There are hundreds of millions of people today who claim to have experienced miracles. Nevertheless, those who reject the Bible approach the miraculous accounts of the Scriptures with a presupposition that miracles cannot occur and that God has not intervened in history. Regardless of how convincing the evidence might be, the anti-supernaturalist will reject any claims of miracles and the supernatural. Their worldview rejects and discredits any eyewitness accounts of miracles both then and now because miracles don’t occur, and therefore there aren’t any credible sources for miracles. This anti-supernaturalist worldview is based on circular reasoning.
Dr. Craig S. Keener, a North American academic and professor of the New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary, wrote a 2-volume book entitled Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. This “wide-ranging and meticulously researched two-volume study presents the most thorough current defense of the credibility of the miracle reports in the Gospels and Acts.” Keener draws “on claims from a range of global cultures and taking a multidisciplinary approach to the topic,” he, “suggests that many miracle accounts throughout history and from contemporary times are best explained as genuine divine acts, lending credence to the biblical miracle reports.”
Miracles and Human Experience
In a Huffington Post article, Keener noted many research surveys which confirm how multitudes of people believe they have experienced a miracle.
[I]t is not just people in the first century who have believed in miracles. Various polls peg U.S. belief in miracles at roughly 80 percent. One survey suggested that 73 percent of U.S. physicians believe in miracles, and 55 percent claim to have personally witnessed treatment results they consider miraculous.
Even more striking than the number of people who believe in miracles is the number who claim to have witnessed or experienced them. For example, a 2006 Pew Forum survey studied charismatic and Pentecostal Christians in 10 countries. From these 10 countries alone, the number of charismatic Christians who claim to have witnessed or experienced divine healing comes out to roughly 200 million people. This estimate was not, however, the most surprising finding of the survey. The same survey showed that more than one-third of Christians in these same countries who do not claim to be charismatic or Pentecostal report witnessing or experiencing divine healing.
And the reports in these countries appear to be merely the tip of the iceberg. The survey did not include China, where one report from the China Christian Council over a decade ago attributed roughly half of all new Christian conversions to “faith healing experiences.” Another report from a different source in China suggested an even higher figure. Clearly many people around the world experience what they consider miracles, sometimes in life-changing ways.
What are we to make of such claims? At the very least, they testify that many people around the world today are experiencing cures in a context of deep religious faith. Numerous medical studies have shown that faith and faith communities provide a coping resource that often facilitates better health outcomes. A number of these global reports, however, exceed even our best current expectations for what “faith” can produce. In September 2010, Southern Medical Journal published an article showing that some people in Mozambique, tested before and after prayer, experienced significant recovery of hearing or eyesight. The Medical Bureau at Lourdes has long examined evidence for extraordinary recoveries. (Source)
Credible Eyewitness Testimony
These eyewitness reports of extraordinary headings and miraculous experiences are widespread. We cannot simply dismiss them as false based on an anti-supernaturalist presupposition. Granted, some of these cases may be fraudulent or misdiagnosed, but vast numbers of these cases may not be explained away. Calling everybody liars and discrediting all of these accounts would strain credibility.
Even within my own circle of sincere and trustworthy people I personally know, there is an overwhelming number of these miraculous testimonies in Jesus’ name. For example, my friend Jeremy Kornoff once ran over his toddler son with a 2-ton tractor. Emergency workers all informed Jeremy that his son’s leg was broken in several places before they were flown by helicopter to a nearby hospital. Jeremy’s family prayed and also requested their Christian neighbors to pray for healing. Afterwards, at the hospital, doctors took numerous X-rays and found nothing!
My good friend of many years Stan Avery, who performed the wedding ceremony for my wife and I, also has many miraculous works he has been privileged to witness. Perhaps the most extraordinary is when he and other Christians prayed for a little deaf girl in India who God healed. No matter how many times Stan retells this story, tears fill his eyes when he remembers the expression and amazement on that girl’s face when she experienced audible sounds for the first time. Stan would be the first to admit that this miracle had everything to do with Jesus and nothing to do with him.
Another dear friend, Joshua Martin, was diagnosed with cancer. Doctors informed him that he had an 11cm tumor in his body. After fasting and prayer in the name of Jesus, Joshua was totally healed.
Ben Lillie, another friend, was suffering from painful edema in his feet. As “Sister Grace” saw Ben’s feet elevated and swollen, she kneeled down and prayed for him. She touched his feet and spoke to God. Ben’s pain disappeared and never returned. I could go on and on.
Many of these miraculous cases, including some within my own personal sphere, resulted in unbelievers coming to faith in Christ. Many have experienced remarkable healings or being raised from the dead in Jesus’ name which caused them to subsequently believe in Christ. In fact, it was a miraculous “near-death experience” that brought me to faith in Christ in 2003. Apologetics 315 recorded an interview with J. Steve Miller, author of Near-Death Experiences as Evidence for the Existence of God and Heaven: A Brief Introduction in Plain Language in which he talks about his background and research in near-death experiences (NDEs), defining NDEs, common experiences in NDEs, the evidential value of NDEs, various examples of NDEs, how worldviews come into play when evaluating evidence, common naturalistic explanations and their shortcomings, and the evidence for Christianity from NDEs.
Skeptic observers cannot get around the fact that many of these miracles are accompanied with medical documentation. Again, a sincere and trustworthy man that I know personally named Greg Spencer was healed from blindness. Both Greg and I currently reside in the same city of Roseburg, Oregon. Like myself, Greg was not always a Christian. When praying for God to forgive his sins and cleanse his heart at a Christian men’s retreat, God totally healed Greg from blindness. Greg has given me copies of pre and post medical records which document this remarkable healing. Greg’s testimony calls to mind what Jesus said and did for one paralyzed man recorded in the Gospels:
[Jesus said,] “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” And he arose and departed to his house. Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men (Matthew 9:5-9).
I have also personally corresponded with Dr. Keener and had a lengthy face to face interview with him. He spoke of his mother-in-law who reported that his sister-in-law was not breathing for three hours. During prayer, without available medical resources, his sister-in-law revived, and had fully recovered, without any brain damage. Certainly Dr. Keener could not have interviewed millions of people for his groundbreaking Miracles book but he interviewed very many people who testified of miracles. One reviewer of Keener’s book has chronicled over 100 “resuscitation accounts.”
A Biblical Perspective
Obviously the Bible is full of miraculous historical events such as the parting of the Red Sea, God opening the wombs of barren women, the virgin birth of Jesus, turning water into wine, healings from blindness, deafness, leprosy, paralysis, and even reversal of death, etc. Matthew summarizes how, “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Matthew 9:35). But does God always heal and always perform a sign or wonder according to a person’s faith? Jesus said, “A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign” (Matthew 16:4).
On later occasions Jesus encountered people whom He didn’t heal such as Lazarus (John. 11:6). The book of Acts speaks of “a certain man lame from his mother’s womb . . . whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful” (Acts 3:2). No doubt Jesus would have passed by this man yet did not heal him then. Additionally, many Christians in the NT church were not healed by God (2 C. 12:7-9; 2 Tim. 4:20; 1 Tim. 5:23). There are no sicknesses that Jesus cannot heal if He is willing. Thus, our prayer in sickness ought to be, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean” (Luke 5:12). If God refuses to heal us, we can trust that, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes” (Ps. 119:71).
The main purpose in God healing people is to confirm His word with signs and wonders. For example, Jesus claimed to be “the light of the world” (John 8:12) and validated that claim by giving light to blind people (John 9:1-7); He claimed to be “the true vine” (John 15:1) and validated it by turning water into wine (John 2:1-9); He claimed to be “the bread of life” (John 6:35) and validated it be feeding great multitudes miraculously with bread (John 6:10-13); He claimed, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25) and validated it by raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:44). Jesus demonstrated His power to heal in order to confirm His authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:9,10). To those who have never heard the Gospel, signs and wonders are given by God to confirm the Gospel: “And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 15:20). “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Heb. 2:3,4).
I agree with the beloved disciple John who said, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). Though these miraculous reports are widespread, even Christians must admit that miracles often do not happen. Keener says, “Sickness and injustice remain in the world. In the Gospels, miracles did not replace the kingdom that Jesus announced. Nevertheless, they were signs of hope to promise and invite us to work for a better future. This focus suggests the writers’ conviction that God cares about people and about their suffering, and welcomes us to care about these also” (Source).