A miracle is any event in the physical world that cannot be explained by the known laws of science and nature. Consequently ‘miracles’ change as scientific knowledge advances.
In times gone by mobile phones, microwaves, aeroplanes, television and the internet would have been considered miracles. Even flicking a switch to light up a room would have appeared miraculous to the average person a century and a half ago. In some parts of the world it still is.
The laws of physics have not changed in the past two thousand years; indeed, they have never changed, not in two thousand billion years! But our knowledge of them has. Every major scientific advance makes a ‘miracle’ no longer a miracle. Today space flight is no miracle, but transporting ourselves across time and space instantaneously as they do in science fiction programmes such as Dr Who and Star Trek would be. But for now, we can’t, so it appears just as miraculous as a pistol shot in the first century.
As for the healing miracles in the New Testament, if they happened (and I genuinely believe some of them did) who’s to say they weren’t the placebo effect at work? Scientists have demonstrated that placebos – pills with no active ingredients – can produce miraculous cures when the patient believes they can, and the stronger the belief, the more effective the cure. It’s perfectly possible that people who believed in Yeshua’s power to heal would get better simply for that reason.
There’s no doubt that the gospel authors saw no harm in massaging the facts to fit their stories; perhaps they even believed some of them. But there are no historical references to Yeshua transcending the laws of nature outside the New Testament other than as one of several gifted healers. Don’t you think there would be if something as remarkable as bringing a dead body back to life or turning water into wine had taken place? Suspiciously, these two events from the Fourth Gospel didn’t even make it into the other three!
Do I believe in miracles? Emphatically yes! But only because there’s so much more to learn about our world and the part we play in it.
© David Lawrence Preston, 24.8.2016
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Balboa Press, 2015