Christian Relaunch


"God has arranged matters so that most of the time his purposes are served by the laws of nature (God working through means), but occasionally he overrules those laws (God working without means), like the maker of a clock occasionally adjusting it, that is, he does a miracle. Experiencing miracles is an important characteristic of God's friends, especially in the era after Christ."

This objection expresses the God-from-offstage (Latin deus ex machina) view of what miracles are.

No word in the Bible corresponds to our word miracle. The Bible speaks of signs, wonders and acts of power, that is, events that tell us something, events that surprise us, and events brought about by invisible power. These three seem to be different ways of describing the same events, and I am content to call them miracles as is traditional in English, but we should beware of jumping to conclusions from this.

I am not sure exactly what constitutes such an event, but I am sure that they are not occasional interventions from outside the world by a God who most of the time allows events to take their course. God has indeed intervened in the world, but not in a piecemeal manner with a miracle here and a miracle there; rather he has intervened once and for all in Christ. Certainly this intervention has led, and may lead again, to upsurges of miracles, but this is not because miracles are abnormal but because they are normal, and Christ has restored normality.

The Christian's experience of miracles is an integral part of his experience of normality restored; without that experience, miracles are worthless. Misdirected reverence may be able to do miracles (1st Corinthians 13.1); such miracles would be beneficial in a limited way, like many of the other works of such reverence, but they do not contribute to the restoration of all things which is God's purpose.

The God-from-offstage view encourages the quest for "direct" experience of God outside everyday life, and leads to neglect of the cultural task whose pursuit is the chief outcome of God's one all-sufficient intervention.

Back to Humanity's Unchanging Task (3).