Ron is the founding pastor of a church in Harrisburg, PA, and a graduate of Denver Seminary in Colorado.
Could Miracles Be Real?
Many in our science-oriented world today just don't find the Bible to be credible when it talks about miracles. It tells of people holding two-way conversations with snakes, turning water into wine, walking on water, and coming back to life after they died. Those are not occurrences we are used to seeing in everyday life.
Here's the question: does it make any sense to believe the Bible's accounts of such things?
I think so, and here's why:
Did Miracles Really Happen the Way the Bible Says They Did?
Most Christians believe that as incredible as some of the accounts in Scripture may look to modern eyes, they provide a reliable historical record of what actually occurred in time and space. To such believers, the Bible literally is what it proclaims itself to be, the written word of God. And it was God Himself who ensured that the recorded reports were accurate. That‘s why people who believe the Bible have confidence that those miraculous episodes actually happened pretty much the way the biblical accounts say they did.
On the other hand, there are several major religions on the world stage that have holy books adherents believe to be sources of divinely inspired information. Yet, it’s painfully clear that some of those books simply aren’t credible when reporting supernatural events.
Is the Bible any different?
What do you think?
What the Bible Says About the Credibility of Its Reports
The question of credibility is one the Bible itself anticipates and provides an answer for. The apostle John produced five of the New Testament’s twenty-seven books. In his introduction to one of those books, John wanted to make sure readers understood why they could trust his accounts.
1 John 1:1-3 (NKJV) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life- 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us- 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
John’s point is that the accounts given by him and the other apostles (men who had been with Jesus throughout His earthly ministry) are entirely trustworthy because they are eyewitness reports.
These are not things that somebody told a friend of a cousin of an acquaintance whose name I can’t quite remember. John wants it clearly understood that he is speaking only of things “which we have seen with our (own) eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled.”
He and the other apostles were there, and not only witnessed but were personally involved in the events they recorded. And that fact is of the highest significance in assessing the Bible’s reliability.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled...that which we have seen and heard we declare to you.
— The Apostle John
The Importance of Eyewitness Testimony
Someone once asked me, “Why wasn't the resurrection of Christ reported anywhere outside the New Testament? Seems like an event that astounding would have been reported all over the place.”
But of course, it couldn’t have been. Who would have carried the story? The New York Times wasn’t yet printing “all the news that’s fit to print,” and CNN wasn't yet broadcasting 24/7 on cable television. The Roman and Jewish authorities wanted to suppress the news of the resurrection, not spread it.
That’s why God prearranged for a group of eyewitnesses, called apostles, who could give first-hand testimony about what happened during the ministry of Jesus. These were men who were there when Christ is reported to have walked on water, and when He raised Lazarus from the dead.
Because they were on the scene when they report in the New Testament that these things actually happened, they are either deliberately lying, or they are truthfully reporting what they personally saw and heard. And these were men who understood and believed the scriptural injunction that “all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8).
If there had been only one of them, it might be claimed that he was somehow confused, was mentally unstable, or simply had a bad memory. So, God arranged for there to be at least twelve of them, all giving the same basic account of events.
The Answer to the Question
History records that most of that apostolic group proved their veracity by their willingness to die a martyr’s death rather than recant the claims they made. In the 21st century we know that it is not unusual for suicide bombers, and other fanatics, to be willing to give up their lives for what they believe in. But nobody willingly goes to their death for what they know to be a lie.
Skeptical moderns often have difficulty believing that accounts recorded hundreds or thousands of years ago, even by people who were on the scene at the time, can possibly be trustworthy. Yet, that kind of eyewitness testimony to long-ago events is the foundation for our understanding of history. For example, it's exactly that type of evidence that convinces historians that a man named William Shakespeare wrote a play titled Julius Caesar, and, for that matter, that Julius Caesar was once a Roman emperor. Both are “proved” only by documentary evidence left to us by long-dead eyewitnesses.
Courts routinely accept eyewitness testimony as significant evidence, leaving it to a judge or jury to decide how credible that evidence is. From a historical perspective, the apostle John’s testimony detailing the eyewitness basis of the New Testament miracle accounts provides ample reason to rate those accounts at the highest level of credibility.
© 2013 Ronald E Franklin
Boghos L. Artinian MD on June 13, 2019:
Feasibility of Miracles
Picture a raging battle – almost certainly a losing one for the macrophages and neutrophils overwhelmed by billions of microorganisms bent on invading and destroying the ‘ country ‘ (body) they are dying for. Suddenly and for no explicable reason, the microorganisms become weaker and stop multiplying and fighting. Soon the macrophages and the neutrophils mop up the battlefields and proclaim victory – in the meantime not forgetting due celebration to thank the deities invoked.
Whereas to cells ( Holo 4 level on the organizational spectrum of matter – point of reference the proton) it would seem that a miracle has occurred, to us humans (Holo 5 level ) the explanation would be much simpler: The physician, taking care of the patient whose body had been invaded by microorganisms, had simply administered a potent antibiotic that selectively destroyed the microorganisms. The cells, of course, have no inkling of what has actually happened.
Another such miracle that could be witnessed by human cells, would be the following: soldiers (leukocytes) in their country (body) have mutinied and are out of control, greatly multiplying in number, wreaking havoc and killing the citizens. One day the mutineers and along with them even the loyal soldiers start falling dead. A couple of weeks later, exemplary soldiers take to the streets. These new soldiers however are foreign. But never mind that, as long as they have the situation under control. A miracle? For cells, yes!
What has actually happened is the following: the patient (the country of the cells) had leukemia that no longer responded to chemotherapy. He was therefore given a lethal dose of total body radiation and chemotherapy, wiping out all the leucocytes. A few days later a bone marrow transplant was performed by administering foreign stem cells into his circulation, thus bringing order and much relief to the cells and saving the patient
These ‘miracles’ have been bestowed upon cells by an extracorporeal intervention in cellular affairs: a Holo 5 organism (the physician) lending a helping hand to Holo 4 organisms (cells). Now it would be very naïve of us to categorically rule out a similar phenomenon – extraterrestrial beings (Holo 6) organisms lending a helping hand to humans (Holo 5 level) – in our case, as in miraculous cures, oracles, visions and relegation of prophets.
All human cells have on their surfaces (cell membranes), receptors that respond to a variety of corporeal and extracorporeal substances, effecting both adverse and salutary changes in the cells. Their cognitive capacities being limited, the cells may only ‘feel’ inexplicable changes within them. Receptors at our level are of a higher order, and the known ones, such as the visual, olfactory and auditory cortices in the brain are usually stimulated by the sense organs receiving terrestrial stimuli. These same brain areas may, however be vulnerable to activation by unknown, and possibly extraterrestrial intervention effecting the well- known phenomena of visions, oracles and UFO abductions.
Other areas in the brain could be stimulated by unknown mechanisms affecting our thoughts, feelings and moods, with the frightening possibility of full control our mental activities, looming on the horizon. Faith would be a measure of the sensitivity of one’s receptors to extraterrestrial manipulation. A group of ardent Catholics, for example, may see an apparition of the Virgin Mary, their brain receptors being conditioned to respond to her shape, while the majority of people standing by would see nothing, probably because of the lack of specific receptors or of a general dearth of receptors.
Prophets, who in past ages had drastically altered the course of civilizations, may have been persons endowed with extraordinarily active receptors that had been totally manipulated extra – terrestrially, leaving them no room for personal thoughts. Thus they simply had been messengers transmitting extraterrestrial thoughts in the form of edicts or commandments by ceaseless preaching. Many would be prophets must have unfortunately been endowed with defective receptors that reduced their social life to shambles. They are today labeled as schizophrenics.
Finally, we may already have unheedingly been and still be in contact with extraterrestrial beings of a higher order (Holo 6 0rganisms who may have for a long time tinkered with our human affairs causing visions, oracles and relegating prophets, yet we still insist on searching in vain for extraterrestrial signals scanning the ‘lowly’ electromagnetic radiations (Seti). Our vain efforts could be likened to that of cells, in one body, searching for signals from cells in another body, by using the chemical or neural communications media.
The Organizational Spectrum of Matter
Holo 6 Multi-humanoid Organisms (Super-organisms)
Holo 5 Man , Multi-cellular organisms
Holo 4 Cells, Unicellular Organisms
Holo 3 Organelles (Viruses, Bacteria)
Holo 2 Molecules (Proteins, Enzymes, DNA)
Holo 1 Atoms ( All elements on the Periodic table )
Holo 0 Protons, Neutrons
Holo -1 Subatomic particles
Holo -2 Sub-sub-atomic Particles
Holo - Pure energy
Boghos L. Artinian MD
Sent using Zoho Mail
Elizabeth from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions on February 22, 2013:
Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on February 21, 2013:
A little later in his book the apostle John says he wrote these things "that you may know that you have eternal life." My hope is that this hub will stimulate people to consider the evidence that can bring them to eternal life. I'm sure they will consider your point of view as well.
Elizabeth from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions on February 21, 2013:
Using the bible to claim itself to be true is self-confirmation. A lot of holy books from a lot of different religions claim the exact same thing, but you most likely reject all of them while clinging to the belief that you want to be true. This is not valid evidence.
Secondly, there is no eyewitness testimony. It is commonly admitted in the current scholarly age that none of the gospels were written by the person whose name is on them. Only two of them claim to be written by eyewitnesses, but since they were written 70-100 years after the fact (and all of the apostles according to tradition were dead before then) it is unlikely that any eyewitness testimony was included. You also run into the problem of Markean authority. Mark was written first (by someone who wasn't there) around 75-85 AD. Matthew (who claims to be an eyewitness) and Luke were written afterwards - and copy the majority of Mark's work. If matthew was really there and really wrote the gospel, why would he need to copy the work of someone who wasn't there at all?
The fact that people were willing to die for this belief does not prove it true or false. People have been martyred for many other religions, but chances are incredibly high that you don't consider their martyrs death as lending validity to their beliefs. This is a logical fallacy called special pleading - and christian apologetics (which I studied in bible college) is full of it. People die for lies all the time - even if they KNOW for certain that they're lies. Look at what happened in the inquisition. Telling a lie may condemn you to death, but it could potentially save your loved ones from the same fate. Therefore you are dying for something you know to be false in order to save someone else.
Lastly, courts do put weight on eye-witness testimony, but not only is there NO eyewitness testimony to support your claims, eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. You can have 4 eyewitnesses in a courtroom that each tell different stories. That's why lawyers also call expert witnesses and don't rely solely on the testimony of one eyewitness without additional verification.