ's resurrection. However, by using the test of evidence permitted in a court of law, he became convicted against his will of the truth of the resurrection, and detailed his findings in a book still in print entitled Who Moved the Stone.

In the 1990's, an American journalist, also trained in the law, by the name of Lee Strobel, interviewed many biblical scholars in a similar quest. His book The Case for Christ is a brilliant summary of the best modern scholarship on the subject. His study once again confirmed the biblical accounts as factual. (See resource list.)

C. S. Lewis, Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, acknowledged that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was a major factor in his conversion from atheism. Lewis became one of the twentieth century's greatest intellectual Christian proponents and writers. (See resource list.)

Lord Darling, former Chief Justice of England said that, "...no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true."

The claim that the testimonies of the New Testament writers were "cooked up" does not hold water. The evidence against a "cooked up" Gospel is that while the various accounts are not contradictory, there are enough differences in the reports that it is clear that the various writers did not get together to compare notes. The evidence unquestioningly supports that the various accounts are truly independent.

Perhaps the most powerful evidence is the sheer conviction of the disciples. For 40 years after the resurrection, these men traveled throughout the land telling what they knew to be true. All of them were persecuted and all but one eventually put to death for their faith as testimony to the resurrected Jesus. People simply will not martyr themselves for what they believe to be a lie. People will only give their life for what they are absolutely convinced is true.

Many of the religious and political leaders of the day had every reason to quell the Christian movement by refuting the resurrection testimony. They were unable to disprove it. John R. W. Stott (see book on resource list) insists that the silence of Christ's enemies "is as eloquent a proof of the resurrection as the apostles' witness."

The early Christian leaders were not a superstitious people, unable to determine truth from reality. They lived in a civilized world of sophisticated Greek and Roman culture. These men were fishermen, carpenters, a physician (Luke), etc., and certainly understood the laws of nature. They attested to the miracles of Jesus in that framework.

Summary 

Science does not disprove biblical miracles. Science depends upon observation and replication. Miracles are by their very nature unprecedented events. No one can replicate these events in a laboratory. Hence, science simply cannot be judge and jury as to whether or not these events occurred. The scientific method is useful for studying nature, but not super-nature.

Biblical miracles are rare, but poignant. The real question is not whether miracles occur, but whether God exists. If God exists, then miracles are possible. Anti-supernaturalism is atheism.

Link. Here is another article for you to consider: Christian Answer on Miracles