By Elias Ayala
MDiv & M.A.T.
Christianity is a religion of miracles. We read of the famous accounts of God delivering His people through the parting of the Red Sea, Jesus turning water into wine, healing the sick, and raising the dead. Countless miracles are recorded throughout the scriptures; but what exactly is a “miracle”? The answer to this question is actually quite important, for it touches on the issue of how God is providentially involved in the world.
Some have described miracles as God breaking the laws of nature so as to intervene in some amazing and astonishing way. However, such an understanding of the miraculous seems to presuppose a very unbiblical notion of how God relates to the world. Words like “breaking the laws of nature” and divinely “intervening” assumes a very deistic understanding of God. It assumes that the world functions on its own so to speak, kind of like a machine which was turned on by someone but does not require that someone to continually be involved in its functioning.
Deism is the view that God is not personal. God created the world but does not get involved in the world that He created. The created universe runs on it’s own. This is not the Christian position. God is not a cosmic spectator that exists outside the universe watching it from afar, but then chooses to stick His hands in the universe so as to reveal Himself by breaking the laws of nature that He set up.
The Bible presents to us a very different picture of God’s providential and miraculous workings. A miracle, more accurately understood is “a less common kind of God’s activity in which He arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to Himself”. Notice this definition describes a miracle as a less common kind of God’s activity. This definition accurately presupposes that there is a more normative way in which God acts, namely through what we perceive to be the “laws of nature”. The everyday more common activity of God that is often not perceived to be miraculous is still a work of God. The laws of nature are not illusory, but it is God who sustains, controls and governs the way all things within His creation act, react, and interact with each other. God is not a distant onlooker; rather He actively governs, controls, and sustains all things. Even as I am writing this article, God is preserving my very existence; not only my existence, but also the very existence of the computer I am now using.
The difference between God’s common ways of acting and His uncommon ways of acting is that His uncommon ways of acting cause observers to be in awe and wonder as they are moved to see the work of the divine in the uncommon. The uncommon (miracles), bear witness to God, the origin of both the common and uncommon activity perceived by observers.
Let us learn to acknowledge the hand of God in all things, both in His common providence and His special and uncommon providence. God is worthy of all honor, glory, and praise for both His normative sustaining of creation and His special miraculous works in our lives.