Miracles happen

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?

Glenn Peoples

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27 thoughts on “Miracles happen

  1. The lack of true skepticism is, I’m convinced, what drives many intellectuals (self-styled and otherwise) away from the church.

  2. I don’t know if I have the precise explanation for what happened in those particular instances. Just because I don’t believe in the existence of supernatural miracles, it doesn’t then follow that I know what happened in that case.

    I have numerous possible explanations and all of them would require more data to exclude.

    Take for instance to the Pentecostal healing of that minor growth. I have heard of other healers and the methods they use. Being a healer is an age old con and there are many tricks used by known con artists, as well as those who are sincere but self deluded. Notice that that the camera turned off after the person had been slain two times. How much time passed? I know its the pratice of some healers to let time pass for the healing to ‘stick’. You hear the same from people who practice exorcisms.

    As for JP Moreland, I’m afraid I don’t buy the angel story one bit. Its pure hear say. The only strange tidbit in it, is the part where a person draws a picture that fits the description of the angels, and it coinciding with JP’s prayer. First of all this is a story that JP obviously has heavy emotions invested in. Its a story he must have told many times before. All of that makes me doubt the accuracy of the story, so I’m far from sure that the facts are as he reported them.

    I’m not an expert in miracles, and there’s one thing I don’t want to happen and that is that I raise my own bar of evidence so high that no miracle (if they do happen) could get through. I just wanna ellimitate reasonable doubt. I think that’s the same goal you have Glenn, so we’re probably not that much different. Though you have a higher prior plausibility for miracles existing.

    Its a thing I’m fascinated by, and I hope to get some good research into miracles done one day. Until then, I stand by the conclusions reached by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, that no verified paranormal claims exist.

    Of course if the healer from the above video is willing, he can win a million dollars from the James Randi Educational Foundation, if he can do that again under controlled circumstances.

  3. I don’t know if I have the precise explanation for what happened in those particular instances. Just because I don’t believe in the existence of supernatural miracles, it doesn’t then follow that I know what happened in that case.

    I have numerous possible explanations and all of them would require more data to exclude.

    So you interpret these stories through faith in an unprovable philosophical belief.

    Take for instance to the Pentecostal healing of that minor growth.

    could be fake, but it’d be one heck of a makeup job. I suppose hollywood could make it happen and i’d like to see a makeup artist comment on it. Nevertheless, it is from a philosophical position that says because what we saw could be faked (which we don’t know yet) doesn’t mean that it was. I personally no reason to doubt that it is real, and if i’m wrong, then I’m wrong.

    Why is it so good? The skin pulled tight around the growth and moved around it as if it was under a real skin. Also, consider the relative smallness of the event. If your going to fake something, why pick a growth? Why not something more dramatic?

    I don’t think this is irrefutable, I just don’t see excellent reason to doubt it unless you are dead set against the possibilities of miracles.

    I would like to hear why Glenn thinks it is convincing besides that it looks real. I’d note the skin was pulled tight around it very liberally, but i don’t know enough about makeup movie magic to say that it could be reproduced (and at a reasonable expense).

    he only strange tidbit in it, is the part where a person draws a picture that fits the description of the angels, and it coinciding with JP’s prayer.

    one HECK of a coincidence. people just don’t normally go up to people and say “I saw angels around you”. And for that to coincide with with the prayer is quite amazing.

    All of that makes me doubt the accuracy of the story, so I’m far from sure that the facts are as he reported them.

    There weren’t a lot of facts, they weren’t the sort that were easily forgetable. He prayed to see angels. A student saw the angels a week later. They were standing in a certain position. This doesn’t seem that complex and intricate to be forgotten. Maybe i don’t have the facts perfectly straight, but it didn’t happen to me.

    I stand by the conclusions reached by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, that no verified paranormal claims exist.

    I suspect that they are not properly skeptical of their standards of verification.

    Of course if the healer from the above video is willing, he can win a million dollars from the James Randi Educational Foundation, if he can do that again under controlled circumstances.

    We have theological reasons not to expect this. The healer didn’t really do the healing. God did. God doesn’t need our help to verify his existence according to the standards of skeptics. He doesn’t do that? Why not? If we look, this is perfectly consistent with our scripture that state that Jesus himself was not always able to perform wonders because of unbelievers. Of course the omnipotent God can do anything he wants, and yet he is willing to limit himself here. Why? It seems to me that God’s power over the world is not first and foremost what it is that we are to seek from him. Christianity is clear that our faith is about love, community, relationship and redemption, all of which must be approached in terms of trust. God will not submit to the controlled experiments of unbelievers because to relate to them, they must first trust and cease to be unbelievers. And of course, even then, a world of miracles will not be unveiled to them as it isn’t to perhaps most Christians, perhaps even most devout christians. And that’s because our faith isn’t about miracles or miraculous affirmation, it is, again, about relatinship and trust.

  4. Excuse me RobR, I was kindly replying to Glenn on the question he asked. So when you say ‘unprovable philosophical belief’, I hope this just snide. I do believe that Naturalism can be rationally justified. However I do recognise, that a comment thread, is not the place for such a long talk.

    I trust Glenn, just wanted to know opinions. Not an exhaustive research into each of these. Is that what you’re asking me?

    I didn’t claim, that the pentecostal example of a healing was faked. It might have been, but that’s not what I think is most likely. It might have been a mere infection. I don’t know anymore than what was shown in the video. I had the audio turned off, since I find pentecostal prayers ridiculous and overly loud. In any case, one must ask if a supernatural explanation is more likely. I have no prior probability in miracles.

    Glenn, have you considered alternative explanations? Like an infectios disease, and the possibility of there being days or weeks between the ‘before’ and ‘after’ shot of the man? When do you feel that its more likely that a miracle has taken?

    As for JP’s miracle, I repeat only the short opinions that came to my mind. I don’t have a degree in psychology, nor have I personally interviewed many such people. I have only read the works of those who have. They propose plausible explanations, based upon things we already know about humans. Micheal Shermer’s book Why People Believe Strange Things, is a good read on that matter, FlimFlam from James Randi, is another. That’s mostly where I get my opinions on these matters.

    I do think miracles can be used to demonstrate the existence of the supernatural. And as a former Christian, who wants to reexamine the reasons why he left. Whether they were proper or not. I will certainly make a round about miracles eventually.

  5. Excuse me RobR, I was kindly replying to Glenn on the question he asked.

    If you put it out there, it’s fair game for comments. You can ignore me or not.

    I do believe that Naturalism can be rationally justified.

    As long as you don’t take a hard line against faith and don’t mistake faith for irrationality. naturalism is indeed a rationally justifiable faith as are many other views.

    I didn’t claim, that the pentecostal example of a healing was faked.

    I didn’t take a hardline against it one way or another. And I thought it was the weakest of these three examples for the reason I cited. But having reviewed it, I think it is arguably weak for the reason you mentioned. Having watched it over, I notice that the man’s shirt changed from before and after. So this was at perhaps a day or more from when he was prayed for and without knowledge of what it was, it may have just gone away on it’s own. But I don’t believe this demonstrates that the natrualistic explanation is correct nor do I think it is what rationality requires. I would say here, rationality neither compels a naturalistic interpretation nor a supernatural one. I do think that the other two examples are better and are not as well suited to a naturalistic interpretation.

    Since the guys shirt changed and since this took a while, I actually think that that is also inconsistent with this being faked with makeup. Why do something so obvious as change someone’s shirt or wait to film the after picture? But yes, still, it may have been the sort of thing that can go away on it’s own.

  6. When my sister was a little girl (3 years old), her legs were so crippled that she was unable to walk. Doctors were planning to put her into leg irons.

    This was during the height of the Charismatic Renewal, and my folks took her along to a prayer meeting. They prayed for her, and her legs were straightened and that evening she walked for the first time.

    Please Note: I didn’t personally witness this healing as it was three years before I was born, however my folks and my three older brothers did. (uhhh I’m the youngest by a long way, and my sister is the second youngest)

  7. I can’t say I’ve experienced or seen many miracles, although I was in a Pentecostal Church for 15 years. However, a friend had a ovarian cyst that vanished – attested by doctors – and on more than one occasion a large number of people were fed quite comfortably with a small amount of food. As for being slain in the Spirit – yes, I’ve seen it faked, but both my wife and I have experienced this personally. It happened to both of us at least twice, both times without any ‘intention’ on our part. In fact, once a very small group of us were praying. My wife was standing next to me. I had my eyes closed and when I opened them, she had fallen to the floor without a sound, and without the slightest hurt.
    It may not come in the class of ‘miracles’ but it certainly isn’t quite ‘normal’ to fall over without any attempt to protect yourself, or to feel any sensation of hitting the floor. I’ve fainted more than once in my life, and that’s quite a different sensation: you know you’re going down, and you certainly know when you bang your head on something (like a hard toilet, as I’ve done).
    Anyway, just some thoughts to say that Yes, I agree some scepticism is required, but it shouldn’t necessarily be the default position.

  8. I actually didn’t spot that the young guy in athens had a different shirt on. I definitely think they should have made it a lot clearer in the presentation that this was not one filemed event, but footage from two different times. On reflection I’d say that’s fairly misleading actually.

    I withdraw my endorsement of that footage as evidence of a miracle, because while it is possible, there’s now too much room for plausible doubt.

    I don’t think there’s a particularly plausible explanation for why a smart, educated and honest person like JP Moreland would have given his account unless he sincerely believed it, and I can’t see any plausible naturalistic explanation for why he would have believed it – especially givent hat two independent people saw the people involved, not Dr Moreland himself.

    As for the audio recording of the man’s voice being healed, nobody has really raised a challenge against that, and for good reason, it’s pretty striking to listen to.

    But Leonhard, you add: “Of course if the healer from the above video is willing, he can win a million dollars from the James Randi Educational Foundation, if he can do that again under controlled circumstances.”

    Surely whoever is offering that prize must see the obvious problem with the offer. The suggestion that miracles are predictable in advance is alien to Christian theology. It basically treats miracles like naturalistic events that can be set up and planned.

  9. I havn’t listened to the voice recording yet, though I did check the webpage. So far I have found neither what illness he was suffering from, nor which experts examined him. I would love to get a verification of their testimony. I don’t know about this one, it seems interesting. There’s faking it, which has occured and therefore constitutes a real possibility, Mihcael Guglielmucci being a recent case. That one could be made improbable if independent testimony from the doctors could be produced. Secondly he might have had an illness with a known history of spontanious remission. Another possibility is that he didn’t get a proper diagonises. The former two would require having his medical record on hand.

    And yes, miracles would be a class of events that could potentially not be subject to controlled testing, because no one could predict when they would occur. The million dollar prize bit was a little snide from me *smirk*. I don’t treat miracle claims any differently than bigfoot and UFO sightings, new age healing, dowsing, crystal healing, homeopathy and so on.

    I don’t have any prior plausibility in any of the miracle claims. It would be a discovery of a whole new class of events from my epistimological position. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t be convinced, but it would require a bit more evidence to convince me than any single claim.

    You also agree, that a huge portion of miracle claims are fraudulent or just plain delusion on part of the people involved. From my perspective it seems that its far more likely for a miracle claim to be false, than for it to be true. Even from a Christian point of view. Do you agree?

    I think our biggest difference is the amount of trust we are willing to give the accuracy of a persons testimony. From my understanding -personal life, and brief reading of a few books on the subject- human memory is infinitely malliable. There are multiple things we are bad at, estimating probability is one of them.

    This night I was walking with a friend across a dark graveyard, discussing astronomy and star gazing with him. I wanted to tell him what a person might see during such a night, one of these is an Iridium Flare. Look it up on google. They show up as short lived brightly shining stars in the sky. No sooner were we looking at constellations and I was searching for Sirius when. What I found was an Iridium Flare. I had just been talking about it, and there it was. -Atleast thats how I remember it *smirk*- Highly improbable? Divine intervention? Or just a special constellation of circumstances, which I happened to notice, while dismissing the other hundreds of special circumstances which carried no significanse for me.

  10. Leonhard, the question is whether or not a simple natural explanation exists for the iridium flare. I think we’d all agree that there is. 🙂

    While human memory is fallible, it’s not infinitely maleable. If I saw a blue car parked on the street, fallible though I might be, I’m not going to remmeber seeing a yellow bulldozer. The same holds for JP Moreland’s witnesses to three people.

    As for exactly what the condition was that Mr Miller suffered from, I don’t know. It would be in his book I assume, or you could email him.

  11. Glen,

    I think your skepticism is justified. Frankly there are so many bizarre claims made today (and many in history) that if one is not skeptical, one will belief a lot of foolish things. There are things I can’t explain but I havent’ seen anything (including your three examples) that makes me think I am justified in beleiving in the supernatural. The healings that take place today are nowhere close to those in the gospels or Acts. If someone who had been lame from his mother’s womb (and whose legs were atrophied) suddenly jumped up and started running and leaping as in Acts 3, I would definitely be impressed.

    People will often jump immediately to the conclusion that some unexplained event must be supernatural when I would prefer to take a wait and see attitude. People used to say there was no way that the Egyptians could have built the pyramids (so aliens or gods must have done it) but now we know how they did it. I understand the same thing has happened regarding Stonehenge.

    People are too quick to assume the supernatural. I don’t rule it out a priori but I have never seen anything or heard any verifiable report of something that really made me think supernatural forces had to be involved.

  12. I havn’t listened to the voice recording yet, though I did check the webpage. So far I have found neither what illness he was suffering from, nor which experts examined him. I would love to get a verification of their testimony.

    I find this to be the strongest piece presented here, yet I admit that much more ought to be done and why one might find it frustrating that it hasn’t been done.

    He may have more in his book that was mentioned on the page.

    Surely the doctors who looked at him are still alive and could offer testimony to this and could go on the record as well as a handful of the people at that church. You can’t just fake something like that when a church full of witnesses were present.

    The reason why this is believable apart from further documentation is that this wasn’t something presented in a vaccuum but involves that man’s life who has had and now has a public career. The point of that is that you can’t just make these claims involving major year long aflictions and expect someone not to come forward and call it fraud. So I find it very unlikely that this is fraud.

    But what about a coincidental natural healing during the guys sermon on healing? It’s well within reason it seems to me not to interpret this as a coincidence. And we don’t know what that ailment was, but I found another websight that goes into more detail that said that the doctors were telling him that he was going to lose even the rasp he could squeak out.

    http://happycatholic.blogspot.com/2007/10/amazing-instance-of-miracle-recorded.html

  13. Ken P, you say: “People will often jump immediately to the conclusion that some unexplained event must be supernatural when I would prefer to take a wait and see attitude.”

    I hear this every now and then, but I have to confess that even though I regard plenty of people as more gullible than I am, I haven’t yet met anyone who immediately says that if they don’t know the explanation then it must be a miracle.

    I don’t really know what value a “wait and see” approach has when we’re talking about past events where all facts about those events are also int he past. There’s no reason to think that new information is ever going to come to light, for example, about Duane Miller’s experience. It’s all contained in the past, so it’s just a matter of saying now, in the present: Based on what we know, and accepting that a miracle might be the explanation (i.e. not ruling it out a priori), what best explains the events? There’s no sense in waiting for more facts to come to light, as though something is being kept from us. What would we be waiting for?

    It seems to me that the only reason we would say “we are waiting for a naturalistic explanation” is if we assume that a supernatural explanation couldn’t possibly be the culprit.

  14. Leonhard, you mentioned,

    “Of course if the healer from the above video is willing, he can win a million dollars from the James Randi Educational Foundation, if he can do that again under controlled circumstances.”

    I actually like James Randi for the way he has debunked a lot of the religious charletons out there. However, I think there might be a mistake in the criteria mentioned here. Unless the alleged healers actually claim that they can “do it on demand,” I don’t know if this works. The work of the Holy Spirit is some kind of impersonal, measurable, force in Christian Theology, it is a personality that moves and works as it wills.

    There are better ways to argue that the slain in the spirit and other practices in charismatic circles are false.

  15. Glenn,

    I was not very precise in what I said. What I should have said is that postulating a supernatural explanation has often been premature. Human beings are not patient. We want an explanation and we want it now. If no obvious natural explanation is available, many people will posit a supernatural one. Since this has shown to be in error many times in the past, I would prefer to wait for more investigation before rendering any kind of explanation.

    I am not ruling out the supernatural a priori but I would need overwhelming evidence to draw that conclusion. For example, the miracle recorded in Acts 3 would qualify.

  16. I don’t agree with what you say Glenn, its possible for you years later to develop a rather different idea of what you saw that day. The human memory isn’t like a videotape that you can rewind and replay, nor do memories stay the same when you recall them. There have been multiple cases of people developing false memories involving huge portions of their lives. There was the scandal of people who apparantly began remembering episodes of ritual satanic abuse by their parents and neighbours. It was then later shown by psychologists that under certain conditions its fairly easy to implant a false memory.

    http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=211

    http://www.skepdic.com/falsememory.html

    http://skepticblog.org/2010/04/13/wooliness-of-memory/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+skepticblog%2FcxSs+%28Skepticblog%29

    So far I havn’t found a good place that sums up a lot of the research that has gone into human memory and its reliability. Give me a little while longer, this was as much as I could scrounge together to wet your appetite. -This guy has to go to school-

    And yes the Iridium Flare was natural and the constellation of rare events was natural as well. So JP praying, and shortly thereafter getting that message from a person. While being rare, isn’t so rare that I would regard it as evidence in itself.

    I do have a question. You say you tend to doubt miracles. Yet, how likely do you regard the occurance of a miracle? Do you think its more likely that people have deluded themselves into thinking that a miracle has occured, or that a genuine one has taken place?

  17. Leonhard, by saying that it’s possible to later form a different impression of what you saw, and by saying that the human mind isn’t like a videotape, you’re not disagreeing with me at all.

    I said earlier that you were wrong because you said that our memories of the past are “infinitely” maleable. This is just not true. While my memory of past events will morph over time, there are some changes that simply will not occur. I gave an example before: If I saw a blue sedan parked outside, and tomorrow I remember it was a blue sedan, then I’m not one day going to remember that it was a huge yellow bulldozer.

    That memories change over time does not suggest that there’s no limit to how much they can change. The account given by Moreland is not the kind of thing that is going to leap from nothing to something.

    Let me put it differently: if you’re proposing that something mundane happened, and that over time JP’s memory of the events has morphed from one form into another – what kind of mundane event could have morphed into the amazing account that he now gives? And do you have any evidence at all that his version of events has changed over time?

    You’re now suggesting that the encounters in question: With the woman, with the student, or both, are false altogether. You bolster this by saying that there exist conditions under which people can have false memories. No doubt there are, but why would anyone think that those conditions were met here, and that JP was susceptible to false memories, and that this is what happened for these events? It sounds like bending over backwards to rule out a supernatural occurence, as though someone has ruled them out a priori.

    And the point isn’t just that there was a coincidence in JP’s account. It was the event itself that was amazing. That it was also coincidental is not what makes it supernatural. The coincidence merely bolsters the account.

    Now, you ask me how likely I regard the occcurence of a miracle. In reply, I say that there’s no a priori probability value. That doesn’t mean it’s nil, it means that the probability is inscrutable. The occurence of future miracles isn’t determined by the occurrence of past miracles, so there is no way at all to assign a probability here.

  18. I enjoyed Moreland’s piece on angels and demons, but I have to wonder why the alleged presence of these angels was only revealed to a third party at random and not to himself. Just rather odd. I suspect his reference for every child having their own angel comes from Heb 1:14 which says that all angels are ministering spirits sent to serve those inheriting salvation. Rather than ‘child’ I would argue ‘child of God’; also his ‘every’ tag is debatable.

    I honestly believe that the obsession in some Charismatic quarters with gold fillings, gold dust, gems, angel feathers and the like has done a disservice to the cause of simple faith in God to heal those in chronic need. When the methods of ‘raising faith’ are often overt psycho-manipulation and showmanship (watch many TV evangelist/healers at work), the considerable unsubstantiated claims of miraculous healing can result in increased wariness and cynicism amongst those who would, otherwise, be perfectly comfortable with the biblically miraculous.

    Thankfully, I know of enough ‘medically impossible’ recoveries, documented post-prayer (that’s prayer in the background, not on a stage), to keep my faith that Jesus still works miracles today.

  19. I think both the “slain in the spirit” (so, that’s what it’s called) and the “healing” of a man with a minor imperfection could both be demonic in origin. As I was involved in the New Age movement for a while, I did see alot of unexplained things of a similar nature that were most definitely demonic. The thing is, they don’t feel demonic, they feel good and “spiritual”, and thus are able to fool people really easily.

    However, I have also experienced a number of real miracles myself that I can’t prove and could maybe be explained away. Such as a physical force preventing me from crossing a road in Sydney, even though the walk sign was on. A moment later a car sped through and would have hit me if I’d stepped out. Also, my son was miraculously saved from harm when he had a rope around his neck in a tug of war at school. None of the children noticed, and were pulling from both ends. Yet a teacher saw and ran across the playground and stopped it just in time. This was when he was unbaptised, but I had just returned to the faith. So, yeah, I believe in guardian angels.

  20. Lucia, you need to be careful with your terminology.

    What you’re describing there are more properly termed “acts of providence”. It’s quite possible (for example) that that teacher might have noticed your son’s impending decapitation without devine intervention.

    I know people who claim miracles. One claimed that he was crippled and completely unable to support his own weight, and was running around the church at the end of the healing service. While many of these charismatic people are showmen, what he described was much closer to the biblical model of elders praying over someone.

  21. Scrubone,

    Absolutely. I don’t claim to know exactly what happened in those situations. Though an “act of providence” sounds very much like “the universe” moved to prevent bad stuff from happening, just in time. Which is a bit too new agey for me now.

  22. Glenn says “Surely whoever is offering that prize must see the obvious problem with the offer. The suggestion that miracles are predictable in advance is alien to Christian theology. It basically treats miracles like naturalistic events that can be set up and planned.”

    Except seems its not quite so alien when its Jesus planning and predicting he will rise from the dead etc.

    I dont really see why you should have reason to feel it is really so very alien to Christian theology.Even if its a old excuse, thats been well used.

  23. Ali says: “I dont really see why you should have reason to feel it is really so very alien to Christian theology.”

    Here’s why: because it really IS alien to Christian theology. Christian theology doesn’t suggest that a miraculous act of God can be repeated in a controlled scenario. It has never said that, so for an organisation to offer a prize for someone who can do that just reveals that those in the organisation don’t even understand the position they think they disagree with.

    Using the example of Jesus’ resurrection is of little use here because a) Christians worship Jesus as God, b) to say that God advised a specific miracle in advance doesn’t at all imply that miracles in general can be repeated, and c) the very example you’re using is of a series of events that Christians regard as unrepeatable!

    Calling this an “excuse” is just bizarre.

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