Written By Thomas Perez. November 27, 2016 at 6:30pm. Copyright 2016. Updated From 2013.
Outline of Part Two:
I. Introduction: Hitting It Home On a Personal Basis
II. The Laws of Immutability With Reference to Miracles/Healings
III. The Moral Implications of Miracles/Healings
IV. Miracles/Healings: A Transitional Phase?
V. Conclusion: The Human Spirit
I. Introduction: Hitting It Home On a Personal Basis
The aforementioned Scriptural citations in Part One provided historical bi-lateral conditions, and are also juxtaposed to either a parallel situation of the heart, and an individuals spiritual condition. With so many Scriptural citations at our disposal, why does God not hear the plea of the righteous? Why are so many afflicted with great hurt, sorrow, sickness, famine, disease, and loss? Moreover, why perform an act here, but neglect an act someplace else of equal faith. Where is God?
Some may also be quick to cite; “perhaps it is Gods will to perform here but not there, or to heal this individual here, but not that person there.” “Perhaps he or she has little faith.” “It is simply not God’s will.” Or even worse yet, “perhaps you are not right with God.” Similarly, many often offer prayers for those who are afflicted, sick, or near death. Many offer prayers, citing words to the effect; “Father by your mighty name I claim the victory through Jesus Christ” or “By His strips we are healed,” etc.
I also know of many who actually thought that they were healed by God only to have that tumor resurface someplace else in the body, or to have that herniated disc act up again. Some of these individuals were righteous, so it couldn’t have been because of sin in their lives. Some of these individuals had great faith, so it couldn’t have been through lack of faith; why, even the smallest faith – the size of a mustard seed can tell a mountain to move. Even the Qur’an states that faith, even the size of an atom, can work miracles.
Some might also be quick to cite; “Job was a righteous man and look what happened to him.” But I say, “yes that is so, but Job was healed, and a new family restored unto him. But the former family was still lost and dead by the trial of his faith” (Job 1:18-19). Some might even cite Paul and his thorn, “If God chose not to heal Paul, then perhaps, like Paul, He chooses not to heal you.” “Perhaps God has something greater for you.” There are even 24 hour prayer hotlines, websites, and even social community websites; like Facebook that cater to this rhetoric. It is what many call, “A Prayer Ministry.”
I was once invited to join such a group on Facebook. Not wanting to offend, I accepted the invitation. But after a year of scrolling down the wall of the group and reading the number of countless prayers offered upon the sanctuary, I decided to leave the group. There was something about it that just didn’t sit well with me or my soul. That “something” was not the meaning of the group per-Se, but the callousness I sensed.
I would conclude that if one was to pray in a manner for the things I read, then one must devote their lives to the lesser finer things in life. But as I read some of the profiles of these individuals, I saw that they were well to do. It made me think, do they really know the condition of the human heart? Do I? No – I only know my heart. Do they know the prostitute? Do they know the homeless person? Do they actually care? No – most of them didn’t seem to.
Out of a hundred, I would say that one actually offered to send a money gram or something to that effect when some one had posted “I lost my job, things are tough. Please pray for me to find another job through the mercies of our God” And then came the mighty prayers; “Father I claim the victory of employment for John/Mary Doe, let it be done” etc.
Some might insist that “we can never be so sure about folks” “there are a lot of con-artists out there.” That is true. The Church is full of them. But trust shouldn’t be an issue if you’ve known someone for quite a long time. Furthermore, a gift shouldn’t be worried about – since it is a gift for the well intended individual or unbeknownst to you, a thief/con-artist.
I’ am not claiming that having to be “well to do” is wrong. But what I’ am saying is that many who can help, simply do not. Perhaps I’ m wrong. Perhaps more out of the hundred gave by way of personal inbox on Fakebook, I mean Facebook. But I just don’t see it being a possibility because the flesh is weak and lazy. It never wants to leave its confront zone.
Case and point – during a six month ordeal, my mother was taken ill. She was ill to the point of death – an illness (sepsis) which eventually took her life. During this time (before her passing), I did what any good Christian soldier would do – I asked for the prayers of the saints. Many responded with mighty prayers. But again, for some reason, it didn’t sit well with me.
You see I can excuse those who live far. But I can not excuse those who live near. Do you honestly think that I can rationalize this by saying “perhaps they didn’t have the time.” Six months, in my opinion, is a lot of time. It is enough for many, especially for those who actually live in the NY area to act – to visit the sick. But instead they offered prayers. I’m sure that after such prayers was offered, they slept well within their narrowed limits. My good people, if you can not even walk, how can you give of your time?
I received more visitation and encouragement from those whom the evangelicals would claim unfit or unsaved. They were your average everyday folks who happen to commit sin – but as Paul said, I’ am the chief of sinners – but it is for them that Christ came, and that includes me. But the righteous and the prayer warriors better think twice. You who deem yourself righteous might enter last into the kingdom of Heaven. Do not ms-understand my point, not all Christians, or any other religious individuals for that matter are weak and lazy – there are some exceptions. But unfortunately many are lacking in general charity, benevolence, and forbearance.
I say, feed the poor. Visit the sick. Give your money to the less fortunate, not to the offering plate. God’s ministry can survive, I’m sure of that! I’ am sure of that because it is a fact! I consider it a fact because we are the temple of the living God, not a building. Many are made fat through connections, bishops, and pastors. It is not what you know, it is not the contents of your heart that matters, it is who you know. Pastors who make pretense – offering long prayers. Prayer cloths in exchange for offerings, holy water in exchange for a sign-up, or a “become a member tactic” and “receive this study Bible for 3 payments of 29.99.”
You mean to learn about the deeper things of God, I have to pay for a good study Bible? You mean I have to exchange cotton and flax – which is then converted to a form of paper cloth (cash) into another paper form called a check, or money order, or convert the pieces of cotton flax into a debit or credit card to receive fine pearls? Perhaps in the past it was feasible, but not today.
If you really cared about getting your work out there, you can pay for your own advertisement’s – via – social websites like; Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, U-tube or Paltalk, etc. You don’t need Amazon or Barnes and Noble unless you wanted to make a profit.
We live in the digital age today. An age where thoughts, books, and study Bibles can be provided in PDF format for all the world to see for free without the cost of printing and publishing. So what is thine excuse oh man of God? Get a job, like everyone else. But many may cite; “being a pastor is a job.” or “I’ m going into a full time ministry, I would need support.”
Now I can use your own words against you; “Oh ye of little faith.” “Isn’t the God that you serve wondrous in deeds and miracles?” Isn’t that what you teach?“ “You claim to heal many, you claim to be a faith healer.” As Jesus said; “do not concern yourself with what you will eat or with what you will wear (Luke 12:22-31).
Isn’t it any wonder why God refuses to even hear the prayers of the pastors who pray. And if he refuses to hear those who are supposedly of the hierarchical order, how can He hear the laymen – those under the pastor. “If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?”
Respect has to be earned. However, within the realms of the Church I have seen that respect is often earned by association. Association is earned by connection – via – the bishops, deacons, pastors, the Fundamentalists, and the Jerry Farwell’s of the past, etc. When board approved respect is granted to such individuals, they are given license to teach the things of God with bias, I might add. This bias can take the form of evidences from conclusions they favor.
Thus the Pentecostal and Charismatic will often claim the power of healing and more. The Jehovah’s Witnesses undertakes the ministry of the Watchtower Society. Mormons are submissive to the ministry of the Latter Day Saints. The televangelists would often claim thousands in the name of Christ, calling that a miracle. The Baptist would claim their particular stance on healing according to their branches or sects.
Some might ask me, “Am I insinuating having a localized church facility is wrong?” The answer to that question, is “no.” But I’ am indicating that where a man’s heart is, there is where his treasures are found. What is your treasure? Though different in opinions, teachings, and the means in which God heals; the Baptists, Pentecostals, Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and all the sort are of the traditional perspective. And That perspective is one of pure literalism.
Moreover, it can be concluded that literalism has done more damage than good. Because of the literalist point of view many atheists and skeptics alike have been found guilty of the same rhetoric. Their suppositions are often based upon the literal viewpoint. They go to great lengths to discredit the Genesis story, the flood, the plagues upon Pharaoh, the incarnation, and all the miracles of the Bible; even to the point of denying that the historical Jesus even existed. But the latter has now been generally accepted as a given fact by scholars – there literally was a Jesus.
It is for this reason many have questioned the authenticity of the miracles reported in the Bible. Perhaps, one should not concentrate on the report, but on the purported proportions. Are these stories literal or allegorical? Are they historical events or are they metaphorical? If one was to concede the allegorical or metaphorical, then one might go even further; denying the incarnation (virgin birth) or deity of Christ Jesus. Consensus has it that there was an historical Jesus – but to what extent is the testimonies of Jesus’ life actual or exaggerated?
I can easily dismiss the atheistic/skeptic charge of Biblical literalism and save the reputation of God and the Scriptures by insinuating that all the miracles of the Bible are allegorical. It would certainly save me a lot of trouble. But for some (though not for myself), an allegorical view would entail a literal denial of all things; I.e. the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, and His resurrection. But some might suggest a way out of that dilemma by drawing a line down the middle – in other words; what can be considered an allegorical expression can be, and must be, distinguished from what is literal – a middle line so to speak. But the question that gnash and grind on the mind of many doubting religious individuals is the extent of the literal approach. To what extent is the middle line drawn? (More on this thought later).
Healing blind men, walking on water, feeding the five thousand, the healing of lepers and disabilities, turning water into wine, raising the dead and the ascension; to name a few, are all mentioned in the synoptic gospels and that of John – who specifically writes “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen” (John 21:25).
Moreover, Biblical stories all seem to go to great lengths at telling the story with precise detail – even mentioning locations, kings (OT), names, even providing a backdrop of some sort. Even more so are the stories of the OT; the ten plagues, the pillar of fire, the crossing of the Red Sea, the ten Commandments, manna from Heaven, the serpent miracle, the walls of Jericho, commanding the sun to stand still, the talking donkey, the strength of Sampson, the lions den, and many others are all written with great detail – breaking the natural laws of immutability.
II. The Laws of Immutability With Reference to Miracles/Healings
It has been argued since the 1600’s that there are two major objections to miracles. The first took the form in the likes of one named Benedict Spinoza. The second was David Hume. The idea that the natural laws of immutability was fixed, unchangeable, and unalterable was first introduced in the 1670’s by Spinoza. The idea that miracles are not credible was proposed by Hume. According to Geisler, “Spinoza’s argument against miracles goes like this:
1. Miracles are violations of natural laws
2. Natural laws are immutable
3. It is impossible to violate immutable laws
4. Therefore, miracles are impossible
(I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist; Norman L. Geisler, Frank Turek: Crossway Publishing. 2004, pg 203-204).
The Big Bang (the theory of the beginning of the universe) has now proven otherwise, it offers the immutability laws its mutable aseptic. The Big Bang Theory is a law breaker. Understanding the Big Bang has offered theoretical physicists fits. Thus understanding the Big Bang requires new and better laws. New and better laws are being theorized everyday. But we are concerned, at least for the moment, with the known laws of immutability.
Knowing the function of immutability, we have to ask our self selves; “what do scientists mean by immutability?” We certainly know what immutability means in reference to God – the doctrine itself is called, “The Immutability of God/Jesus Christ. – the unchanging God.” But in reference to what immutability is to the scientific community is quite different.
In physics, immutability is simply that which can not alter or change either by internal or external force. The immutable laws of physics/nature are what they are, they can not be violated. Spinoza and Hume held to this constant. Creation itself demonstrates that natural laws are descriptions of what happens, not prescriptions of what must happen. Natural laws don’t really cause anything, they only describe what regularly happens in nature.
They describe the effects of the four known laws of natural forces – gravitation, magnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Once you introduce an intelligent Being into the picture, natural forces can be overpowered. We know that those forces can be overpowered because we do so ourselves everyday.
I.e., a baseball player overpowering a falling baseball pulled by gravity when he catches the ball, a flying plane or space shuttle all overpowering the laws of gravity. Even today, man is now able to scientifically enhance our biological clocks, perhaps eradicate even death itself by elongating the properties of our cells (its tail end – the stuff inside the actual cell – the longer the tail – the longer the life – even to the point of repairing it). Even splitting the atom was once inconceivable. In all such cases, natural laws are not, and were not changed. Natural laws were/are simply overpowered. If finite beings can overpower such forces then certainly an infinite Being, even more so, can do the same.
Breaking the laws of immutability was once considered a challenge to many theologians. But now, as we have demonstrated, they are not as difficult to answer as the moral implications of miracles suggest and insinuate. James Keller cited; “The claim that God has worked a miracle, implies that God has singled out certain persons for some benefit which many others do not receive, this implies that God is unfair.” He continues, – “there may be two cases which are similar in all ways that seem relevant, yet in one case there will be a recovery (which some deem a miracle) and in the other case no recovery.” (Keller, James. – A Moral Argument against Miracles,? Faith and Philosophy. vol. 12, no 1. Jan 1995. 54-78).
III. Moral Implications of Miracles/Healings
The charge is that for one person to receive miraculous assistance while someone else who’s situation resembles the first case in every important respect doesn’t, would be unjust; but an infinitely good being would not be responsible for such injustices. This is a double standard my friends. It is a double standard on a particular type of theology – the literal. This kind of thinking has presented a faulty view of morality. Moreover, if you had superman like abilities to save everyone faster than a speeding bullet from a building that was on fire, knowing you had the ability to get them all out of the danger zone; wouldn’t you do so?
This proponent is called “the moral challenge,” or it is sometimes called “the moral dilemma.” It is the problem of omission. It places God on the witness stand – for surely He see’s all things – thus He is the witness. If a miracle appears here, it can be concluded that the same can appear someplace else and on someone else, and so on. But if it doesn’t then we have a distinction.
Does not the rain fall upon the righteous and unrighteous? Yes. Is God a respecter of persons? No. So why the distinctions with regards to something as trivial as a miracle? Even if some super natural force were to reach out and instantaneously eliminate all of what appears to be pointless suffering in the world today, an Omni benevolent being would have done it sooner. Auschwitz in 1945 remains. The bubonic plague still ravaged and killed millions in Europe during the 1300s.
Why would God chose to save one or an entire family from a car accident and not the other? Why would God save one child or children from murder and allow the death of two innocents stuck in the back of a closed car trunk, courtesy of Susan Smith (October 1994 mother child killer). The whole tragedy could of been avoided so simply. The angel of the Lord (or an angel – or for some, their guardian angels) could of easily come to the aide of those children in various ways. Sapping Susan’s strength not to be able to push the car into the lake, or causing her to fall unconscious in the midst of her unrighteous deed, and simply unlocking the trunk would of sufficed until she was discovered and the children taken away by Child Protective Services. Or what of the more recent stories? The Jessica Rumford’s and Caylee Anthony’s? Surely they both went out of this world horrifically.
Another scenario presents itself in reference to various debilitating health issues or common disabilities. That 5 year old son or daughter in that wheeling chair, or that child at St. Jude’s Cancer Research Hospital. These are but a small sampling of the injustice taking place in our world every single day. But this “moral duty” just doesn’t apply to children, it applies also to adults and the elderly. If such an application can be applied in the form of miracles, divine intervention, healings, and personal testimonies, then surly it should be applied equally – “For God is not a respecter of persons” (Rom 2:11).
Many quote that verse to justify universal salvation and God‘s inclusive nature concerning all men. While that may be so (theologically speaking that is), many do not use the verse in reference to the way it is being used here. If God is not a respecter of persons, then the moral dilemma remains – God is immoral for healing one, but overlooking another. But if God is a respecter of persons, then He is still immoral – and even more so. He is an immoral Father who would choose one for healing and miracles, but not the other, who equally prays and has the same faith.
Jesus saw fit to heal the lepers, many blind men, many who were crippled, and even raise two from the dead – namely Jarious’ daughter/child and Lazarus. Yet He also saw fit not to intervene in the course of history. Why? After all doesn’t the Christian cite, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever?” Shouldn’t He act in accordance with His benevolence as opposed to what is conditional? – more on benevolence a few paragraphs down.
Some may be quick to cite – history; past present, and future is based upon freewill – if this is so, then I would cite, that God – who was in Christ performed miracles contrary to the freewill of men. For it is written that “because you have seen, you have believed” (John 20:29). Their freewill was tainted to believe this, while ours (those who have not seen) was encouraged to believe this by faith. Like the garden story of Eden, our freewill was tainted again, due to testimonial exhortations of healing and miracles. But in this case, the Scriptures provide an extra blessings to those who believe without seeing.
Another scenario can be found in what is considered “moral duty” or “the good Samaritan law.” Both, the moral and Samaritan law obliges witnesses to report felonies and provide help. Most would morally agree with these laws, especially when in defense of the helpless; children and the elderly. In other words don’t just stand there and do nothing. Report it, or serve it – “it is our civic duty to report a crime.” It is morally ethical to help princess Diana, rather than taking paparazzi photographs. Many would agree with this, especially when so much good can come out of it.
So why doesn’t God demonstrate the moral code of the Good Samaritan to Himself? After all He recommended it Himself (Luke 10:25-37).
But many theologians (including colleagues of mine) will concede that such a moral judgment can not be reconciled with a supernatural being. That is preciously the point of the atheist! A point that I must agree with when seen through the literalist perspective. Such a being would be guilty of gross neglect, negligence, and unfairness. If there is a moral obligation of stewardship on God’s part toward those that are weak – namely, all of humanity, then it should be the duty of the Almighty God to perform miracles. But if this Being did perform miracles, it may be a violation of moral conduct – because that would entail idly standing by in the presence of so much suffering in the world and throughout the course of history.
The christianapologeticsalliance.org website presents the moral argument (as I’ am doing here) by providing the four critical proponents set forth by the skeptics. They are as follows:
“1.God’s selectively choosing the instances in which he intervenes is completely arbitrary.
2. The instances in which God enacts miracles are trivial in comparison to other horrible instances that have played out in history (Auschwitz, Nanking, etc).
3. God has no morally sufficient reason(s) for refraining from performing miracles in other instances.
4. The primary purpose of miracles is to prevent or alleviate suffering in the lives of human persons.”
But in my opinion the sites conclusion is left wanting. In their conclusion, they cite; quote – “In conclusion, not only are all of these presuppositions unjustified, but it would also seem most difficult, if not impossible, to provide justification for any of them. At most one could rephrase the assumptions in terms of ‘seemingness.’ For example: “God’s selectively choosing the instances in which he intervenes seems completely arbitrary” or “It seems as though God has no morally sufficient reasons for performing miracles only in some instances.” Until a case is made for why we should think these assumptions to be true, we cannot accept them.” Unquote.
The conclusion is one of “seemingness” – the definition of the word “seem” means, what appears to be, to give an impression. The definition of the word “arbitrary” means something based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system. Determined by chance, whim, or impulse, and not by necessity, reason, or principle. Now if we to take the “arbitrary” approach and apply it to miracles we would have to do away with necessity, reason, or principle – thus all things DO NOT work for the glory of God. But this contradicts Scripture. If we were to take what “seems” as the christianapologeticsalliance.org has, we will quickly note that we are left with an impression.
Therefore, what the site concluded is self contradictional! It is self contradictional because what “seems” – “appears” – or “gives an impression” – can easily be dismissed as just an appearance. A miracle can appear to be a miracle, but in reality it was STIIL an appearance. I’ am almost tempted to type “lol.” Actually, I just did. The “seemingness” and the “arbitrary” proponents offer us nothing!
Allow me to take a bolder approach – even Satan can take on the appearance of light – he can become an impression – but that is all that he can do. He can only imitate! And as such he can perform certain miraculous acts (Exodus 7:8-12). Note: This “rod” could have been the measuring stick or totem pole where upon the ancients measured the power of the gods – indicating that the “YHWH” as discussed in a previous articles has now become, or has taken a name upon himself and infused the Almighty Name of EL unto his own and the other way around, as many believe .
Furthermore, the moral challenge, the moral dilemma, the moral duty, and the good Samaritan law are no win situations when it comes to an argumentative position concerning an Omni-benevolent God theology. It is similar to telling a mother or father to keep holding on tight to their children who accidentally both tripped and are now hanging over a high cliff. Both are now clinging to life. One child holding the hand of the left, the other child holding the right hand. But the parent only has the strength to pull one up to safety using both hands, therefore the parent can only save one, while letting the other go to his/her death.
What would you do?
If we are to uphold certain attributes in reference to God then one might consider another attribute not discussed here – His Sovereignty. Such a person would cite; “I know what God would do – He would save one, but not the other.” “He is still sovereign” “We are the clay.” But why is this so – is He not also Omnipotent (in strength) just as He is Omni-benevolent? He could easily pull both children up at the same time. But that answer causes confusion – for He still choosed to save the one. OR He will save both – but that just doesn’t happen, other wise miracles would be a regular everyday occurrence. But even more so than that, is the fact that there would be no ills or diseases, because the miracles would cancel them out! And if the diseases be canceled out then there would be no need for miracles! Miracles itself would be canceled out!
Moreover, if one were to cite “the Sovereignty of God always wins out,” then I would cite that God is not omnipotent since He is (according to you) subjugated to His Sovereignty. Perhaps it is His choice to be so. But if that is the case, then He can not fulfill His Omni-benevolence. Therefore God is left wanting.
Some might use a salvational story I once read (a true story I might add). Two children were about to drown, but the father (who was a Christian) had only one life raft, so he opted to save the unsaved child (the child who didn’t know about Jesus) and let the other child perish because he believed this child was saved already (born again). As beautiful and self sacrificing this true account is, it doesn’t answer the question at hand. It actually presents an even more complicated issue – the father abandoned one of his own. He fathered both of them, but abandoned one to death.
To wit, would our Father abandon one of His own? Many would quickly cite, “No” “He would not do such a thing!” Calvinists would insist on that, especially in point number 5 of their TULIP theology. So if that is the case (and as an Ultimate Reconciliationist, I believe that it is – even more so than the Calvinist or Arminian), then why the apparent distinctions in regards to miracles? This kind of thinking leads a person to choose an outcome. In other words, it is the outcome that is of the utmost importance than the actual situation. Therefore, necessity, reason, and principle are upheld. But AGAIN that would seem contradictional to God, but not to man – since our illustrations (stories above) demonstrate choice in the face of moral dilemma’s.
But lets take this even further, what if the salvational story consisted of two born again children – the choice is there still – you must chose which one lives and which one dies. And as a father – a human bring with all the frailties of humanity within himself must now make a choice. Can this choice be called a moral one? Where is the morality in choosing death or life? Remember the scene in “Sophie’s Choice” when Sophie is forced to choose between both of her children at the concentration camp, and the choice haunts her forever? But God is not frail. God is not limited – thus is the Omnipotence of God, thus is the Omni-benevolence of God as understood. But what we see everyday and read in the newspapers quickly cancels out the attributes of God mentioned here.
Again, I purport that the moral challenge, the moral dilemma, the moral duty, and the good Samaritan law are no win situations when in reference to God. Like the “seemingness” and the “arbitrary” – the moral challenge offers us and God nothing! To consider these things are fruitless for the Christian or any other religious person for that matter. But for the atheist and the skeptic, it is food for their inquiring sincere souls/minds. My view is similar to that of Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (July 1, 1646 – November 14, 1716) and more recent philosophers.
Leibniz challenged what is known as the “divine command theory” stating; “if divine command theory is accepted, God’s obligations would be what he commanded Himself to do; the concept of God commanding Himself is seen as incoherent. Neither could God hold any virtues, as a virtue would be the disposition to follow His own commands – if He cannot logically command himself, then He cannot logically have any virtues – as a virtue would be the disposition to follow His own commands – if He cannot logically command Himself, then He cannot logically have any virtues.”
Edward Wierenga counters this by claiming that whatever God chooses to do is good, but that His nature means that His actions would always be praiseworthy. William Wainwright argues that, although God does not act because of His commands, it is still logical to say that God has reasons for His actions. He proposes that God is motivated by what is morally good and, when He commands what is morally good, it becomes morally obligatory.” (Austin, Michael 21 August 2006. “Divine Command Theory” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
On other words, the divine theory teaches that no moral truth can exist independently from God (see also the Euthyphro Dilemma in my other articles and “The All Restored Study Bible” – Intro). Good actions are morally good as a result of their being commanded by God. Ergo, moral obligation to God’s commands are good because He desires what is morally right. This theory was/is supported by St. Augustine, John Calvin, Duns Scotus, and William Ockham, and many today. But on the other side of this coined theory we have those who rejected it; Linda Zagzebski and Immanuel Kant. Kant drew upon Jean-Jacques Rousseau – thus considering any action non-moral-it is autonomy as opposed to heteronomy. Those that uphold the autonomy position usually acquire their morality, principles, and ethics from their self-being (thus the truth that the atheist, skeptic, and agnostic can be morally righteous). Whereas, those who uphold the heteronomy position attribute their morality, principles, and ethics from an outside source; namely God.
Robert Adams (Sept 8, 1937-Present), author of many books said that “a believer’s concept of morality is founded in their religious belief and that right and wrong are tied to their belief in God; this works because God always commands what believers accept to be right. If God commanded what a believer perceived as wrong, the believer would not say it is right or wrong to disobey him; rather their concept of morality would break down.” (Pojman & Rea 2008 – Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology pg 558).
The breakdown of one’s faith is often contributed to a loss of morality when viewed from the heteronomy position. I do not mean as in the individual becoming a contributor to what would be deemed immoral acts, but I’ am referring to the loss of the moralities from without – the concept. Disappointment with God in reference to miracles and healings are a reality for many. Yet there art many who claim the opposite; like “miraclestories.com.” Moreover than the testimony of “miraclestories.com,” we have the foundation upon which all others are laid upon – the Old and New Testament. For it is in the Canon that we learn of the miracles, wonders, and healings cited in Part One.
IV. Miracles: A Transitional Phase?
The Biblical stance upon miracles is the position that it did, and does happen. Moreover, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia;
“Throughout the course of church history there are miracles so well authenticated that their truth cannot be denied. Thus…
St. Clement of Rome and St. Ignatius of Antioch speak of the miracles wrought in their time.
Origen says he has seen examples of demons expelled, many cures effected, and prophecies fulfilled (Against Celsus I, II, III, VII).
Irenaeus taunts the magic-workers of his day that “they cannot give sight to the blind nor hearing to the deaf, nor put to flight demons; and they are so far from raising the dead as Our Lord did, and the Apostles, by prayer, and as is most frequently done among the brethren, that they even think it impossible” (Against Heresies II).
St. Athanasius writes the life of St. Anthony from what he himself saw and heard from one who had long been in attendance on the saint.
St. Justin in his second apology to the Roman Senate appeals to miracles wrought in Rome and well attested.
Tertullian challenges the heathen magistrates to work the miracles which the Christians perform (Apol., xxiii); St. Paulinus, in the life of St.
Ambrose, narrates what he has seen.
St. Augustine gives a long list of extraordinary miracles wrought before his own eyes, mentions names and particulars, describes them as well known, and says they happened within two years before he published the written account (City of God XXI.8; Retract., I, xiii).
St. Jerome wrote a book to confute Vigilantius and prove that relics should be venerated, by citing miracles wrought through them.
Theodoret published the life of St. Simon Stylites while the saint was living, and thousands were alive who had been eyewitnesses of what had happened.
St. Victor, Bishop of Vita, wrote the history of the African confessors whose tongues had been cut out by command of Hunneric, and who yet retained the power of speech, and challenges the reader to go to Reparatus, one of them then living at the palace of the Emperor Zeno.
From his own experience Sulpicius Severus wrote the life of St. Martin of Tours.
St. Gregory the Great writes to St. Augustine of Canterbury not to be elated by the many miracles God was pleased to work through his hands for the conversion of the people of Britain.”
Further down the road we also have the era in Church History known as the “Great Awaking” – where thousands were not only converted to Christ, but received many miracles.
Others considered this to be far fetched stating that “all miracles ceased with the Apostles. Mozley and Milman ascribe later miracles to pious myths, fraud, and forgery. Trench admits that few points present greater difficulty than the attempt to determine the exact period when the power of working miracles was withdrawn from the Church” – (Dr. Middleton & Trench). Origin suggested just as much – citing that the Spirit was departing from its manifestational gifts like healing and miracles. Many Baptists today suggest the same thought.
Many cite I Corinthians 13:8-10 in support of this view concerning healings and miracles. Did it cease? Did it cease when that which was perfect had come? The key to understanding that question lies in another question; namely – “What is that which is perfect?” Many suggest the following interpretations…
1. It could be a person – namely Jesus Christ
2. It could be the Kingdom of God
3. It could be the Word of God (as in its last revelation circa; 70 or 95CE)
The Greek word for perfect denotes having reached an end, finished, completed. It is used of persons fully grown and mature – I Cor 2:6, 14:20, Eph 4:13, Phil 3:15, Col 1:28, 4:12, full of age Heb 5:14. It is also used of things complete – Rom 12:2, I Cor 13:10 – referring to complete revelation of God’s will and ways. Completed in knowledge or the hereafter. To argue which “perfection” is the accurate one in reference to I Cor 13:8-10 is to open up another study – of which is not my intention – though I make mention of the three possibilities in different studies without reference to the miracles and healing aspects of this article.
But I will say this…If it is a person – then miracles do not exist, because Isaiah and Jesus Himself said “there would be no more tears.” If it is the Kingdom of God then the same principles of perfection applies – “No more tears.” If it is the Word of God (the Bible – as some believe) then the same principle applies – “No more tears.” Our I Cor 13:8-10 does not suffice the question at hand. So you see, regardless of your eschatological stance, neither preposition seems to apply here.
Whether the “perfect” is seen as a literal expression (as many Fundamentalists hold to) or of the allegorical spiritual expression (as the Preterist or Spiritualist holds to) – nothing really applies. Again, like I mentioned before, the moral challenge, the moral dilemma, the moral duty, and the good Samaritan law are no win situations when in reference to God or the Bible‘s completion. We are left to figure out “perfection.” We are left to figure the “seemingness” and the “arbitrary” – and they (like mentioned before) offer us and God nothing! Considering what we are left with, I would have to opt for what is left of the human spirit.
V. Conclusion: The Human Spirit
We close by wrapping up what we have learned here. We have leaned of…
I. The Laws of Immutability – Yes indeed God can act and break the laws of physics if He wants, or wanted to. If man can do it, so can an Omnipotent Being.
II. Moral Implications – Provide no clear cut answers concerning the questions at hand.
III. Miracles: A Transitional Phrase – Does very little. Furthermore it only opens further debate as to “perfection” and the means upon which it is accomplished (either a Person – namely Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God, or a thing – namely the Scriptures). Thus opening discussions of fruitless eschatological rhetoric while the world suffers.
No…perhaps we are not to look back at the miracles of the Bible, least we be turned into a pillar of salt. As God miraculously saved Lot and his family (except his wife who looked back and was thus turned into that pillar) but destroyed all in the cites of Sodom and Gomorrah – the seed of iniquity still remains. Some historians and scientists alike now attribute the tragedies of Sodom and Gomorrah as authentic – though not concluding to the reasons mentioned in the Scriptures. Nevertheless, the sins of man are huge. A never ending symphony of villainy, scum, and subterfuge.
But what of our Lots and families? Perhaps like Lot (and Noah for that matter) the story illustrates the faith, hope, and love described in I Cor 13:13 in the face of extreme adversity, suffering, or impending danger. Though looking at the Lot story from an allegorical expression (including the Noah story) we can not exclude the possibility of its physical consequences of morality and ethics gone awry. Without morality or ethics, man has nothing left of the conscience. No perception of what is right or wrong.
This can not be said of God. God is immutable. And while we can only ascribe attributes to God, we often at the same time find ourselves questioning the attributes we give Him; such as, “why God (who is love – an attribute) doesn’t simply intervene on our behalf?” It appears that we are decorating the Almighty. We are the one’s describing the indescribable. Perhaps this was the way it was done by the Patriarch’s – including Moses – who wrote of the Noah and Lot story years after the fact – perhaps inserting a moral to the historical account?
One might ask me, and rightfully so; “well, Thomas; do you pray then?” “Should we even pray?” Why waste our time, if all is as you conclude here?” I would opt to answer the following. I don’t pray anymore. I worship, mediate, and hope in Christ – as in my position in Him. I would also state the following…
As men/women, we have virtues. The 1st virtue mentioned in I Cor 13:13 is “faith.” By faith we believe or want to believe in the story of Lot for the sake of righteous living, and in the story of Noah for the sake of not having the “good guy finishing last” scenario. Perhaps we believe or want to believe in the healings and miracles of the Bible in order to hold on to the 2nd virtue, “hope.” We pray for our loved one’s because we “hope” they will recover. This proves that we have the 1st virtue, “faith” because we believe we can move mountains through Christ. This ushers in the 2nd virtue, “hope” because we hope in God to act. But when everything fails, without any discretions upon historical, or bi-lateral conditions to either a parallel situation of the heart or an individuals spiritual condition, we are left with the 3rd virtue, “love.”
As wonderful a virtue it is – love does not save individuals from the disease, illness, or psychological conditions they may have. But it is the one virtue that motivates “charity.” Thus we are left to perform such healings and miracles, God is not. Therefore, one should not blame Him/Her. We are left to grow, evolve as the deist / theist believes. Growing in faith, hope, and love on a whole with humanity.
It would seem that God appears in the annuls of history in accord to our growth; such as: the need of ethics and morality as described in the Code of Hammurabi, and the Ten Commandment’s as described by Moses in the Biblical book of Exodus. The rest, it would seem, were left to the histories of the Hebrew peoples and other alike – according to their stories. The dreams of Daniel, the acts of David, Joshua, Sampson, Solomon, etc; were not miracles, but instances in history were men through the guidance of their knowledge pertaining to God and His imparted moralities upon such individuals worked according to what they were experiencing. Perhaps Lazarus experiencing being once dead, and having experienced being resurrected has now found that perfection spoken of earlier. We do the same, when we sing:
“Amazing grace. How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was blind, but now I see. I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see.” Was John Newton ever lost, literally? Was John Newton ever blind, literally?
And contrary to those that would use the incarnation, the deity of Christ, and His resurrection as past miracles and an ongoing fact (as in His resurrection & deity) must conclude that they were and are not miracles – they are what they are – I’ am that I’ am. The thought of God performing miracles as in the incarnation, deity, or resurrection are self canceling, since that would entail God performing miracles in Himself. But the conception upon man himself is the actual miracle (the maiden giving birth, the man Jesus consisting of the Godhead bodily, and the man Jesus being raised from the dead).
The concepts of miracles and healings are coincidental occurrences that transpire without any discretion whatsoever. As the rain falls upon the righteous and unrighteous so are the concepts of miracles and healings. One righteous God fearing family prays and receives, while the other righteous God fearing family receives nothing. One atheist hopes and loves; and thus receives, while the other atheist receives nothing. Miracles and healings should not be a thing to be grasped as in the “I claim the victory through Christ.”
Perhaps the “knock and it shall be opened unto you,” “seek and ye shall find” – Matt 7:7-8 are arbitrary, a sort of “good advice” if you will. We are to seek Christ, come to Christ, but He is also in us. Therefore let our minds convert to the message of Christ – especially in charity, benevolence, and forbearance. Christ in you – the “Hope” (there’s that “hope” virtue word again) of glory (Col 1:27). Show me anything there that speaks of miracles and healings. But I can show you its allegorical stories of ethics and morality – similar to parables.
Let us demonstrate faith, hope and love. Let us draw upon their virtues rather than drawing upon the attributes of God, which can be viewed in either discretion; positive or negative. Negative as in Apophatic theology, which describes God by negation, speaking of God only in terms of what He is not. It is opposed to its opposite, Cataphatic theology which describes God in the positive. This is difficult to comprehend when a loved one is suffering or when natural disasters strikes without apparent cause or reason, or when famine and pestilence run rapid in the world.
These are glorified terminologies. While offering explanations, they offer very little comfort. Even the Scriptures offer very little comfort when it fails to produce. When we read it, we often ingest what God is telling us through His Word. But actions speaks louder than words – we say that all the time. When we read the passages of Scriptures mentioned in Part One, we can conclude on many occasions that “talk is cheap.”
That is why it is highly probable that the miracles and healings of the Bible are of a spiritual nature or of an allegorical expression as told in the narratives. But even then such expressions entail, or can indicate an outward physical change. Similar to revolutions that often start off as simple ideologies. For I.e., the idea of freedom as opposed to tyranny – ergo from that was our own American Revolution accomplished, and America was born. Let us use the Scriptures and our liberties wisely by, and through; faith, hope and love.
Faith is an ideology, so to speak. It is what we believe (whatever that may be). But hope and love are virtues. Let us practice the law of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37 – especially verses 36 & 37). Let us draw the line between what is, and what is spiritual. Perhaps Christ, through faith, hope, and love will be manifested indiscriminately upon you/us.
An Introduction to Philosophy; Classical and Contemporary Readings; John Perry and Michael Bratman
A New Philosophy and the Philosophical Sciences; Apostolos Makrakis
Works by St. Augustine, John Calvin, Duns Scotus, and William Ockham
The Works of Immanuel Kant
The Works of Spinoza
The Works of Voltaire (to examine his psychological reasoning behind his unethical and immoral rhetoric)
I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist; Norman L. Geisler, Frank Turek:
Keller, James. – A Moral Argument against Miracles,? Faith and Philosophy. vol. 12, no 1
Robert Adams works include: “Must God Create the Best?” Philosophical Review, LXXXI 317-332. 1982, “A Modified Divine Command Theory of Ethical Wrongness” in Religion and Morality: A Collection of Essays, “Divine Commands and the Social Nature of Obligation” Faith and Philosophy, 1987, “Leibniz: Determinist, Theist, Idealist.” New York: Oxford. 1994, “Finite and Infinite Goods.” New York: Oxford University Press. 1999, A Theory of Virtue: Excellence in Being for the Good. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 2006, “Moral Faith,” Journal of Philosophy, 1995.