The Radio show 'Unbelievable?' had two shows looking at miracles earlier in the year - the first show looked at miracles in the bible and the second one looked at miracles today. OK, I'm a bit late in commenting.
The guests on the show were:
- Craig Keener, a theologian who has just written a huge book on miracles and miracle claims, which concludes that miracles happen today and therefore it is legitimate to believe the biblical miracle accounts. And
- Geoff Lillis, an atheist who is a regular contributor to the Unbelievable forum, Facebook page, etc. I must say, he presented himself and his case very well.
Lillis did a reasonably good job of questioning the evidence and suggesting non-miraculous explanations for some of the alleged miracles.
What I found frustrating, listening to the show, was that all of the contemporary miracle claims which were discussed involved medical healings or resuscitations from apparent death-states. I don't mean to dismiss these as irrelevant, and I'll get back to these below, but what about other kinds of miracles? Biblical miracles include the multiplication of food (feeding of 5000, etc.), turning water into wine, walking on water, cursing fig trees, and so on. No contemporary claims of anything like these were discussed - does nobody claim anything miraculous like this anymore?
Faith healers do what it says on the tin - apparently heal people using 'faith'. There's no point in denying this, it happens all over the world, to many people, in many different faith contexts. And I suppose that is the point. Christian faith healers certainly seem to be able to heal some medical complaints. But Hindu faith healers also do. And so do some African 'Witchdoctors', and so on.
Is there any evidence that proportionately more faith healings are successful in Christian faith contexts than in those of other religions? If the healing was due to the actions of the one, true God, who is only found in Christianity, then you would expect that you would only find healings in Christian contexts, and not in others. The fact (and I'll admit I haven't done much research on this matter beyond a quick Google search) that faith healings occur in all faith contexts actually serves to underline the non-special nature of Christian faith healing. Or, to put it more bluntly, to emphasise the fact that the apparent healing does not come from any particular God, but rather from 'faith' itself.
Believing that there is a God who can and will heal you is, in many cases, the source of enough hope, or whatever, to effect healing. Which is why claims of faith healing are generally limited to non-visible ailments, from back pain through to cancer. Faith healers cannot make limbs grow back, although, there still is the issue of the leg-lengthening thing, maybe that has more to do with muscle relaxation than bone growth, I don't know.
But what about the non-medical miracles? Has anyone multiplied food miraculously in recent years? Turned water into something alcoholic? Walked on water? Parted seas or rivers? Miraculous catches of fish? People carried up to heaven in fiery chariots? This is a serious question, I want to know if anyone claims these things today. Because if not, then why should we even entertain the notion that any of the biblical miracle claims are anything other than myths?