Sunday, November 23, 2014

What is a miracle? An event directly done by God

Exodus 34:10 "Then God said, “Behold, I am going to make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all the earth nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the Lord, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you." 

Introduction and Review
In yesterday's post we began answering the question: what is a miracle? We proposed the first part of the answer: "miracles are by their essence irregular events". In the course of the conversation we proposed the following logical argument:

#1 Irregular events do occur in this world

#2 A Miracle, per our definition, is an irregular event

Therefore miracles can occur in this world

Now this first trait declares the possibility of miracles in this world, however it by itself does not fully answer the question: what is a miracle? Today's post continues on our discussion by proposing a second defining characteristic of miracles: namely that miracles are events directly done by God.

Miracles are directly done by God
God says in the middle of Exodus 34:10 ..."Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced...". The underlined word "produced" is defined in one Hebrew dictionary as always being tied directly to God as the subject doing the "producing", "fashioning" or "creating". Interestingly enough this same Hebrew verb is found in the first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1, where we read: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". Whenever we consider the kind of activity God is doing here in relationship to the created order when it comes to miracles, we can use the word "direct" to explain such activity.

In scripture, God's interraction with His creation can be described under two general headings. The first is what Bible teachers call "providence", meaning God's "indirect" Sovereign influence exercised through events, the wills of men and physical processes. God's Providential activity includes the use of secondary agents such as people to achieve His purposes. Thus God's activity in this world, as it relates to providence, is what we could term "indirect". 

A miracle on the otherhand involves God's "direct" involvement with His creation.  What can be interesting of course is when God performs a miracle through the use of ordinary people and situations. Why is that interesting? Because for those people who have by grace through faith trust in Jesus for their salvation, a miraculous intervention by God will be recognized as such. However for the unbeliever, when looking at the same event, they may only see the natural occurence of the thing and conclude it to be nothing more than an anomaly or coincidence. 

The literature on the subject of miracles often emphasizes that true miracles occur in specific contexts and for specific purposes. When God wrought forth miracles in the Bible, they always occurred, to borrow a term from Dr. William Lane Craig, in "religiously significant contexts". God's direct intervention in the affairs of people and events is a reminder to us that He is The Personal as well as The Powerful God revealed in the Bible. Thus from our brief survey of scripture, we can define a miracle as an irregular occurence that is done directly by God. 

I request patience from my readers, being that we are building to an overall answer to the question about miracles. This current series is attempting to equip the Christian reader to deal with the skeptical and cynical age in which we live. Tomorrow we will consider another description that aids in answering the question: what is a miracle?

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