We use the word “miracle” to describe everything from something surprising (ex: last minute scoring to win in a ball game) to things only God can do (ex: create the world or raise Jesus from the dead). So, what is a Biblical miracle?
The word that is usually translated “miracle” is from one of two Greek words. One literally means “power” and the other “sign.” Without context we don’t know what kind of power it is or what the sign is saying. C.S. Lewis described a miracle as “an interference with Nature by supernatural power.” (C.S. Lewis in Miracles). The Bible uses the word “miracle” to refer to something which requires or points to supernatural power. In other words, something which cannot be explained by natural power.
The discussion of miracles has to begin with whether it’s even possible that there is something “supernatural” – that is, something outside of nature, our physical world. Most naturalists and atheists say that nothing can come into nature from outside of nature because nature is everything (there is nothing to come in). But why should we accept that the physical realm is all there is? And what should we do when we find something for which there is no physical explanation? Shouldn’t science go wherever the evidence leads it – even if it means the explanation is a miracle?
Some reject miracles because of experience: either they haven’t seen a miracle or they are contrary to what we know about history and predictable sciences. This is a circular argument: miracles don’t happen because miracles don’t happen. Miracles, by definition, are exceptional to normal experience and explanation. And just because someone doesn’t experience one doesn’t mean they didn’t, don’t, or can’t happen.
The entire Bible starts with a miracle: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Ge 1:1). God, from outside all that is physical, created all that is physical from nothing. That can only happen from outside the natural world. The rest of the Bible is about what happens in our natural world and how that God, from outside reaches out to humans. God’s “reaching out” takes the form of everything from word messages to physical judgments; controlling natural forces in unnatural ways to feeding thousands with a small amount of food; and instant physical healing and resurrections of the dead. These are things that have no obvious physical explanations. These are things only God can do. These are miracles.
Next Week: Miracles (2) Why? dd