Do You Believe In Miracles?! YES!

miracle.jpgHerb Brooks and a bunch of college hockey players beat the Red Army’s team!  Case closed.

All right, maybe there’s a little more to say than that. A minor bruhaha erupted below this post over the possibility of miracles in our day, and it is a question worth addressing.

Let’s start with St. Augustine: “I never have any difficulty believing in miracles, since I experienced the miracle of a change in my own heart.”  C.S. Lewis reflects something similar when he writes, “The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation.  They say that God became Man.  Every other miracle prepared the way for this, or results from this” (Miracles, 173).  In other words, Christianity necessarily entails a belief in the possibility of miracles.  That much is clear.  It’s also where things begin to get murky.

Before we go any further we also ought to define what we mean by “miracle.”  The definition I will use here is as follows: A miracle is an event or occurence that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.”  This is an important definition because, admittedly, lots of things are described by the word “miracle” these days that are certainly not miraculous.  Indeed, the word “miracle” has become badly watered-down.  The “Miracle on Ice” was awesome, but not a miracle. Beautiful sunsets are not a miracle.  They are wondrous.  They are marvelous.  They are not miraculous.  The birth of my children was amazing.  Jaw-dropping.  Unspeakably fascinating and bedazzling.  It was not miraculous, because it was completely explainable by the natural and scientific.  So, we would do well to limit our “It was a miracle“-talk to things that really are miraculous, or else we’ll be contributing to the vulgarization of the word.

There are a few other considerations that need to shape any conversation about the possibility of modern day miracles:

1. We should all admit that experience plays a significant role in determining our view on miracles. If you’ve never seen one, you will be less likely to believe in the possibility of one—regardless of what anyone else says.  If you are confident that you’ve seen one, you will be much more likely to believe in them—regardless of what anyone else says.  A commonly cited historical example of this involves the great Princetonian theologian, B.B. Warfield. Warfield’s wife was struck by lightning on their honeymoon and, despite the earnest and faithful prayers of her husband, remained an invalid for the rest of her life.  It is little wonder, however strong his arguments might be, that he famously argued that “[Miraculous gifts] were not for the possession of the primitive Christian as such; nor for that matter of the Apostolic Church or the Apostolic Age for themselves; they were distinctively the authentication of the Apostles. They were part of the credentials of the apostles as the authoritative agents of God in founding the church. Their function thus confirmed them to distinctively the Apostolic Church, and they necessarily passed away with it” (Counterfeit Miracles, 6).

2. We should all admit that our context and culture plays a role in determining our view on miracles. To a certain extent, we are all inescapably shaped by our culture and its predominant epistemology.  If you have a Enlightenment-shaped, modernistic mindset, you will have a high degree of confidence in the ability of the scientific method to explain everything observable without the assistance of “miraculous” explanations.  On the other hand, if you have a pre-modern worldview (like most of the world outside of Europe and the U.S.) or if you have a post-modern worldview (like a rapidly increasing number of people in Europe and the U.S.) then you will have a lower degree of confidence in the ability of science to explain everything observable in such a way that “proof” can be mustered to explain everything.  In other words, if you are the sort of person who demands indisputable proof before you will believe anything, it’s unlikely that you’ll believe in miracles.

3. All believers should admit that God is capable of performing miracles whenever He pleases. This is not a question of whether God is capable of performing miracles through human instrumentality, but whether he continues to do so.  For that reason arguments of this sort: “Miracles can to happen, because God is still God and He can do whatever he wants to do!” are not valid.  This does not address the question of whether the God that is is still in the business of performing miracles through human agents.

4. We should all admit that the Bible doesn’t have much to say about whether or not miracles have continued past the closing of the New Testament canon. This may be the most important consideration in shaping how conversations about miracles should go.  To a certain extent we’re all in the dark and are left to our experience and worldview to shape what we believe about miracles.  Let me explain this a little:

On the one hand, biblical arguments raised by cessationists (i.e. those who believe the miraculous gifts ceased after the Apostlic age) are notoriously weak and almost laughable. Some of the “best” (I use that term advisedly) arguments have relied on two passages: 2 Corinthians 12:12 and 1 Corinthians 13:8-10.  In the former, Paul, in the course of defending his apostleship to the Corinthians, writes, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.”  It is sometimes argued (see the Warfield quote above, as well as this post) that miracles are these “signs of a true apostle” and since there are no longer apostles (with which I agree) to perform these miracles, there no longer exists the possibility of miracles.

The massively gaping hole in this argument, of course, is that Paul nowhere says that the ability to perform miracles are limited to apostles.  In 1 Cor. 12:28-30 he writes, “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?”  In other words, Paul is saying that no one group of people has a corner on the market on any spiritual gift.  To fill in the answer to Paul’s rhetorical questions: Are all apostles? No, but some are! Are all prophets? No, but some are! Are all teachers? No, but some are! Do all work miracles? No, but some do! Do all possess gifts of healing? No, but some do! … You get the picture.  Simply because the gift of apostleship (conferred only on those who have actually seen the resurrection Christ bodily [Acts 1:22])  has ended does not entail that all spiritual gifts have ceased.  Which leads us to the next nearly laughable cessationist argument.

In 1 Cor. 13:8-10, Paul writes, “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.”  There is considerable debate over what “the perfect” (v. 10) refers to.  But no reputable New Testament scholar or theologian in the last 80 years has made a serious argument that “the perfect” refers to the close of the canon of Scripture, as some cessationists have.  There is zero biblical (or extra-biblical) support for arguing that τέλειος refers to the finished Bible, after which the miraculous gifts will cease.  The word almost certainly refers to the return of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 13:12).

On the other hand, it is also nearly impossible for continuationists, like Wayne Grudem, to muster much convicing biblical support for their position either—at least in terms of evidence that will convince cessationists. The reason for this is simple: The New Testament was written by the apostles or under the direct influence of apostles.  Cessationists insist that miracles ceased with the death of the last apostle (likely John the son of Zebedee, around 100 A.D.), which means that, by necessity, no miracles are recorded in Scripture after the Apostolic Age.  Cessationists can always insist that miracles have clearly ceased because “no miracles are recorded in Scripture after the Apostolic Age.”  This argument is, of course, a non sequitur.  No camels are recorded in Scripture after the Apostolic Age either.  That doesn’t mean they no longer exist.  At any rate, cessationists can always claim that references in Scripture to miraculous powers are limited to the original time and context into which they were spoken (i.e. the Apostolic Age).

So, where does this leave us?

1. I think 1 Cor. 1:7-8 is worth considering: “So that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  This seems to be an instance where Paul points well beyond the Apostolic Age.  Paul’s words seem to refer beyond just the Corinthians to those who will be waiting for the revealing of Christ at the Day of the Lord.  He says that they will not lack any spiritual gift as they wait.  I take this to be inconclusive, but considerable, evidence that Paul cannot conceive of a time before the coming of Christ when any of the spiritual gifts will be unavailable to the bride of Christ as she waits for her Groom.

2. It’s worth asking why God would cease performing miracles through human agency. The answer will certainly be subjective, but it is, frankly, silly to assume that God ceased miracles merely because the church was viable and established by the end of the apostolic age.  Nonsense.  The church was still very much vulnerable and faced considerable persecution until the Edict of Milan (313 A.D.).  Moreover, the Great Commission is still ongoing and miracles, if they exist, could still be employed powerfully as a means to spread the gospel today.  On the other hand, was the mere proclamation of the gospel any less effective in bringing people to faith in Christ during the Apostolic Age?  Didn’t people believe without the performance of miracles during the Apostolic Age?  Do we really believe that God just felt the need to give the Great Commission an extra boost by using miracles?  Is God so weak that he cannot save “about five thousand” people in one day without the use of miracles (cf. Acts 4:4).  So, why would miracles be any more necessary in the Apostolic Age than they are now?  The gospel is the same now as it was then and the power of the Holy Spirit to shatter hearts and open eyes is the same now as it was then.  This cessationist argument makes no sense whatsoever.

3. Proof should not be demanded for things that are unprovable. Miracles are, by definition, events or occurences that are not explicable by natural or scientific laws.  To furnish proof of a miracle based on scientific observation is therefore a logical impossibility.  “Prove to me that a miracle is possible today” is exactly analogous to saying “Prove to me that God exists.”  You can’t.  No one can.  Does that make believe in God foolhardy?  Not unless you have a strictly modernistic worldview that allows for nothing supernatural.  Furnish me proof that miracles do not continue to happen.  It seems to me that the burden of proof is on the cessationist to prove that God fundamentally changed the way he operates in the world merely because the apostles died.

4. Respectable and trustworthy eyewitnesses should be believed. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a miracle.  But I have plenty of good friends who claim to have—men whose powers of observation I have no reason to doubt, who have proven themselves trustworthy and reliable, and who have no reason to lie or deceive.  I was the best man in the wedding of a friend who worked for several years in West Africa and personally witnessed healings that were scientifically inexplicable.  Why would I doubt him?  Nothing in Scripture contradicts his testimony.  Should I doubt him because I’ve never seen it happen?  I’ve never seen my congressman.  But I’m pretty sure he exists.  I’ve never seen a black hole personally.  I doubt I ever will.  But I don’t doubt that they exist.  I think it’s a mark of maturity and honor to extend lucid and trustworthy people the benefit of the doubt.  On the other hand, I think it is the epitome of arrogance to deny what someone else claims if you have no sturdy evidence whatsoever to support your denial.

5. No uninitiated and unbiased reader of Scripture would conclude that miracles have ceased. This is another admittedly subjective argument.  But I think it’s a valid one.  An unbiased reader, who believes that the Bible reflects the way the world “is,” would certainly believe that all of the miraculous gifts, and all the ways and workings of God, including miracles, continue.  There is nothing to persuade one otherwise in the book we’ve been given to govern our belief and practice as Christians.

Advertisements

15 thoughts on “Do You Believe In Miracles?! YES!”

  1. I’ve sometimes wondered if miracles can also play a role in sustaining faith in times of doubt. We all struggle with doubt from time to time. For me, the struggle has at times been intense and desperate. One of the things that has kept my hanging in there during those dark times has been the memory of personal experiences that I can only describe as miracles. When I feel as if my faith is hanging by the barest thread, I can look back on those experiences and know that I simply have no other explanation than “God did that.” And then I can hang on.

  2. In reading your post, I noticed a pattern. It started is a very objective perspective, and as it progressed, it became more and more subjective. As it began, I agreed with it whole-heartedly. As it progressed, it still held up. But as it ended, it relied on assumption after assumption, leading to misconceptions. I hope to discuss some of these misconceptions here.

    Regarding the two verses that cessationists use, I would never use these. They are not really useful to support the concept. Instead I try to preform a closer analysis of what was going on prior to Acts, what was going on during Acts, and what that means for us living after Acts. This involves looking deeply into what was written in the (primarily NT) books which pertain to each of the three time periods. This paints a consistent picture of where miracles fit in with the whole picture, and helps explain many poorly explained questions.

    Regarding the end of public miracles (I believe that unprovable miracles do occur), I don’t think they ended at the death of the last apostle. It is my belief that they ended at the end of the book of Acts. While this doesn’t change much of the arguments presented it does introduce some books of the bible written during a time with no public miracles, which can be analyzed.

    Regarding 1 Cor 1:7-8: Your analysis is dependent on whether or not there is a future looking element in the phrase, “So that you are not lacking”. In the Greek, the word “are” is not there. It is supplied by the translator. Leaving it out, it becomes obvious what Paul was saying, “So that you, not lacking.” Paul was telling them that these believers did not lack miracles. Up to this point they hadn’t. So it is a true statement. But the statement contains no future element. Grammatically none of the statements afterward require that these gifts continue.

    They can wait for the revealing of Christ without needing gifts. They can be confirmed by Christ until their end (for these folks it would be their death), without any need for gifts. They can be counted blameless on the Day of the Lord, without gifts.

    Regarding why God would end such gifts, we need to know why God would begin such gifts. The immediate answer given by many is, so that the gospel could be spread to the world more quickly and more easily. So my question to those who hold to such miracles is, why did this quickness and ease end? The evangelist today endures a far more different experience than the evangelist during the time of Acts. Where there were language barriers, speaking in tongues overcame those barriers. Today, this barrier exists firmly – just ask any missionary who works in a non-English speaking country. Where the evangelist then lacked authority, healing everyone in town gave them immediate authority (see Acts 14:8-12). Today, reputations must be earned slowly and with great personal sacrifice.

    Without saying too much (for it would be better I wrote a book) the reason that public miracles ended at the end of Acts, is for much the same reason that the book of Acts ends with Paul living in a rented home in Rome, instead of with Paul standing before Caesar.

    Regarding the provability of miracles, if someone has not been able to walk for most of their life, and their legs are shriveled up, and doctors have personally examined their condition – and in one moment this person is healed with no sign of weakness or atrophy, and their healing is clearly seen by yourself, then that is a proved miracle (proved to you). Or for a more obvious case, the account of God pouring out fire from heaven, at Elijah’s introduction, proved irrefutably that, both miracles and God exist. The excuse that miracles can’t by definition be proven is simple a retreat by those who are consigned to wait upon “miracles” which aren’t really miracles at all.

    Regarding the trustworthiness of witnesses, we have either personally experienced or know someone who has experienced someone who looked and seemed straight-up normal. They were consistent in their behavior. They were reliable; a real stand-up kind of person. And then one day, out of their mouth pops something like, “You do know that the Illuminati controls everything don’t you?” After rolling your eyes, you wonder to yourself, “How could such a normal person fall for something so stupid?” The truth is, sane people fall for insane ideas all the time.

    So we rely on things like Occam’s Razor “The simplest explanation tends to be the best one.” If there is a natural way to explain an event, like the existence of all these reporters constantly talking about the existence of congressmen, and knowing that man has a natural propensity to form governments, we conclude that congressmen likely do exist. But if someone says that “Saint Mary” descended down on a village of poor people and spoke to them, we know that it is far more likely that fanciful stories are more likely than the virgin Mary making a guest appearance.

    Regarding number five, as you said, it is a very subjective argument. It comes from the same line of reasoning as those who ignorantly say, “Any unbiased reader of the bible will conclude that the concept of the trinity is false.” The funny part about that statement is that itself is deeply biased. The meat of truth is not in such singular statements, but in getting elbow deep in the text.

    My advice, stick with the objective, and let the subjective dangle in the wind.

  3. Hmm, I’m no Greek scholar (then again, neither are you to my knowledge), but the “are” in 1 Cor. 1:7 isn’t there in other translations either. Instead, some read “so that you lack nothing…”. Based on other instances of this Greek word, it seems that your interpretative gymnastics are a bit strained. Either way, this is a weak verse to use for cessationism.

    “It comes from the same line of reasoning as those who ignorantly say, “Any unbiased reader of the bible will conclude that the concept of the trinity is false.””

    Wrong. An unbiased reader of the Bible would quickly pick up on phrases like “Let us go down and confuse their languages”, “Baptize them in the NAME of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”, “Whom shall I send? Whom shall go for us?”, and “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (just to name a few) and would quickly pick up on a theme, just as they would pick up on the theme of miraculous healings in the New Testament.

    The purpose of miracles were to spread the Gospel and prove that the person claiming to be from God actually had authority to speak for Him. Jesus makes this quite clear in Mark 2 when he heals the paralytic, saying that he does so to show that he has the authority to forgive sins (i.e. the Gospel). With that in mind, it probably explains why there are few (if any) examples of apostles healing themselves (Paul doesn’t do anything about his “thorn” and he tells Timothy to drink wine for his upset stomach). Miracles weren’t for selfish use but to open people’s eyes to what God was able to do. And, if you recall, it is implied throughout the Gospels that Jesus’ miracles were usually dependent on the faith of another. In fact, Jesus usually asked a question or two to directly or indirectly address the question of faith before he did any healing.

    So, based on that, perhaps the two reasons that we see relatively few obvious miracles here in this country compared to those in impoverished, third world ones are as follows:

    – First, the power to heal is one that isn’t particularly helpful where everyone lives to be 85 and most ailments are cured with a tablet and a swig of water. Miracles that man can replicate aren’t particularly good aids at convincing people of the Almighty. Just look at how long it took for Moses to convince Pharaoh… a main factor was that his magicians could mirror several of the plagues with their own hocus pocus.

    – Second, and the bigger reason I believe, is a lack of faith or willingness to believe in miracles. Those in most third world countries are much more inclined to still believe in the supernatural than those in the Western world. In fact, if they don’t see something supernatural, they won’t give you the time of day sometimes. Meanwhile, this country is full of doubting Thomases who require that they stick their finger in the proverbial side of the miracle to believe that it actually happened. And when they don’t see miracles happen, they place the impotence on God rather than their own faith.

  4. Darius,
    Concerning 1 Cor 1:7, The word ‘that’ is also not in the Greek. The word ‘that’ vastly changes what the Greek was saying. It is an irresponsible addition; a poor translation.

    I never claimed 1 Cor 1:7 to be a verse for cessationism. PB was trying to use it to disprove cessationism. I was simply showing that it doesn’t work well for that purpose.

    My reason for the trinity-quote is to show that such reasoning comes from a biased standpoint. It sets to remove the possibility of discourse by making a bold claim right off the bat. It is tantamount to saying, “Trust me, I’m an expert”. I will quote Reagan on this one, “Trust but verify”.

    You said the purpose of miracles is to prove the authority of the presenter. So since public miracles aren’t seen today, does that mean no one has authority today?

    Note: Timothy was not an apostle, but Paul was one. Why didn’t Paul heal Timothy? Notice that First Timothy was written after Acts. Hmmmm.

    You said that Jesus healed as a result of faith. Jesus’ healing was commonly a response to faith, but not always. (Matt 12:9-13, Mark 7:32-35, Mark 8:22-25, Luke 13:10-13, John 5:2-9)

    You say that we don’t see healing today because we don’t need it. I know many people who could use a miraculous healing, as medicine has done little to help their ailment.

    It should be noted that we can’t replicate what Pharaoh’s magicians did – at least not very convincingly.

    When it comes to a lack of people who believe in miracles, there are whole churches of people who are adamant that miracles are real, but not one can replicate what we see in Acts.

    To continue your metaphor, Thomas did stick his finger in Jesus’ side, and was not disappointed. The purpose of miracles is for those who DON’T believe.

    Have you ever seen the gift of tongues used to help overcome the language barrier when trying to spread the gospel? I have only heard of stories, again from a distant land by “some guy”. How many missionaries today could use this gift?

  5. “So since public miracles aren’t seen today, does that mean no one has authority today?”

    You assume this, but I would argue that we do see public miracles, just not that many. You won’t acknowledge them as miracles, so you use that to support your argument. Seems a bit weak. And if you consider that the New Testament is just a small sampling of all that was going on in the early Church, it might be that back then it seemed that miracles were relatively rare.

    Personally, I do believe that miracles are more rare now, but that they do still exist (try as you might, it’s pretty hard to deny some of the obvious miracles which have been mentioned here and which I’ve heard about from friends elsewhere). And they aren’t just of a healing nature. I know of someone who went to have an abortion at a clinic and “accidentally” walked into a pro-life center instead. Until the baby was born, she could not find that abortion clinic even though it was directly across the street from the center. Once the baby was born, she saw it. God works those type of miracles too, the kind where he blinds or opens the eyes of people for His purposes.

    God doesn’t only work spiritual miracles (like the regeneration of a lost soul).

    PB, your definition of miracle seems to leave a little to be desired. For the purposes of this discussion, I suppose it will do, but it seems like it eliminates such things as Herod being struck by an angel and eaten by worms since that has been explained by science as likely Fournier’s gangrene disease. But since we’re discussing phenomena more along the lines of miracles like a club foot being healed, I guess your definition will suffice since I am not aware of any scientific explanation for those sort of events.

  6. Lyle,

    You said, “Instead I try to preform a closer analysis of what was going on prior to Acts, what was going on during Acts, and what that means for us living after Acts. This involves looking deeply into what was written in the (primarily NT) books which pertain to each of the three time periods. This paints a consistent picture of where miracles fit in with the whole picture, and helps explain many poorly explained questions.

    You are the only person I’ve ever heard of to adopt this scheme for redemptive history. It is based on implausible assumptions and exegesis. Your understanding of the Kingdom and its expansion, moreover, is completely foreign to the New Testament authors’ understanding, which is why (I imagine) no one reputable adopts it. You base a lot of your understanding of how the “ages” fits together but you have never convincingly demonstrated the validity of these assumptions – either here or in any of the e-mails you have sent me. Because of the extreme unlikelihood of the validity of your understanding, I wouldn’t try to build much on top of it until you have substantiated it and it has been peer-reviewed. If it’s correct, many people will agree with you. If you’re the only one (or nearly the only one) who believes something, it’s likely incorrect.

    You said: “Regarding the end of public miracles (I believe that unprovable miracles do occur), I don’t think they ended at the death of the last apostle. It is my belief that they ended at the end of the book of Acts.

    If I understand this correctly, it is an even weaker argument that the standard cessasionist arguments. Why such an arbitrary stopping point for miracles? There’s nothing significant about the time where Acts ends, is there? Paul in house-arrest in Rome. Who cares?! He’s released soon after the ending of Acts and the apostolic work continues even while he’s under arrest. Were the other apostles all confused when suddenly their miraculous powers ceased when Paul went to jail? Luke’s decision to end his account somehow wields power over the existence of the miraculous? I don’t understand why such an arbitrary “stopping point” is chosen.

    You said: “Regarding 1 Cor 1:7-8: Your analysis is dependent on whether or not there is a future looking element in the phrase, “So that you are not lacking”. In the Greek, the word “are” is not there. It is supplied by the translator. Leaving it out, it becomes obvious what Paul was saying, “So that you, not lacking.”.”

    In this case you reject 1 Cor. 1:7-8 as a good text for continuationism because “are” (estin) is not there. What you do not realize is that this is a common Greek construction where the accusative pronoun functions as the subject of the infinitive, and when combined with the preposition hoste results in a “result clause.” Thus, “so that you are not lacking” is an entirely appropriate English rendering. The time reference of the construction, then, is entirely based on context (tenses of infinitives do not grammaticalize time reference), which as I have shown, looks beyond just the Corinthians (unless Paul thought that Jesus would return before the Corinthians died!) to those who will be waiting for Jesus when he actually does return. In other words, it is not a question of whether something in the grammar indicates a future-looking sense here. The context determines the time-referent here, and the context is future-looking.

    I’ve already answered the assertion that miracles were more “required” in the “Acts period” than now. It’s an unfounded assertion. God can anoint the preaching of the gospel so that it results in the conversion of thousands without the use of miracles (cf. Acts 4:4). Your argument that miracles were necessary to “get the church on its feet” is really baseless, as far as I can tell.

    You said: “Regarding the trustworthiness of witnesses, we have either personally experienced or know someone who has experienced someone who looked and seemed straight-up normal. They were consistent in their behavior. They were reliable; a real stand-up kind of person. And then one day, out of their mouth pops something like, ‘You do know that the Illuminati controls everything don’t you?’ After rolling your eyes, you wonder to yourself, ‘How could such a normal person fall for something so stupid?’ The truth is, sane people fall for insane ideas all the time..”

    This strikes me as a very arrogant argument and assumption. You’re calling everyone who disagrees with you a liar and/or deceived. You are assuming that you’re the only one who sees things right and that everyone else is “falling for something so stupid.” On this kind of rational, why do expect anyone to believe what you’re saying? Isn’t it just as likely that you’re wrong and everyone else is right? I think this is an unrealistic way to live and gather information – to deny what trustworthy eyewitnesses say until furnished with indisputable proof. As I said before: I’ve never seen a black hole (except on Star Trek), but I do not doubt that they exist (despite them sounding wildly implausible and despite my lack of comprehension for how they could possibly be) because reliable ‘witnesses’ have told me they exist. That’s good enough for me.

  7. Okay, full disclosure time.

    The name of my belief system is called “Acts 28 Dispensationalism”. It is often called Hyper-dispensationalism. Those who hold the belief do not like the term Hyper-dispensationalism as it is usually used as a put down. The belief system was basically started by by a man named E.W. Bullinger. If you have gone through seminary Greek it is possible that you have one his books on your shelf, entitled “Figures of Speech Used in the Bible”, as it is considered by many as a definitive work on the topic. There is a good article about Bullinger in Theopedia. The man was a biblical scholar and a premier linguist (shoot, the man knew Chaldean). He also came to the perspective that a critical and generally unseen change occurred at Acts 28:28. Following his reasoning, and the reasoning of men who continued his line of study, I have come to see that Acts 28:28 is a dividing point in scripture. I view it as a dividing point, much as Christ’s death on the cross and following resurrection is considered an important dividing point for understanding context. Both points being important elements of God’s plan.

    Acts 28 Dispensationalists who were contemporaries of Bullinger, include Sir Robert Anderson and Charles Welch. Sir Robert Anderson was a detective at Scotland Yard and also a theologian. C. H. Spurgeon commented that Anderson’s book Human Destiny was “the most valuable contribution on the subject” that he had seen. Charles Welch has been attributed with advancing Acts 28 Dispensationalism to its modern state when he found a critical error in Bullinger’s analysis; an error which Bullinger quickly admitted to making, and sought to correct. Through a line of other biblical scholars, who know the biblical languages far greater than I, I come to where I am.

    I am not well studied in Greek. I know only a small amount of it, less than what a seminary student would learn in their first year. I hope I don’t claim to know too much. I am standing on the shoulders of giants and hope no one think me tall.

  8. Lyle,

    Doggonit. Why you gotta come back with humility? Now I really feel badly and need to go back and entirely edit my (unkind) comment. Thanks for disarming me, brother.

  9. Lyle,

    It seems to me that the cross represented an obvious dividing point between the ages. The whole Bible lends support to this. But what rational could explain Acts 28:28 as a dividing line? It still seems completely arbitrary.

    Many believe that Luke ended his account there because he prepared a first edition of Acts as a legal brief for Paul before Paul went to trial, which would explain why the Book of Acts goes to such great lengths to demonstrate how many times Christians are acquitted and portrays them as no threat to the Roman Empire.

    It doesn’t seem like anything epoch-changing happens at the end of Acts. So, are you saying that Luke set down his pen and God felt bound to change his governance of the world? I don’t understand.

  10. Let me start by making my bias quite obvious. I have seen and experienced many miracles personally, and have even worked some by the power of the Holy Spirit. I think it is asinine to assume that miracles stopped with the Book of Acts, the death of the last apostle or any of that. Any reading of church history will show evidences of supernatural workings in the second, third, fourth, fifth centuries and beyond. So I will not pretend to be objective here at all. I could make a theological argument, but I won’t.

    Let me just share a few examples of miracles involving one man in our church. You can take it or leave it. He is developmentally disabled and never graduated high school. He used to be a chain smoker and developed throat cancer. God healed him supernaturally, and for years he has been cancer-free.

    He volunteers at a soup kitchen. One day a woman came in with her nose bandaged up because she had skin cancer. He prayed for her and a couple of weeks later, her skin was completely free of cancer.

    Now these testimonies came from him. At this point, the credibility of these things is based on his word alone. I can neither confirm or deny that these things happened personally, although I cannot conceive him lying about them. But the following account involves other witnesses besides him.

    A woman in our church phoned our pastor and said her husband was being rushed to the emergency room. After they had been at the hospital a few minutes, the doctors told her that her husband had suffered a heart attack; he had a stroke just a few months earlier. According to the testimony of both her and her husband, he was at the point of death. It just so happened that the aforementioned man was there at the hospital visiting someone. When he entered the room, he laid hands on the man and prayed in the name of Jesus. The man rose out of bed and was completely well. The doctors examined him and found nothing wrong at all, and no evidence that he had a heart attack. After running some tests, they sent the man home. This happened just a few months ago.

    As I said, I have witnessed many such things. I’m not bragging and I’m not lying. I just know that Jesus is as alive today as he ever was. He still confirms his Word with signs following. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I actually feel sorry for people who don’t believe that; if they worship a Jesus at all, the Jesus they worship is dead!

    And I will also say that cessationists, though perhaps entirely sincere, are hurting the reputation of Jesus by their calling into question his eternal identity as a healer and miracle worker. When people come to them with a need, they’ll pray a weak and beggarly prayer full of doubt and unbelief just to satisfy them, without any consciousness whatever of the High Priest who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. They’ll pray, “God, we know that everything happens for a reason. Help this one through their time of suffering. For we know that thou hast stricken her with cancer for thy glory. If it be thy will, heal her. We know that thou doest not these things in our day, but…” Shame on people for praying like that!

    If I thought Jesus was like that, there’s no way I’d preach His Word. Who would want to speak on behalf of an unreliable god that would trick people like that, a god that would work miracles during Bible times, but then sort of take a break? That’s foolish! There is absolutely NO biblical evidence to support the uninformed notion that God has fallen asleep or has retired from the miracle business. Some poor, ignorant souls could be fooled into believing something like that, but they’ve come too late to convince me.

  11. I want to share a quote I copied down years ago from a remarkable work of fiction titled, “Mary Called Magdalene” by Margaret George. This is Mary speaking concerning the apostle Peter: “Peter had been utterly changed from the loud fisherman I had known–oh, so long ago…His belief had made him a man as brave as a Maccabee. This was a greater miracle than the ones credulous people wanted to create for Jesus–walking on water, changing water into wine, multiplying food. Such things would be cheap magician’s tricks, whereas the real magic was to take such weak and fallible human material and change it into a hero beyond our human limits.”

    Wouldn’t you agree that that is the kind of miracle God works today?

Please contribute to a respectful, charitable conversation...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s