Let’s begin by defining our terms. A “miracle” is a wonder or marvel that defies rational explanation. It surpasses all known human or natural powers. Because of this, it has to be attributed to supernatural causes. In other words, a miracle thrusts itself into our world from somewhere beyond the boundaries of all that we are able to observe, measure, and understand.
Do miracles still happen today? This issue can be boiled down to a simple question of worldview. In Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project ® Dr. Del Tackett pictures the created universe as a “box.” If we adopt Dr. Tackett’s imagery, and if we further suggest that reality is limited to “the stuff inside the box,” we will have to assume that miracles cannot happen. Why not? Because they break the laws according to which “the stuff in the box” is supposed to operate. This is what we call a materialistic worldview. When a materialist reads in the Bible that Moses parted the Red Sea with his staff or that Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish, he has to conclude that the Bible is wrong, since he has already decided that such things are impossible.
On the other hand, if we are open to the existence and influence of realities that come into human experience from “outside the box,” then all bets are off. In that case, we have to concede that miracles are possible and that they might happen at any moment. The Christian faith is founded upon faith in a personal God who stands “outside the box.” He is absolutely sovereign and he has the power to reach into the “box” and manipulate its contents whenever He chooses. This explains why miracles have to be possible from the perspective of a Christian worldview.
What about the testimony of Scripture? Anyone who is familiar with the New Testament knows that the apostle Paul lists a number of spiritual gifts ( charismata in the Greek language) which he apparently regards as a “normal” part of the life of the church. Catalogues of these gifts can be found in Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11; and Ephesians 4:11. Regardless of your perspective, there is no question that some of these charismata are still operating today; for example, faith, mercy, evangelism, exhortation, and teaching. On the other hand, we can say with certainty that at least one of them ceased to exist at the beginning of the second century: apostleship. What about the others? What about specifically supernatural manifestations of the Spirit such as tongues, healings, and miracles?
It’s here that this question becomes largely a matter of conflicting and competing denominational viewpoints. The charismatic and Pentecostal churches enthusiastically declare that modern believers can expect to experience the full range of the miraculous – that they, like Peter and John, are empowered to heal the sick and raise the dead. Meanwhile, there are other evangelical Christians who disagree, especially those who adhere to a “Dispensationalist” interpretation of the Bible. These believers insist that the miracles described in the book of Acts were intended primarily as “signs” establishing the truth and validity of the Gospel in the earliest days of its progress. Once the New Testament was written, they were no longer necessary and thus ceased to exist.
As an interdenominational ministry, Focus on the Family isn’t in a position to resolve this debate for you. If you really want to settle the question in your own mind, we’d advise you to seek the counsel of a trusted pastor or one of the elders of your local church. In the meantime, if you feel a need to discuss these thoughts at greater length with a member of our team, don’t hesitate to contact us. Focus on the Family has a staff of pastoral counselors who would love to speak with you over the phone.
Christian Research Institute
Trusting: Let God Do the Driving