Many Christians must have wondered: If so many miracles are recorded in the pages of the New Testament, why are few (if any) witnessed today? For sceptics, the answer is that the New Testament accounts of miracles cannot be believed. For some believers, the answer is that although the New Testament accounts can be believed, the gift of miracles ceased when the canon of Scripture was completed.
New Testament scholar Craig Keener has recently published a work that bids fair to blow both the sceptical and the ultra-conservative views right out of the water. The kinds of miracles that are recorded in the Gospels and Acts, he says, do occur in our own day.
Keener’s work started as a mere footnote in his forthcoming commentary on Acts. But it grew into a mighty two-volume tome of over 1100 pages. It’s called Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts.
What follows is based on Craig Blomberg’s review.
The New Testament accounts of miracles cannot involve widespread borrowing from non-Christian sources, since almost all the closest parallels occur no earlier than the 3rd century AD.
Since God is sovereign in history, we do not have to deny the truth of all non-Christian miracle stories.
Ancient people were often not as credulous as we might imagine, and they understood that some accounts were more plausible than others, and that events such as instantaneous healing of medically intractable diseases and resurrections could not and did not normally happen.
While it is understandable that an 18th-century Scot like David Hume was unfamiliar with contemporary miraculous claims, evidence indicates that more than 200,000,000 people say that they have experienced or witnessed a miracle.
Since science studies repeatable phenomena, is does not have the tools or the methods to deal with that which is unique. And yet those committed to scientific naturalism have been guilty of censoring miraculous claims. Nevertheless, over 70% of physicians believe that miracles have occurred in the past and still occur today. 55% have personally observed healing that they themselves would regard as miraculous.
Many hundreds of medically-documented, scientifically-inexplicable miracles can be cited. The fact that there are relatively fewer accounts arising from the West may be due to our readier access to medicine or to our lower level of belief.
Virtually all of the kinds of miracles found in the New Testament have been reliably recorded in our own day. These include instantaneous recovery from blindness, deafness, cancer, burns, and fractures. Resuscitations when vital signs had been absent for many hours have been recorded. The common feature is that the miracle occured during or immediately after concerted prayer on the part of Christians, often after long periods of suffering that did not respond to conventional treatment.
To fail to take such claims seriously is to abandon all pretense at logical inquiry. It is, in other words, to take a ‘naturalism-of-the-gaps’ approach, which says, ‘We do not understand this remarkable phenomenon, but, hey, one day science will be able to explain it.’
The more difficult question is not ‘Do miracles occur?’ but, ‘Why are miracles so often not granted?’ The answer lies with ‘inaugurated eschatology’. We are living between the times, God’s rule is ‘already’ and ‘not yet’. But we might well ask how many more miracles God would grant if we prayed more believingly for them.