On Other Religions and Miracles: Part 2

In part one of this article I addressed the question of whether miracles have ceased in the world today (a view called cessationism). Instead of taking an overly philosophical approach to this question I merely stated that having originally been a cessationist, my views on the topic changed drastically when I encountered a miracle of my own. The details of this experience are generally private (I do not share them in public discourse due to respect for another person involved), but I can assure you that the experience was as real as my waking up this morning. I also briefly mentioned the need to be skeptical regarding miracle claims both within and outside our traditions. Let me touch on this briefly.

A few months ago we had a miracle healer come into our town. He was an unusual personality but his convicting story of how he left the world of drugs and alcohol to find redemption and, thereafter, the gift of healing proved to many to be genuine. I had never run across the individual’s name before but in being invited to play bass for the worship service that would accompany his presence I decided to check his stuff out. Let me say this: there was something inside of me at the initial drop of his name that struck me as uncomfortable. I became even more so after looking at some of the footage of his healings. They rang out to me as healer tricks which are easily explainable by psychosomaticism. This is not to say that all instances were fake (indeed, God can still work through false miracle healers), but the healings tended to be more psychological than anything. Instead of “your faith has healed you” it was as if I was watching David Copperfield on the streets. Leg lengthening (which is, really, shoe pulling), temporary back pain relief, and prophetic tricks which was reminiscent of Ms. Cleo the fortune teller.

Some more research into this healer gave me the convinced impression that we had a fraud in our midst. But what struck me the most was that his healings were very different from the removal of cataracts, the healing of the blind, removal of cancer, and even the raising of the dead which, in fact, is not as uncommon as our post-enlightenment world likes to suppose. I am proud to say that this very same church which originally invited this man, I have seen genuine miracles. One lady in this church testified one Sunday that after years of never being able to walk without support, after a night of prayer she felt God tell her the next day to put down her walker and never use it again. She has been walking ever since. In another case I witnessed a family receive a gift of laundry detergent, dryer sheets, fabric softner, and a gift card. After receiving it we were told that just the previous day her washer and dryer broke. Despite being able to pick up a well-used set, they lacked any money to purchase the necessary supplies for cleaning clothes.

While one needs to respond to fraudulent miracle claims with some sensitivity, it is not beyond one’s Christian rights to call out fraudulent claims where they’re found (cf. Acts 8.11). I would say, in fact, that it is a responsibility to do so! One of the reasons why so many non-Christians are suspicious about miracle claims is because of the vast majority of fraud which has occurred within the name of Christianity. Why is it that when people think of “healing” they think of Benny Hinn or Kenneth Copeland? If genuine miracles happen today, why do we not celebrate those? Why are the only ones the world hears of the fraudulent or suspicious ones?

Let us celebrate and promote the genuine miracles which happen in the name of Christ. Craig Keener, one of the worlds leading NT scholars and the author of what some have called the “best book” on the subject of miracles, writes of one specific example: “In 1977 Prabhakar David’s arms grew so blistered and resistant to treatment that doctors planned to amputate them. Though Prabhakar was barely conscious, that Sunday night Ajut Tiwari, a deacon at the church, prayed over him. Prabhakar awoke much better in the morning, and following morning the pain, fever, blisters and pus were completely gone, without leaving so much as a scar.”1 Why are we not proclaiming God’s healing power in cases like this?

It seems to me that to promote and celebrate the genuine claims like this over the popularizing of fraudulent claims is a strong testament to God’s continuing presence in the world. We know of the frauds. If we’re going to insist that other faiths include a variety of fraudulent miracle claims, perhaps its best to start with cleaning out our own frauds.

1Craig Keener, Miracles Vol 1 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), 282