I’m tempted to think Fred must be waxing hyperbolic when he says this is the kind of miracle that even Randi or the “most militant critics of Christianity” could not deny. Surely Fred isn’t serious. If he is serious, then that just confirms my earlier contention that MacArthurites like Fred don’t seem to have much experience with secular debunkers. http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/08/reporting-miracles.html
Steve Hays and his boys continue with this befuddling defense of modern day claims of the miraculous among charismatics and Pentecostals. Jason Engwer left similar sentiments in the combox under my previous post. They both seem to be bothered about my insistence that miracles, in order to even be considered genuine, have to be in the category of undeniable by such debunkers like James Randi. We could also add other similar men like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett.
To insist that any claims of the miraculous must be in that category demonstrates a profound ignorance of atheist debunkers on my part, or at least according the Steve and his friends.
But let’s back up and evaluate that charge.
I had initially cited Acts 4:16 in reference to my claim about atheist debunkers. That verse says, What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.
A few important observations about that verse are in order.
First, the statement is being made by the religious leaders. In fact, Acts 4:1 says it is the liberal religious leaders, the Sadducees. You know them. They’re the guys who consistently denied any supernatural workings by God, and yet they were among the ones who could “not deny” the miracle. Second, the miracle was evident, meaning that is was undeniable. In other words, it was just clear that a seriously crippled individual was made whole. And third, it was made evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, so everyone was talking about it. The miracle wasn’t confined to a small number of witnesses, or a small congregation of people, or to the subjective evaluation of two sets of X-rays.
The miracle in question is recorded for us in Acts 3:1-10. Let me cite the entire passage for our benefit.
1 Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.
2 And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple;
3 who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms.
4 And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.”
5 So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.
6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
7 And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
8 So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them– walking, leaping, and praising God.
9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God.
10 Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (Act 3:1-10)
There are a few things to note about this passage as well.
First, we see that this guy was a regular outside the gate leading into the temple. Thus, all the religious leaders would have been familiar with the man and his physical situation. They would have seen him there day in and day out, probably one among many crippled people, and perhaps even given him alms every once in a while.
Secondly, this man was born without the use of his legs, “from his mother’s womb.” Hence, he was seriously malformed and had never walked in his life. When the religious leaders passed him by every day, they would have seen his atrophied legs and his otherwise frail body because of his physical condition. Acts 4:22 says this man was over 40 years in age, so he had been in that condition for over 40 years.
Third, it is clear from the text that he was completely made whole. Luke wants his readers to know this guy was utterly incurable by human means and in an instant, his ankle bones were strengthened and he jumped up and began walking about. Additionally, since the man had been living in that condition for over 40 years, the muscle tissue to his atrophied legs had to have been restored and he knew how to walk immediately apart from any physical therapy.
That is an undeniable miracle and one that James Randi could “not deny.”
Now, am I saying James Randi would give over his million dollars to Peter for doing a genuine act of the supernatural? Well, no. He would probably worm his way out of any braggadocios claims and try to uncover a hoax. But it would had been still “undeniable.”
Consider the following fantasy scenario in the context of modern day miracles and what I am talking about.
Let’s say notable atheist crank, PZ Myers, knew a man who was on the library staff at the state university where Myers teaches in Minnesota. This man had been involved in an automobile accident with his wife back in 1987 that left him paralyzed in his legs and with out the use of his left arm. He has been confined to a wheelchair ever since.
This man and Myers are friendly. They have lunch together on occasion. The man and his wife and their daughter even attended a few atheist conventions at the invite of Myers. He even had Michael Shermer hit on his 22 year old daughter at one of those conventions. Myers knows the guy’s background. He has seen his atrophied legs and his limp, withered left arm.
One Monday morning, as Myers drives up to the school, he notices a large crowd of students and teachers gathered at the library. Curious as to what was happening, he joins the crowd and asks about what was going on and someone points to his friend now fully restored and walking about without the aid of his wheelchair and waving with his left arm.
Later, when Myers has the opportunity to ask his friend what had happened, the guy tells how he and his wife and daughter went to the wedding of his nephew, the son of his religious nut in-laws. During the reception, some other folks were “sharing” Jesus with him and he says to them, “If God is so good and powerful, why doesn’t he heal me?” One guy in the group responds, “Well. Can I pray that God will do that right now?” Wanting to make the guy look like a fool, he says “sure.” The guy praying lays his hands on his shoulders and begins asking God to heal this man.
“But then,” Myer’s friend exclaims, “my legs and left arm started to feel warm and tingly. When I looked down, I noticed my leg muscles were no longer atrophied nor was my arm withered. I was compelled to get out of my chair and I began walking!”
The fellow goes on to explain how those folks rejoiced with him and told him how Jesus healed him and how He can also save him eternally from the wrath of God, so right there he, his wife, and his daughter, gave their lives to the Lord Jesus.
That’s a miracle that cannot be denied. Obviously something happened to this guy that is not explainable by the means of normal medical procedure.
Now. Does that mean Myers will drop to his knees, renounce his atheism, repent of his sin, and embrace Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and become the most outspoken apologist for six day creationism that ever was? No. It does not. In fact, knowing the sinful heart of man, he will probably accuse the guy of perpetrating one of the greatest religious hoaxes ever and that Michelle Bachmann was behind it in some fashion. His reaction really mimics those of the religious leaders in the Gospels when they encountered the undeniable miracles of Jesus. But rather than attributing the healing of his friend to a work of Satan, Myers attributes it to some elaborate, red state evangelical conspiracy.
My point with recounting that little make-believe scenario is to say if people with the gift of healing are exercising that gift with regularity in churches as continuationists claim they are, then I wouldn’t have to research medical records and the like. The reality of the miracles would testify of themselves. A person with significant deformities or other serious medical issues would testify about his healing. His friends would testify to me about his healing. Neighbors and townsfolk who knew the guy before he was healed would tell me of his healing. And most importantly, those who reject miracles, but would refuse to believe God’s healing in spite of him being healed, would testify about his healing, because it is “undeniable.”