Miracles and the Healing of the World | The BioLogos Forum

(system) #1

Note: There is exciting news for the BioLogos website: we have a major revision planned to roll out soon. Designers and programmers have been hard at work for several months updating our look, organizing the resources, and making the entire site mobile-friendly. Much of the BioLogos staff will be engaged in testing the new site for the next couple of weeks, hoping to work out all the kinks before we go live. So we’re taking a bit of a blog hiatus—at least from new content. We’re going to run some excerpts from a couple of books that we think you’ll find interesting. The first excerpt is from Tim Keller’s book The Reason for God. Each chapter of the book deals with a common objection to biblical Christianity by skeptics. This week, we will be reprinting the chapter entitled, “Science has Disproved Christianity". This gives a good, basic explanation of one of the fundamental commitments of BioLogos, namely that science and Christianity need not conflict with each other. In today’s selection, Keller points out that the difficulty some people have reconciling evolution with Scripture is rather a difficulty reconciling evolution with a particular interpretation of Scripture. Tomorrow, Keller will wrap up his argument with a brief reflection on how we should look at faith and science in light of the destiny of the whole universe as revealed in Christ.

Healing the World

I don’t want to be too hard on people who struggle with the idea of God’s intervention in the natural order. Miracles are hard to believe in, and they should be. In Matthew 28 we are told that the apostles met the risen Jesus on a mountainside in Galilee. “When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted” (verse 17). That is a remarkable admission. Here is the author of an early Christian document telling us that some of the founders of Christianity couldn’t believe the miracle of the resurrection, even when they were looking straight at him with their eyes and touching him with their hands. There is no other reason for this to be in the account unless it really happened.

The passage shows us several things. It is a warning not to think that only we modern, scientific people have to struggle with the idea of the miraculous, while ancient, more primitive people did not. The apostles responded like any group of modern people—some believed their eyes and some didn’t. It is also an encouragement to patience. All the apostles ended up as great leaders in the church, but some had a lot more trouble believing than others.

The most instructive thing about this text is, however, what it says about the purpose of Biblical miracles. They lead not simply to cognitive belief, but to worship, to awe and wonder. Jesus’s miracles in particular were never magic tricks, designed only to impress and coerce. You never see him say something like: “See that tree over there? Watch me make it burst into flames!” Instead, he used miraculous power to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and raise the dead. Why? We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order. The Bible tells us that God did not originally make the world to have disease, hunger, and death in it. Jesus has come to redeem where it is wrong and heal the world where it is broken. His miracles are not just proofs that he has power but also wonderful foretastes of what he is going to do with that power. Jesus’s miracles are not just a challenge to our minds, but a promise to our hearts, that the world we all want is coming.

Excerpt from THE REASON FOR GOD by Timothy Keller

Reprinted by arrangement with Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2008 by Timothy Keller

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blog/miracles-and-the-healing-of-the-world

(Brad Kramer) #2

As with the other parts in this series, Pastor Keller is not available. However, you are encouraged to discuss Keller’s thoughts below.

(Merv Bitikofer) #3

You never see him say something like: “See that tree over there? Watch me make it burst into flames!”

The closest he comes to a “hey watch this” kind of display in any of the gospel accounts is, I think, the poor fig tree. Of course here too, though, the point wasn’t (at first) to make a display, but that Jesus was just hungry and was disappointed at not finding any figs on it. So the tree gets cursed (in what from anybody else we would have just identified as an apparent fit of temper). And to add insult to injury, we’re even told by the narrator it wasn’t the season for figs anyway. So the tree withers (not right away, though) and later on becomes the point of the lesson: “well, if you think that was something … wait until you see what all of you will be doing if you have just a bit of faith …”.

They too were often in the mood to have a show put on for them, so I appreciate the warning against the fallacy that skepticism is some sort of a modern phenomenon.

And despite the fig tree event (one of my less favorite miracles) I do think Keller is correct on balance regarding what/who miracles are for. Stuff like the fig tree stands out precisely because it is so exceptional in its apparent initial motivations. But then it could also be used to drive home the point that whether we are bearing fruit or not is a very serious matter indeed.

(Larry Bunce) #5

The description of Jesus’s miracles as restoring natural order, rather than interfering with it is the best statement I have ever heard about miracles in the Bible. No matter what our attitude towards religion, we all can glean from the Gospels that Jesus had a profound effect on those around him.

Somewhere in my early teens I read the book “The Robe” by Lloyd C Douglas, (1942 novel, 1953 movie) which tracks the life of the Roman who won Jesus’s robe in the lottery they held after He was crucified. My lasting impression from the book is its explanation of some of Jesus’s miracles. For the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Douglas explains that most people in the assembled multitude had brought food, but were afraid to eat it lest others around them would ask them to share. Jesus’s act of faith in blessing the small amount of the loaves and fishes He had and offering it to the crowd, opened everyone’s hearts and led them to share their own food. Douglas said that having this kind of effect upon people was no less a miracle that if bread and fish had materialized out of nothing.

Miracles may sometimes have rational explanations, but miracles in the Bible tell us something very profound about the people who told the stories. We don’t have to dissect the stories with a skeptical, scientific eye to find meaning. Even an atheist will say, “thank God” when they have been spared from what seemed like certain disaster.

(Albert Leo) #6

@Merv @Larry_Bunce
If Jesus had not ‘stood out from the crowd’ few people then would have listened to him, and we would not be Christians now. Some of his miracles could well have been of the ‘loaves & fishes’ type that Larry mentions–no Natural Laws broken but something unusual and instructive has happened. Nevertheless, some other of Jesus’ miracles must have at least ‘bent’ those Laws somewhat–maybe only slightly in calming the storm on the lake, but quite considerably in His rising from the dead.

But what about miracles today? Are there any events nowadays that occur against such impossible odds that could be considered miraculous? I believe so. In fact I was witness to one (actually took a role in it) that was witnessed by three other skeptical scientists. I know it had a positive affect on at least two lives–mine and Prof Eric Lien’s. I could provide details to anyone interested.
Al Leo

(system) #7

This topic was automatically closed 4 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.