I ‘ve met people who thought that they were prophets, and always found the belief remarkable. While the Bible mentions prophets and other such supernatural, miraculous things—such as unclean spirits possessing people—it also makes it clear that these sorts of miraculous events were highly evident.
Consider when one reviews the accounts of possessions in the Bible. It seems that they were quite often a narrative event to show that God’s power is always supreme to Satan’s. In other words, demonic possession events were allowed by God so that His power could be demonstrated in the removal of the Luciferian influence.
It’s my own belief that God can do whatever miracle He deigns whenever He wants, but it always makes me uncomfortable when someone claims to be a prophet, or when they’re speaking in tongues. Firstly, while you might be hearing something as a prophet, you can’t really verify who is on the other end of that line that you’re picking up. And nowadays, if whatever you learn lines up with what we already know in the Bible, then whatever info one has is superfluous, and if it doesn’t, it certainly isn’t to be trusted.
But are miracles still in vogue? Many in my heritage point to 1 Cor 13 as a sign that they’re ceased:
Love never ends.
As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
That passage does indicate that miracles really shouldn’t be a focus, and are almost on the level of a kid’s show-and-tell at school, yet I have low confidence in positively asserting the definite meaning of the passage, especially when it says, “when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” What does that mean? Some say it’s the canonized Bible, and they could be right. I’m not certain myself.
This subject is very interesting to me as I’ve never seen anything indubitably authentic, such as miraculous healings, demonic possession, raising of the dead, water being turned into wine, accurate prophecies, etc. Maybe they’re going on somewhere else in the world. Maybe I have too little faith. I hear most often that they’re just occurring elsewhere. “They’re happening in places without cell phones to record them, like in Africa.” I believe that Karl Popper’s falsifiability principle has some issues in its use, so I don’t want to use that as an unneeded hammer on the subject, but I do have my suspicions when I’m told such things. A friend of mine knew a guy who said that he could cast a spell and turn into a bird and fly, but only on dark nights when no one else was around to see him. What’s the correct response to that? It’s rather the same in many ways as saying, “Sure there are miracles—just not where you’ll see them.” I suppose I could reply, “Well, I’m sure it’s all true.” But I’m not sure.
It seems to me that the “easy” miracles are the ones which get the spotlight in America. Ones that, well, maybe you’re not faking, but which you could convince yourself were real if you were in the right environment to foster the notion. Let me give you an example. When I was young, I had some relatives who got 300 people to roll on the ground, barking like dogs, having convinced them all that they were “speaking in tongues.” These holy rollers (I’m sorry if that was in bad taste) were good people who believed what they were doing was, I guess, a very sacred thing, and legitimate. My relatives, on the other hand, were leading the church mostly for the money. They later abandoned that faith altogether.
I think that perhaps there are some conceptual distinctions that we can make with miracles. On the one hand, a miracle is just any suspending or altering of natural laws by God. So on the broadest level, a miracle is a supernatural event.
We can further distinguish between miracles which were used as signs of the legitimacy of Christianity and God’s power, and providential miracles.
What I’m calling “sign miracles” seem unlikely to me to still be around. By “sign miracle,” I’m referencing things such as turning water into wine, and raising people from the dead, or casting out demons. These were “signs” that the religious person had God’s backing. They were very important in showing Jesus’ legitimacy, and they were important in overturning Judaism to install Christianity, as they showed that God was backing the movement, but otherwise they don’t seem to have been considered a core part of Christianity. They were more like an establishing necessity.
By providential miracle, on the other hand, I’m thinking of things like someone’s cancer somehow getting better, or even something subtler, like surviving a nasty car wreck with no scrapes, when the kinematics indicate that it should have been fatal.
Providential miracles may occur at any time and any place, yet we’d be hard pressed to say, “This is beyond doubt! It’s a suspension of natural law!” On the flip side, “sign miracles” seem to have occurred with note most prominently in early Christianity, and so prophesying, casting out demons, speaking in tongues, and more, were all functionally the same in supporting Christianity in its neotenous inception. I’m not convinced, as the author in 1 Corinthians 13 likewise wasn’t, that they have much lasting utility.
When I was doing some Bible reading, I read with great interest Zechariah 13, which talks about the general “age” after Christ’s resurrection. One passage discusses unclean spirits (demons), saying that they will cease to be present on earth, along with legitimate prophets also vanishing:
“It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord of hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered; and I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land. And if anyone still prophesies, then his father and mother will say to him…’you have spoken falsely in the name of the Lord.’”
That seems to fit in with my mental construct of miracles. They were important for getting Christianity up and running, but were otherwise childish things. It seems that they were meant to become deprecated in the long run.
While I won’t say that the following necessarily applies to whatever situation one might encounter regarding the unknown, it is worth considering 2 Thessalonians in full, and especially the fact that
“the coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and LYING wonders, and with all unrighteous DECEPTION.”
Deception is something that we need to be vigilant to avoid. I think that the 300 people barking like dogs while they spasmed on the ground were quite thoroughly deceived. I once had a girlfriend who said that her gift was speaking in tongues. Later on, she approached me and told me that she’d been faking the tongues, and that it was something that she taught herself to do out of peer pressure at a youth camp, because everyone needed to find their gift. She was and is a great woman, but hey, deception comes in many forms. No shame in admitting it.
I know that this might come across as a mean-spirited post, and I don’t want it to seem that way. Again, I want to be careful to note that none of this precludes God from operating in any way that He chooses. However, the purpose for possession, removing said possession, speaking in tongues, etc., is largely deprecated—at least as far as I can tell. As such, and because Satan can do some real whizbangs himself, I tend to have great reservations about claims of miracles outside of a providential nature.
With love, always,
PS—They say that people don’t want to hear your opinion; they want to hear their opinion, but coming out of your mouth. I’ll break that rule and say, hey, add whatever opinion you want!