Do Miracles Prove Anything?

by Dan on September 1, 2009

In my spiritual search, I’ve read a number of arguments for many faiths, most coming from biblical monotheism, with some notable exceptions.

Jews have the “national revelation” of ancestors living though the ten plagues, miraculous days of Solomon, and other startling events..

Christians have the miracles of Jesus, especially his resurrection after crucifixion.

Hindus have the “Hindu Milk Miracle,” in which some New Delhi statues seemed to be “drinking” when someone put a spoon of milk near one of their mouths.

What I find interesting is that apologists and proponents for the faith spend 99% of their time showing evidence for the miracles and barely any time proving their meaning.

Now if the miracles we’ve heard about are accurate is another huge discussion.   For this post alone, I’ll give the New Testament the benefit of the doubt.  Suppose it’s completely historically accurate.

“Well that settles it, Dan.  If it’s historically accurate, then you might as well accept Jesus as your savior.”

Christian apologists like Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig, and Norman Geisler all claim that if Jesus rose from the dead, that’s the end of the story.

Not so much.

Historically accurate would mean that Jesus came, preached his gospel, performed great feats, rose from the dead, and vanished.  That historical accuracy has nothing to do with whether the New Testament authors understood him, or if he was even telling the truth.

If 2000 years ago, a man with powers visited us, what does that mean?

I would say it simply means there was a man with powers 2000 years ago.

We can never deduce theological or spiritual meaning based on events alone.

For the uncreative, what if we get a question like, “What else could he be besides God?”

I don’t know.  Maybe one of many tiny deities in the universe?  Maybe a figure from another dimension?  Maybe an alien?

We have plenty of options.  In fact, every religion can make the Jesus story compatible with their views.  Maybe Jesus was a divine prankster like Loki or Hermes, and just having fun until Odin or Zeus told him to cut it out and stop messing with earthlings.

Do I think this happened?  Probably not, but this man being the creator of the entire universe is actually more of a leap of faith than that he was something much smaller than that.

It makes our lives so much easier to assume that a single event, or even a dozen events, can tell us what kind of world we live in.  The mystery just isn’t solved that quickly.

The TV show Lost is a great example of this in action.  A plane of 60 or so passengers crashes on an island.  No later than the first day do they realize this island is a special place.  There is this strange force called the “Monster” which seems to grab and kill people randomly, but we can’t see what’s doing it.  Later, we see it’s a form of black smoke grabbing the people.

What could we assume from this?  If you look at the Lost forums from 2004, everyone had their own theory.  Is the island a dream?  Are they in purgatory?

Five seasons later, we have a ton of new information and still haven’t got a clue.  You can activate the “Monster” by pushing a button in a certain house, so it’s clear there’s some technology involved.  At the same time, there are other events which defy any scientific explanation, making us think there is spirit or magic at work.

If the New Testament miracles are true, I’d compare the witnesses of Jesus’ miracles to the first season of Lost.  Crazy phenomena happened around them, and they explained it the best they could with the knowledge they had at the time.

If you ask a Christian apologist about miracles in other religions, you may hear answers like “This is Jesus working through Hinduism” or worse “It’s Satan trying to deceive them with false magic.”  The idea there might be more than one god or multiple benevolent spirits at work does not cross their mind.

To be clear, I’m not saying I believe in polytheism, monotheism, or anything viewpoint like that.

In the end, we can only take a miracle as a sign that there’s more to meet the eye in our world.  This is just as important for strange occurrences today as when looking at the reports from others’ experiences.  A miracle should be a call to continue exploring, not to limit our journey.

Commit to no faith, and always stay open to new explanations..

–Dan

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 SteveJ October 6, 2009 at 10:04 am

Well said. I’ve grappled with this issue for a while now.

It’s one thing to say that a supernatural act has taken place (e.g., a healing) and quite another to say that all the practitioner’s religious dogmas are thereby affirmed. If a Pentecostal faith-healer’s beliefs are all verified because of a miracle, then a Catholic stigmatist’s beliefs are likewise, all proved true. There are also Mormon miracles reported. Do they validate the doctrines of Joseph Smith?

I’m open to the idea that unexplained phenomena occur within religious settings. The question, what does something like this actually explain?

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