We all tend to limit our definition of “miracles” to the area of physical healing, but that is just a segment of what has supernaturally taken place in nature (damming of the Jordan, feeding the 5,000) and in such commercial matters as needing exactly $6,282 and having a check for that very amount come from a total stranger. We instinctively speak of “providence” when we miss a fatal plane flight but would it not have been providential if someone perished in such a trip? The Olympics are being telecast as I type this, and the commentator talks about the “Miracle on Ice” when the US beat the Russians in hockey. And a few years ago a popular song spoke of the miracle of creation. If we were all virgin-born, would we speak of Jesus’ birth as having been a miracle?
The Christian Reformed Synod officially changed the traditional “Reformed” stand regarding miracles in 1973 by asserting that we are not to restrict God’s direct workings to the “Bible” era. BB Warfield wrote a large volume in asserting that the day of miracles, especially “devine healing”, is concluded, but a more balanced colleague told me that his perspective was influenced by the fact that Warfield’s wife was an “incurable” arthritic, for whose healing they had long, and “vainly”, prayed. (Which gets us into the great realm of “answered” prayer, its power, etc.)
What I am getting around to (in typical Amerindian circuitry – and may I digress that the Navajos believe strongly in divine healing, resisting Reformed evangelism to date on the score that our initial presentations of the gospel disparaged “anointing”, non-medical “cures,” etc.) is that the Christian cause can never be proved or disproved by “proving” miracles – or disproving them. It’s entirely an “apologetic” (philosophical) problem, as CS Lewis points out in his Miracles. Jesus said it long before, to his contemporaries, who wanted a “sign” – after they had witnessed his miracles (including the raising of Lazarus) – and Jesus (typically) told the story of “Dives” and Lazarus (the only time a character in a parable is named) whose punch-line was this: “To the unregenerate (spiritually blind), a person returned from the dead would not provide convincing proof of the hereafter. People who attended Lazarus’ funeral and later did business with him in Bethany took the attitude of the cynical farmer who saw a giraffe for the first (“A horse put together by a committee”), and said “There ain’t no such Animal.” So, with regards to defending the faith as far as conversions are concerned, I concur with Elbert Hubbard’s wise remarks, “Never explain; your friends don’t need it; your enemies will never believe it.” In one of my congregations there was a woman declared (by medical experts) as legally blind. She mastered Braille (even taught it) and upon her “conversion” recovered 20/20 vision. MDs described it as hysterical blindness, and I would not disagree, but the “miracle” lay in the curing of her psychological problems.
Having said all that, more or less negatively, may I say that where once I used to pray, when medical men were speaking of terminal this or that, that God would give grace for adjustment, etc., now I pray freely for healing (which is a far larger concept than physical health), having often seen medical prognosis deferred (we all die eventually, even Lazarus), and surprising health restored. Jesus said that you and I (or He through us) will do greater works than he did! Which reminds me to say that the Bible itself never uses the word “miracle” as we do; it is such a relative concept (one man’s miracle is another man’s legerdemain, “lying wonder”, psychological trick) that it only speaks of the unusual, unnatural, as “wonders” (which they are – until they become too common, like reproduction), “signs” (for good or ill; confirming some and “hardening” others), or simply God’s “works”.
Isn’t it amazing how we cannot agree amongst ourselves such “scientific” matters as the age of the earth and God’s chosen method of creating it? While I believe God could have made it in one day of twenty-four hours, or instantly, he is no magician, and would only be deceiving us if he even created trees full-grown, with rings, etc. In similar fashion, Hebrews 11, in its catalog of heroes of faith, includes those countless nameless souls who were NOT healed miraculously, or saved from unspeakable torture.
The fact that some “miracles” in Scripture (and since then) can be explained naturally does not invalidate them. For example, the Jordan still dams up suddenly on account of the collapse of its clay banks. The miracle lies in predicting the same, like any prophecy, at a specific time, place. Another example of spiritual “vision”: When Joan d’Arc was asked, “Why don’t we hear your voices?”, she replied, “Don’t you wish you could? Perhaps you weren’t listening.”