In the appropriate sense, I am a sceptic (and no, my American friends, I did not misspell that). Some people claim to be sceptics when all they really mean (or at least all they accurately convey) is that they are passionately devoted to the thesis that God doesn’t exist and religion is bunk. They’re not really that sceptical. I think I am. If someone tells me that a miracle occurred at her local church last Sunday and someone’s filling was turned to gold (and yes, I have heard precisely this claim made), I doubt it. I’ve been to plenty of churches and meetings where there were preachers who believed in such things, and I’ve been to meetings where people claimed – right then and there, that a miraculous healing had taken place. Every single time it was false. I have witnessed no such thing actually take place right in front of me, and I tend not to believe such claims because I don’t believe that they are substantiated. But I said “tend.” I don’t dogmatically assert that they are impossible, and I don’t rule them out.
I am, after all, a Christian. I believe that God is real, and some of the most important facts of history are facts about miraculous events (most obviously and importantly, the resurrection of Jesus). Being as sceptical and cynical as I am, and trying as hard as I have tried to avoid the hysteria and gullibility that runs rampant in some Christian circles, I run a real risk – a risk that I sometimes, unfortunately, succumb to – of acting as though such things cannot happen at all. That’s not what I believe. What’s more, to the person who is not ideologically committed to ruling out the possibility of miraculous or supernatural things happening in the world, the evidence is there for any sincere seeker that such things have in fact happened. Setting aside for now the big kahuna – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth – there are other examples in history, including modern history as well. Are they common? No. They’re miracles and strange occurrences. If you do go looking for examples, you will find dozens and dozens (and DOZENS) of frauds. I’ve watched enough of them in person and on Youtube to have cringed hundreds of times at the credulity of some people. But serious examples are there. Here are three examples.
First, the example of Francis Dwomoh (find out more about him here).
Mr Dwomoh is a former Muslim who converted to the Christian faith. He is strongly Pentecostal in his beliefs, and as I read through his website, it’s clear to me that I do not agree with everything he has to say. Fortunately, having perfect theology is not a precondition for being used by God. Here he is in Athens, Greece, with a young man who has (now had) an abnormal growth on his face.
I take issue with some of what I see here. Mostly however that’s an issue of style – peripheral matters. Why does he repeat himself so much? The biblical miracles involved no such constant repetition, as though God is hard of hearing. Then there’s the whole “slain in the spirit” phenomenon, where people act as though they’ve fainted and fall down. It happens all the time at pentecostal meetings where nothing of any spiritual significance is going on, and it looks more like showmanship than anything else. These however are issues of style, and not things that can falsify what this video appears to show. I also have a problem with what I see here – God heals a man with a fairly minor cosmetic imperfection. Why? Do things like that even matter in the big picture of things? But whatever question that might raise, this doesn’t look like anything fake, unless there is something that we ar enot being told. There was no secret and brilliant plastic surgery carried out here. It looks, well… like a miracle.
Second, consider the example of Duane Miller, who was a Southern Baptist pastor. I don’t know a lot about him, but I have a casual acquaintance who knows this man. You can read more about him here . Due to the permanent effects of an illness that ruined his vocal chords, he was unable to speak, other than via a rasp. He had been that way for several, then suddenly, while being recorded teaching from the Bible about the healing power of God, he was healed. The audio recording is fairly self explanatory, so just have a listen:
The event was recorded, and it was witnessed by over two hundred people. This is how Mr Miller sounds these days as he recounts these events.
Thirdly and lastly, J. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. In this brief interview, he addresses the question, “Do Angels and Demons Exist?” I don’t always agree with Dr Moreland. I think some of the theological claims he makes in this very interview are not true. He claims that there exist “guardian angels,” one for every child. This strikes me as the stuff of bedtime stories, and it’s not taught in the Bible that Dr Moreland reads as far as I know. So I think he’s sometimes mistaken. But he’s no liar. He recounts a series of events that, if genuine, is compelling evidence for the supernatural. I cannot think of a plausible naturalistic explanation for the events that he describes in this interview.
For those who know me and who know just how cynical I am about gullible Christians and about charismatic theology and practice, I just wanted to make sure you know I’m not actually someone who denies that God is active in the world and can (and does) do amazing things. As unacademic and unintellectual is this might sound in the ears of some, miracles are real.
As for those who are committed to the thesis that God doesn’t exist and religion is bunk, I have a question: Without appealing to that belief itself, how do you think you’d explain events like the ones depicted here?
- Hume on Induction and Miracles: Having a bob each way?
- Why I’m such a cynic
- Brian Leftow on “One Person Christology”
- Jesus never said ANYTHING about X!
- Episode 044: What is Faith?