It has become commonplace, even among many Christians nowadays, to discount the possibility of miracles, even those related in the gospels, as having been the product of the enthusiasm of naïve and unsophisticated believers of earlier times. Thus, for many years, we have been hearing the argument that Christianity must be “demythologized” if it has any hopes of capturing the allegiance of people today. Hence, according to reformers like Bishop Spong — who has written Why Christianity Must Change or Die — we are told that we must, in addition to Jesus’ other miracles, even give up belief in the Virgin Birth, his Resurrection from the dead, and the hope of his return at the end of time.
Now granted that in the ancient world, and especially before the advent of modern science, people tended to think that everything in nature was something to be admired or to be wondered (mirare in Latin) about. Thus, even the fact that the sun rose on schedule each morning was thought to be something not always to be taken for granted and which, in the case of the Aztecs, was the motive for their grisly rites of human sacrifice. And granted also that, even in the Bible, there may have been some later embellishments on the original stories, especially when it comes to numbers, such as those in the Book of Numbers — for example, did the number of Israelites leaving Egypt really amount to several million, especially when the total population of the world at that time was probably not all that many more?
Nevertheless, I think that to deny the possibility of miracles or “signs” — as the gospels call them — is to deny, if not the existence, at least the sovereignty, of God. It may be, as Einstein claimed, that “God does not play dice” with the universe. But that is not the same as saying that God, who established the basic laws of nature that Einstein so admirably explored and formulated, could not, for serious enough reasons, work an exception now and then. In fact, the more one thinks about it, one can only conclude that it is human pride and arrogance to think that we can set our own boundaries to what the Creator can or cannot do.
Granted also that there is a human propensity to see miracles or to seek “signs and wonders” everywhere, perhaps even just for entertainment’s sake. Jesus himself seems to have run into this phenomenon and to have resisted it, refusing (as is related in Matthew 12:38) to promise any miracle other than his own rising from the dead. This is, of course, the great sign, the great miracle, without which, as St. Paul reminds us (in 1 Corinthians 15:17), our faith is in vain. Everything else in Christian beliefs and practice depends upon it, whether it is the significance of Baptism, the hidden reality of Christ’s presence in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, or our hope in Christ’s promise of eternal life.
No doubt, revisionists like Bishop Spong have good intentions, and I will even grant that much in the Church’s ways of doing things needs to be changed if it is to be anything other than just another business organization or social club. But when it comes to belief in Christ’s Resurrection from the dead and all that it implies, I think that without these essential beliefs, Christianity is already as good as dead.
R W Kropf 8/7/2011 Miracles3.doc 11-08-07.html