Miracles

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Next, one should explore the method of gift reception , as that concept is set forth in the New Testament. Christ, of course, was empowered directly by God to work miracles. So far as New Testament information goes, there were only two ways by which others received spiritual gifts in the apostolic era. The first was by means of Holy Spirit baptism, i. Let us consider the biblical facts regarding these two matters. Holy Spirit baptism was demonstrated in only two New Testament situations.

It was given to the apostles of Christ Acts 1: Then, as a very special case, it was received by the household of Cornelius Acts Is Holy Spirit baptism available today? We can show that it is not by the following logical argument.

First, when Paul wrote to the Ephesians ca. It is generally conceded that this baptism must be either Holy Spirit baptism or water baptism. If it can be established that the one baptism of Ephesians 4: That water baptism is age-lasting is demonstrated by the fact that it is the baptism of the great commission cf. Whatever the baptism of this passage is, therefore, it continues in force until the end.

This baptism, however, must be water baptism, as evidenced by the fact that it is administered by human beings: It must be concluded, therefore, that the one baptism of Ephesians 4: Such being the case, spiritual gifts are not received via Holy Spirit baptism today.

Other than by Holy Spirit baptism, miraculous gifts could be conveyed only by an apostle of Christ. Philip, the evangelist not an apostle , could perform miracles, but he could not pass that gift along to others. Accordingly, apostles, namely Peter and John, were sent to Samaria, where Philip had been preaching, so that the church there might be furnished with certain divine gifts cf.


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He wanted to purchase that privilege for himself, but he was informed that he had neither part nor lot in that matter, i. Such, however, was a very illogical position, for that church possessed spiritual gifts 1 Corinthians , and they had received them from none other than Paul. If to others I am not an apostle, yet at least I am to you; for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord 1 Corinthians 9: Some argue that 1 Timothy 4: However, the passage does not suggest that. This verse asserts that Timothy had received a spiritual gift on the same general occasion when elders had laid hands upon the evangelist—doubtless to appoint him to some special mission.

It does not affirm that the elders themselves imparted miracle-working ability to Timothy. Since, therefore, there is no Holy Spirit baptism today; and further, since there are no apostles or successors to them in this age, it should be quite clear that men are not in possession of supernatural gifts of the Spirit in this post-apostolic era of the Christian dispensation. Were miraculous gifts to abide with the church until the end of time, or, due to their specific design, were they only a temporary phenomena?

This matter is discussed rather comprehensively in two New Testament contexts. We will consider each of these. He commences by showing that these gifts must be exercised in love, for miraculous powers, void of love, were worthless. This theme was quite appropriate in view of the disposition of rivalry which threatened the unity of the Corinthian congregation some exalting certain gifts above others, etc. From this initial instruction there is a very natural transition into the character and permanence of love, in contrast to the transitory function of spiritual gifts. Of the nine gifts mentioned in The apostle affirms that prophecies shall be done away, tongues shall cease, knowledge i.

It is wonderfully clear, therefore, that these three gifts and by implication all miraculous gifts were not designed to be a permanent fixture within the church. In 1 Corinthians And so, we make the following argument: But, the in-part things are the supernatural gifts by which the will of God was revealed. Thus, the supernatural gifts, by which the will of God was made known, were to be terminated.

But the question is: A noted scholar observes: In his translation of the New Testament, J. So, we may reason as follows: Whatever the in-part things are partially, the whole is, in completed form. Remember this vital point: If men are performing miracles today, their messages are as binding as the New Testament record! If such is the case, the New Testament is not the final word.

The gifts were miraculously endowed functions in the church e. Moreover, the duration of these supernatural governments was specified. And so, to sum up: Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 13 are wonderfully complimentary. We will now consider a couple of arguments that frequently are employed in an attempt to prove that miracles did not cease with the apostolic age. First, some contend Paul taught that spiritual gifts would continue to the very end, i. We offer the following points. It is not certain that miraculous gifts are even in view within this context.

Meyer argues that spiritual blessings in general are under consideration, not miraculous gifts , One may be confirmed sustained through the message of the inspired Word 2 Timothy 3: Paul begins having distracting visions of Tommy again so Evie and Alva take him to a TV psychic to see if he could help.

Later, Paul is taking care of Matty and sees Tommy again. When the vision is The Mary Poppins Returns star shares her favorite new movie, and the docuseries she's obsessed with. See what's on her Watchlist. Paul investigates modern miracles for the Catholic Church. After he witnesses a true, supernatural miracle, only for his findings to be dismissed, Paul leaves behind the Church and is approached by Alva Keel to join his organization. What a shame that ABC is so clueless and cancelled this great show after just 5 episodes and when things were getting so interesting.

I suppose that is the way it goes with all good television; for some reason our society in general is not able to handle an hour of intelligent and insightful programing. Let's hope this somehow finds its way to another network or to DVD. There are 7 episodes that will never see the light of day otherwise. Start your free trial. Find showtimes, watch trailers, browse photos, track your Watchlist and rate your favorite movies and TV shows on your phone or tablet!

One concern we might have with the miraculous would be an apologetic one. By "apologetic" here is meant a defense of the rationality of belief in God. Historically, apologists have pointed to the occurrence of miracles as evidence for theism, which is to say that they have held that scriptural reports of miracles, such as those given in the Bible, provide grounds for belief in God. While this argument is not as popular now as it was in the 18th century, the modern conception of the miraculous has been strongly influenced by this apologetic interest.

Such an interest puts important constraints on an account of miracles. If we wish to point to a miracle as supporting belief in a supernatural deity, obviously we cannot begin by assuming the supernaturalistic worldview; this would beg the question. If we are trying to persuade a skeptic of God's existence, we are trying to demonstrate to him that there is something beyond or transcending nature, and he will demand to be persuaded on his own terms; we must make use of no assumptions beyond those that are already acknowledged by the naturalistic worldview.

Because the history of modern thought regarding miracles has been strongly influenced by apologetic interests, the emphasis of this entry will be on the apologetic conception of the miraculous—that is, on the concept of miracle as it has been invoked by those who would point to the reports of miracles in scripture as establishing the existence of a supernatural God. It is important to bear in mind, however, that any difficulty associated with this apologetic appeal to miracles does not automatically militate against the reasonableness of belief in miracles generally.


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  • A successful criticism of the apologetic appeal will show at most that a warranted belief in miracles depends on our having independent reasons for rejecting naturalism; again, see Lewis A major concern with the rationality of belief in miracles is with whether we can be justified in believing that a miracle has occurred on the basis of testimony. To determine whether the report of a miracle is credible, we need to consider the reliability of the source.

    Are S's reports generally true? Clearly if she is known to lie, or to utter falsehoods as jokes, we should be reluctant to believe her. Aside from the possibility that she may be influenced by some tangible self-interest, such as a financial one, her report may also be influenced by emotional factors—by her fears, perhaps, or by wishful thinking.

    We should also consider whether other reliable and independent witnesses are available to corroborate her report.

    Top 10 Real Miracles Caught On Tape In The World

    We must also ask whether S is herself a witness to E, or is passing on information that was reported to her. If she witnessed the event personally, we may ask a number of questions about her observational powers and the physical circumstances of her observation. There are quite a few things that can go wrong here; for example, S may sincerely report an event as she believed it to occur, but in fact her report is based on a misperception. Thus she may report having seen a man walk across the surface of a lake; this may be her understanding of what happened, when in fact he was walking alongside the lake or on a sand bar.

    If it was dark, and the weather was bad, this would have made it difficult for S to have a good view of what was happening. And of course we should not neglect the influence of S's own attitudes on how she interprets what she sees; if she is already inclined to think of the man she reports as walking on water as being someone who is capable of performing such an extraordinary feat, this may color how she understands what she has seen.

    By the same token, if we are already inclined to agree with her about this person's remarkable abilities, we will be all the more likely to believe her report. If S is merely passing on the testimony of someone else to the occurrence of E, we may question whether she has properly understood what she was told. She may not be repeating the testimony exactly as it was given to her. And here, too, her own biases may color her understanding of the report. The possibility of distortions entering into testimony grows with each re-telling of the story.

    It will be fruitful to consider these elements in evaluating the strength of scriptural testimony to the miracles ascribed to Jesus. The reports of these miracles come from the four gospel accounts. Some of these accounts seem to have borrowed from others, or to have been influenced by a common source; even if this were not the case, they still cannot be claimed to represent independent reports. Assuming they originate with the firsthand testimony of Jesus' followers, these people were closely associated and had the opportunity to discuss among themselves what they had seen before their stories were recorded for posterity.

    They were all members of the same religious community, and shared a common perspective as well as common interests. While the gospel accounts tell us that miracles took place in front of hostile witnesses, we do not have the testimony of these witnesses. It is sometimes suggested that these men undertook grave risk by reporting what they did, and they would not have risked their lives for a lie. But this establishes, at best, only that their reports are sincere; unfortunately, their conviction is not conclusive evidence for the truth of their testimony.

    We could expect the same conviction from someone who was delusional. Let us consider a particular report of Jesus' resurrection in applying these considerations. Popular apologetic sometimes points to the fact that according to Paul in 1 Corinthians After all, it may be argued, they could not have shared a mass hallucination, since hallucinations are typically private; there is no precedent for shared hallucination, and it may seem particularly far-fetched to suppose that a hallucination would be shared among so many people.

    Accordingly it may be thought much more likely that Jesus really was there and, assuming there is sufficient evidence that he had died previously to that time, it becomes reasonable to say that he was resurrected from the dead. But let us suppose that Paul means to report that the five hundred saw Jesus in the flesh. Unfortunately we do not have the reports of the five hundred to Jesus' resurrection; we have only Paul's hearsay testimony that Jesus was seen by five hundred.

    Furthermore Paul does not tell us how this information came to him. It is possible that he spoke personally to some or all of these five hundred witnesses, but it is also possible that he is repeating testimony that he received from someone else. This opens up the possibility that the report was distorted before it reached Paul; for example, the number of witnesses may have been exaggerated, or the original witnesses may have merely reported feeling Jesus' presence in some way without actually seeing him.

    For the sake of argument, however, let us suppose that there was at one time a group of five hundred people who were all prepared to testify that they had seen a physically resurrected Jesus. This need not be the result of any supposed mass hallucination; the five hundred might have all seen someone who they came to believe, after discussing it amongst themselves, was Jesus. In such a case, the testimony of the five hundred would be to an experience together with a shared interpretation of it.

    It is also possible that the text of Paul's letter to the Corinthians has not been accurately preserved. Thus, no matter how reliable Paul himself might be, his own report may have been modified through one, or several, redactions. There are, therefore, quite a few points at which error or distortion might have entered into the report in 1 Corinthians: The apologist may argue that it would be very surprising if errors should creep into the report at any of these four points. That some error should arise in regard to above, or that Jesus really was resurrected from the dead.

    Hume did not explicitly address the question of whether actually witnessing an apparent miracle would give us good reason to think that a miracle had actually occurred, though it is possible that the principles he invokes in regard to testimony for the miraculous can be applied to the case of a witnessed miracle.

    His stated aim is to show that belief in miracle reports is not rational, but that "our most holy religion is founded on Faith, not on reason" Enquiries, p. Hume surely intends some irony here, however, since he concludes by saying that anyone who embraces a belief in miracles based on faith is conscious of "a continued miracle in his own person, which subverts all the principles of his understanding" Enquiries, p.

    The most compelling of these is the one I will call the Balance of Probabilities Argument. For a brief discussion of some of the other arguments, see the entry "David Hume: We have already examined some of the considerations that go into assessing the strength of testimony; there is no denying that testimony may be very strong indeed when, for example, it may be given by numerous highly reliable and independent witnesses.

    The problem that arises is not so much with the reliability of the witnesses as with the nature of what is being reported. A miracle is, according to Hume, a violation of natural law. We suppose that a law of nature obtains only when we have an extensive, and exceptionless, experience of a certain kind of phenomenon.

    For example, we suppose that it is a matter of natural law that a human being cannot walk on the surface of water while it is in its liquid state; this supposition is based on the weight of an enormous body of experience gained from our familiarity with what happens in seas, lakes, kitchen sinks, and bathtubs. Given that experience, we always have the best possible evidence that in any particular case, an object with a sufficiently great average density, having been placed onto the surface of a body of water, will sink.

    According to Hume, the evidence in favor of a miracle, even when that is provided by the strongest possible testimony, will always be outweighed by the evidence for the law of nature which is supposed to have been violated. Considerable controversy surrounds the notion of a violation of natural law.

    Thus given that we have a very great amount of experience regarding dense objects being placed onto water, and given that in every one of these cases that object has sunk, we have the strongest possible evidence that any object that is placed onto water is one that will sink. Accordingly we have the best possible reasons for thinking that any report of someone walking on water is false—and this no matter how reliable the witness. While objections are frequently made against Hume's conception of natural law, in fact no particularly sophisticated account of natural law seems to be necessary here, and Hume's examples are quite commonsensical: All human beings must die, lead cannot remain suspended in the air, fire consumes wood and is extinguished by water Enquiries p.

    This may be a naive conception of natural law; nevertheless it is true that, all things being equal, we can assign a minimal probability to the occurrence of a counterinstance to any of these generalizations. Past regularities do not establish that it is impossible that a natural law should ever be suspended Purtill However, regardless of Hume's original intent, this is a more extravagant claim than his argument requires.

    After all, there is no precedent for any human being walking on water, setting this one controversial case aside, but there is ample precedent for the falsehood of testimony even under the best of circumstances. Accordingly Hume says Enquiries p. We must ask ourselves, which would be more of a miracle: That Jesus walked on water, or that the scriptural reports of this event are false?

    What Does the Bible Say About Miracles?

    While we may occasionally encounter testimony that is so strong that its falsehood would be very surprising indeed, we never come across any report, the falsehood of which would be downright miraculous. Accordingly, the reasonable conclusion will always be that the testimony is false. Thus to return to Paul's report of Jesus' resurrection in 1 Corinthians: It may be highly unlikely that the original witnesses were wrong, for one reason or another, about whether they saw Jesus; it may be highly unlikely that the testimony of these witnesses may have been distorted before reaching Paul; it may be highly unlikely that Paul incorrectly reported what he heard about the event, and it may be highly unlikely that Paul's original letter to the Christian community in Corinth has not been accurately preserved in our modern translations of the New Testament.

    Suppose the apologist can argue that a failure in the transmission of testimony at any of these points might be entirely without precedent in human experience. Apologetic appeals frequently focus on the strength of testimony such as Paul's, and often appear to make a good case for its reliability. Nevertheless such an appeal will only persuade those who are already inclined to believe in the miracle—perhaps because they are already sympathetic to a supernaturalistic worldview—and who therefore tend to downplay the unlikelihood of a dead man returning to life.

    Having said all this, it may strike us as odd that Hume seems not to want to rule out the possibility, in principle, that very strong testimony might establish the occurrence of an unprecedented event. He tells us Enquiries p. Thus even if we were convinced that such an event really did take place—and the evidence in this case would be considerably stronger than the evidence for any of the miracles of the Bible—we should suppose that the event in question really had a natural cause after all.

    In this case the event would not be a violation of natural law, and thus according to Hume's definition would not be a miracle. Despite this possibility, Hume wants to say that the quality of miracle reports is never high enough to clear this hurdle, at least when they are given in the interest of establishing a religion, as they typically are. People in such circumstances are likely to be operating under any number of passional influences, such as enthusiasm, wishful thinking, or a sense of mission driven by good intentions; these influences may be expected to undermine their critical faculties.

    Given the importance to religion of a sense of mystery and wonder, that very quality which would otherwise tend to make a report incredible—that it is the report of something entirely novel—becomes one that recommends it to us. There is something clearly right about Hume's argument. The principle he cites surely resembles the one that we properly use when we discredit reports in tabloid newspapers about alien visitors to the White House or tiny mermaids being found in sardine cans.

    Nevertheless the argument has prompted a great many criticisms. Some of this discussion makes use of Bayesian probabilistic analysis; John Earman, for example, argues that when the principles of Hume's arguments "are made explicit and examined under the lens of Bayesianism, they are found to be either vapid, specious, or at variance with actual scientific practice" Earman The Bayesian literature will not be discussed here, though Earman's discussion of the power of multiple witnessing deserves mention.

    Earman argues that even if the prior probability of a miracle occurring is very low, if there are enough independent witnesses, and each is sufficiently reliable, its occurrence may be established as probable. Of course the number of witnesses required might be very large, and it may be that none of the miracles reported in any scripture will qualify. It is true that some of the miracles of the Bible are reported to have occurred in the presence of a good number of witnesses; the miracle of the loaves and fishes is a good example, which according to Mark Mark 6: But we have already noticed that the testimony of one person, or even of four, that some event was witnessed by a multitude is not nearly the same as having the testimony of the multitude itself.

    Another objection against Hume's argument is that it makes use of a method that is unreliable; that is, it may have us reject reports that are true or accept those that are false. Consider the fact that a particular combination of lottery numbers will generally be chosen against very great odds. If the odds of the particular combination chosen in the California Lottery last week were 40 million to 1, the probability of that combination being chosen is very low.

    The unreliability objection, made out in this particular way, seems to have a fairly easy response. There is no skeptical challenge to our being justified in believing the report of a lottery drawing; that is, reports of lottery drawings are reports of ordinary events, like reports of rainstorms and presidential press conferences. They do not require particularly strong testimony to be credible, and in fact we may be justified in believing the report of a lottery drawing even if it came from an otherwise unreliable source, such as a tabloid newspaper. This is surely because we know in advance that when the lottery is drawn, whatever particular combination of numbers may be chosen will be chosen against very great odds, so that we are guaranteed to get one highly improbable combination or another.

    Despite the fact that the odds against any particular combination are very great, all of the other particular outcomes are equally unlikely, so we have no prejudice against any particular combination. We know that people are going to win the lottery from time to time; we have no comparable assurance that anyone will ever be raised from the dead. Nevertheless if we are to be able to make progress in science, we must be prepared to revise our understanding of natural law, and there ought to be circumstances in which testimony to an unprecedented event would be credible.

    For example, human beings collectively have seen countless squid, few of which have ever exceeded a length of two feet. For this reason reports of giant squid have, in the past, been sometimes dismissed as fanciful; the method employed by Hume in his Balance of Probabilities Argument would seem to rule out the possibility of our coming to the conclusion, on the basis of testimony, that such creatures exist—yet they have been found in the deep water near Antarctica.

    Similarly, someone living beyond the reach of modern technology might well reject reports of electric lighting and airplanes.

    Definition and Classification of Miracles

    Surely we should be skeptical when encountering a report of something so novel. But science depends for its progress on an ability to revise even its most confident assertions about the natural world. Discussion of this particular problem in Hume tends to revolve around his example of the Indian and the ice. Someone from a very hot climate such as that of India, living during Hume's time, might refuse to believe that water was capable of taking solid form as ice or frost, since he has an exceptionless experience against this.

    Yet in this case he would come to the wrong conclusion. Hume argues that such a person would reason correctly, and that very strong testimony would properly be required to persuade him otherwise. Yet Hume refers to this not as a miracle but as a marvel; the difference would appear to lie in the fact that while water turning to ice does not conform to the experience of the Indian, since he has experienced no precedent for this, it is also not contrary to his experience, because he has never had a chance to see what will happen to water when the temperature is sufficiently low Enquiries, p.

    By the same token, we ought to be cautious when it comes to deciding how large squid may grow in the Antarctic deeps, when our only experience of them has been in warm and relatively shallow water. The circumstances of an Antarctic habitat are not analogous to those in which we normally observe squid.

    What Does the Bible Say About Miracles? : Christian Courier

    On the other hand, when someone reports to us that they have witnessed a miracle, such as a human being walking on water, our experience of ordinary water is analogous to this case, and therefore counts against the likelihood that the report is true. Jesus' walking on water will only qualify as a miracle on the assumption that this case is analogous in all relevant respects to those cases in which dense objects have sunk. The distinction between a miracle and a marvel is an important one for Hume; as he constructs an epistemology that he hopes will rule out belief in miracles in principle, he must be careful that it does not also hinder progress in science.

    Whether Hume is successful in making this distinction is a matter of some controversy. Many commentators have suggested that Hume's argument begs the question against miracles. See for example Lewis I consider my past experience with dense objects, such as human bodies, and their behavior in water; I may even conduct a series of experiments to see what will happen when a human body is placed without support on the surface of a body of water, and I always observe these bodies to sink.

    I now consider what is likely to occur, or likely to have occurred, in some unknown case. Perhaps I am wondering what will happen the next time I step out into the waters of Silver Lake. Obviously I will expect, without seriously considering the matter, that I will sink rather than walk on its surface. My past experience with water gives me very good reason to think that this is what will happen.