I am deeply concerned about a perceived attitude accompanying our rising awareness that miracles are a part of the normal Christian life. The danger in the resurgence of the miraculous, especially in so-called “healing-evangelism”, is an outlook that says all we need to prove God’s existence, and solve all our apologetic needs, is to believe, pray for a miracle, and let God do the rest.
The inadequacy of this as a principle in healing-evangelism and Christian practice is obvious. Consider the following two reasons.
The evangelistic call of every believer would be restricted to those instances where God does heal. The evangelist’s efforts would be curtailed and the knowledge of God reduced to only an experience. Besides this, if God did choose to intervene with the miraculous every-time so that he might convince someone of his existence, this would turn the universe into haunted house and it is entirely plausible to think that peoples hearts would harden. They might even become resentful of He who flaunts his power, or in all probability conclude His miracle was not a result of divine causation but a natural function of the universe.
The second reason is a miracle without an accompanying explanation of what it represents is near hopeless. The person will know themselves to be healed, but not know who healed them or why they were healed. In the wake of a miracle there is bound to be host of questions asked, concerning His good character, the reliability of the Bible, etc., and this needs someone trained in apologetics.
Let us not forget the pattern given to us in the book of Acts; wherever there is a miracles there is preaching and apologetics; wherever there is preaching and apologetics there are miracles. Both go hand in hand and one is not found without the other.
Now I must say that I do agree that desiring and seeking out opportunities for God to confirm His miraculous power to unbelievers is a very good thing. I also credit God with the intelligence to know what He is doing when he does choose to heal someone. Christianity after-all, is chiefly experiential, and experiencing the power of God; to heal, to empower, to be assured, and of regeneration from a being dead in your sin, is important, but that is not to say Christianity is not also a message of truth and hope that needs to be declared and defended. We must expand the propositional content of the gospel as well as the power of the gospel.
Have you ever wondered why the miracles of Jesus were so effective in confirming Christ’s message? Granted there were of a spectacular nature, but the greater reason, I believe, is that they were performed in a culture suffused with a super-natural worldview. The milieu of the time already believed in a miracle working God and was expectant of a messiah whose ministry would be characterised by the miraculous.
Our culture however is not. We live in a time and place that is post-christian, has a deeply entrenched secularism and an ever encroaching naturalism. In such a milieu, when someone is confronted with a miraculous circumstance the immediate response will be skepticism. If the miracle breaks down this initial barrier, there will arise soon afterward a profound question that is enormously problematic for someone trained to think that God is comparable to the “sugar-plum fairy.” It constitutes what missiologist call a ‘power encounter’ where for the first time, the unsaved man is open to accepting the message of the gospel.
More importantly to consider our culture, where there are alternative explanations of the miraculous, such as; the power of suggestion, hypnotism, charlatans playing mind tricks, and a new age pantheism where the universe heals itself. These alternatives need answering with apologetics. A hedge of prepared arguments is essential for the heeling-evangelist to protect their potential converts from counter-arguments levelled against the occurrence of miracles, divine causation and God’s existence, and to safe-guard the glory of God that He has won for himself by performing a miracle.
So miracles far from being the end of apologetics and arguments, presents a host of new questions seeking to be answered, new avenues calling for intellectual excellence and a renewed effectiveness of the proclamation of the gospel.