What Are Miracles?

Do you know people who never show up for anything on time? Lonely Man at Restaurant Waiting for the GirlfriendIt doesn’t matter when you tell them you’ll meet. If you say, “Come to my house at 1:00,” they’ll show up at 1:30, maybe even 1:45. They seem genetically incapable of arriving on time. Then one day you’re sitting in a restaurant. Your name is on the list for a table. You told your friend to meet you there at 6:30. But of course long before your friend arrives, you fully expect the twenty minute wait to have passed. Before they show up, you’ll be seated, possibly ordering something to drink. Then the door opens, and—what’s this? Your friend walks through and it’s—what? It’s only 6:29! Yep, it’s a miracle.

Or is it?

The great theologian Norman Geisler defines a miracle as “a special act of God that interrupts the normal course of events.” Former atheist Anthony Flew says: “A miracle is something which would never have happened had nature, as it were, been left to its own devices.”

A miracle is rare and unique. It’s a bit more unusual than our chronically late friend showing up on time. A miracle might break what we know as the laws of physics. It might be foreknowledge of future events. It might also be some kind of instantaneous healing that should never have happened. Some skeptics point precisely to this characteristic—the rarity and uniqueness of miracles—as a reason why we can’t believe in them. But this is like saying we can’t believe the universe was created because it happened only once. It was a unique event. So why should we believe it occurred? Yet it did.

So a miracle is an “act of God”. It’s not an autonomous event without cause or purpose. Behind a miracle is intelligence, purpose, and a plan.

But what about a natural event, like a storm, that comes at exactly the right moment? And what if that storm causes a specific outcome that God desires? What do we call that?

In my next post I’ll describe the difference between God’s providence and miracles. I’ll tell an untold tale of how the American colonies were saved from devastation by one act of God after another.