Do miracles still happen?

Posted by Alice L. Camille
Monday 19, July 2010 | Category:   Doctrines & Beliefs

I love this question. It reminds me of TIME magazine’s famous 1966 cover: “Is God dead?” It’s a hopeful question because it doesn’t presume the answer—which is a good way to approach the realm of mystery.

Some people say they can’t embrace biblical faith because miracles seem so irrational. Others believe precisely because of the “proof” miracles provide. Neither position would make sense to biblical people, who viewed all natural phenomena as God’s personal activity. “Supernatural” events had no place in their understanding. Hebrew scripture doesn’t use the word miracle but speaks of signs, wonders, and mighty deeds that demonstrate God’s authority in the universe. The New Testament uses Greek words for these same concepts, as well as “works”: the particular activity of God and Jesus.

Three major clusters of what we call miracles are found in scripture. First, there’s the deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt. Second, the stories about Elijah and Elisha describe a dynamic duo of wonderworkers. Finally, the power demonstrated by Jesus and the apostles in the early church compose the Christian miracles. The pattern in all these stories is the same: A problem emerges, a miracle solves it, the miracle is confirmed.

Theologians handle the subject of miracles a little differently. They view the miraculous as an aspect of divine revelation and name three foundational miracles by which all other claims must be tested: Creation, Exodus, and Resurrection. Creation provides the original “Wow!” of wonder. That anything exists at all is because God chooses it to be. Exodus communicates God’s desire to save us come hell or, literally, high water. Resurrection is the final transformation of Creation, confirming that God loves us and has the authority to “renew the face of the earth.”

Would theologians say miracles have occurred since the time of Jesus? Emphatically yes. The signs of God’s power to save and transform us and our world are all around us—for those with eyes to see. And if we’re having trouble seeing the wow!—well, as Jesus once suggested, we might not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead (Luke 16: 31).

Scripture
• Genesis 1; Exodus 3-15; 1 Kings 17-2 Kings 13; Matthew 12:-22-28; 16:1-4; Luke 16:19-31; John 6:25-40; Romans 15:18-21; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 2 Corinthians 12:12

Online resource
“Miracles: Signs of God’s Presence” by Daniel J. Harrington, S.J.

Books
Miracles by C. S. Lewis (HarperSanFrancisco, 2001)
The Healing Touch of Mary: Real-Life Stories from Those Touched by Mary by Cheri Lomonte (ACTA/Divine Impressions, 2006)
God’s Doorkeepers: Padre Pio, Solanus Casey, and André Bessette by Joel Schorn (Servant Books, 2006)

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