John 14:12 – “The person who believes in me will perform the miraculous deeds that I am doing, and will perform greater deeds than these, because I am going to the Father.”
What are these ‘deeds’, and in what sense would they be ‘greater’?
Miracles (accompanied by conversions)?
Some think that the ‘deeds’ are miracles, as in Jn 5:17; 10:32. They would be quantitatively ‘greater’ in that they would be multiplied through all Jesus’ followers. (Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary). …
We have no reason to think that God will not, still less cannot, grant miracles in our own day. But before we conclude that they ought to be everyday occurrences, we might pause to consider that:-
in the Bible, ‘miracles clustered round the principal organs of revelation at fresh epochs of revelation, particularly Moses the lawgiver, the new prophetic witness spearheaded by Elijah and Elisha, the Messianic ministry of Jesus, and the apostles, so that Paul referred to his miracles as “the things that mark an apostle”.’
In his book The Miracles of Exodus (Continuum, 2003), physicist Sir Colin Humphreys argues that a plausible scientific basis can be found for the plagues of Egypt, as recorded in Exodus 7-11.
This is not to suggest that they can be ‘explained away’ as merely natural phenomena. Rather, accordingly to Humphreys’, the miraculous element lies in their timing and intensity, along with the fact that they were predicted.
Instone-Brewer (Science and the Bible: Insights For An Ancient Text) takes a similar line:
‘These plagues are not portrayed in the language of miracles, except with regard to their timing and their ferocity.
I have recently returned, after a period of absence, to consider the question of miracles in general, and of divine healing in particular.
Looking again at the work of Rex Gardner (a consultant gynaecologist and an ordained minister), I found myself pretty much in agreement with his conclusions:-
Intellectual honesty demands that (after discounting cases with dubious diagnoses, those where psychosomatic considerations are important, and others where the cure might be attributable to adjuvant medical therapy or where spontaneous remission might be the explanation) there remain some cures for which medicine has no explanation.
After all these years, my thoughts and feelings about miracles are still a bit of a jumble. I offer the following as an attempt to ‘nail my colours to the fence’ (as it were). These are pretty much bare propositions; elaboration by way of argument or evidence may be found elsewhere:-
A miracle is an extraordinary event in the natural world, prompting people to respond, “This is the Lord’s doing, it is wonderful in our eyes.”
Readers of this blog will not expect to find much here by, or about, John Hick. However, his writings on the philosophy of religion are not without interest or value.
Hick has thought deeply about the problem of suffering. He asks us to imagine what the world would be like if there were no possibility of pain or suffering. I have always been struck by what he says about this:-
Suppose…that this world were a paradise from which all possibility of pain and suffering were excluded. …