According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thomas Jay Oord - Does It Make Sense to Believe in Miracles?


Owyhee hike and flowers, June 2011 | Thomas Jay Oord


Does it Make Sense to Believe in Miracles?
http://thomasjayoord.com/index.php/blog/archives/does_it_make_sense_to_believe_in_miracles/#.VJAGLCvF-QA

by Thomas Jay Oord
December 5, 2014

Fewer people today seem to believe in miracles. This seems especially true of those living in “first-world” countries and especially true of scholars. For various reasons, I can understand their skepticism. But I think we have good grounds to affirm miracles, properly understood.

In the final chapter of my current book on providence, I address the issue of miracles. This book project is funded as part of a larger grant I received to explore what it means to believe God acts providentially in a world of randomness.

Much of my discussion in this last chapter revolves around various reasons many people today reject miracles. A major part of the problem is the definition given miracles.

It has become common in the past few centuries (since David Hume) to define miracles as supernatural violations of the laws of nature or divine interventions. But these definition are laden with problems.

1. The category of “laws of nature” is ill-defined and unnecessary. Besides those who witness miracles – whether the miracles reported in the Bible or witnessed today – rarely if ever say, “Wow! I just observed a law of nature violated!”

2. The idea of “intervention” suggests that God must come to a closed system of nature from the outside. But Christians ought to believe God is omnipresent. And that means God is always already present to the natural world, never needing to “inter–vene.”

3. The idea of “supernatural” leads implicitly to views in which God is thought to coerce, override, interfere, overpower, or in some way totally control a creature or situation. But if God has that kind of coercive power, the problem of evil is insuperable.

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I believe in miracles. I don’t think they are simply “in the mind of the religious believer.” I think miracles are objective events that occur in the world.

Of course, I don’t think all claims about miracles are legitimate. Some are hoaxes, wishful thinking, the effects of hysteria, or coincidences. But I do think some miracles actually occur, and those of us who believe in God need to account for them if we are to witness well to hope that we have in God.


Defining Miracles

In the concluding chapter of my current book on providence, I offer this definition of a miracle:

"A miracle is an unexpected and good event that occurs through God’s special
action in relation to creation. This definition has three essential elements. Miracles
are: (1) unexpected events, (2) good events, (3) involve God’s special action in
relation  to creation."

1. The signs and wonders we read about in the Bible, in history, or encounter today are noteworthy, in part, because they are surprising. They are unusual or extraordinary. As Augustine put it, a miracle is an “unusual” event “beyond the expectation or ability of the one who marvels at it.”

Some unexpected events leave us awestruck and impressed by the power they display. But these occurrences may not be positive, loving, or good. They may cause harm, destruction, or evil. Sheer power is not miraculous, and some awe-filled events are awful.

2. We should reserve “miracle” to describe unexpected events (whether powerful or not) that we believe promote well-being in some way. Miracles are beneficial. Miracles are events we deem good.

3. In addition to being unexpected and good, miracles involve special divine action. I believe that the special divine action that makes miracles possible occurs when God provides new possibilities, forms, structures, or ways of being to creatures. These gifts for the miraculous may reflect dramatic or awesome ways of existing should they be embodied or incorporated.

Miracles are possible when God provides good and unexpected forms of existence. God sometimes desires well-being through diverse forms and multifarious dimensions.

Of course, I go into all of these issues in much more detail in my book. I’m sending the completed book manuscript to Intervarsity Academic Press before Christmas. I’ve signed a contract, and I expect the book to be available in the fall of 2015.

If you have some comments on miracles that you think I should consider before submitting the manuscript, I’d love to hear from you. If I really like your comment, I'll include your name in a footnote or in the book's acknowledgement section!