Christianity and Miracles

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Sanctification is not my idea of what I want God to do for me –
 sanctification is God’s idea of what He wants to do for me.

Oswald Chambers (James Riemann, Ed.)


Why are so many people resistant to the idea of miracles?

At a recent dinner conversation, one lady expressed her delight at a sermon she had heard about the biblical account of Jesus feeding the multitudes. She was relieved to hear that it wasn’t really a miracle. The priest said that it was true the disciples had only a few “loaves and fishes” but that didn’t mean others hadn’t brought food.

It made more sense to her, and was apparently reassuring to her, to think of it as a giant ‘pot luck’ instead of a miracle.

Why would miracles scare us or put us off?

We take delight in “miraculous” medical cures, miracles of technology and even the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey “Miracle on Ice“. But we seem hesitant to consider the idea of a real miracle, something we can’t explain.

F. A. Hayek, in The Road to Serfdom talks of a shift in the western approach to many issues which occurred in the nineteenth century. Before that, philosophy ruled in government and society. It was understood that some things are beyond us and therefore must be accepted.

With the rise of technology, the engineering viewpoint took over. Everything had to be analyzed and reduced to its parts. There are no unsolvable problems, just solutions we didn’t yet understand.

But we all understand that there are things beyond our comprehension. Some would argue that we will eventually explain everything that happens at all levels of the universe. They argue our science is immature.

But many of us doubt that. We have a hunch that “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your books.”

But what advantage could there be in refusing to accept miracles. Could a world without miracles be safer, easier for us to control?

A long dead teacher can ask nothing of us. Socrates, Aquinas and Confucius are left in the past. We can admire their ideas and try to follow them, but they can ask nothing of us. We can also feel free to reinterpret their teachings to fit our “times”, or rather, our whims.

But what if the person whose teachings we claim to follow still lives? What then?

This is the dilemma posed by Jesus of Nazareth. Many people are comfortable with him as a non-miraculous but wise teacher. We can follow his teachings, or not, and there is no reason to think he can affect us any more than Socrates.

But what if he is, indeed, the risen Son of God? What if he is not a figure from the remote past but alive and aware of our every thought, word and deed? Then He is not so easy to ignore.

A living Jesus has opinions about how we live. He may or may not tell us, and we may or may not listen, but He has his opinions of us and our actions.

He is in charge of our lives. We aren’t.  We can’t assume we know all there is to know about what happens in our lives. Maybe those “coincidences” we encounter from time to time really aren’t accidents. Maybe He is arranging events and people in our lives for His purposes.

To put it simply, maybe we aren’t in control. Maybe we don’t know as much as we think we do.

The thought that He is alive adds uncertainty and obligation to our lives. If, indeed, we were created by the Holy Trinity to know and love Him/them, they are waiting for us. We can’t just study Jesus as a long dead teacher. His “bible” is a guide book not just of how to live, but, more importantly, how to learn to walk and talk with Him.

Do we really want to hide in the safety of long-dead Jesus who can ask nothing of us and never “interfere” in our lives? Apparently many people do.

But for those willing to accept the idea that “He Is Risen!” it is, perhaps, time to understand what that means and seek him out. He lives and wants us to share everything with him.

Are we ready for that?

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How Long Can You Resist God?

I am not trying to resolve great theological debates, I hope to have people think about how they see God and what that does, or might, mean in their lives. With that in mind, let me make some proposals about the nature of God and pose some questions. I am not binding myself to any statements I make about the nature of God and there are no provable answers to the questions but I hope you will find this something interesting to consider.

Does God ever stop loving us and is there ever a time, even in eternity, when He gives up on us and will let us permanently “stew in our own stuff” in Hell?

In his novel, The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis proposes that Hell is a spot between two blades of grass in Heaven. It is inhabited by small-minded, self-centered people focused on their ideas about how life has been and how they have been mistreated. The residents of Hell can choose to take a trip to heaven and are welcome to stay if they are willing to let God, and joy, be more important to them than the “baggage” they carry around in their lives. His book is a classic in showing how people in this life refuse pleasures of every sort in order to continue to be “right” about how things work.

My understanding of the Orthodox Christian view of the after-life is this – Since there is no place where God is not, Heaven and Hell are defined by our reaction to God’s Love. We will all be in His presence and be engulfed by His love. If we are willing to accept that love, eternity will be a great joy (heaven). If we continue to refuse His love, that love will be a torment to us and we will be in Hell.

When I mentioned the Orthodox view to a friend, he asked who I thought I was to think I could resist God?  I decided to post that question here for all of us. I look forward to hearing your comments.

Let me close by saying that this is not just a question about the next life. How many times today have I resisted God? Will there ever be a time in my life on Earth when I grow tired of resisting?