Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Apostolic Miracle

I've been listening to the current sermon series on Acts from the Meeting House. One of the points they've made a couple of times so far in the series is that there is a difference between the miracles and healings that the 1st generation apostles performed, from anything that has been or is possible for subsequent generations of believers since the first century.

They assert that the healings and miracles of the first Apostles were clear and unambiguous - everyone, even sceptics, could not deny that a miraculous event had occurred. For example, the healing of the cripple at the gates of the temple in Acts 3. Even the Sanhedrin could not deny that the cripple had been healed.

However, they go further and assert that this is not possible today. They state that such 'healings' and 'miracles' which apparently occur today tend to be ambiguous, with the sceptics left with plenty of room not to believe them at all.

I'm guessing that this is a derived theology, I can't see this teaching in the bible. But I can see where it could come from - big obvious miracles happened back then, smaller, less obvious 'miracles' (if any) seem to happen these days. Anyone got any insight here?

I also guess that they don't believe in apostolic succession. That is, that after the first generation of Apostles, there were no further apostles.

The thing is, from observation of the way the world appears to be, this seems like perfectly sensible reasoning to me. But its not the way I want the world to be. I want it to be possible for the big miracles still to happen. I want apostles to be walking among us.



Chris Hamer-Hodges said...

Hi Ricky,

I'd disagree with these assertions (no surprise there I'm sure!) on at least two points.

1) I don't believe NT miracles were universally accepted. Even Jesus' miracles were questioned by sceptics. When he healed the man born blind some said it must have been a look-alike, as it could not possibly be the same man who was born blind.

If you fundamentally believe that miracles cannot happen then you will always filter the evidence through those assumptions (the Conan Doyle principle - you start by eliminating the impossible and see what you have left, however improbable)

Jesus said of some sceptics that they would not believe even if they were to witness a man rise from the dead.

2) Your comments on "derived theology" are spot on. You cannot say that something cannot happen, just because it is not currently observed to happen.

I wonder how it would go down scientifically to say that the laws of relativity passed away with Einstein because we don't observe things moving close to light-speed any more. (hypothetical scenario of course) In such a case it would be the lack of observation not the theory that was at fault.

Ricky Carvel said...


I was 99% sure you would comment on this post ;o)

And I thought you'd have an opinion on apostolic sucession too...

Good point about Jesus's miracles not being accepted. But the Meeting House folks do seem to have a point, as far as the first few chapters of Acts go, at least: the miracle of tongues in Chapter 2 and the healing in Chapter 3 are never disputed by those that witnessed them, these were unambiguous miracles. And Jesus did promise his followers that they would do 'greater things' than he did. Maybe these were greater, in that they were unambiguous?

But did the promise of 'greater things' just apply to the handful of disciples who were there at the time, or are we still able to do greater things today?

I want it to be the case, but I don't see it in the Church.

Chris Hamer-Hodges said...

[Glad to oblige... and I'll see if I can make up that extra 1% sometime ;-)]

Even in the case of tongues on the day of Pentecost there were those who tried to dismiss the whole phenomenon as alcoholic intoxication.

I do believe that miracles (and apostles) continue. And that some miracles will be of the same calibre as those we read of in the New Testament. But I don't think that the measure of a miracle is how "unambiguous" it is; there will always be those that doubt, and there will always be a requirement of faith.

But I don't think we should despise the smaller/lesser miracles as something at odds with the NT. Ac 19:11 says "extraordinary" miracles were done by Paul... that surely means there were a lot of "ordinary" miracles going on through others that didn't make it into the NT account.

John Cowart said...

I think you speak for a lot of us when you say, "Its not the way I want the world to be. I want it to be possible for the big miracles still to happen. I want apostles to be walking among us".

Unfortunately I suspect this desire runs amuck. Yes, in Him we live and move and have our very being; but I suspect that the desire for miracles motivates some to manufacture their own when God has not provided one.

Somebody said something about miracles deceiving the very elect.

I skeptically think some religious people lie about miracles attributing to God things He has no part in.

I want to see irrefutable signs of God in action too. In fact every time I go fishing I check every trout's mouth for my money.

But all I ever find is a partly-eaten worm.

That's not the way I want the world to be either!

But its the truth.

The sign of the prophet Jonah is the only one we can count on.

Ricky Carvel said...

The doubting continues in a subsequent post...

Apostolic Authority...