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Arguments from miracles to show the existence of the divine have been used almost since the dawn of religion. In the New Testament, miracles are used to form arguments for Israel’s God being with Jesus (John 3:2), being involved in contemporary life (Luke 7:16) and existing (Acts 17:31). Throughout church history, arguments from miracles have been frequently used to defend truth claims of Christianity or certain sects of Christianity, not the least on the mission field.
In modern apologetics, one particular argument from miracles is widely discussed and defended, namely the resurrection of Jesus. Apologists try to show that this is a historical event, since the truth claims of Christianity rests on this miracle according to 1 Corinthians 15. But many of them are hesitant to base an argument for God’s existence on modern-day miracles, even though that would cast increasing doubts on the metaphysical naturalism that many opponents of the resurrection’s historicity base their reasoning on.
In fact, well-known apologist William Lane Craig has said “I don’t appeal to miraculous healings as arguments for God’s existence […] I think that there are weightier arguments for the existence of God than pointing to miracles.” Timothy McGrew concludes in his well-written article on miracles in the Stanford Encyclopedia on Philosophy that arguments from miracles are interesting but can’t stand on their own. Justin Brierley, host of the apologetic debating program Unbelievable at Premier Christian Radio, have had a few shows on contemporary miracles, but has admitted that they don’t talk about it very often and gives the following explanation for this:
This is kind of unusual for me […] we’re tending to deal with the kind of philosophical arguments for God, can we trust Scripture, those kinds of bariny, intellectual issues if you like. And in the field of apologetics, as it’s sometimes called, the sort of miracles stuff is sort of considered a bit like, “out there”. It’s very difficult to verify, it’s not objective in the way that we can talk about evidence for God and the Bible and that kind of thing. So in my view I think a lot of apologists tend to steer away from it.
In this sermon I share what Francis Shongwe, a man who was killed and raised back to life in 2003, told me about Heaven when I met him three years ago. I go on talking about the importance of sharing the Gospel with those who have not received Christ as their Saviour yet so that they can go to Heaven too. Here’s an excerpt from the interview I made with Francis:
God is so good. Last Sunday I went out on the streets of Kettering with a guitar and some Gospel tracts to invite people to our evening meeting. I met a woman in dark clothing walking with the help of a crutch, who commented how happy I looked when I played. I asked her how she was doing. “Like shit” she said, explaining to me her tough family situation, tragedies in her past and her homelessness.
She then asked me what I was doing and I said that I invite people to a Gospel meeting where there will be worship, Bible study, prayer – and tea. She responded that she doesn’t believe in God – she found it impossible after all the bad things that had happened to her. I gave her a booklet the Jesus Army has printed called The Biggest Issue which asked on the front cover “Where is God when all goes wrong?”
She asked me how I got involved with this church and I explained that I found it on the Internet and came all the way from Sweden to join a training year, living in community and working in one of their Kingdom Businesses. She was really impressed by that kind of commitment to a church. She revealed that she actually carries a cross necklace around in her bag, “I guess I do have a little faith after all.” Then she said that a warm cup of tea would be lovely and decided to go with me to the meeting hall. (more…)
Raising dead people to life is awesome, but how do you do it practically? Join me in this radical Bible study for some tips and tricks from Elijah, Jesus and Paul that will help you in your revival ministry. Contact me when you’ve raised some.
My friend Mikael Skogsén is a pastor with a strong prophetic gift who regularly updates his Facebook with testimonies about words of knowledge, healings and salvations that happen in his everyday life. I got his permission to share one of the testimonies, which I did yesterday on my Swedish blog. It’s an amazing story about how he and his friend were eating on a restaurant, when suddenly Mikael starts prophesying about the waiter’s fiancee in Germany and proclaimed healing in his aching back. The man was of course eventually saved.
Now, some people started to suspect and accuse Mikael of using the power of psychic spirits, similar to occultists in Asia, which would produce apparent healings that eventually result in depression and even worse ailments. Now, I’ve grown accustomed to heresy hunters, people who spend too much time on the Internet arguing that millions of charismatic Christians are possessed by Kundalini spirits and that influential Pentecostal leaders like Bill Johnson are false prophets. I’ve argued against their bad arguments time and again. That’s not new. What really bothers me is that it seems that many of these people automatically assume that if a Christian experiences supernatural stuff, it must be demons.
See, when heresy hunters attack Bill Johnson or Todd Bentley they at least have a lot of resources online to base their judgment on (even if they all-too-often aren’t doing much research). These are famous pastors whose theology and practice have been publicly debated. But Mikael Skogsén isn’t famous. The people who commented on my post hadn’t even heard of him before. And yet, the knee-jerk reaction is that his supernatural ministry is demonic. (more…)
When I and Sarah were evangelising in the Swedish town of Åsele over a month ago, my team leader was Steffen Holm from Denmark. A radical evangelist, he is involved with The Last Reformation and has prayed for thousands of people on the streets. As we were evangelising he often shared his own testimony of how he was 100 % handicapped and bound to a wheelchair, but God healed him. He even had proof constantly with him in form of a parking certificate for handicapped people. I asked him to share his testimony to my camera, which he kindly did:
We who are a part of the MennoNerd vlog have been talking about welcoming children into the Kingdom recently, and that reminded me of a clip from Iris Global where Heidi Baker interviews some of the children at Village of Joy in Pemba. It turns out that these kids have prayed for lame and blind people who have been healed. A pretty good Sunday school, in my holy opinion.
Watch the whole Iris Global clip here:
I’ve just finished Narnia author C.S. Lewis’ book Miracles and provide a review in the video above. I really enjoyed it and was fascinated by the philosophical arguments Lewis uses to argue against naturalism, the idea that nature is all that there is and that miracles thus are impossible. His main argument is that if naturalism were true we would have no reason to believe that our reasoning reflect reality, an argument I have written more about here. Lewis also uses a moral argument for the existence of a supernatural or transcendent reality, and answers to several objections to miracles.
I had not in any way planned to be so apologetic this semester, but the Lord has led me to both studying and producing apologetic material as you probably have noticed. Identifying myself as an apologist is new but exciting, and it makes sense since I’ve for a long time been inspired by Stephen in Acts 6-8. He combined miracles with poverty reduction and nonviolence, and he was an apologist as well. Just look at these verses:
Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke. (Acts 6:8-10)
Stephen was a charismapologist! He could heal the sick on Monday and defend the faith on Tuesdays, all the time while serving soup to the widows. For Stephen, there was no conflict between demonstrating the power of God through miracles and arguing for the truth of Christianity intellectually. (more…)
Lucy Peppiatt, principal at Westminster Theological Centre which is an awesome British school, has written an excellent piece on why all Christians should be charismatic and why the risk of “charismania” shouldn’t put us off from seeking the gifts of the Spirit. One of the reasons she gives relates strongly to what I call charismactivism, the fact that Spiritual gifts ought to promote peace, justice and a better world:
I think that most of us feel overwhelmed by the world’s problems. It’s enough to deal with our own and our family’s problems let alone terrorism, unemployment, war, addiction, crime, disease, homelessness, abuse, etc. etc. I’m always astonished and deeply moved by how resilient human beings are in the face of horror, and this seems regardless of whether they have a faith or not. Sometimes humans are just extraordinarily strong. All Christians should carry a hope that good will triumph over evil in the end, because that is the promise of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection.
But charismatics share stories all the time about change here and now, about how when God gets involved, people locked in conflict are able to forgive each other, bodies are healed of life-threatening or debilitating conditions, families are reconciled. Hope stirs. Charismatics expect God to change things around them and through them for the better. Sometimes this takes much longer and is more painful that you would know from what we teach or would wish, but I love the hope of concrete and visible newness that characterizes a charismatic worldview. Hope for restoration, new life, and healing infuses the New Testament and I couldn’t imagine a church that didn’t expect God to be willing and able to change the worst of situations.
Heidi Baker’s amazing missionary organization Iris Global has recently started a new podcast, called Iris After Hours. It is hosted by Join Nathan Kotzur and Crystalyn Human and its first guest is no other than Heidi herself. She gives a lot of details on how God called her and Rolland to Mozambique and shares, as always, many testimonies about miracles and love to the poor.
To make sure that you catch future episodes of the pod, follow Iris Global’s YouTube channel or search for Iris After Hours on any podcast app.
There’s a theological problem known as the hiddenness of God which is sometimes used by atheists as an argument for God’s existence. If there is a God and He cares for human salvation, why isn’t He making His existence more obvious? Why isn’t He putting a neon cross in the sky or stamp every cell with “Made by God” in Hebrew letters? Why is He so silent and invisible if He exists?
Apologists generally offer two responses to this. First, God’s existence is already obvious as it is, the arguments from natural theology are good and atheism is really a position held by a minority on a global scale. Second, we cannot be sure that more people would actually be saved if God’s existence was even more obvious, knowing that He exists isn’t the same thing as building a relationship with Him.
I think those responses are good but would also want to offer a third response – a charismatic one. In the video above you can see how a deafmute boy in Zambia starts to hear and speak. On this page you will find resources on medically verified healings. There you go, evidence for God’s existence.
The atheist may respond that these events have natural explanations that we just don’t know yet. But that’s probably what s/he would say about the neon cross and the “Made by God”-stamps as well. And so there’s no way those kind of atheists will accept the existence of God. But if they’re open-minded, they’ll realise that He isn’t far away from any of us, and He can do convincing miracles in all of our lives.
Since I first presented my formulation of the miraculous a argument for God’s existence I’ve made a slight adjustment. The content is the same but I’ve added an extra premise (2), and because of that an extra conclusion (4), to clarify why the argument is valid even if it isn’t God himself that’s responsible for a certain miracle. This is how I nowadays formulate the argument:
- If miracles occur, a supernatural reality exists
- If a supernatural reality exists, God exists
- Miracles occur
- Therefore, a supernatural reality exists
- Therefore, God exists
As this is a deductive argument, the conclusions (4 and 5) are necessarily true if it can be shown that the premises (1-3) are true. So let me briefly defend each one of them.
1. If miracles occur, a supernatural reality exists
This premise is fairly non-controversial as long as one gets the definition of “miracle” straight. The definition I have suggested is a supernatural act impacting nature as demanded by human beings. However, if one uses a definition that doesn’t mention the supernatural cause, for example an event requested by humans which is scientifically and naturally inexplicable, then one needs to defend the first premise by showing why it is more plausible than not that such events have a supernatural cause rather than an unknown natural cause. If the supernatural cause is integrated into the definition of miracles on the other hand, such a defence belong to premise 3.
As I’m developing a formulation and defense for the miraculous argument for God’s existence I’ve enjoyed listening to lectures on YouTube by other Christian apologists where they defend the key premise, that miracles occur, from both a philosophical and an empirical perspective. The main philosophical objection to miracles was raised by David Hume in the 19th century, an argument that is still often referenced to by atheists and skeptics but which is actually circular and not very persuasive, as Timothy McGrew explains:
It is generally agreed today that Hume was simply lacking miraculous experience himself and so just assumed that nobody else was experiencing it. His remark of how a dead man coming back to life “has never been observed in any age or country” is embarrassingly naïve, not just dismissing the resurrection of Jesus a priori but also the numerous dead raising accounts of his time. As I have met and interviewed a man who was raised from the dead I can assure you Hume was wrong. (more…)