Modern Miracles—True or False?
Some years ago I prepared an essay titled: A Study of Divine Providence. In that piece I pointed out, among other things, that although God is providentially working in today’s world through his natural laws, the Lord is not performing “miracles” in this age.
In response to that article, I received an irate letter from a Pentecostal reader who characterized the study as a “non-scriptural, non-edifying” exercise that denies the power of God.
We do not question the sincerity of most critics, but the letter reflected a type of uninformed emotionalism that unfortunately is common. The following statement from his note is typically “Pentecostal.”
The miracle power of Christ was at work when my friend was healed instantly of terminal cancer, including the scar tissue from the radiation.
He then declared: “The proof is in the pudding.”
All we ask is: “Let us see the evidence that there was any pudding!”
Does the gentleman actually expect anyone to believe that story in the absence of any objective evidence whatever? Were there before-and-after x-rays that document the “miracle”? Is there written testimony from competent physicians regarding the instantaneous disappearance of the “terminal cancer”—scar tissue and all? If so, where is it? And if the Lord miraculously healed the cancer victim, why was radiation necessary?
I have been investigating these miracle claims for half a century, and not one time have I ever seen anything that even remotely resembles the type of miracles that adorn the pages of the Bible.
Where is the modern instant restoration of a severed ear? Where is the Pentecostal minister who can walk on water? Where is the corpse that was four days in the grave, and walked out? Those who contend for modern miracles simply have not studied the issue sufficiently to identify the nature of a genuine miracle.
Many years ago, Oral Roberts came to our city with his “miracle working” campaign. We ran a newspaper advertisement offering a $1,000 reward for medical proof of a single miracle. Roberts never sought to claim the reward. He subsequently went back to Tulsa and established a hospital in which to treat the sick!
When the late Ronald Coyne, a small-time “healer” from Oklahoma, came to our community, claiming that he could miraculously see through a “plastic eye,” we offered to pay all expenses if he would submit to testing administered by a qualified ophthalmologist. He declined the offer and threatened to sue me. I urged him to do so, for the courtroom is a real arena for the examination of evidence. He took his “magic eye” con game and left town.
When another “miracle-worker” came to our city, claiming he could raise the dead, I offered to accompany him to a nearby cemetery. I suggested that he could pray for a corpse to “come up,” and I would pray for it to “stay down”—thus, we could demonstrate who had the greater power!
I have seen witch-doctors in Africa who claimed they could mutter incantations over a chicken gizzard and miracles would result, but there was no proof. In spite of the lack of any credible evidence, the poor and ignorant people of the village were offering the same kind of unsubstantiated testimony as do our Pentecostal critics.
This issue is not one to be decided by the subjective testimony of those who “feel” that God is working signs today; rather, it turns upon the critical examination of the facts in the light of plain Bible teaching.
The New Testament teaches that miracles occupied a special place in God’s redemptive plan, and they have not been extended throughout the Christian dispensation. See the article, Miracles on this website.
Some have sought to argue that miracles have continued beyond the apostolic age, but Dr. A. P. Waterson responds:
It has also been shown that the frequently quoted passages in Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Justin Martyr which purport to show that miracles of healing continued well into the 3rd century will not in fact bear that testimony (318).
- Waterson, A. P. 1974. Disease and Healing. The New Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans