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Knowing Our God

Advanced Exegetical Theology


The Knowledge of God Series

Book 10

God’s Miracles
How Does God Supernaturally Reveal Himself?

Kurt Jurgensmeier
Copyright © 2012 Kurt Jurgensmeier

Available online at www.trainingtimothys.org

All parts of this publication may be used in any form if due credit is
given. No part of this publication, except brief quotations, may be
used in printed material that is to be sold, without the written
permission of Kurt Jurgensmeier who can be contacted
through the feedback section of
www.trainingtimothys.org.

All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version


(NIV) 1994 edition unless otherwise noted. NIV is a registered
trademark of the International Bible Society.

ISBN: 978-1-300-11158-0
Dedication

To my son-in-law Jon, whose commitment to God and


love for my daughter are a great gift from God to me.
Contents
The chapters below are marked with the following categories in
order to help you prioritize your reading:

 Best: The most helpful, interesting and/or important chapters.

 Essential: Important chapters to understand the topic of the book.

 Specialized: The finer, more complex points of the topic of the book.

Preface 7

Part I: Introduction to Miracles

 10.1: An Introduction to Miracles: 11


A Critical but Confusing & Controversial Subject

 10.2: The Attributes of Miracles: 25


Their Supernatural, Rare, & Awe-inspiring Nature

 10.3: The Proper Expectation & Recognition of 61


Miracles

Part II: The Myriad of Miraculous Deeds

 10.4: Divine Miracles: The Direct Hand of God 101

 10.5: Human Miracle Working: The Delegated 113


Power of God

 10.6: Demonic Miracle Working by satan’s 155


Servants
Part III: The Myriad of Miraculous Words

 10.7: Biblical Attributes of Miraculous 175


Communication: Diverse, Discontinuous
& Never “Inspiration”

 10.8: Delegated Miraculous Communication: 193


God Speaking through Angels & Animals

 10.9: Direct Means of Miraculous 207


Communication: From the Writing of God
to Living with God

 10.10: Physically Seeing & Hearing God: 229


The Voice & Apparitions of God

 10.11: Mental Visions & Dreams from God 241

Part IV: Extreme & Unbiblical Views of Miracles

 10.12: Miracles & Anti-supernaturalism: 279


An Attack on God’s Glory

 10.13: Miracles & Super-supernaturalism: 313


A Monumental Delusion

 10.14: A History of Super-supernaturalism: 337


The Making of a Monumental Delusion

 10.15: An Evaluation of Super-super- 371


naturalism: The Fruit of a Monumental
Delusion

 10.16: The Dangers of Super-super- 413


naturalism: The Damage of a Monumental
Delusion

Resources from TrainingTimothys.org 477


7

Preface
Helping the next generation of Bible Teachers

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a


workman who does not need to be ashamed and who
correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15)

These words were written to a young Teacher of God’s word.


They are a reminder of the awesome privilege, responsibility, and
accountability that comes with such a divine calling. Being a
Teacher is God’s gift to a man, but what kind of Teacher he
becomes is his gift to God. And God tells all Teachers something of
what He is expecting in the verse above.
First, the Teacher is to “present” himself “to God” when he
teaches. When we teach it is not only humans that are listening,
but Heaven as well, and God is our most important audience. We
can be concerned with what people will think of our teaching, but
we need to be much, much more concerned with what God will
think.
And God’s expectations can significantly differ from those of
humans. People often expect eloquence and entertainment, God
expects accuracy, “correctly” interpreting, teaching, and applying
God’s word for God’s people. There is nothing in all the world more
important than this because to do otherwise is to misunderstand,
misrepresent, and eventually disobey the Author.
As in all human endeavors, not even God expects perfection, but
He certainly demands that we do our “best.” We need to
remember that we do all of this under the watchful eye of the
Author Himself, and will one Day be either “approved” or
“ashamed” regarding how careful and diligent we were in working
to understand, teach, and apply His word “correctly.”
This book is offered as a help in obeying the Apostle’s command
for those who have, or desire to have, the great responsibility of
teaching God’s word to His people. It is part of a series of books
written under the title of Knowing Our God: Advanced Exegetical
Theology.
These books are advanced in that they are an in-depth,
scholarly study of very specific and often difficult theological topics.
They are uniquely exegetical in that there is a special emphasis
on interpreting the Scriptures applicable to the topic. While many
8

systematic theologies would not require much of a Scripture index,


a large percentage of the current 5000 pages of Knowing Our God is
commentary on Scripture.
Finally, these books are theology, because it is in such an
endeavor that we bring the pieces of God’s word into a harmonious
whole in order to produce the full truth of Scripture. We believe
Advanced Exegetical Theology is a great need in equipping Pastors
today to defend the faith for this and future generations.
Ezra the priest, of course, is our example, of whom it is written:
“the gracious hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had
devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of
the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel”
(Ezra 7:9-10). Obeying God’s word was obviously important to
Ezra, but so was being “devoted . . . to the study” of God’s word,
all so that he could be “teaching” it to God’s people. It is our hope
that this book will help you do just that.
Finally, a few practical points. First, while we are not aware of
anything in it that would be contrary to the historical, Evangelical
Christian faith, if you encounter something that differs from the
beliefs of your Pastor(s), please discuss it with them if it causes
serious questions for you. We desire to respect the pastoral
authority God has in your life as much as possible.
Secondly, studying God’s word is best pursued in community
with spiritual peers, and we encourage you to read this with others
and discuss the Gauging Your Grasp questions usually at the end
of a chapter.
Thirdly, we make an effort to make an organized study of God’s
word not just theological but practical as well. So prayerfully
consider the sections entitled Pastoral Practices along the way.
Fourth, as you read you will notice several references to other
writings. This reflects the fact that this book is an excerpt from a
larger production entitled Knowing Our God. The entire collection of
books on systematic theology that are currently available can be
found at www.trainingtimothys.org.
Finally, we would appreciate the reader visiting the site and
emailing us any feedback on this book, including concerns,
comments, and any proposed corrections. We too wish to study
God’s word in community, and that community includes you.

Pastor Kurt Jurgensmeier


New Life Community Church, Cedar Rapids, IA
Training Timothys at www.trainingtimothys.org
Book 10
God’s Miracles

Part I
Introduction to Miracles

 10.1: An Introduction to Miracles: 11


A Critical but Confusing & Controversial Subject

 10.2: The Attributes of Miracles: 25


Their Supernatural, Rare, & Awe-inspiring Nature

 10.3: The Proper Expectation & Recognition of 61


Miracles
10.1: Introduction to Miracles
11

Chapter 10.1

An Introduction to Miracles
A Critical but Confusing & Controversial Subject

Table of Topics

A) The Importance of Miracles

B) Contemporary Extremes Regarding Miracles: Anti &


Super-supernaturalism & Mega Mysticism

C) A Definition of a Miracle

D) Types of Miraculous Deeds

Extras & Endnotes

Table 10.1: A 3-D View of Miraculous Deeds


10.1: Introduction to Miracles
12

Primary Points
 There is no area of biblical truth in which there is more confusion
and controversy than on the topic of miracles.
 It is difficult to overstate the importance of miracles for the
Christian faith. Christianity requires miracles
 “Christianity is precisely the story of a great Miracle” C. S. Lewis.
 Scripture records approximately 250 miraculous events.
 “[The] literature on miracles looks like a jungle.”
 Anti-supernaturalists do not expect miracles enough, and super-
supernaturalists and mega mystics expect them too much.
 Mega mysticism is the popular notion that God regularly
communicates to us regarding extrabiblical matters through
more direct and miraculous means of divine revelation such as
inspired intuitions and miraculous “signs.”
 While the danger of is that God does not get the credit and glory
He deserves for a miracle, the equal danger of super-
supernaturalism and mega mysticism is that people habitually
find themselves lying about God, which sounds more like the
devil’s work than anything to do with God.
 Particularly in the area of miraculous communication it is
important to properly distinguish the human from the divine.
 The solution to the harmful, even sinful extremes of anti-
supernaturalism, super-supernaturalism, and mega mysticism is
properly recognizing miracles.
 A great deal of sound doctrine depends on when a miracle is to
be expected. Super-supernaturalism and mega mysticism
expect miracles when they are not promised and where they are
not needed.
 We would suggest that a miracle is: an extraordinary revelation
of God’s supernatural power or communication by which He
intervenes in the ordinary and natural processes He has ordained
because they are not sufficient to accomplish or communicate
His will. This definition reflects the essential nature of miracles,
their types, and their purposes.
 Three distinctions, physical vs. spiritual, direct vs. delegated,
and divine vs. demonic, result in a three dimensional view of
miraculous deeds.
10.1: Introduction to Miracles
13
A) The Importance of Miracles

There is no area of biblical truth in which there is more


confusion and controversy than on the topic of miracles. This
should not surprise us, as anything that acts as powerfully as
miracles to confirm the truth or deceive the masses will be hotly
debated. Indeed, few things are as powerful as miracles.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of miracles for the
Christian faith. First, neither the Universe nor humans would even
exist without one. Secondly, our eternal salvation has been secured
by three of the most amazing miracles, including the Incarnation
and Resurrection of Christ and the regeneration of Christians. The
denial of these miracles is a direct denial of the Christian faith itself.
Along these lines, C. S. Lewis (1898–1963) wrote:
All the essentials of Hinduism would, I think, remain
unimpaired if you subtracted the miraculous, and the same is
almost true of Mohammedanism. But you cannot do that with
Christianity. It is precisely the story of a great Miracle. A
naturalistic Christianity leaves out all that is specifically
Christian. . .
The accounts of the 'miracles' in first century Palestine are
either lies, or legends, or history. And if all, or the most
important, of them are lies or legends then the claim which
Christianity has been making for the last two thousand years
is simply false. No doubt it might even so contain noble
sentiments and moral truths. So does Greek mythology; so
does Norse. But that is quite a different affair. . .
The mind which asks for a non-miraculous Christianity is a
mind in process of relapsing from Christianity into mere
religion. 1

Likewise, the Reformed theologian John Frame writes:


Miracle stories are an embarrassment to sophisticated
Buddhists, but miracle is the lifeblood of Christianity. Indeed,
its central message is about a miracle, the miraculous life,
death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 2

Christianity requires miracles. No matter that rationalists, 3


anti-supernaturalists, 4 and liberal biblicists 5 would cringe at such a
claim, it is true. And why wouldn’t it be true of the only religion
created by God? It is precisely because we believe God exists and
is supernatural, that we would expect a revelation of Him and
communication from Him to be supernatural. Not surprisingly then,
this is a predominant topic of Scripture, the Christian apologist
Norm Geisler noting that Scripture records approximately 250
10.1: Introduction to Miracles
14
miraculous events. 6 Accordingly, as the eminent Bible scholars
John McClintock and James Strong noted:
[F]rom first to last, the Bible is a book of miracle. Miracle is
present not as an accident, separable from the main thread, but
is itself the very essence of the narrative. . . . Without miracle
Christianity is absolutely nothing. All that distinguishes it from
simple Theism is miraculous. 7

B) Contemporary Extremes Regarding Miracles:


Anti & Super-supernaturalism & Mega Mysticism

One would think that such an important doctrinal topic would be


sufficiently addressed in a number of Christian books. However,
after studying dozens of them, old and new, we would have to
agree with the well known NT scholar Colin Brown, a contemporary
authority on the subject of miracles, who writes:
A striking feature of [contemporary Christian literature] is a
curious absence of reference to the miracles of Jesus in works
discussing trends in New Testament studies and even
Christology. Clearly, embarrassment with the whole subject of
miracles must be in some measure responsible for this act of
conscious or unconscious suppression. But even so
conservative a scholar as Donald Guthrie could apparently find
no room for a discussion of the theological significance of
miracles in his massive, thousand-page New Testament
Theology (1981). . . .
At first sight contemporary literature on miracles [that does
exist] looks like a jungle. Wherever we turn we are
confronted by dense masses of argument. 8

Part of the reason for the neglect of theological discussion


regarding miracles is anti-supernaturalism which generally refers to
those who are unnecessarily opposed to, or skeptical of miracles. 9
A contemporary threat here is that God may do miracles for which
He does not get the glory for, because people explain it away with
naturalistic explanations. Thus, the need for sound biblical
discussion of miracles is needed in such an environment.
On the other hand, the popularity of what we call super-
supernaturalism, prophetism, and mega mysticism gives us plenty
of reasons to embark on such a study as well. Essentially, super-
supernaturalism is the belief that divine miracles of all kinds are
quite common today and that God-ordained miracle workers
abound. 10 Prophetism is the belief that biblical Prophets are being
given to the Church today to provide new, extra-biblical, divinely
10.1: Introduction to Miracles
15
authoritative revelation. 11 Both of these perspectives are
particularly prevalent in charismaticism. 12 Mega mysticism is the
popular notion that God regularly communicates to us regarding
extrabiblical matters (e.g. what job to choose) through more direct
and miraculous means of divine revelation such as inspired
intuitions and miraculous “signs.” 13 We would claim that if such
direct revelatory events occurred, they would be miraculous and not
a part of God’s normal interaction with us through Scripture, our
New Nature, reason, etc. 14
While the danger of anti-supernaturalism is that God does not
get the credit and glory He deserves for a miracle, the equal danger
of super-supernaturalism, prophetism, and mega mysticism is that
people habitually find themselves lying about God, a sin that such
camps do not take seriously enough. Unfortunately then, in a
desire to glorify God (or in reality to glorify themselves!?), such
people claim miraculous explanations for events that actually
occurred in more natural, God-ordained ways, or didn’t occur at all.
All of which misrepresents God, deceiving others and themselves,
which sounds more like the devil’s work than anything to do with
God.
Particularly in the area of miraculous communication it is
important to properly distinguish the human from the divine. Is a
thought to move to San Francisco a miraculous, extrabiblical,
private inspiration 15 of God that must be obeyed, or just a mental
impulse that we have the freedom to discard? Those in the mega
mystical camp are in danger of misinterpreting such private
inspirations as miraculous communications from God and therefore
giving them an authority over their lives they do not deserve, with
potentially devastating results. If such extra-biblical 16 thoughts
and ideas are properly recognized as having natural sources, we will
recognize as well that they are potentially fallible and not worthy of
the unquestionable trust we give a word of God. On the other
hand, if you think such extra-biblical direction is from God, you will
have too much confidence in it and perhaps make a harmful
mistake, and be spiritually disillusioned in the process.
The solution to the harmful and even sinful extremes of anti-
supernaturalism, super-supernaturalism, and mega mysticism is the
proper recognition of divine miracles. To miss or ignore a miracle
when it happens is to miss an opportunity to glorify God. To claim
a miracle when one really did not occur is to lie about God, deceive
yourself, and to lose credibility with both believers and unbelievers.
Therefore, it is vitally important that we have a biblical
understanding of the nature and purpose of miracles so that we can
properly identify them so that God may be rightly glorified, and the
Church’s integrity maintained.
10.1: Introduction to Miracles
16
Therefore, while against super-supernaturalism, prophetism,
and mega mysticism we wish to insist on the great sufficiency of the
ordinary means of divine operating and communication God has
ordained (e.g. natural laws, Scripture, New Nature, etc.), we do not
want to be anti-supernaturalists and claim no miracles occur today.
In fact, we will offer many examples of modern miracles in this
section of Knowing Our God.
A great deal of sound doctrine depends on when a miracle is to
be expected. Super-supernaturalism and mega mysticism are in
error because they expect miracles when they are not promised and
where they are not needed. God has not promised to physically
heal us or miraculously lead us, nor does He need to in order for His
will to be fulfilled in our lives.
On the other hand, anti-supernaturalists are in error because
they ignore when God has promised a miracle because it is needed.
Here is where fairist [Arminian] theology reflects an unbiblical anti-
supernaturalism. In such a perspective, no supernatural rebirth or
action of the Holy Spirit is needed in order for someone to receive
the Gospel in a saving way. On the contrary, as we discuss
elsewhere, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the
things that come from the Spirit of God [including the Gospel],
for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand
them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2:14). 17
Fairist theology ignores the biblical promises and the foundational
need for the miracle of regeneration in saving faith, and therefore,
can also be categorized as anti-supernaturalists.

C) A Definition of a Miracle

As a first step in navigating the “dense jungle” that Dr. Brown


speaks of regarding the study of miracles, we will offer a definition
that we suggest succinctly communicates essentially everything
about a miracle. The word “miracle” is a notoriously slippery one to
get a hold of, as it can mean different things to different people.
What one considers a miracle, may seem a mere coincidence to
another.
We would suggest that a miracle is: an extraordinary revelation
of God’s supernatural power or communication by which He
intervenes in the ordinary and natural processes He has ordained
because they are not sufficient to accomplish or communicate His
will. This definition reflects the essential nature of miracles, their
types, and their purposes.
The essential nature of miracles in our definition is
communicated in the word extraordinary. In fact, this is perhaps
10.1: Introduction to Miracles
17
the one best word to reflect the nature of a miracle. Webster’s
defines “extraordinary” as: “Going beyond what is usual, regular, or
customary; exceptional to a very marked extent; remarkable.” 18
There are several attributes of miracles that make them
extraordinary including their power, frequency, and effect. Simply
put, the reason a miracle is extraordinary is that it involves a
supernatural deed or communication, which because of the great
regularity of Nature 19 and the sufficiency of Scripture, makes it
extremely rare in frequency, all of which results in its awe-inspiring
effect. In the next chapter we will look at each of these
extraordinary attributes of a miracle.
Concerning the general types of miracles, it is important to
recognize that we include both an extraordinary revelation of God’s
supernatural power and communication in our definition of miracles.
Typically, miracles are only viewed in the realm of supernatural
deeds like healings. However, the Scriptures also record several
occurrences of miraculous communication such as Angels and
visions. It is helpful to distinguish between miraculous deeds and
communication not only because there are a confusing myriad of
types of miracles, but also miraculous communication can be left
out of a discussion of miracles otherwise. 20 Nevertheless, it is a
very important category of miracles. We further discuss the types
of miraculous deeds in chapters 10.4-6 and miraculous
communication in chapters 10.7-11. Here we will discuss the basic
nature and purpose of all miracles.
The essential purpose of miracles is reflected in our reference to
it as a divine revelation. This distinguishes a miracle from other
supernatural acts of God. In other words, God may supernaturally
and secretly intervene in natural processes and otherwise human
events throughout the world, but if His intention is to hide the fact
that He is intervening, we would prefer to label such an event as a
secret divine manipulation, but not a miracle. The primary reason,
is that we define a miracle as something God intends to be a mode
of divine revelation, the purpose of which is to glorify God. 21
The fact that God desires miracles to be a divine revelation of
Himself gives us a great deal of comfort in the great responsibility
we have to properly recognize them. In other words, God Himself
works to ensure that miracles are obvious enough to sincere people
that they will be properly recognized. We will discuss this more in
the next chapter.
Finally, an additional purpose of miracles reflected in our
definition speaks to the proper expectation of miracles as well. We
believe miracles are: an extraordinary revelation of God’s
supernatural power or communication by which He intervenes in the
ordinary and natural processes He has ordained because they are
10.1: Introduction to Miracles
18
not sufficient to accomplish or communicate His will. This is
perhaps the best explanation of when miracles will occur: in the
relatively very rare occasion that the more normal processes God
has implemented for the care of His Creation (i.e. natural laws) and
communication of His will (i.e. Scripture and New Nature) are not
sufficient to do so.
As noted above, this is an important issue in our day as anti-
supernaturalists do not expect miracles enough, and super-
supernaturalists expect them too much. It is because God is willing
and able to transcend the means of both Nature and Scripture if
necessary to accomplish His will, that anti-supernaturalists have an
erroneous world view. It is because of the great sufficiency that
God has built into Nature and Scripture for accomplishing His will
that super-supernaturalists and mega mystics are likewise out of
sync with their God on the issue of miracles.

D) The Types of Miracles

Above we defined a miracle as an extraordinary revelation of


God’s supernatural power or communication by which He intervenes
in the ordinary and natural processes He has ordained because they
are not sufficient to accomplish or communicate His will. As such,
we discussed the extraordinary nature of miracles and introduced
their two basic types: miraculous deeds such as a healing, and
miraculous communication such as visions. Here we wish to begin
expanding on an understanding of the different types of miracles
beyond these general categories, focusing specifically on miraculous
deeds, while beginning in chapter 10.7 we further discuss the types
of miraculous communication.
In general, miraculous deeds can be categorized in three
different dimensions. The first is by effect, being physical or
spiritual in nature, one affecting the human body and the other the
human “heart.” For example, we suggest that raising a dead man
to life is a physical miracle, while giving a spiritually dead person
spiritual eternal life through the regeneration that occurs with the
communication of the Gospel is a greater and spiritual miracle.
Secondly, miracles can be distinguished based on their
relationship to God as in whether they are an instance of God’s
direct supernatural power, or His delegated supernatural power
operating through an intermediary, something we often refer to as
miracle working. To “delegate” means to “appoint as one’s
representative; to assign responsibility or authority.” 22 When
power, authority, or ability is delegated, it is not operating directly
from its source, but rather through an instrument. For example,
10.1: Introduction to Miracles
19
there is an important difference between God directly healing
someone at rare times, perhaps in answer to prayer, and the
abilities of human miracle workers like the Apostles who at times
healed instantly on command. God is doing direct miracles today,
the Apostles were working delegated miracles then, the latter of
which we do not believe is happening today.
Thirdly, it is obviously important to distinguish miracles by their
morality, or whether or not they are divine or demonic. satan and
his servants can clearly perform miracles, and ones as powerful as
God’s servants, demonstrating the importance of distinguishing
them. We defend the reality of demonically empowered miracles
and discuss the critical topic of distinguishing them from the divine
in chapter 10.6. 23
These three distinctions, physical vs. spiritual, direct vs.
delegated, and divine vs. demonic, result in a three dimensional
view of miraculous deeds. This perspective is portrayed in Table
10.1 below under Extras & Endnotes, and because a “picture” is
worth a thousand words, we suggest a brief review of the table will
better communicate the distinctions we are making for the purposes
of the following discussion.
Admittedly, such distinctions may appear to unnecessarily
complicate the already complex topic of miracles. However,
oversimplification of what a miracle is also leads to superficiality or
error because what is viewed as a miracle is often too narrow. We
hope the reader will agree that a “3-D” view of miracles expands
our understanding and perspective of them.

Pastoral Practices

 It would be instructive to ponder our own lives and recognize


any potential miracles God has performed for or around us. Let
us first of all take note of the amazing miracle of spiritual
regeneration in conversion, both in our lives and the lives of
others. What other miracles have we seen or experienced?
10.1: Introduction to Miracles
20
Extras & Endnotes

Table 10.1: A “3-D” View of Miraculous Deeds

Effect
Physical Spiritual

Physical Miracles Spiritual Miracles


Performed by God Performed by God
[Ch. 10.4] [Ch. 10.4]

Examples: the initial Creation & Example: OT regeneration


final re-Creation, Christ’s Purpose: empowering super-
Incarnation & Resurrection, & all natural faith & accomplishing

Direct
healings today. His plan of salvation.
Primary purposes: revealing
the nature of God &
accomplishing His plan of
salvation.
Divine

Characteristic: granted in
answer to prayer, but often

Relationship to God
denied.
Morality

Physical Miracle Working Spiritual Miracle


[Ch. 10.5; Book 11] Working
Examples: incarnate Christ, [Ch. 10.5]
angels, sign gifts of Prophets & Examples: regeneration
Apostles, & exorcism. through the Gospel, love
Primary purpose: through regeneration, &
authenticating Scripture gifts. abilities through serving gifts.
Characteristic: occur by the Primary purpose:
command or touch of a person
Delegated

authenticating the Gospel &


and never fail. building the Church.

Physical Demonic Miracle Spiritual Demonic


Working Miracle Working
Demonic

[Chs. 10.6; 11.11-13] [Chs. 10.6; 11.11-13]


Examples: false Prophets & Example: demonic
antichrist. possession
Purpose: testing God’s people & Purpose: God’s punishment
deceiving His enemies. of rebellion against Him
10.1: Introduction to Miracles
21
A Devotion to Dad

Dear heavenly Father, we praise You for revealing Yourself through


Your miraculous works and words. We will not be anti-
supernaturalists who shut You out of Your own Creation claiming
You cannot and will not interfere. Nor will we be like the super-
supernaturalists who demand or need miracles in order to prove
Your goodness. Rather, we confess that the miracle of our salvation
is enough and rejoice in any others as simply extra manifestations
of your power and mercy. Amen.

Gauging Your Grasp

1) Why is there so much controversy about miracles?

2) In what ways are miracles important for the Christian faith?

3) Approximately how many miraculous events are recorded in


Scripture? What is the message in that?

4) How do we define an anti-supernaturalists? What is the danger


of being one?

5) How do we define a super-supernaturalists? What is the danger


in being one?

6) What do we mean by mega mysticism? What is the danger of


this perspective?

7) What is the solution to anti-supernaturalism, super-


supernaturalism, and mega mysticism? Why would this be so?

8) What do we mean when we say a great deal of sound doctrine


depends on when a miracle is to be expected?

9) How do we define a miracle? Is there anything you would


change about this definition?

10) What are the different types of miracles based on their effect,
relationship to God, and morality? Can you name an example
of each?
10.1: Introduction to Miracles
22
Publications & Particulars

1
C. S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study (Macmillan, 1947), 83, 97,
161.
2
John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Presbyterian and
Reformed, 1987), 302.
3
Rationalism is essentially the belief that there is no such thing as divine
revelation, including miracles. For further discussion see chapter 2.9.
4
Anti-supernaturalism is essentially the belief that Nature cannot be
interrupted. For further discussion see chapter 10.12.
5
Liberal biblicism is the term we use to refer to essentially the nineteenth
century Bible “scholars” such as Rudolf Bultmann who had a lot to say
about the Bible, but denied the miraculous.
6
Norm Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Baker, 1999),
482. See extensive list on pp. 482-86.
7
John McClintock and James Strong, “Miracles” in Cyclopaedia of Biblical,
Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (M&S) CD-ROM (Ages Software,
2000), 43-4.
8
Colin Brown, Miracles and the Critical Mind (Eerdmans, 1984), 262, 171.
9
For further discussion of anti-supernaturalism see chapter 10.12
10
For further discussion of super-supernaturalism see especially chapters
3.13-16
11
For further discussion of prophetism see Book 9: God’s Prophets.
12
By modern charismaticism we are primarily referring to what is
commonly labeled the “charismatic” movement that began with the
Pentecostals in the early 1900’s, spread into denominational churches in
the 1960’s and 70’s, and has merged with what is referred to as the Third
Wave churches today. Pentecostal churches include Assembly of God,
Church of God, Open Bible, Apostolic, Foursquare Gospel, and Full
Gospel. Third Wave churches include Vineyard and a variety of
independent congregations.
We thank God for all He has done through the “charismatic” movement,
and for the dear Christian brothers and sisters who would claim
membership in it. However, throughout Knowing Our God (KOG) we
refrain from referring to this movement as “charismatic,” because this
erroneously implies a uniqueness and even superiority in Christian grace
(charis), and by further implication, a superior possession or experience
of the Holy Spirit.
Surely no right-minded “charismatic” would desire to claim such a
superiority over their Christian brothers and sisters, especially since they
cannot demonstrate one. Biblically speaking, being “led by the Spirit,”
experiencing His power, and living “not under law” but by “grace
[charis]” is most clearly manifested in the “fruit of the Spirit” which the
10.1: Introduction to Miracles
23

Apostle Paul describes as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,


goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:4, 18,
22-3). “Charismatic” Christians in general are not superior in these
virtues of love and holiness compared to other Christians, and these
virtues are the real essence of Christian charisma, making all obedient
Christians true “charismatics,” not just a particular sect.
In fact, the greatest and most important uniqueness of charismatic
churches over other authentic Christian churches is not their love or
holiness, but rather an emphasis on, and practice of: 1) emotional
worship, 2) speaking and/or praying in an incoherent tongue, 3) claims to
direct divine revelation through spiritual gifts such as prophecy, and 4)
claims to a greater abundance of miracles in general through the gifts of
healing and miracle working.
Therefore, throughout KOG we use the terms emotionalism (see
chapters 4.8-11), glossaism (Gr. glossa: “tongue,” see Book 12: The
Truth About Tongues), prophetism (see Book 9: God’s Prophets), and
super-supernaturalism (see chapters 10.14-16) to refer to these
distinctives respectively, while recognizing that they may exist elsewhere
as well. Accordingly, we believe this allows us to address the areas of
concern we have regarding the movement, and avoid speaking critically
of the movement as a whole, which has many good, although not unique,
attributes as well.
Likewise, we refrain from referring to those Christians who would differ
from “charismatics” as “non-charismatics,” erroneously implying again
that the latter is somehow lacking in grace. Rather, those who oppose
the sometimes bizarre worship of emotionalism, the obscure utterances
of glossaism, the extra-biblical revelations of prophetism, and the
miracle-a-minute mindset of super-supernaturalism are better labeled as
historicists. This reflects the fact that for at least 1600 years of Church
history, the great majority belief and practice of God’s people was
opposed to all of the uniquenesses that the “charismatic” movement
claims today.
It is a historical fact that miraculous gifts such as healing, tongues, and
prophecy ceased functioning in the church in the fourth century when the
NT canon had been completed, recognized and sufficiently distributed.
Accordingly, the very few people since then who have promoted bizarre
forms of worship, obscure utterances in prayer, claims to extra-biblical
revelation, and miracle working abilities, were always thought to be
deceived and dangerous, and not accepted as biblical Christians. What
those in charismaticism also refuse to admit, or take seriously enough, is
that the modern versions of the miraculous gifts being claimed do not
match the attributes of their biblical counterparts. For a great deal of
discussion on these matters see the books in Volume 2 of KOG.
13
For further discussion of mega mysticism see Book 14
14
For more discussion of these more standard means of divine revelation
and decision making see chapters 7.7-15.
15
By private inspiration, we mean a type of direct divine revelation that is
never described in Scripture, and distinguished from the public revelation
10.1: Introduction to Miracles
24

of Apostles and Prophets for the purpose of helping other people. For
further discussion see chapter 14.1.
16
By extra-biblical we do not mean unbiblical, but simply outside of that
which God reveals and instructs in Scripture, and which therefore, has no
divine authority over a Christian’s life.
17
For further discussion of the process of saving faith see chapter 4.16 and
6.2-3.
18
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, Frederick C. Mish, ed.
(Merriam-Webster, 1986), 441.
19
Webster’s defines “nature” in several ways including, 1) “a creative and
controlling force in the universe,” and 2) “the external world in its
entirety.” (789). Of course a Christian world view would only accept the
latter, and this is all we mean by the term.
20
Geisler, 482-86. However, although the list includes occurrences of both
miraculous deeds and communication, he does not distinguish them or
sufficiently list examples of the latter.
21
For further discussion on the concept of secret divine manipulation in
contrast to divine revelation, see chapter 7.16.
Some would categorize such clandestine supernatural interventions of
God as an aspect of divine Providence. As we note elsewhere, the term
divine providence is used in a variety of ways in Christian theology. We
use it to refer to God’s ordained natural laws that sustain Creation, and
therefore, distinguish it from divine miraculous interventions. For further
discussion of common errors associated with divine providence see
sections 10.1.C with endnotes; 10.2.A.1; 10.3.D.5; 10.12.B.4.. For
further discussion on the need to recognize and authenticate any
revelation, including the miraculous kind, see section 3.1.C and 7.1.B.5.
22
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary Frederick C. Mish, ed.
(Merriam-Webster, 1986), 336.
23
For further discussion of the distinguishing between divine and demonic
miracle working see chapters 11.11-13.
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 25

Chapter 10.2

Attributes of Miracles
Their supernatural, rare, & awe-inspiring nature

Table of Topics

A) Miracles are Extraordinary in Power: Supernatural

A.1) Supernaturally Influencing Creation

A.2) Supernaturally Influencing Human Events

A.3) Supernaturally Transforming Human Limbs

A.4) Supernaturally Transforming Human Lives

A.5) Supernaturally Providing Divine Communication

A.6) Distinguishing the Natural from the Supernatural

B) Miracles Are Extraordinary in Frequency:


Extremely Rare

B.1) The Rarity of Miraculous Deeds

B.2) The Rarity of Miraculous Communication

C) Miracles Are Extraordinary in Effect: Awe-inspiring

C.1) Awe-inspiring Deeds

C.2) Awe-inspiring Communication

C.3) Ramifications of the Awe-inspiring Nature of Miracles

Extras & Endnotes


10.2: Attributes of Miracles 26

Primary Points

 A miracle is an intervention in the ordinary processes


established by God for maintaining His Creation and
communicating to His people.
 God allows every event in the Universe (cf. Matt 10:29), but
there are other events that God supernaturally causes.
 When God desires for a miraculous intervention to be
recognized, He will ensure that it can be.
 Against humanity’s constant selfishness, love is as great a
miracle as levitation, violating all kinds of “natural laws.”
 It is not only in the realm of divine Creation and human
events that miracles occur, but also in divine communication.
 It is important to distinguish God’s invested power in Nature
from His intervening power in miracles. If we make
everything miraculous, then nothing is.
 Whether it is the power operating in plants or planets,
humans or even demons, all such power is on loan from God.
 It is our constant experience with the laws of Nature that
trains us to recognize a miracle. Because they are so
pervasive, constant, and sufficient in the Universe, any
interruption or manipulation of them will be very uncommon
 Our claim that miraculous deeds are extremely rare disagrees
with the very foundation of super-supernaturalism.
 In our mega mystical and super-supernaturalist age,
Christians need to remember that God is not in the habit of
doing for us what He has already enabled us to do ourselves.
 The Scriptures consistently describe miracles in ways that
reflect their awe-inspiring nature.
 Amazement, astonishment, awe, fear, repentance, and
breathless wonder are the normal response of anyone who is
exposed to a real divine miraculous deed.
 We are not impressed with the claims in super-super-
naturalism and prophetism to an abundance of miraculous
deeds and communication. “Healed” headaches and
“prophetic” declarations by people who cannot foretell the
future inspire little of the wonder and awe that biblical
miracles did. Such claims only serve to remind us just how
far we are removed from “the good ole days” in the early
Church when a miracle really was a miracle!
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 27

A) Miracles Are Extraordinary in Power:


Supernatural

Essentially, a miracle is an intervention or interruption in the


ordinary processes established by God for maintaining His Creation
and communicating to His people. Webster’s defines “interrupt” as:
“to stop or hinder by breaking in; to break the uniformity or
continuity of” 1 all of which is a good description of the biblical
concept of a miracle.
In the realm of miraculous deeds we refer to this as a
supernatural intervention by which God overpowers and
manipulates the natural processes operating in Creation. As the
philosopher Anthony Flew has put it, “A miracle is something which
would never have happened had nature, as it were, been left to its
own devices.” 2 While this is denied in anti-supernaturalism, this
will be illustrated in several ways in this section. 3

A.1) Supernaturally influencing Creation

In God’s created order the sun “rises” and “sets” in the sky due
to the regular revolution of the Earth. This is a “natural law” 4 that
God established in the initial miracle of Creation and which has
continually operated millions of days afterward without interruption
. . . except for one day. 5 We read in the book of Joshua:
On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel,
Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: “O
sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of
Aijalon.” So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is
written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the
middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full
day. There has never been a day like it before or since,
a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the
LORD was fighting for Israel! (Josh 10:12-14)

So while day after day for millions of days the sun has moved
across earth’s sky, on this day, God exercised His supernatural
power at the request of Joshua to suspend and temporarily override
a “natural law.”
Therefore, it should not surprise us that Scripture most often
describes miracles in the sense of power. For example, the Greek
NT uses the words dynamis and ergon to refer to miracles.
Dynamis is used in the NT 119 times and at its most basic level, it
simply means “power,” whether it is physical, military, or political. 6
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 28
However, as NT scholar Leon Morris observes, “This word is to
all intents and purposes the only word for miracles in the first three
Gospels (Matthew uses it 12 times, Mark 10 times, and Luke 15
times).” 7 Likewise, we read in the NIDNTT: “[In] the Synoptic
Gospels and Acts . . . dynamis denotes the power of God, the
heavenly powers, miraculous power . . . [Christ’s] miracles are
called dynameis (cf. Heb. gebûrôt; i.e. “mighty deeds”).” 8 We see
then that the Greek word for “power” is often used in the context of
miracles, and is referring to God’s power.
Likewise the Greek word ergon, simply meaning “work,” is the
usual term used in the Gospel of John to refer to a miracle. Again,
Dr. Morris comments:
John’s characteristic use of ergon is for the works of Jesus. . .
. Clearly it applies to the miracles on some occasion; for
example [Jesus said], “I did one work [ergon] (NIV “one
miracle”), and you are all astonished” (7:21). . . . Jesus’
works are “the works [ergon] that no one else did” (15:24).
They are distinctive and are not to be compared to those of
other people. 9

Accordingly, a basic biblical idea concerning miraculous deeds is


that they are a display of the supernatural power of God. Such is
reflected in the Apostle Peter’s response to a gathering crowd after
healing a lame man: “Why do you stare at us as if by our own
power or godliness we had made this man walk?” (Acts 3:12).
The Apostle clearly testified that the healing was a display of God’s
supernatural power.
Nicodemus recognized the supernatural nature of Christ’s deeds
when he remarked: “Rabbi . . . no one could perform the
miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him”
(John 3:2). Likewise, the man born blind said: “he opened my
eyes . . . If this man were not from God [and His power was not
from God], he could do nothing [like this]” (John 9:30, 33).
When Christ told the paralytic to walk, the crowd who witnessed it
knew that such a deed could only be attributed to God and so,
“they praised God, Who had given such authority [power] to
men” (Matt 9:8).
Miracles require supernatural power and this is why when the
bleeding woman touched the edge of Christ’s cloak, Mark records
that, “At once Jesus realized that [supernatural] power
[dynamis] had gone out from Him” (Mark 5:30). Because
miracles exhibit supernatural power, the Bible describes them as
the working of “the finger of God” (Exod 8:19; cf. Luke 11:20).
The supernatural nature of miracles is often not so much in
suspending or interrupting natural processes, but rather
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 29
manipulating them to occur at a certain time and place. For
example, just before the above record of the sun stopping in the
sky, we read of another miracle:
As they [the Amorites] fled before Israel on the road
down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the LORD hurled
large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more
of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the
swords of the Israelites. (Josh 10:11)

Note that there is nothing automatically supernatural about a


hailstorm as these have occurred numerous times in the history of
humanity, unlike the stopping of the sun. However, God’s
manipulation of Nature, resulting in extraordinarily “large
hailstones,” falling intentionally “on the road down from Beth
Horon to Azekah” at the very time the Amorites “fled before
Israel,” makes this hailstorm an obvious miracle.
Notice as well our description of the events above as intentional
rather than random. It implies that there is a Person behind the
event deliberately causing it rather than simply allowing it in the
natural course of Nature and life. Of course God allows Nature to
produce hailstorms all the time, just as He ultimately allows every
single event in the Universe (cf. Matt 10:29). But there are other
events that God supernaturally causes, exercising His power to
ensure they occur regardless of the circumstances, and in fact, by
manipulating those circumstances and Nature itself.
For example, God says in Amos:
I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still
three months away. I sent rain on one town, but
withheld it from another. One field had rain; another
had none and dried up. (Amos 4:7; cf. Deut 11:13-14, 17;
1 Sam 12:16-18; Jonah 1:4).

Normally, the occurrence of rain is a regularly naturally occurring


event of God’s providence in order to maintain life on the Earth.
But in this case, God intentionally manipulated the ordinary course
of Nature to accomplish a particular purpose.
It is important to note how Amos knew that God had
miraculously intervened in Nature. In this case, Amos needed
miraculous direct revelation from God. This is because there was
nothing obviously supernatural about a lack of rain “when the
harvest was still three months away,” or that it fell in “one
town” or “field” but not another. So while normally supernatural
manipulations of Creation must be recognized simply by their
supernatural nature, here God also provided additional,
extrabiblical, miraculous revelation. This illustrates our repeated
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 30
point that when God desires for a miraculous intervention to be
recognized, He will ensure that it can be.
Perhaps an example of a miraculous manipulation of Creation
apart from biblical history will instruct us here. Marcus Aurelius
(121-180 A.D.) was one of the most powerful, respected, and
intellectual Emperors in the history of the Roman Empire.
Regarding a particularly difficult battle he was engaged in, he wrote
a letter to the Roman Senate entitled: “Epistle of Marcus Aurelius to
the Senate, in Which He Testifies that the Christians Were the
Cause of His Victory.” The following is an excerpt:
The Emperor Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Germanicus,
Parthicus, Sarmaticus, to the People of Rome, and to the
sacred Senate greeting:
I explained to you my grand design, and what advantages I
gained on the confines of Germany, with much labour and
suffering, in consequence of the circumstance that I was
surrounded by the enemy; I myself being shut up in
Carnuntum by seventy-four cohorts, nine miles off. And the
enemy being at hand, the scouts pointed out to us, and our
general Pompeianus showed us that there was close on us a
mass of a mixed multitude of 977,000 men, which indeed we
saw; and I was shut up by this vast host, having with me only
a battalion composed of the first, tenth, double and marine
legions.
Having then examined my own position, and my host, with
respect to the vast mass of barbarians and of the enemy, I
quickly betook myself to prayer to the gods of my country.
But being disregarded by them, I summoned those who
among us go by the name of Christians. And having made
inquiry, I discovered a great number and vast host of them,
and raged against them, which was by no means becoming;
for afterwards I learned their power.
Wherefore they began the battle, not by preparing weapons,
nor arms, nor bugles; for such preparation is hateful to them,
on account of the God they bear about in their conscience.
Therefore it is probable that those whom we suppose to be
atheists, have God as their ruling power entrenched in their
conscience.
For having cast themselves on the ground, they prayed not
only for me, but also for the whole army as it stood, that they
might be delivered from the present thirst and famine. For
during five days we had got no water, because there was
none; for we were in the heart of Germany, and in the
enemy's territory. And simultaneously with their casting
themselves on the ground, and praying to God (a God of
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 31
whom I am ignorant), water poured from heaven, upon us
most refreshingly cool, but upon the enemies of Rome a
withering hail. And immediately we recognized the presence
of God following on the prayer-a God unconquerable and
indestructible.
Founding upon this, then, let us pardon such as are
Christians, lest they pray for and obtain such a weapon
against ourselves. . . . And I desire that these things be
confirmed by a decree of the Senate. And I command this my
edict to be published in the Forum of Trajan, in order that it
may be read. 10

Several factors made this miracle especially evident. Among


these is the apparently supernatural fact that a “refreshingly cool”
rain fell on the Romans, and simultaneously a “withering hail” on
the Germans. However, another factor that was prominent in this
miracle was the prayers of God’s people. In fact, it is doubtful that
the miracle would have occurred at all if the Christians had not
asked for it. As we have noted elsewhere, the overall purpose of all
divine revelation is to glorify God, and this miracle certainly did
that. 11
We believe in relatively rare instances, such divine interventions
into Nature are still occurring. For example, over the years
remarkable and believable reports have come out of the growing
underground Church in China. Many of these are recorded in the
inspiring autobiography of Brother Yun, entitled The Heavenly Man,
which includes how God supernaturally cared for Yun’s wife and
mother while he was in prison.
During this time, the two women had to support themselves
through farming, of which they knew nothing. Therefore, when
they planted sweet potatoes for food, they planted them inches
apart instead of two feet apart which was normal. Their non-
Christian neighbors, who knew about Yun’s imprisonment for
preaching the Gospel, mocked them bitterly for their apparent
foolishness. However, when harvest came, the neighbors were
cursing their pitiful harvest of small sweet potatoes while Yun’s wife
and mother harvested sweet potatoes the size of basketballs. Even
the unbelievers knew the Christian God had taken care of His
people, and their attitude changed toward them from that day on.
Similarly, Yun’s wife and mother planted wheat another year,
and again, mistakenly placed the seeds too close together. About a
week before harvest “a severe hailstorm struck. Ice the size of
tennis balls fell from the sky.” Yun’s wife continues:
Yun’s mother and I fell to our knees and cried out, “God, have
mercy on us!” A great miracle happened. Our field was the
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 32
only one protected by the Lord. All our wheat was standing
upright, untouched by the hail. Everyone else’s fields in the
whole area had been obliterated. People came out of their
homes after the storm subsided and saw how the Lord Jesus
Christ had protected us. It was another powerful testimony to
them. 12

Such miracles obviously illustrate the power of God to interrupt,


intervene, and manipulate His Creation however and whenever He
pleases in order to accomplish His will. Therefore, it is the
supernatural power in a miracle, overpowering the considerable
strength of Nature, that allows us to confidently identify something
as a miracle. Accordingly, the great Roman Catholic theologian
Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) wrote concerning the power in
miracles that, “the more it exceeds nature’s capability, the greater
any miracle is said to be” 13 and the more likely it is to be a real
miracle.

A.2) Supernaturally influencing human events

Of course, God is not interested in merely manipulating Creation


for its own sake. As we see with the miracles above, they were to
influence human events in some way. Divine miracles are never
merely allowed by God as a course of random, natural life, but
rather are a deliberate divine intervention into the course or
circumstances of our life having a supernatural effect that would not
have occurred otherwise. Perhaps the best example of this is the
fulfillment of prophecy.
Over seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, the
Prophet Micah recorded that the Savior of the world would be born
in Bethlehem (cf. Mic 5:2). Luke records what would appear to be a
number of divinely manipulated circumstances that occurred in
order to ensure that happened, including the timely decree of a
Roman Emperor for a census, the special requirement to be counted
in the city of one’s ancestry, 14 and the marriage of Mary to a direct
descendant of David, whose city of origin was Bethlehem (cf. Luke
2:1-7).
This kind of supernatural intervention into world and personal
affairs, such that the timing of decisions and events coincide in a
way that they would not have otherwise, is a necessary hallmark of
all fulfilled prophecy in Scripture and vividly illustrates God’s
supernatural power over people when He chooses to exercise it. 15
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 33
The divine, miraculous intervention of God can occur with a
great deal of precision and attention to the minutest detail.
Accordingly, we read of the Exodus:
During the last watch of the night the LORD looked
down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian
army and threw it into confusion. He made the wheels
of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty
driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from
the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against
Egypt.” (Exod 14:24-25)

One wonders if Angels were ripping these wheels off, or just the
power of the Holy Spirit somehow, but the Egyptians knew they
were not losing their wheels due to random, natural forces. 16
Likewise, we are reminded of the miraculous fulfillment of the
Prophet Micaiah’s prediction that King Ahab would die in battle (cf.
1 Kgs 22:28-35). Accordingly, Ahab “disguised himself and
went into battle,” even persuading “Jehoshaphat king of Judah
. . . [to] wear [his] royal robes” as a decoy. Nonetheless,
“someone drew his bow at random and hit the King of Israel
[Ahab] between the sections of his armor . . . and that
evening he died” (vs. 34-35). In reality, there was nothing at all
“random” about that arrow, but we would suggest that God
Himself guided that arrow (by Angels or direct action of the Holy
Spirit), just as surely as He guided David’s slung rock at Goliath (cf.
1 Sam 17:45-50), in order to fulfill His will, because random natural
processes were not sufficient.
God’s miraculous interventions on behalf of His people abound
in biblical history. One of the most memorable is the Apostle
Peter’s release from prison:
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter
was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two
chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.
Suddenly an Angel of the Lord appeared and a light
shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke
him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off
Peter's wrists.
Then the Angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and
sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around
you and follow me," the Angel told him. Peter followed
him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the
Angel was doing was really happening; he thought he
was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second
guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It
opened for them by itself, and they went through it.
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 34
When they had walked the length of one street,
suddenly the Angel left him.
Then Peter came to himself and said, "Now I know
without a doubt that the Lord sent His Angel and
rescued me from Herod's clutches and from everything
the Jewish people were anticipating." (Acts 12:6-11)

God is, of course, continuing to miraculously intervene in human


affairs in order to accomplish His will. During one of Brother Yun’s
initial arrests for preaching the Gospel, he says, “the Holy Spirit
spoke to my heart, ‘The God of Peter is your God,’” which reminded
him of how Peter had escaped from prison. Immediately, the ropes
that bound his hands behind his back snapped apart. A timely
phone call distracted the guards and he walked out of the
interrogation room. However, he was still inside the prison walls
which were eight feet tall with sharp glass embedded at the top,
and as he discovered later, a ten foot wide moat of human waste
was running the length of the wall on the other side. Brother Yun
writes:
What happened next is not possible from a human perspective,
yet God is my witness that what I am about to tell you is the
truth. . . . As I hung grimly onto the side of the wall, all of a
sudden I felt as if somebody hoisted me up and threw me
over! I jumped so far that I even cleared the septic tank!

Upon returning to his Christian friends that night he found them


crying out to the Lord for his release and were amazed to see him.
17

Both of the above prison escapes involved not only a miraculous


deed, but miraculous communication as well. The Apostle Peter
was instructed by an Angel and Brother Yun was given an extra-
biblical message from the Holy Spirit. However, God does not
always provide miraculous communication with miraculous
intervention into human events as illustrated in the story of Esther,
as discussed further below.
One final example of miraculous divine intervention into human
affairs comes from the well-known Bible teacher Charles Swindoll:
Several years ago I was asked to speak at a reunion of the
Navigators at Estes Park, Colorado. At the end of the week,
one of the men drove me back to Denver so I could catch my
plane. And on the way, he said, "Can I tell you my story?"
"Sure," I said. "Actually, it's a story of closed doors and open
doors." "Great," I said, "I've had a few of those, so tell me
what yours were.
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 35
"Well," he began, "my wife and I could not find peace, in any
manner, staying in the States. And while at a conference
years ago with a number of the leaders of the Navigators, I
was offered the opportunity to open our work in Uganda.
"Uganda," he said. "I could hardly spell it when they pointed
to me and said, 'Perhaps that's where the Lord would have
you and your family go.'
I went home, I told my wife and our children, and we began
to pray." I believe he said they had three small kids at the
time, and their oldest son was just about to start school. And
he said to his wife, "Honey, are you ready to take on the
challenge of Uganda?" And she said, "If that's the door God
has opened for us, I'm ready for the challenge." Wonderful
response.
So they flew to Nairobi, Kenya, where he put his family up in
a hotel while he rented a Land Rover and drove across the
border into the country of Uganda to check out the situation.
This was just after Idi Amin’s reign of terror. My friend said,
"One of the first things that caught my eye when I came into
the village where I was going to spend my first night were
several young kids with automatic weapons, shooting them off
in the sky. As I drove by, they stared at me and pointed their
guns." Nothing happened, but it was that kind of volatile
setting. And he thought, Lord, are You in this? His heart sank
as the sun began to set.
By now the streets were dark, and he pulled up at a little
dimly lit hotel. Inside, he went up to the registration counter.
The clerk, who spoke only a little English, told him there was
one bed available. So he went up two flights of stairs and
opened the door and turned on the light-a naked light bulb
hanging over a table. He saw a room with two beds, one
unmade and one still made up. And he realized, "I am sharing
this room with somebody else."
That did it. He needed the kind of encouragement only God
could provide. "I dropped to my knees and I said, 'Lord, look,
I'm afraid. I'm in a country I don’t know, in a culture that’s
totally unfamiliar. I have no idea who sleeps in that bed.
Please, show me You are in this move!"
And then, he said, "Just as I was finishing my prayer, the
door opened and there stood this six-foot five-inch African
frowning at me, saying in beautiful British English, 'What are
you doing in my room?'" "I stood there for a moment, and
then I muttered, 'They gave me this bed, but I'll only be here
one night."' "What are you doing in my country?" the African
asked. "Well, I'm with a little organization called the
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 36
Navigators." "Aahh! The Navigators!" And the African broke
into this enormous grin, threw his arms around his new
roommate, and laughed out loud. "He lifted me up off the
floor and just danced around with me." "Praise God, Praise
God," said this African.
Finally they sat down at the table, and this brother in Christ,
this African fellow Christian, said, "For two years I have
prayed that God would send someone to me from this
organization." And he pulled out a little Scripture memory-
verse pack, and at the bottom of each of the verses it read,
"The Navigators, Colorado Springs, Colorado." "Are you from
Colorado Springs, Colorado?" the African asked. "I was," said
the man. "But I'm coming to Uganda to begin a work for the
Navigators in this country."
The door of new hope flew open in my friend's life. That
African became a member of the man’s board, helped him find
a place to live, helped him rebuild a section of his home,
taught him all about the culture, assisted him with the
language, and became his best friend for the many years they
were there, serving Christ. 18

This is a wonderful story of God’s miraculous authentication of


his direction for this missionary. However, as we have biblically
demonstrated elsewhere, the need and occurrence of such a thing is
relatively rare and not the norm for how God wants us to be led. 19
Nonetheless, we rejoice in the wonderful miracle this brother
experienced. We see then, that supernaturally intervening in
human events is perhaps the most common way that God
demonstrates His power in performing miracles.

A.3) Supernaturally transforming human limbs

While God certainly miraculously intervenes to manipulate


human events, He also at times supernaturally works to heal human
bodies. To illustrate this type of miracle we will share the following
testimony from the Baptist Standard:
On January 15, 1990, Duane Miller, the pastor of the First
Baptist Church at Brenham, Texas, lost his voice at the
conclusion of the Sunday morning service and couldn't preach
Sunday evening. His physician told him to take a six-month
leave of absence. When he failed to recover, the doctors told
him the myelin sheath to his vocal cords had been damaged
and that he would not get his voice back. He tried voice
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 37
therapy, but that didn't help, and so he had to resign his
pastorate in the fall of 1990.
Early in 1992 he began to teach a Sunday school class at
First Baptist Church in Houston. He was able to do this by
using a special microphone, but even with the special
microphone his throat was so sore that he could hardly eat or
drink for two days after teaching. On Sunday morning,
January 17, 1993, he had just finished reading Psalm 103:3 to
his Sunday school class: "Who forgives all your sins and heals
all your diseases." He stopped to comment on that verse,
saying that there are two extreme views regarding healing.
Listen to Duane's own words:
"I had said that on the one side there is the group that
believes God always heals miraculously and on the other is
the group that says it never happens. But what you have to
realize is that puts God in a box, I said, and He won't be put
in a box. I told them that what you have to do with divine
healing is just stand back and say, "I know God does that
from time to time and I can't tell you why. I don't
understand why some are healed and some aren't and leave
it there and say that is in the Lord's wisdom, so be it."
I had just finished saying that and started to read the next
line of the Psalm: "He redeems my life from the pit... " And
my voice changed. I heard the first word and felt in my
throat that what I had been feeling was gone. There was
none of the feeling there that I had had for three years.
I would love to tell you I knew exactly what it was . . . and
that I expected God to do it and wasn't surprised. But it
would be a lie. It scared me to death. I stopped, startled,
and then said two or three words, thinking, "Am I hearing
what I think I hear?"
I said to them [in the crowd] that I didn't understand what
was going on, but that God was doing something. I tried to
get back to the lesson, but I couldn't and nobody cared.
People began to applaud. Everybody was weeping. There
were about 200 in the class and there were no dry eyes . . .
We just thanked the Lord for what He had done and walked
out of the church." 20

Is God awesome or what? Let no one in their right mind deny


that the God of Creation is performing miraculous deeds in the
world today. 21
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 38
A.4) Supernaturally transforming human lives

As great as a physical miracle affecting the human body is, a


much greater miracle is the spiritual miracle of transforming human
hearts. Among the most powerful “natural laws” operating in the
Universe today is selfishness. This is the nature of all human
beings at physical birth, controlling virtually every thought, desire,
and action in their life because they are bound by the “natural law”
of hating God and loving themselves (cf. Rom 8:5-8).
Therefore, a supernatural spiritual rebirth is needed in order to
accomplish the salvation and subsequent ability for holiness and
virtue that God desires. This spiritual regeneration fits our
definition of a miracle as: an extraordinary revelation of God’s
supernatural power by which He intervenes in the ordinary and
natural processes He has ordained because they are not sufficient
to accomplish His will. No human can overcome their God-hating
and selfish nature in their own power, but only by God’s power.
This is why Christ said in the context of being spiritually born again,
“Flesh [naturally] gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit
[supernaturally] gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6).
Subsequently, the initial miracle of regeneration for salvation,
continues to be evidenced in the supernatural power born again
believers have to love others like God through their New Nature.
Against the backdrop of humanity’s constant and complete
selfishness, love is as great a miracle as levitation, violating all
kinds of “natural laws” at least as pervasive as gravity.
Considerably more is said of these topics elsewhere. 22

A.5) Supernaturally providing divine communication

It is not only in the realm of divine Creation and human events


that miracles occur, but also in divine communication. Again, our
definition of a miracle includes an extraordinary revelation of God’s
supernatural . . . communication by which He intervenes in the
ordinary . . . processes He has ordained because they are not
sufficient to . . . communicate His will. Therefore, a miracle can
also be considered an intervention into the normal process
established by God to communicate to His people.
For example, the most consistent, regular, and established
method of personal communication from God has been Scripture. 23
In addition, our New Nature is a constant revelation of God’s will. 24
However, when God sees fit, He breaks through this normal mode
of contact and initiates miraculous means such as Angels, voices,
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 39
and visions. These means of miraculous communication have many
of the same supernatural characteristics as a miraculous deed.
First, miraculous communication is a supernatural intervention
in the normally sufficient God-ordained methods of obtaining truth.
Accordingly, the Apostle Paul writes of his experience:
I want you to know, brothers, that the Gospel I
preached is not something that man made up. I did not
receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I
received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (Gal 1:11-12)

Here, the Apostle enumerates several God-ordained methods by


which humans naturally gain truth. First, by reasoning wisely
humans can discover truth. 25 But the Apostle says his knowledge
of the Gospel did not come from anyone’s reasoning, or
“something that man made up.” Secondly, Scripture and God-
given Evangelists and Teachers are an essential and predominant
means that God has established in order for His people to obtain
particularly spiritual truth. However, the Apostle denies that his
knowledge of the Gospel derived from “any man” or teaching.
Rather, the Apostle experienced a supernatural communication of
spiritual truth that transcended both unregenerated human reason
(cf. 1 Cor 1:18-25; 2:1-13), and substantial teachings of the OT
Scriptures available to him (cf. Gal 5:2-6).
Again, such a miraculous communication of information can be
contrasted with the more natural means of divine communication
such as Scripture. Initially, one might balk at the suggestion that
anything about Scripture is natural. However, we would suggest
that while its contents certainly are supernatural, and require Spirit-
liberated reason to understand and appreciate them, its attributes
as a means of communication (a book) are not supernatural.

A.6) Distinguishing the natural from the supernatural

Of course, all power in the Universe is ultimately God’s power,


for there is no power, or even mere existence, apart from that
which has been granted by the Creator (cf. 1 Chr 29:11-12; John
1:3; 13:3; Col 1:16-17). Whether it is the power operating in
plants or planets, humans or even demons, all such power is on
loan from God. Accordingly, we read in Colossians concerning
Christ: “all things were created by Him and for Him. He is
before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (1:16).
Therefore, the power of God can ultimately, and at least
indirectly, be observed in essentially everything, potentially making
the distinction of a miracle more obscure. As the NT scholar D. A.
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 40
Carson remarks: “The definition of "miracle" is surprisingly difficult.
In a theistic universe, everything that takes place is in some sense
God's deed.” 26 Accordingly, it is tempting to define virtually
everything as a miracle of God, especially with the need to defend
the existence of miracles against a host of anti-Christian “isms”
including atheism, anti-supernaturalism, deism, Darwinism,
humanism, and materialism.
Consequently, a sharp distinction between the miraculous and
Nature has not always been reflected in Christian theology. For
example, Augustine (354-430) wrote in his City of God:
Is not the universe itself a miracle, yet visible and of God's
making? Nay, all the miracles done in this world are less than
the world itself, the heaven and earth and all therein; yet God
made them all, and after a manner that man cannot conceive
or comprehend. For though these visible miracles of nature be
now no more admired, yet ponder them wisely, and they are
more astonishing than the strangest; for man is a greater
miracle than all that he can work. . . .
We do, of course, call all portents [miracles] against nature,
but they are not. For how is something against nature that
happens by the will of God? How can this be when the will of
so great a founder is without a doubt the nature of every
created thing? And so a portent is not against nature, but
against the nature which is known. 27

Accordingly, it would seem Augustine is saying that the fact that


a human being can see or hear is a miracle, and such a view leads
him to assert that miracles are not against Nature.
John Calvin (1509–1564) implies the same when he writes that
a human is:
a rare example of God’s power, goodness, and wisdom, and
contains within himself enough miracles to occupy our minds,
if only we are not irked at paying attention to them. . . .
[Humans] have within themselves a workshop graced with
God’s unnumbered works. . . . Manifold also is the skill with
which it [human mind] devises things incredible, and which is
the mother of so many marvelous devices. 28

Such a view has dominated Christian theology such that the


Christian apologists Alan Richardson remarks:
[T]raditional Christian theology, particularly in its Augustinian
form, has always laid great stress upon the fact that the whole
universe is miraculous in this sense, becoming for us more and
not less miraculous as our knowledge of its processes
increases. . . . All the miraculous things in the world are
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 41
themselves a part of the general revelation of the everlasting
power and divinity of the Creator. 29

It should not surprise us then, that many modern Christian


theologians reflect this same emphasis in their definitions of a
miracle. For example, the renowned theologian J. I. Packer writes:
A miracle is an observed event that triggers awareness of
God’s presence and power. Striking providences and childbirth
[a natural process], no less than works of new creative power,
are properly called miracles since they communicate this
awareness. 30

Labeling natural processes as miracles has precedent in


Scripture as well. 31 Accordingly, we read in Job: “He [God]
performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that
cannot be counted. He bestows rain on the Earth; He sends
water upon the countryside” (Job 5:9-10). Clearly, such a
passage implies that rainfall is a miracle.
As noted, there is value in such an approach, particularly in an
age when the power of God in anything is ignored. However, there
are several problems with not distinguishing God’s power in Nature
from that in miracles. First of all, there is truth in the maxim that if
we make everything miraculous, then nothing is miraculous at all.
As a result, we are left with what Albert Einstein (1879-1955) said
were the only two ways to live, “One is as though nothing is a
miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” 32 Along
the same lines, “Old Princeton” theologian B. B. Warfield (1851–
1921) wrote:
It is not easy to view, therefore, with other than grave
apprehension, the breaking down of the distinction between
miracles and the general supernatural [in Nature]; because it
tends to obliterate the category of the miraculous altogether.
33

Likewise the Reformed theologian John Gerstner (1914-1996)


noted, “If all nature became [or was considered] supernatural,
there would be no room for miracle; nothing would be miracle
because all would be miracle.” 34 Along the same lines, theologian
Winfried Corduan writes that, “The whole reason for the concept of
a miracle is to distinguish miracles from ordinary, natural events.”
35

Therefore, if a miracle is defined simply as a display of God’s


power, then everything would be miraculous, thereby really making
nothing uniquely miraculous. So while we certainly recognize the
divine power in Nature, we must distinguish it from the
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 42
supernatural power in miracles. And it is in the ability of the
supernatural to overpower the natural that makes the power of
miracles so superior and evident. 36
Scripture itself reflects this. Theologians are right to point out
that the biblical writers are often indifferent about the distinction
between the divine power in Nature and that in miracles, and this is
no doubt because of a desire to portray God’s power as the
foundation of everything in the Universe. Nonetheless, we would
suggest that Scripture does distinguish between miracles and
Nature. Accordingly, the great Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck
(1854–1921) wrote:
God's . . . works are frequently described in Scripture as
wonders (Ps. 77:13; 97:3; 98:1; 107:24; 139:14). From this
fact, however, we must not infer . . . that Scripture makes no
distinction between nature and miracle. Certainly the notion
that a miracle would be contrary to the laws of nature and
therefore impossible does not arise. All of Scripture proceeds
rather from the belief that nothing is too wonderful for God
(Gen. 18:14; Deut. 8:3f; Matt. 19:26). This does not imply,
however, that Scripture lacks the distinction between the
ordinary order of nature and the extraordinary deeds of divine
power.
The OT knows a stable natural order, ordinances that apply
for heaven and earth and are firmly established in the
expressed will of the Lord (Gen. 1:26, 28; 8:22; Ps. 104:5, 9;
119:90, 91; 148:6; Eccles. 1:10; Job 38:10f; Jer. 5:24;
31:35f.; 33:20, 25). And the NT makes an equally clear
distinction between the two (Matt. 8:27; 9:5, 24, 33; 13:54;
Luke 5:9; 7:16; 8:53; John 3:2; 9:32; etc.). 37

Therefore, while we wish to maintain the biblical idea that God’s


power is behind any power on this planet, for the sake of clarity in
discussing the particular phenomenon of miracles, we wish to
distinguish the divine power that works in Nature, and that which
operates in miracles.
Our distinction between natural and supernatural power reflects
the fact that when the supernatural action involved in a miracle
ceases, the object involved in a miracle often immediately returns
to operating under natural laws. 38 For example, when God stopped
doing whatever He did to stop the sun in Joshua’s day, it then
continued as it had, and has, for centuries. Likewise, after the Holy
Spirit supernaturally impregnated Mary, the physical aspects of
Jesus’ birth was just like any other. When the King and the Apostle
Peter stepped into the boat after walking on water, the natural laws
of gravity resumed (cf. Matt 14:25-33). Once the King
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 43
supernaturally transformed the molecular structure of water into
wine, the resulting wine had precisely the same chemical properties
as any other wine, although apparently particularly good wine (cf.
John 2:1-11).
This process of the power of Nature resuming after the power
of a miracle has had its effect has been the course of Creation since
the beginning. As we wrote elsewhere:
At the beginning of Creation, all kinds of supernatural, one-of-
a-kind types of things were done. But after Creation was
complete, those acts recorded in Genesis 1-2 were no longer
needed or repeated. Instead of the initial and more
supernatural act of creating a human from dust or a rib, God
thereafter created them in a more natural fashion in a womb.
39

In other words, we would suggest for the sake of clarity that the
initial act of creating humans from dust was a supernatural miracle,
but the subsequent event of childbirth occurs through natural
processes implemented by God, and is not a miracle. Likewise,
when the King healed lame, blind, or dead people, it required
supernatural power, as such things are impossible with the power
God has instilled in Nature. However, after such people started
walking, seeing, or living, the power by which they did so was
natural in nature, not supernatural. 40
It is precisely because the supernatural returns to what
becomes natural, that the natural must be kept in mind for a
miracle to be recognized. For example, only those who knew
Christ’s wine had been instantly created from water could know the
resulting wine was a miracle because now it seemed rather like
normal wine. Likewise, only those who knew a blind or lame man
before Christ healed them, could know that their now normally
operating eye or arm was a miracle. Creation is recognized as a
result of supernatural power because we know of no power in
Nature able to produce such a thing. Even while we may recognize
divine power in the orderliness sustained by God’s natural laws, we
have no evidence that those laws are capable of producing new
universes. Finally, the miracle of the “new creation” (cf. 2 Cor
5:17) of Christian people who supernaturally obey God and love
people can only be recognized as we compare our new selves with
our old selves and with the rest of the unregenerated world.
Therefore, it is important to distinguish between the supernatural
power in miracles from the divine power working in Nature, if we
are to distinguish miracles at all.
Accordingly, Dr. Gerstner notes:
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 44
Indeed the argument for miracle rests on the regularity of
nature generally. There is no such thing as supernatural
events except as they are seen in relation to the natural. And
they would not be extraordinary if there were no ordinary
against which background they are seen. They could not be
signs of anything if they were not different from the status
quo. When one argues for the occasional miracle, he is in the
same breath arguing for the usually nonmiraculous. If all
nature became supernatural, there would be no room for
miracle; nothing would be miracle because all would be
miracle. 41

In fact, it is our constant experience with the laws of Nature that


trains us to recognize a miracle. Along these lines, Bernard Ramm
(1916-1992) wrote:
No matter where man has lived he has become directly
acquainted with his own powers and those of his environment.
He learns how much he can lift, how long he can work, and
how far he can run. He has some sense of the strength of the
wind, the bite of the frost, the heat of the sun's rays, the force
of a flood, and the violence of a lightning bolt. His life is a
constant pitting of his powers against those of his
environment. The psychological intensity of this struggle is
greatest at times of sickness and death. In his experiences
with power-his own and that of nature-he develops an
alphabet (or calculus) of power.
This alphabet is never the same with all peoples, and may
change much within the historical existence of a particular
people. But man is aware when something transcends his
alphabet of power. Something which suddenly stands outside
this alphabet speaks to him of a power greater than what he
has heretofore experienced, and usually points man to an
Omnipotent Spirit.
Christian evidences deals with the action of God in
transcending the alphabets of power of the various cultures
and periods into which his revelation came. When God so
transcends an alphabet of power, he has prepared the
situation. God has controlled the alphabet of power of the
people to whom he shall speak; he has chosen, furthermore,
to act supernaturally in connection with his plans of revelation
and redemption. 42

Not only must we distinguish between the natural and


supernatural in order to recognize miracles, but such a distinction is
an important concept in the debates concerning super-
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 45
supernaturalism and anti-supernaturalism. Due to the many claims
to miracles of the former, it is important to recognize whether these
truly are supernatural. As we discuss elsewhere, many of these
occurrences turn out to be rather more natural or psychological
than supernatural upon closer investigation. 43
On the other hand, as discussed further elsewhere, some strains
of anti-supernaturalism deny that divine miracles violate “natural
laws” at all. 44 However, the supernatural characteristic of miracles
need not be interpreted as a disparagement of Nature, but is
actually a recognition of its God-ordained power. In other words, it
is because the natural processes that God has established in
Creation are so stable and strong that the supernatural intervention
of them is so recognizable and miraculous.
How then do we best distinguish supernatural events from
natural ones? Essentially by their frequency, which in turn
determines their effect, both of which are topics to which we now
turn.

B) Miracles Are Extraordinary in Frequency:


Extremely Rare

B.1) The rarity of miraculous deeds

A miracle then is extraordinary because it supernaturally


intervenes, interrupts, and even violates the consistent “natural
laws” and processes that God has ordained to maintain and
communicate to His Creation. This attribute results in another
essential characteristic of miracles, namely their extreme rarity.
Because God has created the processes of Nature to be so
pervasive, constant, and sufficient in the Universe, any interruption
or manipulation of them will be very uncommon. Therefore, it is
the extreme rarity of the miraculous that is also essential to its
nature and recognition. 45 While we would certainly claim that God
is still performing miracles today, it should be kept in mind that
divine intervention of any kind into His created order is a miracle,
and miracles are miracles because they are not the norm.
Accordingly, NT scholar Collin Brown writes:
[F]amiliarity breeds contempt. . . . The difference between a
miracle and an ordinary event in nature lies ultimately in the
rarity of the former. Both, in fact, are wonders and both are
ultimately the work of God. 46
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 46
As we have already noted, while Dr. Brown affirms the fact that
God’s power is behind everything in Creation, it is the extreme
rarity of miracles that best enables us to distinguish the divine
power operating in them from that which empowers the regular
processes of Nature, which is necessary if we are to recognize
miracles at all. Subsequently, the rarity of a miracle results in the
awe that is the proper response to a miracle.
For example, some acts of God’s power, such as the “rising of
the sun,” are more frequent than others, and because of its
frequency, it is less remarkable, and might we say, not miraculous.
Compare this, however, with the one recorded time that the sun
“stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down
about a full day” (Josh 10:13). Both the rising and stopping of
the sun depend on divine power, but the latter is understandably
more awe-inspiring than the former because it is considerably less
frequent, disrupting the normal processes of Nature, and therefore
a miracle.
This is why the extraordinary nature of a miracle must be
defined in terms of frequency, not its source, because God is the
ultimate source of everything. Erroneously defining a miracle in the
simple sense of God’s power results in even a great theologian as J.
I. Packer writing, as we quoted him above:
A miracle is an observed event that triggers awareness of
God’s presence and power. Striking providences and
childbirth, no less than works of new creative power, are
properly called miracles since they communicate this
awareness. 47

Unfortunately, such a perspective on miracles makes the topic


even more confusing than it already is by failing to distinguish
between the divine power invested in Creation and the supernatural
power intervening in a miracle, both of which can “trigger
awareness of God’s presence and power.” By invested divine power
we mean that energy which God put into Nature at the beginning of
Creation and which continues to propel its natural laws without God
needing to constantly intervene. For example, after Jesus changed
the water into wine He did not need to continue to exercise
miraculous powers over it to keep it from turning back into water.
The invested energy of the original miracle changed its DNA and it
simply continued to exist as it was created to.
Defining a miracle as simply an act of divine power, or in its
effect of awe leads Dr. Packer to define normal childbirth as a
miracle. However, most child births are no miracle, while the virgin
birth of Christ was. This is not because only Christ’s birth required
the power of God, since all childbirths ultimately do. Rather, it is
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 47
the rarity of the virgin birth that makes it extraordinary enough to
be a miracle.
The extreme rarity of the miraculous is not only required in
order to distinguish it from the common, but it is demonstrated in
Scripture as well. Unfortunately, super-supernaturalists have used
several Scripture passages to support their claim that miracle
workers are to be abundant in the Church today. This is usually
accomplished by presenting a list of all the miracles in the Bible,
which admittedly is large.
Along these lines, super-supernaturalist author Jack Deere
writes:
No one ever just picked up the Bible, started reading, and
then came to a conclusion that God was not doing signs and
wonders anymore and that the [miracle working] gifts of the
Holy Spirit had passed away. The doctrine of cessationism
[historicism] did not originate from a careful study of the
Scriptures. The doctrine of cessationism originated in [a lack
of] experience. 48

Of course, all kinds of error could come from just picking up the
Bible and reading. For example, a more careful student of Scripture
will notice: every God-sent miracle worker in the Bible was also a
messenger of new extra-biblical divine revelation, primarily in the
context of implementing a new divine/human covenant. The
Scriptures constitute a very special history of such covenant making
which required miraculously authenticated divine messengers.
Because such covenant making is not occurring today, we should
not expect to see the numbers and kind of particularly human
miracle working as in Scripture. 49
In addition, miracles were not nearly as consistent in even
biblical history as super-supernaturalists would have us believe.
Accordingly, Robert L. Saucy, Distinguished Professor of Systematic
Theology at Talbot School of Theology writes:
Some times of [biblical] history far eclipsed others in the
magnitude of miraculous activity. The very fact that
miraculous phenomena were not constant throughout the
history of God’s people in the Old Testament should caution us
against assuming that the level of miracles in the early church
of the Apostles is constant for all of subsequent church history.
50

The super-supernaturalist’s reference to Jeremiah 32:20 does


not change this fact. There the Prophet says, “You performed
miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt and have continued
them to this day, both in Israel and among all mankind, and
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 48
have gained the renown that is still Yours.” No one is denying
that God performed signs and wonders throughout Israel’s history,
precisely because God was sending messengers of new extra-
biblical divine revelation throughout Israel’s history. But to use this
verse to suggest that the same hyper-level of miracle working
occurred throughout Jewish history as it did in Egypt, and as it is
supposedly today, cannot be substantiated. 51
Consider for example what the Psalmist says about the Exodus
miracles hundreds of years after they had occurred:
I will utter . . . things from of old—what we have heard
and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not
hide them from their children; we will tell the next
generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, His
power, and the wonders He has done” (Ps 78:3-4; cf. vs.
12-14).

Why would it be so important for a generation hundreds of years


removed from miraculous events, to pass it on to the next
generation, if God was doing an abundance of miracles in every
generation? The necessity of the Psalmists words stems from the
fact that the miraculous was extremely rare even in biblical times.
Our claim that miraculous deeds are extremely rare disagrees
with the very foundation of super-supernaturalism. It is common
for those in this camp to amass rather large lists of miracles in
Scripture, or those that have, or are happening around the world,
and then suggest that miracles are common. What is left out of
such a list is the almost infinite number of non-miraculous moments
occurring constantly in the lives of both biblical characters and
those living today.
For example, imagine how many times in the life of Philip the
Evangelist that he took a normal, natural step with his human legs
and feet to get somewhere? Thousands a day? Hundreds of
millions in his life? However, there was one recorded time that God
miraculously and instantly transported Philip from a desert road to
Azotus (cf. Acts 8:39-40). It’s safe to say that Philip would tell us
this miracle was extremely rare in his life and that normally he had
to simply walk to get to where he was going. If we will compare
the relatively few recorded miraculous events in Scripture or the
world today, with the innumerable non-miraculous natural events
also constantly occurring, we will maintain a true perspective on the
extreme rarity of miracles and not be skewed in a deceptive super-
supernaturalist way.
And it is important that divine miracles are understood as rare.
It is precisely the super-supernaturalist teaching that miracles are
abundant that has discouraged and disillusioned a multitude of
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 49
God’s people. If, for example, miraculous healings are so
abundant, then what are the vast majority of people who are not
miraculously healed supposed to think? Contrary to super-
supernaturalism, divine miracles are extremely rare and
understanding this attribute keeps such miracles in their proper
perspective. 52

B.2) The rarity of miraculous communication

In a subsequent chapter we will encounter means of miraculous


revelation that God used temporarily, maybe even once, and then it
was discontinued. 53 In fact, to our knowledge, no one has claimed
their use for thousands of years.
We are not aware of anyone alleging since OT times to have
heard God in a burning bush (cf. Exod 3:1-4) or through a donkey
(cf. Num 22:24-31). God manifested Himself to His people as a
“pillar of cloud” by day and a “pillar of fire” by night (cf. Exod
13:21) for only a relatively short time. We no longer expect to hear
from God through an ephod (cf. 1 Sam 23:9-12) or the Urim and
Thummim (cf. Exod 28:30) because He has discontinued these
means of communication with no expectation of their return.
Accordingly, Gary Friesen remarks, “God spoke to Balaam
through a donkey. Should each believer keep one in his back yard
just in case?” 54 Likewise, OT scholar Bruce Waltke rightly notes,
“Hearing the voice of God in an audition or seeing His messengers
in a vision are rare events, and the Bible records them precisely
because they are so significant,” 55 and so rare.
It is understandable, of course, that we would desire God to
speak to us apart from Scripture in more miraculous ways.
However, because such methods as Angels, audible voices, and
visions are miraculous, they are extremely rare. This does not
mean they are non-existent, but their miraculous nature makes the
all too common claim to them very suspect. Miraculous
communication is extremely rare not only because anything
miraculous is, but also because of the great sufficiency of the more
normal means of divine communication established by God,
including Scripture. Again, we are claiming that miracles of divine
communication occur only when the ordinary processes He has
ordained are not sufficient to communicate His will. And this simply
isn’t very often.
As we discuss elsewhere, mega mysticism consistently
disparages the value of the Bible for personal guidance in order to
claim a need for the mystical guidance it promotes. A foundational
error in mega mysticism as well, is the belief that God has a specific
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 50
extra-biblical will for the amoral issues in our life. On the contrary,
God rarely has a will for such things, and has given us reason in
order to make wise decisions, based on the revelation of Scripture
and the moral desires of our New Nature, negating a large part of
the reason mega mysticism claims we need miraculous
communication. 56 In our mega mystical and super-supernaturalist
age, Christians need to remember that God is not in the habit of
doing for us what He has already enabled us to do ourselves.

C) Miracles Are Extraordinary in Effect:


Awe-inspiring

C.1) Awe-inspiring miraculous deeds

It is no surprise that if an event is extraordinary in supernatural


power and extreme rarity, that it will have an extraordinary effect
as well. In a word, miracles arouse “awe” which Webster’s defines
as, “inspiring emotion in which dread, veneration, and wonder are
variously mingled.” 57 Practically speaking, the emotional response
of awe is perhaps the easiest way in which we know that a miracle
has occurred. In fact, we get our English word “miracle” from the
Latin miraculum which means something that evokes wonder. 58
The reason that miracles inspire awe is because of the two
attributes already discussed: their supernatural power and their
extreme rarity. These combine to produce the effect we expect
from a miracle.
Accordingly, the Scriptures consistently describe miracles in
ways that reflect their awe-inspiring nature. NT authors use Greek
words such as thaumazō (“be astonished”), thambos
(“amazement”), existēmi (“amazed”), ekplesso (“astonish”),
ekstasis (“awe”), and teras (“a wonder”). This rather bewildering
array of words used in the NT to describe the miraculous suggests
the difficulty that the NT authors had in describing such events.
When a miracle occurred, believers and unbelievers alike were
profoundly affected.
For example, Matthew records that, “when [a] demon was
driven out, [and] the man who had been mute spoke . . . [t]he
crowd was amazed [thaumazō] and said, "Nothing like this
has ever been seen in Israel"” (Matt 9:33). We see here that
both the obvious supernatural nature of the event, and its
infrequency, made this the “amazing” event that is a miracle. Luke
records the same incident and adds that the witnesses, “were
filled with awe” [ekstasis] (5:26).
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 51
Likewise, at the healing of a boy the people, “were all amazed
[ekplesso] at the greatness of God . . . [and] was marveling
[thaumazō] at all that Jesus did” (Luke 9:43). Understandably,
when the King raised a young girl from the dead, “Her parents
were astonished” [existēmi] (Luke 8:56). Christ obviously
noticed this repeated response when He comments to a crowd, “I
did one miracle, and you are all astonished” [thaumazō] (John
7:21). Similarly, when the King made the fig tree whither, the
disciples “were amazed” [thaumazō] (Matt 21:20).
The kind of miracle working that occurred through the Apostles
resulted in the same public astonishment. When the Apostle Peter
and John healed a lame man, the people, “were filled with
wonder [thambos] and amazement [ekstasis] at what had
happened to him. While the beggar held on to Peter and
John, all the people were astonished” [ekthambos] (Acts 3:10-
11). When the Apostles were given the miraculous gift of speaking
in tongues, the crowd was, “Utterly amazed [existēmi thaumazō]
[and] asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking
Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his
own native language?” (Acts 2:7-8). 59 Simon the magician in
Samaria, “followed Philip everywhere, astonished [existēmi]
by the great signs and miracles he saw” (Acts 8:13).
It is interesting to notice that fear was often mixed with the
astonishment. We read of the early Church that, “Everyone was
filled with awe [phobos: “fear”], and many wonders and
miraculous signs were done by the Apostles” (Acts 2:43).
Luke tells us that a miraculous fishing expedition caused the Apostle
Peter to fall “at Jesus' knees” in fear and confess his sinfulness
because, “he and all his companions were astonished
[thambos] at the catch of fish they had taken” (5:8-9).
Likewise, after the King miraculously stilled a storm, the disciples,
“In fear [phobeo] and amazement [thaumazō] . . . asked one
another, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and
the water, and they obey Him."” (Luke 8:25). A short time
later, after Christ had cast a “legion” of “demons” into a “large
herd of pigs,” sending them to their death, Luke records, “all the
people of the country of the Gerasenes and the surrounding
district asked Him to depart from them; for they were
gripped with great fear [phobos]” (cf. 8:30-37). 60
There is no doubt that the consistent use of “wonder(s)” (teras)
to refer to the miracles recorded in the Bible is a reflection of the
utter amazement that surrounded them. In fact this Greek word
occurs 16 times in the NT and it only refers to miracles, and is
always used in conjunction with “signs” (sēmeion) which also refers
to miracles. For example, the Apostle Peter says, “Men of Israel,
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 52
listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by
God to you by miracles, wonders (teras) and signs, which God
did among you through Him, as you yourselves know” (Acts
2:22; cf. 4:30; 5:12; 2 Cor. 12:12; Heb. 3:4). This same attribute
of causing wonder was accredited to miracles by God Himself in the
OT. He tells Moses, “I will stretch out My hand and strike the
Egyptians with all the wonders [pala’] that I will perform
among them” (Exod. 3:20; cf. 15:11). Amazement,
astonishment, awe, fear, repentance, and breathless wonder are
the normal response of anyone who is exposed to a real divine
miraculous deed. 61

C.2) Awe-inspiring miraculous communication

Obviously, occurrences of miraculous communication normally


have an awe-inspiring effect on people as well. For example, when
Zechariah saw an Angel, “he was startled and was gripped with
fear” (Luke 1:12). Likewise, when some shepherds received a
message from an Angel they were, “terrified” (Luke 2:9), and a
similar encounter for some women left them, “trembling and
bewildered” (Mark 16:8). When Jacob realized God had spoken to
him in a dream, “He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this
place!’” (Gen 28:17). Those who experienced visions of God or
Christ like the Prophet Daniel and the Apostle John, “turned
deathly pale” and “fell at His feet as though dead” (Dan 10:8;
Rev 1:17).
Therefore, we are not surprised at the following account of King
Belshazzar’s encounter with miraculous revelation at a banquet he
was hosting:
Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and
wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in
the royal palace. The King watched the hand as it
wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened
that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way.
(Dan 5:5-6)

Of course, some of the overwhelming emotion experienced in


miraculous communication is due to the content of the message and
perhaps not only its supernatural means (cf. Dan 4:4-5; Job 7:14;
Luke 1:29). However, this is not always the case as demonstrated
in the example above of King Belshazzar who didn’t even know
what the inscription meant and needed Daniel to interpret it (cf.
Dan 5:7, 13-17).
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 53
Likewise, when some men traveling with Saul heard an invisible
Jesus speak they were, “speechless” (Acts 9:7), but not because
of the content of the message, as the Apostle describes later, “they
did not understand the voice of Him Who was speaking to me
(Acts 22:9). Understandably their response was simply due to the
overwhelming emotion that humans naturally feel when they
experience miraculous communication from God.
Perhaps Eliphaz the Temanite expresses this best in a
description of his own apparent experience with a supernatural
means of divine revelation:
A word was secretly brought to me, my ears caught a
whisper of it. Amid disquieting dreams in the night,
when deep sleep falls on men, fear and trembling seized
me and made all my bones shake. A spirit glided past
my face, and the hair on my body stood on end. It
stopped, but I could not tell what it was. A form stood
before my eyes, and I heard a hushed voice: ‘Can a
mortal be more righteous than God?’ (Job 4:12-17)

C.3) Ramifications of the awe-inspiring nature of miracles

A sense of awe, an “emotion in which dread, veneration, and


wonder are variously mingled” then, are God’s intended affects for
His miracles. Nonetheless, while the inspiration of awe is an
important attribute of miracles, it is not sufficiently objective
enough in itself to recognize one. As Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
remarked long ago, “it may seem astonishing to ignorant people
that a magnet attracts iron.” Astonishing, yes, but it is neither a
supernatural, nor extremely rare occurrence.
Likewise, most first-time fathers will insist that childbirth is an
extraordinary miracle from God, and while it is difficult to disagree,
a delivery room doctor would testify that it is neither supernatural
nor rare. Again, as Colin Brown put it, “familiarity breeds contempt
[the opposite of awe]. . . . The difference between a miracle and an
ordinary event in nature lies ultimately in the rarity of the former,”
62
not how wonderful we think it may be.
In addition, it is because of our confidence that God will supply
what is needed in order for a miracle to be recognized among
regenerated believers, that we are not impressed with the claims
particularly in super-supernaturalism and prophetism to an
abundance of miraculous deeds and communication. “Healed”
headaches and “prophetic” declarations by people who cannot
foretell the future inspire little of the wonder and awe that biblical
miracles did. Simply put, such claims only serve to remind us just
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 54
how far we are removed from “the good ole days” in the early
Church when a miracle really was a miracle! 63

Extras & Endnotes

A Devotion to Dad

Our Father in Heaven, we praise You for Your miraculous works.


We are so thankful for all the ways You have revealed Yourself to
us! Help us to properly recognize Your work around us so that we
may give You the glory. But also help us not to exaggerate
miracles so that we do not lie about You. But God. We pray today
for a miracle. During this time of studying miracles, we simply ask
You out of Your power and goodness to do an unmistakable miracle
as an object lesson for us and a glory to You.

Gauging Your Grasp

1) We claim that the supernaturalness of miracles may not so


much be in interrupting processes, but in manipulating them to
occur at a certain time and place. What are biblical examples of
this?

2) What is the difference between God allowing something and


causing it? How does this relate to recognizing the occurrence
of a miracle?

3) Why are we certain that real miracles will be readily recognized?

4) Why do we claim love is as great a miracle as levitation? Do


you agree or disagree and why?

5) What other category of miracles is important to recognize


besides just miraculous deeds?

6) What do we mean by God’s invested and intervening power in


Nature? Why is it important to distinguish the two?

7) How does living in the world train us to recognize a miracle?


10.2: Attributes of Miracles 55
8) We claim that in our mega mystical and super-supernaturalist
age, Christians need to remember that God is not in the habit of
doing for us what He has already enabled us to do ourselves.
Do you agree or disagree and why? What ramifications does
this have on our lives?

9) What are some ways that Scripture describes the response of


people to miracles?

10) Why aren’t we impressed with many of the claims in super-


supernaturalism to miracles? Do you agree or disagree and
why?

Publications & Particulars


1
Webster’s Dictionary; online at www.merriam-webster.com.
2
Norm Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Baker, 1999),
450
3
For further discussion of the denial of the manipulation and violation of
natural laws in miracles see section 10.12.A.3.
4
We use the term “natural law” here and throughout this chapter to refer
to the physical laws perceived to govern the Universe, including such
laws as gravity and thermodynamics.
5
Many in and outside the Church are skeptical that the Earth actually
stopped revolving for a day. For further defense of this miracle see
section 10.12.A.3
6
Dr. Geisler notes:
"Power" (dunamis) is sometimes used in the New Testament to refer
to human power (2 Cor. 1:8) or abilities (Matt. 25:15) or demonic
powers (Luke 10: 19; Rom. 8:3 8). Like its Old Testament parallel,
the New Testament term is often translated "miracles." Dunamis is
used in combination with "sign and wonder" (Heb. 2:4), of Christ , s
miracles (Matt. 13:58), of the virgin birth of Christ (Luke 1:35), of
the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 1:8), of the
"power" of the Gospel to save sinful people (Rom. 1: 16), of the
special gift of miracles (I Cor 12: 10), and of the power to raise the
dead (Phil. 3: 10). The emphasis of the word is on the divine
energizing aspect of a miraculous event (481-82).
7
Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (NICNT) (Eerdmans, 1995),
607.
8
O. Betz, “Might” in New International Dictionary of New Testament
Theology (NIDNTT) Colin Brown, ed., 4 vols., (Zondervan, 1986), 2:603.
9
Morris, 611.
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 56

10
Marcus Aurelius, “Epistle of Marcus Aurelius to the Senate, in Which He
Testifies that the Christians Were the Cause of His Victory”; Online at
www.ccel.org.
11
For further discussion regarding the relationship between prayer and
miracles see section 10.3.C.2.
12
Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway, The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable
True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun (Monarch Books, 2002), 161-
5.
13
Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, Q. 105, art. 6; online at
www.newadvent.org/summa.
14
Jack Finegan notes that there is some evidence that such a Roman
census occurred every fourteen years. And while Finegan gives evidence
that the requirement to return to one’s homeland was not
unprecedented, this requirement would not appear to be the norm. Light
From the Ancient Past: The Archeological Background of Judaism and
Christianity (Princeton University Press, 1959), 260-61.
15
For further examples of fulfilled prophecy in Scripture see chapter 9.8.
16
It is unlikely that anything regarding the terrain of the Red Sea floor
caused the wheels to fall off, the text even specifying that, “the
Israelites went through the sea on dry ground” (Exod 14:22).
17
Yun, 63-9
18
Charles Swindoll, The Mystery of God’s Will (Word, 1999), 193-5
19
For further discussion on a biblical perspective of divine guidance see
chapter 7.15.
20
Quoted by Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit (Zondervan
Publishing House, 1993), 145-6. This story originally appeared in the
Baptist Standard, February 7, 1993, page 24. One of the ironic things
about this healing is that Duane Miller was a former Assemblies of God
Pastor and had left that denomination because he disagreed with their
theology of speaking in tongues and divine healing (282, n. 1).
Unfortunately, Mr. Deere is among the most guilty for using such
miracles as proof that faith healers are legitimate today.
21
For further discussion on miraculous healing see Book 11: Human
Miracle Working
22
For further discussion on the miraculous nature of Christian virtue see
Book 5: Biblical Apologetics. Regarding the New Nature as an essential
means of divine revelation see chapter 7.12.
23
For further discussion of Scripture as a revelation see chapters 7.7-10
24
For further discussion of our New Nature as a divine revelation see
chapter 7.12
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 57

25
For further discussion regarding the God-ordained place of human reason
in the Christian life see chapters 2.4 and 4.4-5.
26
D. A. Carson, in Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical
Church, Michael S. Horton ed. (Moody, 1992), 118, n. 6.
27
Saint Augustine, City of God, 12, 21.8; online at www.ccel.org.
28
John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, trans. Ford Lewis Battles,
I.5.3-5; online at www.ccel.org.
29
Alan Richardson, Christian Apologetics (Harper, 1948), 155-56.
30
J. I. Packer, Concise Theology (Tyndale House, 1993), 57. The confusion
of God’s power in Nature and in miracles is also found in the writings of
such great modern theologians as Norm Geisler and Wayne Grudem.
31
An example of an apparent attempt to equate the natural and
supernatural is found in the article on miracles in the New Bible
Dictionary by M. H. Cressey, Principal of Westminster College at
Cambridge:
A great deal of confusion on the subject of miracles has been
caused by a failure to observe that Scripture does not sharply
distinguish between God's constant sovereign providence and his
particular acts. Belief in miracles is set in the context of a world-view
which regards the whole of creation as continually dependent upon
the sustaining activity of God and subject to his sovereign will (cf.
Col. 1:16-17). All three aspects of divine activity- wonder, power,
significance- are present not only in special acts but also in the whole
created order (Rom. 1:20). When the psalmist celebrates the mighty
acts of God he moves readily from the creation to the deliverance
from Egypt (Ps. 135:6-12). In Job 5:9-10; 9:9-10 the [Hebrew]
word niplā’ ôt [“miracle”] refers to what we would call ‘natural events’
(cf. Is. 8:18; Ezk. 12:6).
Thus when the biblical writers refer to the mighty acts of God they
cannot be supposed to distinguish them from 'the course of nature'
by their peculiar causation, since they think of all events as caused
by God's sovereign power. The particular acts of God highlight the
distinctive character of God's activity, different from and superior to
that of men and more particularly that of false gods, almighty in
power, revealing him in nature and history. (New Bible Dictionary, J.
I. Packer, et al. eds., 3rd ed., [Intervarsity, 1996], 771.
Again, there is truth here, but seeing the world this way obliterates the
category of miracle.
32
David Myers, Intuition: Its Power and Perils (Yale University Press,
2002), 243.
33
B. B. Warfield, Counterfeit Miracles (Banner of Truth Trust, 1972), 164
34
John Gerstner, Reasons for Faith (Harper & Row, n.d.), 90.
35
Winfried Corduan, “Recognizing a Miracle” in In Defense of Miracles,
Douglas Geivett, Gary R. Habermas, eds. (InterVarsity, 1997), 104-5.
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 58

36
Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) also felt that the indirect divine power in
Nature must be distinguished from the direct divine power working in a
miracle:
Some have understood God to work in every agent in such a way
that no created power has any effect in things, but that God alone is
the immediate cause of everything wrought; for instance, that it is
not fire that gives heat, but God in the fire, and so forth. But this is
impossible.
First, because the order of cause and effect would be taken away
from created things; and this would imply lack of power in the
Creator; for it is due to the power of the cause, that it bestows active
power on its effect.
Secondly, because the active powers which are seen to exist in
things, would be bestowed on things to no purpose, if these wrought
nothing through them. Indeed, all things created would seem, in a
way, to be purposeless, if they lacked an operation proper to them. .
. . We must therefore understand that God works in things in such a
manner that things have their proper operation. . . . (Summa
Theologica, I.105.5)
Christian apologist Peter Kreeft comments regarding this statement:
“Note that the misdirected urge to give God more glory and power
denying the efficacy of creatures [i.e. Nature] really detracts from God,
like refusing to admit a ruler's representatives. (A Summa of the
Summa: The Essential Philosophical Passages of St. Thomas Aquinas’
Summa Theologica Edited and Explained for Beginners [Ignatius, 1990],
236).
37
Herman Bavinck, Prolegomena, Church Dogmatics, Vol. 1 (Baker, 2003),
336-7.
Admittedly, while Dr. Bavinck is quoted here as saying, “Scripture
makes [a] distinction between nature and miracle. . . between the
ordinary order of nature and the extraordinary deeds of divine power,” he
seems to contradict himself shortly several pages later when he writes:
While Scripture does know a distinction between the ordinary course
of things and the extraordinary works of God, it does not posit a
contrast between "the natural" and "the supernatural." This contrast
first surfaces in the works of the church fathers. (355)
38
While natural laws do take over after a miraculous event, this does not
negate the continuing existence of the miraculous change effected by the
miracle. In other words, Creation did not return to chaos and the wine
Jesus created did not go back to being water.
39
Excerpt from section 7.3.C.
40
While this distinction between the supernatural and natural can be made
in the case of many miracles, there is one miracle that does not revert
back to natural laws and which actually empowers its subjects to produce
more miracles. This is the miracle of regeneration by which we are
indwelled with the Holy Spirit and enabled to produce the supernatural
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 59

virtues of love and holiness. For further discussion of this see section
10.5.B.3.
41
John Gerstner, Reasons for Faith (Harper & Row, n.d.), 90.
42
Bernard Ramm, in Revelation and the Bible: Contemporary Evangelical
Thought, Carl F. H. Henry, ed. (Baker, 1958), 261.
43
For further discussion regarding the distinction between supernatural and
natural healing especially in the context of claims within charismaticism
see chapter 11.9.
44
The interruption of Nature in a miracle is denied by anti-supernaturalists
and is discussed further at section 10.12.A.3 and B.4.
45
The extreme rarity of miracles would seem to make the charismatic
theologian Wayne Grudem’s definition somewhat of an understatement
when he says a miracle is merely, “a less common kind of God’s activity
in which he arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to
himself” (Systematic Theology [Zondervan, 1994], 355). On the contrary,
miracles are a lot less common kind of God’s activity, which, as we
discuss elsewhere, super-supernaturalists like Dr. Grudem wish to deny.
46
Colin Brown, Miracles and the Critical Mind ( Eerdmans, 1984), 7, 9.
47
Packer, Concise Theology, 57.
48
Ibid., 99; italics in original.
49
For further discussion of the purpose of miracle working see section
3.1.D; 7.1.B.5; 11.1.F.
50
Robert L. Saucy in Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?, Wayne Grudem, ed.
(Zondervan, 1998), 104.
51
For further discussion of the discontinuous nature of miraculous
revelation see section 10.7.C
52
For further discussion of super-supernaturalism see chapters 10.13-16.
53
For further discussion of the discontinuity in methods of miraculous
communication see section 10.7.C.
54
Gary Friesen and J. Maxon, Decision Making and the Will of God
(Multnomah, 1980), 89.
55
Bruce Waltke, Finding the Will of God: A Pagan Notion? (Eerdmans,
1995), 52.
56
For further discussion regarding the will of God in relation to mega
mysticism see section 7.15.B.4. For the importance of reason in decision
making see chapters 2.5 and 4.4-5.
57
Webster’s, 120. This definition is a combination of the Webster entry for
“awesome” defined as “inspiring awe” and the entry for “awe” itself.
58
Norm Geisler also defines each of these terms more specifically:
10.2: Attributes of Miracles 60

"Wonder" Often the words signs and wonders are used together in
the Old Testament of the same event(s) (Exod. 7:3; cf. Deut. 4:34;
7:19; 13:1, 2; 26:8; 28:46; 29:3; 34:11; Neh. 9: 10; Ps. 135:9; Jer.
32:20-21). At other times the Bible describes as "wonders" events
that are elsewhere called "signs" (Exod. 4:21; 11:9-10; Pss. 78:43;
105:27; Joel 2:30). Sometimes the word is used of a natural
"wonder" (Ezek. 24:24) or a unique thing a Prophet did to get his
message across (Isa. 20:3). The word wonder usually has
supernatural (divine) significance.
The Greek word teras means a "miraculous sign, prodigy, portent,
omen, wonder" (Brown, 2:633). It carries with it the idea of that
which is amazing or astonishing (ibid., 623-25). In all sixteen of its
New Testament occurrences, "wonder" is used in combination with
the word "sign." It describes Jesus' miracles (John 4:48; Acts 2:22),
the Apostles' miracles (Acts 2:43; 143; 15:12; Rom. t5:19; Heb. 2:3-
4), Stephen's miracles (Acts 6:8), and Moses' miracles in Egypt (Acts
7:36). It connotes supernatural events before the second coming of
Christ (Matt. 24:24; Mark 13:22; Acts 2:19).
Signs" or "wonders" or both (Exod. 9:16; 32:11; Deut. 4:37; 2
Kings 17:36; Neh. 1:10). Sometimes Hebrew words denoting power
are used in the same verse with "signs and wonders." Moses speaks
of the deliverance of Israel "by miraculous signs and wonders.... by a
mighty hand" (Deut. 4:34; cf. 7:19; 26:8; 34:12). (481-82).
59
The awe which surrounded the first occurrence of the authentic gift of
speaking in languages is in sharp contrast to the effect of the private
prayer language version practiced today. This is because the latter is not
a miracle as it was intended to be, and is not a genuine gift of the Holy
Spirit either. For further discussion of the biblical gift of tongues see
Book 12: The Truth About Tongues.
60
W. Mundle relates in the NIDNTT that the same is seen in the OT by the
use of the Greek thaumazō (“astonished”) to translate the Hebrew words
šāmah (“petrified with fear”) and tāmâh (“astounded, horror-stricken”) in
the LXX in such passages as Lev. 26:32; Job 17:8; 21:5; Dan. 8:27; Ps.
48:6; Jer. 4:9; Heb. 1: 5. Mundle adds, “The latter passages, in
particular, show how the idea of astonishment passes over to that of
horror. The human reaction to God's activity, which is here depicted for
us, is an astonishment mingled with fear and horror.” (2:622)
61
Except for the unregenerated insane humanity whose response to
miracles we discuss at section 4.13.B.
62
Brown, Miracles, 7, 9.
63
For further discussion specifically regarding the fraudulent claims of
miracles in super-supernaturalism see sections 11.7.B.9; 11.8.E-F.
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 61

Chapter 10.3

The Proper Expectation &


Recognition of Miracles

Table of Topics

A) The Importance of Having a Proper Expectation of


Miracles: Trusting God instead of testing Him

A.1) Avoiding the sins of anti and super supernaturalism

A.2) Determining doctrinal matters

A.3) Trusting instead of testing God

B) Reasons to Not Expect Miracles

B.1) Miracles are rarely needed to accomplish God’s will

B.2) Relatively few miracles are promised in Scripture

B.3) Miracles are not needed to demonstrate God’s love

B.4) New divine revelation has ceased

C) Reasons to Expect Miracles

C.1) God’s promises for the present

C.2) The power of prayer

C.3) Controlling calls

C.4) Severe persecution

C.5) New fields for Christianity


10.3: Recognizing Miracles 62

Table of Topics
Continued

D) The Proper Recognition of Miracles

D.1) The Biblical Definition and Attributes of Miracles Must


be Met

D.2) God Desires that People Recognize Miracles

D.3) Born Again Christians are Really Good at Recognizing


Miracles

D.4) Caution is Better than Lying

D.5) Hindsight is Better than Foresight

D.6) Recognize the Possibility of other Explanations

Extras & Endnotes

Primary Points
 Perhaps the most pressing question we have about miracles is
why do they occur at one time and not another? We don’t
know and the Scriptures do not say.
 There are some biblical principles that can be applied to having
a proper expectation of miracles.
 The super-supernaturalist expects miracles constantly and
often falls into the sins of fraud in claiming a multitude of
miracles, and testing God by expecting a multitude of miracles.
 Many areas of sound doctrine are determined by correctly
ascertaining when a miracle is needed.
 The devil would have us expect miracles where God has not
promised one, so that when it does not happen, we conclude
there is something either wrong with God or us.
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 63

Primary Points
Continued

 Super-supernaturalists forget that God will not do for us what


He has already enabled us to do. This, coupled with the fact
that He has enabled us to do everything He has commanded,
is a significant reason why miracles are so extremely rare.
And more often than super-supernaturalists want to admit, the
things we cannot do, simply do not need doing.
 Super-supernaturalists speak as if God owes us miracles.
 The measure of God’s love for us is the cross of Jesus Christ,
not the number of miracles we experience.
 Everyone wants a miracle, but no one wants to really be in
need of one.
 Super-supernaturalists insist that the reason there are not
more miracles occurring in American churches is because non-
super-supernatural Christians abound in skepticism and lack
faith and openness for more miracles to occur. On the
contrary, the reason America does not experience as many
miracles as China is because we abound in churches, Bibles,
preachers, freedom, and even comfort. What we lack is
persecution, not faith.
 Who ultimately decides what makes a miracle a real divine
revelation of a miracle? Our answer is God. God decides what
is sufficiently supernatural, rare, and awe-inspiring enough in
order for an event to be recognized as a miracle.
 Super-supernaturalism and mega mysticism are silly for
accusing their brothers and sisters of intentionally disregarding
the miraculous, as if the danger is that we would have a hard
heart toward glorifying God. On the contrary, the greater
danger is that we really want to glorify ourselves. We must
admit that miraculous interventions in our lives make us feel
very special, and make us look special to others, and because
we may crave such things, we might look for and claim
miracles in events in which they really did not occur.
 “That a particular specified event or coincidence will occur is
very unlikely; that some astonishing unspecified events will
occur is certain.”
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 64

A) The Importance of Having a Proper Expectation


of Miracles: Trusting God instead of testing Him

There is, of course, a great deal about miracles that we cannot


explain. Their supernatural nature not only makes them rare and
awe-inspiring but also rather mysterious. Perhaps one of the most
pressing personal questions we have about them is why do they
occur at one time and not another? Why does God do miracles for
some and not for others? Why did God allow “King Herod” to have
the Apostle “James, the brother of John, put to death with the
sword” (Acts 12:2), but a few days later miraculously rescue the
Apostle Peter from prison and spare his life (cf. Acts 12:6-11)?
Concerning examples we shared in the previous chapter, why was
Brother Yun miraculously delivered from prison several times, while
many other Christians remain rotting there right now? (cf. 9.2.A.2).
Why was Duane Miller’s physical ailment healed and a host of
others are left unhealed? (cf. 9.2.A.3)
We don’t know and the Scriptures do not say. God has not
revealed the reason behind all of His deeds. Accordingly, we read
in Ecclesiastes, “As you do not know the path of the wind, or
how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot
understand the work of God, the Maker of all things” (Eccl
11:5). Likewise the Apostle exclaimed, “Oh, the depth of the
riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How
unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing
out!” (Rom 11:33).
Nonetheless, there are some biblical principles that can be
applied to having a proper expectation of miracles. And the
application of such principles is important for several reasons.

A.1) Avoiding the sins of anti and super supernaturalism

First, having a proper perspective on expecting and recognizing


miracles will help us have a biblical balance between anti-
supernaturalism and super-supernaturalism. The former expects
and recognizes no miracles and therefore denies God glory that He
deserves. The super-supernaturalist expects miracles constantly
and often falls into the sins of fraud in claiming a multitude of
miracles, and testing God by expecting a multitude of miracles.
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 65
A.2) Determining doctrinal matters

Secondly, many areas of sound doctrine are determined by


correctly ascertaining when a miracle is needed. For example,
fairist [Arminian] theologians suggest that no miracle is
necessary prior to someone’s saving faith in the Gospel, but that
conversion is a rather natural process. Gracist [Reformed]
theologians correctly understand, in our opinion, that humans
are not naturally able to produce saving faith in the Gospel and
that God must first supernaturally enable them before they can
savingly receive the Gospel. 1
Likewise, Reformed theologians have insisted that an
ongoing miracle of illumination by the Spirit is needed in order
for us to properly understand and apply Scripture. To the
contrary, we claim that the one-time miracle of regeneration
gives us a Spirit-liberated reason which now rather naturally
receives Scripture properly without needing a continual
supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit to “illumine” the
Bible for us. 2 Again, a decision on both of these important
doctrinal issues rather depends on when and where we believe a
miracle is needed.

A.3) Trusting instead of testing God

Finally, if we do not have a proper and biblical expectation of


miracles, we will be in danger of sinning against God by testing
Him. This is something our super-supernatural brethren often do
not take seriously enough. Simply put, we test God when we
expect, rely on, or demand a miracle that God has not promised.
As we discuss in section C.1 below, there are relatively very few
promises of miracles to the Christian in Scripture for this present
life. Therefore, we had better be very careful about the miracles we
expect, claim, or otherwise demand from God.
The devil tempted Christ to ignore this in his temptations of the
King in the desert. We read:
Then the devil took Him to the holy city and had Him
stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are
the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is
written: “‘He will command His Angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will
not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered
him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to
the test.’” (Matt 4:5-7)
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 66
On this passage, NT scholar Leon Morris (1914-2006)
commented:
The servants of God cannot demand that God should keep
on intervening with miraculous provision for their needs. To
jump from a height and then look to God to avert the natural
consequences of such an act is just such an offense [because
the devil was taking the biblical promise out of context like so
many super-supernaturalists do].
Furthermore, it is worse than what happened at Massah, for
at least the people there were in real need of water [cf. Deut
6:16]. What satan is suggesting is that Jesus should
needlessly thrust himself into danger; he would be creating a
hazard where none previously existed. And for what? To
compel God to save him miraculously. It is a temptation to
manipulate God, to create a situation not of God's choosing in
which God would be required to act as Jesus dictated.
Jesus rejects the suggestion with decision. He prefers the
way of quiet trust in the heavenly Father, a trust that needs
no test, and a ready acceptance of his will. He refuses to
demand a miracle even if from the perspective of someone on
earth that might seem desirable, even compelling. 3

The devil would have us expect miracles where God has not
promised one, so that when it does not happen, we conclude there
is something either wrong with God or us. Also, if we presume
upon God for a miracle in order for Him to prove His love for us we
are committing the egregious sin of testing Him. Likewise, if we
take a particular risk, depending on God for a miracle He has not
promised, we test God as well. 4
Unfortunately, mega mysticism and super-supernaturalism
consistently promote this very thing. Mega mysticism would have
us think and expect that God has promised to lead us specifically
and personally throughout life with His “still small voice” or
miraculous “signs.” As we demonstrate elsewhere, there are no
clear biblical promises of such guidance, and if we expect it, we
may be testing God. 5
Likewise, super-supernaturalists often speak as if we have a
right to be miraculously physically healed and that God has
promised this. Therefore, when such an expectation is developed,
it is testing God, and when it doesn’t happen the natural conclusion
is that there is something wrong with God or us. Super-
supernaturalists promote the idea that God must give us a miracle
beyond our salvation in order to prove His love for us. In super-
supernaturalism God exists to serve and impress us, instead of the
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 67
fact that we exist to serve and please Him. Super-supernaturalists
need to be reminded of St. Augustine’s warning that:
God is tempted in religion itself, when signs and wonders are
demanded of him, and are desired not for some wholesome
purpose but only for experience of them. 6

We are testing, not trusting God when we are asking for a


miracle when we don’t need one. God will not do for us what He
has enabled us to do. And if we expect Him to, we are testing Him
in an illegitimate way. Super-supernaturalism encourages the
expectation of spiritual shortcuts, looking for a miracle instead of an
opportunity to develop our character. Along these lines, the great
missionary statesman, E. Stanley Jones has written:
I believe in miracle, but not too much miracle, for too much
miracle would weaken us, make us dependent on miracle
instead of our obedience to natural law. Just enough miracle
to let us know He is there, but not too much, lest we depend
on it when we should depend on our own initiative and on His
orderly processes for our development. 7

B) Reasons to Not Expect Miracles

In the previous chapter (10.2) we have already discussed one


reason not to expect miracles: Their occurrence has been relatively
very rare in both biblical and secular history. There are other
reasons to expect miracles to be rare as well.

B.1) Miracles are rarely needed to accomplish God’s will

For understanding the proper expectation of miracles it is


important to understand their purpose. We note this in our
definition of a miracle when we state it is when God intervenes in
the ordinary and natural processes He has ordained because they
are not sufficient to accomplish or communicate His will. Such an
understanding helps us to have a proper expectation of miracles.
For example, the natural processes of Nature are very sufficient for
sustaining life on Earth and miraculous intervention is rarely
needed. Also the more natural process of divine communication
through Scripture is extremely “sufficient to accomplish or
communicate God’s will” and extrabiblical revelations would rarely
be needed. 8
In our own personal lives as well, it should be recognized that
by virtue of being made in the image of God and the indwelling
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 68
Spirit, God has given us some remarkable abilities that do not
require the constant, direct intervention of God. God has required
all kinds of things of us, but our one-time regeneration rather
naturally causes all kinds of subsequently supernatural things to
occur such as love, and our spiritual growth. Like the initial
miraculous physical Creation of the Universe, the initial miraculous
New Creation of the Christian enables supernatural things to occur
without the divine intervention of God.
Therefore, a helpful perspective on the issue of when we can
expect a miracle is to remember that God will rarely, if ever, do for
us what He has already enabled us to do. The healthy human does
not need a miracle to walk across the room. The born again human
does not need a miracle to love or forgive someone. They have
already been miraculously equipped to do so, and God expects
them to do so without further miraculous intervention on His part.
Super-supernaturalists insist miracles are needed in abundance
for all sorts of reasons. Part of the problem is that they forget that
God will not do for us what He has already enabled us to do. This,
coupled with the fact that He has enabled us to do everything He
has commanded, is a significant reason why miracles are so
extremely rare. And more often than super-supernaturalists want
to admit, the things we cannot do, simply do not need doing.
Even in the case described in the previous chapter of the
missionary to Uganda (cf. section 10.2.A.2), a miraculous
communication would not have needed to occur. We already have
the commandment in Scripture to “Go and make disciples of all
nations” (Matt 28:19) and therefore already know it is God’s will to
do so in Uganda. And many people in ministry work in particular
places with no such miraculous authentication, and God expects
them to. Therefore, it would be a mistake to suggest, as mega
mysticism and super-supernaturalism would, that such a
supernatural extra-biblical communication is the norm. On the
other hand, when it happens, it should be recognized and
celebrated.
And like the miracle of our salvation, any experience of
subsequent miracles will “not [be] because of righteous things
we [have] done, but because of His mercy” (Tit 3:4).
Therefore, the claim of super-supernaturalists that miracles happen
more abundantly to them because of something special about them
is unbiblical, untrue, and arrogant. 9
Super-supernaturalists speak as if God owes us miracles. We
pray for miracles because they may happen, and we are free to ask,
but we normally have no reason or promises in Scripture to know
they will happen.
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 69
B.2) There are relatively few miracles promised in Scripture
for this life

There are Scriptures that promise every Christian certain


miracles in their life. These will be discussed below. However, we
have written elsewhere:
[W]hile they [the promises for present miraculous intervention
in our life] are wonderful, they are relatively few, much fewer
than many believe or would hope. It is, in fact, a vital need
for Christians to recognize that the vast majority of God’s
promises in Scripture relate to His Second Coming, and not to
this life at all. The Beatitudes are a good example of this (cf.
Matt 5:3-12). This is why the Apostle told us: “set your
hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus
Christ is revealed” (1 Pet 1:13). 10

B.3) Miracles are not needed to demonstrate God’s love for


us

Super-supernaturalism can promote the idea that one of the


greatest proofs and demonstrations of God’s love for us in this life is
His miraculous interventions for us. If this is true, then we would
expect a great number of such interventions because God certainly
desires to communicate His love for us. However, the Scriptures
simply do not teach that miracles are to be a normal demonstration
of God’s love. The measure of God’s love for us is the cross of
Jesus Christ, not the number of miracles we experience.
Accordingly, the Apostle wrote: “God demonstrates His own
love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for
us” (Rom 5:8).
If the cross is not enough proof of God’s love for us, then
nothing else will be. Contrary to a great deal of thinking in
American Christianity, it is not God’s love for us that continues to be
on trial and needing to be tested and demonstrated. On the
contrary, the purpose of the Christian life is to test our love for God,
which is usually best accomplished when God does not
miraculously intervene on our behalf.
While God’s supernatural intervention on our behalf certainly
demonstrates His love for us, it does not mean He loves us less
when He does not miraculously intervene for us. Anyone
demanding a miracle as proof of God’s love is sinfully testing Him.
Suffering is not the punishment of God for His children, nor an
indictment on our lack of commitment to Christ, but rather an
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 70
opportunity to glorify Him and be greatly rewarded. Accordingly,
the King said:
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you
and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of
Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward
in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the
Prophets who were before you (Matt 5:11-12).

“The Prophets” were plenty committed and pleasing to God yet


they suffered in their service to Him. We tend to think the one who
would receive a miraculous rescue from persecution is blessed,
while the King said the one who remains in persecution is blessed.
No doubt those who have not been miraculously rescued from such
suffering will have greater rewards in eternity than those who
experienced a miracle. And miracles from God do not always
deliver us from our circumstances, but, rather, help us gracefully
endure them with “the peace of God, which transcends all
understanding” (Phil 4:7; cf. 2 Cor 12:7-10).

B.4) New divine revelation has ceased

One thing that might be helpful at this point is to eliminate the


possibility of human miracle working from the miracles we might
expect. While we hesitate to add this here, the question we are
addressing is simplified by distinguishing between miracles and
miracle working which we begin to do in the next chapters.
Direct divine miracles are those supernatural events that are
performed by God alone with no intermediary. The healing of
Duane Miller described in the previous chapter is an example.
There was no “healer” involved, not even a prayer, but God just did
it. On the other hand, there is human miracle working in which God
delegates His miracle working abilities to a person (i.e. Prophet or
Apostle) who can then work miracles on command. This is the type
of healing miracles we most often see in Scripture.
The reason this distinction is important in our current discussion
is that direct divine miracles can occur any time and without a clear
reason (e.g. Duane Miller). However, as we argue elsewhere,
human miracle working occurs only to authenticate messengers of
new extra-biblical divine revelation. 11 In fact, in Scripture, you will
not find a single God-sent miracle worker who was not also a source
of new extra-biblical divine revelation. Therefore, Scripture tells us
clearly when and why human miracle working will occur, and if God
is not sending any messengers of new extra-biblical divine
revelation for His people, then there will not be any God-sent
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 71
miracle workers today. And there are none. Again, this will be
discussed further in subsequent chapters, 12 but we wanted to
specify that our discussion here concerning why and when miracles
occur does not include the issue of human miracle working, but only
direct divine miracles.

C) Reasons to Expect Miracles

In spite of all the above, the Scriptures do indicate some


circumstances in which direct divine miracles (as opposed to human
miracle working) may be expected. Here we are reminded of our
definition of a miracle as: an extraordinary revelation of God’s
supernatural power or communication by which He intervenes in the
ordinary and natural processes He has ordained because they are
not sufficient to accomplish or communicate His will. This would
seem to be the best answer as to why miracles occur sometimes,
but not at other times, and generally very rarely. The natural
processes God has implemented to maintain Creation (e.g. natural
laws) and communicate to His people (e.g. Scripture) are usually
very sufficient to accomplish or communicate God’s will. In the
extremely rare cases they are not, a miracle may happen. Such
circumstances are reflected in some of the environments we
describe next in which miracles are more likely to occur.

C.1) God’s promises for the present

God has made some promises concerning this present life on


Earth that require supernatural intervention in order to be fulfilled.
These promises are in two categories, unconditional and conditional.
God’s unconditional promises for all Christians in this life
include:
 Saving His elect for eternity by grace, who were chosen by
grace, before the creation of the world (cf. John 6:37-39;
10:28-29; Acts 13:48; Rom 9:10-23; 11:5-6; Eph 1:3-14;
2:1-10);
 Indwelling us with His Spirit to give us a New Nature (cf. John
14:17, 20; 15:5; Gal 2:20; Eph 4:24; Matt 28:20);
 Conforming us to the image of Christ (cf. Rom 8:28-29; Phil
1:6);
 Building His Church (cf. Matt 16:18);
 Not allowing us to be tempted or tested beyond what we are
able (cf. 1 Cor 10:13).
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 72
 Giving us a spiritual gift, ability, and desire to serve Him in a
unique way (cf. Rom 12:6; 1 Cor 12:7,11)

The conditional promises of God include:


 Meeting our needs if we give generously, trust Him, and
pursue God’s will first (cf. 2 Cor 9:6-13; Phil 4:14-19; Ps
50:15; 55:22; Matt 6:11, 33; Luke 18:29-30);
 Giving us the desires of our heart if we delight in Him (cf. Ps
37:4);
 Giving us grace, comfort, and peace when we trust, obey,
and pray to Him with thanksgiving (cf. 1 Pet 5:5-6; 2 Cor
1:3-4; Phil 4:6-7);
 Protecting us from evil if we pray (cf. 2 Thess 3:3; Eph 6:18;
Matt 6:13);
 A divine blessing for children who honor their parents (Eph
6:1-3);
 Granting our prayer requests if we pray and act according to
His will (cf. John 14:13-14; 1 John 3:22; 5:14-15).

We would suggest that the fulfillment of all these promises


would require some sort of miraculous intervention on God’s part.
Accordingly we have written:
The greatest unconditional promise we have for this life is the
conversion of all of God’s elect for the salvation of their souls.
Contrary to fairist [Arminian] theology, humans are not able to
receive the Gospel because of both sinful and demonic forces
operating in and around them (cf. Rom 8:3-11; 1 Cor 2:12-
15; 2 Cor 4:3-6). This is why they must be supernaturally
born again and enlightened, and why saving faith is purely a
gift of God, not something originating from spiritually dead
humans (cf. John 3:3-8; Acts 16:14; 2 Cor 4:4-6; Eph 2:1-9).
13

Likewise, the promise of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which


comes with our regeneration and conversion is unconditionally
made to all of the elect and requires a miracle to fulfill. In addition,
the subsequent New Nature gives us the ability to perform a
multitude of spiritual miracles of supernatural virtue in our lives. . .
. This indwelling of the Spirit also results in supernatural spiritual
gifts which are also discussed further below.
Likewise, God has promised that He, “works” “all things . . .
for the good” of all His elect, “For [because] those God
foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the
likeness of His Son” (Rom 8:28-29). Of course the final
consummation of this will occur in the Resurrection, but God is
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 73
working now through the indwelling Spirit, and our circumstances,
to help us renew our mind and be more consistently transformed
into the character of Christ, “until the day of Christ” (Phil 1:6).
No doubt, this may include supernatural intervention in the
events of our life to expose areas of need, and teach us in specific
ways. Not only does God never “let you be tempted
[peirasthēmai: “tested”] beyond what you can bear” (1 Cor
10:13), but He may ordain certain tests and circumstances for the
purpose of being “conformed to the likeness of His Son (Rom
8:29). Certainly, a great deal of divine intervention is needed and
experienced in our life to ensure none of them are more than what
we can handle. The Christian lives a divinely filtered life, revealing
the compassion and care of God virtually everyday.
Finally, the unconditional promise of building His Church (Matt
16:18) and never letting the forces of Hell stop it, has certainly
required a multitude of obvious, miraculous interventions of God.
Beyond the supernatural things that accompany any conversion to
eternal life, God has miraculously guided and protected
Missionaries, provided Teachers and Pastors (cf. Eph 4:11-16; Acts
20:28), and performed a myriad of deeds in and around Christians
and churches to ensure His Church is built. 14
While the promises of God for this life are relatively few, they
are the most wonderful promises we could imagine, and we can
expect God to do miracles in order to fulfill them.

C.2) The power of prayer

One will notice in the examples of miracles shared in the


previous chapter that many of them occurred in response to prayer.
We are told, for example, that in regard to the Apostle Peter’s
miraculous escape from prison that, “the church was earnestly
praying to God for him” (Acts 12:5). Likewise, people were
praying for Brother Yun’s release as well. Would these miracles
have occurred without prayer? Perhaps, as it seems that Duane
Miller’s healing did. Nonetheless, asking God for miracles certainly
increases the likelihood of their occurrence. One reason for this is
that God wants to be glorified by miracles and when we pray for
them and receive them, they are usually more appreciated and
readily recognized.
Accordingly, we have written elsewhere:
The last conditional promise . . . [1 John 5:14-15] opens up
all kinds of possibilities for God to personally and miraculously
reveal Himself to us. There are a multitude of things that can
and will happen because we ask God to do them, and they
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 74
would not occur without us asking. We do not have specific
promises for them, but we do have this remarkable promise:
This is the confidence we have in approaching God:
that if we ask anything according to His will, He
hears us. And if we know that He hears us—
whatever we ask—we know that we have what we
asked of Him.

Certainly, “His will” includes those things promised and


prescribed in Scripture, but it can also include things we
simply ask for and God grants. With such a promise we can
significantly influence God’s intervention and direction for our
life, and see significantly more miraculous deeds occur in and
around our life. We refer to this as the prayed-for will of God
which we discuss further . . . elsewhere. 15

Accordingly, there are many stories in the Church of miracles


occurring in answer to prayer. Accordingly, C. S. Lewis (1898–
1963) writes:
I have stood by the bedside of a woman whose thighbone was
eaten through with cancer and who had thriving colonies of
the disease in many other bones as well. It took three people
to move her in bed. The doctors predicted a few months of
life; the nurses (who often know better), a few weeks. A good
man laid his hands on her and prayed. A year later the
patient was walking (uphill, too, through rough woodland) and
the man who took the last X-ray photos was saying, "These
bones are as solid as rock. It's miraculous." 16

Along the same lines, a biographer of the great Baptist preacher


Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892) writes:
Spurgeon prayed for persons in sicknesses of various kinds,
and although in many a case there was no betterment, in
others there was improvement that appeared miraculous. Dr.
Conwell examined several of these experiences, and in 1892,
the year of Spurgeon's death, he declared:
There are now living and worshipping in the Metropolitan
Tabernacle hundreds of people who ascribe the extension
of their life to the effect of Mr. Spurgeon's personal
prayers. They have been sick with disease and nigh unto
death, he has appeared, kneeled by their beds, and prayed
for their recovery. Immediately the tide of health
returned, the fevered pulse became calm, the temperature
was reduced, and all the activities of nature resumed their
normal functions within a short and unexpected period. If
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 75
a meeting were called of all those who attribute their
recovery to the prayer of Mr. Spurgeon, it would furnish
one of the most deserved tributes to his memory that
could possibly be made.

Conwell goes on to report seven specific instances of what was


considered healing in response to Spurgeon's prayers:
The belief in Mr. Spurgeon's healing power became among
some classes a positive superstition, and he was obliged to
overcome the very false and extravagant impressions . . . by
mentioning the matter from the pulpit, and rebuking the
theories of the extremely enthusiastic. He felt it was
becoming too much like the shrines of Catholic Europe.
Spurgeon declared that the subject of divine healing was
very much a mystery to him. He said he prayed about
sickness just as he prayed about anything else, and that in
some instances God answered with healing, whereas in others,
for reasons beyond our understanding, He allowed the
suffering to continue. 17

We need not doubt then that more miracles occurred in


Spurgeon’s life because he asked for them. Yet we see a balance
here that is important in our day. Spurgeon didn’t claim some sort
of apostolic “gift of healing” as many do today, in spite of the fact
that Spurgeon’s rate of success in healing is superior to many of
them. As we point out elsewhere, the biblical gift of healing worked
instantly on the command of a person, not over time through
someone’s prayers. 18 And, as also discussed elsewhere, while our
super-supernaturalists brothers and sisters are right to encourage
us to be praying for healing, they are wrong to suppose that they
actually do so more than other segments of the Church.

C.3) Controlling calls

Scripture reveals the fact that miracles are relatively more


abundant in the life of someone who has a divine “controlling call”
for special service to God in his or her life. In chapter 7.15 we
noted several biblical attributes of “controlling calls” including: 1)
their extreme rarity, applying only to those divinely chosen for very
unique and pivotal tasks in the accomplishment of God’s plan for
His people in the world, 2) are clearly communicated through
miraculous means such as a vision from God, 3) often involve great
suffering, and 4) they involve God’s predestined will, and therefore,
by definition, will be done. No one chooses a “controlling call,” and
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 76
in fact their recipients are often reluctant to fulfill them.
Nevertheless, God chooses them, and they do fulfill the “controlling
call.”
It is possible that there have been people since biblical times
whom God has dealt with in a similar way. The life of Brother Yun,
for example, would seem to fit all of the necessary biblical criteria
for recognizing a “controlling call” on his life, which may explain the
relative abundance of miracles (and suffering!) he has experienced.
19

C.4) Severe persecution

Two of the most prolific and amazing miracle workers in


Scripture were Elijah and Elisha. Why was this so? For one thing,
as is the case with all God-sent miracle workers, they were a
divinely authoritative source of extra-biblical revelation from God.
But there is another characteristic of their age that helps to explain
the relative abundance of miracles occurring in their lifetime as
well: severe persecution and/or apostasy among God’s people.
Elijah describes the situation to God when he says:
The Israelites have rejected Your covenant, broken
down Your altars, and put Your Prophets to death with
the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are
trying to kill me too. (1 Kgs 19:10)

It is in such circumstances that God may provide more


miraculous interventions than normal. Accordingly, Colin Brown
writes:
[M]iraculous signs are not uniformly distributed throughout
the OT. They are largely grouped in three main periods, each
of which was marked by a life-and-death struggle for the
people of God and which put Yahweh’s saving power and will
to the proof. . . . The common feature of these periods is the
extremity of the people of God which is answered by Yahweh’s
action in abnormal events. 20

Likewise, the influential twentieth century British preacher D. M.


Lloyd-Jones (1899–1981) wrote:
[S]urely, we must deduce from the Scriptures that if you say
that the Holy Spirit was given to the early church to start it
off, then these things [miracles] are necessary, indeed
essential, at all times when the church is down in the depths
and the world is loud and strong and powerful. Surely that is
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 77
just the time when you would expect a manifestation of some
such power. 21

This criteria also reflects the circumstances of Brother Yun in


China. Accordingly, Xu Yongze, Chairman of the Sinim Fellowship of
House Church Leaders in China writes in the introduction of Yun’s
biography:
In 1949 persecution of God's people commenced and the
churches have suffered from all kinds of attacks since. By
1958 the government had closed all visible churches. Mao's
wife, Jiang Qing, told foreign visitors, "Christianity in China
has been confined to the history section of the museum. It is
dead and buried." In the 1970s a visiting Christian delegation
from the United States reported, "There is not a single
Christian left in China."
At the start of the Book of Genesis we read that the earth
"was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of
the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."
Genesis 1:2. This was also the state of the Chinese church at
this time. The church in China, at least on the visible surface,
was dead. In those days nobody dared to proclaim, "Jesus is
Lord." The church was stripped from top to bottom, and for all
intents and purposes, had died. 22

It has been in such an environment that our Chinese brothers


and sisters have experienced some of the most amazing and
abundant miracles of our time. Accordingly, excerpts from Yun’s
book illustrate both an environment of persecution and miracles.
For example, before becoming a Christian, Yun’s wife Deling
suffered from haemophilia such that she was constantly having to
wrap rags on her feet and hands to stop any bleeding from cuts.
She writes, “I first came to Jesus because of my terrible physical
affliction. My neighbor, a Christian lady, gave me a simple promise:
“If you believe in Jesus, he will heal you.” At the age of 18 she
committed her life to Christ and on that very night she was taken to
a house church meeting. Unfortunately, the Chinese authorities
ambushed the meeting and everyone had to flee in the darkness.
Deling writes, “This was my first introduction to what it would be
like following the Lord!”
Later Deling was baptized and a few days later dreamed that
she would be healed from her bleeding disorder. When she awoke,
she sensed a difference in her skin and never again suffered from
haemophilia. Deling writes: “Because of this great miracle the Lord
was very real to me. Even though our lives were difficult and we
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 78
faced persecution every day, I committed myself to follow Jesus
regardless of the cost.” 23
Severe suffering and the miraculous are repeatedly and
inseparably intertwined in Brother Yun’s life. In one of his
imprisonments for preaching the Gospel, he ate no food and drank
no water for 74 days. Yun testifies, “From 25 January to 7 April
1984, I ate and drank nothing.” While this is a remarkable miracle,
it was surrounded with remarkable suffering. While in prison, Yun
was severely beaten and shocked repeatedly to the point that when
his wife and mother were finally allowed to visit him, they could
only recognize him by a birthmark. 24
During this same imprisonment, Yun was taken to a torture
room, handcuffed, whipped, beaten with sticks, and shocked until
his, “flesh was ripped open and wounds covered my body,” and he
went unconscious. Later that night God gave Yun a vivid dream in
which his handcuffs were snapped and he was free. Yun writes:
When I awoke from my dream I found that the handcuffs were
still on my hands, but the Holy Spirit told me, "Relax your hands."
As soon as I did, the handcuffs fell off! I prayed to the Lord
according to what I'd seen in the dream. I said, "Lord Jesus, I love
you. Thank you for allowing me to sing. Please give me a Bible."
At around 8 a.m. the next morning a remarkable thing
happened. The prison director opened the iron gate and came to
my cell. He called out my name, "Yun, although you've committed
many crimes, we still respect your faith. Yesterday we had a
meeting and decided to give you a Bible. Come, take it!"
For the next three months Brother Yun was kept in a small,
dark, dingy isolation cell. However, there was just enough light for
him to read his Bible and he memorized its last fifty-five chapters,
from Hebrews through Revelation. 25
After another release from prison, Yun was captured again and
cruelly beaten. In trying to escape he had jumped from a second
story window and broken both of his legs. He was brought before a
judge who told him: “Yun, I’m sick of you. For many years you’ve
opposed our government and turned our society upside down.
You’ve escaped from custody on numerous occasions.” At the
hearing, Yun answered the judge honestly, that if given the
opportunity, he would try to escape again and preach the Gospel.
The judge was furious, promising to have his legs permanently
damaged so that he could never escape again. Even though he
begged the guards not to beat his already broken legs, they did so
mercilessly. Yun writes: “I lay on the ground screaming like a
wounded animal. Excruciating pain surged through my body and
mind. . . . My legs below my knees turned completely black and
there was no feeling in them at all.”
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 79
At this point Yun was placed in solitary confinement at the
Zhengzhou Number One Maximum Security Prison. Yun was beaten
every day from eight in the morning until the evening, the guards
taking shifts in order to keep up the beatings. He was given no
food or water during this time. 26
Yun became very depressed during this imprisonment and
writes:
As the weeks slowly passed, I became more and more
depressed at my situation. It seemed as if the Lord had
rejected me and left me to rot in prison forever. My legs were
crippled and my spirit crushed. Each night I propped my lame
legs up against the wall to try to lessen the pain. My beloved
wife Deling was in the women's prison, and I had no idea what
had become of my two children. It was the lowest point of my
life. . . .
I was 39 years old but saw no hope or future for me. I told
the Lord, "When I was young you called me to preach your
gospel in the west and south. How can I do that now? I'm
sitting here in this prison with crushed legs and I'm resigned
to rot in this place until the day I die. I'll never see my family
again. You have cheated me!"

And yet, Yun was to experience his greatest (although not last)
miraculous escape from prison at this time.
Here, we would make a very important statement regarding a
proper expectation of miracles: Everybody wants miracles, but far
fewer really want to be in a position to need them. American
super-supernaturalists are simply mistaken to expect an abundance
of miracles when we also have an abundance of churches,
Christians, and religious freedoms. Which would we choose, if it
were our choice: miracles or severe suffering? An abundance of
the former rarely comes without the latter. This is yet one more
reason that we are rather suspicious of all the claims to miracles in
American super-supernaturalism. We believe that miracles without
suffering are even more rare than miracles with suffering.
Along these lines, C. S. Lewis writes words that are worth
pondering, especially for super-supernaturalists:
God does not shake miracles into Nature at random as if
from a pepper-caster. They come on great occasions: they
are found at the great ganglions of history, not of political or
social history, but of that spiritual history which cannot be fully
known by men. If your own life does not happen to be near
one of those great ganglions, how should you expect to see
one?
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 80
If we were heroic missionaries, apostles, or martyrs, it would
be a different matter. But why you or I? Unless you live near
a railway, you will not see trains go past your windows. How
likely is it that you or I will be present when a peace treaty is
signed, when a great scientific discovery is made, when a
dictator commits suicide? That we should see a miracle is
even less likely.
Nor, if we understand, shall we be anxious to do so.
"Nothing almost sees miracles but misery." Miracles and
martyrdoms tend to bunch about the same areas of history--
areas we have naturally no wish to frequent. 27

Indeed, as we have said, everyone wants a miracle, but no one


wants to be in need of one.
Super-supernaturalists insist that the reason there are not more
miracles occurring in American churches is because non-super-
supernatural Christians abound in skepticism and lack faith and
openness for more miracles to occur. In other words, we are not
super-supernatural enough in our beliefs. On the contrary, the
reason America does not experience as many miracles as China is
because we abound in churches, Bibles, preachers, freedom, and
even comfort. What we lack is persecution, not faith.
And the American super-supernaturalists make it worse by
trying to compete with our brothers in China by faking an
abundance of miracles. They are the reason for much of the
skepticism they complain about in the American Church. Their
fraud has been obvious and exposed consistently. 28 Brother Yun is
the real thing. Benny Hinn is a fake. 29 And his fraud is even more
embarrassing when we consider the luxury and popularity ones like
him enjoy, all the while claiming to have experienced and even
worked many, many more miracles in America than Brother Yun in
the underground Church in China.
And yet the day will come when even Christians in America will
experience “great distress, unequaled from the beginning of
the world until now—and never to be equaled again” (Matt
24:21). It is in the End Times that perhaps all in the Church will
experience the miraculous on Earth in greater measure. Yet even
here caution must be exercised, as we see no biblical promise of
this. Scores of Christians have suffered and died for the faith
without any miracles except the grace which gives them that
“peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Phil 4:7).
And as for the End Times, the only “great signs and miracles”
that are clearly promised in Scripture are those that “false christs
and false prophets will appear and perform to deceive even
the Elect” (Matt 24:24). Perhaps the reason that the “distress” of
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 81
the Great Tribulation will be “unequaled from the beginning of
the world until now—and never to be equaled again” is that
only satan will be providing miracles, while God will not, all to test
the faith of His people.

C.5) New fields for Christianity

Another related environment in which we may expect more


direct divine miracles is when the Gospel is being newly introduced
to a particular geographical area or culture. Accordingly, Campus
Crusade for Christ has reported the following occurrence in India:
In the state of Bihar, India, there is a notoriously anti-Christian
tribe called the Malto. When a crew with Campus Crusade's Jesus
film attempted to schedule a showing there in 1998, they were
strongly rebuffed. A few days later, a 16-year-old Malto girl died.
But that evening, just as her parents were about to bury her, she
came back to life. As an awed crowd gathered around her, she told
them that the God of the film crew had sent her back for several
days "to tell as many people as I can that He is real."
The girl and her mother went searching, and the next day, they
found the crew in a nearby village and invited them back for a
showing. For seven days she told her story in every village they
could get to, drawing large crowds for the film. Hundreds of people
became Christians and started churches. After seven days the girl
still looked fine, but she collapsed and died once again. 30
Likewise, it has been reported:
In the last ten years, more Muslims have come to Christ
than in the previous thousand years. And reports from
numerous missions agencies say that many conversions come
from the Lord Jesus himself or an angel directly appearing in
the extramental world or in a vision or dream to individuals or
entire villages.
In a recent newsletter from Campus Crusade's Jesus Film
Project, Jim Green-- highly respected Crusade staffer for forty
years--reports that if you were to gather a typical group of
one hundred new converts from Islam and ask them how they
first learned of Jesus, ninety-nine of them would say, "I saw
Him in a vision. He appeared in brilliant white light and told
me that He was the Way and that I was to seek Him out."
When missionaries find such people, they have the joy of
explaining more fully the gospel of the Lord Jesus. One of
several incidents reported by Green is worth noting:
The next report comes from a traveling Jesus film team that
was working in one of these countries. The team was driving
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 82
through a remote, dangerous region that had hardly been
touched by the good news. A policeman flagged down the
team's car which was filled with 16mm projection equipment
and gospel literature. The policeman asked the team to give a
ride to an Islamic teacher who immediately got in. You can
imagine their anxiety when this highly respected teacher
asked "Tell me, are you the ones planning to tell people about
God?
Entrusting themselves to the Lord, they responded, "Yes, we
are." Astonishment followed. Bouncing along the dusty road
the teacher told the team how he had experienced a vision, a
unique dream. "I was told to come to this spot in the road, at
this time, that I would encounter someone who would tell me
about God. It must be you. 31

The introduction of the Gospel to a new people group is


certainly behind the story of Brother Yun as well. Yun became a
Christian at age sixteen in 1974. Several years before his father
had contracted incurable lung cancer that had spread to his
stomach. Nonetheless he lived several years in agony lying on a
bed. Because Yun’s father was superstitious he called a Daoist
priest to come and expel demons, because he feared he had upset
them in some way. However, Yun’s mother was a Christian and
called the family to pray for her husband. After an all night prayer
session, Yun writes: “The very next morning my father found he
was much better! For the first time in months he had an appetite
for food. Within a week he had recovered completely and had no
trace of cancer!”
Yun’s parents wanted to share their experience with their
village, but such gatherings were illegal. Nonetheless, they simply
sent their children out to invite people to their home and people
came, many expecting Yun’s father to be dead, and coming dressed
for the occasion. Behind locked doors and covered windows they
explained that he had been completely healed by praying to Jesus.
Yun writes, “All of our relatives and friends knelt down on the floor
and gladly accepted Jesus as Lord and Master.” 32
Another attribute of an area in which Christianity is being
introduced and severely persecuted is the absence of Bibles. It is in
such situations that we might expect particularly more occurrences
of miraculous communication such as divine visions and dreams.
Accordingly, this too is reflected in Brother Yun’s biography.
Early in Yun’s life he had asked his mother if there were any
words of Jesus available for him to read. She said there were none,
because during the Cultural Revolution in China, Bibles could not be
found there. Nonetheless, Yun desperately wanted a Bible. He and
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 83
his mother traveled to a far away village to visit a man whom they
had heard had a Bible. Upon asking him to see it, the man was
fearful, because he, “had already spent nearly 20 years in prison for
his faith.” Regarding the man’s fear of showing Yun his Bible, Yun
writes:
I don't blame him because in those days there were very few
Bibles in the whole of China. Nobody was allowed to read any
book other than Mao's little Red Book. If caught with a Bible,
it would be burned and the owner's whole family would be
severely beaten in the middle of the village.

The old man simply told Yun to pray for a Bible, which is the
only prayer Yun prayed every evening for over a month. When
nothing happened, Yun traveled back to see the old man, who told
him he needed to also fast. For one hundred days Yun ate nothing
until the evenings when he ate a little rice, and he constantly cried
out to God for a Bible such that his parents thought he was insane.
After months of this had transpired, Yun received a vision from
the Lord one day as he knelt down for his evening prayer. In the
vision a man gave him a Bible, and when the vision had ended he
proceeded to search his house for one because the vision had been
so real to him. Waking his parents, he told them of his vision,
which convinced them all the more he was crazy, and his parents
desperately prayed for him. About that time, there was a faint
knock on the door of their house and standing outside was the man
who had given him the Bible in his vision. And that is exactly what
happened.
Yun discovered later that another missionary three months
before had received a vision in which, “God showed him a young
man to whom he was to give his hidden Bible.” For some reason,
the missionary had delayed obeying the vision, but eventually gave
it to the man who then walked through the night to reach Yun’s
home. 33
So we see several aspects of the spiritual environment in China
that would lead us to expect more divine intervention, including the
nonexistence of churches, the Gospel, and the Bible, but the
prevalence of severe persecution. Accordingly, we might expect
God to provide miracles with the introduction of the Gospel to a new
people group.
Unfortunately, super-supernaturalists have distorted and
exaggerated this principle under what they call “power evangelism”
suggesting God wants to use the biblical gifts of miracle working
everywhere to authenticate the Gospel. While this error is dealt
with fully elsewhere, 34 we will make two observations here.
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 84
First, it should be noticed that despite all the incredible direct
divine miracles Brother Yun seems to have experienced, there are
no reports of human miracle working in his biography which match
the characteristics of the biblical gifts of miracle working and
healing. These include healing instantly and organically on
command, rather than merely through a prayer. 35 In other words,
even the unique circumstances and supernatural nature of ministry
in China offers no convincing evidence that the sign gifts of the
early Church have been restored to the Church. The miracles that
are truly happening are direct divine miracles that God performs,
not delegated miracle working through a miraculously gifted person.
This is an important distinction that we discuss in the next couple
chapters. 36
Secondly, even for those missionaries today who might
introduce the Gospel to a new people group, the Gospel is not new
extra-biblical divine revelation. This is an important point for
promoters of “power evangelism” to consider because, as we
demonstrate elsewhere in KOG, every God-sent miracle worker in
Scripture was also a messenger of new extra-biblical divine
revelation to be believed and obeyed by all. 37 Since even the
Gospel is recorded in Chinese Bibles, human miracle working is
unnecessary, and accordingly, we see no believable evidence for it.

C.6) The exercise of visionary faith

Elsewhere we describe visionary faith as the faith to pursue


human plans in the pursuit of obeying God’s commands. 38 This
faith is unique in that it does not have a specific divine revelation as
its object. This is because God has not, and usually will not reveal
specifics on such things as when, where, and with whom to plant a
church, or where to go as a missionary, 39 even though Scripture
reveals these acts as part of God’s general will to fulfill the Great
Commission (Matt 28:18-20).
We would suggest that those who are pursuing a visionary faith
in order to fulfill God’s commands for the advancement of His
Kingdom, can expect more divine intervention than others. In fact,
this may include what Christ is referring to in the Great Commission
when He adds, “And surely I am with you always, to the very
end of the age” (Matt 28:20). Perhaps this is a rather conditional
promise specifically for those engaged in fulfilling the Great
Commission. 40 It seems Christ is promising to be “with” such
people in a special, even supernatural way. And indeed, those
fulfilling the Great Commission obviously require a good deal of
miraculous intervention on God’s part just to bring about the
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 85
necessary spiritual conversions, which we have claimed elsewhere
is the greatest miracle of all. 41
Indeed, as discussed more thoroughly elsewhere, 42 we believe
Paul is praying for miraculous deeds in the context of visionary faith
when he writes the Thessalonians:
[W]e constantly pray for you, that our God may count
you worthy of His calling, and that by His power He may
fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act
prompted by your faith. 12 We pray this so that the
name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you
in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord
Jesus Christ. (2 Thess 1:11-12)

As the Thessalonians pursued “every good purpose of [theirs]


and every act prompted by [their visionary] faith, Paul felt it
was necessary and appropriate to pray “that by His power He
may fulfill” those “good purpose[s]” and “act[s] prompted by
[their] faith.” In other words, he recognized that our pursuit of
fulfilling God’s commandments often requires God’s intervention
and blessing. And fulfillment of God’s will through our “good
purpose[s]” and the accompanying miraculous divine intervention
all work “so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be
glorified.”

D) The Proper Recognition of Miracles

While the above section dealt with the proper expectation of


when a direct divine miracle could occur, here, we discuss some of
the biblical principles of properly recognizing when such a miracle
has occurred. This relates, of course, to the core problems of anti-
supernaturalism and super-supernaturalism. The former is in the
habit of giving naturalistic explanations for the supernatural acts of
God and therefore depriving Him of some of the glory He deserves
for those acts. This is something our super-supernatural brothers
and sisters are concerned about, and rightly so.
On the other hand, super-supernaturalists are in the habit of
giving miraculous explanations for things that do not deserve such a
lofty title or claims, and in the process, end up lying about God,
deceiving other people, and intimidating those who do not
experience miracles as often as they supposedly do. Therefore,
some guidelines in recognizing the truly miraculous may be helpful,
and below is our attempt to do so.
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 86
D.1) The biblical definition and attributes of miracles must be
met

An important starting point for a discussion on the proper


recognition of miracles is to note both the definition and attributes
of a miracle discussed above. Our definition for a miracle is: an
extraordinary revelation of God’s supernatural power or
communication by which He intervenes in the ordinary and natural
processes He has ordained because they are not sufficient to
accomplish or communicate His will. It is the fact that miracles
interrupt Nature in a supernatural way, coupled with the fact that
God-ordained “natural processes” of divine operating and
communication (e.g. natural laws and Scripture) are so sufficient for
accomplishing and communicating God’s will, that miracles are
extremely rare, all resulting in their ability to cause awe, wonder,
and fear in humans.
Therefore, if an event is not supernatural, but can be explained
by natural events or processes without divine intervention, then it is
not a miracle. If an event occurs repeatedly and commonly, then it
suggests there is a natural process operating, and not a miracle. In
other words, when a “miracle” becomes commonplace, it probably
is not a miracle, nor will it be recognized by humans as such.
Finally, and especially among believers, if an event does not make
an exceptional impression as a supernatural and rare intervention of
God, then it probably isn’t a miracle either.
For example, Vern S. Poythress, Professor of NT at Westminister
has written:
This God brings us the spring winds and rains and May
flowers. But He also brings hurricanes that exhibit the power
of His word: "The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; ... The
voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire" (Psalm 29:5, 7).
43

It is being implied here that all wind, rain, and hurricanes are a
result of a direct intervention and manipulation of God causing such
things that would not have otherwise happened by natural
processes. On the contrary, such occurrences are quite natural and
require some sort of miraculous authentication before we interpret
them as something else.
Accordingly, in the previous chapter we wrote of a drought that
God did miraculously manipulate and cause (cf. Amos 4:7):
It is important to note how Amos knew that God had
miraculously intervened in Nature. In this case, Amos needed
miraculous direct revelation from God. This is because there
was nothing obviously supernatural about a lack of rain “when
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 87
the harvest was still three months away,” or that it fell in
“one town” or “field” but not another.
So while normally supernatural manipulations of Creation
must be recognized simply by their supernatural nature, here
God also provided additional, extrabiblical, miraculous
revelation. This illustrates our point above and below that
when God desires for a miraculous intervention to be
recognized, He will ensure that it can be. 44

D.2) God desires that people recognize miracles

Perhaps most importantly on the topic of properly recognizing


miracles, we need to remember God’s own great desire for His
miracles to be recognized. Therefore, He ensures that they are
obvious enough that people have no good excuse not to. For
example, the miracle of Creation is so miraculous that even God
says all people are “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20) for not
recognizing it as such.
How then do we interpret those times in which a miracle occurs
and people do not recognize it as such? In other words, who
ultimately decides what makes a miracle a real divine revelation of
a miracle? Our answer is God. God decides what is sufficiently
supernatural, rare, and awe-inspiring enough in order for an event
to be recognized as a miracle.
For example, the Apostle Paul says that one of God’s purposes
for the miracle of Creation is the same as any miracle: to display
“God's . . . power” (Rom. 1:20). While God intends that Creation
be a miraculous display of His power, a good deal of humanity has
refused to accept it as such. Does Creation then cease to be a
miracle? Is it necessary for someone to recognize a miracle for it
really to be a miracle? No. Miracles do not become miracles just
because they are supernatural or wonderful enough for our criteria
for a miracle. Rather, a miracle is a miracle because God intends it
to be and humans have no excuse for believing otherwise.
Such is the case with the miracle of Creation. All humanity is
“without excuse” (Rom. 1:20) for not recognizing that what God
intended to be a miracle, is a miracle. No one has a legitimate
reason for demanding that more supernatural phenomena must be
displayed in order to call Creation a miracle. Indeed, as we have
demonstrated elsewhere, the devil-darkened reason of
unregenerated humanity makes them insane when it comes to
recognizing the work of God. Therefore, a supernatural
regeneration, granting us a Spirit-liberated reason, is necessary to
properly receive, understand, and process the divine revelation that
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 88
is communicated through such things as Creation, the Gospel, and
miracles. 45 Ultimately, then, what amount and kind of evidence
necessary to call an event a miracle is determined and supplied by
God because He intends it to be a divine revelation for a particular
purpose.
This is why we see in Scripture, as noted above, God even
providing miraculous communication in order to ensure that a
miraculous deed is not misinterpreted (cf. Amos 4:7). This is also
why the revelations of biblical Prophets and Apostles normally came
in the form of visions they could physically see and a voice they
could physically hear, not just mental impressions. Why was the
Apostle Paul absolutely certain he had received a direct, miraculous
understanding of the Gospel (cf. Gal 1:8-12)? Because Jesus Christ
personally and physically appeared to him to explain the Gospel,
which was Christ’s habit throughout the Apostles’ lives (cf. Acts
10:9-16; 23:11; 2 Cor 12:1-4; Rev 1:9-12). 46
It is because God Himself wants us to know when a miracle has
occurred that He will make the event miraculous enough for
especially His people to recognize it.

D.3) Born again Christians are really good at recognizing


miracles

God’s people are really good at recognizing real miracles. This


is because they have already experienced the greatest miracle
occurring today: supernatural regeneration for salvation. Contrary
to the accusations of super-supernaturalism and mega mysticism,
more discerning Christians are just as eager to see real miracles of
God as they are. This is because they love God and desire His glory
just as much as anybody else.
It is unregenerated unbelievers who have a sinful, illegitimate,
distorting skepticism of miracles, not true Christians. 47 Because
God intends miracles to be a divine revelation of His glory, you have
to have a really hard heart toward God to not recognize them when
they occur, which is not an attitude consistent with being a
Christian at all. Therefore, the deception of super-supernaturalism
is a much greater temptation among born-again Christians than
anti-supernaturalism.
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 89
D.4) Caution is better than lying

Elsewhere, regarding divine intervention in our life, we write:


So, did God cause us to get a particular job, marry a
particular person, or live in a particular place, thereby
manipulating the ingredients of our life to supernaturally result
in a miraculous outcome that would not have occurred apart
from God’s intervention? Was God behind such things, or
were they simply the result of more common, natural
processes like wisely choosing a job we like, simply marrying
someone we were naturally attracted to, or merely choosing to
live where our relatives do like many others do? More
specifically, did such events and decisions involve divine
intention or were they simply random, natural human events
that God essentially allowed?
First of all, the fact that God has a desire to ensure we
properly recognize real miracles, should make us more
comfortable with simply and often admitting we do not know!
We may not know because God may supernaturally, but
secretly intervene in our life, with no desire for us to know. 48
Contrary to mega mystics, recognizing direct divine
intervention in our decision making is much more difficult than
they suggest. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to matter.
While God will always supernaturally authenticate divine
revelation that is to be authoritative for others, such as the
words of a Prophet or Apostle, He does not seem to be in the
habit of supernaturally proving, or revealing when He is
directly intervening in the decision making process concerning
our own lives. In other words, when it comes to decisions for
our own life, God does not seem to care if we know we are
being guided by direct divine intervention or simply our own
free will using other God-given means of guidance such as
logical and moral reason, biblical convictions, or living
according to our New Nature. Such things involve the
unrevealed predestined will of God as discussed elsewhere. 49

An additional legitimate reason that we may not properly


recognize a miracle is that, as noted below, even miraculous looking
things may be remarkable coincidences. God knows we have all
these limitations in properly recognizing miracles, and therefore,
when He wants them to be recognized, He makes them
supernatural, rare, and awe-inspiring enough that sincere Christians
will properly recognize them.
As noted above, super-supernaturalism and mega mysticism are
silly for accusing their brothers and sisters of intentionally
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 90
disregarding the miraculous, as if the danger is that we would have
a hard heart toward glorifying God. On the contrary, the greater
danger is that we really want to glorify ourselves. We must admit
that miraculous interventions in our lives make us feel very special,
and make us look special to others, and because we may crave
such things, we might look for and claim miracles in events in which
they really did not occur.
Therefore, in many cases, while we may personally believe God
has performed a miracle in a certain instance, we must be careful of
making dogmatic claims of such things, admitting our human
limitations in such matters. When we disrespect the need for
obvious divine authentication of a miracle, we can constantly
misinterpret circumstances and events as the miraculous and direct
intervention of God for the purpose of communicating something,
often resulting in misplaced blame against God. As we have written
elsewhere:
[D]ivine authentication is essential to determining whether or
not an event is a miracle of God or a natural occurrence. For
example, when a hurricane hits the Louisiana coastline, is God
sending a message as He did when He caused other weather
anomalies in Scripture (cf. Jonah 1:4)? If we are experiencing
painful circumstances is God causing them in order to discipline
us (cf. Heb 12:5-13)? How many would have interpreted Job’s
trials as divine discipline, just like his friends, even though by
God’s own admission Job was blameless? When bad things
happen to good people is it God’s doing or the devil’s? If an
opportunity for a job we want becomes available in another city,
is this God directing us to move there?
The only way such events can be confidently attributed to the
direct intervention and manipulation of God is if and when they
are accompanied by something we would consider divine
authentication. Otherwise, the causes of such things are best
assumed to be their more common and natural ones (e.g.
natural weather patterns, 50 the normal struggles of being
human, etc.). 51

In other words, contrary to super-supernaturalism and mega


mysticism, it is better to be cautious about miracles, then to be
lying about them.

D.5) Hindsight is better than foresight

An obvious question is what would miraculous authentication of


God’s supernatural intervention look like today? Perhaps, for
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 91
example, the timing and nature of the event would strongly suggest
divine intervention. Accordingly, we would tend to agree with the
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius mentioned in the previous chapter
(sec. 2.4.2.A.1), that he and his troops did indeed experience a
miracle, especially in light of the fact that God’s people were
praying for it.
Likewise, Christian apologist Norm Geisler writes:
A fog at Normandy aided the Allied Forces' invasion of Europe
on D-Day and the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany. Fog has
natural causes, but the timing of this one was an evidence of
God's [miraculous] providence. 52

Likewise, Reader’s Digest relates:


[T]here are those weather oddities that would confound even
the Weather Channel. For instance, the British burned
Washington, D.C., in 1814, and out of nowhere came the first
recorded tornado in D.C. history. It trashed the British army
and conveniently doused the flames on the federal buildings.
53

It would seem reasonable to conclude that the unique


circumstances and characteristics of such an event may be
sufficient evidence that God was taking sides in this historic and
monumental battle and miraculously intervening. This would
especially be the case if some Christians had actually prayed that
such a thing would occur, all of which would legitimately add to the
perceived divine intentionality, and therefore, miraculous nature of
the event. However, apart from immediate miraculous
authentication, this type of revelation can often only be confidently
recognized in hind sight, as we look back over the course of events
and see God’s guiding hand.
One of the more profound examples of supernatural
manipulation in human events is the story of Esther. God
sovereignly ordained many events surrounding her life, including
being chosen as the King’s bride out of a myriad of other women
(cf. Esth 2:8-9, 17). It was through her God-ordained
circumstances that she was able to be used by God to avert the
destruction of the Jews (8:3-8). However, this very example
illustrates the difficulty we have in recognizing such circumstances
as the hand of God. As we have written elsewhere:
For all she [Esther] knew, especially before experiencing what
seemed to be divine intervention on God’s part for His people,
she was simply following the circumstances dictated to her.
Initially, even Mordecai was unsure of the purpose of Esther’s
circumstances and even when her position seemed
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 92
providential he could only say, “who knows, you may have
been chosen Queen for just such a time as this” (Esth
4:14 NCV). Because the eventual outcome of her
circumstances were clearly miraculous and applied directly to
God’s plan of salvation, she could be relatively certain only in
hindsight that those circumstances had been manipulated by
God. 54

D.6) Recognize the possibility of other explanations

Of course, anti-supernaturalists are so eager to explain away


miracles, that they often come up with rather absurd ways of doing
so. 55 Nonetheless, super-supernaturalists need to recognize that
some things that appear supernatural, simply are not.
Take for example the reality of plain coincidence in a world
where a vast multitude of rather random events are constantly
occurring and by chance at times coincide to give the appearance of
a miracle. Along these lines, David Myers writes:
If we can't find or even imagine a natural cause for an
unsolved mystery, we may presume a paranormal one.
Moments after a friend from long ago crosses our mind, the
friend calls. Too weird, too improbable to have any
explanation other than telepathy? But some weird
coincidences are inevitable. . . .
What shall we make of these weird coincidences? Was
James Redfield [popular New Age author] right to suppose, in
The Celestine Prophecy, that we should attend closely to
"strange occurrences that feel like they were meant to
happen"? Is he [and Christian mega mystics] right to suppose
that "they are actually synchronistic events, and following
them will start you on your path to spiritual truth"?
Without wanting to rob us of our delight in these
serendipities, much less of our spirituality, statisticians agree:
they tell us absolutely nothing of spiritual significance. "In
reality," says mathematician John Allen Paulos, "the most
astonishingly incredible coincidence imaginable would be the
complete absence of all coincidences." . . .
Eight golfers witnessed Todd Obuchowski's hole-in-one on
the Beaver Brook golf course in Massachusetts. His shot
soared over the green, onto a highway, hit a passing Toyota,
and ricocheted back to the green and into the cup. The moral:
That a particular specified event or coincidence will occur is
very unlikely; that some astonishing unspecified events will
occur is certain. 56
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 93
Which again is why truly miraculous events are noted in hindsight,
not predicted with foresight.
This points up the danger in mega mysticism of seeking divine
guidance through coincidental “signs” thought to be miraculous
messages from God. Question: is there any place in Scripture
where God expected someone to discern His will or recognize divine
revelation in merely a set or string of circumstances that appeared
supernaturally connected? No. God has no expectation of us
recognizing such a thing because He does not work this way, which
is why He always provided obvious, supernatural miraculous
communication (i.e. vision, voice, angelic appearance, etc.) to
explain the events, if He desired them to be recognized as a divine
revelation of anything. 57

Extras & Endnotes

A Devotion to Dad

Our Father in Heaven, we thank praise You for Your power to


perform the miraculous. We are grateful for those times in biblical
history and in our personal lives that You have revealed Your love
and might. Help us to understand the doctrine of miracles better so
that we might avoid error and sin regarding them and help others
do the same.

Gauging Your Grasp

1) What is our answer to the question of why do miracles occur at


one time and not another? Do you agree or disagree and why?

2) What are some biblical principles that can be applied to having a


proper expectation of miracles?

3) What are the two sins we claim that super-supernaturalists are


especially in danger of committing? Do you agree or disagree
and why?

4) We claim that many areas of sound doctrine are determined by


correctly ascertaining when a miracle is needed. Can you think
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 94
of some examples?

5) How does the devil use an over-expectation of miracles to


deceive us?

6) What is the significance of the statement: God will not do for us


what He has already enabled us to do in regards to the
expectation of miracles?

7) What is the significance of the fact that God has enabled us to


do everything He has commanded?

8) We claim that super-supernaturalism is in danger of placing too


much emphasis on God doing miracles in our life to prove His
love for us. Do you agree or disagree and why? Have you
experienced examples of this in your life or observed it in
others?

9) What are God’s intended proofs of His love for every Christian?

10) List all of the unconditional divine promises we have for this life
revealed in Scripture? What kinds of miraculous works do each
of these require?

11) List all of the conditional divine promises we have for this life in
Scripture? What kinds of miraculous works do each of these
require?

12) What do we mean by saying: “Everyone wants a miracle, but


no one wants to really be in need of one”?

13) Why do particularly American super-supernaturalists insist non-


super-supernatural Christians are not experiencing as many
miracles as they should? What is our response? Do you agree
or disagree and why?

14) Who ultimately decides what makes a miracle a real divine


revelation of a miracle? What are our reasons/examples for
suggesting this?

15) Despite the accusations of super-supernaturalism, why is this


error more tempting for Christians to fall into than anti-
supernaturalism?
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 95
16) What is the significance of David Myer’s statement: “That a
particular specified event or coincidence will occur is very
unlikely; that some astonishing unspecified events will occur is
certain”?

17) Why wouldn’t we call “Todd Obuchowski's hole-in-one” a


miracle?

Publications & Particulars

1
For further discussion of our view of the process of salvation see chapters
4.16; 6.2-3.
2
For further discussion of the “illumination of the Spirit” see chapter 3.5.
3
Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew (Eerdmans, 1992), 76.
4
For further discussion of testing God in the context of what biblical faith is
see section 6.13.F.
5
For further discussion of mega mysticism see Book 14.
6
Augustine, Confessions, 10.35; online at www.ccel.org.
7
Ruth Tucker, God Talk: Cautions For Those Who Hear God’s Voice
(Intervarsity, 2005), 118.
8
For further discussion of the sufficiency of Scripture as a divine
communication see chapter 7.9.
9
The claim of super-supernaturalists that miracles happen more
abundantly to them because of something special about them is
unbiblical, untrue, and arrogant. This is primarily because of the
attributes of miracle faith which is a gift from God. For further discussion
see chapters 11.4-5.
10
Excerpt from section 7.11.C.1.
11
For further discussion of the biblical purpose for human miracle working
see sections 3.1.D; 7.1.B.5; 11.1.F.
12
Further discussion of the distinction between direct divine miracles and
delegated human miracle working see section 10.1.D. For further on the
cessation of the latter see chapter 11.7.
13
For further discussion on the ultimate need for divine intervention for our
salvation see sections 2.2.B-C and chapters 4.12-16; 6.2-3.
14
Excerpt from section 7.11.C.1.
15
Excerpt from section 7.11.C.1. For further discussion regarding what we
call the prayed-for will of God see section 7.15.B.5.
16
C. S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study (Macmillan, 1947), 97.
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 96

17
Arnold Dallimore, Spurgeon: A New Biography (Banner of Truth Trust,
repr. 1999), 140-41.
18
For further discussion of the biblical nature of human miracle working see
Book 11: Human Miracle Working, esp. chapter 11.1.
19
For further discussion of the biblical concept of a “controlling call” see
section 7.15.B.1.b.
20
Colin Brown, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology
(NIDNTT), Colin Brown ed., 4 vols. [Zondervan, 1986], 2:627. See also
Merril F. Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Moody, 1966), 748-9, which
also fails to distinguish between direct divine miracles (which God may
do) and delegated human miracle working.
21
Lloyd-Jones, The Sovereign Spirit: Discerning the Gifts (Harold Shaw,
1985), 46.
22
Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway, The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable
True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun (Monarch Books, 2002), 7.
23
Ibid. 31-2.
24
Ibid. 124-8.
25
Ibid. 178-80
26
Ibid. 241-44.
27
Lewis, 70.
28
For further discussion of the fraud in super-supernaturalism see 11.7.B.9
and 11.8.E-F.
29
For further discussion of the fraud in the ministry of Benny Hinn see
section 11.8.F.4.
30
J. P. Moreland, Kingdom Triangle (Zondervan, 2007), 169.
31
Jim Green, The Jesus Film Project (Campus Crusade, 2005), 1-2.
32
Yun, 25-26.
33
Ibid., 27-30.
34
For further discussion of “power evangelism” see chapter 11.6.
35
For further discussion of the biblical attributes of the gifts of healing and
miracle working see chapter 11.1.
36
For further discussion on the important distinction between direct
miracles and delegated miracle working see chapters 10.4-5.
37
For further discussion of the fact that every God-sent miracle worker in
Scripture was also a messenger of new extra-biblical divine revelation to
be believed and obeyed by all, see section 11.1.F.
38
Regarding visionary faith see chapter 6.7B.
10.3: Recognizing Miracles 97

39
Regarding our claim that God has not and will not reveal a specific will
for our lives see section 7.15.B, especially B.4.
40
Carson writes on the possible conditionality of this promise: “if not made
explicitly conditional on the disciples' obedience to the Great Commission,
is at least closely tied to it.” (Matthew in the Expositors Biblical
Commentary, Frank Gaebelein ed. (Eerdmans).
41
Regarding the miraculous nature of spiritual conversion see section
10.5.B.2.
42
Regarding the visionary faith spoken of in 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 see
section 6.7B.B.
43
From an article in World Magazine. Specifics unavailable.
44
Excerpted from section 10.2.A.1.
45
Regarding the necessity of spiritual regeneration to correctly perceive
miraculous revelation see section 4.13.B.
46
For further discussion on the obvious, objective nature of apostolic
revelation see chapter 8.3.
47
Ibid.
48
As discussed above, because we define a miracle as a divine revelation,
we would not consider such secret supernatural acts a miracle.
49
Excerpt from section 7.16.? For further discussion of the unrevealed
predestined will of God see section 7.15.B.1.a.
50
Such regular events in Creation can be referred to as divine providence
through which God maintains life and order on Earth. However, we would
distinguish between Providence and miracles, as the former does not,
from our perspective, involve divine intervention, but is accomplished
through the normal processes of Nature that God has established.
51
Excerpted from section 7.1.B.
52
Norman Geisler Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Baker,
1999), 472-3. However, it should be noted that Geisler himself
distinguishes between divine providence and a miracle and does not
consider this event the latter.
53
Readers Digest, May 2011, 186
54
7.15.B.1.a.
55
For examples of absurd explanations given by anti-supernaturalists,
particularly for biblical miracles, see chapter 7.12.
56
David Myers, Intuition: Its Power and Perils (Yale University Press,
2002), 237- 9.
57
Regarding the relationship between divine revelation and divine
authentication see section 7.1.B.5.a.
Book 10
God’s Miracles

Part II
The Myriad of Miraculous
Deeds

 10.4: Divine Miracles: The Direct Hand of God 101

 10.5: Human Miracle Working: The Delegated 113


Power of God

 10.6: Demonic Miracle Working by satan’s 155


Servants
10.4: Divine Miracles 101

Chapter 10.4

Divine Miracles
The Direct Hand of God

Table of Topics

A) Physical Miracles Performed by God

A.1) Examples of direct divine physical miraculous deeds

A.2) Purposes of direct divine physical miraculous deeds

B) Spiritual Miracles Performed by God

Extras & Endnotes


10.4: Divine Miracles 102

Primary Points
 Direct divine physical miraculous deeds are those miracles
that God has performed Himself without apparent human
intermediaries, over the physical forces of Nature.
 The most important past examples of direct divine physical
miraculous deeds are the initial creation of the Universe (Gen
1:1-2; John 1:1-2) and the Incarnation (cf. Matt 1:21; John
1:14) and Resurrection of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 15:3-5).
 Perhaps the most powerful direct divine physical miracle is
illustrated in the fulfillment of prophecy.
 It is interesting to note that when we come to the NT, there
are very few direct divine miracles as virtually all those
recorded occur through human miracle workers.
 One of the very few direct divine physical miraculous deeds in
the NT is Philip’s immediate translation from a desert road to
Azotus (cf. Acts 8:39-40).
 God has reserved the most important miracles for Himself
(i.e. Creation, Flood, Incarnation, Resurrection, Recreation).
 The most miraculous physical human healing that can occur is
restoring physical life to a dead person.
 God’s direct miraculous physical deeds occurred in Scripture
to fulfill a purpose or authenticate a covenant or promise of
God.
 Related to the fact that God’s direct miraculous deeds
authenticated His promises and purposes, they are a powerful
revelation of His character.
 In contrast to physical miracles, a spiritual miraculous deed
transforms a person’s life, not just a limb.
 It would seem clear that some supernatural working was
evident in the lives of such men as Noah, Abraham, and
Moses, in order to transform them into the spiritual giants
they were, in contrast to all of those around them. We
consider this a direct divine spiritual miraculous deed on
God’s part.
10.4: Divine Miracles 103

A) Physical Miracles Performed by God

A.1) Examples of direct divine physical miraculous deeds

Direct divine physical miraculous deeds are those miracles that


God has performed Himself without apparent human intermediaries,
over the physical forces of Nature. In other words, no Angel or
human apparently performed or commanded them, but God alone
did both, and while they changed all kinds of natural things and no
doubt had psychological effects on those who witnessed them, they
did not automatically affect anyone’s soul in an eternal way.
The most important past examples of direct divine physical
miraculous deeds are the initial creation of the Universe (Gen 1:1-
2; John 1:1-2) and the Incarnation (cf. Matt 1:21; John 1:14) and
Resurrection of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 15:3-5). The most obvious present
example of direct divine physical miraculous deeds is the physical
healing of people, often times in response to our prayers. The most
momentous future example of this type of miracle will be our own
“rapture” (1 Thess 4:13-18) 1 and resurrection (1 Cor 15:51-53)
and the coming recreation of the Universe (cf. Rev 21:5).
Perhaps the most powerful direct divine physical miracle is
illustrated in the fulfillment of prophecy. When one ponders the
myriad of people and circumstances that must be supernaturally
manipulated in order to ensure that specific detailed prophecies
occur, we think of one word: power. Supernatural power over
anything and everything necessary to bring the predestined will 2 of
God about. 3
Some of the most memorable examples of direct divine physical
miraculous deeds of God in the OT include:
 World-wide Flood (cf. Gen 7:9-12)
 World-wide confusion of languages (cf. Gen 11:1-9)
 Conception of Isaac (cf. Gen 17:17; 18:12; 21:2)
 Destruction of Sodom (cf. Gen 19)
 Turning Lot’s wife into salt (cf. Gen 19:26)
 Fire coming from heaven (cf. Num 11:1-3)
 Killing 14,700 people with a plague (cf. Num 16:46-50) and
many more with poisonous snakes (cf. Num 21:6-9)
 Israelite’s crossing of the Jordan River at flood stage (cf.
Josh 3:15-17)
10.4: Divine Miracles 104

 Intervention in battles in which the Israelites faced


overwhelming odds (cf. Josh 6:20; 10:5-11; 2 Chron
20:22-24)
 Feeding Elijah with food brought by ravens (cf. 1 Kgs 17:6)
 Jonah’s three day stay and release from the belly of a whale
(cf. Jonah 1:17)

It is interesting to note that when we come to the NT, there are


very few direct divine miracles as virtually all those recorded occur
through human miracle workers. Even from the periods in the OT
in which miracle workers are active (i.e. Moses, Elijah, and Elisha),
we see that the direct kind virtually ceases. One of the very few
direct divine physical miraculous deeds in the NT is Philip’s
immediate translation from a desert road to Azotus (cf. Acts 8:39-
40).
Also, we notice that although these direct divine miraculous
deeds (i.e. Creation, Incarnation, Resurrection) are the most
important miracles in human history, they are also the most rare in
biblical history. It would seem God has reserved the most
important miracles for Himself (i.e. Creation, Flood, Incarnation,
Resurrection, Recreation), because these are particularly
supernatural, rare, and awe-inspiring displays of God’s “eternal
power and divine nature” (Rom 1:20) and particularly critical to
accomplishing His plan for the Universe.
Finally, as mentioned above, the most obvious present example
of direct divine physical miraculous deeds is the physical healing of
people. For example, we read of King Hezekiah:
In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point
of death. . . . Hezekiah . . . prayed to the LORD,
"Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before You
faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have
done what is good in Your eyes." And Hezekiah wept
bitterly. Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah:
"Go and tell Hezekiah, 'This is what the LORD, the God
of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and
seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. (Isa
38:1-5)

Accordingly, it is this kind of physical healing that most people


think of when they think of modern divine miracles in general. It is
healings that God does directly, perhaps in answer to prayers, but
apart from the command of a miracle worker like Christ or an
Apostle.
10.4: Divine Miracles 105

Obviously, the most miraculous physical human healing that can


occur is restoring physical life to a dead person. We know of no
well-documented or attested case of some “faith healer” raising
anyone from the dead since Apostolic times, 4 however, we believe
God has directly performed this miracle since then. 5 For example,
the case of Don Piper seems both well-documented and attested,
and in the prologue of his book he writes:
I died on January 18, 1989. Paramedics reached the scene
of the accident within minutes. They found no pulse and
declared me dead. They covered me with a tarp so that
onlookers wouldn't stare at me while they attended to the
injuries of the others. I was completely unaware of the
paramedics or anyone else around me. . . .
While I was [dead], a Baptist preacher came on the accident
scene. Even though he knew I was dead, he rushed to my
lifeless body and prayed for me. Despite the scoffing of the
Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), he refused to stop
praying. At least ninety minutes after the EMTs pronounced
me dead, God answered that man's prayers. 6

While direct divine physical miracles may result in healing and


raising someone from the dead, they can also bring disease and
death (cf. Num 16:46-50). For example, the Apostle Paul wrote the
Corinthians:
For anyone who eats and drinks [the Lord’s supper]
without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and
drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among
you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen
asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come
under [divine] judgment. (1 Cor 11:29-32)

Apparently, unbelievers who could not properly “recognize” the true


spiritual significance of the sacrificial death of Christ’s “body” were
being supernaturally disciplined by God, to the point of being made
sick or even killed.
All of the above, of course, are miracles, fitting our definition of
an extraordinary revelation of God’s supernatural power.
Accordingly, they illustrate the three attributes of miracles
described in the previous chapter. They are obvious interventions
into natural processes, relatively extremely rare, and awe-inspiring.
Finally, they are direct divine miraculous deeds because no
apparent intermediary was involved in accomplishing them. 7 In
other words, while the Baptist preacher prayed for Don Piper, he
was not delegated miracle working power to command a miracle,
but rather, it was performed directly by God.
10.4: Divine Miracles 106

This category of direct divine physical miraculous deeds brings


up the rather difficult topic of how to categorize the miracles of
Christ. He “was God” (John 1:1), yet repeatedly insisted while on
Earth that His authority and miracle working power had been
delegated to Him by the Father (cf. John 5:19-23, 26, 30, 36;
14:10-11; cp. 15:5). 8 For our purposes of distinguishing between
direct and delegated miracle working, we have chosen to distinguish
between the non-incarnate Christ Who created the Universe in the
past (cf. John 1:2-3, Col 1:16), presently preserves it (cf. Col
1:17), and in the future will recreate it (Rev 21:5); from the
incarnate Christ Who walked on the Earth in a fully human body.
Accordingly, we will consider the miracles of the non-incarnate
Christ as direct miracles, including those performed by the Angel of
the Lord in the OT which we support elsewhere as a pre-incarnation
theophany of God the Son. 9 On the other hand, those miracles
performed by the incarnate Christ will be discussed in the next
chapter under delegated miracle working.

A.2) Purposes of direct divine physical miraculous deeds

Some of the purposes of direct divine miraculous deeds are


closely related to our previous discussion on what circumstances
make miracles more likely to occur. 10 These circumstances
included the fulfillment of a predestined “controlling call” on a
person’s life, or special authentication, protection, and
encouragement of Christians in the context of severe persecution,
or the introduction of Christianity to new cultures. In addition,
direct divine miraculous deeds occur as simple answers to prayer.
God’s direct miraculous deeds also occurred in Scripture to
authenticate a covenant or promise of God. The most powerful and
perhaps important example is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This
direct divine miraculous deed is the signature of Almighty God on
the New Covenant. Accordingly, the Apostle Paul writes that Christ,
“through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be
the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead: Jesus
Christ our Lord” (Rom 1:4; cf. 1 Cor 15:12-19).
It is because of the authenticating nature of God’s direct
miraculous deeds that they are often referred to in Scripture as
“signs.” Accordingly, John McClintock (1814-1870) and James
Strong (1814-1870) relate:
The word simeion, sign, tells us in the plainest language that
these works were tokens calling the attention of men to what
was then happening; and especially is it used in the Old
Testament of some mark or signal confirming a promise or
10.4: Divine Miracles 107

covenant. Such a sign (or mark) God gave to Cain in proof


that his life was safe (Genesis 4:15). Such a sign (or token)
was the rainbow to Noah, certifying him and mankind
throughout all time that the world should not be again
destroyed by water (Genesis 9:13). . . .
Thus Ahaz is told to ask a sign, and a choice is given him
either of some meteor in the heavens, or of some appearance
in the nether world (Isaiah 7:11). . . . Elsewhere the divine
foreknowledge is the sign (Exodus 3:12; Isaiah 37:30), and
generally signs of God’s more immediate presence with his
people would either be prophecy (Psalm 74:9) or miracle
(Psalm 105:27; Jeremiah 32:20; Daniel 4:2). . . .
Repeatedly the purpose of the supernatural occurrence is
given as a twofold "sign": "By this you will know that I am the
Lord" (Exod. 7:17; cf. 9:29-30; 10:1-2) and that these are
"my people" (Exod. 3:10; cf. 5:1; 6:7; 11:7; [cf. Deut. 26:8;
cf. 29:2-3; Josh. 24:17; Neh.10; Ps. 105:27; Jer. 32:20-2 1]).
11

Related to the fact that God’s direct miraculous deeds


authenticated His promises and purposes, they are a powerful
revelation of His character. Accordingly, we see that the miracle of
Creation is intended to reveal God’s “eternal power and divine
nature” (Rom 1:20), and ever since Creation, God has been
revealing His character through this direct miraculous deed. He has
continued to do the same. Accordingly, we have written elsewhere:
God demonstrated His holiness to Noah when the flood waters
supernaturally destroyed all other breathing beings (cf. Gen
6:5-7). He showed Abraham His faithfulness by
supernaturally giving him a son even in old age as He had
promised (cf. Gen 15:4). God demonstrated His wrath when
He, “rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and
Gomorrah” (cf. Gen 19:24). He revealed His sovereignty
over human circumstances through the miraculous
manipulation of events in Joseph’s life (cf. Gen chs. 37-50).
God’s unconditional grace was demonstrated in the Exodus (cf.
Deut 7:6-8). His compassion was evident when He
lengthened Hezekiah’s life (cf. Isa 38:1, 5), just as He does
whenever He miraculously heals someone today. God’s great
love was demonstrated by God the Son dying on the cross.
And His immense power was again proven by Christ’s
resurrection. 12
10.4: Divine Miracles 108

B) Spiritual Miracles Performed by God

In contrast to physical miracles, a spiritual miraculous deed


transforms a person’s life, not just a limb. A possible example in
Scripture is when we read of an occurrence of supernatural unity:
“Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give
them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his
officials had ordered, following the word of the LORD” (2
Chron 30:12). Experience tells us that such unity is not natural
among humans and this would appear to be a supernatural deed
performed by God to effect people spiritually.
Another example of a spiritual miracle performed directly by
God is His granting of serving gifts such as “serving . . . teaching .
. . encouraging . . . contributing to the needs of others . . .
leadership . . . [and] showing mercy” (Rom 12:7-8). These are
special desires and abilities to serve God and His people more
effectively, and we do not acquire them by natural means, but
rather, they are “various forms” of “God’s grace,” (1 Pet 4:10),
such that “God works all of them in all men” and they are all
“the work of one and the same Spirit, and He gives them to
each one, just as He determines” (1 Cor 12:6, 11). While the
possession of these supernatural abilities is a direct spiritual miracle
of God, the effectiveness of them is dependent on our faithful
exercise of them (cf. 1 Pet 4:10; 1 Cor 15:10). 13
The primary example of such a direct divine miraculous deed of
the spiritual kind is spiritual regeneration. We will suggest below
that under the New Covenant, this miracle occurs through the
delegated miracle working power of preaching the Gospel.
However, in the OT it would appear to have happened directly from
God in an unmediated way. Accordingly, we have written
elsewhere:
We would suggest as well that the reason that ones such as
Noah, Abraham, Moses, Caleb, Joshua, David, and the
Prophets had such enduring faith in God was not because of
something they could take credit for in and of themselves.
Rather, we would suggest that God’s Spirit worked in such
men in a special and unique way, enabling them to maintain
the supernatural faith in God they had.
The Holy Spirit did not give us the stories of these great men
to glorify them, but rather to point again to the God who
enabled them. The OT heroes seemed to be forerunners of
those Israelites, who through the New Covenant, were also to
receive the Spirit. In other words, the following promise from
Ezekiel was fulfilled for such men long before it would be
realized for the Jewish nation in general:
10.4: Divine Miracles 109

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in


you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and
give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in
you and move you to follow My decrees and be
careful to keep My laws. (Ezek 36:26-7)
The faith of Noah (cf. Gen 6:5-14), contrasted with the
world; the faith of Abraham (cf. Gen 15:6), contrasted with
Lot; the faith of Moses (cf. Num 11:17), Joshua (cf. Num
27:18), Caleb (cf. Num 14:24), and the Prophets (cf. 1 Pet
1:11) contrasted with the rest of the Jewish nation; the faith
and character of David (cf. 1 Sam 16:13-14; Ps 51:11),
contrasted with Saul; all reflect, as the verses referenced
indicate, a special work of the Spirit in their lives, and
demonstrate even in the OT the vast difference between
regenerated and unregenerated hearts in relation to faith.
There would seem to be good evidence that such men were
not under the control of a sinful nature that is “hostile to God
[and] does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so”
(Rom 8:7). All men born since Adam have been in bondage to
the sinful nature, and if these men were not, it was
undoubtedly because some action of the Spirit had
transformed them so that the sinful nature was dethroned,
enabling them to love, obey, and believe God as they uniquely
did. Any real virtue in humanity is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
We are therefore inclined to agree with Millard Erickson in
his popular Christian Theology when he writes: “There are
several biblical considerations that argue for the occurrence of
regeneration in the Old Testament (or pre-Pentecost) period.”
And it would be such a regeneration that would explain the
faith exhibited in the OT. 14

It would seem clear that some supernatural working was evident


in the lives of such men as Noah, Abraham, and Moses, in order to
transform them into the spiritual giants they were, in contrast to all
of those around them. 15 We consider this a direct divine spiritual
miraculous deed on God’s part. While it would seem that it
produced supernatural faith and virtue, the primary purpose of such
supernatural action in the lives of these men was to accomplish
God’s plan of salvation, as each of them played a unique role in
this.
10.4: Divine Miracles 110

Extras & Endnotes

A Devotion to Dad

Our Father in Heaven, we again glory in Your remarkable works.


Praise You for being willing to step into our realm and create the
Universe, incarnate Your Son, and raise Him from the dead, all for
our salvation and eternal blessing. Nothing has improved the
quality and destiny of our lives more than Your miracles. Indeed,
we are gaining an understanding of why there is no such thing as
Christianity, or hope either, without them.

Gauging Your Grasp

1) How do we define a Direct divine physical miraculous deed?

2) What are the most important past examples of direct divine


physical miraculous deeds?

3) We claim that in the NT, there are very few direct divine
physical miracles and virtually all those recorded occur through
human miracle workers. Why would this be the case?

4) What is one of the very few direct divine physical miraculous


deeds in the NT?

5) What are the five most important miracles described in


Scripture? Are they direct divine miracles or delegated human
miracle working? Why is this the case?

6) What is the most obvious present day example of direct divine


physical miraculous deeds?

7) What are some biblical purposes of direct divine miraculous


deeds?

8) How do we define a direct divine spiritual miraculous deed?

9) What do we suggest is an OT example of a direct divine spiritual


miraculous deed? Why do we suggest its NT counterpart is an
example of delegated human spiritual miracle working?
10.4: Divine Miracles 111

Publications & Particulars

1
The “rapture” is the resurrection of those Christians still living when Christ
returns (cf. 1 Thess 4:13-18; Matt 24:29-31).
2
For further discussion of the concept of the predestined will of God see
section 7.15.B.1.
3
For further discussion of fulfilled biblical prophecy see chapter 9.8.
4
For further discussion of the claims of “faith healers” raising the dead see
section 11.8.E.
5
For example, see story of possible resuscitation of life at section 10.3.C.5.
6
Don Piper, 90 Minutes in Heaven (Baker, 2004), prologue. While we
believe that Mr. Piper was physically dead and extraordinarily brought
back to life, we reserve judgment on his claim that he experienced
Heaven. He is certainly a Christian, and he experienced something
remarkable, but the fact that he admits he only saw deceased friends and
never God, brings up at least some questions as to what he did
experience.
7
Angels may have been involved in these direct miracles, as in the angelic
miracle working discussed in the next chapter, but we are not told so.
8
This delegation that exists within the Godhead is discussed further at
section 4.1.B.2.
9
See section 10.9.C.
10
For further discussion on the proper expectation of miracles see chapter
10.3.
11
John McClintock and James Strong, Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological,
and Ecclesiastical Literature, CD-ROM (Ages Software, 2000), VI:38-39.
12
Excerpt from section 7.11.B. For several additional examples of some
amazing direct divine miracles see throughout chapter 10.2.
13
For further discussion of serving gifts as a revelation of God’s will see
chapter 7.13.
14
Excerpt from section 4.16.E.
15
On the work of the Holy Spirit in the OT Wayne Grudem writes:
[S]ometimes [it] is said that there was no work of the Holy Spirit
within people in the Old Testament. This idea has mainly been
inferred from the King’s words to the disciples in John 14:17, "He
dwells with you, and will be in you." But we should not conclude
from this verse that there was no work of the Holy Spirit within
people before Pentecost. Although the Old Testament does not
frequently speak of people who had the Holy Spirit in them or who
were filled with the Holy Spirit, there are a few examples.
10.4: Divine Miracles 112

Joshua is said to have the Holy Spirit within him (Num. 27:18;
Deut. 34:9), as are Ezekiel (Ezek. 2:2; 3:24), Daniel (Dan. 4:8-9,
18; 5:11), and Micah (Mic. 3:8). This means that when the King says
to his disciples that the Holy Spirit "dwells with you and will be in
you" (John 14:17), he cannot mean that there was an absolute
"within/without" difference between the old and new covenant work
of the Holy Spirit. Nor can John 7:39 ("as yet the Spirit had not been
given, because the King was not yet glorified") mean that there was
no activity of the Holy Spirit in people's lives before Pentecost.
(Systematic Theology [Zondervan, 1994], 637).
10.5: Human Miracle Working 113

Chapter 10.5

Human Miracle Working


The Delegated Power of God

Table of Topics

A) Physical Miracle Working by God’s Servants

A.1) The Nature of Delegated Human Miracle Working: Sign


gifts

A.2) The Amazing Miracles of Christ

A.3) The Authenticating Miracle Working of Prophets &


Apostles

A.4) The Powerful Miracle Working of Exorcism

A.5) The Awe-inspiring Miracle Working of Martyrdom

A.6) The Ministering Miracle Working of Angels


10.5: Human Miracle Working 114

Table of Topics

Continued

B) Spiritual Miracle Working by God’s Servants:


regeneration, virtue, & gifts

B.1) The Nature & Superiority of Spiritual Miracle Working

B.2) Supernatural Regeneration through the Gospel The


greatest miracle working today according to Jesus
(John 14:12)

B.3) Supernatural Virtue with the Resulting New Nature The


greatest proof of Christianity today according to Jesus

B.4) Supernaturally Building Christians through Serving Gifts

Extras & Endnotes

Table 10.5: The Types of Supernatural Spiritual Gifts:


Scripture, sign, & serving
10.5: Human Miracle Working 115

Primary Points

 Most of the miracles recorded in Scripture occur through a


representative of God who has been delegated His
supernatural power.
 Delegated miracles occur by the command or touch of a
person and never fail, as we have no record in Scripture of a
God-appointed miracle worker commanding or attempting to
perform a miracle that did not occur.
 The distinction between direct miracles and delegated miracle
working is not merely a theological one, but important in the
modern debate regarding miracles. We believe in miracles,
not miracle workers.
 The purpose of delegated human miracle working was
authenticating these humans as messengers of new extra-
biblical divine revelation. This is why we refer to them as
authenticating sign gifts and why, in Scripture, you will never
find a person possessing the gifts of miracle working and
healing who was not also a source of such new extra-biblical
divine revelation.
 Spiritual miracles are confined to people (because only they
are spiritual) and uniquely transform them on the inside.
 Super-supernaturalists do not share God’s preference for
spiritual miracle working gifts such as teaching, over physical
miracle working gifts such as healing.
 There is an unfortunate and universal mistake on the part of
theologians to leave spiritual regeneration out of a discussion
of miracles that God does, let alone miracle working that
obedient Christians perform today.
 Jesus said the raising of the spiritually dead to eternal
heavenly life through the ministry of the Gospel and the
resulting supernatural regeneration of the Holy Spirit would
be the greatest miracle working of any that has occurred!
 When a Christian is spiritually healed in regeneration, they
are given the ability to continue working miracles of virtue
with their New Nature. It is as if an arm were not only
miraculously healed, but in the process, given a supernatural
strength by which it can do things that other human arms
cannot do
 A serving gift supernaturally provides someone with an ability
that they would not have otherwise, in order to serve others.
10.5: Human Miracle Working 116

A) Physical Miracle Working by God’s Servants

A.1) The nature & purpose of delegated human miracle


working: Sign gifts

While the examples in the previous chapter demonstrated the


direct working of God’s power without intermediaries, most of the
miracles recorded in Scripture occur through a representative of
God who has been delegated His supernatural power. For example,
Hezekiah’s healing noted above did not occur through some
supposed “faith healer” or other intermediate means, but occurred
immediately by the direct power of God. Hezekiah did not “work” a
miracle, but was simply given one. On the other hand, “miracle
workers” such as Christ, Angels, OT Prophets and NT Apostles
performed miracles upon command with delegated power from God.
In fact, when the Apostle Paul is describing the gift of miracles he
refers to those possessing it as “workers of miracles” (1 Cor
12:28). 1
It can be noted here that God must perform the direct miracle of
delegating supernatural abilities to someone, before they can
perform delegated miracle working themselves. For example, God
must extraordinarily give a person the supernatural ability to heal
someone before they can do so. Likewise, God must perform the
direct miracle of granting someone a serving gift (e.g. teaching)
before they will possess the supernatural desires and abilities it
gives them.
In general, we can say that direct miracles can occur in
response to the simple prayer of anyone, but such requests are
often not granted. On the other hand, delegated miracles occur by
the command or touch of a person and never fail, as we have no
record in Scripture of a God-appointed miracle worker commanding
or attempting to perform a miracle that did not occur. Accordingly,
direct miracles authenticate and glorify God alone. Delegated
miracle working intentionally authenticates and unavoidably
glorifies the human as well, because God desires to authenticate
them as His divinely authoritative messenger.
The distinction between direct miracles and delegated miracle
working is not merely a theological one, but important in the
modern debate regarding miracles. Super-supernaturalism, which
is the belief that miracles of all kinds are quite common today and
that God-ordained miracle workers abound, often fails to make the
biblical distinction between direct miracles of God and delegated
human miracle working, with some unfortunate consequences.
For example, because many Christians deny that delegated
10.5: Human Miracle Working 117
human miracle working is operating today according to its biblical
attributes and purposes, super-supernaturalism routinely insinuates
that these Christians are also denying God is doing miracles today.
On the contrary, of course God is still doing miracles! But this is far
different from saying that God is still empowering human miracle
workers as super-supernaturalism claims, but which we
demonstrate elsewhere is a false claim. 2 We believe in miracles,
not miracle workers, and by not distinguishing between them,
super-supernaturalism has falsely accused others of believing in
miracles less than they do. 3
In addition, super-supernaturalism bolsters its claims to miracle
working gifts by suggesting that miracles or healings occurring in
response to prayer are examples of the sign gifts, such as healing,
operating. On the contrary, as we demonstrate elsewhere, no
biblical character with miracle working gifts ever healed people
merely with a prayer. Biblical Prophets, Apostles, and Christ healed
without fail through their command and/or touch of a person. 4
This is the important difference between the direct divine miracles
God may, but not always do today in response to the prayers of any
Christian, and the delegated human miracle working through
miraculous sign gifts that, in Scripture, were only given to those
who were also sources of new divine revelation from God.
Not only does the proper distinction between direct miracles and
delegated miracle working help to distinguish Authentic Christianity
from super-supernaturalism, but also from other religions. As we
note elsewhere, other religions certainly claim direct divine
miracles, but hardly delegated human miracle workers like Christ
and the Apostles, which is one more demonstration of Christianity’s
superiority. 5
This leads us to the God-given purpose of delegated human
miracle working: authenticating these humans as messengers of
new extra-biblical divine revelation that must be believed or
obeyed. This is why we refer to them as authenticating sign gifts
and why, in Scripture, you will never find a person possessing the
gifts of miracle working and healing who was not also a source of
such new extra-biblical divine revelation. 6
The miracle working of Moses, Elijah, Christ, and the Apostles
illustrate that the miraculous gifts which empower delegated human
miracle working are inseparably tied to those receiving new divine
revelation which is authoritative for all of God’s people. More
specifically, such people possessed new divine revelation (i.e.
Scripture gifts) and authenticating miraculous powers (i.e. sign
gifts), because God was implementing a monumental divine/human
covenant. 7
Accordingly, the writer of Hebrews says concerning the
10.5: Human Miracle Working 118
inauguration of the New Covenant:
This salvation [of the New Covenant], which was first
announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those
who heard Him. God also testified to [and authenticated]
it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and [sign]
gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.
(Heb 2:3)

Accordingly, the virtually unanimous opinion of the Christian


Church for approximately 1600 years was that miracle workers did
not exist in the Church because no new divine revelation was
needed, nor being granted. 8 Along these lines, Augustine (354-
430) reflected the inseparable relationship between human miracle
workers and new divine revelation when he wrote:
For these most trustworthy books of ours [Scripture] contain
in one narrative both the miracles that were wrought [by
humans] and the creed [covenant] which they were wrought
to confirm.” 9

Likewise, the “Old” Princeton theologian Benjamin Warfield


(1851-1921) comments in his exhaustive study on miracles:
[Miracle workers] do not appear on the pages of Scripture
vagrantly, here, there, and elsewhere indifferently, without
assignable reason. They belong to revelation periods, and
appear only when God is speaking to His people through
[them as] accredited messengers. . . .
Their abundant display in the Apostolic Church is the mark of
the richness of the Apostolic age in revelation; and when this
revelation period closed, the period of miracle working [not
direct miracles] had passed by also. . . .
Therefore it is that the extraordinary working which is but
the sign of God's revealing power, cannot be expected to
continue, and in point of fact does not continue, after the
revelation of which it is the accompaniment has been
completed. It is unreasonable to ask miracles, says John
Calvin—or to find them—where there is no new gospel. 10

Along the same lines, the influential Baptist theologian Augustus


Strong (1836-1921) wrote:
[Miracle working is] the natural accompaniments and
attestations of new communications from God. The great
epochs of miracles - represented by Moses, the Prophets, the
first and second comings of Christ -are coincident with the
great epochs of revelation. Miracles serve to draw attention to
10.5: Human Miracle Working 119
new truth, and cease when this truth has gained currency and
foothold. 11

Contrary to super-supernaturalism then, these sign gifts of


miracle working and healing are specifically granted for the purpose
of authenticating messengers of new extra-biblical divine revelation
that all of God’s people must believe and obey or otherwise sin
against God. And because God has given no one that kind of
revelation today, neither has he given them miracle working powers
or any of the Scripture and sign gifts that are unfortunately claimed
by so many today. 12

A.2) The Amazing Miracle Working of Christ

Of course, the greatest miracle worker of delegated miraculous


power in both biblical and human history is the incarnate Jesus
Christ. As we noted in the previous chapter, while He was God
Himself, He repeatedly made a point to explain that His miracle
working power came from God the Father. Apparently, the first
occurrence of this was turning water into wine (cf. John 2:1-11).
Perhaps even more astonishing was His delegated ability for
“healing every disease and sickness among the people” (Matt
4:23), including raising people from the dead (cf. Luke 7:11-15;
8:40-49; John 11:43-4).
He also performed other miracles over Nature including walking
on water (cf. John 6:19), calming a violent storm with just a word
(cf. Matt 8:23-26), multiplying fish and bread . . . twice (cf. Matt
14:15-21; 15:32-38), and causing a large amount of fish to gather
at a particular place and time to fill the Apostles’ nets (cf. Luke 5:6;
John 21:6). 13 Finally, while a magician may be able to make a coin
appear in his hand, let anyone else attempt to make one appear in
the mouth of a particular fish, that is caught by a particular person,
at a specified time, which is just one of the more “minor” miracles
performed by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords when He visited
our Planet (cf. Matt 17:27).
While Christ certainly healed people, we suggest that His
miracles over Nature particularly demonstrated His unique power,
and there is a conspicuous absence of these in the miraculous
ministries of His Apostles, not to mention those in super-
supernaturalism claiming to be miracle workers today.
The essential purpose of Christ’s miracle working is clear:
authenticating Himself as a source of new divine revelation from
God. As we have noted repeatedly, anyone sent to be the direct
10.5: Human Miracle Working 120
representative of God will carry God-like, miraculous credentials. 14
Accordingly, Christ said:
The words I say to you are not just My own. Rather, it
is the Father, living in Me, Who is doing His work.
Believe Me when I say that I am in the Father and the
Father is in Me; or at least believe on the evidence of
the miracles themselves (John 14:10-11; 10:37-8).

Likewise, the Apostle Peter said of Christ:


Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a
man accredited [apodedeiumenon: “proven”] by God to you
by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among
you through Him, as you yourselves know (Acts 2:22).

A.3) The Authenticating Miracle Working of Prophets &


Apostles

There are many examples of delegated divine miracle working


by Prophets and Apostles with sign gifts in Scripture. The OT
Prophets Moses and Elijah and the NT Apostles Peter and Paul
immediately come to mind.
We read of Moses in the last words of the Pentateuch:
Since then, no Prophet has risen in Israel like Moses,
whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those
miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do
in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his
whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty
power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did
in the sight of all Israel. (Deut 34:10-12)

This statement was obviously made before Christ, the other


Prophet like Moses (cf. Deut 18:17), had come. It clearly
communicates that the plagues of Egypt were considered miracles
of Moses because they occurred through his ministry. Why did God
empower Moses to be a miracle worker? To authenticate him as
God’s representative on Earth. Therefore, in God’s initial
commissioning of Moses, He gives him miracle working powers after
which God says, “This is so that they may believe that the
LORD, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God
of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you” (Exod
4:5).
Perhaps the most remarkable miracle working performed by
Moses with delegated power from God was the opening of the Red
Sea. The account reads:
10.5: Human Miracle Working 121
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out
to Me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff
and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the
water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on
dry ground. . . .
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and
all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong
east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were
divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry
ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their
left. (Exod 14:15-16, 21-22)

Obviously, God performed this miracle, but He chose to


accomplish it through the actions of Moses. In addition, as
discussed elsewhere, we see perhaps one reason that a miracle
worker has the miracle faith to command a miracle. 15 Here, God
gives Moses a miraculous revelation of His command to perform the
miracle, surely giving Moses certainty that such a miraculous event
would occur at the simple raising of his hand.
Elijah and Elisha were also powerful miracle workers, so much
so that while other miracle workers are primarily known for the
divine revelations that always accompanied them, the ministry of
these Prophets seemed to be essentially performing miracles. In
fact, the magnitude (not quantity) of miracle working performed by
them could be said to be equal to Christ Himself.
For example, both raised the dead to life (cf. 1 Kgs 17:17-24; 2
Kgs 4:32-7), multiplied food (cf. 1 Kgs 17:8-16; 2 Kgs 4:42-44),
and performed miracles over Nature such as Elijah commanding a
three year drought (cf. 1 Kgs 17:1; 18:1) and bringing down fire
from the sky on several occasions (cf. 1 Kgs 18:17-38; 2 Kgs 1:9-
15).
The relationship between these two miracle workers is unique as
well, explained by the fact that Elisha inherited “a double portion
of [Elijah’s] spirit” (cf. 2 Kgs 2:9, 15). This resulted in Elisha
performing several of the same miracles as Elijah, but even greater
ones it would seem, including the incident in which “some
Israelites were burying a [dead] man” and accidentally “threw
the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb,” and “when the body
touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on
his feet” (2 Kgs 13:21).
In addition, we will note here that it would appear that Moses
and Elijah are not done performing miracles. It would seem clear
from Revelation 11 that they are the ones commanding the terrible
judgments on the Earth during the future Day of Lord. We read:
10.5: Human Miracle Working 122
And I will give power to My two witnesses, and they will
prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. . . .
These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will
not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they
have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike
the Earth with every kind of plague as often as they
want. (Rev 11:3, 6) 16

The reason for such a great period of human miracle working in


the time of Moses is obvious. God was implementing a new
covenant, a monumental process we have discussed elsewhere. 17
However, the reason for a burst of miracle working in the days of
Elijah and Elisha is less clear. We suggest with others, and as we
have argued elsewhere, that periods and places of great
persecution and apostasy may induce God to grant an abundance of
miracles such as these. 18 Nevertheless, we would expect any God-
sent miracle workers to be sources of new divine revelation as were
all those who are recorded in Scripture.
When we come to the Apostolic age in Scripture we, of course,
see a great deal of miracle working by the Apostles of Christ. In
fact, we would again suggest that their supernatural abilities were
equal with Christ’s. For example, we read, “He called His twelve
disciples to Him and gave them authority to drive out evil
spirits and to heal every disease and sickness” (Matt 10:1; cf.
Acts 5:16), language identical to that used of Christ Himself (cf.
Matt 4:23).
Accordingly, both the Apostles Peter and Paul brought dead
people to life (cf. Acts 9:36-42; 20:9-12). Likewise, reminiscent of
the bleeding woman who was healed merely because she “touched
the edge of [Christ’s] cloak” (Matt 9:20), we read that, “people
brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and
mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of
them as he passed by” (Acts 5:15), and, “God did
extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even
handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken
to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits
left them” (Acts 19:11-12). The statement, “Everyone was filled
with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were
done by the Apostles” (Acts 2:43) is a recurrent theme of the
early Apostolic Church.
The sign gifts of miracle working and healing were obviously
also given to the Apostles to authenticate them as messengers of
new extra-biblical divine revelation. Accordingly, when the Apostle
Paul is defending his divine authority to the Corinthians he writes:
10.5: Human Miracle Working 123
You have made me act like a fool—boasting like this. You
ought to be writing commendations for me, for I am not
at all inferior to these “super apostles,” even though I am
nothing at all. When I was with you, I certainly gave you
every proof [sēmeia: “sign”] that I am truly an Apostle,
sent to you by God Himself. For I patiently did many
signs [sēmeiois: “signs”] and wonders and miracles among
you. (2 Cor 12:11-12 NLT)

A.4) The powerful miracle working of exorcism

Expelling demons from people was a rather common practice of


the King (cf. Matt 4:24; 8:16, 28-34; 9:32-33; 12:22; 15:22-29;
17:14-18; Luke 4:33-35; 8:2-3) and His disciples (cf. Matt 10:1;
Luke 10:17; Acts 5:16; 8:7; 16:16-18; 19:13-16). It is no doubt
intended to be considered miraculous as it is often included in a
description of such things. Accordingly, the following from Matthew
is very typical: “When evening came, many who were demon-
possessed were brought to Him [the King], and He drove out
the spirits with a word and healed all the sick” (8:16).
This same connection between exorcism and miracle working is
reflected in Mark where we read:
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out
demons in Your name and we told him to stop, because
he was not one of us." "Do not stop him," Jesus said.
"No one who does a miracle [dunamin: “power”] in My
name can in the next moment say anything bad about
Me. (Mark 9:38-9)

The King Himself would seem to essentially refer to exorcism as


a miracle. Reversing demonic possession, which we support as a
demonic miracle below, 19 certainly would seem to require
supernatural power that suffices for a miracle. And exorcism
certainly can carry with it the awe-inspiring effect we have claimed
is essential to a miracle as well. Again, Matthew is typical when he
records:
While they were going out, a man who was demon-
possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus.
And when the demon was driven out, the man who had
been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said,
“Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel” (Matt
9:32-33).
10.5: Human Miracle Working 124
We see as well that exorcism can be a very powerful and
wonderful miracle, apparently providing cures for those who are
mute and blind (cf. Matt 12:22), crippled (cf. Luke 13:10-16), and
experiencing severe seizures (cf. Matt 17:14-18). Accordingly, we
would have to agree with the well known Presbyterian theologian
Donald Bloesch who writes, “The working of miracles can refer to
such phenomena as the multiplication of food and the exorcism of
demons.” 20
While exorcism certainly involves spirits, we would not
categorize it as a spiritual miracle. It may certainly reverse some of
the spiritual evil we describe below concerning demon possession,
but this is not necessarily the case. Accordingly, our King taught:
When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through
arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it
says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives,
it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in
order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits
more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there.
And the final condition of that man is worse than the
first. (Matt 12:43-45; cf. Luke 11:24-6)

We would suggest that one thing the King is communicating


here is that exorcism does not necessarily result in a spiritual
reformation. It may allow a person to superficially improve their life
(i.e. “swept clean and put in order” v. 44). However, if a
person’s life remains “unoccupied” (v. 44) by the Holy Spirit Who
alone brings supernatural spiritual transformation, demonic spirits
will be capable of returning and making, “the final condition of
that man . . . worse than the first” (v. 45). 21
This should strongly caution those, particularly in super-
supernaturalism, who commonly view exorcism as a tool for
spiritual transformation. It cannot and will not replace the need to
“be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2)
which comes with the teaching and believing of Scripture.
Unfortunately, in the modern obsession over exorcism there can be
a tendency to focus on the spectacular physical effects of the
phenomenon and ignore the need for subsequent spiritual
transformation, possibly leaving people in a more dangerous
condition.
In addition, we suggest there are two other common abuses
particularly in super-supernaturalism regarding exorcism. First,
because of its powerful physical effects it is often confused with the
sign gifts of miracle working and healing, and its occurrence then
used to support the claim that these are still functioning. On the
contrary, exorcism is never listed as a spiritual gift, even among the
10.5: Human Miracle Working 125
list of miraculous gifts (cf. 1 Cor. 12:8-10). Therefore, while it
operated alongside the sign gifts in the ministry of Christ and the
Apostles it should be distinguished from them. 22
Accordingly, it could be performed by unbelievers (cf. Acts
19:13), and the Apostle John conspicuously leaves them out of his
chronicle of Christ’s miracles that were, “written that you may
believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by
believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). While
John was certainly interested in documenting Christ’s miracles, he
never mentions an exorcism. This is because while exorcism may
be considered a supernatural phenomenon, it was not the type of
miracle that clearly authenticated a messenger of God, such as the
gift of healing did.
The second common misunderstanding of exorcisms in super-
supernaturalism is the assumption that merely because such a thing
occurs in a “church” setting it is to be automatically interpreted as
being empowered by God for holy purposes. On the contrary,
exorcisms can be accomplished by unbelievers (cf. Acts 19:13-16),
and even demonically empowered people (cf. Matt 7:22-23). 23

A.5) The awe-inspiring miracle working of martyrdom

Perhaps nothing has revealed the supernatural power of God to


the world more than the amazing grace He has given to His
servants under torture and execution. The first recorded martyr of
the Christian Church was Stephen of whom we read:
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord
Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and
cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
When he had said this, he fell asleep [died] (Acts 7:59-
60).

We would suggest a supernatural, extremely rare, and awe-


inspiring power is at work here, as it certainly is not natural for a
human to beg divine forgiveness for his murderers. The history of
God’s people, both ancient and modern, is replete with examples of
supernatural endurance, peace, and virtue even while being
subjected to unimaginable cruelty. No other religion, race, or creed
can match this testimony.
Archibald Alexander (1772-1851), the “Old” Princeton apologist,
summarized the testimony of Christian martyrs when he wrote in
his textbook on Christian apologetics:
Persons of all ages, of all conditions of life, and of both sexes,
exhibited under protracted and cruel torments, a fortitude, a
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patience, a meekness, a spirit of charity and forgiveness, a
cheerfulness, yea often a triumphant joy, of which there are
no examples to be found in the history of the world. They
rejoiced when they were arrested; cheerfully bade adieu to
their nearest and dearest relatives; gladly embraced the
stake; welcomed the wild beasts let loose to devour them;
smiled on the horrible apparatus by which their sinews were to
be stretched, and their bones dislocated and broken; uttered
no complaints; gave no indication of pain when their bodies
were enveloped in flames; and when condemned to die,
begged of their friends to interpose no obstacle to their felicity
(for such they esteemed martyrdom), not even by prayer for
their deliverance. By what spirit were these despised and
persecuted people sustained? 24

It was obviously a supernatural Spirit that enabled such


miraculous physical deeds.25 Actually, we believe the Apostle Paul
specifically refers to a supernatural spiritual gift of martyrdom when
in the context of mentioning various gifts to contrast them with
love, including tongues, prophecy, miracle faith, and vows of
poverty he writes: “If I [willingly] . . . surrender my body to the
flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Cor 13:3). The
Apostle seems to recognize that such an act, done in love, would be
a demonstration of a supernatural grace of God. We believe this
same supernatural gift will be provided, and have the same affect
on pagans, particularly during the time of the coming Great
Tribulation when God’s “elect” (Matt 25:22, 24, 31) on Earth will
experience a “great distress [thlipsis: “affliction, persecution”],
unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and
never to be equaled again” (Matt 24:21).

A.6) The ministering miracle working of Angels

Angelic miracle working is considerably more common in


Scripture than many realize. This is the case even if we consider
the Angel of the Lord in the OT as a theophany of God the Son. 26
Primary examples include Daniel’s rescue from the lions (cf. Dan
6:16-23), Daniel’s friends’ rescue from the furnace (Dan 3:14-30),
and Peter’s rescue from prison (cf. Acts 12:5-10).
Such delegated miracle working by Angels illustrates the
statement in Hebrews that they are “ministering spirits sent to
serve those who will inherit salvation” (1:14). In addition, we
see that Angels do not work miracles just to help God’s people, but
to punish others, as we read in Acts, “Immediately, because
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Herod did not give praise to God, an Angel of the Lord struck
him down, and he was eaten by worms and died” (Acts
12:23). Scripture also teaches that the plagues in Egypt were
administered by divine Angels (cf. Psalm 78:49), particularly the
slaying of the first born being attributed to “the destroyer” Angel
(Exod 12:23) whom God sent. 27

B) Spiritual Miracle Working by God’s Servants:


Regeneration, virtue, & gifts

B.1) The Nature & Superiority of Spiritual Miracle Working

As noted in the previous chapter, we distinguish between


physical and spiritual miracles by the nature of their effect.
Spiritual miracles are confined to people (because only they are
spiritual) and uniquely transform them on the inside. More
specifically they seem to supernaturally change the desires and
abilities of people.
We noted previously that it seems God did this directly with
some rare individuals in the OT such as Abraham, Moses, and
David, granting them a faith and relationship with God that others
did not have. However, the affect of spiritual miracles in the NT as
we discuss here, occurs through human intermediaries instead of
simply directly by God. Therefore, we see them as delegated divine
spiritual miracle working.
We suggest there are three basic types of this kind of miracle.
1) the supernatural regeneration that occurs when the Gospel is
preached, 2) the supernatural virtue exercised by Christians
allowing the indwelling Spirit to control them, and 3) the
supernatural building up of Christians that occurs as Spirit-indwelled
people are faithful with the supernatural spiritual serving gifts (i.e.
teaching, pastoring, leading, serving, etc.) they have been given.
All of these meet our definition of a miraculous deed: an
extraordinary revelation of God’s supernatural power by which He
intervenes in the ordinary and natural processes He has ordained
because they are not sufficient to accomplish or communicate His
will. But they are also spiritual miracles, affecting the internal
desires and spiritual abilities of a person.
Two things worth noting will be evident about this kind of
miracle working. First, they require the obedience of God’s people.
Only obedient Christians are going to share the Gospel and
experience its miracle working power over a repentant sinner. Only
obedient Christians are going to allow the Spirit to control them so
10.5: Human Miracle Working 128
that they experience and display to others the supernatural fruits of
the Spirit. And only obedient Christians are going to be faithful to
use the spiritual gifts they have been given to supernaturally build
the body of Christ. God is offering His Church the opportunity to
experience the most amazing miracle working and supernatural
achievements, but only if they will obey.
Secondly, and perhaps most important in our day, is the fact
that these spiritual miracles are superior in value to any physical
miracles occurring today. Physical miracles may transform human
limbs, but spiritual miracles transform human lives. 28
Accordingly, the author remembers being part of conducting a
Pastors’ conference in Cameroon West Africa where super-
supernaturalism is abundant. The concluding topic was an
encouragement to return home and supernaturally love their wives,
children, churches, and communities with the love God had
indwelled them with. They were told: “I commission you and send
you as miracle workers of the most powerful and important kind.”
They understood.
It is important to note that physical miracles will not necessarily
result in spiritual miracles or any spiritual affect at all. One is
reminded here of the Israelites of whom the Psalmist writes:
He did miracles in the sight of their fathers in the land
of Egypt, in the region of Zoan. He divided the sea and
led them through; He made the water stand firm like a
wall. He guided them with the cloud by day and with
light from the fire all night. He split the rocks in the
desert and gave them water as abundant as the seas;
He brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water
flow down like rivers.
But they continued to sin against Him, rebelling in the
desert against the Most High. . . . In spite of all this,
they kept on sinning; in spite of His wonders, they did
not believe. (Ps 78:12-17, 32)

Even the great physical miracles the OT saints experienced did not
change them spiritually nor establish a relationship of trust with
God.
Likewise, in the NT we think of the “ten men who had
leprosy” whom the King healed (Luke 17:12). Though all ten had
received such a miraculous physical healing, only “One of them,
when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a
loud voice” (v. 15). We read:
He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him—and
he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten
cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found
10.5: Human Miracle Working 129
to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
(vs. 16-17)

It would seem that while all ten had experienced a physical miracle,
only one had experienced a spiritual one which perhaps affected the
rest of His life.
One wonders if the same thing is going on when the King heals
the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda and Christ warns him, “See,
you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may
happen to you” (John 5:14). Our point again is that a human limb
may be extraordinarily changed, but a human life remain spiritually
unchanged, making the latter kind of miracle superior to the
former.
Further biblical evidence that God deems spiritual miracles as
more valuable than physical miracles is the order in which the
Apostle Paul lists spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 where we read:
“In the Church God has appointed first of all Apostles,
second Prophets, third Teachers, then workers of miracles”
(v. 28). Commentators agree with the obvious conclusion that the
Apostle was intentionally ranking these gifts in terms of their value
to the Church.
Contrary to typical super-supernaturalism, Paul claims that the
gift of teaching is a more important, valuable, and powerful gift
than physical miracle working. Unfortunately, if most Christians
were asked whether they would rather have the power to heal limbs
through commanding miracles or change hearts through teaching,
they would choose the former. This is because they do not share
God’s preference for spiritual miracle working gifts such as
teaching, over physical miracle working gifts such as healing.

B.2) Supernatural Regeneration through the Gospel:


The greatest miracle working today according to the King
(John 14:12)

While it is possible that spiritual regeneration had occurred in


very rare cases in the OT, 29 this miracle comes to the fore in the
NT. This is, of course, the miracle of “rebirth and renewal by the
Holy Spirit” (Tit 3:5) which we have spoken of at length
elsewhere. 30
There is an unfortunate and universal mistake on the part of
theologians to leave spiritual regeneration out of a discussion of
miracles that God does, let alone miracle working that obedient
Christians perform today. This is particularly surprising when the
King Himself said this miracle working would be greater than His
10.5: Human Miracle Working 130
own, which, therefore, makes it the greatest miracle working of any
that has occurred!
Our King said the following to His disciples near the time of His
death:
Believe Me when I say that I am in the Father and the
Father is in Me; or at least believe on the evidence of
the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone
who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He
will do even greater things [ergon: “miracles”] than these,
because I am going to the Father. (John 14:11-12)

These words have perplexed many and have unfortunately been


abused by super-supernaturalists to support their claim that the NT
gift of physical miracle working is operating today. A careful
examination of the passage reveals no such thing. Rather, the King
is speaking of spiritual miracle working, something much greater
and God-glorifying.
It is important first to define the “greater things” that Christ
speaks of. The previous verse (11) would seem to clearly define
these “greater things” as physical “miracles.” Although the
NASB simply translates the Greek ergon as “works,” Christ is
referring to more than just His good deeds, as ergon is regularly
used in the NT to refer to miracles. 31 Our King is specifically
pointing to His miraculous deeds as proof that “the Father is in
Me” (10, 11). 32
This obviously brings up an important question. What miracle
could “anyone who has faith in” the King do that would be
“greater” than the miracle working He did? It is agreed by most
that the “greatest” miracles performed by Christ would have been
His ability to grant physical life to those who were physically dead
(cf. Matt 9:18-26; Luke 7:11-16; John 11:43-44). So there is a
need to find something in the Christian’s experience today that is
more powerful and God-glorifying than raising the physically dead
to temporary earthly life. The clearest answer would seem to be
the raising of the spiritually dead to eternal heavenly life through
the ministry of the Gospel and the resulting supernatural
regeneration of the Holy Spirit. There are several items that would
support this view.
First of all, the King says that the Christian will do greater
miracles “because I am going to the Father.” This becomes
significant when He later explains that “It is for your good that I
am going away. Unless I go away, the [Paraklete: i.e. Holy
Spirit 33] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to
you” (John 16:7). So in essence, Christ was saying that we would
10.5: Human Miracle Working 131
do greater miracle working than He because of the coming of the
Holy Spirit.
Of course, super-supernaturalists wish to claim that Christ is
referring to the continuing ability to work physical miracles. But
this is again partly because they do not understand that God values
spiritual miracles more. Accordingly, among the many new things
that came with the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the
miraculous, life changing, born-again experience which
accompanied the preaching of the Gospel.
It would appear that the King had introduced this idea before in
John’s Gospel. In chapter 5 the Pharisees are inquiring into the
nature of Christ’s ability to perform miracles, and particularly the
physical healing of a paralytic. Our King responds:
The Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what
He sees His Father doing. . . . Yes, to your amazement
He [the Father] will show Him [the King] even greater
things [meizona erga] than these. For just as the Father
raises the dead and gives them [physical] life, even so
the Son gives [spiritual and eternal] life to whom He is
pleased to give it. (John 5:19-21).

John uses the exact same Greek phrase here, translated


“greater things,” as he used in John 14 (The only two places it is
used in the NT). And here in John 5, Christ makes it clear that the
“greater things” that the Father will do through Christ is
something more than restoring physical life, which is clearly the
giving of eternal and spiritual life.
There is no doubt that the spiritual rebirth of a human being is a
greater work of God than any physical miracle working. This
granting of spiritual eternal life that began occurring in people’s
lives particularly upon Christ’s departure and the Spirit’s arrival is
much greater than a restoration of mere temporary physical life.
Spiritual rebirth has eternal consequences, the other only
temporary. Modern emergency medical procedures can, essentially,
restore physical life to the physically dead, but the world is totally
incapable of producing “a [spiritual] new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Accordingly, Michael Horton, Professor of Theology and
Apologetics at Westminster, has written:
For Reformation Christians, the most important activity of the
Holy Spirit is not raising the dead here and now, but raising to
spiritual life those who "were dead in trespasses and sins." 34

Along the same lines, Richard B. Gaffin, Professor of Systematic


Theology at Westminster has said:
10.5: Human Miracle Working 132
No work of the Spirit . . . is more radical, more impressive,
more extraordinary, and more thoroughly supernatural, than
the work He does [present tense] — now, today, a work of
nothing less than [spiritually] resurrecting people who are
nothing less than "dead in transgressions and sins" (Eph. 2:1,
5). 35

Spiritual regeneration clearly qualifies as a miracle according to


our definition of an extraordinary revelation of God’s supernatural
power by which He intervenes in the ordinary and natural processes
He has ordained because they are not sufficient to accomplish His
will. As noted in the previous chapters, miracles are
“extraordinary” in the sense that they are supernatural, extremely
rare, and awe-inspiring. Understanding that salvation does not
occur apart from a supernatural act of God, considering that
relatively “few” (Matt 7:14) humans will ever experience it, and
recognizing that the life transformation that occurs with it is indeed
awesome, spiritual regeneration is clearly a miracle.
If the initial physical creation of human beings in the Garden is
to be considered a miracle, than so is the spiritual new creation of
humans through the Gospel, and an even bigger one than the
former because it automatically brings eternal life. And because
humans are born spiritually, “dead in . . . transgressions and
sins” (Eph 2:1), and cannot “accept the things that come from
the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 2:14), the miracle of regeneration is
necessary to accomplish God’s will of saving His Elect.
We note as well that God only does the miraculous when the
natural condition of something is not sufficient to fulfill His
purposes. Such is the case with regeneration under the New
Covenant. The Scriptures teach that the Old Covenant that was
perhaps implemented by a few regenerated souls was not sufficient
to produce a people who truly loved God. God therefore instituted
spiritual regeneration for all those under the New Covenant, so that,
unlike their OT counterparts, they would remain faithful to God
because they have been given a “new heart” that loves God.
Accordingly, God describes this miracle when He says:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I
will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a
heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move
you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My
laws. (Ezek 36:26-27; cf. Heb 8:10-13; Ezek 11:19-20; Jer
24:7; 31:33; Isa 32:14-18; 44:3)

This is the most amazing miracle of all, it is spiritual in nature,


and it is not directly performed by God, like perhaps in the OT.
10.5: Human Miracle Working 133
Rather He has delegated supernatural power to us to perform it.
This divine delegated spiritual miracle working of “rebirth and
renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Tit 3:5) occurs exclusively through
the preaching of the Gospel by obedient Christians. Contrary to
pluralists and universalists we know of no cases in either NT or
human history that it has occurred otherwise. 36
This is the reason the Apostle Paul writes the Roman Christians:
For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the
same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call
on Him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the
Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the One
they have not believed in? And how can they believe in
the One of Whom they have not heard? And how can
they hear without someone preaching to them? And
how can they preach unless they are sent? . . .
Consequently, [saving] faith [and the supernatural spiritual
regeneration that accompanies it] comes from hearing the
message [Gospel], and the message is heard through the
word of Christ. (Rom 10:12-15, 17)

We would suggest the Apostle believed that the supernatural


regeneration that occurs with spiritual salvation only occurs through
the instrument of “someone preaching to them” (v. 15). This is
why he referred to the “Gospel” as “the [supernatural] power of
God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).
The Apostle Peter concurs when he writes:
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed,
but of imperishable, through the living and enduring
word of God [the Gospel]. . . . [T]he word of the Lord
stands forever and this is the word [Gospel] that was
preached to you. (1 Pet 1:23, 25; cf. 1 Pet 1:12; Gal 3:2;
John 6:63; Heb 4:12; Jas 1:18)

The fact that the greatest of all miracles occurs through our
preaching of the Gospel is precisely why the King said, “I tell you
the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have
been doing [performing miracles]. He will do even greater
things [miracles] than these [physical miracles], because I am
going to the Father” (John 14:12), and subsequently the Holy
Spirit would come to regenerate people through the Gospel.
Accordingly, the respected NT scholar Leon Morris (1914-2006)
writes concerning John 14:12:
This is probably to be explained in terms of the coming of the
Holy Spirit, who will not come until the Son goes away (16:17;
cf. 7:39). What Jesus means we may see in the narratives in
10.5: Human Miracle Working 134
Acts. There there are a few miracles of healing, but the
emphasis is on the mighty works of conversion. On the day of
Pentecost alone more believers were added to the little band
of Jesus’ followers than throughout his entire earthly life.
There we see a literal fulfillment of doing “even greater things
than these.” 37

We note here that the required “faith” Christ speaks of in order


to do these “greater things” is not merely saving faith that saves
us, but the empowering faith we exercise to believe and obey God’s
commands. 38 In other words, not every saved person will perform
this miracle of initiating spiritual regeneration through
communicating the Gospel, but only those obedient to the Great
Commission (cf. Matt 28:18-20).
Obviously, the exercise of such faith in preaching the Gospel
does not have automatically miraculous effects. The spiritual death
we are physically born into requires no miracle as this is the natural
process of Nature (cf. Rom 3:9; Eph 2:1; Col 2:23). But humans
are not born with the power to spiritually regenerate themselves to
spiritual life, and therefore, a miracle is required. As with any
miracle, God must intervene supernaturally to bring about the
supernatural results involved in spiritual regeneration to eternal
salvation. Accordingly, we read in Acts:
[M]en from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and
began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good
news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s [supernatural]
hand was with them, and [therefore] a great number of
people believed and turned to the Lord. (Acts 11:20-21;
cf. Acts 16:14; 1 Cor 1:24; 2:4; 1 Thess 1:5; 1 Tim 2:25)

Therefore, it would seem that the greatest delegated human


miracle working ever performed was not by Christ, the Prophets,
Apostles, and certainly not through the modern so called “miracle”
workers claimed by super-supernaturalism. We suggest the
greatest delegated human miracle working ever in human history
has occurred when any obedient Christian has led a sinner to
salvation, enabling them to “cross over from [spiritual] death to
[spiritual] life” (John 5:24) by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ
with them.
The spiritual miracle working power of the Gospel is revealed in
the fact that it can almost instantly transform the greatest sinners
into the greatest saints. The Gospel is so potentially supernaturally
powerful that even sinful unbelievers can preach it and bring
miraculous regeneration to people (cf. Phil 1:15-18). 39 Therefore,
when Christ gave us the Gospel and “committed to us the
10.5: Human Miracle Working 135
message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19), He gave us the ability to
perform miracles greater than any He did.
Super-supernaturalists who focus so much attention on physical
miracle working and “faith healers” need to take better notice of
this. 40 Accordingly, it might be said that Christian Evangelists are
by far the greatest miracle workers operating in the world today.
Along these lines, Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) preached the
following during the Great Awakening:
Under what great means and advantages you continue in sin.
God is now favoring us with very great and extraordinary
means and advantages, in that we have such extraordinary
tokens of the presence of God among us; his Spirit is so
remarkably poured out, and multitudes of all ages, and all
sorts, are converted and brought home to Christ. God
appears among us in the most extraordinary manner, perhaps,
that ever he did in New England. The children of Israel saw
many mighty [physical] works of God, when he brought them
out of Egypt; but we at this day see works more mighty, and
of a more glorious [and spiritual] nature. 41

And Edwards was not talking about physical miracles, but the
miracle of “rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Tit 3:5).
While it seems clear that the “greater works” Christ was
referring to are to be understood as the spiritual miracle of
regeneration through belief in the Gospel, super-supernaturalists
routinely interpret it as a promise of greater physical miracle
working, in order to claim a biblical promise to the continuance of
the miraculous sign gifts. For example, Jack Deere, a prominent
teacher in the movement, uses John 14:12 to erroneously claim
that modern super-supernaturalism will produce miracle workers
who will “do greater works [e.g. physical healings] than the
Apostles, than Jesus, or any of the Old Testament Prophets.” 42
Also attempting to give biblical support for continuing gifts of
physical miracle working through “faith healers,” super-
supernaturalist apologist J. P. Moreland writes:
The implications of this understanding of Jesus' ministry are
remarkable: Jesus is living proof of how those who are his
followers may exceed the limitations of their humanness in
order that they, like him, might carry to completion against all
odds their God-given mission in life -by the Holy Spirit. It is
becoming clear that when Jesus said that "greater works than
these he [i.e., the one who believes in Jesus] will do, because
I go to the Father" (John 14:12), he meant it in the ordinary
way these words would be interpreted. In imitation of Jesus’
ministry, the church is invited to exercise the extraordinary
10.5: Human Miracle Working 136
power of the Spirit in the service of the Kingdom [to do
physical miracle working]. 43

Accordingly, NT scholar D. A. Carson writes concerning John


14:12:
The passage has become a more or less standard proof text
not only in many traditionally charismatic circles but also for
many in the Vineyard [movement]. . . . [I]t cannot mean
more spectacular works or the like-though some such meaning
seems to be assumed by many Vineyard people. . . .
I know of no one in the Vineyard, or anywhere else, for that
matter, who claims, with any sort of public attestation at all,
that he is performing more spectacular miracles than these
[physical miracles that Christ did]. I know no person who is
matching them; I know no group that is collectively matching
them. . . .
Before summarizing what the text means, it is worth
mentioning what it can't mean. First, it cannot simply mean
more works: the church will do more things than Jesus did.
There are perfectly good ways to say that sort of thing in
Greek, and John did not choose any of them. 44

The proper interpretation of John 14:12 gives no support to the


super-supernaturalists claim that Christ was promising the Church
continual physical miracle working abilities such as healing. What
sane Christian would claim they have performed physical miracles
greater than Christ did? Even the most spectacular of the mere
physical miracle working performed by supposed modern day “faith
healers” pale in comparison to not only the physical miracle working
of Christ, but the contemporary spiritual miracle of the new birth.
Our point again is that a human limb may be miraculously changed,
but a human life remain spiritually unchanged, making the latter
kind of miracle superior to the former.
Is it possible that super-supernaturalists are forgetting this?
When they accuse others of diminishing and limiting the power of
God 45 do they forget that the greatest and most powerful miracles
are still occurring today when someone is spiritually transformed
into a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17)? Or how about when through
the teaching of the Word of God a Christian is, “transformed into
His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from
the Lord, Who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).
Here we are reminded of something that the founder of the
Great Awakening revival in the eighteenth century, George
Whitefield (1714-1770), wrote concerning a similar misconception
then:
10.5: Human Miracle Working 137
Great need have you, my brethren, at this time to take the
Apostle’s advice and to try the spirits whether they be of God.
For the devil is beginning to mimic God’s work and, because
terrors will not do, he is now transforming himself into an
angel of light, in order more effectually to gain his point.
Brother________, as well as brother _________, I believe,
imagines there will be a power given to work miracles. . . .
But, alas! what need is there of miracles, such as healing sick
bodies and restoring sight to blind eyes, when we see greater
miracles done every day by the power of God’s Word? Do not
the spiritually blind now see? Are not the spiritually dead now
raised and the leprous souls now cleansed, and have not the
poor the Gospel preached to them? And if we have the thing
already which such miracles were only intended to introduce,
why should we tempt God in requiring further signs?” 46

This is the same question we would ask super-supernaturalists


today.
To accuse anyone who is actively involved in evangelism and
teaching of being adverse to miracle working reveals a Pharisaical
attitude that strains a gnat but swallows the camel. Such an
accusation at least implies a belief that the healing of a physical
ailment is at least as powerful or miraculous as the spiritual
healings that are constantly occurring today through the
communication of God’s word. The miraculous gifts that some so
desperately crave today are far inferior to the miraculous works
that God is performing through His Word. Have super-
supernaturalists simply become bored with the New Birth? God is
doing the greatest, most spectacular miracles today! And it is not
just within the super-supernaturalist camp as they claim.

B.3) Supernatural Virtue with the Resulting New Nature


The greatest proof of Christianity today according to the King

Not only does the reception of the Gospel work the greatest
miracle in us by giving us spiritual life, it also creates in us a New
Nature through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Our New Nature is
then capable of working the most amazing miracles of supernatural
virtue. This virtue is certainly supernatural, as we wrote in a
previous chapter:
[T]he initial miracle of regeneration for salvation, continues to
be evidenced in the supernatural power born again believers
have to love others like God through their New Nature.
Against the backdrop of humanity’s constant and complete
10.5: Human Miracle Working 138
selfishness, love is as great a miracle as levitation, violating all
kinds of “natural laws” at least as pervasive as gravity. 47

Accordingly, we have demonstrated elsewhere, that even the


King claimed this supernatural virtue is the greatest of all
apologetics and proofs of the exclusivity of Christianity regarding
salvation when He said:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I
have loved you, so you must love one another. By this
all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love
one another (John 13:34-5). 48

It is the Gospel that causes the miracle of spiritual


regeneration, and it is in turn the supernatural effects of the miracle
of spiritual regeneration that authenticates the Gospel. The Apostle
Paul would seem to allude to this when he writes the Thessalonians:
For we know, brothers loved by God, that He has chosen
you, because our Gospel came to you not simply with
words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and
with deep conviction. You know how we lived among
you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of
the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the
message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. (1 Thess
1:4-6)

First, the Apostle explains that the salvation and regeneration


these Christians experienced came through the Spirit-empowered
communication of the Gospel (v. 5). Secondly, he notes that he
and His companions lived a supernatural life of love among the
Thessalonians in order to not hinder their reception of the Gospel or
their belief in Paul as a messenger of it (v. 5; cf. 2:1-11). 49
Finally, the Apostle illustrates the miraculous fruit of their
regeneration when he describes them as having “joy given by the
Holy Spirit,” “in spite of severe suffering” (v. 6). We would
suggest this is a miracle, and one that cannot be produced by mere
human power, but only by supernatural power. Again, the Gospel
causes the miracle of spiritual regeneration which gives us a New
Nature capable of miraculous virtue.
Accordingly, God has given all Spirit-indwelled Christians
delegated miracle working powers to exhibit the supernatural fruits
of the Spirit. So then, every time a born again Christian allows the
indwelling Spirit to control them, thereby producing the
supernatural fruits of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control” (Gal
5:22-3) they are exhibiting attributes that no unregenerated human
10.5: Human Miracle Working 139
can, 50 and reflecting the greatest of miracles by God’s power as
well.
Accordingly, we have written elsewhere:
In fact, do you want to see a list of the greatest, most
supernatural miracles in the Bible? Maybe you think we should
go to Exodus and the miracles of Moses, or 1 and 2 Kings to
read about Elijah and Elisha, or surely the Gospels and Acts to
study the amazing miracles of Christ and His Apostles. No, even
from God’s perspective, these are not the places where we read
of the greatest miracles.
Rather, that list of the greatest miracles is found in a passage
of Scripture that is read at virtually every Christian wedding
ceremony. Here it is:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it
does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is
not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps
no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth. It always protects,
always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. (1 Cor 13:4-8)

Being “patient” and “kind” to people who hurt or hate you


is miraculous. Not envying what others have, nor boasting
about what you have, is a moral miracle. Not being “self-
seeking” but others-seeking in all you do is an amazing
miracle. Keeping “no record of wrongs” done to you and
forgiving everyone is simply supernatural. Having an
unconditional love that “never fails” no matter what happens
is the greatest of all miracles occurring today.
This stuff just doesn’t happen apart from the working of
Almighty God. While levitation is recognized as an amazing
miracle because of the great power and pervasiveness of
gravity in Nature, so love should likewise be recognized
because of the great power and pervasiveness of selfishness in
humanity. Patience, kindness, humility, selflessness,
forgiveness, and faithfulness are the greatest miracles ever
performed by anyone, even God Himself. They are, in fact, the
most supernatural thing about God the Father in Heaven and
the Son when He was on this Earth.
Remember that the Apostle Paul is writing this in the
context of arguing what truly is supernatural. Like the
miracle-hungry Corinthians, he no doubt thinks that the
abilities he has listed are miraculous including, “gifts of
healing . . . miraculous powers . . . speaking in different
kinds of tongues [human languages],” “the interpretation
10.5: Human Miracle Working 140
of tongues,” a “gift of prophecy [that] can fathom all
mysteries and all knowledge, and . . . a faith that can
move mountains” (1 Cor 12:9-10; 13:2).
However, the Apostle says that if those possessing such
gifts “have not love” they are “nothing.” Why? In large
part because in a world where every human is born with an
irresistible and overpowering selfish nature, love is a much
greater miracle than all of these miracles combined. Doctors
are “healing” people, scientists have solved a great number
of “mysteries,” linguists can teach you foreign “tongues,”
and engineers can “move mountains.” But no one, apart
from the enablement of the only God, can unconditionally love
sinful people like He does, and Christians do. 51

While we cannot even come close to matching God in power or


knowledge, He commands us to love like He loves because with our
New Nature, we have the ability.
While we discuss elsewhere that miraculous interventions into
Creation normally subsequently blend back into Nature, such is not
the case with the “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17) that occurs with the
spiritual regeneration of the Spirit. For example, if someone’s
broken arm were miraculously healed, it would subsequently and
naturally operate as any other human arm, being indistinguishable
from other healthy human arms. However, when a Christian is
spiritually healed in regeneration, they are given the ability to
continue working miracles of virtue with their New Nature. It is as
if an arm were not only miraculously healed, but in the process,
given a supernatural strength by which it can do things that other
human arms cannot do. 52
But even an arm with supernatural powers must be exercised in
order for those powers to operate. Such is the case with the
miracle working abilities of our New Nature, which is the reason
that we are repeatedly exhorted in Scripture to let it control us (cf.
Eph 4:22-24; Gal 5:16-24). A regenerated human being will never
be the same again. They can ignore the fact that the Holy Spirit
lives in them, and because of old deception and desires, can fall into
sin and suppress the effects of their New Creation. However, the
new “natural” nature of the Christian is now the supernatural fruits
of the Holy Spirit which are “love, joy, [and] peace” (cf. Gal 5:22-
3).
There is again here a lesson particularly for super-
supernaturalists. Their teachings and practice often result in
dividing believers into two groups: 1) “super Christians” who are
supposedly performing or experiencing a multitude of merely
physical miracles, and 2) the second rate Christians who cannot
10.5: Human Miracle Working 141
perform or experience such miracles because of a lack of gift or
even faith on their part.
Not so. The greatest miracles from God’s perspective can be
performed by any obedient loving Christian. And while super-
supernaturalist Christians certainly claim a superiority in physical
miracles, hopefully not even the most arrogant of them would claim
a superiority in the most supernatural thing, which is unconditional
love. Contrary to super-supernaturalists, supernatural virtue was
intended by God to replace the miraculous authentication provided
by the sign gifts. Unfortunately, we fear that some super-
supernaturalists are trying to take a spiritual shortcut and cover up
for spiritual immaturity and a lack of supernatural virtue by claiming
an abundance of physical miracles.

B.4) Supernaturally Building Christians through Serving


Gifts

The Apostle Peter wrote:


Each one should use whatever gift he has received to
serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace
[supernatural power] in its various forms. 11If anyone
speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words
of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the
[super-human] strength God provides, so that in all
things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. (1 Pet
4:10-11)

The Apostle is speaking here of what is normally simply called


spiritual gifts. Elsewhere, we have differentiated between spiritual
Scripture gifts (i.e. Prophets, Apostles) which enabled a person to
speak “the very words of God” (v. 11), and sign gifts which
miraculously authenticated such people (i.e. healing, etc.). 53 The
Apostle here also speaks of spiritual gifts that allow one to serve,
“with the strength God provides.” Accordingly, we refer to this
kind of spiritual gift as a serving gift. It supernaturally provides
someone with an ability that they would not have otherwise, in
order to serve others.
The fact that these gifts require an extraordinary “grace” (v.
10), “strength” (v. 11), and ability given by God, suggests to us
that they are miraculous in nature. They enable us to do something
that we could not do in our own natural human power. The Apostle
Paul seems to refer to this as well when he writes concerning his
ability to effectively preach the Gospel:
10.5: Human Miracle Working 142
Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before
God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim
anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from
God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new
covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the
letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor 3:4-6)

Obviously, the physical miracle working abilities (i.e. sign gifts) of


an Apostle were supernatural in nature (cf. 2 Cor 12:12), but the
Apostle describes the serving gift of evangelism as being
supernaturally enabled as well.
While the serving gifts may not seem as miraculous as the
Scripture and sign gifts because the former are much more
common, they do involve divine intervention as well. The Apostle
Paul perhaps provides the most complete list of serving gifts when
he writes in Romans:
We have different gifts, according to the [supernatural]
grace given us. If a man’s gift . . . is serving, let him
serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging,
let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of
others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let
him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do
it cheerfully. (Rom 12:6-8)

We see again the supernatural nature of these spiritual gifts,


being “the [supernatural] work of one and the same Spirit” (1
Cor 12:11), as the Apostle writes elsewhere. And while they
certainly include supernatural virtues such as generosity and
“mercy” (cf. Rom 12:8), their particular uniqueness is seen in their
enabling people with enhanced skills they would not have had apart
from the supernatural working of God.
We read of an OT counterpart to such gifts in Exodus:
Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have chosen
Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah,
and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill,
ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts—to make
artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to
cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in
all kinds of craftsmanship.
Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach,
of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given skill
to all the craftsmen to make everything I have
commanded you. (Exod 31:1-6) 54
10.5: Human Miracle Working 143
Obviously, people have learned such craft skills in more natural
ways through instruction and experience. But here, God
supernaturally gave these men these skills quite apart from normal
means. No doubt they could improve them with further practice
and study, but the initial skills were directly given by God.
Such would seem to be the case with other serving gifts such as
“teaching,” “leadership” (Rom 12:7-8), pastoring, and
evangelism (cf. Eph 4:11) in the Church. Again, such abilities can
be acquired naturally and naturally improved upon, but those with
these gifts would not be as capable in them without the
supernatural grace that accompanies such serving gifts. We would
suggest as well that it is not only new, supernatural abilities that
are granted through such gifts, but new supernatural desires as
well, such as an overwhelming aspiration to teach, lead, shepherd
God’s people, and evangelize the lost. 55
Finally, we would suggest that the effects of Spirit-given serving
gifts are supernatural as well. The Apostle writes in Ephesians:
It was He [Christ] Who gave some to be Apostles, some
to be Prophets, some to be Evangelists, and some to be
Pastors and Teachers, to prepare God’s people for
works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built
up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the
knowledge of the Son of God and become mature,
attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
...
[S]peaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow
up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From Him
[through these gifts] the whole body, joined and held
together by every supporting ligament, grows and
builds itself up in love, as each part does its work [and
the gifts operate]. (Eph 4:11-13, 15-16)

First, we can distinguish the Scripture gifts of “Apostles” and


“Prophets” mentioned here from the serving gifts of “Evangelists
. . . Pastors and Teachers.” While the former no doubt built up
the Church spiritually in their day, Paul had noted previously in this
very letter that, the Church was “built on the foundation of the
Apostles and [Christian 56] Prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself
as the chief cornerstone” (Eph 2:20; cf. 1 Cor 3:10). Therefore,
like Christ, NT Apostles and Prophets with Scripture and sign gifts
had a unique and temporary purpose of receiving and
authenticating the New Covenant revelation and founding the
Church, while subsequent serving gifts have been teaching the New
Covenant revelation and building the Church. 57
10.5: Human Miracle Working 144
This spiritual “building up” of the Church (cf. Eph 4:12, 16)
results in a supernatural “unity in the faith and in the
knowledge of the Son of God” (v. 13), and a spiritual maturity
and growth (cf. vs. 13, 15-16) that would appear to go beyond
anything naturally attained. For further clarification on the various
types of spiritual gifts see Table 10.5 below under Extras &
Endnotes.
The biblical prescription for supernatural church growth, then, is
the serving gifts. Here we encounter what we would suggest is
another problem with super-supernaturalism. Its primary focus is
placed on conjuring up Scripture and sign gifts that no longer
operate, and it cannot duplicate, at the expense of devaluing the
serving gifts that God has given for the building of His Church.
Perhaps the Apostle Paul had already hinted at how he personally
viewed the relative value of particularly sign gifts and serving gifts
when he purposely ranked the gift of teaching above the gift of
miracle working (cf. 1 Cor 12:28), which should serve as a rebuke
to any church that generally ignores sound doctrine but craves
miracles.
10.5: Human Miracle Working 145

Extras & Endnotes

Table 10.5: The Types of Supernatural Spiritual Gifts:


Scripture, sign, & serving

Example Refs. Purposes Status


Prophecy 1 Cor 12:7- The reception of For 1900 years the
Knowled 10, 28-29; new divine Church believed
ge Eph 2:20; revelation in order them to have
Scripture

4:11 Rom to implement a ceased, but super-


(Apostles
gifts

12:6 new divine/human supernaturalists


)
KOG: sec. covenant claim their return
3.9.B.2; chs. today, despite not
3.20-23 being able to match
their biblical
attributes.
Healing 1 Cor 12:7- The miraculous For over 1600 years
Miracle- 10, 28-29; 2 authentication of the Church believed
working Cor 12:12; those possessing them to have
Heb 2:3-4 the Scripture ceased, but super-
Tongues
Sign gifts

KOG: secs. gifts. Why there supernaturalists


3.8.C.1-3; are no God-sent claim their return
chs. 3.12- miracle workers in today, despite not
3.19 Scripture who being able to match
were not also their biblical
messengers of attributes.
new extra-biblical
divine revelation.
Teaching Rom 12:6-8; While Scripture Being devalued &
Pastoring Eph 4:11; 1 and sign gifts ignored in super-
Serving gifts

Evangelis Cor 12:28- founded the supernaturalist


29 Church (cf. Eph environments,
m
KOG: sec. 2:20), the serving resulting in the
Leading
3.8.D.2; 8.? gifts remain to immaturity of many
Encourag build & expand Christians &
ing the Church (cf. churches.
Mercy Eph 4:11-12)
10.5: Human Miracle Working 146
Gauging Your Grasp

1) What are the biblical attributes of delegated human miracle


working? Which kind of miracle makes up the most of those
recorded in Scripture- delegated human miracle working or
direct divine miracles?

2) Regarding the modern debate regarding miracles, why is the


distinction between direct miracles and delegated miracle
working important?

3) What do we mean when we say “We believe in miracles, not


miracle workers.”

4) What was the purpose of delegated human miracle working in


Scripture? What biblical fact demonstrates this?

5) What is the gift of martyrdom and what are biblical references


to it?

6) How do we define spiritual miracles and how do they differ from


physical ones?

7) What are some examples of spiritual miracle working?

8) Why does spiritual miracle working require the obedience of


God’s people?

9) What do we claim are the “greater things” that Christ said His
followers would do when the Holy Spirit came? Do you agree or
disagree and why? Why would such a thing be the greatest
miracle?

10) While most things return to their natural functions after a


miracle has affected them, what is an example of something
that does not?

11) What is a serving gift? Why would we categorize its use as


spiritual miracle working? Do you agree or disagree and why?
10.5: Human Miracle Working 147
Publications & Particulars

1
It is true that “workers” is not in the Greek text of 1 Corinthians 12:28,
which simply has dynameis (“miracles”). The idea of workers of miracles
as opposed to direct divine miracles seems demanded by the text. For
example, the literal translation of verse 29 would be “all are not
miracles?” Because it appears in a list of gifts attached to people, even
the rather literal NASB renders this, “workers of miracles.”
2
For a biblical critique of the idea that God is empowering miracle workers
in the Church today see chapters 11.1 and 11.7.
3
For further discussion of super-supernaturalism see chapter chapters
7.13-16.
4
For further discussion of the nature of biblical miracle working and how it
is distinguished from merely receiving a miracle in answer to prayer see
section 11.1.B.
5
For further discussion of miracles in other religions see section 11.2.E.
6
For discussion of the inseparable relationship between divine miracle
workers and divine revelation see section 11.1.F. Our arguments there
include such biblical characters as Philip, Ananias, and Stephen.
7
For further discussion of the relationship between Scripture and sign gifts
and the implementation of divine/human covenants see sections 7.3.C-D.
8
Our claim that the unanimous opinion of the Church for at least 1600
years was that miracle working gifts had ceased, reflects the fact that all
early Church leaders agreed that such gifts had ceased c. 250 and only
fringe, heretical groups claimed them in the centuries following until
super-supernaturalism became popular c. 1950. For further discussion
see chapter 11.7.
9
Augustine, City of God, City of God, xxii.8; online at www. ccel.org.
10
B. B. Warfield, Counterfeit Miracles (Banner of Truth Trust, 1972), 25-
27. Notice Warfield’s specific mention of “miracle working.” Teachers in
super-supernaturalism such as Jack Deere (Surprised by the Power of the
Spirit [Zondervan, 1993]) routinely misrepresent Warfield as saying that
direct miracles occurred only during periods of revelation. This would of
course be easy to disprove, but that is not what Warfield believed and his
teaching remains convincing in spite of recent attempts to answer his
historicist arguments. It could be said, however, that Warfield could
have been more careful to speak more consistently of “miracle workers”
rather than “miracles” in his Counterfeit Miracles.
11
Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology 3 Vols. (Judson, 1907, 1953),
128.
12
For further discussion of the biblical purpose and historical cessation of
the miracle working gifts see chapter 11.7.
10.5: Human Miracle Working 148

13
It should be noted that Christ did not simply know the fish were there,
but caused them to be there, unless we want to say that the Apostles
were so lucky to be in the right place at the right time. On the contrary,
luck had nothing to do with the two recorded instances of this miracle.
14
For further discussion regarding the authenticating work of Christ see
section 3.1.B.3, 3.3.C.4, 3.3.D.6, 3.12.A.6.
15
For further discussion regarding miracle faith see chapter 11.4.
16
Further biblical proof that Moses and Elijah have a special place in the
future implementation of God’s Kingdom on Earth includes their
appearance at Christ’s transfiguration (cf. Matt 17:1-3), and Malachi’s
prophecy that Elijah would come before the Day of the Lord (Mal 4:5),
John the Baptist being a near partial fulfillment of a future full fulfillment
of the same prophecy (cf. Matt 11:14; Mark 9:11).
This is a typical attribute of biblical prophecy (see?) and seems implied
by Christ Himself when He remarks:
To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things.
Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much
and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they
have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written
about him. (Mark 9:12-13)
Our King makes it clear here that Elijah would have two appearances in
fulfillment of Malachi 4:5. The first is through John the Baptist which
Christ is clearly referring to in v. 13. But the Baptist did not “restore all
things” ushering in the Consummation. This fact prompts Christ’s
question that if the Baptist had completely fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy,
then why must He yet suffer? Because there is yet another appearance
of Elijah after Christ’s suffering which is recorded in Revelation 11:3 and
in the context of the restoration of “all things.”
Concerning Moses, we are reminded of his rather mysterious burial in
which Scripture says: “And Moses the servant of the LORD died
there in Moab, as the LORD had said. He [God] buried him in
Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one
knows where his grave is” (Deut 34:5-6). On this, Keil and Delitzsch
are worth the following rather lengthy quote:
The fact itself that the Lord buried His servant Moses, and no man
knows of his sepulcher, is in perfect keeping with the relation in
which Moses stood to the Lord while he was alive. Even if his sin at
the water of strife rendered it necessary that he should suffer the
punishment of death, as a memorable example of the
terrible severity of the holy God against sin, even in the case of His
faithful servant; yet after the justice of God had been satisfied by this
punishment, he was to be distinguished in death before all the
people, and glorified as the servant who had been found faithful in all
the house of God, whom the Lord had known face to face (v. 10), and
to whom He had spoken mouth to mouth (Num 12:7-8).
The burial of Moses by the hand of Jehovah was not intended to
conceal his grave, for the purpose of guarding against a superstitious
and idolatrous reverence for his grave; for which the opinion held by
10.5: Human Miracle Working 149

the Israelites, that corpses and graves defiled, there was but
little fear of this; but, as we may infer from the account of the
transfiguration of Jesus, the intention was to place him in the same
category with Enoch and Elijah.
The purpose of God was to prepare for him a condition, both of
body and soul, resembling that of these two men of God. Men bury a
corpse that it may pass into corruption. If Jehovah, therefore, would
not suffer the body of Moses to be buried by men, it is but natural to
seek for the reason in the fact that He did not intend to leave him to
corruption, but, when burying it with His own hand, imparted a power
to it which preserved it from corruption, and prepared the way for it
to pass into the same form of existence to which Enoch and Elijah
were taken, without either death or burial.
There can be no doubt that this truth lies at the foundation of the
Jewish theologoumenon mentioned in the Epistle of Jude, concerning
the contest between Michael the archangel and the devil for the body
of Moses. (C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old
Testament, Electronic Edition STEP Files CD-ROM [Findex.com,
2000], loc. cit.)
Historical support for interpreting the Prophet in Revelation 11 as Elijah
can be found in Tertullian (Treatise on the Soul, 50) and Hippolytus (On
Daniel, II.22) (both online at www.ccel.org) although they understand
the other Prophet as being Enoch. Gregory Beale also mentions several
Jewish and Christian apocryphal works that apparently interpret these
witnesses as Moses and Elijah (G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation,
NIGTC [Eerdmans, 1999], 572-3, fn. 293). In the Expositor’s Bible
Commentary Alan Johnson notes that, “Jewish tradition taught that
Moses and Elijah would return, and this view is followed by a number of
Christian interpreters.” (Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. CD-ROM [Zondervan,
n.d.], loc. cit.).
17
Regarding the unique revelatory events surrounding covenant making
see section 7.3.C-D.
18
For a discussion of how persecution of God’s people may result in a
greater number of miracles see section 10.3.C.2.
19
For our argument that demon possession is a miracle see especially
section 10.6.B.2.
20
Donald Bloesch, The Holy Spirit: Works and Gifts (Intervarsity, 2000),
293.
21
D. A. Carson comments on Matthew 12:43-5:
The point here and in Luke is that those who through the kingdom
power of God experience exorcisms must beware of neutrality toward
Jesus the Messiah, for neutrality opens the door to seven demons
worse than the one driven out. Commitment to Jesus is essential.
(The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (EBC) Frank E. Gaebelein, ed.
CD-ROM [Zondervan, n.d.], in loc.).
10.5: Human Miracle Working 150

Likewise, Leon Morris comments on the parallel passage in Luke 11:24-


26: “When anyone gets rid of an evil spirit and puts nothing in its place,
he is in grace moral danger” (Luke, [Eerdmans, 1999], 218). Finally,
Darrell Bock concludes: “Exorcism alone is not sufficient. Exorcism only
benefits when one then responds to God” (Luke [Baker, 1996], 1092).
It needs to be remembered that what gives a demon influence and
authority in a person’s life is the lies the person believes. If the mere
presence of a demon is forced away, but the lies the person believes are
not replaced with protective truth, and their mind is “unoccupied,” the
person will be susceptible to even more deception and accordingly more
demonic control.
22
For further discussion of the relationship between exorcism and the gift
of healing see section 11.10.B
23
For further discussion of the potentially demonic nature of exorcisms see
section 11.10.B.
24
John Gerstner, Reasons for Faith (Harper & Row, n.d.), 185-86.
25
Along these lines, Joseph Addison (1672-1719) wrote in his classic
treatise, Evidences of the Christian Religion:
Under this head, I cannot omit that which appears to me a standing
miracle in the three first centuries. I mean that amazing and
supernatural courage or patience which was shewn by innumerable
multitudes of martyrs, in those slow and painful torments that were
inflicted on them.
I cannot conceive a man placed in the burning iron chair at Lyons,
amid the insults and mockeries of a crowded amphitheatre, and still
keeping his seat; or stretched upon a gate of iron, over coals of fire,
and breathing out his soul among the exquisite sufferings of such a
tedious execution, rather than renounce his religion or blaspheme his
Saviour. Such trials seem to me above the strength of human
nature, able to overbear duty, reason, faith, conviction, nay, and the
most absolute certainty of a future state.
Humanity, unassisted in an extraordinary manner, would have
shaken off the present pressure, and have delivered itself out of such
a dreadful distress, by any means that could have been suggested by
it. We can easily imagine, that many persons, in so good a cause,
might have laid down their lives at the gibbet, the stake, or the block
but to expire leisurely among the most exquisite tortures, when they
might come out of them, even by a mental reservation, or an
hypocrisy, which was not without a possibility of being followed by
repentance, and forgiveness, has something in it so far beyond the
force and natural strength of mortals, that one cannot but think there
was some extraordinary power to support the sufferer. . . .
Let any man calmly lay his hand upon his heart, and, after reading
these terrible conflicts in which the ancient martyrs and confessors
were engaged, when they passed through such new inventions and
varieties of pain as tired their tormentors, and ask himself, however
zealous and sincere he is in his religion, whether, under such acute
10.5: Human Miracle Working 151

and lingering tortures, he could still have held fast his integrity, and
have professed his faith to the last; without a supernatural assistance
of some kind or other.
For my part, when I consider that it was not an unaccountable
obstinacy in a single man, or in any particular set of men, in some
extraordinary juncture; but that there were multitudes of each fact,
of every age, of different countries and conditions, who, for near 300
years together, made this glorious confession of their faith in the
midst of tortures, and in the hour of death; I must conclude, that
they were either of another make from what men are at present, or
that they had such extraordinary supports as were peculiar to those
times of Christianity; when without them the very name of it might
have been extinguished.
It is certain that the deaths and sufferings of the primitive
Christians had a great share in the conversion of those learned
Pagans who lived in the ages of persecution, which, with some
intervals and abatements, lasted near three hundred years after our
Saviour. Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Lactantius, Arnobius, and others,
tell us, that this first of all alarmed their curiosity, roused their
attention, and made them seriously inquisitive into the nature of that
religion which could endue the mind with so much strength, and
overcome the fear of death, nay, raised an earnest desire of it though
it appeared in all its terrors.
This they found had not been effected by all the doctrines of those
philosophers whom they had thoroughly studied, and who had been
labouring at this great point. The sight of these dying and tormented
martyrs engaged them to search into the history and doctrines of him
for whom they suffered. The more they searched, the more they
were convinced; till their conviction grew so strong, they themselves
embraced the same truths, and either actually laid down their lives,
or were always in readiness to do it, rather than depart from them.
(Greenfield: John Denio, 1812, VII:4, 6-7).
For further examples of extraordinary martyrdoms see section 5.9.B.1.
26
Regarding the “Angel of the Lord” in the OT being Jesus Christ see
section 10.9.C.
27
While some interpret the destroying angels as demons, Keil and Delitzsch
note:
[These] are not wicked angels . . . but angels that bring misfortune.
The mode of construction belongs to the chapter of the genitival
subordination of the adjective to the substantive, like , Prov
6:24, cf. 1 Sam 28:7; Num 5:18, 24; 1 Kings 10:15; Jer 24:2. . . .
Therefore, [these] angels [are] not of the wicked ones (i.e. wicked
angels), which it might signify elsewhere, but . . . misfortune-
bringing angels (loc. cit.).
While this angel may have been the Angel of the Lord, or the pre-
incarnate Christ, as Keil and Delitzsch claim, we cannot be certain.
28
For further discussion on the limited effect of physical miracles apart
from the spiritual miracle of regeneration see section 4.13.B.
10.5: Human Miracle Working 152

29
For some biblical evidence of spiritual regeneration in the OT see section
4.16.E.
30
Regarding regeneration see chapters 4.15-16 and 6.3.
31
For further discussion on the use of ergon in relation to miracles see
section 10.2.A.1.
32
Peter Davids comments on John 14:10-11:
What are these works? We know they are not his teachings, for he refers
to his works as evidence for believing his teachings. Thus they must
be “the miracles” (as the NIV correctly translates), for those are the
works which in John are connected with people believing. It is
immediately after this that Jesus says that “anyone who has faith in”
him will do “greater works” than these. Given the context, the
greater things can only be greater miracles. (Hard Sayings of the
Bible [Intervarsity, 1996], 502)
33
The NIV translates paraklete as Counselor which is not only an unlikely
rendering but is misleading. For further discussion see section 14.13.B.
34
Bloesch, 98
35
Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., “Challenges of the Charismatic Movement to the
Reformed Tradition” online at http://www.the-highway.com/
charismatic2_Gaffin.html#40, endnote 39
36
For further discussion of pluralism and universalism and their claim that
saving faith can occur apart from the communication of the Gospel see
section 6.10.B.
37
Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Eerdmans, 1995), 573-4
38
For further discussion on the important biblical distinction between
saving and empowering faith see section 6.2.C.1.
39
For further discussion of the fact that false Apostles will preach the
Gospel see section 11.13.E.
40
This is why it is rather sad to see super-supernaturalist authors claim
that what Christianity really needs is more physical miracle working. For
further discussion see section 7.13.A.1.
41
Jonathan Edwards in John Gerstner, The Rational Biblical Theology of
Jonathan Edwards, 3 vols. (Berea, 1991), I:272.
42
Jack Deere, “Intimacy with God and the End Time Church,” Vineyard
Christian Fellowship, Denver, CO, 1989, audiotape, session 2A.
43
J. P. Moreland, Kingdom Triangle (Zondervan, 2007), 174
44
D. A. Carson in Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical
Church? (Moody, 1992), 108.
45
For illegitimate accusations made against Christians by super-
supernaturalists see section 10.16.G.
10.5: Human Miracle Working 153

46
Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, 2 vols. (The Banner of Truth Trust,
1970), 348-9.
47
Excerpt from section 10.2.A.4.
48
For further discussion of John 13:34-5 see section 5.3.B. For further
discussion of what we call virtue apologetics see Book 5: Biblical
Apologetics.
49
Regarding the Apostle’s life of virtue apologetics see section 5.4.A.3.
50
For further discussion of unregenerate humanity’s inability to produce the
supernatural virtues of unconditional love and holiness see chapter 5.7
and section 5.16.B.
51
Excerpt from section 5.4.A.2.
52
For a discussion of unregenerated humanity’s inability to unconditionally
love see section 5.16.B.1.
53
For further introduction to the concepts of Scripture gifts (i.e. Prophets,
Apostles) and sign gifts (i.e. predicting, healing) see section 7.3.C-D.
54
Admittedly, the supernatural gifts spoken of in Exod 31 are difficult to
narrowly categorize according to the scheme we are using. These gifts
included a supernatural “knowledge” (v. 3) that involved direct divine
revelation, and would be an example of extraordinary communication
from our perspective. Such extraordinarily obtained knowledge would
normally not be a part of a serving gift such as teaching, leading,
pastoring, serving, or evangelizing. Teachers get their knowledge from
the more natural means of study and evangelists get the Gospel from
Scripture.
Also, while we have categorized serving gifts as a spiritual miracle
because of their effects, the gifts described in Exodus 31 would seem to
be more of a physical nature. So while we use them as an OT example of
serving gifts they are significantly different.
55
For further discussion on how serving gifts affect the direction of our
personal lives see chapter 7.13.
56
For further discussion on the fact that the Apostle is referring to Christian
Prophets as opposed to OT ones in Eph 2:20 see section 9.6.C.1
57
For further discussion on the purpose & characteristics of Scripture &
sign gifts see sections 7.3.C-D.
10.6: Demonic Miracle Working 155

Chapter 10.6

Demonic Miracle Working by


satan’s Servants

Table of Topics

A) The Fact of Demonic Miracle Working

B) The Types & Purposes of Demonic Miracle Working

B.1) Physical Demonic Miracle Working: to test God’s


people & deceive His enemies

B.2) Spiritual Demonic Miracle Working: Possession

Extras & Endnotes


10.6: Demonic Miracle Working 156

Primary Points
 While the Scriptures seem clear on the fact that satan can
perform supernatural acts, many theologians do not consider
them to be miracles. However, the Scriptures that the above
theologians use to support their view do not seem to do so.
 The Egyptian sorcerers really did make a staff turn into a
snake and water into blood.
 The antichrist will perform real miracles with delegated power
from God.
 The King thought that demonic miracle working in His Church
would be a common thing. Yet this is not our expectation.
 Part of antichrist’s End Time delusion would seem to be
nothing less than a Christ-like resurrection from the dead.
 The contemporary Hindu guru sai baba is offered as just one
example of many modern miracle workers that clearly, and
even frighteningly, demonstrate that not everything
supernatural is holy.
 God’s purpose for giving the devil and his demons supernatural
powers is to test His people and deceive His enemies.
 Considering satan’s desire to copy God’s works as best he can,
it should not surprise us that spiritual demonic miracle working
manifests itself in demonic possession.
 Accordingly, we would suggest that demonic possession is a
spiritual miracle leading to supernatural evil.
 Perhaps the best case study in Scripture regarding demonic
influences in a person’s life is King Saul. Only a man
supernaturally controlled by demons would order the murder
of eighty five innocent priests.
 Judas is a NT example, and Adolf Hitler a historic one.
 God’s purpose for allowing such demonic spiritual miracle
working as in possession is not always entirely clear.
However, at times it would seem to be a part of His
punishment for considerable sin and rebellion against Him.
 We can be assured that nothing, including demonic possession,
occurs without His permission and the assurance that it
somehow fits in God’s ultimate plan for the Universe.
10.6: Demonic Miracle Working 157

A) The Fact of Delegated Demonic Miracle


Working

While the Scriptures seem clear on the fact that satan can
perform supernatural acts, many theologians do not consider them
to be miracles. For example, John Calvin (1509-1564) wrote:
And we may also fitly remember that satan has his miracles,
which, though they are deceitful tricks rather than true
powers, are of such sort as to mislead the simple-minded and
untutored. 1

More recently, the popular Christian apologist Norm Geisler has


written:
Miracles have a moral dimension. They bring glory to God by
manifesting his moral character. . . . No true miracle, then, is
evil, because God is good. . . . God performs true miracles;
satan does false signs. God does genuine miracles; satan
does counterfeit miracles. This is precisely what the Bible calls
them in 2 Thess. 2:9. 2

Likewise, R. C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsey


suggest concerning satan’s destructive deeds against Job, “None of
this was done miraculously but apparently naturally.” 3
Along the same lines, the OT scholar Gleason Archer (1916-
2004) wrote:
Pharaoh's magicians showed a skill not much different from
that of professional magicians today, who know how to
produce rabbits or doves out of their hats. Their staffs that
turned into serpents when cast on the ground may have been
snakes that they had charmed into rigidity that made them
look like staffs until their bodies hit the ground. Their frogs,
apparently few in number compared to the overwhelming host
that Moses' rod produced, may have been concealed at first
like the rabbits in the magician's hat. 4

Neither did C. S. Lewis (1898–1963) discuss demonic miracles


in his study of the topic, and seemed to confuse them with the
divine when he wrote: “I am in no way committed to the assertion
that God has never worked miracles through and for Pagans.” 5
There seems to be no place in the theology of these men for
demonic miracle working.
However, the Scriptures that the above theologians use to
support their view do not seem to do so. For example, Dr. Archer
implies that the works of the Egyptian sorcerers who opposed
Moses were simply magic tricks. On the contrary, that is not what
10.6: Demonic Miracle Working 158
the actual biblical text states. Concerning the staffs turned into
snakes we read:
Aaron threw his [real] staff down in front of Pharaoh and
his officials, and it became a snake. 11 Pharaoh then
summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian
magicians also did the same things by their secret arts:
12
Each one threw down his [real] staff and it became a
snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their [real]
staffs. (Exod 7:10-12).

For Dr. Archer’s claim to be true, it would seem the text would
have to read that the Egyptian sorcerers threw down charmed
snakes. But the Bible says they “threw down” their “staffs” and
“did the same things” as Aaron.
Likewise, Aaron made all above ground water in Egypt turn into
blood, including the Nile river, “the streams and canals . . . the
ponds and all the reservoirs . . . everywhere in Egypt, even in
the wooden buckets and stone jars” (Exod 7:19). A remarkable
miracle indeed. But we are told, “the Egyptian magicians did
the same things” (v. 22). Not just minor, isolated counterfeits,
but they too made real blood appear in all the water of Egypt. Also,
while Aaron made “frogs” cover “the land” of Egypt, the Egyptian
sorcerers “did the same things.” (Exod 8:6-7). Such things
require a supernatural power, and it was not divine, but demonic. 6
The description of antichrist’s activities in 2 Thessalonians 2:9
literally reads in the Greek: “lying [pseudous] power, signs and
wonders,” suggesting that the falsehood applies to the effect of
the miracles rather than their nature. Accordingly, NT scholar
Gordon Fee agrees with the majority of commentators 7 when he
writes:
Paul indicates here that “signs and wonders” can accompany
both truth and falsehood. By describing those of the Lawless
One as stemming from falsehood, he does not mean that they
are "counterfeit" in the sense of not really occurring. . . .
Since this is the only real meaning of "counterfeit," one
wonders whether the NIV is not quite misleading to call them
"counterfeit miracles, etc." See also RSV, which is even
worse: "with pretended signs and wonders"-now corrected in
NRSV 8. . . .
To the contrary, miracles they are indeed; but they issue
from falsehood and as such are intended to deceive, to lead
people astray after satan. Indeed, in Paul's view they are
empowered by the "spirit" responsible for all falsehood, satan
himself (cf. Eph 2:2). 9
10.6: Demonic Miracle Working 159
More succinctly, Leon Morris comments on 2 Thessalonians 2:9,
“For Paul the miracles are real enough; it is their origin and end
that make the lie.” 10
Christ implies as well that demonic miracles are real when He
says, “false Christs and false prophets will appear and
perform great [not fake] signs and miracles to deceive even
the Elect” (Matt 24:24). Our King calls these miracles “great” not
counterfeit or fake. And it is not because of Christians’ naivety that
the deceptive power of such demonic miracle working will be so
great, but rather, the power in the miracles is so great. Likewise,
end time delegated demonic miracle working is described by the
Apostle John when he writes of, “spirits of demons performing
miraculous signs” (Rev. 16:14).
Concerning satan’s supernatural deeds against Job, it is
admitted that natural means were involved. However, contrary to
the theologians above, when we read that, “The fire of God [fell]
from the sky and burn[ed] up the sheep and the servants”
(1:16), and a sudden rush of “a mighty wind swept in from the
desert and struck the four corners of the house . . . [which]
collapsed on them [such that Job’s children were] . . . dead”
(1:19), and that all of this occurred on the same day, if not the
same hour, we recognize that these natural means are being
manipulated in a supernatural way to produce a miracle.
Accordingly, we do not believe it is either biblical or necessary to
deny that satan can perform miracles. Rather, we would point to
the Bible’s instruction on the critical need to distinguish between
divine and demonic miracles (cf. Matt 7:15-22; 24:24; 1 John 4:1),
instead of denying the latter. 11
Demonic miracle working is nothing new to the Church. As
described elsewhere, as early as the first century, Simon Magus was
thought to be a demonically empowered miracle worker. 12
Accordingly, the early Church leader Origen (c. 185-c.254) noted,
“The cure of bodies is a thing indifferent, and a matter within the
reach not merely of the good, but also of the bad.” 13
Demonic miracles reflect our definition of a miracle as an
extraordinary occurrence of God’s supernatural power . . . to
accomplish . . . His will. First, we would suggest that satan uses
the delegated power of God to perform his miracles. As we have
written elsewhere:
Of course, all power in the Universe is ultimately God’s power
for there is no power, or even mere existence, apart from that
which has been granted by the Creator (cf. 1 Chr 29:11-12;
John 1:3; 13:3; Col 1:16-17). Whether it is the power
operating in plants or planets, humans or even demons, all
such power is on loan from God. 14
10.6: Demonic Miracle Working 160
Whatever powers or dominion satan has, have been given to
him, as He admits himself when he tells Christ that, “all the
kingdoms of the world [and] . . . all their authority and
splendor . . . has been given to me [by God], and I can give it
to anyone I want to” (Luke 4:5-6; cf. 1 John 5:19; John 12:31;
14:30; 16:11; Rev 13:2). So while indeed everything supernatural
is ultimately divine in origin, not everything supernatural is holy in
effect.
While we may initially balk at the idea of God delegating
supernatural power for the devil’s use, we must remember that
everything, whether it be deemed by us to be good or bad, occurs
“according to the plan of Him Who works out everything in
conformity with the purpose of His [predestined] will” (Eph
1:11) and that, “The LORD works out everything for His own
ends-- even the wicked for a day of disaster” (Prov 16:4).
Christ would seem to describe delegated demonic miracle
working when He says:
Many will say to Me on that [last] day, 'Lord, Lord, did
we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive
out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will
tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from Me, you
evildoers!' (Matt 7:22-23).

It can be noted that, first of all, Christ does not deny that what
these “evildoers” performed were “many” real “miracles.” As NT
scholar D. A. Carson writes, “There is no reason to judge their
claims false; their claims [to miracle working] are not false but
insufficient [to be Christian].” 15 Secondly, the supernatural nature
of their deeds suggest a power beyond that which is merely human.
Thirdly, their works earn them the label “evil doers.” All of this
adds up to suggest that Christ is indeed warning His Church of
demonic miracle workers.
And the King thought that demonic miracle working in His
Church would be a common thing. He said “Many” “evildoers” will
“perform many miracles” all in the “name” of the “Lord.” We
should expect that both the number of demonically empowered
miracle workers and the number of the miracles they perform will
be abundant. Yet this is not our expectation. It would seem the
average Christian today is quite reluctant to believe that “many”
people would actually “perform many miracles” in the “name” of
Christ in His Church, and yet in reality be a demonically deceiving
“evildoer.” Yet that is precisely what Christ warned.
The fact that the devil can perform real miracles with God’s
power would seem to be especially illustrated by the antichrist and
his servants in End Time events. Remembering from the previous
10.6: Demonic Miracle Working 161
chapter that miracles are extraordinary in the sense that they defy
natural laws and inspire awe, we see that demonic miracles can do
the same. Accordingly, we read of the antichrist:
The coming of the lawless one [antichrist] is apparent in
the working of satan, who uses all power, signs, lying
wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those
who are perishing. (2 Thess 2:9-10 NRSV)

Part of antichrist’s End Time delusion would seem to be nothing


less than a Christ-like resurrection from the dead, which the Apostle
John describes as follows: “One of the heads of the beast
[antichrist] seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal
wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished
and followed the beast” (Rev 13:3). 16 Such an End Time
resurrection would certainly be supernatural and awe-inspiring.
Remember, antichrist’s purpose will not only be to oppose Christ,
but to duplicate and be accepted as Him (cf. Matt 24:24), making
necessary the most supernatural of miracles. 17 Accordingly, we
discuss elsewhere the fact that divine and demonic miracle working
are not to be distinguished by their power, but the virtue of the one
performing the miracles. 18

B) The Types & Purposes of Delegated Demonic


Miracle Working

B.1) Physical demonic miracle working: to test God’s people &


deceive His enemies

Like divine miracle working, we see both a physical and spiritual


effect for the demonic kind. We have already noted several biblical
references of physical demonic miracle working. We would add
another in Paul’s mention of, “a thorn in my flesh, a messenger
of satan, to torment me” (2 Cor 12:7). Most believe this to be a
physical ailment of some sort, and if so, it did not come about by
natural causes, but supernatural ones.
We would also note here the supernatural power that can result
from demonic possession. Accordingly, Mark records concerning a
demon possessed man:
This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him
any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been
chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and
broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough
to subdue him. (Mark 5:3-4; cf. Luke 8:29)
10.6: Demonic Miracle Working 162
It is no doubt a supernatural feat for a human being to do such
things, and these supernatural deeds were empowered by demons.
Perhaps a modern example of demonic physical miracle
working would be appropriate here. The contemporary Hindu guru
sai baba is offered as just one example of many modern miracle
workers that clearly, and even frighteningly, demonstrate that not
everything supernatural is holy. His miraculous and obviously
demonic feats are worth the following extended excerpt from the
Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experiences:
[sai baba is a] Hindu avatar [in Hinduism a human
incarnation of the Divine] whose alleged miraculous and
paranormal feats have attracted a large following of devotees,
in both East and West. sai baba is renowned for his healing;
for materializations of an incredible array of apports [an
object that seems to materialize from thin air]. . . . sai baba
quickly attracted followers who were amazed by his miracles
and charmed by his personality. . . .
sai baba is best known for his apports; some 75 percent of
his devotees claim to have seen or received them. He
produces a steady stream of apports with a wave of his hand.
They include huge quantities of vibuti, holy ash made from
burnt cow dung, which is smeared on the body; foods and
liquids; religious statues and objects made of gold; precious
jewelry; photographs; business cards; even stamps bearing
his likeness. . . .
He reportedly fills empty bowls with hot, steaming Indian
food of most unusual flavors, and produces enough to feed
hundreds of people at a time [sound familiar? cf. Matt 14:15-
21]. He opens his fist and drops sticky sweets into the palms
of others, yet his own hands are dry. He also produces
amrith, a honey-like substance. All nonfood objects
materialized are bright, fresh, and new. Jewelry includes
valuable precious gems. Rings requested by followers fit
them perfectly; if a person does not like a particular ring, sai
baba takes it back and changes it instantly. . . . Many objects
are inscribed with his name. . . .
In one reported instance during a trance, sai baba levitated.
. . . sai baba would also appear to teleport [move invisibly]
himself up a hill, disappearing at its base and appearing at the
top of the hill within seconds. From the hilltop he would
produce luminosities so brilliant and blinding that others had
to shade their eyes. Some witnesses collapsed from the
brightness [a counterfeit transfiguration?].
Other phenomena attributed to him include the instant
changing of the color of his loose robes; his appearance in the
10.6: Demonic Miracle Working 163
dreams of others, seemingly in answer to needs; weather
control; unusual smells, often produced at a distance . . .
psychic surgery; the changing of water into gasoline and into
other beverages [remember Christ’s first miracle? cf. John
2:1-11]; mind reading; and clairvoyance. . . .
[Before you think the guy is a complete fake] In 1973
Erlendur Haraldsson, a psychologist from the University of
Iceland and a psychical researcher, began an investigation of
sai baba’s paranormal phenomena that spanned a ten-year
period. He made a number of trips to India to interview sai
baba, his devotees, and critics. Haraldsson was accompanied
on several trips by Karlis Osis, who at the time was with the
American Society for Psychical Research; and once by Dr.
Michael Thalbourne of Washington University; and once by Dr.
Joop Houtkooper of the University of Amsterdam. . . .
While observed by the scientists, sai baba produced an
estimated twenty to forty apports [materializations] a day, all
spontaneously and with great ease. Many of the objects were
rare or unusual. . . . Sleight of hand seemed highly unlikely,
for the sleeves of his robes were large and loose. Haraldsson
also ruled out hypnosis, and found films of sai baba to be
inconclusive. . . . A number of prominent Indian scientists
have observed sai baba and feel his miraculous feats are
genuine. His followers believe he is God. 19

We would suggest this man is a modern day antichrist (cf. 1


John 2:18), working with demonic supernatural power just like the
future ultimate antichrist will. His feats underscore the importance
of distinguishing the demonic from the divine, as we discuss in
more detail elsewhere. 20
What then is God’s purpose for giving the devil and his demons
such supernatural powers? There would seem to be two. The first
is to test the people of God. Christ indicates this when He relates
that in the End Times: “false Christs and false Prophets will
appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even
the Elect--if that were possible” (Matt 24:24). The indication is
that the demonic miracle working will not ultimately deceive the
Elect into accepting a false Christ, but it will certainly be a test.
We see the same kind of testing revealed in God’s words to the
Israelites:
See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or
take away from it. If a Prophet, or one who foretells by
dreams, appears among you and announces to you a
miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of
which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us
10.6: Demonic Miracle Working 164
follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let
us worship them," you must not listen to the words of
that Prophet or dreamer.
The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether
you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul.
It is the LORD your God you must follow, and Him you
must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve
Him and hold fast to Him. (Deut 12:32-13:1-4)

First, we notice the remarkable warning that God may in fact


grant a servant of satan the ability to foretell the future, the
foundational authentication of God’s own Prophets (cf. Deut 18:17-
22). 21 Secondly, the reason He would grant such supernatural
knowledge is for nothing less than testing God’s people for what is
the most important to Him: whether we “love Him with all [our]
heart” (v. 3).
Finally, we see the same divine purpose for the devil’s
supernatural abilities in the testing of Job. While it is admitted that
the devil’s purpose for such miracle working is to deceive and
destroy the Elect, God’s sovereignty is displayed in the fact that
even the devil’s purposes ultimately work to accomplish God’s
purpose of testing His people to His own glory and theirs.
The other reason God delegates miracle working ability to satan
is to deceive His enemies. Such is certainly the case with antichrist.
It will be God’s desire to deceive the nations at that time, and
therefore, the miraculous powers that the coming antichrist will
possess will be part of the “powerful delusion” that “God sends .
. . so that they [the world] will believe the [antichrist’s] lie and
so that all will be condemned who have not believed the
truth but have delighted in wickedness” (2 Thess 2:11-12, cf.
Rev 13-14).

B.2) Spiritual demonic miracle working: Possession

We have distinguished spiritual miracles as those supernaturally


influencing a person’s morals. We have also noted that in terms of
divine miracles, this kind of miracle manifests itself in the indwelling
of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, considering satan’s desire to copy
God’s works as best he can, it should not surprise us that spiritual
demonic miracle working manifests itself in demonic possession.
We have already noted that this can lead to supernatural physical
abilities, but here we will note that it results in supernatural moral
evil as well.
10.6: Demonic Miracle Working 165
Again, we read of the Gadarene demoniac, “When He [the
King] arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes,
two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met Him.
They were so violent that no one could pass that way” (Matt
8:28). We note the morality of such men in their description as
“violent,” certainly the opposite of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Something of the depravity of such men is communicated when
Luke records, “For a long time this man had not worn clothes
or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs” (Luke 8:27).
Demonic possession can lead to suicidal tendencies, as illustrated
when the father of a possessed boy tells the King that the demon,
“has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him” (Mark
9:22).
Likewise, we read of the metaphorical “Babylon,” which refers
to the world system that satan controls, as “a home for demons,”
(Rev 18:2) and through such control these demons evidently
possess people to kill God’s people (cf. v. 23-4). Which should not
be surprising as it would seem demons themselves are portrayed as
slaughtering humans in the Day of the Lord (cf. Rev 9:14-19).
Accordingly, we would suggest that demonic possession is a
spiritual miracle leading to supernatural evil. While the sinful
nature of humans can “naturally” empower evil in humans, demonic
possession allows satan to exercise even more control and self-
destructive behavior. Accordingly, Mark writes concerning the same
man, “Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he
would cry out and cut himself with stones” (Mark 5:5).
Perhaps the best case study in Scripture regarding demonic
influences in a person’s life is King Saul. When we first meet him in
Scripture he is a humble man, quite reluctant to be exalted as King
(cf. 1 Sam 9:21; 10:21-22). Nonetheless, God was willing to equip
His chosen instrument and “the Spirit of God came upon him in
power” (1 Sam 10:10), and “God changed Saul’s heart” (10:9),
such that he was actually “changed into a different person”
(10:6), even experiencing the ultimate in spirituality in his day,
prophesying “among the Prophets” (10:11). Accordingly, the
Prophet “Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man
the LORD has chosen? There is no one like him among all
the people.” Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!’”
(1 Sam 10:24).
Early in Saul’s kingship “some troublemakers . . . despised
him,” questioning his ability to lead Israel, yet “Saul kept silent”
(1 Sam 10:27). Later, after Saul had led them to a great victory
we read:
The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked,
‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring these men to us and
10.6: Demonic Miracle Working 166
we will put them to death.” But Saul said, “No one
shall be put to death today, for this day the LORD has
rescued Israel” (1 Sam 11:12-13).

Notice that Saul did not even take credit for the victory, but
gave God the credit, and apparently forgave his enemies a great
offense.
But then everything changed because of the supernatural
influence of a demon. Because Saul had gotten nervous about a
battle and sought God’s blessing inappropriately, “the Spirit of the
LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the
LORD tormented him” (1 Sam 16:14). While the Spirit of God
had supernaturally changed Saul into a good person, this demonic
spirit would supernaturally transform him into a very bad one.
Notice the delegated nature of this “evil spirit,” being described as
coming from God to accomplish His purposes. Notice as well the
supernatural moral evil that resulted.
Although earlier Saul had loved David as his own son (cf. 1 Sam
16:21-22; 18:2, 5; 24:16; 26:17, 21), he immediately became
“angry” and “galled” at him, keeping “a jealous eye on David”
(1 Sam 18:8-9). And when “an evil spirit from God came
forcefully upon Saul” he tried to spear David to death three
different times (cf. 1 Sam 18:10-11; 19:10). He began to hate
even his own children, attempting to use his two daughters as bait
to kill David (cf. 1 Sam 18:17, 20-21), and trying to murder his son
Jonathan simply because he sided with David (cf. 1 Sam 20:33).
Saul’s relationship with God became so distant that he felt the
only place he could get spiritual guidance was from a spiritist
medium, the very kind that he had previously outlawed and placed
under the sentence of death (1 Sam 28:5-9). In essence, Saul
went insane, overwhelmed with paranoia (cf. 1 Sam 22:6-8), fear
(1 Sam 28:5), and violent mood swings from obsession to deep
remorse over his desire to kill David (cf. 1 Sam 24:1-2; 26:21).
Finally, only a man supernaturally controlled by demons would
order the murder of eighty five innocent priests, and all the “men .
. . women . . . children . . . infants . . . cattle, donkeys and
sheep” in “Nob, the town of the priests” (cf. 1 Sam 22:16-19),
simply because they helped the man of God, David. This is
supernatural evil, caused by the supernatural influence of demonic
spirits on a person.
Likewise, was it not supernatural evil for a man like Judas who
had personally witnessed Christ’s power and virtue for several
years, and even experienced His miracle working power himself (cf.
Matt 10:1-4), to betray his mentor? It would seem the Gospels
themselves mark Judas’ desire to betray his master with demonic
10.6: Demonic Miracle Working 167
possession, Luke apparently implying such a sequence when he
writes:
Then satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the
Twelve. And [then] Judas went to the chief priests and
the officers of the temple guard and discussed with
them how he might betray Jesus. (Luke 22:3-5)

Perhaps Judas himself was overwhelmed by the supernatural


evil in his betrayal, and accordingly, Matthew records later:
When Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that Jesus was
condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned
the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders.
“I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent
blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your
responsibility.” So Judas threw the money into the
temple and left. Then he went away and hanged
himself. (Matt 27:3-5)

Even if we didn’t have the express statement that Judas was


demon possessed, we might infer it from such attributes. We would
suggest that many instances in humanity of greater than usual evil,
such as existed in Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), were a result of the
demonic spiritual miracle working of possession. This will certainly
be the case with the antichrist who will “make war against the
saints,” (Rev 13:7), exhibiting supernatural immorality.
God’s purpose for allowing such demonic spiritual miracle
working as in possession is not always entirely clear. However, at
times it would seem to be a part of His punishment for considerable
sin and rebellion against Him. We are reminded of the downward
spiral of spiritual depravity in Romans chapter one in which because
of an exceptionally evil heart, God delivers people over to
exceptional evil (cf. Rom 1:21-31). Nonetheless, whatever the
reason, we can be assured that nothing, including demonic
possession, occurs without His permission and the assurance that it
somehow fits in God’s ultimate plan for the Universe.
10.6: Demonic Miracle Working 168

Extras & Endnotes

Gauging Your Grasp

1) What Scriptures indicate that satan can perform miracles?

2) Who do we claim is a modern day demonic miracle worker?


Would you agree or disagree?

3) What are God’s purpose for giving the devil and his demons
supernatural powers to work miracles? Give biblical examples of
each.

4) What is satan’s version of God indwelling His people with the


Spirit? Why do we call this a spiritual miracle?

5) What are some biblical examples of demonic possession? What


were the affects?

Recommended Reading

 For further discussion on demonic miracle working, its detection,


and modern examples see chapters 11.11-13.

Publications & Particulars

1
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Prefatory Address; online
at www.ccel.org.
2
Norm Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Baker, 1999),
451, 473.
3
Classical Apologetics: A Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a
Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics (Academie Books, 1984), 158.
4
Gleason Archer, The Encyclopedia of Biblical Difficulties (Zondervan,
1982), 113.
5
C. S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study (Macmillan, 1947), 159.
6
Accordingly, C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch remark on Exodus 7:11:
[W]ho can tell what the ancient [sorcerers] may have been able to
effect, or may have pretended to effect, at a time when the
demoniacal power of heathenism existed in its unbroken force? The
magicians summoned by Pharaoh also turned their sticks into snakes
10.6: Demonic Miracle Working 169

(v. 12); a fact which naturally excites the suspicion that the sticks
themselves were only rigid snakes, though, with our very limited
acquaintance with the dark domain of heathen conjuring, the
possibility of their working “lying wonders after the working of
Satan,” i.e., supernatural things (2 Thess 2:9), cannot be absolutely
denied.
The words, “They also, the chartummim of Egypt, did in like
manner with their enchantments,” are undoubtedly based upon the
assumption, that the conjurers of Egypt not only pretended to
possess the art of turning snakes into sticks, but [actually had the
ability] of turning sticks into snakes as well, so that in the persons of
the conjurers Pharaoh summoned the might of the gods of Egypt to
oppose the might of Jehovah, the God of the Hebrews.
For these magicians, whom the Apostle Paul calls Jannes
and Jambres, according to the Jewish tradition (2 Tim 3:8), were not
common jugglers, but “wise men,” men educated in human and
divine wisdom, and , ἱερογραμματεῖς, belonging to the priestly
caste (Gen 41:8); so that the power of their gods was manifested in
their secret [not necessarily merely magical] arts ( from to
conceal, to act secretly, like in v. 22 from ). (Commentary on
the Old Testament, Electronic Edition STEP Files CD-ROM
[Findex.com, 2000], loc. cit.)
7
F. F. Bruce interprets pseudous in 2 Thessalonians 2:9 as an adjectival
genitive meaning “lying,” not false or fake. (1 & 2 Thessalonians (WBC)
[Word, 1982], 173.
More recently, NT scholar Robert Thomas explains concerning the
antichrist:
A superhuman person will utilize the supernatural means of
"miracles, signs and wonders." . . . They will not be "counterfeit" but
genuine supernatural feats to produce false impressions, deluding
people to the point of accepting the lie as truth. . . . pseudous is
probably not a genitive of description, "counterfeit," telling the
intrinsic quality of the miracles (contra Lenski, p. 426). Emphasis on
deceit and "the lie" in the next two verses shows these to be miracles
"leading to a lie" (Ellicott, p. 116). A genitive of the object is
therefore preferable. (1 & 2 Thessalonians (EBC) [Zondervan, n.d.],
in loc)
Likewise, John Stott comments:
Just as the ministry of Jesus was accredited by 'miracles, wonders
and signs', and also the ministry of the Apostle Paul, so the ministry
of Antichrist will be accompanied by (though not authenticated by)
miracles. For his will be counterfeit miracles, probably not in the
sense that they will be fakes, but in the sense that they will deceive
rather than enlighten. (The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians
[Intervarsity, 1994], 172)
Unfortunately, William Mounce in his Mounce’s Complete Expository
Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words (Zondervan, 2006), supports
the error of seeing these demonic miracles as “counterfeit” (403). Also
10.6: Demonic Miracle Working 170

unfortunate is that the New International Dictionary of New Testament


Theology, Colin Brown, ed., 4 vols., (Zondervan, 1986), doesn’t even
comment on 2 Thess 2:9. BADG translates: “deceptive wonders” for
pseudo at 2 Thess 2:9 (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament
and other Early Christian Literature, Walter Bauer, W. F. Arndt, F. W
Danker, F. W. Gingrich, 3rd ed. [Chicago University Press, 2000]
8
Actually, in our opinion, most translations get this wrong by suggesting
that psuedos refers to the false nature of the demonic miracles, rather
than their deceptive effect. In addition to the NIV, the NLT and NCV use
“counterfeit,” NASB, ESV, and TEV use “false”, and the RSV and CEV use
“pretend” to refer to the nature of the miracles. TMSG is perhaps worse
with, “The Anarchist’s coming is all Satan’s work. All his power and signs
and miracles are fake, evil sleight of hand.”
On the other hand, the KJV, NKJV, NRSV use “lying” referring to the
effect, as does the JB with “deceptive.”
9
Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence (Hendrickson, 1994), 76.
10
Leon Morris, 1 & 2 Thessalonians (TNTC) (Eerdmans, 1984), 133.
11
Regarding the distinguishing of divine vs. demonic miracles see chapter
11.13.
12
Simon Magus was thought to be a demonically empowered miracle
worker. See section 11.12.A.
13
Origen, Against Celsus, III.25; online at www.ccel.org.
14
Excerpted from section 10.2.A.6.
15
D. A. Carson, “Matthew” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank E.
Gaebelein ed. CD-ROM (Zondervan, n.d.), in loc.
16
NT scholar Gregory Beale defends our suggestion in his entry to the
NIGTC that John is speaking of a real death and resurrection when he
writes:
The conditional translation of [os esphagmenēn] in virtually all
English versions (e.g., NASB and Moffatt: "as if it had been slain";
KJV and Douay: "as it were wounded"; RSV and NIV: "seemed to
have a mortal wound"; likewise NEB, NRSV, and JB) is misleading
and makes it appear as if the beast only looked slain but was not. "As
slain" is a much better translation. The phrase is an intended parody
of the Lamb in 5:6, where the almost identical [os esphagmenon] is
to be translated as "standing as slain" (see on 5:6). Both there and
here a real death . . . is portrayed. (The Book of Revelation (NIGTC)
[Eerdmans, 2000], 688-89).
However, Dr. Beale does not believe this event is real, either in the
past or future, but writes concerning what we would suggest is an
erroneous perspective on Revelation: “No specific prophesied historical
events are discerned in the book, except for the final coming of Christ to
deliver and judge and to establish the final form of the kingdom in a
10.6: Demonic Miracle Working 171

consummated new creation” (48). For a critique of Dr. Beale’s view see
9.?
17
Accordingly, many commentators note that the prefix “anti” does not
only carry the meaning of opposing, but replacing. See Stott,
Thessalonians, 109-110.
18
For further discussion on distinguishing divine from demonic miracles see
chapter 11.13
19
Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience (EMPE),
Rosemary E. Guiley (Harper Collins, 1991), 525-27. For further
discussion of sai baba see section ?
20
Regarding the importance of distinguishing the demonic from the divine
see sections 11.11.A-B.
21
In agreement with our point above that satan can do real miracles, Keil
and Delitzsch write concerning Deuteronomy 13:1-3:
With regard to the signs and wonders (mopheth, see at Ex 4:21)
with which such a prophet might seek to accredit his higher mission,
it is taken for granted that they come to pass ( ); yet for all that,
the Israelites were to give no heed to such a prophet, to walk after
other gods.
It follows from this, that the person had not been sent by God, but
as a false Prophet, and that the signs and wonders which he gave
were not . . . merely seeming miracles, but miracles wrought in
the power of the wicked one, Satan, the possibility and reality of
which even Christ attests (Matt 24:24).
Book 10
God’s Miracles

Part III
The Myriad of Miraculous
Words

 10.7: Biblical Attributes of Miraculous 175


Communication: Diverse, Discontinuous
& Never “Inspiration”

 10.8: Delegated Miraculous Communication: 193


God Speaking through Angels & Animals

 10.9: Direct Means of Miraculous 207


Communication: From the Writing of God
to Living with God

 10.10: Physically Seeing & Hearing God: 229


The Voice & Apparitions of God

 10.11: Mental Visions & Dreams from God 241


10.7: Attributes of Miraculous Communication 175

Chapter 10.7

The Biblical Attributes of


Miraculous Communication
Diverse, Discontinuous & Never “Inspiration”

Table of Topics

A) Miraculous Communication is Supernatural

B) Miraculous Communication is Diverse: A 3-D view

C) Miraculous Communication is Obvious: Contrary to Mega


Mysticism

D) Miraculous Communication is Discontinuous: Contrary


to Super-supernaturalism

Extras & Endnotes

Table 10.7: A 3-D View of Miraculous Communication


10.7: Attributes of Miraculous Communication 176

Primary Points
 We define a miracle as: an extraordinary revelation of God’s
supernatural power or communication by which He intervenes
in the ordinary and natural processes He has ordained
because they are not sufficient to accomplish or communicate
His will. We include both a revelation of God’s supernatural
power and communication in our definition of miracles.
 Miraculous communication has all the attributes of miraculous
deeds including being supernatural, extremely rare, and awe-
inspiring.
 Like miraculous deeds, satan is in the business of
counterfeiting miraculous communication.
 God’s miraculous communication has come with astounding in
creativity.
 Three distinctions, public vs. private, direct vs. delegated, and
divine vs. demonic, result in a three dimensional view of
miraculous communication.
 The concept of some sort of secret, mystical, subjective
“inspiration” is foreign to biblical revelation.
 God always provided revelation through more objective and
obvious ways such as apparitions, auditions, and visions.
 The Bible describes means of miraculous revelation that God
used temporarily, maybe even once, and then it was
discontinued. In fact, to our knowledge, no one has claimed
their use for thousands of years.
 The heart of modern super-supernaturalism is the unbiblical
assumption that God is bound to use the same methods of
revelation now, as He did in the first century church. Both
biblical and secular history reveal the fact that this has not
been the case.
 In general, miraculous means of communication cease when a
method of revelation that God deems superior is
implemented.
 The goal of virtually all personal divine revelation is covenant
making.
 The cessation of Apostles, Prophets, miracle workers, and
tongues was the universal testimony of the Christian Church
for over 1600 years.
10.7: Attributes of Miraculous Communication 177

A) Miraculous Communication is Supernatural

Elsewhere in Knowing Our God (KOG) we defined a miracle as:


an extraordinary revelation of God’s supernatural power or
communication by which He intervenes in the ordinary and natural
processes He has ordained because they are not sufficient to
accomplish or communicate His will. Subsequently, we wrote:
Concerning the general types of miracles, it is important to
recognize that we include both an extraordinary revelation of
God’s supernatural power and communication in our definition
of miracles. Typically, miracles are only viewed in the realm
of supernatural deeds like healings. However, the Scriptures
also record several occurrences of miraculous communication
such as Angels and visions.
It is helpful to distinguish between miraculous deeds and
communication not only because there are a confusing myriad
of types of miracles, but also miraculous communication can
be left out of a discussion of miracles otherwise. 1
Nevertheless, it is a very important category of miracles. 2

Essentially, all the means of miraculous communication have the


same characteristics of any miracle, as we have discussed at length
elsewhere. 3 First, they are supernatural and extraordinary in
nature. Therefore we have written:
[A] miracle can also be considered an intervention into the
normal process established by God to communicate to His
people. For example, the most consistent, regular, and
established method of personal communication from God has
been Scripture. 4 In addition, our New Nature is a constant
revelation of God’s will. 5 However, when God sees fit, He
breaks through this normal mode of contact and initiates
miraculous means such as Angels, voices, and visions. These
means of miraculous communication have many of the same
supernatural characteristics as a miraculous deed. 6

This leads to the second attribute of miracles including the


means of miraculous communication: they are extremely rare.
Accordingly, we have written:
Miraculous communication is extremely rare not only because
anything miraculous is, but also because of the great
sufficiency of the more normal means of divine communication
established by God, including Scripture. Again, we are
claiming that miracles occur only when the ordinary processes
He has ordained are not sufficient to communicate His will.
And this simply isn’t very often. 7
10.7: Attributes of Miraculous Communication 178

Thirdly, as with all miracles, means of miraculous


communication have an awe-inspiring effect. As we have written:
Obviously, occurrences of miraculous communication
normally have an awe-inspiring effect on people as well. For
example, when Zechariah saw an Angel, “he was startled
and was gripped with fear” (Luke 1:12). Likewise, when
some shepherds received a message from an angel they were,
“terrified” (Luke 2:9), and a similar encounter for some
women left them, “trembling and bewildered” (Mark 16:8).
When Jacob realized God had spoken to him in a dream, “He
was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place!’” (Gen
28:17). Those who experienced visions of God or Christ like
the Prophet Daniel and the Apostle John, “turned deathly
pale” and “fell at His feet as though dead” (Dan 10:8; Rev
1:17).
Therefore, we are not surprised at the following account of
King Belshazzar’s encounter with miraculous revelation at a
banquet he was hosting:
Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and
wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand
in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it
wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened
that his knees knocked together and his legs gave
way. (Dan 5:5-6)

Of course, some of the overwhelming emotion experienced


in miraculous communication is due to the content of the
message and perhaps not only its supernatural means (cf. Dan
4:4-5; Job 7:14; Luke 1:29). However, this is not always the
case as demonstrated in the example above of King
Belshazzar who didn’t even know what the inscription meant
and needed Daniel to interpret it (cf. Dan 5:7, 13-17).
Likewise, when some men traveling with Saul heard an
invisible Jesus speak, they were “speechless” (Acts 9:7), but
not because of the content of the message, as the Apostle
describes later, “they did not understand the voice of Him
Who was speaking to me (Acts 22:9). Understandably their
response was simply due to the overwhelming emotion that
humans naturally feel when they experience miraculous
communication from God. 8

The supernatural nature of the types of miraculous


communication may be best illustrated by the fact that each of the
supernatural Scripture and sign gifts has their natural counterpart.
For example, one can gain wisdom through many years of
10.7: Attributes of Miraculous Communication 179

experience, or through the Scripture gift of divine “wisdom,” obtain


it immediately and perfectly from God. While the Scripture gift of
divine “knowledge” involved the reception of divine revelation that
could not be obtained by natural means (cf. Gal 1:11-12),
obviously, knowledge can be gained in a more natural way as well. 9
Similarly, the Scripture gift of “prophecy” involved a miraculous
communication of the future, although humans can at times, with
much less success, predict future events based on a person’s
promise or the natural outcome of a natural process. Likewise,
while humans can learn to speak and interpret a foreign language
with a great deal of study, the supernatural gifts of “tongues” and
their “interpretation” allow one to do the same without the natural
process of learning.
Finally, like miraculous deeds, satan is in the business of
counterfeiting miraculous communication. As the Apostle warned,
“satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor
11:14). If an actual angelic appearance can be demonic, then what
about the visions, dreams, “voices,” and supposedly inspired
impulses that so many automatically claim are from God? The
Apostle’s warning is a striking reminder of what we have repeated
throughout this section of Knowing Our God: not everything
supernatural is holy! Unfortunately, super-supernaturalism and
mega mysticism have ignored this biblical maxim too often and
opened the Church’s door to satan to deceive God’s people.
Therefore, as discussed elsewhere, it is vitally important to
distinguish divine from demonic miraculous communications. 10

B) Miraculous Communication is Diverse: A 3-D view

The category of miraculous communication is a very diverse


one, as God has used many different means. Accordingly, Hebrews
alludes to both the variety and the pinnacle of divine revelation 11
when it says: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers
through the Prophets at many times and in various ways, but
in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son” (Heb 1:1-
2). Accordingly, we have written elsewhere: “
[T]here is a mind-boggling variety of ways that God has
personally communicated to humans. These include donkeys,
Angels, ephods, visions, theophanies, and the Urim and
Thummim. 12

Because of this, as with miraculous deeds, we have developed a


“3-D view” of miraculous communication as illustrated in Table 10.7
10.7: Attributes of Miraculous Communication 180

under Extras & Endnotes below. In general, miraculous


communication can be categorized in three different dimensions.
The first is by purpose, being public or private in nature. For
example, we would suggest that the vision the Apostle John
received and recorded in Revelation was for public purposes, and
intended to be an authoritative revelation for all Christians. On the
other hand, the Apostle Paul’s “visions and revelations from the
Lord” when he “was caught up to the third heaven” involved
“inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to
tell” (2 Cor 12:1-2). Such divine revelation was private in purpose,
intended to only be communicated to the Apostle.
Secondly, like miraculous deeds, miraculous communication can
be distinguished based on its relationship to God as in whether it is
an instance of God’s direct supernatural revelation, or His delegated
supernatural revelation operating through an intermediary. In
Scripture we see instances of God communicating directly to
particularly Prophets or Apostles through a voice or vision.
However, God has also communicated in other miraculous ways
that were delegated through Angels, ephods, and even a donkey.
Likewise, the direct miraculous communication that Prophets and
Apostles received, became a delegated revelation from God through
such men to others.
Finally, as noted above, it is obviously important to distinguish
miraculous communication by its morality, or whether or not it is
divine or demonic.
These three distinctions, public vs. private, direct vs. delegated,
and divine vs. demonic, result in a three dimensional view of
miraculous communication depicted in Table 10.7 below, and will
guide us in the following discussion.
In this section of Book 9 we will be especially brief on those
modes of revelation that we cover in more detail elsewhere in
Knowing Our God such as miracles, Apostles and Prophets, the
concept of divine “inspiration,” and the Incarnation. However, we
will provide more detail on topics that will not be covered elsewhere
such as the “Glory Cloud of God” and the “Angel of the Lord.”

C) Miraculous Communication is Obvious: Contrary to


Mega Mysticism

For many theologians, the most important and discussed type of


divine revelation is something referred to as “inspiration.” In fact,
this was surely the most discussed topic under divine revelation
among Evangelicals in the 20th century. However, we do not
believe “inspiration” as commonly understood is a biblical category
10.7: Attributes of Miraculous Communication 181

of divine revelation. This is because, first, the term “inspiration” is


never used in Scripture. This includes 2 Timothy 3:16 from which
the term is normally taken, but which actually is speaking of God
“breathing out” revelation, rather than a text or person being
“inspired” with, or receiving revelation. “Inspiration” is simply not a
biblical word. 13
Which leads to the second reason for not using “inspiration” as a
category of divine revelation. The non-biblical word has given
many unbiblical ideas about divine revelation. Both secular and
sacred dictionaries typically define divine “inspiration” merely as a
“divine influence” on the mind of the writer. Often included in the
idea of “inspiration” is that God spontaneously, and even rather
imperceptibly, guided the thinking of the biblical writer, such that
the words they wrote entered their mind through a process of
something like divine/human mental telepathy.
By “mental telepathy” we mean the direct transference of
thoughts from one mind to the other, apart from physically
“hearing” or “seeing.” This is very much like what is known as
Extra Sensory Perception (ESP) which the Encyclopedia Britannica
defines as: “perception that occurs independently of the known
sensory processes.” 14 Likewise, popular modern explanations of
biblical “inspiration” clearly reflect the idea that God’s Son,
Prophets, and Apostles experienced nothing more than ESP in their
revelatory experiences.
On the contrary, we demonstrate elsewhere that such secret,
mystical, subjective divine manipulation and divine/human mental
telepathy are recorded in Scripture as only occurring with
unbelieving pagans. 15 Secondly, and as also thoroughly
demonstrated elsewhere, whenever the process of receiving divine
revelation is described in Scripture, the recipient always described it
as “seeing” or “hearing” something. 16
We put these terms in quotation marks because while divine
revelation at times came through physical apparitions seen by
physical eyes and heard by physical ears, at other times God
communicated directly to the part of the mind that processes these
physical senses such that they “saw” and “heard” a vision in their
mind. 17
In other words, God has used a means of revelation that was
something between the physical appearance or audition seen and
heard with the senses, and the purely subjective occurrence of
merely thoughts entering the mind. This means is normally
described as a vision or dream in which God “speaks” or “appears”
to the part of the mind which processes physical sensations.
Accordingly, the revelation was so real, the recipient may not have
even been able to tell whether it was “heard” or “seen” by their
10.7: Attributes of Miraculous Communication 182

physical senses, or by their mind. Biblical divine revelation felt like


it was being received by a person’s physical senses, even if it was
not.
Accordingly, the most mystical and subjective type of divine
revelation we encounter in the Bible is visions and dreams. And
God often ensured these were authenticated in some objective
ways. The fact that God always made it clear when He was
providing someone with extra-biblical miraculous revelation
underscores His desire to make it abundantly evident to people
when He is speaking to them, a fact often neglected by modern
mega mysticism which insists we need to be listening for some “still
small voice” to understand God’s will. 18
There simply are no biblical examples of this in Scripture.
Unfortunately, mega mystics want to claim that God is speaking to
people today just as He did in Scripture. However, God spoke to
people in very real visions, not a “still small voice.” Therefore,
many of the biblical examples that mega mystics wish to use to
promote their false teaching simply do not apply.
Likewise, most of the time that Scripture records people hearing
God, it is in the context of a vision in which the sound is not
physically heard, but is rather “mentally” heard. Nonetheless, it is
often difficult to be sure in many cases which kind of divine voice
people experienced, the physical one or the mental one. Not only is
it difficult to discern the difference in the biblical text, but we would
suggest the person themselves could hardly tell the difference
because of God’s use of the sensical parts of the person’s mind
while they experienced the vision. In other words, even in a mental
vision, it seemed to the person that God was physically speaking to
them (cf. 2 Cor 12:1-4).
Our concern to point out that divine revelation is always directed
to the human processes of “hearing” and “sight” is important in a
day when so many mega mystics are claiming God is
communicating directly to their minds without the sensation of
audibly hearing or visually seeing anything. However, there is not
even any biblical evidence that God “inspired” Apostles and
Prophets this way, let alone that this is to be the norm for
Christians today. One reason for this is that when God is revealing
something to someone, He makes it clear He is doing so.
The fact that divine revelation involved the sensory processes,
enabled Prophets and Apostles to know God was speaking to them.
A voice “heard” or vision “seen,” whether physically or psychically,
is rather convincing for a human being. On the other hand, those
who claim divine revelation comes by an “inspiration” of merely
guided thinking or thoughts slipped into the mind, cannot
10.7: Attributes of Miraculous Communication 183

adequately answer the question as to how Apostles and Prophets


knew that their thoughts were divine rather than merely human. 19
We suggest that the objective nature of divine revelation in
Scripture has several important ramifications in contemporary
theology. First, it makes the volumes of debate on different
theories of divine “inspiration” rather obsolete. In other words, the
great deal of discussion that has occurred in order to describe how
the Holy Spirit merely “influenced” the minds of Apostles and
Prophets is unnecessary because that is not how God granted them
their revelation anyway.
Secondly, the objective view of divine revelation makes that
which we possess in Scripture more trustworthy. Even the non-
Prophetic or non-apostolic historians who have writings included in
Scripture derived their information from the objective means of
observation, research, and testimony. We know that the biblical
writers did not write simply the subjective thoughts that mystically
came into their mind, but that there is a real, physical, and
historical basis for what they wrote. 20
Thirdly, it is rather ironic that mega mystics 21 popularly claim to
be divinely guided by mere thoughts, impressions, and intuitions,
when in fact Prophets and Apostles never claimed to be spoken to
by God in this manner. Accordingly, as we demonstrate elsewhere,
there is no biblical basis for the potentially hazardous doctrines of
mega mysticism, because there are no biblical examples of God
ever communicating to anyone in the way they claim God is
telepathically communicating to them.

D) Miraculous Communication is Discontinuous:


Contrary to Super-supernaturalism

Elsewhere we have written:


In a subsequent chapter we will encounter means of
miraculous revelation that God used temporarily, maybe even
once, and then it was discontinued. 22 In fact, to our
knowledge, no one has claimed their use for thousands of
years.
We are not aware of anyone alleging since OT times to have
heard God in a burning bush (cf. Exod 3:1-4) or through a
donkey (cf. Num 22:24-31). God manifested Himself to His
people as a “pillar of cloud” by day and a “pillar of fire” by
night (cf. Exod 13:21) for only a relatively short time. We no
longer expect to hear from God through an ephod (cf. 1 Sam
23:9-12) or the Urim and Thummim (cf. Exod 28:30) because
10.7: Attributes of Miraculous Communication 184

He has discontinued these means of communication with no


expectation of their return.
Accordingly, Gary Friesen remarks, “God spoke to Balaam
through a donkey. Should each believer keep one in his back
yard just in case?” 23 Likewise, OT scholar Bruce Waltke
rightly notes, “Hearing the voice of God in an audition or
seeing His messengers in a vision are rare events, and the
Bible records them precisely because they are so significant,”
24
and so rare. 25

The heart of modern super-supernaturalism in regards to


miraculous methods of divine revelation is the unbiblical assumption
that God is bound to, for example, use the same methods of
revelation now, as He did in the first century church. Both biblical
and secular history reveal the fact that this has not been the case.
Even concerning biblical times we read:
Love the LORD your God and keep His [written]
requirements, His [written] decrees, His [written] laws
and His [written] commands always. 2 Remember today
that your children were not the ones who saw and
experienced the [miraculous] discipline of the LORD your
God: His majesty, His mighty hand, His outstretched
arm; 3 the [miraculous] signs He performed and the
things He did in the heart of Egypt, both to Pharaoh king
of Egypt and to His whole country; 4 what He did to the
Egyptian army, to its horses and chariots, how He
overwhelmed them with the waters of the Red Sea as
they were pursuing you, and how the LORD brought
lasting ruin on them.
5
It was not your children who saw what He
[miraculously] did for you in the desert until you arrived
at this place, 6 and what He did to Dathan and Abiram,
sons of Eliab the Reubenite, when the earth opened its
mouth right in the middle of all Israel and swallowed
them up with their households, their tents and every
living thing that belonged to them. 7 But it was your
own eyes that saw all these great things the LORD has
done. (Deut, 11:2-7)

In other words, and contrary to super-supernaturalism, the


miraculous revelation that was experienced by one generation of
God’s people, was not to be experienced by another, no matter how
helpful we might think it would be. Ironically, even super-
supernaturalists deny that God is granting new Scripture-quality
revelation today as He did in biblical history. Therefore, we are
10.7: Attributes of Miraculous Communication 185

agreed that there are some fundamental, supernatural occurrences


in Scripture that have no place in Christianity today.
Also contrary to super-supernaturalism, it was not because of
some spiritual deficiency on the part of the later generation that
caused God to withhold such miraculous means of revelation. In
fact, the “children” spoken of here who
experienced far less miraculous communication than their
forefathers were more pleasing to God and entered the Promised
Land.
In general, miraculous means of communication cease when a
method of revelation that God deems superior is implemented. This
is clearly illustrated in the ministry of the King when we notice the
conspicuous absence of people seeing Angels or visions or other
means of miraculous communication during His ministry on Earth. 26
This principle can also be demonstrated by the fact that in biblical
history, when the Prophets arrived (e. g. Samuel), theophanies
ceased. Likewise, when either the OT or NT revelation was
complete and available, gifts of miraculous communication such as
prophecy and divine knowledge ceased as well. 27 This is because
Scripture is deemed by God as a superior revelation. 28
Along the same lines, as we have written at length elsewhere,
the end goal of virtually all personal divine revelation, including the
miraculous kind, is covenant making. And God’s plan has been for
such covenant revelation to be completed and recorded in
Scripture, upon which other methods of divine revelation virtually
cease. Accordingly, we have written elsewhere:
Indeed, the cessation of Apostles, Prophets, miracle workers,
and tongues was the universal testimony and conviction of the
Christian Church for over 1600 years, reflecting God’s own
withdrawal of them. What else would we expect when there
has been no new covenant implemented?
We would expect such unique ministries as miracle working
Prophets and Apostles to be provided at the beginning of the
implementation of a new covenant between God and man.
Indeed, there were “fireworks” over Mt. Sinai at the
implementation of the Old Covenant (cf. Exod. 19), a special
manifestation of God Himself to all the people, but such
manifestations did not indefinitely continue for the Israelites,
and eventually only the OT Scriptures remained.
Likewise, there were “fireworks” at the very beginning of the
implementation of the New Covenant in which God uniquely
revealed Himself. But like the experience of those who
entered the Old Covenant, the initial “fireworks” were not to
continue. As the highly regarded British NT scholar William
Sanday (1843–1920) put it, “The one permanent deposit left
10.7: Attributes of Miraculous Communication 186

behind by this tidal wave of God-given energy was the New


Testament.” 29 Subsequently, God has granted other
miraculous “signs” of His continuing commitment such as the
new birth and the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, contrary to the opinion of our brothers and sisters
in charismaticism 30that we should expect a continuity of the
means of personal revelation recorded in the Bible, the biblical
and historical record reflects a consistent discontinuity of these
means, centered around the monumental and unique event of
the implementation of a divine covenant. 31

Elsewhere, we not only offer additional biblical support for the


cessation of particularly the Scripture and Sign gifts of Apostles,
Prophets, healing, and tongues, 32 but demonstrate as well that this
was virtually the universal historical position of the Church for over
1600 years, and for good reason. 33 This discontinuity in
miraculous communication will be noted below as we discuss each
type.
Also, as we discuss more thoroughly elsewhere, super-
supernaturalism is the claim that miracles are and should be
occurring in relatively great abundance, including miraculous
communication. Therefore, many in the Church are claiming an
abundance of divine dreams, visions, and voices. While we do not
see biblical evidence that such means of divine revelation were to
cease, we would still contend that they are very rare. This is simply
because they are miraculous and by definition, a supernatural
communication should only be expected when God’s more natural
means, such as Scripture, our New Nature, and God-ordained
authorities are insufficient, which simply is not very often. At least
not nearly as often as super-supernaturalists contend.
The mantra of super-supernaturalism is that we should expect
God to communicate to us just as miraculously as biblical Prophets
and Apostles and the King Himself. However, the extreme rarity
and pattern of discontinuity of miraculous communication obviously
strikes at the heart of super-supernaturalism. We must recognize
that God has chosen different times to reveal Himself to different
people in especially direct ways, and that not all Christians can
expect such revelation. 34
For example, relatively very few people on Earth have talked
with God “face to face” as Moses did (cf. Exod 33:11), seen the
Angel of the Lord as Abraham did (cf. Gen 18), and received
personal instruction from Christ as the Apostles did. If we have the
God-given ministry, authority, and responsibility of a Moses, Christ,
or Paul, then maybe we can expect these more “extraordinary”
means of personal revelation from God. But apart from that, we
10.7: Attributes of Miraculous Communication 187

must admit that we are not in Heaven yet, and a real personal
revelation of God still awaits us. Nevertheless, as the Apostle Peter
wrote, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and
even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and
are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Pet 1:8).
35
10.7: Attributes of Miraculous Communication 188

Table 10.7: A 3-D View of Miraculous Communication

Effect
Public Private

Direct Divine Public Direct Divine Private


Miraculous Miraculous
Communication Communication
[sec. 3.11.C] [sec. 3.11.C]

Examples: revelation of Examples: Peter’s vision


Christ, Prophets & & Spirit audibly speaking,

Direct
Apostles, visions, & Ananias hearing voice,
theophanies. Paul seeing vision of man
Purpose: divine from Macedonia.
communi-cation when Primary purpose:
ordinary God-ordained personal direction for
means not sufficient. those implement-ing a new
Status: Extinct because covenant.
Divine

no new covenant. Status: Possible, but


extremely rare

Relationship to God
Delegated Divine Public Delegated Divine Private
Miraculous Miraculous
Morality

Communication Communication
[sec. 3.11.B] [sec. 3.11.B] Delegated

Examples: Angels, words Examples: The Prophet


& writing of Prophets & Nathan speaking to David,
Apostles. angel directing Cornelius.
Primary purpose: Primary purpose: used
implement-ing a new when ordinary means of
covenant. revelation not sufficient.
Status: Extinct because Status: Possible, but
no new covenant being extremely rare
implemented.

Demonic Public Demonic Private


Miraculous Miraculous
Communication Communication
Permitted
Demonic

Examples: false Apostles, Examples: Adam & Eve


Prophets, teachers, in Garden, Christ in desert
Antichrist Purpose: testing God’s
Purpose: testing God’s people
people, deceiving His Status: Abundant
enemies
Status: Abundant
10.7: Attributes of Miraculous Communication 189

Extras & Endnotes

Gauging Your Grasp


1) How do we define a miracle?

2) Why do we include means of divine communication as


miraculous?

3) To illustrate the great variety of means God has used to


miraculously communicate personal revelation to humans, how
many different ones can you think of? Why do you think God
used such a variety of even weird says of communication?

4) What three dimensions of miraculous communication do we


suggest help categorize it. Can you give an example of the six
different kinds of miraculous communication this 3-D view
produces?

5) What are several reasons to believe there is a great deal of


discontinuity in miraculous communication? How does this
relate to super-supernaturalism?

6) We claim that, in general, miraculous means of communication


cease when a method of revelation that God deems superior is
implemented. What are biblical examples of this?

7) What is the historical testimony of the Church regarding the


miraculous Scripture and sign gifts of apostleship, prophecy,
miracle working, tongues, etc.?

Publications & Particulars

1
Norman Geisler has a helpful list of miracles recorded in Scripture in his
Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (BECA) (Baker, 1999), 482-
86. However, although the list includes occurrences of both miraculous
deeds and communication, he does not distinguish them or sufficiently
list examples of the latter.
2
Excerpt from 10.1.C.
3
For a discussion of the biblical attributes of miracles see chapter 10.2.
10.7: Attributes of Miraculous Communication 190

4
For further discussion of Scripture as the supreme divine revelation see
chapter 7.8.
5
For further discussion of our New Nature as a divine revelation see
chapter 7.12.
6
Excerpt from section 10.2.A.5.
7
Excerpt from section 10.2.B.2.
8
Excerpt from section 10.2.C.2.
9
For further discussion of the miraculous nature of the gifts of divine
wisdom and knowledge see sections 8.2.B-C.
10
For further discussion regarding examples of miraculous demonic
communication see 9.12.A.2.
11
For the distinction between personal and universal revelation see section
7.2.A.
12
Excerpt from 7.2.A.
13
For a critique of modern conceptions of “inspiration” see forthcoming
chapter 8.8.
14
Online at www.britannica.com.
15
Regarding the pagan nature of the divine manipulation and divine/human
mental telepathy that is so foundational to popular notions of biblical
“inspiration” and mega mystical theology regarding divine guidance see
chapter 7.16.
16
For a thorough study of the nature of the revelation that Apostles and
Prophets experienced see chapter 8.3 and section 9.5.A.
17
Regarding the nature of revelatory visions see section 10.11.A.
18
For further discussion of God’s desire to make revelation evident in spite
of mega mystical claims see sections 14.9.E and G.
19
While we contend that there was a necessary objective sense to the
revelatory act of Prophets and Apostles, Stephen Nichols describes
Jonathan Edwards’ view in a more subjective way that we would not
agree with:
In the middle of "The Mind," Edwards interjects a brief statement
on inspiration. He observes, "The evidence of immediate inspiration
that the prophets had when they were immediately inspired by the
Spirit of God with any truth is an absolute sort of certainty- and the
knowledge is in a sense intuitive, much in the same manner as faith
and spiritual knowledge of the truth of religion."
He draws an analogy between the inspiration by which the Prophets
received their messages and the illumination by which people today
come to know spiritual knowledge, And just as the one who would
know honey must taste it, so the verification of inspiration is in the
experience of it. "The prophet has so divine a sense," explains
10.7: Attributes of Miraculous Communication 191

Edwards, "such a divine disposition ... that he sees as immediately


that God is there as we perceive one another's presence when we are
talking together face to face.” So the prophet, or the human author
of Scripture, knows he is inspired when it happens. (An Absolute Sort
of Certainty: The Holy Spirit and the Apologetics of Jonathan
Edwards [Presbyterian and Reformed, 2003], 40.
Obviously, John Calvin was just as subjective in his view of how
recipients of divine revelation knew they were experiencing it. Edward
Dowey quotes Calvin and comments as follows:
Calvin: "Since Satan is a wonderful adept at deceiving ... it was
necessary that some sure and notable distinction should appear in
true and heavenly oracles which would not suffer the faith and the
minds of the holy fathers to waver." [Com. Gen. 15:2]. Yet, for all
his investigation of these phenomena Calvin never tries to fix the
"mark" by which the visions from God are distinguishable from those
of Satan. It seems that a subjective illumination of the mind of the
recipient causes him to recognize who speaks in a revelatory dream
or vision.
A voice came to Ezekiel, "but nothing was effected by this voice
until the Spirit was added. God indeed works efficaciously by his
words, but the efficacity is not included in the sound itself, but
proceeds from the secret instinct of the Spirit. The prophet therefore
shows us both sides: on the one hand he says that he heard the
voice of God so that he stood on his feet, God in this wished to
animate his confidence; but at the same time he adds that he was
not raised up by the voice until the Spirit placed him on his feet. The
work of the Spirit therefore is joined with the word of God. But a
distinction is proposed that we may know that the external word is of
no avail by itself, unless animated by the power of the Spirit.
Nebuchadnezzar knew what dream to take seriously "because God
had inscribed in his heart a distinct mark by which he had denoted
this dream. [Com. Daniel 4:4-6]. (The Knowledge of God in Calvin’s
Theology [Columbia University, 1965], 94-5.
Again, in our opinion, the Bible describes a more objective and even
helpful understanding of divine revelation
20
For much more discussion on the issue of “inspiration” see chapters 8.8-
8.11. On the issue of whether or not God “speaks” directly to the mind of
His people at all, see chapter 7.16
21
For further discussion of mega mysticism see Book 14.
22
For further discussion of the discontinuity in methods of miraculous
communication see sections 7.3.C-D.
23
Gary Friesen and J. Maxon, Decision Making and the Will of God
(Multnomah, 1980), 89.
24
Bruce Waltke, Finding the Will of God: A Pagan Notion? (Eerdmans,
1995), 52.
25
Excerpt from section 10.2.B.2.
10.7: Attributes of Miraculous Communication 192

26
For further discussion of the discontinuity of other means of miraculous
communication during the ministry of Christ on Earth see section 10.9.D.
27
For a history of the cessation of the gift of divine knowledge see chapter
11.5. For the cessation of prophecy chapter 9.13.
28
For further discussion of our claim that Scripture is a superior means of
revelation to the means of miraculous communication see section 7.8.D.
29
William Sanday, Inspiration (Longmans, Green & Co., 1903), 333-4
30
For a definition of charismaticism see endnote in chapter 10.1.
31
Excerpt from section 7.3.C.
32
For a biblical argument regarding the cessation of Scripture gifts see
chapter 8.6.
33
For a historical demonstration of the cessation of Scripture gifts see
chapters 8.5 and 9.13.
34
For further discussion of the fact that the type of divine revelation that
Christ, Prophets, and Apostles experienced in Scripture, is not for
Christians today see sections 7.3.C-D and chapters 8.5 and 9.13.
35
For further discussion of the problems of expecting God to communicate
to us in the same miraculous ways as the characters of Scripture see
sections 7.3.C-D and chapters 8.5 and 9.13.
10.8: Delegated Revelation 193

Chapter 10.8

Delegated Miraculous
Communication
God Speaking through Angels & Animals

Table of Topics

A) Delegated Revelation through Angelic Messengers

B) Delegated Revelation through Human Messengers

C) Other Means of Delegated Revelation

C.1) Animals

C.2) Ephod, Urim & Thummim

C.3) Casting of lots

Extras & Endnotes


10.8: Delegated Revelation 194

Primary Points
 Angels appeared to those who had a pivotal part in the
establishment of a human/divine covenant such as Prophets,
Apostles, or a Cornelius.
 Divine revelation through Angels is obviously an example of
delegated miraculous communication in that they relay a
message from God.
 As we enter the NT, we see a significant increase in Angel
appearances reported.
 At times Angels appeared to people in visions, while at other
times when the person seemed to be in a fully conscious
state.
 The message of most angelic revelation was for public
distribution, containing revelation applicable and pertinent to
all of God’s people, although there are a few instances of
private revelation as well.
 There is no explicit biblical reason to suggest that Angels
cannot appear today to communicate a message from God.
 “satan himself masquerades as an Angel of light” just
like the one that revealed the Koran to Muhammad.
 God’s most frequent means of providing personal revelation
to His people has been through delegating such revelation
through human messengers.
 It simply has not been God’s way to speak directly and
individually to each one of His people, but rather, to speak
through an intermediate means.
 Human messengers of divine revelation received messages for
both individuals and the public.
 There are several odd means of revelation recorded in
Scripture including a donkey, an eagle, an ephod, Urim and
Thummim, and casting lots.
 Casting lots is not a biblically prescribed way to discern God’s
will. It was usually used by those with other gifts of
revelation, and we are never instructed to use it as a means
of divine revelation.
 One wonders in light of the contemporary frenzy to restore
first century gifts and means of revelation, why the casting of
lots isn’t included in the mix.
10.8: Delegated Revelation 195

A) Delegated Revelation through Angelic


Messengers

Divine revelation through Angels is obviously an example of


delegated miraculous communication in that they relay a message
from God, and such means is extremely rare. Appearances of
Angels were very rare in the OT. 1 One of those few instances is
when the Angel Gabriel was used by God to reveal prophetic truths
to Daniel (cf. 8:16; 9:21; 10:4ff). In addition, the Apostle Paul
makes the interesting statement that, “The [OT] law was put into
effect through Angels by a mediator” (Gal 3:19). This is not
expressly described in the OT but is alluded to several times (cf.
Deut 33:2; Psa 68:16-17; Acts 7:53; Heb 2:2). This point is, in
fact, used by NT writers to prove that the New Covenant, which was
implemented directly by God the Son, is superior to the Old
Covenant that was implemented through mere Angels. 2
As we enter the NT, we see a significant increase in Angel
appearances reported. Specifically, Gabriel is in a flurry of activity,
making pronouncements to Zechariah about the birth of John the
Baptist (Luke 1:18-19), to Mary concerning the virgin conception of
Christ (Luke 1:26-27), probably to the shepherds on the night of
Christ’s birth (Luke 2:9-10), and to Joseph concerning the baby’s
safety (Matt 1:20; 2:13, 19). It is also through Angels whom God
first pronounces that Christ had risen from the dead (Matt 28:5-6).
As we enter the apostolic Church age, we see some revelation
coming through Angels as well in directing Philip to the Ethiopian
eunuch (cf. Acts 8:26), and instructing the Apostle Peter when he
was miraculously broken out of jail (cf. Acts 12:7). Cornelius,
apparently the first Gentile convert to Christianity, received a vision
from an Angel as well (cf. Acts 10:3). In addition, the Apostle Paul
says an Angel personally encouraged him during the life threatening
storm in the Adriatic Sea (cf. Acts 27:23-24). The Apostle John
records that it was through an Angel that he received the
Revelation of Jesus Christ (cf. Rev 1:1; 22:16).
Finally, at the close of the current Church age, we notice that
the arrival of Jesus Christ is announced “with the voice of the
Archangel” (1 Thess 4:16), and the Revelation records subsequent
instances when Angels will be making proclamations to the whole
world (cf. Rev 14:6-11).
A review of the above instances reveals that at times Angels
appeared to people in visions, while at other times when the person
seemed to be in a fully conscious state. We also notice that it
would seem when God has an especially important announcement
to make (i.e. the conception, birth, resurrection, and return of
Christ), that He chooses to send an Archangel to make it.
10.8: Delegated Revelation 196
Accordingly, the biblical record suggests that Angels appeared
particularly to those who had a pivotal and unique part in the
establishment of a human/divine covenant such as Prophets,
Apostles, or a Cornelius. Therefore, the purpose of most Angelic
revelation was for public distribution, containing revelation
applicable and pertinent to all of God’s people, although there are a
few instances of private revelation as well.
In addition, it is interesting to note that this means of
miraculous revelation has essentially ceased when a superior mode
is in operation. Accordingly, there is no record of angelic revelation
to God’s people during the ministry of Christ. Likewise, since the
recording and distribution of the NT Scriptures, Church history
records a very small number of such appearances and many of
those are questionable.
Nonetheless, there is no explicit biblical reason to suggest that
Angels cannot appear today to communicate a message from God.
However, even in the Bible such an occurrence was exceptionally
rare. Accordingly, the Bible does not instruct us to expect to
receive divine revelation through Angels. While we are told that
“Angels [are] ministering spirits sent to serve those who will
inherit salvation,” (Heb 1:14) it would seem they are serving us
in other ways than providing divine revelation. For example, we are
also instructed in Hebrews: “Do not forget to entertain
strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained
Angels without knowing it” (Heb 13:2). So while we might
expect to meet an Angel someday, it is obvious that there is no
expectation of receiving divine revelation here, as the person does
not even know that they have seen an Angel.
Finally, as in virtually every means of divine communication,
satan is in the habit of counterfeiting it. Therefore, the Apostle
warns: “satan himself masquerades as an Angel of light” (2
Cor 11:14). 3 All in all, we would suggest that the claims to seeing
and hearing Angels far exceed the actual occurrences. However,
even among those encounters that may actually involve an angelic
being, many of these may be demonic.
Islam holds that the Koran was revealed to Muhammad (c. 570-
632) by the Angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years. 4 Christian
apologist Norm Geisler relates concerning these visions:
During his call Muhammad said he was choked by the Angel-
three times. Muhammad said of the Angel, "he choked me
with the cloth until I believed that I should die. Then he
released me and said: 'Recite!.' When he hesitated, he
received "twice again the repeated harsh treatment". . . .
Muhammad himself questioned the divine origin of the
experience. At first he thought he was being deceived by [an]
10.8: Delegated Revelation 197
evil spirit. . . . On another occasion Muhammad set forth a
revelation he thought was from God, but later changed it,
claiming satan had slipped the verses into the text. 5

Evidently, Muhammad’s reception of visions was often


“accompanied by . . . convulsions” and trance states. Finally, Dr.
Geisler notes that his “divine call” involved “contact with the dead,”
a practice forbidden by Scripture, and long periods of depression
and temptations to suicide. 6 When we consider Muhammad’s
violent nature, and the fact that his religion has primarily spread
through military conquest, we can be certain that this is a demonic
religion, visions and all.
Accordingly, while God may send you a message through an
Angel, you had better authenticate it as divine like Gideon.

B) Delegated Revelation through Human


Messengers

God’s most frequent means of providing personal revelation to


His people has been through delegating such revelation through
human messengers. It simply has not been God’s way to speak
directly and individually to each one of His people, but rather, to
speak through an intermediate means. Accordingly, Nehemiah
remarks concerning the OT people, “By Your Spirit You
admonished them through Your Prophets” (Neh 9:30). 7
While God has spoken through various miraculous means (cf.
Heb 2:4), His primary method was the Prophet (e.g. Moses, Isaiah)
and the Apostle (e.g. John, Paul), with Jesus Christ being both (cf.
Deut 18:18; Heb 3:1). We would include in this category divinely
empowered wise men, such as Solomon, who while possessing
divine revelation, was not thought of as a Prophet. 8 We refer to
these supernatural revelatory abilities as Scripture gifts throughout
Knowing Our God.
The first biblical occurrence of delegated revelation would seem
to be when, “Moses told Aaron everything the LORD had sent
him to say” (Exod 4:28). Immediately after we find the second
instance of the message or word of God being spoken through a
person: “Moses and Aaron brought together all the Elders of
the Israelites, and Aaron told them everything the LORD had
said to Moses” (Exod 4:29-30). Moses was the first in a long line
of Prophets named in Scripture, extending even to the NT Prophet
Agabus (cf. Acts 11:28; 21:10).
Because prophetic revelation was extraordinary, absolutely
authoritative (e.g. “Thus says the Lord . . .”), and commonly
10.8: Delegated Revelation 198
counterfeited by satan, God prescribed several ways of
authenticating them. These included the ability to predict the
future perfectly (cf. Deut 18:18-22; Acts 11:27-28; 21:10-11),
loyalty to the real God (cf. Deut 13:1-4), and the supernatural
virtuous fruits of the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt 7:15-23). The seriousness
of falsely claiming to possess the gift of prophecy (cf. Eph 4:11; 1
Cor 12:29) is illustrated in the fact that lying prophets were to be
put to death in the OT (cf. Deut 13:5; 18:20). 9
When we arrive in salvation history to the giving of the New
Covenant revelation, another kind of human messenger is
introduced, the Apostle [apostolos: “messenger”] of Jesus Christ.
So named because of being personally commissioned by Christ to
be His representative (Mark 3:14; Matt 10:5-8; Acts 1:8), and to be
especially gifted by the Holy Spirit to speak for Christ in His absence
(cf. John 14:25-6; 15:26; 16:12-15). The Twelve and Paul are the
most obvious examples.
NT Apostles do not replace NT Prophets as messengers of divine
revelation as is often claimed today. On the contrary, NT Apostles
and Prophets are co-founders of the Church (cf. Eph 2:20), both
being sources of equally divinely authoritative revelation (cf. Eph
3:5; 4:11; 1 Thess 5:20), with NT Prophets being able to verify the
authority of a NT Apostle (cf. 1 Cor 14:37). Again, because
apostolic revelation is extraordinary, absolutely authoritative, and
an object of satanic counterfeiting, God authenticated the divine
authority of Apostles by giving them supernatural abilities and
character (cf. Matt 10:5-8; 2 Cor 12:12; Heb 2:3-4; cf. John 8:46;
1 Cor 9:3; 2 Cor 1:12; 6:3-6; 11:21-28). 10
Human messengers of divine revelation received messages for
both individuals and the public. The Prophet Nathan, for example,
received revelation that was only applicable to King David, and
therefore we read, “The LORD sent Nathan to David” (2 Sam
12:1) to rebuke him for his sin with Bathsheba. However, most
prophetic and virtually all apostolic revelation was intended to
exercise God’s authority for the entire world.
While the divine revelation that God provided through His
Prophets and Apostles was initially private, normally such
messengers recorded their revelations resulting in divinely
authoritative Scripture for the public (cf. Ex. 24:4, 7-8; Deut 31:9,
19, 24-26; Num 33:2 1 Sam 10:25; Isa 30:8; Jer 30:2; 36:27-28;
Ezek 43:11; 1 Cor 14:37). The reasons for recording the
revelations are obvious and include protecting the integrity of the
revelation from the eventual corruptions that occur in merely oral
transmission, and making the revelations available to many more
people than just those who personally heard the Prophet or Apostle.
10.8: Delegated Revelation 199
This recording of the revelations of Prophets and Apostles also
foreshadowed God’s intention to discontinue these ministries as a
means of divine communication. This was because the written
revelation was superior to the merely oral revelation of Prophets
and Apostles, and it was the completion of their work. 11 This
process is illustrated throughout history. 12 Therefore, both the
charismatic claim to gifts of prophecy and Apostles, and the Roman
Catholic claim that the Pope’s extrabiblical “revelations” carry divine
authority 13 are misplaced and have actually hurt, not helped, the
Church of Christ.
Not surprisingly, satan has commonly counterfeited this means
of divine revelation as well, sending into the world, and even
infiltrating the house of God with many false prophets and apostles.
Thus the numerous biblical warnings regarding such people. 14
As noted above, most fake prophets can be exposed by their
inability to supernaturally predict the future, and most false
apostles, or others who claim to speak for God, cannot perform
apostolic-like miracles. Even so, in some cases satan will
supernaturally empower such people and other means of detection
must be employed (cf. Deut 13:1-3; Matt 7:22-23; 24:24). 15

C) Other Means of Delegated Revelation

C.1) Animals

Other, more indirect miraculous means of communication from


God has come through rather curious means. One of the more
memorable is God speaking to Balaam when, “the LORD opened
the donkey's mouth” (Num 22:28). Another instance of God
using an animal as a messenger of miraculous communication is
“an eagle” (Rev 8:13; not something like an eagle), who will fly
over the Earth pronouncing judgment during the Day of the Lord’s
wrath.
Other means of indirect miraculous communication include the
“writing on the wall” of a message for the pagan King Belshazzar of
which Daniel says, “Suddenly the fingers of a human hand
appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall” (Dan 5:5).
While this may have been the “fingers” of God (cf. Exod 31:18), it
was probably a more indirect, although certainly miraculous means
of communication.
10.8: Delegated Revelation 200
C.2) Ephod & Urim & Thummim

Another curious means of divine communication was the rather


odd piece of clothing called the Ephod, different forms of which
were prescribed for the Hebrew priests to wear (cf. Exod 28). For
the most part it is merely portrayed as a priestly type of clothing
until we read that God evidently used it to answer David’s questions
on two occasions (cf. 1 Sam 23:9; 30:7). 16 This divine
communication may have come by means of the Urim and
Thummim which the high priest wore in his garments (cf. Exod
28:30). We first read of it when God directs: “Also put the Urim
and the Thummim in the breastpiece . . . Thus Aaron will
always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites
over his heart before the LORD” (Exod 28:30).
Accordingly, OT scholars C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch write
regarding the location of the Urim and Thummim:
Among the various and contradictory opinions respecting the
form and substance of these mysterious appendages, the most
probable seems to be that of Josephus, Philo, Bp. Patrick,
Parkhurst, and the Jewish writers generally; who state, that
they were no other than the twelve precious stones of the high
priest’s breastplate. 17

As to how the Urim and Thummim worked as a means of


miraculous communication from God, OT scholar Cornelius Van Dam
writes:
Nowhere does the OT state how the Urim and Thummim were
used . . . however, the following theory can be proposed. If
the Masoretic vocalization of urim [“light”] and tummim
[“perfection”] is accepted as evidence descriptive of this
oracular means, the use of urim by itself (1 Sam 28:6) could
indicate that light was a vital characteristic of this oracular
means, and the terms could be understood as hendiadys with
the translation "perfect light." Possibly a special or miraculous
light was somehow involved in the functioning of the Urim and
Thummim in order to verify that the message given was from
God (see, e.g., Josephus Ant. iii.8.9). In this way "the
judgment of the Urim [light]" (Num 27:21) could conceivably
have been given. 18
10.8: Delegated Revelation 201
C.3) Casting of lots

Another rather indirect method of discerning God’s will recorded


in Scripture is the casting of lots. This was particularly common in
the days of Joshua and we read: “These are the territories that
Eleazar the Priest, Joshua son of Nun and the heads of the
tribal clans of Israel assigned by [casting a] lot at Shiloh in
the presence of the LORD at the entrance to the Tent of
Meeting” (Josh 19:51; cf. 7:14-18; 18:6, 8, 10).
Regarding the ancient practice of “casting lots,” Bible scholar
David Aune tells us that:
A variety of small objects of stone, wood, clay, or other
material were used. . . . Several verbs are used . . . all of
which can mean "throw" or "cast" lots (e.g., Josh. 18:6, 8;
Prov. 1:14; Isa. 34:17; Joel 3:3; Ob. 11; Nah. 3:10). The lots
appear to have been kept in a container in which they were
shaken until one was thrown or sprang out (e.g., Nu. 33:54;
Josh. 15:1; Lev. 16:9f.; Jonah 1:7). . . .
The central presupposition behind the use of lots in the OT
and NT is clearly expressed in Prov. 16:33, "The lot is cast into
the lap, but the decision is wholly from the Lord." The use of
lots in making decisions, therefore, was regarded as a means
of allowing God to make the choice (cf. Josh. 18:6, 8, 10).
Lots, though a form of divination, were never a forbidden
practice in ancient Israel as were the other major forms of
divination (cf. Dt. 18:9-14). . . . Similar to the positive or
negative response expected of the Urim and Thummim, other
forms of the lot were primarily used to secure a yes or no
answer to a particular proposal. 19

As to the question of whether or not these means of divine


revelation are available today, several considerations are in order.
First of all, a study of them in the Bible will reveal that their use by
God’s people was primarily confined to appointed representatives of
God such as Joshua (cf. Josh 18:6-8); a Priest, or an Apostle (cf.
Acts 1:26). In other words, it is questionable as to whether the
average Jew had much confidence that God would “speak” through
such means.
Likewise, few, if any right minded Christians would claim that
God is using ephods, the Urim and Thummim, or the casting of lots
to communicate His will today, making God’s habit of discontinuity
in methods of personal revelation evident here. Accordingly, Dr.
Van Dam writes concerning the Urim and Thummim: “The basic
reason for their demise seems to have been that God was weaning
His people away from a physical means of revelation to a greater
10.8: Delegated Revelation 202
dependence on His word as written or as spoken by the Prophets.”
20

Likewise, concerning the casting of lots, although we read that


the early Apostles used them to choose an Apostle, there are no
subsequent instructions to do so, nor did the early Church
encourage the habit. Accordingly, Gary Freisen and J. Maxon note
regarding casting lots:
The only New Testament example occurs in Acts 1, when the
disciples cast lots in the selection of Judas' replacement -
Matthias (Acts 1:24-26). Commentators correctly note that
that episode took place prior to the inception of the Church
Age, so it cannot be considered normative for the present
economy. There is considerable doubt as to whether the action
taken on that occasion was recognized by God or the Church
as being valid. The King had declared that in the Kingdom,
the Apostles would judge from "twelve thrones" (Matthew
19:28). While Matthias is never mentioned again as carrying
out the apostolic office, Paul's claim to Apostleship is well
established. 21

Nonetheless, one wonders in light of the contemporary frenzy to


restore first century gifts and means of revelation, why the casting
of lots isn’t included in the mix. Unfortunately, the practice was
used habitually and superstitiously by John Wesley with regrettable
results. 22
Demonic counterfeits of these rather obscure miraculous means
of communication abound in ancient and modern occultic practices
of divination. 23 Also, we note that like God, satan has spoken
through animals, as he used a snake to speak to Eve (cf. Gen 3:1-
4, 14-15). 24
10.8: Delegated Revelation 203

Extras & Endnotes

Gauging Your Grasp

1) In what kinds of situations or to what kinds of people did Angels


appear in the Bible?

2) In what ways did Angels appear to people?

3) We claim there is no explicit biblical reason to suggest that


Angels cannot appear today to communicate a message from
God. Do you agree or disagree and why?
4) What are some examples that “satan himself masquerades
as an Angel of light” ?

5) What is God’s most frequent means of providing personal


revelation to His people?

6) Name some of the odd means of revelation recorded in


Scripture. Are they to be means of revelation today? Why or
why not?

Publications & Particulars

1
The rarity of angelic revelation in the OT is even greater if we properly
distinguish “The Angel of the Lord,” as Jesus Christ, as further discussed
below.
2
For further discussion on the claim in Hebrews that the OT was
implemented by Angels see F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews
(NICNT) (Eerdmans, 1990), 67, and Richard N. Longenecker, Galatians
(WBC) (Nelson, 1990), 140.
3
Colin Kruse comments:
Paul may be thinking here of Genesis 3 and the deceitfulness of the
serpent who 'enlightened' Eve. Alternatively there are stories in
Jewish pseudepigraphical works in which the devil or satan appears
as an angel to deceive Eve (Life of Adam and Eve 9:1 - 11:3;
Apocalypse of Moses 17:1) and the Apostle could be using these as
an illustration. (2 Corinthians (TNTC) [Eerdmans, 1987], 190).
It also seems possible, considering the extraordinary experiences of the
Apostle, that Paul saw satan himself in the form of such an angel.
10.8: Delegated Revelation 204

4
For further discussion on the revelation of the Koran see Living Religions:
An Encyclopaedia of the World's Faiths, ed. Mary Pat Fisher, (Tauris
Publishers, 1997), 338.
5
Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Baker,
1999), 505-6.
6
Ibid.
7
For further discussion of the indirect nature of the vast majority of divine
revelation, contrary to super-supernaturalism and mega mysticism see
section 7.3.D.
8
We would suggest that the Judges of Israel should be included in the
category of Prophets as well. They spoke for God, particularly revealing
His will in personal disputes. The ministry of the Judge Deborah is
particularly revealing concerning this office:
Now Deborah, a Prophetess . . . was judging (shapat) Israel at
that time. . . . and the sons of Israel came up to her for
judgment. Now she sent and summoned Barak . . . and said to
him, "Behold, the LORD, the God of Israel, has commanded,
'Go and march to Mount Tabor” (Judg 4:4-6).
Not only did Deborah have the God given authority to pronounce
judgments for Israel, she is described as a “Prophetess” who revealed
something directly from God. It would seem that speaking directly for
God was something the Israelite Judges did, even if it was merely to
pronounce judicial decisions in the name of God.
9
For an introduction to the biblical authority and attributes of Prophets see
section 9.1.B.
10
For further discussion regarding the biblical authority and attributes of
Apostles see chapter 8.4.
11
For further discussion regarding the cessation of Scripture gifts with the
completion of Scripture see chapter 8.6.
12
For historical evidence for the cessation of the Scripture gifts see
chapters 8.5; 9.13; 11.7; 12.13.
13
For further discussion of Papal authority in Romanism see chapter 13.7.
14
For a list of verses regarding warnings of false apostles, prophets, etc.
see section 7.B.5.e.
15
For further discussion on discerning false prophets and apostles,
particularly those operating in the Church today see chapter 11.13.
16
Regarding the revelatory use of the ephod in David’s life see section 14.
17
C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament Electronic
Edition STEP Files CD-ROM (Findex.com, 2000)
18
Cornelius Van Dam, “Urim and Thummim” in the International Standard
Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE), Geoffrey W. Bromiley ed., 4 vols., [Eerdmans,
1988], IV:958. Van Dam also explains that the popular suggestion that
10.8: Delegated Revelation 205

biblical references to casting lots is synonymous with the use of Urim and
Thummim cannot be proved and is unlikely (Ibid.). However, like casting
lots, God ceased using this method when the superior means of written
Scripture became available.
19
David Aune, “Lots” in the ISBE, 3:173.
20
Van Dam, IV:957. Likewise, the OT scholar Bruce Waltke writes:
The Old Testament seems to indicate that the Urim and Thummim
faded from use during the early days of Israel's monarchy, and they
are only referred to once after the Babylonian exile. This may be so
because after the institution of the monarchy, God inaugurated the
office of the Prophet. The Prophets now participated in God's
heavenly court and communicated God's messages to the courts in
Jerusalem and Samaria. Apparently Prophets who revealed God's
Word to the king replaced the Urim and Thummim, through which He
revealed His mind to the priest.
Nevertheless, we still find Ezra using this device to determine the
ancestry of the priests who returned from the exile in Ezra chapter 2.
After this the Bible never mentions the Urim and Thummim again.
God did not preserve them for His people. They were one more
allowance from God to assist His people at a certain point in history.
(Finding the Will of God: A Pagan Notion? [Eerdmans, 1995], 46)
21
Gary Friesen and J. Maxon, Decision Making and the Will of God
(Multnomah, 1980), 226-7.
22
See Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, 2 Vols. (The Banner of Truth
Trust, 1970), I:150, 309; 2:553.
23
For further discussion of divination see section 14.9.G.
24
Thus Keil & Delitzsch remark:
The serpent is here described not only as a beast, but also as a
creature of God; it must therefore have been good, like everything
else that He had made. Subtlety was a natural characteristic of the
serpent (Matt 10:16), which led the evil one to select it as his
instrument.
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 207

Chapter 10.9

Direct Means of Miraculous


Communication
From the Writing of God to Living with God

Table of Topics

A) The Writing of God

B) The Glory Cloud of God

C) The Angel of God

D) The Son of God

E) Living with the Living God

Extras & Endnotes


10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 208

Primary Points
 The Bible records remarkable occasions when God Himself did
the writing.
 The Glory Cloud was a manifestation of the presence of God,
and perhaps specifically the Holy Spirit
 The Angel of the Lord many times represents the Person and
Presence of God in the OT, but is also distinguished from God.
Accordingly, He is probably a pre-incarnate revelation of Jesus
Christ and we therefore have significantly more biblical text
describing Christ than just the Gospels.
 The Scriptures are clear that to have met Christ in person was
to meet God.
 With the physical presence of Christ on Earth the Scriptures
reflect a conspicuous absence of other modes of personal
revelation.
 All of the more direct means of personal revelation were
intensified in the person of Christ.
 Obviously the deeds surrounding Christ’s life revealed a great
deal about God.
 Although the physical presence of Christ was the most direct
personal revelation of God provided to date, only relatively
few humans experienced it.
 The Scriptures warn us of the greatest counterfeit revelation
of all time, “the antichrist”.
 Obviously, the ultimate of all divine revelations will be when,
“the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with
them” (Rev 21:3)
 The Age of Faith will end.
 In the Eternal Kingdom, we would suggest that virtually all
current modes of divine revelation will cease operating. For
example, it can be reasonably assumed that not even
Scripture will be needed.
 Imagine the joy we will experience when we truly do see and
hear Him and faith is no longer needed! That will be the
ultimate revelation of God, not only because of its intensity,
but its eternity.
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 209
While we have suggested that the above means of miraculous
communication from God were rather indirect, here we begin our
discussion of more direct means. This would include the voice of
God and apparitions, visions, and dreams from God which we cover
in the next chapter. Here we will discuss the writing of God, the
Glory Cloud of God, the Angel of God, the Son of God, and in
eternity future, living with the living God. 1

A) The Writing of God

While we recognize that Scripture represents the writing of


God’s word through a human instrument, the Bible records some
remarkable occasions when God Himself did the writing. The most
obvious example of divine writing is the recording of the Ten
Commandments on tablets of stone. We read, “When the LORD
finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, He gave him the
two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed
by the finger of God” (Exod 31:18). God’s grace is reflected in
the fact that after Moses breaks such a precious gift from God by
throwing the tablets to the ground in anger over the people’s sin,
God personally inscribes another set (cf. Exod 34:1, 28; Deut 10:1-
5). 2

B) The Glory Cloud of God

We noted above that in the transfiguration of Christ, “a bright


cloud” descended and God spoke, “from the cloud” (Matt 17:5).
This would seem to be a NT manifestation of the “Shekinah” 3 that
often symbolized the presence of God in the OT. Shekinah is the
Hebrew word given by Jewish rabbis 4 to the “glory cloud” that filled
the OT Tabernacle (cf. Exod 40:34-35) and later the temple (cf. 1
Kgs 8:10). Moses simply refers to it as “The cloud of the LORD”
(Num 10:34; cf. 14:4). By our count, there are over 80 references
to the Glory Cloud of God in the Bible.
We first encounter this phenomenon in Exodus 13:21 when in
the context of the Israelite’s journey to Canaan we read: “By day
the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide
them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them
light, so that they could travel by day or night.” Here we see
that the presence of “the Lord” is somehow contained in this
“pillar of cloud . . . [and] fire” (cf. Num 14:14). 5 Soon
afterwards, in response to the complaints of the people, we read
the next encounter with the Glory Cloud:
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 210
Then Moses told Aaron, "Say to the entire Israelite
community, 'Come before the LORD, for He has heard
your grumbling.'" While Aaron was speaking to the
whole Israelite community, they looked toward the
desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing
in the cloud (Exod 16:9-10).

The next scene in which this cloud represents the presence of


God is on top of Mount Sinai. We read: “When Moses went up on
the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the
LORD settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered
the mountain, and on the seventh day the LORD called to
Moses from within the cloud” (Exod 24:15-16). It is after this
that Moses asks God to see His glory (Exod 33:18), and upon
granting the request, we see that the Glory Cloud accompanies this
manifestation of God as well: “Then the LORD came down in the
cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed His name,
the LORD” (Exod 34:5). It will be noticed in these instances that
this cloud is consistently referred to as “the cloud,” not just a
cloud, suggesting it to be not only the same phenomenon in all
these cases, but something that the Israelites recognized as being
significant.
The next descriptions of the Glory Cloud concerns its indwelling
of the wilderness Tabernacle and the Temple of Solomon.
Concerning the Tabernacle we read:
Moses finished the work [on the Tabernacle]. Then the
cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the
LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the
Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it,
and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. In all
the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted
from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if
the cloud did not lift, they did not set out--until the day
it lifted. So the cloud of the LORD was over the
tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in
the sight of all the house of Israel during all their
travels. (Exod 40:33-38)

Several observations can be made from these passages. First of


all, as noted above, the cloud was a manifestation of the presence
of God. In Leviticus 16:2 we read: “The LORD said to Moses:
"Tell your brother Aaron not to come whenever he chooses
into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the
atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die, because I
appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.” Apparently,
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 211
while the Glory Cloud of God initially filled the whole temple area, it
was understood to have then confined itself to the Holy of Holies,
situated precisely where God had promised to dwell. God had told
Moses: “There, above the cover between the two cherubim
that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you
and give you all My commands for the Israelites” (Exod
25:22; cf. Deut 31:15; 1 Sam 4:4; 2 Sam 6:2; 2 Kgs 19:15; Ps
80:1; 99:1; Ezek 9:3; 10:3-4). 6
The fact that the Glory Cloud represents the presence of God is
why when it enters the temple later (cf. 1 Kgs 8:10f.), it is
considered a fulfillment of God’s promise that He would, “put His
Name there for His dwelling” (Deut 12:5). Where the Cloud
was, there was God. More specifically, it should be added that the
Glory Cloud was not God, but simply where He dwelt. Accordingly,
we read: “Then the LORD came down in the cloud [not as a
cloud] and stood there with him [Moses] and proclaimed His
name, the LORD” (Exod 34:5; 19:9; 24:16; 1 Kgs 8:12).
Secondly, comparing the above passages makes it clear that the
initial encounter with the Glory Cloud as a “pillar of cloud to
guide them on their way and by night . . . a pillar of fire to
give them light” (Exod 13:21), is the same phenomenon that
indwelled the Tabernacle and Temple (cf. Num 9:15-22; Ps 78:14,
105:38-9; Neh 9:12). 7
Additionally, some have noted the similarities between the Glory
Cloud and the Holy Spirit. Like the Spirit, the Cloud often appears
as fire (cf. Acts 2:3), and seems connected to supernatural
empowerment (cf. Exod 24:18; Num 12:10) and divine revelation
(cf. Exod 25:22 with Lev 16:2; Exod 33:9-11; Deut 31:15).
In addition, the Apostle Paul makes a very interesting reference
to the Glory Cloud when he writes: “For I do not want you to be
ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all
under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.
They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea
(1 Cor 10:1-2). There is a suggestion here that the Glory Cloud
“baptized” the Israelites “into Moses” their redeemer, just as the
Holy Spirit has baptized us into our Redeemer (cf. 1 Cor 12:13; Gal
3:27). Because of this, several commentators, even as early as
Origen (c. A. D. 250), have suggested that the Glory Cloud was a
manifestation of the Holy Spirit, or was at least intended to
symbolize it.
Remembering the universal response of humans when they see
God, it is obvious why God would “hide” in a cloud. As M. F. Rooker
notes:
Whenever the Lord reveals himself, he also conceals himself.
The reason for this is the recognized danger to the one who
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 212
gazes on God’s appearance. . . . The human reaction to God’s
appearance was always one of fear and terror. . . . The
terrorizing appearance of God explains why God was often
cloaked in a cloud in the theophonic appearance: the full
revelation of his glory would totally overwhelm and could in
fact destroy a human onlooker. 8

As we turn to the NT, it would seem that there are possible


manifestations of the Glory Cloud recorded there as well. The
“bright cloud” (Matt 17:5) which descended and from which God
spoke in the transfiguration of Christ has already been noted. In
relation to this, we are reminded of the Apostle John’s description of
Christ: “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling
[eskēnōsen: lit.: “tabernacled”], among us. We have seen His
glory, the glory of the One and Only” (John 1:14; cf. Rev 21:3).
Surely especially John’s Jewish readers saw these references
concerning Christ to be related to the Tabernacle and the Glory
Cloud that represented the presence of God in it, and among God’s
people. 9 While God dwelt in a cloud in the OT, with the arrival of
Christ, He dwelt in human flesh!
Similarly, we notice that a cloud enveloped Christ at His
ascension as well:
After He [Christ] said this, He was taken up before their
very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. They
were looking intently up into the sky as He was going,
when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside
them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand
here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has
been taken from you into Heaven, will come back in the
same way you have seen Him go into Heaven." (Acts 1:9-
11; cf. Luke 2:9)

The Angels’ comment that Christ’s return will resemble His


ascension brings to mind the numerous references to a cloud of
glory in this context as well. Luke records Christ as saying, “At
that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with
power and great glory.” (Luke 21:27; cf. Mat 24:30; Dan 7:13;
Isa 30:27; 60:1; Rev 14:14). It can then be suggested that the
Glory Cloud which manifested the presence of God in the OT, has
functioned in the same manner concerning the birth and
transfiguration of Christ, and will do so as well with His return.
Accordingly, F. F. Bruce comments:
The transfiguration, the ascension, and the parousia are three
successive manifestations of Jesus' divine glory. The cloud in
each case is to be understood as the cloud which envelops the
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 213
glory of God (the Shekinah)-that cloud which, resting above
the Mosaic tabernacle and filling Solomon's temple, was the
visible token to Israel that the divine glory had taken up
residence there (Ex. 40:34; 1 Kings 8: 10-11). So, in the last
moment that the Apostles saw their Lord with outward vision,
they were granted a theophany: Jesus is enveloped in the
cloud of the divine presence. 10

Even beyond this, it would seem that the Glory Cloud will appear
again in the land of Israel. Isaiah prophesies of a future day and
says, “Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and
over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and
a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a
canopy” (Isa 4:5; cf. Ezek 43:2-4). 11
Nonetheless, we again see a discontinuity in methods of divine
revelation as regards the Glory Cloud. Not even modern super-
supernaturalists or mega mystics claim that we should expect God
to manifest Himself to us in this way today as He did to several
biblical characters.

C) The Angel of God

Many of the different manifestations of the presence of God in


the OT are ultimately described as the “Angel of the Lord” (malak
yhwh). This figure is very prominent in God’s interaction with His
people in the OT, appearing to key figures, apparently including
Abraham (cf. Gen 18:1-33), Jacob (cf. Gen 32:1, 22-30), Moses (cf.
Exod 3:1-4), Joshua (cf. Josh 5:13-15), and David (cf. 2 Sam
24:15-17). In light of His importance for God’s interaction with His
covenant people, it is remarkable that the Angel of the Lord appears
first to someone outside of that covenant, namely Hagar, a pagan
slave, concerning her pagan son Ishmael (cf. Gen 16:1). 12
Even here, we encounter the most puzzling thing about the
Angel of the Lord. First, he is described as an “Angel” (Gen 16:7).
The Hebrew word here (malak) literally means “messenger” and can
simply refer to human ambassadors (cf. Isa 30:4; 33:7; Ezek
17:15), or human messengers (almost 100 times), although it is
often translated “Angel” (over 100 times). However, when this
Angel speaks to Hagar, He promises in the first person, “I will so
increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to
count” (v. 10), a promise that could only be made by the Creator.
Accordingly, Genesis describes this being as “the Lord [Jehovah]
Who spoke to her,” and even Hagar describes Him as “the God
Who sees me” (v. 13). This same pattern continues in subsequent
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 214
encounters and God repeatedly identifies Himself with the Angel of
the Lord (cf. Gen 22:15-18; 31:11-13; 48:15-16; Judg 2:1-2;
6:11-14; 13:21-22).
For example, regarding the Israelite’s journey to the Promised
Land, God promises “My Angel will go before you” (Exod 32:34).
However, a few verses later in the same context God promises, “My
Presence [paniym] will go with you” (Exod 33:14). God equates
His “Presence” with His “Angel,” which is why the Angel of the
Lord is described elsewhere as, “the Angel of His presence” (Isa
63:9). 13
In a similar way, we read in Exodus 23:
See, I am sending an Angel ahead of you to guard you
along the way and to bring you to the place I have
prepared. Pay attention to Him and listen to what He
says. Do not rebel against Him; He will not forgive your
rebellion, since My Name is in Him. If you listen
carefully to what He says and do all that I say, I will be
an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who
oppose you. My Angel will go ahead of you and bring
you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites,
Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them
out. (Exod 23:20-23)

The “Angel” in verse 20 is identified as “My Angel” in verse 24


and given divine attributes, suggesting that God is again referring
to the Angel of the Lord. To rebel against this Angel is to rebel and
sin against God (v. 21), and what he says is what God says (v. 22).
However, the most intriguing thing here is that the Angel of the
Lord is described by God as having God’s “Name . . . in Him” (v.
21). If we understand what this means, we will understand who the
Angel of the Lord is. Obviously it is a lofty description meaning
that, “the essential nature of Jehovah was manifested in him.” 14
Accordingly, Keil and Delitzsch define the Angel of the Lord as, “the
visible representative of the invisible God under the Old
Testament.” 15
The deity of the Angel of the Lord is demonstrated as well by
the worship that seemed to accompany Him. When he appears to
Moses in the burning bush, God tells Moses, “Do not come any
closer . . . Take off your sandals, for the place where you are
standing is holy ground,” (Exod 3:5) clearly equating the
presence of the Angel of the Lord (v. 2) with the presence of God.
Joshua is told the same thing as Moses when he also seems to
encounter the Angel of the Lord, and in addition he, “fell facedown
to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message
does my Lord have for his servant?"” (Josh 5:13-15). Such
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 215
worship and reverence was forbidden in the presence of a mere
Angel (cf. Rev 19:10; 22:8-9; Col 2:18), but not evidently in the
presence of the Angel of the Lord. 16 In addition, the Angel of the
Lord performs miracles, consuming with fire the offering placed
before Him by Gideon, and the sacrifice prepared by Manoah (cf.
Judg 6:21; 13:19-20).
Remarkably, while it is obvious that The Angel of the Lord
represents the Person and Presence of God, it would seem He is
also distinguished from God. We noted above in the context of the
Israelite’s journey to Canaan, that God had promised that His
“Presence” would accompany them through the presence of the
Angel of the Lord (cf. Exod 32:34, 33:14).
However, in Exodus 33:1-3, in the same context of the
Israelite’s journey to the Promised Land, God says: “I will send an
Angel [the Angel of the Lord, cf. Exod 23:20-23; 32:34] before
you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites,
Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing
with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you
are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the
way.” In other words, while the Angel of the Lord is described as
the “Presence” of God and was to accompany the Israelites on their
journey, God in His Person was not. Here, God and the Angel of the
Lord are clearly differentiated.
Likewise, in 2 Samuel we see the Lord Jehovah speaking to the
Angel of the Lord as a separate being: “When the Angel [of the
Lord, see below] stretched out His hand to destroy Jerusalem,
the LORD [Jehovah] was grieved because of the calamity and
said to the Angel who was afflicting the people, "Enough!
Withdraw your hand." The Angel of the LORD was then at
the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite” (2 Sam 24:16).
In addition, the Angel of the Lord is heard addressing God when we
read in Zechariah: “Then the Angel of the LORD said, "LORD
Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem
and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry
with these seventy years?” (Zech 1:12).
Some may suggest that the statement “Angel of the Lord” may
at times simply refer to any one of God’s Angels. However, as one
studies the topic, God often refers to Angels simply as Angels, but
the phrase, “Angel of the Lord” seems to have special significance.
Before drawing some conclusions regarding the Angel of the
Lord, it is interesting to note that He appears in several different
forms as well. For example, we read that, “the Angel of the Lord
appeared to him [Moses] as flames of fire from within a bush”
(Exod 3:2). In fact, it is not clear that the Angel of the Lord is ever
described as appearing as an Angel, but most often as a man. For
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 216
example, when Jacob wrestles with the Angel of the Lord, he is
initially described as a “man” 17 (cf. Gen 32:24; Judg 13:3, 6).
While Jacob himself later describes the incident as seeing, “God
[Elohim] face to face,” (Gen 32:30) it is not until we read the
Prophet Hosea’s commentary on this event that we learn that this
appearance of a man was the Angel of the Lord as well. In
describing “Jacob,” Hosea says: “In the womb he grasped his
brother's heel; as a man he struggled with God. He
struggled with the Angel and overcame Him” (Hos 12:2-4).
This would suggest that other appearances of a man were
manifestations of the Angel of the Lord as well. As noted above,
Joshua encounters “a man standing in front of him with a
drawn sword in His hand” (Josh 5:13). The man describes
himself as, “commander of the army of the LORD” (v. 14), but
again, the reverence that He accepts suggests that He is in some
way closely connected with deity (v. 15; cf. Exod 3:2-6).
The appearance of “three men” to Abraham (Gen 18:2), one
clearly being revealed as God (v. 1, 13-14, 17, 22) is one of the
more intriguing examples of personal revelation from God.
Contrary to the suggestion that all three represent God, and that
this is a demonstration of the Holy Trinity, verse 22 indicates that
two of “the men turned away and went toward Sodom, but
Abraham remained standing before” the third “man” who was
“the Lord.” The two other “men” are later clearly described as
Angels, not manifestations of God (Gen 19:1, cf. v. 13).
This is one of the most striking encounters with a being that
appears as a man, having “feet” to be washed (v. 4), and eating
food (v. 8), 18 but being described as the very “Lord (Jehovah)” (v.
13) for Whom nothing is “too hard” (v. 14), and Who had
personally “chosen” Abraham and his offspring to be the people of
God (v. 19). The suggestion that the Angel of the Lord often
appeared as a man may explain why those who see Him often
initially respond to Him as such (cf. Judg 6:12-13; Gen 16:7-8),
instead of the usual reaction from those who see an Angel (cf. Dan
10:12-19; Luke 1:13, 30; 2:10).
The above attributes ascribed to the Angel of the Lord suggest a
very interesting conclusion of who He really is. To summarize, the
OT’s description of the Angel of the Lord includes the following: 1)
His presence and person are a manifestation of the Presence and
Person of Jehovah God, His very “name” and attributes being “in
Him” (Exod 23:21). 2) He is a separate being from God, and 3) He
most often manifested Himself as a human man.
It therefore becomes obvious that there are striking similarities
to how Christ is described in the NT as a being Who is the Presence
of God, but separate somehow from God, and appearing in the form
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 217
of human flesh. It is no wonder then that many of the earliest
Church fathers including Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian
identified the Angel of the Lord as Jesus Christ, the latter referring
to Him as “rehearsals” of the Incarnation.
One can add that while the Angel of the Lord is active in the OT
even up to the time of the Prophet Zechariah (Zech 1:12), He is no
longer mentioned after the appearance of Christ, suggesting as well
that the former may well have been the OT manifestation of the
latter. 19 While there is no explicit confirmation of such an
identification in the NT, and therefore we cannot be certain of it, the
biblical evidence for it is certainly considerable. 20
Accordingly, J. B. Payne equates the Angel of the Lord as
“preincarnate appearances of Christ” in the Evangelical Dictionary of
Theology. 21 Likewise, Keil and Delitzsch conclude after an
extensive study of the topic:
The Angel of Jehovah, therefore, was no other than the Logos,
which not only “was with God,” but “was God,” and in Jesus
Christ “was made flesh” and “came unto His own” (John 1:1-
2,11); the only-begotten Son of God, who was sent by the
Father into the world, who, though one with the Father,
prayed to the Father (John 17). 22

Finally, we quote McClintock and Strong who agree that:


The inevitable inference is that by the “Angel of the Lord” in
such passages is meant He who is from the beginning, the
“Word,” i.e. the Manifester or Revealer of God. These
appearances are evidently “foreshadowings of the incarnation”
(q.v.). By these God the Son manifested himself from time to
time in that human nature which he united to the Godhead
forever in the virgin’s womb. 23

If, in fact, The Angel of the Lord is a pre-incarnate manifestation


of Christ, then we have significantly more biblical text describing
Christ than just the Gospels.

D) The Son of God

The incarnate Jesus Christ obviously represents a monumental


personal encounter with God. He was indeed God Almighty, the
Creator and Master of the Universe in a human body. As the
Apostle John put it: “The Word became flesh and made His
dwelling among us” (John 1:14). This is, of course, why Matthew
says, “they will call Him Immanuel" --which means, "God
with us"” (Matt 1:23). There could be no greater demonstration of
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 218
God’s desire to have a relationship with us. The Scriptures are clear
that to have met Christ in person was to meet God.
The King said, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the
Father” (John 14:9) and “I and the Father are one” (John
10:30). This is why the Bible often describes Christ simply as “the
Word [logos, expression] of God” (John 1:1, 14; Rev. 19:13). The
Jews certainly understood what Christ was saying and “tried all
the harder to kill Him” because He was “making Himself equal
with God” (John 5:18). And our King clearly identified Himself
with the OT God with His extraordinary statement: “I tell you the
truth, before Abraham was born, I Am!” (John 8:58; cf. Exod
3:14).
All of the more direct means of personal revelation were
intensified in the person of Christ. He was the ultimate messenger
of direct verbal communication from God. In Hebrews we read, “In
the past God spoke to our forefathers through the Prophets
at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He
has spoken to us by His Son” (Heb 1:1). Surely when Christ was
on the Earth He spoke God’s words, not only because He
represented God the Father, but because He was Himself God! (cf.
John 8:26, 12:49, 14:10, 17:8, Deut 18:18).
Like the OT Angel of the Lord, He was God in human form.
However, He did not present Himself merely momentarily and only
to a few select individuals, but rather, over an extended period of
more than three years and to many thousands of people. Finally,
Christ was the ultimate vision of God, the author of Hebrews
writing: “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact
representation of His being [hupostasis, person, nature]” (1:3).
He was more than a momentary vision of some of the physical
attributes of God. Rather, Christ’s compassion, patience, holiness,
mercy, sternness against arrogance, and hatred of pride, all reveal
the personal character of God.
Obviously the deeds surrounding Christ’s life revealed a great
deal about God as well. His incarnation in the form of a baby is the
ultimate demonstration of God’s humility. His transfiguration
revealed something of not only Christ’s glory, but our future glory
as well. His miraculous authority over humanity and nature were
the most personal presentation of God’s power. Christ’s crucifixion
is, of course, the supreme illustration of God’s love. And finally, His
resurrection was the most convincing authentication of His claims to
represent God.
Although the physical presence of Christ was the most direct
personal revelation of God provided to date, only relatively few
humans experienced it. The Apostle John writes of his unique
experience when he says, “That which was from the beginning,
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 219
which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes,
which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this
we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared;
we have seen it and testify to it” (1 John 1:1-2). However,
many of those who personally saw or heard Christ did not recognize
the incredible privilege available to them. Oh, to have lived in
those days!
As noted previously, with the physical presence of Christ on
Earth the Scriptures reflect a conspicuous absence of other modes
of personal revelation. During His ministry we have no reports of
God revealing anything to anyone apart from Him. We would
suggest that this is simply another example that when a superior
method of personal revelation is present, others cease. Such a
suggestion is demonstrated in the ministry of Christ. The fact that
Christ was such a complete and personal revelation of God may
explain why so many of the ways in which God revealed Himself at
other times were limited or focused only through Christ during His
ministry.
John the Baptist was a Prophet, but his ministry soon ended
after Christ’s ministry began (John 3:26-30; Mark 1:12-14; 6:17-
27). Angels appeared to announce the birth of Christ, but
afterwards are conspicuously absent from the Gospel narrative until
Christ’s resurrection. As noted above, the voice of God the Father
is audibly heard three times during Christ’s ministry but this always
occurs in Christ’s presence and is directly related to Him. The only
divine communication through a dream or vision recorded during
Christ’s life on Earth is that of Pilate’s wife, revealing to her Christ’s
innocence (Matt 27:19).
Likewise, there were obviously a multitude of miraculous events
occurring during Christ’s ministry, but all are attributed to Him,
except those done by the disciples He personally empowered and
commissioned (Luke 9:2; 10:9). To suggest that a multitude of
others were seeing or performing God-sent miracles, or receiving
special revelation from God through means other than Christ when
Christ was on the Earth is a suggestion from silence, and would not
reflect the obvious intention of the Father to communicate at that
time exclusively through His Son.
In addition, the physical presence of Christ as a mode of
personal revelation is another example of the discontinuity of such
methods. Christ’s presence fulfilled its purpose and this mode of
revelation ceased. The King is not revealing Himself in the same
manner today as He did in A. D. 30. The proof text most often
cited in support of this unbiblical suggestion is Hebrews 13:8 where
we read: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and
forever.” Of course He is in His character, but not in His methods
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 220
of revelation. While we have noted above that Christ has
apparently appeared to some in visions since His Ascension, these
would not reflect the kind of physical revelation that the Apostles
could touch and embrace. The super-supernaturalists who think
God would never remove a valuable gift of revelation from the
church, need to remember He took Christ. His physical presence on
Earth was the greatest gift of divine revelation and it is no longer
here. Why wouldn’t he take Apostles and Prophets?
Finally, we have noted throughout this chapter, satan’s desire to
counterfeit God’s methods of miraculous communication, and not
surprisingly, this would especially include the greatest of these
methods, Jesus Christ Himself. Thus, the Scriptures warn us of the
greatest counterfeit revelation of all time, “the antichrist
[antichristos]” (1 John 2:22; cf. Matt 24:15-25; 2 Thess 2:1-12;
Rev 6:1-2). The preposition anti does not only reflect opposition,
but perhaps even more so, replacement. 24 Accordingly, the
revelation of antichrist will not merely contradict the teaching of the
real Christ, but become a substitute for it. No doubt, antichrist will
resemble Christ in many ways, including supernatural abilities and a
veneer of virtue. By these he will hope to be another Messiah in
place of the real one, and worshipped and obeyed accordingly.
Indeed, while there have already been and will be many “false
Christs” (Matt 24:24; cf. 1 John 2:18), there will be an ultimate
one, a fraud so convincing that apart from God’s supernatural
assistance, all “will believe the lie” (2 Thess 2:11). Therefore, in
the context of end time events, Christ warns:
Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will
come in My name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ, and will
deceive many. . . . At that time if anyone says to you,
‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There He is!’ do not
believe it. For false Christs and false Prophets will
appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive
even the elect—if that were possible (Matt 24:5, 23-24).

E) Living with the Living God

Obviously, the ultimate of all divine revelations will be when,


“the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them”
(Rev 21:3).
While the earthly life of Christ was the ultimate revelation of
God in the past, and the indwelling Spirit and Scripture is such for
the present, there is still to come a revelation of God that will
surpass all of these. Our present interaction with God through the
Scriptures and Spirit requires faith. We cannot see the God we are
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 221
experiencing on a daily basis. Indeed, the Apostle Peter said,
“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even
though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are
filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,” (1 Pet 1:8).
Likewise, the Apostle Paul said of the Christian, “we live by faith,
not by sight.”
Because we live in the Age of Faith instead of the coming Age of
Sight, we do not know God as we will, nor in the manner we will.
But the Age of Faith will end (cf. Rom. 8:24-25, 2 Cor. 4:18, 5:7,
Heb. 11:1). While the earthly life of Christ was the ultimate divine
revelation of God in the past and the indwelling of the Spirit in our
New Nature and the provision of Scripture is such for the present,
there is still to come, a revelation of God that will far surpass all of
these. Here we must pause and notice how drastically the nature of
divine revelation is to change.
For example, because the revelation of God for His glory will be
so complete in the Eternal Kingdom, we would suggest that virtually
all current modes of divine revelation will cease operating. For
example, it can be reasonably assumed that not even Scripture will
be needed. The King said that the purpose of His first coming was
“not . . . to abolish . . . but to fulfill . . . the Law and the
Prophets.” However, when “Heaven and Earth disappear” and
“everything is accomplished” in His second coming, “the
smallest letter” and “the least stroke of a pen” which currently
make up Scripture will “disappear” (Matt 5:17-18). 25
Accordingly, Dr. Kuyper (1837–1920) wrote:
With the dawn of the Day of days the Sacred Volume will
undoubtedly disappear. As the New Jerusalem will need no
sun, moon, or temple, but the Lord God will be its light, so will
there be no need of Scripture, for the revelation of God shall
reach His elect directly through the unveiled Word. But so
long as the Church is on earth, face-to-face communion
withheld, and our hearts accessible only by the avenues of this
imperfect existence, Scripture must remain the indispensable
instrument by which the Triune God prepares men's souls for
higher glory. 26

Imagine the joy we will experience when we truly do see and


hear Him and faith is no longer needed! That will be the ultimate
revelation of God, not only because of its intensity, but its eternity.
This is why the ultimate personal encounter with God will be the
day “when He appears . . . because we shall see Him just as
He is” (1 John 3:2), and unlike Moses, we “will see His face” (Rev
22:4; cf. Matt 5:8).
Job described this future revelation in this way:
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 222
I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He will stand
upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed,
yet in my body I will see God! I will see Him for myself.
Yes, I will see Him with my own eyes. I am
overwhelmed at the thought! (Job 19:25-27 NLT)

Yet it is not that we will simply receive an initial appearance of


God, and see Him no more. Rather, in a way that would seem to
combine the intimacy that the Twelve enjoyed with Christ
personally, with the universality that we enjoy now through the
Holy Spirit, all of God’s people will experience an intimate, personal,
relationship with God when the Kingdom is fully established on
Earth, and it can be said: “Now the dwelling of God is with
men, and He will live with them. They will be His people,
and God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev
21:3; cp. Zech 2:10-11).
That is when we will be “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8)
living with Him so we can see His glory (cf. John 17:24). While God
certainly lives with His people now in a spiritual way through the
indwelling of the Spirit, He will then live with us in a “physical” way,
as we will dwell in His very presence.
Even though we do not see, hear, live with, and eat with God
now, we will in Heaven (cf. Rev 19:9). The revelation of God, and
the glory it was to accomplish, will be so complete that even such
great virtues as faith and hope will vanish right along with the old
earth, sky, and stars (cf. Rom. 8:24-25, 2 Cor. 4:18, 5:7, Heb.
11:1). We will no longer need faith and hope because the second
coming of Christ will terminate the Age of Faith and inaugurate the
eternal Age of Sight. 27
Obviously, this is one method of divine personal revelation that
satan will not be able to counterfeit. While the devil’s children may
experience such a direct and constant revelation of him, he will be
eternally confined to the Lake of Fire, unable to do anything but
suffer and pay for all of his abominable counterfeiting through the
ages.
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 223

Extras & Endnotes

A Devotion to Dad

Our Father in Heaven, we praise You for all of the amazing,


humbling ways You have revealed Yourself to humanity. Thank You
for sending Your Son! And thank You that You will send Him again
and usher in not only an eternal revelation of Yourself, but an
eternal personal existence and enjoyment of You. Can’t wait.

Gauging Your Grasp

1) When does the Bible record that God Himself did the writing?

2) What were the attributes of the Glory Cloud in the OT? Why do
we suggest it was an OT manifestation of the Holy Spirit?

3) What were the attributes of The Angel of the Lord in the OT?
Who do we suggest He is manifesting in the OT? What is the
significance of this in terms of divine revelation? Do you agree
or disagree and why?

4) What Scriptures make it clear that to have met Christ in person


was to meet God?

5) We claim that with the physical presence of Christ on Earth the


Scriptures reflect a conspicuous absence of other modes of
personal revelation. How do we support this? Do you agree or
disagree? What is the significance of this?

6) We claim all of the more direct means of personal revelation


were intensified in the person of Christ. How do we support
this?

7) What did Christ’s deeds reveal to us about God?

8) What has been the most direct personal revelation of God


provided to date? Why have only relatively few humans
experienced it?

9) How will satan counterfeit the revelation of Christ?


10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 224
10) What will be the ultimate of all divine revelations? What will
be the changes brought about by this event?

Publications & Particulars

1
Many of these methods can be referred to as theophanies which literally
means “an appearance of God.” J. C. Moyer defines theophany as “A
theological term used to refer to either a visible or auditory manifestation
of God” (“Theophany” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (EDT), Walter
Elwell ed., [Baker, 1984], 1087).
Likewise, M. F. Rooker defines theophany as, “a form of divine
revelation wherein God’s presence is made visible (or revealed in a
dream) and is recognizable to humanity.” (“Theophany,” in the Dictionary
of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, Alexander, T. Desmond and David W.
Baker, eds. (Intervarsity, 2003), 860. Rooker goes on to note that:
A prevalent characteristic of all OT theophanies is their divine
initiation. This feature distinguishes theophanies in the Bible from
those alleged to occur in pagan societies that resulted from persistent
and strenuous efforts (862).
This would also distinguish it from practices in folk religions,
shamanism, and, we would suggest, modern worship practices where
various methods such as repetition or the length of worship is thought to
result in an especially powerful visitation of God which may actually be
merely an “altered state of consciousness.” For further discussion of this
see section 4.11.B.
2
Unfortunately, many commentators (e.g. Walter Kaiser in Expositors Bible
Commentary, Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. CD-ROM [Zondervan, n.d.], loc. cit.
Exod 34:1-3), and especially translations suggest that Moses wrote the
second set of Ten Commandments on the stone tablets. For example this
is implied in the common translation of Exod 34:28 as in the NIV:
“Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights
without eating bread or drinking water. And he [the Lord or
Moses?] wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten
Commandments.” (cf. NLT, NASB, RSV, KJV, etc. esp. NCV) The NKJV
uniquely capitalizes “He” in the second sentence to refer to God.
The fact that God wrote the second set of the Decalogue as well is
confirmed by the fact that all Moses was instructed to do was to provide
the stone tablets, God Himself promising to write on them (cf. Exod
31:1). This is precisely then how Moses describes the event in Deut
10:1-4.
3
W. A. Van Gemeren writes: “Although the word “Shekinah” does not occur
in the Bible, the root škn occurs not only in the verb (“dwell”), but also in
the notion miškān (“dwelling place,” “tabernacle”) and the name
Shecinah (“Yahweh dwells”; e. g., 1 Ch. 3:21f.).” VanGemeren goes on
to relate the Shekinah glory and presence of God to the “glory-cloud”
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 225

(“Shekinah”, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE), Geoffrey


W. Bromiley ed., 4 vols. [Eerdmans, 1988], IV:466)
4
Thus, Albert Barnes, in his commentary on 1 Kings 8:10 refers to it as
“the Shechinah of the Targums” which were Jewish commentaries on the
OT that were written during the time between the writings of the OT and
NT (“intertestamental period”). (Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament,
Electronic Edition STEP Files [Findex.Com, 1999], loc. cit.)
5
C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch comment on Exodus 13:21-22:
The cloud was not produced by an ordinary caravan fire, nor was it “a
mere symbol of the presence of God, which derived all its majesty
from the belief of the Israelites, that Jehovah was there in the midst
of them,” according to Köster’s attempt to idealize the rationalistic
explanation; but it had a miraculous origin and a supernatural
character. (Commentary on the Old Testament, Electronic Edition
STEP Files CD-ROM [Findex.com, 2000], loc. cit.)
6
Accordingly, Keil and Delitzsch comment on Exodus 40:34-8:
To consecrate the sanctuary, which had been finished and erected as
His dwelling, and to give to the people a visible proof that He had
chosen it for His dwelling, Jehovah filled the dwelling in both its parts
with the cloud which shadowed forth His presence, so that Moses was
unable to enter it. This cloud afterwards drew back into the most
holy place, to dwell there, above the outspread wings of the cherubim
of the ark of the covenant; so that Moses and (at a later period) the
priests were able to enter the holy place and perform the required
service there, without seeing the sign of the gracious presence of
God, which was hidden by the curtain of the most holy place. (loc.
cit.)
7
See Keil and Delitzsch commentary on Exodus 13:21-22, 40:34-38.
8
Rooker, 860, 863.
9
Leon Morris comments on this verse and writes:
[C]ertainly the glory associated with the tabernacle is part of John's
meaning. The glory resulting from the immediate presence of the
Lord is referred to quite often in Jewish writings. It came to be linked
with the Shekinah, a word that means "dwelling" and is used of God's
dwelling among his people (in the Targums this term was sometimes
substituted for the divine name). There were various ways in which
the Jews used the term, and it is likely that John has more than one
of them in mind.
As A. M. Ramsey says, "We are reminded both of the tabernacle in
the wilderness, and of the Prophetic imagery of Yahweh tabernacling
in the midst of His people, and of the Shekinah which He causes to
dwell among them. . . . The place of His dwelling is the flesh of
Jesus."
He goes on to bring out the force of the present passage by saying,
"All the ways of tabernacling of God in Israel had been transitory or
incomplete: all are fulfilled and superseded by the Word-made-flesh
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 226

and dwelling among us.” That is the great point. What had been
hinted at and even realized in a dim, imperfect fashion earlier [by the
Glory Cloud] was perfectly fulfilled in the Word made flesh. (The
Gospel According to John, [Eerdmans, 1995], 92).
10
F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts (Eerdmans, 1988), 38. Similarly, W. A.
VanGemeren, Professor of OT at Trinity, in an entry to the ISBE, argues
for a connection between the Glory Cloud of God and both the Holy Spirit
and Christ essentially based on an interpretation of 2 Corinthians 3:17-
18. He writes:
The association of Jesus with the Shekinah is . . . apparent . . . in the
NT . . . The presence of the Holy Spirit is also a representation of the
Shekinah . . . The NT authors attributed to the Spirit and to the Son
the glory associated with the Shekinah . (“Shekinah,” IV:467-8)
Van Gemeren notes that Meredith G. Kline, in his book, Image of the
Spirit (1980), argues for the same connection regarding the Holy Spirit.
J. B. Payne does so regarding Christ in the EDT, 1010-11. Further
possible references regarding the Cloud of God are suggested by E. F.
Harrison in his ISBE entry, “The Presence of God”. These include: Divine
Presence and Guidance in Israelite Traditions, by T. W. Mann, (1977);
The People and the Presence, by W. J. Pythian-Adams, (1942); and The
Elusive Presence, by S. Terrien, (1978).
11
See Keil and Delitzsch at Isa 4:5
12
Hagar is simply referred to as an “Egyptian” (Gen 16:1), and there is no
hint that she is included in the Abrahamic covenant. Her son Ishmael
clearly is not (cf. Gen 16:12; 17:13-21), and of course became the father
of God’s enemies.
13
In Keil and Delitzsch’s commentary on Exodus 33:14, they also equate
the “Presence” which will go with the Israelites recorded there, with the
Angel of the Lord described in Exodus 23:20-21. (loc. cit.).
14
Keil and Delitzsch, Exod 23:20
15
Ibid. at commentary on Exod 13:21-22
16
This fact suggests that the Angel in Revelation that Christ refers to as
“His Angel” (1:1) and “My angel” (22:16), while obviously being a
special Angel, would not seem to be the OT Angel of the Lord. John
writes concerning this Angel: “I fell at his feet to worship him. But
he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and
with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship
God!” (Rev 19:10; cf. 22:8-9). While worship of the Angel of the Lord
was evidently appropriate and he is described as representing the
“Presence [paniym]” or “face” of God, this Angel is not described in that
way.
17
Keil and Delitzsch rightly point out: “This remarkable occurrence is not to
be regarded as a dream or an internal vision, but fell within the sphere of
sensuous perception.” (Gen 32:24)
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 227

18
Keil and Delitzsch remark:
The eating of material food on the part of these heavenly beings was
not in appearance only, but was really eating; an act which may be
attributed to the corporeality assumed, and is to be regarded as
analogous to the eating on the part of the risen and glorified Christ
(Luke 24:41ff.), although the miracle still remains physiologically
incomprehensible. (Gen 18:2).
19
Acts 10:4 would not seem to be an exception. While Cornelius does
address the Angel as “Lord [kurios],” this word is often used in the NT as
a sign of respect to people, and often does not refer to deity at all. (See
Vine’s, 379).
No angels in the NT are described as “the” angel of the Lord, but rather
“an” angel of the Lord (cf. Matt 1:20; 2:13, 19; 28:2; Luke 1:11; 2:9;
Acts 5:19; 8:26; 12:7, 23). All of which makes J. B. Taylor’s suggestion
in the New Bible Dictionary (NBD) that, “the angel of the Lord . . .
appears as Gabriel in Lk. 1:19” and throughout the NT, unfortunately
misleading. (“Angel of the Lord,” NBD, J. I. Packer et. al. eds.,
[Intervarsity, 1996], 37).
20
Moyer, in the EDT says of the Angel of the Lord:
Various interpretations have been suggested including an appearance
of God himself, an appearance of a messenger or one of God's many
angels, or an appearance of the preincarnate Christ. Each
interpretation has difficulties, and there is no consensus. (1087).
We’re not sure what the “difficulties” would be with equating the OT
Angel of the Lord with Christ. It is worth noting that evidently such
respected theologians as Augustine and F. Delitzsch interpreted the Angel
of the Lord, “as merely a created angel, who represents God, and speaks
in His name just as the Prophets were later to do.” (James Orr,
Revelation and Inspiration [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1952], 84).
However, such an interpretation does not seem to do justice to the fact
that the Angel of the Lord is clearly portrayed as much more than simply
a messenger of God, but as representing the Presence and Person of God
as well, which is a just description of who the man Jesus Christ of
Nazareth was. J. M. Wilson in his ISBE entry under “Angel” accordingly
writes:
It is certain that from the beginning God used angels in human form,
with human voices, in order to communicate with man; and the
appearances of the angel of the Lord, with his special redemptive
relation to God's people, show the working of that divine mode of self
revelation which culminated in the coming of the Savior, and are thus
a foreshadowing of, and a preparation for, the full revelation of God
in Jesus Christ. (I:125)
For further support see James A. Borland, Christ in the Old Testament:
Old Testament Appearances of Christ in Human Form (Mentor, 1999).
21
EDT, 1010
22
Keil and Delitzsch, Gen 11, “Character of the Patriarchial History”.
10.9: Direct Miraculous Communication 228

23
John McClintock and James Strong, “Angel” in Cyclopaedia of Biblical,
Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (M&S), CD-ROM (Ages Software,
2000), 34.
24
Accordingly, we read in the New International Dictionary of New
Testament Theology (NIDNTT):
Since the root sense of anti is "(set) over against, opposite", the
prep. naturally came to denote equivalence (one object is set over
against another as its equivalent), exchange (one object, opposing or
distinct from another, is given or taken in return for the other), and
substitution (one object, that is distinguishable from another, is given
or taken instead of the other). (M. J. Harris, “Prepositions and
Theology in the Greek New Testament,” Colin Brown ed., 4 vols.,
[Zondervan, 1986], 3:1179
25
The fact that the mode of Scripture may cease in the coming eternal age
does not mean that its contents become obsolete. On the contrary,
many of its commands, teaching, and promises are eternal. Accordingly,
we read in Psalms: “Long ago I learned from your statutes that you
established them to last forever” (119:152; cf. 119:111). Likewise,
the King said, “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but My words will
never pass away” (Matt 24:35). Finally, the Lord promised:
As for Me, this is My covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My
Spirit, Who is on you, and My words that I have put in your mouth
will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children,
or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and
forever,” says the LORD. (Isa 59:21)
Therefore, while the authority and efficacy of this biblical revelation
remains, Scripture as a mode of divine revelation need not remain.
Which is precisely what Isaiah is prophesying when he describes the
covenant revelation being put in the people’s mouths.
26
Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit (Eerdmans, 1946), 60.
27
Excerpt from section 7.3.F.
10.10: Voice & Apparitions of God 229

Chapter 10.10

Physically Seeing & Hearing God


The Voice & Apparitions of God

Table of Topics

A) The Voice of God

B) Apparitions from God

Extras & Endnotes

Primary Points
 Scripture records several times that God spoke to people in
an audible voice that was physically heard with human ears.
 The clearest NT examples of people physically hearing the
voice of God occurred in the ministry of Christ.
 Even in a mental vision, it seemed to the person that God was
physically speaking to them (cf. 2 Cor 12:1-4).
 Biblically speaking, people only either heard God’s voice
audibly such that others could hear it too, or they “heard” His
voice in a vision. What many call “hearing God” is not
biblically hearing God at all.
 Examples of demonic counterfeiting illustrate again the
importance of authenticating revelation as demonic or divine.
 Most all of the miraculous revelations recorded in Scripture
could be labeled as an apparition, vision, or dream.
 We can conclude that essentially the whole Law of Moses,
consisting of large portions of Exodus and Numbers, and
virtually all of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, were received, not
in visions, but in a very physical experience with God.
 A few others such as Samuel, Job, Peter, and Paul
experienced apparitions of God.
 Emperor Constantine and his army experienced a very famous
apparition of God.
10.10: Voice & Apparitions of God 230

A) The Voice of God

Scripture records several times that God spoke to people in an


audible voice that was physically heard with human ears. The
clearest OT examples were in the context of God meeting with
Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai. Accordingly, Moses tells
the Israelites:
When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while
the mountain was ablaze with fire, all the leading men
of your tribes and your Elders came to Me. 24 And you
said, “The LORD our God has shown us His glory and His
majesty, and we have heard His voice from the fire.
Today we have seen that a man can live even if God
speaks with him.
25
But now, why should we die? This great fire will
consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the
LORD our God any longer. 26 For what mortal man has
ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of
fire, as we have, and survived? 27 Go near and listen to
all that the LORD our God says. Then tell us whatever
the LORD our God tells you. We will listen and obey.”
(Deut 5:23-27)

We are reminded here of what an awesome thing it is to really


hear God. So much so that the Israelites could not bear it (cf. Exod
20:19). Accordingly, Moses thereafter heard the voice of God. We
read of the incident that, “Moses went up to God, and the LORD
called to him from the mountain . . . . The LORD said to
Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that
the people will hear Me speaking with you and will always
put their trust in you” (Exod 19:3, 9). The monumental nature of
these events is reflected in the number of times it is mentioned (cf.
Deut 4:12; 4:33, 36; 5:4; 5:22-26; Exod 19:9, 19; 20:22; 24:16;
Heb 12:18-21).
Because Moses typically experienced apparitions of God and not
just God’s voice, we discuss him further below. Nonetheless, it
would seem clear that Moses physically heard the voice of God on
several occasions, especially when it is described as coming from a
particular direction or object such as “from within a [burning]
bush” (Exod 3:4), “from the Tent of Meeting” (Lev 1:1), or when
“Moses . . . heard the voice speaking to him from between
the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of
the Testimony” (Num 7:89).
The clearest NT examples of people physically hearing the voice
of God occurred in the ministry of Christ, Whom God said would be
10.10: Voice & Apparitions of God 231
a “Prophet like” Moses (Deut 18:18). At the time of Christ’s
baptism, “a voice from Heaven said, “This is My Son, Whom I
love; with Him I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17). Likewise, at
Christ’s transfiguration, “a bright cloud enveloped them, and a
voice from the cloud said, "This is My Son, Whom I love; with
Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” (Matt 17:5).
And again, at Christ’s request for the Father to glorify His Name,
John records, “Then a voice came from Heaven, ‘I have
glorified it, and will glorify it again.’ The crowd that was
there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an
angel had spoken to Him” (John 12:28-29).
The above examples of people hearing God’s voice clearly
occurred in a physical way with people hearing the voice of God
with their ears. However, most of the time that Scripture records
people hearing God, it is in the context of a vision in which the
sound is not physically heard, but is rather “mentally” heard.
Nonetheless, it is often difficult to be sure in many cases which
kind of divine voice people experienced, the physical one or the
mental one. Not only is it difficult to discern the difference in the
biblical text, but we would suggest the person themselves could
hardly tell the difference because of God’s use of the sensical parts
of the person’s mind while they experienced the vision. In other
words, even in a mental vision, it seemed to the person that God
was physically speaking to them (cf. 2 Cor 12:1-4).
Accordingly, we cannot be dogmatic about whether the voice of
God was experienced in a physical or more psychical way when
“The LORD God commanded the man [Adam], saying [amar:
“utter,” “say”] . . .” (Gen 2:16), or later when “the LORD God
called [qara: “call,” “proclaim”] to the man, ‘Where are you?’”
(Gen 3:9).
However, the Hebrew words used to describe God’s
communication, and the fact that the first man and woman clearly
experienced God in a physical way, as they “heard the sound of
the LORD God as He was walking in the garden” (Gen 3:8),
strongly suggest they typically experienced God’s voice in a physical
way as well. We would suggest the same when Samuel first heard
God call Him (cf. 1 Sam 3:4-10).
However, even if the voice of God was not experienced
physically, it occurred as something “heard” in the person’s mind,
not just a thought entering the mind in a telepathic way.
Unfortunately, many people claim they have heard the voice of God,
or that God told them something, when in reality all they
experienced was a strong impression or emotional impulse. They
actually didn’t hear anything, whether physically or mentally.
10.10: Voice & Apparitions of God 232
But again, biblically speaking, people only either heard God’s
voice audibly such that others could hear it too, or they “heard” His
voice in a vision. What many call “hearing God” is not biblically
hearing God at all.
Therefore, when we read, “The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that
chariot and stay near it” (Acts 8:29), we would suggest that such
instruction occurred as an audible sensation, and the incident gives
no biblical evidence for the mega mystical idea of merely mental
“leadings” of the Holy Spirit as so many commonly claim. As we
have said, there is no biblical evidence for the idea that God gives
us instruction to obey through mere mental promptings.
There is no biblical reason why God could not provide divine
revelation in a similar way today. For example, the following
believable story is told of Peter Marshall (1902-1949), former
Chaplain to the U. S. Senate:
Back in Britain, on one foggy, pitch-black Northumberland
night, he was taking a shortcut across the moors in an area
where there was a deep, deserted limestone quarry. As he
plodded blindly forward, an urgent voice called out, "Peter!"
He stopped and answered: "Yes, who is it? What do you
want?" But there was no response. Thinking he was
mistaken, he took a few more steps. The voice came again,
even more urgently, "Peter!"
At this he stopped again and, trying to peer into the
darkness, stumbled forward and fell to his knees. Putting
down his hand to brace himself, he found nothing there. As
he felt around in a semicircle he discovered that he was right
on the brink of the abandoned quarry, where one step more
would certainly have killed him. 1

While God may provide divine revelation in this manner, we can


always expect divine authentication to accompany it. God knows
that humans are susceptible to the “delusions of their own
minds” (cf. Jer 14:14; 23:26-28; Col 2:18-19). Not even God
expects us to receive any revelation as divine, including either a
physical or psychical “voice,” until it has been sufficiently
authenticated as such. Accordingly, when God first spoke to Moses,
He did it from a supernaturally burning bush (cf. Exod 2:1-6; cf.
3:12). Supernatural revelation from God will always be
accompanied by undeniable supernatural authentication from God. 2
In addition, no “voice of God” will contradict already authenticated
revelation such as Scripture.
Finally, like every other mode of divine miraculous
communication, the devil desires to copy it, and certainly has been
known to “speak” to people. Many particularly possessed
10.10: Voice & Apparitions of God 233
unbelievers have attested to hearing “voices” in their head. Here
we are reminded of a young man on the popular Oprah Winfrey
television show who claimed he had voices telling him he was a
woman, and when he acted that way the voices would stop. We
believe him.
We are reminded as well of what would seem to be a demonic
voice in the life of Socrates (c. 469-399 B. C.). NT scholar William
Sanday (1843–1920) wrote:
One of the most striking things about Socrates is what he
calls his 'Daemon,' that voice which has attended him from his
youth up and whispers in his ear when he or those in whom he
is interested are about to do anything that they should not.
It is a pathetic touch, when, in the Epilogue to his Apology,
he consoles those who voted for his acquittal by telling them
that this Warning Voice of his, which in all the rest of his life
had been ready enough to stop him when he was doing
anything wrong or unpropitious, placed no obstacle before him
when he went out to his arrest, or when he was on his way to
trial, or at any part of his speech in his own defense. At other
times it was in the habit of interrupting him while he was
speaking, but it had not done so then. He argued from this
that it was a mistake to suppose that death was an evil.
Otherwise his mentor would not have let him go to certain
death. 3

Which illustrates again the importance of authenticating


revelation as demonic or divine. Accordingly, we would suggest
“the voice” that V. P. Wierwille, founder of the heretical cult The
Way International, heard at the inception of his ministry, was
demonic. His claim to the divine authority he exercised and
deceived so many with, was based on his testimony that: “God
spoke to me audibly, just like I'm talking to you now. He said he
would teach me the word as it had not been known since the first
century, if I would teach it to others.” 4 Based on what Wierwille
taught, and if he wasn’t lying, that voice was clearly not God. 5

B) Apparitions from God


Most all of the miraculous revelations recorded in Scripture
could be labeled as an apparition, vision, or dream. Webster’s
defines an apparition as, “An unusual or unexpected sight or
phenomenon.” By apparition, we refer to any miraculous revelation
that is received by the physical sense of sight. This would include
many of the appearances of Angel, theophanies and Glory Cloud
10.10: Voice & Apparitions of God 234
discussed in the previous chapter. Nonetheless, other apparitions
are recorded as well, especially surrounding the ministry of Moses.
Accordingly God said:
When a Prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal
Myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But
this is not true of My servant Moses; he is faithful in all
My house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and
not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. (Num 12:6-
8)

Of course, neither Moses nor any human has literally seen God’s
face (cf. Exod 33:20; John 1:18; 6:46; 1 Tim 6:16; 1 John 4:12), 6
although we are told Moses was granted an apparition of God’s
“back” (Exod 33:23). 7 But God uses the metaphor to reflect how
intimate Moses’ experiences with God were. As we read elsewhere,
“The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man
speaks with his friend” (Exod 33:9). The phrase also probably
reflects the fact that while Moses only saw “the form of the Lord,”
he heard the voice of the Lord as if God were facing Him.
Therefore, when we read almost 140 times “the Lord said to
Moses,” we have good reason to believe these revelatory
experiences were in the context of seeing “the form of the Lord”
and speaking to Him as “face to face,” just as God Himself
described (Num 12:8). Accordingly, we can conclude that
essentially the whole Law of Moses, consisting of large portions of
Exodus and Numbers, and virtually all of Leviticus and
Deuteronomy, were received in this very same way. Not in visions,
but in a very physical experience with God, either on Mount Sinai
(cf. Exod 31:18; Lev 25:1; 27:34), or in the Tent of Meeting (cf.
Exod 33:9; Num 1:1).
In addition to Moses seeing apparitions of God, we read:
Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy
elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel.
Under His feet was something like a pavement made of
sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise
His hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they
saw God, and they ate and drank. (Exod 24:9-11)

The physical, rather than visionary nature of this encounter seems


confirmed by the fact that those involved physically “ate and
drank.”
Even considering the incident above, it is clear that Moses’
revelatory experiences were extremely unique. It is said once of
the Prophet Samuel that “The LORD continued to appear at
Shiloh, and there He revealed Himself to Samuel through His
10.10: Voice & Apparitions of God 235
word” (1 Sam 3:21). Likewise, we read that, “the LORD
answered Job out of the storm” (38:1) and Job remarks, “My
ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You”
(42:5).
Others such as Abraham and Jacob experienced the Angel of the
Lord as discussed in the previous chapter, and other Prophets like
Isaiah and Jeremiah experienced visions. But Moses, and we
believe the “Prophet like” (Deut 18:18) Moses (i.e. Christ),
experienced revelation from God in a very unique, direct, and
physical way, seeing God with their eyes and hearing Him with their
ears.
Accordingly, Scripture records very few others experiencing
physical apparitions (apart from the Angel, theophanies, and the
Glory Cloud) coming from God as well. King Belshazzar is described
as probably experiencing a divine apparition when we read:
“Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote
on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal
palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote” (Dan 5:5).
Evidence that the King experienced this revelation through his
physical senses is the fact that the writing of the “hand” remained
on the wall for others to read (cf. v. 7).
A rare NT example of an apparition experienced with the
physical senses was the privilege that Peter, James, and John
received by witnessing Christ’s Transfiguration (cf. Matt 17:1-8).
Likewise, the Apostle Paul seemed to have experienced a physical
apparition of Jesus when Luke records: “The following night the
Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have
testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in
Rome’” (Acts 23:11).
There is nothing in Scripture that would deny the possibility of
extra-biblical characters experiencing a divine apparition. In fact,
we will relate one of the more famous apparitions in all of Church
history, as recorded by the early Church historian Eusebius of
Caesarea (c. 260-c. 340), concerning the Roman Emperor
Constantine (c. 285–337):
He [Constantine] judged it to be folly indeed to join in the
idle worship of those who were no gods, and, after such
convincing evidence, to err from the truth; and therefore felt it
incumbent on him to honor his father’s God alone [before a
battle]. He prayed to Him, therefore. He asked Him and
besought Him to say Who He was and to stretch forth a hand
to him in his present situation.
As he prayed in this fashion and as he earnestly gave voice
to his entreaties, a most marvelous sign appeared to the
Emperor from God. It would have been hard to believe if
10.10: Voice & Apparitions of God 236
anyone else had spoken of it. But a long time later the
triumphant Emperor himself described it to the writer of this
work. This was when I had the honor of knowing him and of
being in his company. When he told me the story, he swore to
its truth. And who could refuse to believe it, especially when
later evidence showed it to have been genuine?
Around noontime, when the day was already beginning to
decline, he saw before him in the sky the sign of a cross of
light. He said it was above the sun and it bore the inscription,
"Conquer with this." The vision astounded him, as it astounded
the whole army which was with him on this expedition and
which also beheld the miraculous event.
He said he became disturbed. What could the vision mean?
He continued to ponder and to give great thought to the
question, and night came on him suddenly. When he was
asleep, the Christ of God appeared to him and He brought with
Him the sign which had appeared in the sky. He ordered
Constantine to make a replica of this sign which he had
witnessed in the sky, and he was to use it as a protection
during his encounters with the enemy. 8

We would suggest this incident was authenticated as divine in


several ways. First, more than one ancient Church historian
attested to its known occurrence. 9 Secondly, it was witnessed by
multiple people as a physical apparition. Finally, it was interpreted
Church-wide at the time as a divine intervention to cease the
persecution of the Church and inaugurate the great blessing that
Emperor Constantine brought the Christian Church with his
ascension to Emperor after this victory.

Extras & Endnotes

Gauging Your Grasp

1) What is meant by the term “audition”?

2) Name some times that Scripture records God spoke to people in


an audible voice that was physically heard with human ears.
How is this different than the common way “inspiration” is
understood?
10.10: Voice & Apparitions of God 237

3) Name some instances when Christ is recorded as hearing the


voice of God.

4) Why do we claim that even in a mental vision, it seemed to the


person that God was physically speaking to them?

5) Biblically speaking, what is wrong with so many people who


claim God “spoke to them” or they “heard God”?

6) What are some examples of demonic counterfeiting of auditions?

7) What is the definition of an “apparition”? How does it differ


from a vision?

8) We claim that most all of the miraculous revelations recorded in


Scripture could be labeled as an apparition, vision, or dream.
Do you agree or disagree and why?

9) How do we believe Moses received essentially the whole Law of


Moses? How is this different than a common idea of
“inspiration”?

10) What other biblical characters besides Moses seemed to have


experienced an apparition of God?

11) Who do we claim experienced a divine apparition in Church


history? Do you believe this happened? Why or why not?

Publications & Particulars

1
Told by Dallas Willard in Hearing God: Developing a Conversational
Relationship with God (Intervarsity, 1999), 63-4. Of course, Willard is
using this example to give support to his mega mystical perspective that
we have “conversational relationship with God.” However, once again,
the example does not help mega mystics because they do not normally
claim to audibly hear God like Peter Marshall did. The biblical examples
of how God really spoke to people do not support the mere divine/human
mental telepathy espoused by mega mystics.
2
For further discussion on the need for authentication of divine revelation
see sections 3.1.C-D; 7.1.B.5
3
William Sanday, The Oracles of God (Longmans, Green, 1891), 97-8.
10.10: Voice & Apparitions of God 238

4
Quoted by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s
Religions (Thomas Nelson, 1992), 105.
5
For further critique concerning The Way International see McDowell and
Stewart.
6
The statement that Moses saw God “face to face” (Exod 33:9) need to
be carefully interpreted in light of other Scripture concerning seeing God.
For example, God tells Moses, “you cannot see My face, for no one
may see Me and live” (Exod. 33:20). This echoes NT declarations
including Christ’s claim that, “No one has seen the Father except the
One who is from God; only He has seen the Father” (John 6:46; cf.
John 1:18; 1 John 4:12). Likewise, the Apostle Paul describes God as the
One, “Who lives in unapproachable light, Whom no one has seen
or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16).
We must conclude then that when Moses saw God “face to face”, that
it was a physical representation of the presence of God rather than a
vision of the full and real essence of God. In addition, as NT scholar
Gordon Fee points out, it is necessary to see the phrase “face to face” as
“a biblical idiom for direct personal communication,” (The First Epistle to
the Corinthians (NICNT) [Eerdmans, 1987], 647, n. 44)
Likewise, R. K. Harrison in his entry to the ISBE writes:
The human face was frequently regarded as representative of the
person (e.g., Lam. 1:8; cf. the expression "face to face," Jer. 32:4;
Acts 25:6; 1 Thess. 2:17), since personality is most clearly expressed
through facial expressions. Often "my face" or "your face" is merely a
circumlocution for "me" or "you" (cf. NEB Hos. 5:15; Ezk. 3:8; Mk.
1:2). Thus to seek someone's face (e.g., Ps. 24:6; 27:8; Hos. 5:15)
was to make an effort to be in that person's presence (Ps. 105:4;
Prov. 7:15; Acts 5:41; etc.), sometimes to obtain a favor (2 Ch.
7:14).
When applied to God, "face" often means God's presence (cf. Gen.
4:16; Mt. 18:10; 2 Thess. 1:9). From the time of the wilderness
wanderings the concept of "presence" was made specific in Hebrew
worship through the use of the term "bread of the presence" (Heb.
lehem panim, lit. "bread of the face"; AV "shewbread"). . . . Moses
was allowed to speak to God "face to face" (Ex. 33:11; cf. Dt. 34:
10), but he was not permitted to see God's face, lest he die (Ex.
33:20,23). . . . To see God "face to face" is reserved for believers in
the life to come. (“Face”, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,
Geoffrey W. Bromiley ed., 4 vols. [Eerdmans, 1988], II:267).
Accordingly, even though Jacob says, “I saw God face to face” (Gen.
32:30) his encounter with God is clearly described as occurring in the
form of a “man” ('iysh, male person, 32:24). Jacob’s description cannot
be taken to mean that he saw God’s physical face and it is clear that
Jacob simply used this language to convey the intimacy that he
experienced in his personal encounter with God. It is only in Heaven,
after shedding mortality, that “we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).
The difference between seeing God and seeing Him as He really is, is
eloquently described in the following:
10.10: Voice & Apparitions of God 239

Of that divine glory mentioned in the Scripture, there is one degree


which the eyes of the prophets were able to explore; another which
all the Israelites saw, as the cloud and consuming fire; the third is so
bright, and so dazzling, that no mortal is able to comprehend it; but
should anyone venture to look on it, his whole frame would be
dissolved.
In such inconceivable splendour is the Divine Majesty revealed to
the inhabitants of the celestial world, where he is said to "dwell in the
light which no man can approach unto." (1 Ti 6:16.) By the "face of
God," therefore, we are to understand that light inaccessible before
which Angel may stand, but which would be so insufferable to mortal
eyes, that no man could see it and live. (ref. unavailable)
Likewise, C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch comment on Exod 33:18-23:
No mortal man can see the face of God and remain alive; for not
only is the holy God a consuming fire to unholy man, but a limit has
been set, in and with the σῶμα χοϊκόν and ψυχικόν (the earthly and
psychical body) of man, between the infinite God, the absolute Spirit,
and the human spirit clothed in an earthly body, which will only be
removed by the “redemption of our body,” and our being clothed in a
“spiritual body,” and which, so long as it lasts, renders a direct sight
of the glory of God impossible.
As our bodily eye is dazzled, and its power of vision destroyed, by
looking directly at the brightness of the sun, so would our whole
nature be destroyed by an unveiled sight of the brilliancy of the glory
of God. So long as we are clothed with this body, which was
destined, indeed, from the very first to be transformed into the
glorified state of the immortality of the spirit, but has become
through the fall a prey to the corruption of death, we can only walk in
faith, and only see God with the eye of faith, so far as He has
revealed His glory to us in His works and His word.
When we have become like God, and have been transformed into
the “divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), then, and not till then, shall we see
Him as He is; then we shall see His glory without a veil, and live
before Him forever. For this reason Moses had to content himself
with the passing by of the glory of God before his face, and with the
revelation of the name of Jehovah through the medium of the word,
in which God discloses His inmost being, and, so to speak, His whole
heart to faith. (Commentary on the Old Testament, Electronic Edition
STEP Files CD-ROM [Findex.com, 2000])
Of course, while Christ was God in the flesh, He was hidden in the flesh
7
It should be noted here that God often describes Himself as having
human features. This should not surprise us as our features must have
some relation to the Creator as we are made in His image.
8
Eusebius of Caesarea, Life of Constantine, I:28, 29, 32; online at
www.ccel.org.
9
A similar account of only the dream is given by Lactantius, an early
Church historian like Eusebius, and the tutor of Constantine’s son, in his
10.10: Voice & Apparitions of God 240

Of the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died, 44.4–6; online at


www.ccel.org.
10.11: Visions & Dreams 241

Chapter 10.11

Mental Visions & Dreams from


God

Table of Topics

A) Visions of God

A.1) Defining divine visions

A.2) The importance of divine visions

A.3) The authentication of divine visions

A.4) Modern examples of divine visions

A.5) The authority of modern divine visions

A.6) Demonic & fraudulent visions: Mormonism

A.7) Biblical visions vs. super-supernaturalism: Jack Hayford

A.8) Biblical visions vs. “Inspiration”

A.9) Biblical visions vs. mega mysticism

B) Dreams from God

B.1) Comparing biblical dreams & visions

B.2) Modern revelatory dreams

B.3) Biblical dreams vs. super-supernaturalism

Extras & Endnotes


10.11: Visions & Dreams 242

Primary Points

 In contrast to apparitions which are experienced through the


physical senses, visions are confined to the recipients mind.
 Because of the nature of visions, they “felt” the same as a
physical apparition.
 The importance of the revelatory vision in Scripture is
demonstrated by the fact that this method of divine revelation
was the most common means used by God to communicate to
biblical Prophets.
 Perhaps God first appeared to Prophets and Apostles in a
more physical way in order to authenticate subsequent, more
psychical revelations.
 We should not dismiss the power and effectiveness of visions
as a means of divine revelation. When you had a vision from
God, you knew it.
 There would seem to be some legitimate, although extremely
rare examples of God granting revelatory visions today.
Therefore, it would be inaccurate to claim that God has not
granted any additional personal revelation since then outside
of Scripture.
 We are willing to accept private revelations through visions
that exercise divine authority over only the individual, we
would reject any claims to extra-biblical revelation that is
supposed to exercise authority over others.
 The demonic potential of visions comes to the fore in their
foundational place in non-Christian religions and cults like
Mormonism.
 A number of professing Christians lacking any of the
credentials of biblical men, are claiming that Jesus regularly
grants them visions as well.
 There is a great deal more disappointment among current and
former members of super-supernaturalism than they care to
admit because visions and dreams have been sought and
relied on and found to be false guidance rather than divine.
 If you have what amounts to a rare “controlling call” on your
life, similar to that of a Moses, David, Paul, Constantine, or
Brother Yun, then one is in a better position to expect that
God may grant them a vision.
10.11: Visions & Dreams 243

Primary Points
continued

 It is curious that few, if any, of those who claim to have had


visions of God or Angels, admit to being struck with the same
great deal of terror, guilt, and exhaustion experienced by
their counterparts in Scripture.
 You will not find a category of divine revelation in this chapter
labeled “divine inspiration” because there are no examples in
Scripture of what is normally understood by this term.
 Contrary to mega mysticism the most mystical and subjective
type of divine revelation we encounter in the Bible is visions
and dreams.
 Even though both dreams and visions occur only in the mind,
they can be distinguished by the fact that the former occur
while sleeping in an unconscious state, while visions occur
while awake, in a conscious state.
 In Scripture the dream was a very minor mode of divine
revelation. Most of them were given to God’s enemies, not
messengers.
 Dreams and their interpretation have always been a bigger
part of pagan spirituality then the authentic Christian kind,
manifesting themselves in New Age and occult environments.
 In Scripture only the heathen needed to have dreams
interpreted for them by others, which should prove as a
warning to the current fad in cults and super-supernaturalism
involving dream interpretation.
10.11: Visions & Dreams 244

A) Visions of God

A.1) Defining divine visions

In contrast to apparitions which are experienced through the


physical senses of sight and hearing, the experience of visions from
God was confined to the recipients mind. 1 The distinction between
physical apparitions and psychical visions/dreams can be illustrated
when God says:
When a Prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal
Myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But
this is not true of My servant Moses; he is faithful in all
My house. With him I speak face to face . . . he
[physically] sees the form of the LORD. (Num 12:6-8)

As noted in the previous chapter, Moses physically experienced God


with his sense of hearing and sight, but normally revelation came
from God in a vision occurring in the mind.
More specifically, in visions it would seem God communicated
directly to the part of the mind that processes physical senses such
that the person “saw” and “heard” in their mind. So much so, that
someone like the Apostle Paul could not tell whether his heavenly
vision was “in the body” and experienced with his physical senses,
“or out of the body,” and experienced as a vision in his mind (2
Cor 12:2). Because of the nature of visions, they “felt” the same as
a physical apparition.
Visions normally included not only hearing God, but “seeing”
Him. For example, Isaiah writes:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated
on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe
filled the temple. Above Him were seraphs, each with
six wings: With two wings they covered their faces,
with two they covered their feet, and with two they
were flying. And they were calling to one another:
"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth
is full of His glory."” (Isa 6:1-3)

Other examples of people seeing God in a vision include Jacob


(cf. Gen 28:12-13), the elders of Israel (cf. Exod 24:9-11), the
prophet Micaiah (cf. 1 Kgs 22:19), Ezekiel (cf. Ezek 8:1-4), Daniel
(cf. Dan 7:9f.), Solomon (cf. 1 Kgs 3:3-15), and of course the
apostle John in Revelation (cf. 4:1-11).
The “extrasensory” nature of revelatory visions can be
illustrated in the OT in the following incident recorded by Daniel.
10.11: Visions & Dreams 245
Notice that while it did not involve an “out of body” experience, the
vision occurred only in his mind, and not by the physical senses of
Daniel or his companions:
On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was
[physically] standing on the bank of the great river, the
Tigris, I looked up and there before me [in my mind] was
a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold
around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face
like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms
and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his
voice like the sound of a multitude.
I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the
men with me did not see it, but such terror
overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves.
So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision. (Dan
10:4-8)

The fact that Daniel’s companions saw or heard something to


scare them requires that some sort of physical phenomenon
occurred at the time of Daniel’s vision. But the vision itself was
only experienced by the Prophet in his mind. 2
A similar event occurred in the Apostle Paul’s initial encounter
with Christ. Luke reports that the Apostle “heard a voice” (Acts
9:4) and that his companions “heard the sound” (v. 7). However,
it would seem that this communication was not purely physical, as
while Paul understood the voice, he reports later that, “My
companions saw the light, but they did not understand the
voice of Him Who was speaking to me” (Act 22:9), and Paul
himself describes the encounter as a “vision from Heaven” (Acts
26:19), biblical language that normally reflects a more psychical
experience rather than a physical one.
Visions can extend to even an “out of body” experience in which
the person is evidently translated to another realm in order to
receive a revelation. This would clearly seem to be the case with
the Apostle John in his reception of the Revelation. At various
places he describes himself as being “in the Spirit” (1:10; 4:2; as
opposed to in the body), and being “carried . . . away [by an
Angel] in the Spirit into a desert” (17:3) or “to a mountain
great and high” where he is given revelations. Accordingly, this
phenomenon is no doubt what is being described in 2 Peter where
we read, “but men spoke from God as they were carried along
by the Holy Spirit” (1:21). 3
10.11: Visions & Dreams 246
A.2) The importance of divine visions

The importance of the revelatory vision in Scripture is


demonstrated by the fact that this method of divine revelation was
the most common means used by God to communicate to biblical
Prophets. In the verse above from Numbers God describes this
very thing. Accordingly, most of the great Prophets of Scripture are
described as experiencing such revelatory visions, including
Abraham (cf. Gen 15:1-17), Isaiah (cf. chs. 6, 22), Jeremiah (cf.
1:11-13), Ezekiel (cf. 1:3, 12-14), Daniel (ch. 7), Amos (7:1-2),
Zechariah (1:8-11), and the Apostle John in the Revelation where
while the word “vision” is used only once (cf. 9:17), John uses the
phrase “I saw” nearly forty times to describe his visionary
experiences.
Visions were so characteristic of divine revelation, that we read
of the time of Eli the priest, “In those days the word of the
LORD was rare; there were not many visions” (1 Sam 3:1; cf.
Prov 29:18 NASB). In pre-Scripture history, “visions” and “the
word of the LORD” were synonymous.
Likewise, the Apostles of the NT received considerable revelation
through visions including Paul’s first encounter with Christ (cf. Acts
9:3-7; 22:6-16; 26:12-19), Peter’s pivotal new revelation
concerning the Gentiles (cf. Acts 10:9-17; 11:4-9), and the
aforementioned visions of John. 4

A.3) The Authentication of Divine Visions

The rather subjective nature of revelatory visions and dreams


can suggest they are not as trustworthy as the more physical
apparition. Such may even be implied by God’s comparison
between Moses and the typical Prophet. With Moses, God spoke to
him “face to face” and he physically saw “the form of the Lord.”
In the case of a typical “Prophet” God says, “I reveal Myself to
him in visions, I speak to him in dreams” (Num 12:6-8).
Nonetheless, it seems that God tended to provide some
objective, physical evidence to authenticate the more subjective
revelatory means of visions. For example, we have noted the
physical phenomena that was experienced by the Prophet Daniel,
the Apostle Paul, and their companions, during their visions (cf. Dan
10:4-8; Acts 9:3-7; 22:6-16; 26:12-19). All of those involved
could at least confirm that something supernatural had occurred
surrounding the private revelations given. These revelatory events
were not only psychical and occurring in the mind of the recipient,
10.11: Visions & Dreams 247
but also had some real, miraculous, and physical aspects to them as
well.
In addition, it is possible that God first appeared to Prophets
and Apostles in a more physical way in order to authenticate
subsequent, more psychical revelations. Accordingly, God did not
first reveal Himself to Moses as a mere voice out of thin air, but
spoke through a miraculously “burning” bush (cf. Exod 3:1-6).
Likewise, while the Apostle Paul may have received mere psychical
visions afterward (cf. Acts 16:9-10; 18:9-11; 22:17-18), his first
encounter with Christ involved unmistakable, miraculous, physical
phenomena (cf. Acts 9:3-7).
We would suggest something similar occurred in Abraham’s first
encounter with God when, “The LORD had said to Abram,
“Leave your country, your people and your father’s
household and go to the land I will show you” (Gen 12:1).
Apart from some sort of miraculous, physical manifestation, how
else could the Prophet know he could trust the Voice that spoke to
him? Indeed, Stephen later relates the Jewish tradition that, “The
God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was
still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran” (Acts 7:2). The
absence of any mention of a vision would suggest to us that a
physical appearance of some kind is meant. Likewise, we read that
after Abraham had entered Canaan, “The LORD appeared to
Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So
he built an altar there to the LORD, Who had appeared to
him,” the language again suggesting to us a physical appearance.
All of this is to suggest that perhaps God interspersed
apparitions of the more physical, objective kind in the life of one
whom He gave visions of the more psychical and subjective kind so
that the recipient would have some identification and authentication
of whom was speaking to him. And more generally, it would have
seemed most helpful if the initial encounter was of the more
physical kind, as evidenced above. Therefore, perhaps Prophets
and Apostles knew the voice and form of the Lord in their visions
because they had experienced the same in the more objective
physical realm as well.
Additional authentication of what could have been merely
subjective experiences is given particularly to the Apostles as well.
For example, Ananias miraculously confirms the private vision Paul
had experienced (cf. Acts 9:10-18), as does Cornelius with Peter’s
vision (cf. Acts 10:1-33).
Finally, even without physical, objective authentication, we
should not dismiss the power and effectiveness of visions as a
means of divine revelation. In fact, the Scriptures equate it with
seeing something physically. For example, as noted above, the
10.11: Visions & Dreams 248
Apostle Paul describes his initial encounter of Christ as a “vision
from Heaven,” the characteristic biblical word for an extrasensory
revelation. In addition, the texts relate that, “The men traveling
with Saul . . . heard the sound but did not see anyone” (Acts
9:7) and that the “companions saw the light, but they did not
understand the voice of Him Who was speaking” (Acts 22:9).
In other words, there were obviously some physical phenomena
associated with the vision, but there is no mention of anyone
physically seeing Christ in this encounter.
How then are we to interpret the Apostle’s pivotal claim that,
like Christ’s physical appearances to the other Apostles (cf. John
20:19-20; Luke 24:36-42), “last of all He appeared to me also”
(1 Cor 15:8) and he had “seen Jesus our Lord” (9:1)? It is
possible that the Apostle is referring to another, clearly physical
visitation of Jesus that he had experienced, but which is not
recorded in Scripture (however, cf. Acts 18-9-10 which involved
another “vision” of Jesus). However, the best explanation would
seem to be that the Apostle is referring to his encounter of Christ in
a vision on the Damascus Road, and he is putting the vision on par
with the physical apparitions that the other Apostles experienced
with their physical senses.
Accordingly, both Jesus and Ananias describe Paul’s Damascus
road vision in terms of a real experience of Christ. Ananias tells the
Apostle, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus . . . appeared to you
on the road as you were coming here” (Acts 9:17) and “The
God of our fathers has chosen you to know His will and to
see the Righteous One and to hear words from His mouth”
(Acts 22:14). Likewise, Paul quotes Jesus as relating in the
experience, “I have appeared to you to appoint you as a
servant and as a witness of what you have seen of Me and
what I will show you” (Acts 26:16).
Understandably, then, Paul believed he had experienced a post-
resurrection appearance of Christ just like the other Apostles, even
though it would not seem to have been a physical one. 5 Therefore,
Scripture, the Apostles, and apparently even God, do not
distinguish between the revelatory authenticity or authority of a
psychical vision experienced by the sensical parts of the mind, and
a physical apparition which includes the physical sense of sight.
The very nature of a revelatory vision is such that the recipient
can hardly deny something supernatural has occurred. When it
occurs it is supernatural, unmistakable, and even overwhelming
because it is not a part of human experience. We see things with
our eyes, hear things with our ears, have thoughts occur in our
mind, and even dream all the time. But we never have visions.
Therefore, even revelatory apparitions or dreams would at least be
10.11: Visions & Dreams 249
similar to rather normal human experience. But not visions. And
this is perhaps why they are the most frequent mode of personal
divine revelation that God has used.
Did we mention that they were often overwhelming? One
caused Isaiah to be terrified (Isa 6:5) and Ezekiel to fall “face
down” (Ezek 1:28). Daniel said after receiving a vision from God
that he “turned deathly pale,” was “speechless,” “overcome,”
“helpless,” and “My strength is gone and I can hardly
breathe” (Dan 10:8, 15-17). The Prophet John testified that when
he began to receive his vision he, “fell . . . as though dead” (Rev
1:17). And the Apostle Paul said it was so real that he could not
honestly tell if he experienced it “in the body . . . or out of the
body” (2 Cor 12:2). When you had a vision from God, you knew
you had a vision from God.
Along these lines, OT scholars C. F. Keil & F. Delitzsch comment
on Abraham’s vision in Genesis 15:
[There is] the erroneous assumption that visionary procedures
had no objective reality, or, at all events, less evidence of
reality than outward acts, and things perceived by the senses.
A vision wrought by God was not a mere fancy, or a subjective
play of the thoughts, but a spiritual fact, which was not only in
all respects as real as things discernible by the senses, but
which surpassed in its lasting significance the acts and events
that strike the eye. 6

A.4) Modern examples of divine visions: Brother Yun &


Muslims

As in the case of apparitions, we see nothing in Scripture that


would deny the possibility of God speaking to someone in a vision
today. In fact, we believe the two occurrences below are legitimate
experiences.
First, we will quote the following at length from the Chinese
underground Church leader Brother Yun because it is very
instructive about how the Lord chose to speak to him, both through
Scripture and miraculously. He writes:
On the evening of 4 May 1997, like every evening for the
previous six weeks, I reached down and took hold of my limp
legs [made that way by the cruel torture of his captors]. Pain
raced through my body as I propped them up against the wall.
I found this was the best way to minimize the agony. By
diverting the blood flow away from my legs they became numb
and I could sleep fitfully throughout the night.
10.11: Visions & Dreams 250
The very next morning, in my depressed and hopeless
condition, the Lord encouraged me with a promise from
Hebrews 10:35, "So do not throw away your confidence; it will
be richly rewarded." I awoke with these words in my mind.
As the prison slowly stirred to life, I started to read the Book
of Jeremiah. The Lord related it to my injuries and my
situation in a very powerful and personal way. It was as if the
Holy Spirit was speaking to me directly through his Word: "Let
my eyes overflow with tears night and day without ceasing; for
my virgin daughter - my people - has suffered a grievous
wound, a crushing blow... Have you rejected Judah
completely? Do you despise Zion? Why have you afflicted us
so that we cannot be healed? We hoped for peace but no good
has come for a time of healing but there is only terror... For
the sake of your name do not despise us; do not dishonour
your glorious throne. Remember your covenant with us and
do not break it." Jeremiah 14:17,19,21.
I felt just like Jeremiah. I was overwhelmed and it seemed
as if the Lord had abandoned me to rot in prison forever. I
cried out to the Lord, echoing Jeremiah's words, "Oh God, why
have you afflicted me so that I cannot be healed? I hoped for
peace, but no good has come. Please Lord, do not despise
me."
I continued reading, "Alas, my mother, that you gave me
birth, a man with whom the whole land strives and contends!
I have neither lent nor borrowed, yet everyone curses me."
Jeremiah 15:10. Once again the words seemed to leap off the
paper and into my spirit. It was a very holy time, as though
God Almighty himself had descended into my cell and was
dealing with me face to face.
I had so much grief stored up inside me, and it all started to
gush out before the Lord. I sobbed, "Lord Jesus, just like
Jeremiah said, everyone strives against me and curses me. I
can't take any more. I've reached the end of myself." I wept
so hard that my eyes became swollen from all my tears. My
Lord comforted me like a loving father holding his little boy.
He reassured me with the next verse, "The Lord said, 'Surely I
will deliver you for a good purpose: surely I will make your
enemies plead with you in times of disaster and times of
distress."' Jeremiah 15:11.
From my inmost being I cried out to the Lord from Jeremiah
15:16-18, "When your words came, I ate them; they were my
joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God
Almighty. I never sat in the company of revellers, never made
merry with them; I sat alone because your hand was on me
10.11: Visions & Dreams 251
and you had filled me with indignation. Why is my pain
unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be
to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails?" Many
times I asked him why I was in such pain, I could bear it no
more. My heart was downcast and I was ready to give up.
God's Word came again to me with both a severe warning
and a promise, "Therefore this is what the Lord says: 'If you
repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter
worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let
this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. I will
make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they
will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with
you to rescue and save you, declares the Lord. I will save you
from the hands of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp
of the cruel.'" Jeremiah 15:19-21.
As soon as I read these verses, a powerful vision suddenly
came to me even though I was wide awake. I saw my wife
Deling sitting beside me. She had just been released from
prison and was preparing some medicine. She lovingly treated
my wounds. I felt greatly encouraged and asked her, "Have
you been released?" She replied, "Why don't you open the
iron door?" Before I could answer she walked out of the room
and the vision ended. The Lord spoke to me, "This is the hour
of your salvation." Immediately I knew this was a vision from
the Lord, and that I was meant to try to escape.
It was now more than six weeks since my legs had been
smashed. Even putting a little weight on them caused
tremendous agony. But I believed God had told me in three
different ways that I was to try to escape: through his Word,
through the vision I’d received that morning, and through
brother Xu [who had told him to escape]. . . . I shuffled out of
my cell and walked towards the locked iron gate in the
hallway.

And escape he did from the Zhengzhou Number One Maximum


Security Prison in China. 7
It would seem that visions have also been occurring in rather
amazing numbers among unregenerate Muslims. In the last ten
years, more Muslims have come to Christ than in the previous one
thousand years. And reports from numerous missions agencies
claim that many of these conversions occur in the context of a
vision to individuals or entire villages.
In a recent newsletter from Campus Crusade's Jesus Film
Project, Jim Green, a highly respected Crusade staffer for forty
years, reported that if you were to gather a typical group of one
10.11: Visions & Dreams 252
hundred new converts from Islam and ask them how they first
learned of Jesus, ninety-nine of them would say, “I saw Him in a
vision. He appeared in brilliant white light and told me that He was
the Way and that I was to seek Him out.” 8
Mr. Green goes on to relate the following:
The next report comes from a traveling "JESUS" film team
that was working in one of these countries. The team was
driving through a remote, dangerous region that had hardly
been touched by the good news. A policeman flagged down
the team's car which was filled with 16mm projection
equipment and gospel literature. The policeman asked the
team to give a ride to an Islamic teacher who immediately got
in. You can imagine their anxiety when this highly respected
teacher asked, “Tell me, are you the ones planning to tell
people about God?”
Entrusting themselves to the Lord, they responded, “Yes, we
are.” Astonishment followed. Bouncing along the dusty road
the teacher told the team how he had experienced a vision. “I
was told to come to this spot in the road, at this time, that I
would encounter someone who would tell me about God. It
must be you.” 9

A.5) The authority of modern divine visions: private, not


public

All of the above seem to us to be legitimate, although relatively


extremely rare examples, of God granting miraculous revelation
since the closing of the biblical canon. Therefore, it would be
inaccurate to claim that God has not granted any additional
personal revelation since then outside of Scripture.
However, we notice in the examples above that the revelation
was intended only to exercise authority and be applied to the
individual receiving it. In other words, such extrabiblical revelations
only had a private application and had no authority over others.
This is an important distinction that, as we will note below,
super-supernaturalism ignores. While we are willing to accept
private revelations of this kind that exercise divine authority over
only the individual, we would reject any claims to extra-biblical
revelation that is supposed to exercise authority over others. The
kind of people in Scripture who received visions that contained
authoritative revelation for others were Prophets and Apostles who
could then miraculously authenticate themselves as messengers of
God. No one can or is doing such today.
10.11: Visions & Dreams 253
Nonetheless, any kind of enthusiasm that super-supernaturalists
might claim for even private visions and dreams needs to be
balanced by the fact that its occurrence is still relatively very rare
and a great number of such events have been demonic, rather than
divine.

A.6) Demonic & fraudulent visions

We have pointed out all along that the devil works to counterfeit
virtually every means of revelation, and visions are no exception.
Accordingly, God tells His people through the Prophet Jeremiah:
Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to
you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions
from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD .
. . I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy
lies in My name. They say, 'I had a dream! I had a
dream!' How long will this continue in the hearts of
these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of
their own minds? (23:16, 25-26; cf. Jer 14:4; Deut 13:1-
3; Zech 10:2).

No doubt these false prophets truly did experience a dream, but it


was not divine revelation, underscoring the need for discernment.
The first thing to note on this topic is that miraculous
apparitions, visions, and dreams occur in clearly demonic contexts.
The Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology (EOP) records:
Visions occur to people of all cultures and all states and
positions. They come to the irreligious and educated, and by
no means have they been confined to the ignorant or the
superstitious. Many men of genius have been subject to
visionary appearances. . . .
Another form of clairvoyance is “second sight.” . . . Persons
gifted with second sight often see symbolical [visions]; for
instance, the vision of a funeral or a coffin when a death is
about to occur in the community. Symbolical appearances are
indeed a feature of clairvoyance and visions generally. . . .
One characteristic type of [vision] is the appearance of the
Virgin Mary. . . . Such appearances involve messages for
mankind as a whole, usually admonitions against sin and
exhortations to repentance. . . . Such [visions] have
reinforced the faith of thousands of Catholics, though many
have pointed out that similar visitations have been recorded
widely within non-Catholic Christianity and among most or all
of the world’s religions and peoples. It is natural that sincere
10.11: Visions & Dreams 254
devotees envision a divine figure in the form familiar through
the iconography of their own religion. The nineteenth-century
Hindu mystic Sri Ramakrishna frequently had ecstatic visions
of the goddess Kali. 10

Along these lines, the rightly respected Bible teacher Erwin


Lutzer remarks:
We know that satan can appear in whatever form he is
expected. If you are a Catholic, he will appear as Mary; if you
are a Protestant, he will appear as Jesus; if you are a Hindu,
he will appear as Krishna. 11

The EOP also suggests some of the natural sources that have
been discovered for visions:
From the late-nineteenth century on, [visions] have usually
been ascribed to hallucination. . . . Hallucinations, whether
coincidental or otherwise, may and do present themselves to
persons who are perfectly sane and normal, but they are also
reported by people who are suffering mental disorders, under
hypnosis, or in a state of hysteria. Hallucinations are also
symptomatic of certain pathological conditions of brain,
nerves, and sense-organs. . . .
[Visions] may be produced experimentally by the projection
of the double or powerful suggestion. The first attempts in the
latter class are recorded from Germany in H. M. Wesermanns'
Der Magnetismus und die allgemeine Weltsprache (1822). On
four occasions he succeeded in inducing four separate
acquaintances to dream on matters suggested by himself. On
the fifth occasion he produced a collective [vision]. The
subject and a friend who happened to be in his company saw,
in the waking state, the apparition of a woman in accordance
with the operator's suggestion. 12

The demonic potential of visions comes to the fore in their


foundational place in non-Christian religions and cults. Zoroaster
(c. 600 B.C.) founded a religion named after him, based on a vision
he had received:
It was at age 30 that Zoroaster received enlightenment. As
the account goes, Zoroaster received a vision on the banks of
the Daitya River when a large figure appeared to him. This
personage identified himself as Vbhu Manah, or “good
thought.” This figure took Zoroaster into the presence of the
wise lord Ahura-Mazda, who instructed Zoroaster in the true
religion. 13
10.11: Visions & Dreams 255
In the first and second century mystery cults, demonic visions
were experienced as well. NT scholar James Dunn writes:
We have little literary evidence of the mystical experiences
which presumably came to many of the initiates to the
mystery religions; but the enigmatic description of Lucius's
experience in his initiation to the cult of Isis may probably be
taken as typical:
I approached the very gates of death and set one foot on
Proscrpine's threshold, yet was permitted to return, rapt
through all the elements. At midnight I saw the sun shining
as if it were noon; I entered the presence of the gods of
the underworld and the gods of the upper-world, stood
near and worshipped them. 14

Likewise, we read of the founding of the Sikh religion in India by


Nanak (1469-1539):
At the age of 33 he was said to have received his divine call.
One day after bathing, Nanak disappeared into the forest and
was taken in a vision to God's presence. He was offered a cup
of nectar, which he gratefully accepted. God said to him: "I
am with thee. I have made thee happy, and also those who
shall take thy name. Go, and repeat Mine, and cause others
to do likewise. Abide uncontaminated by the world. Practice
the repetition of my Name, ablutions, charity, worship, and
meditation . . . My Name is God, the primal Brahma. And
thou are the divine Guru" 15

Mormonism was likewise founded on demonic visions. Joseph


Smith (1805-1844), the founder of Mormonism, writes the following
in his book, The Pearl of Great Price:
So great was the confusion and strife among the different
denominations, that it was impossible for a person, young as I
was [15], and so unacquainted with men and things, to come
to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong. .
..
I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter,
and fifth verse, which reads, if any of you lack wisdom, let him
ask of God, that giveth unto all men liberally and upbraideth
not, and it shall be given him. . . . So I retired to the woods
to make the attempt. . . . Finding myself alone, I kneeled
down and began to open up the desires of my heart to God. I
had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by
some power which entirely overcame me. . . . Thick darkness
gathered around me. . . . But [I was] exerting all my power
10.11: Visions & Dreams 256
to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy.
...
Just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light
exactly over my head . . . which descended gradually while it
fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself
delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the
light rested upon me, I saw two personages, whose brightness
and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air.
One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said
(pointing to the other) 'This is My beloved Son. Hear Him.’
My object in going to inquire of the Lord, was to know which
of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. . . .
I asked the personages who stood above me in the light,
which of all the sects was right . . . and which I should join. I
was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all
wrong, and the personage who addressed me said that all
their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those
professors were all corrupt. . . . When I came to myself again,
I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. 16

Commenting on Joseph Smith’s vision, cult expert Dr. Walter


Martin put the matter into perspective:
With one "Special Revelation" the Mormon Church expects
its intended converts to accept the totally unsupported
testimony of a fifteen-year-old boy, that nobody ever
preached Jesus Christ's gospel from the close of the Apostolic
age until the "Restoration" through Joseph Smith, Jr.,
beginning in 1820! We are asked to believe that the Church
Fathers for the first five centuries did not proclaim the true
gospel -that Origen, Justin, Irenaeus, Jerome, Eusebius,
Athanasius, Chrysostom, and then later Thomas Aquinas,
Huss, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Tyndale, Wycliffe, Knox, Wesley,
Whitefield, and a vast army of faithful servants of Jesus Christ
all failed where Joseph Smith Jr., was to succeed!
With one dogmatic assertion, Joseph pronounced everybody
wrong, all Christian theology an abomination, and all
professing Christians corrupt -all in the name of God! How
strange for this to be presented as restored Christianity, when
Jesus Christ specifically promised that "the gates of Hell"
would not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18)! In
Mormonism we find God contradicting this statement in a
vision to Joseph Smith Jr., some 18 centuries later! 17

The early Mormon leadership experienced many visions. For


example, it was common in the closed meetings of the Mormon
10.11: Visions & Dreams 257
leadership for them to report such things. One former member
related the following from an early meeting of Joseph Smith and
others:
Soon after Joseph says, "Sidney [Rigdon], have you seen the
Lord?" He [Sidney] answered, "I saw the image of a man pass
before my face, whose locks were white, and whose
countenance was exceedingly fair." Then Joseph replied, "I
knew you had seen a vision, Sidney, but you would have seen
more, were it not for unbelief." Hiram [Joseph Smith's
brother] said he had seen nearly the same as Sidney, which
was pronounced by Joseph to be the Redeemer of the world. .
..
Joseph next passed round the room, and laid his hand upon
each one, and spoke [in tongues] as follows, as near as the
narrator call recollect. . . . After administering the sacrament
several of the brethren were called upon to arise and speak in
tongues. . . . This gibberish for several months was practiced
almost daily. 18

The extremely popular, but very questionable “Mary movement”


and healing shrine near Lourdes, France also began with a
supernatural vision:
At 12:30 on February 11, 1858-the Thursday before Lent-
this young girl, Bernadette Soubirous, aged fourteen, very
religiously inclined . . . was sent with her younger sister and a
friend called Jeanne Abadie, to get firewood for their parents,
who were poor peasants living in the village. . . .
[W]hen Bernadette saw her companions going on without
her [and they] were out of sight . . . she . . . heard a noise
which she described as the sound of a rising storm. She says
that as she looked about her, frightened at the sudden sound
of a violent wind blowing, out of the interior of the grotto
came a golden-colored cloud, and then a beautiful lady, more
beautiful than any she had ever seen, came and stood at the
entrance to an opening in the grotto, above a small bush. This
lady smiled at her and beckoned to her. . . . The beautiful
lady then took up a rosary which had been hanging on her
own right arm, and . . . when the recitation of the rosary was
over, the lady and the cloud disappeared.
By this time the other two girls had missed Bernadette, and,
coming to look for her, found her on her knees by the grotto in
a state of ecstasy. They saw nothing of the lady. . . . Again
and again Bernadette visited the grotto, both with others-who
never saw or heard anything unusual-and alone. Bernadette
10.11: Visions & Dreams 258
claimed that when she asked the lady her name, she got the
reply, I am the Immaculate Conception." 19

There are several reasons then to doubt the divine or


supernatural nature of what is occurring at Lourdes. First, it
promotes the unbiblical worship of Mary. There is no support in
Scripture for the “Immaculate Conception” belief in Mary’s own
sinless birth, and any “vision” that promotes it requires suspicion. 20
As Dr. Weatherhead put it concerning his own study of the Lourdes
phenomenon: “There is an injunction to have faith in the Blessed
Virgin, and one is almost wearied by the endless chanting of “Ave,
Ave Maria.” 21
The Unification Church is another demonic cult founded on a
vision given to Sun Myung Moon (b. 1920):
At age 16 young Moon experienced a vision while in prayer
on a Korean mountainside. Moon claims that Jesus Christ
appeared to him in the vision admonishing him to carry out
the task that Christ had failed to complete. Jesus supposedly
told Moon that he was the only one who could do it. Finally,
after much repeated asking by Jesus, Moon accepted the
challenge. . . .
Even though Moon's doctrines are opposed to Christianity,
he claims that it was Jesus who revealed them to him. "You
may again want to ask me, 'With what authority do you weigh
these things? 'I spoke with Jesus Christ in the spirit world.
And I spoke also with John the Baptist. This is my authority.
If you cannot at this time determine that my words are the
truth, you will surely discover that they are in the course of
time. These are hidden truths presented to you as a new
revelation. You have heard me speak the Bible. If you believe
the Bible, you must believe what I am saying." 22

Obviously, many very dangerous and harmful deceptions have


come through miraculous visions. We do not doubt that all of the
above truly saw and heard something. They probably were not
lying about experiencing a vision. But their own pride, foolishness,
or lack of discernment led them to believe their vision was divine,
when in reality it was demonic. As we note further below, the
Church needs to heed this warning today.
While the unbiblical content of a vision may help us discern its
demonic rather than divine nature, ultimately, it is the virtue of the
followers of such visions that reveal their true nature. For example,
when we compare the supernatural historic virtue of authentic
Christianity with the Mormonism that Joseph Smith’s vision
founded, there is no comparison. Real Christianity has been a
10.11: Visions & Dreams 259
greater force for good on the Planet than all other religions and
cults combined. 23

A.7) Biblical visions vs. super-supernaturalism: false


prophecy from Jack Hayford

What is rather alarming is that these very same phenomena are


regularly claimed and acclaimed in modern super-supernaturalism
as revelations from God. As further discussed elsewhere, super-
supernaturalism is essentially the unbiblical over-expectation and
excessive claims to miraculous deeds and communication. 24
Accordingly, the popular super-supernatural author Jack Deere
devotes a whole chapter to the subject of dreams and visions in his
Surprised by the Voice of the Spirit and writes:
[T]here is something very wrong in our relationship with God
when we do not see [visions] [or] hear [voices] . . . and yet
leave our “time with him” feeling satisfied. 25

Accordingly, visions of Jesus are commonly claimed as a regular


part of the Christian life. This, in spite of the fact that super-
supernaturalists cannot claim the ministry of biblical characters who
did receive visions from God. Do they really wish to say we can all
expect to be a Prophet Isaiah or an Apostle John? Nonetheless, a
number of professing Christians lacking any of the credentials of
these biblical men, are claiming that Jesus regularly grants them
visions as well.
For example, Jack Hayford, well-known author and leader of
super-supernaturalism related a vision he had to a meeting of the
Pentecostal Fellowship of North America in which:
He had seen Jesus seated on His throne at the right hand of
the Father. In Hayford’s vision, Jesus began to lean forward
and rise from his seat. As the annointing caught in the folds
of His garments, it began to splash out and fall over the
church. Jesus said, “I am beginning to rise now in preparation
for my second coming. Those who will rise with Me will share
in this double portion of annointing. 26

Clearly this is either new divine revelation apart from Scripture


or a farce. There is nothing in between in such critical matters.
However, there are several things that bring suspicion on such a
vision.
First, notice that this supposed divine revelation is to exercise
God-like authority over all Christians. We are all obligated to
believe it if indeed it is authentic, extra-biblical revelation from
10.11: Visions & Dreams 260
Jesus concerning His current actions and imminent return.
However, as noted above, such a claim would need to be
miraculously authenticated and Mr. Hayford has provided no such
thing.
It is one thing to claim that God may grant an extra-biblical
revelation that exercises God-like authority over the individual
receiving it like the legitimate examples shared above. But it is
quite another thing to claim that a private vision is intended to
contain a divinely authoritative message for a multitude of others,
like all of the demonic examples shared above. Admittedly, our
examples above are limited, but we would nonetheless suggest that
one difference between legitimate post-biblical and extra-biblical
divine visions, and modern demonic or fraudulent ones, is that the
authority of the former is confined only to the individual, while the
latter claims authority over others as well.
In our opinion, extra-biblical revelation that would exercise
authority over all Christians such as Mr. Hayford’s claims is not
occurring today. This is demonstrated by the fact that all such
messengers in Scripture could authenticate themselves as
exercising such authority by performing convincing miracles or
perfectly predicting the future. No one is doing that today, and
therefore, we would not expect anyone to have that kind of
revelation. Which is one more major problem with Mr. Hayford’s
claim to have received such a revelation from God. He cannot
authenticate himself as a messenger of God like biblical recipients
of visions did. Has he perfectly predicted the future? Has he
commanded a miracle? No.
There are several other problems with Mr. Hayford’s vision as
well. While he clearly intended to claim that Christ’s return was
imminent, he reported his vision in 1990. How long should we wait
until Mr. Hayford is exposed as a false prophet, the very kind that
was to be stoned to death in the OT?
Also, Mr. Hayford intentionally used his vision to support the
false doctrine of some exclusive, and unbiblical extra anointing of
the Holy Spirit, and to further claim that only those who would
share his super-supernaturalist beliefs would share in it. As we
have repeatedly noted, the real fruit of the Holy Spirit is virtue, and
no right-minded Christian would claim they have a “double-portion”
of love and holiness compared to their “unannointed” Christian
brothers and sisters. And super-supernaturalists certainly shouldn’t
claim it because they do not have it. 27
Such people are, “Like clouds and wind without rain”
because they “boast of gifts” they do “not give” (Prov 25:14), nor
even possess, nor can prove.
We are reminded as well of the Apostle’s warning:
10.11: Visions & Dreams 261
Do not let anyone who delights in false humility . . .
disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into
great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual
mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost
connection with the Head [Christ] (Col 2:18-19).

John MacArthur comments on what this “Colossian heresy” was:


In addition to practicing false humility and worshiping angels,
the false teachers were taking their stand on visions they had
seen. Like many heretics and cultists down through the ages,
they claimed support for their aberrant teachings in visions
they had supposedly seen. Some of the worst excesses in the
modern-day charismatic movement are derived from such
visions. There is no need for extrabiblical revelation through
visions, because “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers
in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these
last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb. 1:1-2, italics
added). 28

Normally, in all their fervor for promoting an expectation of


miraculous revelation, super-supernaturalists are not honest
enough about the potential spiritual pitfalls of following their
doctrine. There is a great deal more disappointment among current
and former members of the movement than they care to admit
because visions and dreams have been sought and relied on and
found to be false guidance rather than divine. For example, the
rather popular but mystical author John Eldredge 29 relates the
following:
Over the course of those years we spent many nights in
prayer that God would heal [his son] Blaine's heart. During
one of those times, Stasi [his wife], not usually given to
visions, had a picture of a light penetrating his heart. At that
moment, she felt certain God had healed him. And just this
morning, the day for his annual checkup, as I began to pray
for Blaine, I sensed Jesus say, I’ve healed him. My heart
rested, and I waited for the good report.
[Stasi later calls John and says] "Hi . . . it's me." A long
silence. "Blaine needs surgery . . . right away.
Hope vanished. I felt that sick-in-the-gut feeling of an
imminent free fall, that feeling you get on top of a ladder
that's starting to sway under you. All kinds of thoughts and
emotion rushed in. What? Oh, no . . . Not after all this I
thought. My heart was sinking. Despair, betrayal [by God],
abandonment by God. Failure on our part to pray enough or
10.11: Visions & Dreams 262
believe enough. I felt moments away from a total loss of
heart. 30

And so will many who follow the super-supernaturalists. What


then was the source of Staci’s vision and John’s “sensing” that Jesus
had said something extra-biblical to him? Your guess is as good as
ours, but it was not God. And how would a real extra-biblical vision
or “sense” from Jesus be any different in its communication? Can
we only know by the outcome? Is that how those who experienced
such things in Scripture knew their visions were from God? Not at
all. The Eldridge’s experience and much of their writing are classic
examples of mega mysticism which we discuss further elsewhere. 31
As we have noted elsewhere, Brother Yun fits the biblical
description of those having a rare, divine “controlling call” on their
life (including severe suffering and playing a pivotal part in God’s
plan of saving His elect), and therefore, the occurrence of such
things has some biblical merit for him. 32 Nonetheless, the
authority, importance, and comforting effect of Scripture that
Brother Yun experienced even in the context of a miraculous vision
should not be missed by the super-supernaturalists who insist
visions are so necessary. Also, note Brother Yun’s human doubt,
even after experiencing such a vision, when he prays afterwards:
Lord you have shown me that I must try to leave this prison.
I will obey you now and will try to escape. But when the
guards shoot me, please receive my soul into your heavenly
dwelling. 33

Finally, Brother Yun gives some wise advice concerning the


topic of miraculous visions today:
These don't happen frequently, but usually only when there
is something important or urgent God wants to impress on
me. All the visions I've received are very short, often lasting
just a second or two. Often a picture or scene flashes into my
spirit and mind, yet it is so vivid and real I know it's from the
Lord.
As Christians we are not to live by any vision or dream, nor
should we seek after them. We must only live by the Word of
God and seek the face of Jesus. But we should also be open
to allow the Lord to speak to us in these ways if this is how he
wants to. Any vision or dream we receive needs to be
carefully weighed against the Scriptures, as nothing from God
will ever contradict his Word. 34

Contrary to anti-supernaturalism then, we too believe that God


may provide such a miraculous vision today to someone. Yet
10.11: Visions & Dreams 263
contrary to the claims of super-supernaturalism, they will only occur
when God’s more normal means of communication are insufficient
(e.g. Scripture, etc.), which is extremely rare. Nor does Brother
Yun claim such things are to be the expected normal experience of
Christians as super-supernaturalists do. On the contrary, Scripture
and our New Nature are more sufficient than super-supernaturalists
will admit for knowing and doing God’s will, and if they have truly
experienced so many supernatural visions and voices, then we
would remind them that there are other sources of such things
other than God.
While we would hesitate to say that only really important people
should expect such divine visions, the most believable reports of
them come from those in very unique situations. For example, the
event described in the previous chapter concerning the Emperor
Constantine was one of the most monumental ones in all of Church
history. Constantine became the first real Christian Emperor,
ceased all of the tremendous persecution of the Church at the time,
was pivotal in bringing the scattered and divided Church together,
and was instrumental in spreading the Gospel throughout the
known world.
Can someone today expect a vision from God in order to receive
direction or confirmation of a job decision, or some such thing?
Perhaps, but unlike mega mystics, ancient and modern, God’s habit
of only intervening with such miraculous communication in the most
critical and pivotal circumstances regarding His specific plans for the
Church as a whole, should be heeded. In other words, if you have
what amounts to a rare “controlling call” 35 on your life, similar to
that of a Moses, David, Paul, Constantine, or Brother Yun, then one
is in a better position to expect that God may grant such miraculous
communication.
Some have claimed that the promise in John 14:21 should lead
us to be expectant of miraculous visions of Christ in our own day.
Christ says, “Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he
is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by
My Father, and I too will love him and show [emphanizo:
“appear in person”] Myself to him.” Is this a promise to all
Christians that if we obey and love Jesus that He will somehow
personally, and even visibly, reveal Himself to them? We do not
think so.
It is important to interpret the verse in the context of an
intimate communication with the Twelve and to be very careful in
applying its contents to Christians in general. Also, the meaning of
Christ’s promise to “show” Himself is best found in this very
passage. In the verses immediately preceding Christ’s statement
here, He said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to
10.11: Visions & Dreams 264
you. Before long, the world will not see Me anymore, but
you will see Me” (John 14:18-19). This promise refers specifically
to the fact that Christ would physically reveal Himself to the
Apostles after His death and resurrection, indicating that this is
what Christ was referring to in verse 21.
And this is precisely how the disciples themselves understood it
when we read verse 22: “Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said,
“But, Lord, why do You intend to show Yourself to us and not
to the world?” It is clear then that when Christ promised to
“show” Himself to those who love Him, He was specifically referring
to His post-resurrection appearance to those He was talking to in
this passage (cf. John 16:16), and it was not a promise of
continuing personal revelations for Christians in general.
Finally, as one studies the biblical instances of God-given
visions, it will be noticed that the great majority of those who
experienced a vision of God, or even an Angel, also experienced a
great deal of terror, guilt, and exhaustion (cf. Exod 20:19-21; Judg
13:22; Dan 10:16-18; Matt 17:5-7; Luke 1:12, 29-30; 5:8; Rev
1:17). However, it is curious that few, if any, of the many people
today who claim to have had visions of God or Angels, admit to
being struck with the same emotions. Rather, the experience is
most often described as a pleasant, if not rather mundane one. All
of which makes us wonder what these people are really seeing.
Along these lines, John MacArthur writes:
A well-known charismatic 36 pastor told me that sometimes
in the morning when he's shaving, Jesus comes into his
bathroom and puts His arm around him and they have a
conversation. Does he really believe that? I don't know.
Perhaps he wants people to believe he is more intimate with
Christ than most of us.
Whatever the case, his experience contrasts sharply with
biblical accounts of heavenly visions. Isaiah was terrified
when he saw the Lord and immediately confessed his sin (Isa.
6:5). Manoah feared for his life and said to his wife, "We shall
surely die, for we have seen God" (Judg. 13:22). Job
repented in dust and ashes (Job 42:5-6). The disciples were
petrified (Luke 8:25). Peter said to Jesus, "Depart from me,
for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord!" (Luke 5:8). Each of them was
overwhelmed with a sense of sinfulness and feared judgment.
How could someone casually talk and shave while in the
presence of such an infinitely holy God? 37
10.11: Visions & Dreams 265
A.8) Biblical visions vs. “inspiration”

As discussed further elsewhere, the most popular and traditional


view of how God communicated Scripture to those who wrote it is
commonly described as some sort of mental telepathy in which God
subjectively, even imperceptibly, supernaturally guided the Prophet
or Apostle while they wrote. 38
On the contrary, much of the divine revelation experienced by
Prophets and Apostles, occurred in the form of much more real
visions, objectively authenticated, rather than some mere form of
mystical mental telepathy as commonly thought. This is why you
will not find a category of divine revelation in this chapter labeled
“divine inspiration” because there are no examples in Scripture of
what is normally understood by this term.

A.9) Biblical Visions vs. Mega Mysticism

Mega mysticism is our term for the popular belief that God is
rather consistently revealing extra-biblical guidance through some
sort of direct mental telepathy resulting in impulses and
impressions of divine revelation. On the contrary, we do not see
any descriptions of this kind in Scripture. The most mystical and
subjective type of divine revelation we encounter in the Bible is
visions and dreams. And as noted above, God often ensured these
were authenticated in some objective ways.
The fact that God always made it clear when He was providing
someone with extra-biblical miraculous revelation underscores His
desire to make it abundantly evident to people when He is speaking
to them, a fact often neglected by modern mega mysticism which
insists we need to be listening for some “still small voice” to
understand God’s will. 39
There simply are no biblical examples of this in Scripture.
Unfortunately, mega mystics want to claim that God is speaking to
people today just as He did in Scripture. However, God spoke to
people in very real visions, not a “still small voice.” Therefore,
many of the biblical examples that mega mystics wish to use to
promote their false teaching simply do not apply.
10.11: Visions & Dreams 266

B) Dreams from God

B.1) Comparing biblical dreams & visions

Above we distinguished apparitions from visions by saying that


the former is experienced with the physical senses, while visions
are not. There is another type of revelatory vision described in
Scripture that is extrasensory as well called dreams. Even though
both dreams and visions occur only in the mind, they can be
distinguished by the fact that the former occur while sleeping in an
unconscious state, while visions occur while awake and in a
conscious state.
Such a distinction may be seen in the apparent vision given to
Abraham where we read: “The word of the LORD came to
Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your
shield, your very great reward’” (Gen 15:1). It seems most
apparent that Abram was consciously awake during this episode,
but later in the same encounter “Abram fell into a deep sleep”
(15:15) in which he further heard and saw revelation. Technically
speaking, then, we could say the first revelation was given through
a vision and the second through a dream. 40
However, the Scriptures are often not clear in this distinction.
Particularly in the OT, terms used for visions (chazown) and dreams
(chalowm) are used interchangeably (cf. Isa 29:7; Dan 2:28; 4:5).
Daniel in particular describes having “night visions,” making it
rather difficult to know if he was awake or asleep when he received
them. 41
We will note here that it would seem God valued revelatory
dreams less than visions. We would suggest this is because dreams
are the most difficult to authenticate. At least in a vision one is
consciously awake, often aware of physical surroundings, and
immediately aware that a vision is occurring. Accordingly, in
Scripture the unconscious dream was a relatively very minor mode
of divine revelation compared to the conscious vision. In fact, most
of the revelatory dreams recorded in Scripture were given to God’s
enemies, not messengers.
Accordingly, biblical scholars John McClintock and James Strong
relate:
While we frequently read of . . . visions, dreams are not
referred to as regular vehicles of divine revelation. In exact
accordance with this principle are the actual records of the
dreams sent by God. The greater number of such dreams
were granted, for prediction or for warning, to those who were
aliens to the Jewish covenant.
10.11: Visions & Dreams 267
Thus we have the record of the dreams of Abimelech
(Genesis 20:3-7); Laban (Genesis 31:24); of the chief butler
and baker (Genesis 40:5); of Pharaoh (Genesis 41:1-8); of
the Midianite (Judges 7:13); of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:1,
etc.; 4:1-18); of the magi (Matthew 2:12), and of Pilate's wife
(Matthew 27:19). 42

We would suggest then that even God deemed dreams as an


inferior mode of revelation because of its more subjective nature
than a vision.

B.2) Modern revelatory dreams

Of course, we must keep in mind the normal source of our


dreams. Typically they merely reflect what our subconscious mind
has been thinking about. Accordingly, we read in the Encyclopedia
Britannica:
Dreams have provided creative solutions to intellectual and
emotional problems and have offered ideas for artistic
pursuits. A type of cognitive synthesis that facilitates
conscious insight may occur subconsciously during dreaming.
43

Therefore, we must obviously be very careful about expecting our


dreams to be some sort of revelation from God.
Nonetheless, as with visions, there are no biblical reasons why
God would not use them today to communicate to His people and it
would seem there are some believable and more modern examples.
For example, we read the following:
George W. Truett, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, was
one of America's finest preachers during the early twentieth
century. However, a crisis early in his life almost ended his
ministry. The Dallas police chief, J. C. Arnold, was a member
of Truett's church. He and Truett were good friends. One day
Arnold invited Truett and a mutual friend to go quail hunting.
While Truett was shifting his gun from one arm to the other, it
accidentally fired and struck Arnold in the leg. Arnold assured
Truett the wound was not serious, as did the doctors and
nurses once they arrived at the hospital. Nevertheless, Arnold
died from complications of his wound.
Truett was devastated. He told his wife he could never
stand before a congregation to preach again. He concluded he
would have to leave the ministry. For the rest of that week
Truett prayed and read Scripture, desperately seeking comfort
10.11: Visions & Dreams 268
and understanding for his heartbreaking circumstances.
Saturday evening, he could be heard praying, "My times are in
thy hands," over and over again. Finally, he fell asleep for the
first time since the accident. That night he had a dream
where Jesus came to him and said, "Be not afraid. You are my
man from now on."
Truett awoke and told his wife what had happened.
Returning to sleep, Truett had the same dream a second time
and then a third. Truett went on to preach that Sunday, but
those who heard him said his preaching was changed. His
biographer notes: "But his voice, I shall never forget his voice
that morning, as we heard for the first time the note of
sadness and pathos which now we know so well. His vast
capacity for helping people in trouble, as well as his power in
the pulpit, is born of the tragedy which remade him."
A devastating circumstance seemed as if it would destroy
him, but a word from Jesus changed everything. Jesus turned
a tragedy in a young preacher's life into an event through
which God would fashion one of his greatest servants of that
era. 44

But again, satan is always in the business of demonically


counterfeiting means of divine revelation, and like the examples of
demonic visions above, the devil has certainly given people dreams.
Accordingly, speaking of the famed although, occultic powers of
psychic Edgar Cayce (1877-1945), the Encyclopedia of Mystical &
Paranormal Experience relates that, “He had vivid dreams that
seemed to contain [famously accurate] past-life and prophetic
information.” 45 However, Cayce’s apparently supernatural abilities
certainly were not “inspired” by God.

B.3) Biblical dreams vs. super-supernaturalism

Elsewhere in KOG we write at length about super-


supernaturalism’s characteristic involvement in spiritual fads
occurring in our pagan culture. Whatever seems popular in the
world, is eventually adopted by super-supernaturalism, which is an
important explanation for the great numbers of unregenerated but
religious people among them. 46 The area of revelatory dreams and
their interpretation is just one more example.
Such a thing has always been a bigger part of pagan spirituality
then the authentic Christian kind. Accordingly, we read in the
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:
10.11: Visions & Dreams 269
According to biblical testimony, the royal courts of both
Mesopotamia and Egypt had among their wise men and
prognosticators those who professionally interpreted dreams.
Extrabiblical literature recovered from both areas contains
documents of instructions for these professionals. From these
and related materials we learn that there was among the
peoples of the ancient Near East generally a much greater
preoccupation with dreams as portents of the future than
appears to have been present in Israel. 47

More recently, dreams and their interpretation have manifested


themselves in New Age and occult environments. The Encyclopedia
of New Age Beliefs reports:
The interpretation of dreams had always been regarded as
an occult science [until its popularity in “Christian” super-
supernaturalism], with a popularity that waxed and waned
with fashion and politics . . . New Age philosophy commonly
portrays dreams as a medium for receiving clairvoyant or
spiritual information. Various traditional occult systems of
dream interpretation are being revived and reinterpreted to be
used for this purpose. 48
Dream work is the attempt to explore and interact with
dreams for psychological insight in psychotherapy . . . or in
manipulating dreams for occult revelations or “spiritual
growth” in New Age practices. . . . In New Age practice,
dreams can be explored and even manipulated for occult
revelations, spirit contact, astral travel, and to induce altered
states of consciousness. . . .
Newsweek magazine has observed that a “New Age” of
revived interest in dreams and dream work has arrived. The
article noted, “What was once a fad is now mainstream. . . .
Like crystal work and channeling, dream work is one of the
more popular New Age practices.” 49

Which is precisely why it is also popular in super-supernatural


“Christianity.”
Accordingly, super-supernatural apologist J. P. Moreland writes:
Currently, dreams are being welcomed again by various
Christian leaders as legitimate means for gaining insight into
our inner lives and as a way God can communicate to us. 50

First of all, it is only leaders in the super-supernaturalist


movement who are welcoming such things. The rest of Christianity
is maintaining the more discerning view the Church has held for
centuries. Secondly, Dr. Moreland shares this resurgence in the
10.11: Visions & Dreams 270
Church of looking to dreams and their interpretation as extra-
biblical revelation as a positive thing, with no question whatsoever
as to whether or not a resurgence that just happens to parallel what
is occurring in the New Age movement is a good thing.
Dr. Moreland’s best explanation for why the Church has
historically viewed such a thing with suspicion and scorn is that
Jerome (c. 347-420) mistranslated the OT. Dr. Moreland writes:
Although the early church welcomed dreams as one means
for God to speak to them [an exaggeration for which he gives
no evidence for], there is good evidence to indicate that
dreams were brought into disrepute in the church by a
mistranslation in the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible
that became the standard version for the church for a
thousand years. . . .
[F]or some unknown reason, in his translation of the Old
Testament, Jerome associated "observing dreams" with the
practice of sorcery in three particular Old Testament verses
(Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Chronicles 33:6;
where "witchcraft" or "sorcery" appears in our English
versions, the words "observing dreams" appeared)." [As a
result?] Eventually dreams fell out of favor as a common
means of divine guidance through much of church history. 51

First, Jerome’s “mistake” may not be as great as Dr. Moreland


claims. It is true that a more literal translation of the Hebrew in the
above mentioned verses would be “divination.” However, one of
the foremost methods of divination among the pagans that these
Scriptures are referring to was “observing dreams” as Jerome put it.
Secondly, we are once again rather amazed at the lengths
super-supernaturalists will go, in order to explain why what they
feel is so important and spiritual today, has been denounced
throughout Church history by the most godly Christians. The
reason is not some supposed slip in the Latin Vulgate, but rather,
“dreams fell out of favor as a common means of divine guidance
through much of church history” for the very reason they are
viewed with suspicion by most godly Christians today. They were
never intended to be “a common means of divine guidance,” as Dr.
Moreland suggests, even in biblical times, and those who have
believed so have always hurt themselves or others. Heresy always
hurts people.
For example, Tom Stipe, former member of the Board of
Directors for the super-supernaturalist Vineyard Association of
Churches recounts that in this movement:
Dreams and their interpretation soon moved to center stage
as [Vineyard] prophecy conferences taught devotees to keep a
10.11: Visions & Dreams 271
pencil and notebook on their nightstands to write down each
dream as it occurred. These were later interpreted [by
“prophets”] for God’s message.
People lived on the edge of their seats, waiting for the
grandiose promises of prophesies to come true. Most waited
in vain. Not long after [this] became the primary source of
direction, a trail of devastated believers began to line up
outside our pastoral counseling offices . . . [suffering from]
shattered hopes because God had apparently gone back on his
promises . . . Many were left to continually live from one
prophetic “fix” to the next, their hope always in danger of
failing because God’s voice was so specific in pronouncement,
yet so elusive in fulfillment. 52

We are reminded of the following sad commentary of God


concerning Israel, and it especially saddens us because such
harmful heresy is being allowed to occur in God’s own precious
Church among His precious people. God says to these deceived and
deceiving churches: “The idols speak deceit, diviners see
visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give
comfort in vain. Therefore the people wander like sheep
oppressed for lack of a shepherd” (Zech 10:2). At least a
shepherd with the correct biblical understanding, courage, and
humility to stand up to such damaging and/or demonic invasions of
His Church.
Is demonic too strong? Not when the fruit is honestly assessed
(cf. Matt 7:15-23). One reason we know that the practice of dream
interpretation as practiced in modern super-supernaturalism is
unbiblical is that God always intended visions or dreams to be
revelations, not mysteries, as the meaning of them is always made
clear to the one receiving it. In other words, in Scripture only the
heathen needed to have dreams interpreted for them by others,
which should prove as a warning to the current fad in cults and
super-supernaturalism involving dream interpretation. Even in the
example of Paul’s vision of Paradise, it was not that he did not
understand what he had heard, but they were simply, “things that
man is not permitted to tell” (2 Cor 12:4). In addition, when the
vision or dream is given to one of God’s people, God directly reveals
its meaning to the person either as part of the vision or by personal
and additional revelation.
10.11: Visions & Dreams 272

Extras & Endnotes

Gauging Your Grasp

1) How are apparitions distinguished from visions?

2) Why did visions “feel” the same as a physical apparition?

3) What demonstrates the importance of the revelatory vision in


Scripture?

4) What other factors made even “visions” more objectively


authenticated in Scripture?

5) We claim it would be inaccurate to claim that God has not


granted any additional personal revelation since the closing of
the canon of Scripture. Do you agree or disagree and why?

6) Why are we willing to accept private revelations through visions


that exercise divine authority over only the individual, but reject
any claims to extra-biblical revelation that is supposed to
exercise authority over others?

7) What are some examples of the demonic potential of visions?

8) Why should we be skeptical of those who are claiming that they


regularly have visions of Jesus or Angels?

9) What is the reason for the great deal of disappointment among


current and former members of super-supernaturalism
regarding dreams?

10) Why don’t we have a category of divine revelation in this


chapter labeled “divine inspiration”? Do you agree or disagree
and why?

11) What is the most mystical and subjective type of divine


revelation we encounter in the Bible? How does this fact
relate to mega mysticism? \\

12) How are dreams and visions distinguished?


10.11: Visions & Dreams 273
13) What attributes of dreams as divine revelation are revealed in
Scripture? How does this relate to the growing focus on them
in super-supernaturalism?

Publications & Particulars

1
Accordingly, David Aune, a recognized scholar on the topic, relates:
The vision trance . . . is an altered state of consciousness in which
extrasensory audiovisual experiences, usually revelatory in character,
are perceived in private by individuals, often prophets or seers. The
visions themselves may be experienced as occurring within an earthly
setting or may involve apparent out-of-body experiences such as
ascents to heaven . . .
All the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek terms translated "vision" in
modern versions of the Bible are terms that primarily denote
"appearance" or "sight" in contexts that refer to normal visual
perception. Only the context reveals when the "vision" refers to a
psychological or revelatory experience in which the subject privately
"sees" that which is not physically present to ordinary unaided sense
perception. (“Vision” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
(ISBE), Geoffrey W. Bromiley ed., 4 vols., [Eerdmans, 1988], IV:993)
2
C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch write concerning Daniel’s vision:
According to this verse, the form described in vv. 5 and 6 was visible
to Daniel alone. His companions saw not the appearance, but they
were so alarmed by the invisible nearness of the heavenly being that
they fled and hid themselves. What is here said resembles Acts
9:3ff., where Christ, after His exaltation, appeared to Paul and spoke
to him—Paul’s companions hearing only the voice, but seeing no one.
(Commentary on the Old Testament, Electronic Edition STEP Files CD-
ROM [Findex.com, 2000], loc. cit.
3
Our claim that the reference to Prophets being “carried” in 2 Peter is
describing the same phenomenon in Revelation 17:3 of being “carried” in
a vision is strengthened by the fact that the root word used in both
places is pherō which simply means: “to bear or carry from one place to
another,” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Early
Christian Literature (BAGD), F. W. Danker ed., 3rd ed. [University Of
Chicago Press, 2001]), which is virtually what John and several other
Prophets describe happening to them. Accordingly, in what Michael
Green calls “perhaps the fullest and most explicit biblical reference to the
inspiration of its authors” the statement in 2 Peter is also merely
speaking of experiencing a vision.
Accordingly, Dick Lucas and Christopher Green in their commentary in
the Bible Speaks Today series (2nd Peter and Jude [Intervarsity, 1995])
are wrong to interpret the text as saying, “The prophets were gripped by
God as he spoke to them and gave them a message to communicate.”
On the contrary, being “carried” by the Spirit specifically refers to being
10.11: Visions & Dreams 274

“carried” somewhere, at least in the mind, in the form of a revelatory


experience.
4
For further on the revelatory methods experienced by the Apostles see
chapter 8.3. For the Apostle/Prophet John section 9.7.H.
5
Therefore, we would disagree with NT scholar Gordon Fee who writes
regarding 1 Cor 15:8:
There has been considerable debate as to whether this language
describes a merely revelatory vision (e.g., W. Michaelis, TDNTV, 355-
60, and W. Marxsen, The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth [ET,
Philadelphia, 19701, pp. 98-111) or an actual objective seeing (G.
O'Collins, The Resurrection of Jesus Christ [Valley Forge, 19731, pp.
7-9). Paul surely believed the latter. See the discussion in Kim,
Origin, pp. 55-66; cf. F. Keff, "Paul's Experience: Sighting or
Theophany?" New Blackfriars 58 (1977), 304-13. . . .
Paul believed that his experience on the Damascus road was more
than a mere vision. For him it was a resurrection appearance of a
kind with all the others [Apostles]-to be sure, after the ascension and
therefore out of due season (15:3-8). (The First Epistle to the
Corinthians NICNT [Eerdmans, 1987], 395)
6
Keil and Delitzsch, Gen 15:1.
7
Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway, The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True
Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun (Monarch Books, 2002), 248-56.
8
Jim Green, The Jesus Film Project (Campus Crusade, 2005), 1.
9
Jim Green, The Jesus Film Project (Campus Crusade, 2005), 1-2.
10
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology (EOP), ed. Melton, J.
Gordon, 4th ed., 2 vols., (Gale Research, 1996), 55, 1376.
11
Erwin Lutzer, Who Are You to Judge? (Moody, 2002), 214.
12
EOP, 60.
13
McDowell & Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions (Nelson, 1983), 67.
14
James Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit: A Study of the Religious and
Charismatic Experience of Jesus and the First Christians as Reflected in
the New Testament (Westminster, 1975), 303.
15
M. A. McAuliffe, Sikh Religion: Its Gurus, Sacred Writings, and Authors
(Oxford University Press, 1909), pp. 33-35.
16
Quoted by Alexander Mackie in The Gift of Tongues: A Study in the
Pathological Aspects of Christianity, (Doran, 1921), 202-204.
17
McDowell and Stewart, 67.
18
Alexander Mackie, The Gift of Tongues: A Study in the Pathological
Aspects of Christianity (Doran, 1921), 227-8
10.11: Visions & Dreams 275

19
Leslie Weatherhead, Psychology, Religion, and Healing (Abingdon, 1952),
145-6.
20
For further discussion of the Immaculate Conception doctrine in Roman
Catholicism see chapter 13.8.
21
Weatherhead, 151.
22
McDowell and Stewart, 99, 100
23
For further discussion of virtue apologetics for the Christian faith see
Book 5: Biblical Apologetics.
24
For further discussion of super-supernaturalism see chapters 7.13-16.
25
Jack Deere, Surprised by the Voice of God (Zondervan Publishing House,
1996), 291-2. For discussion of the mega mystical idea that God grants
private inspiration apart from Scripture see Book 14.
26
“Pentecostals Set Priorities,” Charisma (January 1991), 44.
27
For further discussion of the false claim of Charismaticism to experience
or possess more of the Holy Spirit see section 10.15.A.7.
28
John MacArthur, MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary, Electronic
Edition STEP Files CD-ROM (Parsons Technology, 1997), Col 2:18
29
For further discussion of the mega mysticism in John Eldredge’s writings,
see section 14.1.B.
30
John Eldredge, Waking the Dead (Nelson, 2003), 7.
31
For further discussion on mega mysticism see Book 14.
32
For further discussion of why we might expect miracles surrounding
Brother Yun’s life see section 10.3.C.3-5.
33
Yun, 255.
34
Ibid., 108.
35
For further discussion of the biblical concept of a “controlling call” see
section 7.15.B.1.b.
36
For a definition of charismaticism see endnote in chapter 8.1.
37
John MacArthur, “The Sufficiency of the Written Word” in Sola Scriptura!
The Protestant Position on the Bible (Soli Deo Gloria, 1995), 183.
38
For further discussion of the nature of “divine inspiration” for Scripture
see forthcoming chapter 8.8.
39
For further discussion of God’s desire to make revelation evident in spite
of mega mystical claims see section 14.9 sections E and G.
40
Keil and Delitzsch comment on Abram’s first recorded vision in Genesis
15:
10.11: Visions & Dreams 276

The “word of Jehovah” came to him “in a vision;” i.e., neither by a


direct internal address, nor by such a manifestation of Himself as fell
upon the outward senses, nor in a dream of the night, but in a state
of ecstasy by an inward spiritual intuition, and that not in a nocturnal
vision, as in Gen 46:2, but in the day-time.
The expression “in a vision” applies to the whole chapter. There is
no pause anywhere, nor any sign that the vision ceased, or that the
action was transferred to the sphere of the senses and of external
reality. Consequently the whole process is to be regarded as an
internal one. The vision embraces not only vv. 1-4 and 8, but the
entire chapter, with this difference merely, that from v. 12 onwards
the ecstasy assumed the form of a prophetic sleep produced by God.
41
J. H. Stek comments on the often obscure biblical distinction between
visions and dreams in the Bible:
Biblical writers appear to have made no clear distinction between a
revelatory dream and a night vision. There are a number of passages
where dreams (or night visions) are not explicitly mentioned, but
seem to be implied (cf. Gen 26:24; Num 22:20; 1 Sam 15:16; 2 Sam
7:4; 1 Kgs 9:2; 1 Chron 17:3; 2 Chron 1:7; 7:12; Jer 31:26; Zech 1:
8; 4: 1; Acts 23: 11; 27:23) - but perhaps in some instances these
did not involve a sleep experience; cf. Isa 3:4ff. (“Dream” in ISBE,
1:992)
42
John McClintock and James Strong, “Dreams” in Cyclopaedia of Biblical,
Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, CD-ROM (Ages Software, 2000
43
“Dreams,” Encyclopedia Britannica; online at www.britannica.com.
44
Henry and Richard Blackaby, Hearing God’s Voice (Broadman & Holman,
2003), 156.
45
Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience (EMPE),
Rosemary E. Guiley (Harper Collins, 1991), 84.
46
For further discussion of super-supernaturalism’s fake revival and
adoption of pagan practices see section 10.15.B.
47
J. H. Stek, “Dream” in ISBE, 1:992.
48
New Age Encyclopedia, J. Gordon Melton ed., (Gale Research, 1990),
154-5.
49
Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, John Ankerberg and John Weldon eds.
(Harvest House, 1996), 193-4.
50
J. P. Moreland and Klaus Issler, In Search of a Confident Faith
(Intervarsity, 2008), 195.
51
Ibid., 195-6.
52
Hank Hanegraaff, Counterfeit Revival (Word, 1997), xii.
Book 10
God’s Miracles

Part IV
Extreme & Unbiblical
Views of Miracles

 10.12: Miracles & Anti-supernaturalism: 279


An Attack on God’s Glory

 10.13: Miracles & Super-supernaturalism: 313


A Monumental Delusion

 10.14: A History of Super-supernaturalism: 337


The Making of a Monumental Delusion

 10.15: An Evaluation of Super-super- 371


naturalism: The Fruit of a Monumental
Delusion

 10.16: The Dangers of Super-super- 413


naturalism: The Damage of a Monumental
Delusion
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 279

Chapter 10.12

Miracles & Anti-supernaturalism


An Attack on God’s Glory

Table of Topics

A) Types of Anti-supernaturalism

A.1) Atheistic Anti-supernaturalism

A.2) Deistic/Liberal Anti-supernaturalism

A.3) Evangelical Anti-supernaturalism

A.4) Arminian Anti-supernaturalism

A.5) Anti-Charismatic Anti-supernaturalism

B) Problems with Anti-supernaturalism

B.1) There is a God!

B.2) Biblical faith in the supernatural is based on miraculous


evidence

B.3) God judges people based on their response to miracles

B.4) God’s miracles intervene in God’s natural laws

B.5) Scientific advances have not and will not explain away
biblical miracles

Extras & Endnotes


10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 280

Primary Points
 Anti-supernaturalism is a bias against, or the outright denial of
the possibility or existence of miracles.
 Anti-supernaturalism manifests itself in various forms and
degrees from the atheistic kind, to the Evangelical type.
 Deistic anti-supernaturalism is a foundation of the criticism of
the Bible.
 Many professing, Evangelical Christian Bible scholars go to great
lengths to give natural explanations for the miracles in the Bible.
 Anti-supernaturalists are guilty of slander against God because
they put His miracles in a less God-glorifying light than they
were intended to have.
 A dilution of the miracles in Scripture is a direct attack on their
divine source and subsequently on the divine authority of
Scripture.
 the abuses, deceptions, and doctrinal errors in super-
supernaturalism have tempted many Christians to be overly
wary of any claim to the supernatural.
 If an all-powerful God exists, then miracles are very possible,
and because He loves His Creation His supernatural interventions
are even probable.
 Anti-supernaturalism seems to ignore the fact that God has and
will judge people for not properly recognizing miracles.
 While some divine miracles merely use the laws of Nature, many
of those recorded in the Bible clearly violated and broke natural
laws.
 God is sovereign enough to ensure that no scientific
understandings will undermine the purpose He has for the
miracles recorded in Scripture.
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 281

A) Types of Anti-supernaturalism

In the next chapter, and throughout Knowing Our God, we


exhibit a great deal of skepticism toward the plethora of modern
claims to miracle workers because we believe such super-
supernaturalism is unbiblical and harmful to the Church. However,
we are quick to defend the supernatural nature of the miracles and
miracle working recorded in Scripture. Those with a bias against, or
outright denial of the true nature of these miraculous events in
Scripture can be referred to as anti-supernaturalists. God’s
miraculous deeds are a great glory to Him, and any attack on the
divine nature of His miracles is an offense to His glory. Such is the
case with unbiblical anti-supernaturalism in any form.

A.1) Atheistic Anti-supernaturalism

While the term anti-supernaturalism generally refers to those


who are unnecessarily opposed to, or skeptical of miracles, it is
helpful to distinguish different categories of it. Atheistic anti-
supernaturalism is simply and commonly referred to as Naturalism.
Norm Geisler defines this when he writes:
Philosophical or metaphysical naturalism refers to the view
that nature is the "whole show." There is no supernatural
realm and/or intervention in the world. In the strict sense, all
forms of nontheisms are naturalistic, including atheism,
pantheism, deism, and agnosticism. 1

While many atheistic anti-supernaturalists may not be strictly


atheists, they approach the world from a perspective that denies
the existence of God, and therefore makes the miraculous either
impossible or highly improbable.
The most notorious anti-supernaturalist was, of course, the
Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776). Tucked away in the
tenth chapter of his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
(1748), was a twenty page chapter simply entitled, “Of Miracles.”
The influence of this small treatise is described when one Christian
scholar writes, “No work on miracles penned in the seventeenth,
eighteenth, or nineteenth centuries receives greater attention today
than Hume's slim essay.” 2 A modern day supporter of Hume’s
views, philosopher Anthony Flew, writes concerning “Of Miracles,”
“These pages . . . provoked in Hume's own lifetime more protest
and controversy than all the rest of [Hume’s] writings put
together.” 3
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 282
It would seem Hume anticipated the endurance of his thoughts
when he wrote:
I flatter myself that I have discovered an argument . . . which,
if just, will, with the wise and learned, be an everlasting check
to all kinds of superstitious delusion, and consequently will be
useful as long as the world endures. 4

Hume, along with other atheistic anti-supernaturalists, simply


deny that miracles are believable. We have already addressed
Hume’s specific arguments elsewhere concerning historical
skepticism. 5

A.2) Deistic/Liberal Anti-supernaturalism

Deism was a popular philosophical trend in seventeenth and


eighteenth century Europe, and was held by such early Americans
as Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). 6 While they believed in a divine
Creator, they denied that He was active in His creation. Douglas
Geivett and Gary Habermas write:
Classical deists generally opposed belief in divine intervention
in history, whether in the form of prophecy or miracles, for
such belief seemed to them to violate the canons of reason.
Divine intervention was often regarded as superfluous or
gratuitous in that it implied that God's original creation was
somehow defective. Sometimes alternative schemes
[explanations] were advanced in order to explain the
supernatural components of traditional beliefs [and miracles in
Scripture]. 7

Similarly, Norm Geisler writes:


[S]ome theists, especially scientists, hold a form of
methodological naturalism. That is, while acknowledging the
existence of God and the possibility of miracles, they employ a
method of approaching the natural world that does not admit
of miracles. This is true of many theistic evolutionists. 8

While deistic anti-supernaturalists are more favorable toward


the existence of God than atheistic ones, they are extremely
skeptical of any miracles. Accordingly, Dr. Geisler writes of
Jefferson:
Thomas Jefferson literally cut the miracles from the four
Gospels and pasted the desupernaturalized remains in a scrap
book. It was later published as The Jefferson Bible. It ends
thus: "There laid they Jesus, and rolled a great stone to the
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 283
door of the sepulchre, and departed." The rest of the story--
the resurrection of Christ--is a miracle that cannot, thought
Jefferson, be accepted by good reason. 9

Other religious persons we would put in the category of deistic


anti-supernaturalists include the philosophers Benedict Spinoza
(1632-1677) and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804).
In addition, an anti-supernatural deism is one of the foundations
of liberal biblical criticism. Accordingly, the very influential
twentieth-century NT scholar Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976)
wrote:
It is impossible to use the electric light and the wireless and to
avail ourselves of modern medical and surgical discoveries,
and at the same time to believe in the New Testament world
of spirits and miracles. We may think we can manage it in our
own lives, but to expect others to do so is to make the
Christian faith unintelligible and unacceptable to the modern
world. 10

What is surprising is that such people claim to be Christians and


have been widely accepted as such. On the contrary, as the
renowned theologian J. I. Packer writes:
Belief in the miraculous is integral to Christianity. Theologians
who discard all miracles, thus obliging themselves to deny
Jesus’ incarnation and resurrection, the two supreme miracles
of Scripture, should not claim to be Christians. 11

Which rightly condemns a whole horde of particularly twentieth


century German Bible scholars to Hell, and all the liberal anti-
supernatural Bible critics who would follow them today. As we have
written elsewhere:
The effects of [unregenerated] devil-darkened reason is one
reason why those who deny the authenticity of the miracles
recorded in Scripture are hardly in a position to convincingly
claim they are born again Christians. A denial of the biblical
miracles normally exposes an unregenerated mind that,
underneath all the religious veneer, is actually “hostile to
God” (Rom 8:7) and unwilling to give Him the glory He
deserves. 12

Several years ago, James Orr (1844–1913) described this


liberal/deistic antisupernaturalism and its absurdity when he wrote:
To those who deny supernatural revelation Jesus is
necessarily a problem. What are they to make of Him? The
one thing they are sure of is, that the supernatural claims set
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 284
up for Him cannot be admitted. Whatever their admiration for
His Personality and religion, He must be brought and kept
within purely human limits. To show how this may be
successfully done is the aim of numerous recent efforts at
depicting His life and work. There are many schools in the
negative camp, but this is the common denominator of them
all-the gravitation-level to which they all tend. Jesus must be
non-miraculous. . . .
[Such antisupernaturalism] does not explain the Jesus of the
Gospels. It does not explain the faith and hope of the early
Christian Church, based on the facts which the Gospels record.
It does not explain the vast effects which have come from the
appearance and work of this Jesus. It does not explain how
even such an image of Jesus came to be there-who created it,
or could create it, or whence the materials came from which it
was composed. It does not explain the edifice of Christian life,
work, hope, and aspiration which has been built on Jesus, and,
despite of all assaults on it, has endured through the ages. 13

A.3) Evangelical Anti-supernaturalism

A surprising discovery in a contemporary study of miracles is the


amount of effort that even more conservative, Evangelical scholars
invest in trying to offer natural explanations for the miracles
recorded in Scripture. Many of the OT miracles for example have
been attacked in this way. Notice the anti-supernatural attitude in
the following excerpt from Colin Brown, a respected NT scholar, in
the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology
(NIDNTT):
In the cases of the healing of Naaman (2 Ki. 5) and the
restoration to life of children (I Ki. 17:17-24; 2 Ki. 4:18-37)
we have [today] instances of paranormal healings beyond
normal medical explanation. The long day in Joshua 10 may
well be a poetic description of the invigoration of Joshua's
soldiers. Alternatively it has been explained as an abnormal
refraction of the rays of the sun and moon and as a
supernaturally induced thunderstorm giving the men relief
from the burning heat (cf. B. Ramm, The Christian View of
Science and Scripture, 1955, 107-10) . . .
John Gray comments, “The factual basis of the ‘miracle’ of
the floating axe-head may be that Elisha with a long pole or
stick probed about the spot indicated (an important point in
the text) until he succeeded either in inserting the stick into
the socket, or, having located the hard object on the muddy
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 285
bottom, moved it until the man was able to discover it” (I & II
Kings, 1964, 460). It may be noted that the text itself does
not call the event a miracle or even a sign . . .
The view that one takes of Daniel in the fiery furnace and
the lions' den (Dn. 3 and 6) will depend on the view that one
takes of the Book of Daniel as a whole. The stories . . . might
have a didactic value, but little basis in historical reality.
Alternatively, they might be a figurative, stylized way of
describing some historical event . . . Shadrach, Meshach and
Abednego . . . survived their ordeal possibly protected by their
clothing mentioned in the narrative [rather than the angel also
mentioned in the narrative!]. 14

Dr. Brown has become considered as something of an expert on


biblical miracles and makes the following entry in the influential
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE):
The [Egyptian] plagues have been interpreted [by Brown] as
a series of natural disasters, beginning with the washing down
of red earth from the Abyssinian and Ethiopian plateau
together with reddish microorganisms called flagellates
[Nevermind that the Bible says it was blood (Ex. 7:17)!].
Decomposing fish caused the frogs to leave the Nile and
spread the diseases described in the second set of plagues.
The third set begins with hail and thunderstorms typical of
the time of year which produced the earlier sequences. The
hail would [naturally?] destroy flax and barley, but would
leave wheat and spelt for the locusts. The darkness was an
unusually strong Khamsin, or desert sandstorm, of the kind
which strikes Egypt from the south in late February or early
March . . . The manna described in Ex. 16:14,31 and Nu.
11:7-9 resembles the excretion of two scale-insects which
feed on the twigs of the tamarisk tree. 15

A similar concession is made by the Baptist theologian Millard


Erickson, another respected conservative scholar, in his Christian
Theology, when he writes:
[M]iracles [may be] actually the manifestations of little
known or virtually unknown natural laws. If we fully knew and
understood nature, we could understand and even predict
these events. Whenever the rare circumstances that produce
a miracle reappear in that particular combination, the miracle
will reoccur. [F]or example, the miraculous catch of fish in
Luke 5. According to this view, Christ did not create fish for
the occasion, nor did he somehow drive them from their
places in the lake to where the net was to be let down.
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 286
Rather, unusual conditions were present so that the fish had
gathered in a place where they would not ordinarily be
expected. Anytime those particular circumstances were
present, the fish gathered in that spot. Thus, Jesus' miracle
was not so much a matter of omnipotence as of omniscience.
The miracle came in his knowing where the fish would be.
Other types of miracles come to mind as well. Some of
Jesus' healings could well have been psychosomatic healings,
that is, cases of powerful suggestion removing hysterical
symptoms. Since many illnesses involving physical symptoms
are functional rather than organic in origin and character, it
seems reasonable to assume that Jesus simply utilized his
extraordinary knowledge of psychosomatics to accomplish
these healings. Much about this view is appealing, particularly
since some of the biblical miracles fit this scheme quite well; it
may well be that some of them were of this nature. 16

In a similar vein, the respected Baptist NT scholar James Dunn


has written:
Just how extraordinary his [Christ’s] healings were by the
standards of modern medical knowledge is not clear. No
doubt Jesus was responsible for curing mental illness,
blindness, lameness and deafness; but these could all be
hysterical disorders. Even the healing of leprosy and raising of
the dead, which Jesus probably [probably?] claimed (Matt.
11.5) may not take us beyond the range of psychosomatic
illnesses. In the one case a nervously conditioned disease
which gave the appearance of leprosy and which was
described as a form of leprosy, and in the other some form of
coma or catalepsy.
What is rather striking is that no instances of healing purely
physical injuries or mending broke limbs are attributed to
Jesus in the earliest stratum of tradition [a very convenient
argument]- that is to say, there is no instance of a healing
miracle which falls clearly outside the general category of
psycho-somatic illnesses [in the parts of Scripture Dunn wants
to accept as authentic] . . .
At the very least we must say, I think, that Jesus was that
type of charismatic (what Robert Graves might call the
'psychic 5 %’), who could draw on sources of energy within
himself of which the ordinary man is only rarely aware, or who
was so in tune with wider reality that he could act as a sort of
receiver and transmitter from a richer source of energy
outside himself. . . .
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 287
If Jesus' mighty works of healing can be established as facts
on the basis of his own words, the same does not hold for the
so-called ‘nature miracles’ - particularly calming the storm,
walking on the water, feeding the five thousand (or four
thousand) in the desert, and cursing the fig tree. 17

Like Thomas Jefferson noted above, Dr. Dunn would seem to use
subjective biblical criticism to cut and paste Scripture to his liking.
We suggest that such denials of the miraculous nature of the
events recorded in Scripture have some devastating consequences.
Isn’t it slander against our Creator and Savior to put things in a less
God-glorifying light than they actually were? Evangelical anti-
supernaturalists seem to suggest at times that the extraordinary
miracles of the Bible were merely coincidences. For example, Dr.
Erickson suggests that a miraculous catch of fish which caused the
Apostle Peter to fall on His face in fearful recognition that Christ was
the Lord (cf. Luke 5:8), was merely a result of Jesus knowing more
about the schooling patterns of fish than the fishermen He was
with.
While such scholars are willing to admit divine intervention such
that, “the event is a providential ordering of natural causes,” many
of their examples seem to deny the need for such intervention.
There is a “watering down” of the supernatural nature of the biblical
writers. The real question here is did God intend for these events
to be interpreted as miracles of the extraordinary, rare,
supernatural and awe-inspiring kind, or merely those within the
power of humans and Nature? There is no doubt that His intention
was the former.
Anti-supernatural Evangelicals will claim that their
interpretations maintain that intention, however, when they
suggest, for example, that the manna which the Bible says “rained
down [as] the grain of heaven” (Ps 78:24) was actually bug
dung, as Colin Brown does, they should not be surprised that the
rest of us would take offense, and suggest that God might too. The
healings in the Bible are not intended to be interpreted as
something that occurred from the more natural processes of the
human mind or body, like the type of healings that occur today in
hospitals, “faith-healing” services, and among New Age positive
thinkers. The healings in the Bible accomplished what no process in
Nature can.
In addition, there seems to be a hint of rationalism in
Evangelical anti-supernaturalism in that there is a presumption that
all biblical miracles can and need to be explained, in order to be
believed. As we have written elsewhere, this is a foundational tenet
of rationalism and does not belong in a biblical world view. 18
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 288
Evangelical anti-supernaturalism is not a minor issue. Any kind
of dilution of the miracles of Christ or the Prophets and Apostles is a
direct attack on their divine authority and subsequently on the
divine authority of Scripture. As we have demonstrated elsewhere,
God intends to authenticate divine authority with supernatural
deeds, 19 and if these deeds were merely things that any highly
intelligent or charismatic person could do, then the divine authority
of Christianity is substantially undermined.
Far too many “Christian” “scholars” today deserve the
condemnation of the nineteenth century “Old Princeton” Reformed
theologian B. B. Warfield (1851–1921), who wrote regarding the
“Christian” anti-supernaturalists in his day:
The supernatural is the very breath of Christianity's nostrils
and an anti-supernaturalistic atmosphere is to it the deadliest
miasma [“poisonous air”]. An absolutely antisupernaturalistic
Christianity is therefore a contradiction in terms.
Nevertheless, immersed in an anti-supernaturalistic world-
atmosphere, Christian thinking tends to become as
antisupernaturalistic as is possible to it. And it is indisputable
that this is the characteristic of the Christian thought of our
day.
As Dr. Bascom puts it, the task that has been set themselves
by those who would fain be considered the "bolder thinkers of
our time" is "to curb the supernatural, to bring it into the full
service of reason." The real question with them seems to be,
not what kind and measure of supernaturalism does the
Christianity of Christ and His apostles recognize and require;
but, how little of the supernatural may be admitted and yet
men continue to call themselves Christians. The effort is not
to Christianize the world-conception of the age, but specifically
to desupernaturalize Christianity so as to bring it into accord
with the prevailing world-view. 20

Along these lines, Gordon H. Clark (1902-1985) had written


more recently:
Some of the modernistic attempts to explain miracles are no
less than the most tawdry of intellectual dishonesty. The piety
which defends Scripture by explaining the feeding of the five
thousand on the ground that when the boy opened his lunch
box the others were inspired by his example to open theirs,
and thus a huge picnic resulted, is a piety which deserves
contempt, not intellectual refutation.
How people who propose such explanations can pose as
religious and moral leaders is beyond honest understanding.
Whatever a miracle may be, this type of device does not
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 289
explain it, because of its absurd distortion of the text.
Average morality dictates either an open denial of the alleged
event, or a [God-honoring and reasonable] attempt to explain
what the narrative actually contains. 21

A.4) Arminian Anti-supernaturalism

Elsewhere we have written:


A great deal of sound doctrine depends on when a miracle is
to be expected. . . . [A]nti-supernaturalists are in error
because they ignore when God has promised a miracle
because it is needed. Here is where Arminian theology reflects
an unbiblical anti-supernaturalism. In such a perspective, no
supernatural rebirth or action of the Holy Spirit is needed in
order for someone to receive the Gospel in a saving way.
On the contrary, as we discuss elsewhere, “The man
without the Spirit does not accept the things that come
from the Spirit of God [including the Gospel], for they are
foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them,
because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2:14). 22
Arminian theology ignores the biblical promises and the
foundational need for the miracle of regeneration in saving
faith, and therefore, can also be categorized as anti-
supernaturalists. 23

A.5) Anti-Charismatic Anti-supernaturalism

Unfortunately, the many documented abuses, deceptions, and


doctrinal errors in super-supernaturalism 24 have tempted many
Christians to be overly wary of any claim to the supernatural. We
are reminded of something Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) wrote
in his own effort to help fellow Christians maintain a balanced
perspective on miracles during the debates that surrounded similar
phenomena in his own day:
[D]uring the strife, satan leads both parties far out of the right
way, driving each to great extremes, one on the right hand,
and the other on the left, according as he finds they are most
inclined, or most easily moved and swayed, till the right path
in the middle is almost wholly neglected. 25

Accordingly, our super-supernaturalist friends may be right at


times to reprove the rest of us for not praying for the healing of the
sick diligently and expectantly enough, and unnecessarily
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 290
discounting all reports of the miraculous. While we may be tempted
to blame the excesses in super-supernaturalism, we can never
blame others for being unbiblical, which is true of any kind of anti-
supernaturalism. What we are looking for is a biblical and God-
honoring supernaturalism which neither anti or super-
supernaturalism has the right to claim.

B) Problems with Anti-supernaturalism

B.1) There is a God!

Obviously, the first three of the above types of anti-


supernaturalists have their reasons for denying the miraculous in
Scripture. Atheists, of course, wish to avoid one more evidence for
the existence of a Creator whom they are accountable to. Deists
want to exalt the power and authority of humans like themselves at
the expense of God’s rightful position. The denial of God’s presence
means no miracles and the denial of miracles means no God, and
that is just how they want it to be. A belief in God is prerequisite to
a belief in His miracles, as evidenced by studies which show that
the frequency of these beliefs are essentially the same. No wonder
that a denial of God’s existence or involvement would have the
opposite effect. And this perspective obviously skews their
perception of the world.
While ones like David Hume claimed that the probability of a
miracle is essentially non-existent, we who know the real God also
know that, while miracles may be relatively rare, their existence is
very probable. Accordingly, we can say with H. D. Lewis, “A world
created by God . . . has room for a miracle in it.” 26 Likewise,
Christian philosopher Ronald Nash writes: “Having the right
worldview, that is, viewing the world through the right conceptual
lens, is vital to the proper appraisal of miracle claims and their
significance for our lives.” 27
And because atheistic and deistic anti-supernaturalists leave
something as big as God out of their worldview, they are in a very
limited position to correctly interpret the world at all. If an all-
powerful God exists, then miracles are eminently possible, and
because He loves and cares for His Creation His supernatural
interventions are even probable.
It is only born again Christians who can rightly recognize the
miraculous works of the One only they know. Accordingly, Winfried
Corduan writes:
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 291
There is no good reason to stipulate that being able to
persuade unbelievers or skeptics delineates the single or even
the crucial test for the possibility of recognizing a miracle.
Many observers may fail to recognize the aurora borealis, the
symptoms of diabetes or the invalid character of an AAA-2
categorical syllogism. But that fact does not mean that people
trained to recognize such things are not entitled to make the
identification.
It is quite possible that believers are more expert when it
comes to recognizing miracles because their worldview
enables them to recognize them more easily and accurately.
The fact that someone with a different worldview cannot
recognize miracles need not be fatal to the possibility of any
such recognition. 28

Likewise, spiritually unregenerated people such as atheists and


deists have a God-hating nature which seriously handicaps their
reason, resulting in what we have called elsewhere, “the insanity of
humanity.” 29 However, not only has such regeneration freed up
our minds for the truth about God, but through it we have
experienced our own real miracle. The reason that many anti-
supernaturalists do not believe in miracles is because they have
never experienced one. As Bernard Ramm (1916-1992) put it:
The Christian has had a taste of the power indicated by the
evidences. The power which raised Christ from the dead is the
same power quickening the believer from spiritual death to
spiritual life (Eph. 2: 1 ff.). The power that dispelled the
gloom of cosmic darkness dispels the sinful darkness of the
human heart (II Cor. 4: 1 ff.). The power which took away
the blindness of a Bartimaeus takes away the blindness of
human sin in the believer’s mind. The omniscience of God in
prophecy is tasted by the Christian when he must confess that
he did not know God, but God knew him. The Christian is
partaker of the powers that have been-in the mighty acts of
God in the past-and of the age that shall be. 30

It is interesting to note that any atheist living in the time of the


antichrist will believe that he is God, and will likewise believe he can
do miracles. There will be no skeptics in that day because “God
sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the
lie” (1 Thess 2:11) when the antichrist is “proclaiming himself to
be God” (1 Thess 2:4) and performing “all kinds of . . . miracles,
signs and wonders” (v. 9). 31
The foundational philosophical premise of most anti-
supernaturalism (i.e. there is no God) is unreasonable, and
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 292
impossible for the Christian. Equally unreasonable is the idea that
there are no miracles. The Christian knows better. Perhaps the
greatest problem with a disbelief in miracles is the fact that they
are really happening today. Again, the greatest, most amazing,
and abundant modern miracle is the spiritual one of regeneration,
examples of which we have documented elsewhere. 32 However,
there are parts of the world in which God is allowing some amazing
physical miracles as well, some of which we have noted elsewhere.
33

B.2) Biblical faith in the supernatural is based on miraculous


evidence

Some see no need for miracles to substantiate the claims of


Christianity. Accordingly, Reformed theologian R. C. Sproul writes:
Since the [Immanuel] Kantian watershed consigned miracle to
the realm of the unknowable or incredible, many Christians
have abandoned the debate, unnecessarily surrendering the
weapons of reason and empirical investigation to the arsenals
of the skeptic. Hiding behind a mystical type of evidenceless
"faith," these Christians have believed that rational inquiry into
miracles would be futile at best and impious at worst. They
have substituted credulity for credibility, giving some
justification for the skeptics' contempt for their faith. 34

Likewise, Christian philosopher William Abraham remarks:


It has been objected that the very thought of asking for a
[supernatural] justification of a claim to possess a [divinely
authoritative] revelation is a betrayal of faith. Thus [the
neoorthodox theologian] Reinhold Niebuhr writes: 'Christ
cannot be known as the revelation of God except by faith and
repentance; but a faith not quite sure of itself always hopes to
express its scepticism by establishing the revelatory depth of a
fact through its marvellous character. This type of miracle is
in opposition to true faith. 35

We have demonstrated elsewhere in a discussion regarding the


popularity of fideism, 36 that a biblical conception of faith is based
on evidence, not the lack of it. This is precisely how God made us,
and why He has always provided supernatural authentication for
any divine revelation. 37
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 293
B.3) God judges people based on their response to miracles

However, it must be admitted that this divine authentication is


primarily meant for those who already have a relationship with God.
As we have written elsewhere, miracles are not intended to produce
faith in unbelievers, but rather to strengthen the faith of believers.
38
In fact, God withholds miraculous revelation from some because
it merely results in their greater condemnation. 39
Accordingly, the King said of those who had witnessed His
miracles:
If I had not done among them what no one else did,
they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen
these miracles, and yet they have hated both Me and My
Father. (John 15:22-25; cf. Matt 11:20-27; John 12:37-41)

Here, and in many other statements made by Christ, we see a


balance in a biblical view of the purpose of miracles. First, while it
is true that miracles do not guarantee faith in unbelievers, there is
no denying their effect on some. Secondly, the reason that
miracles do not have a saving effect on people is not because there
is something lacking in the miracles to produce such a result. The
problem is the corrupted and unregenerated heart and mind of
unbelievers. This is, of course, true of the miracle of Creation and
why those who see it are “without excuse” (Rom 1:20) for not
recognizing it as a miracle, and why they will be judged for their
stubbornness. Finally, while we would suggest that many over
emphasize the objective value of miracles as an apologetic to
unbelievers the above statement from Christ should caution anyone
in claiming that His miracles have no apologetic value, because
from God’s perspective, they definitely do, so much so that people
will receive a greater judgment for viewing them and not believing
them.

B.4) God’s miracles intervene in God’s natural laws

Elsewhere in Knowing Our God we have written:


[S]ome strains of anti-supernaturalism deny that divine
miracles violate “natural laws” at all. However, the
supernatural characteristic of miracles need not be interpreted
as a disparagement of Nature, but is actually a recognition of
its God-ordained power. In other words, it is because the
natural processes that God has established in Creation are so
stable and strong that the supernatural intervention of them is
so recognizable and therefore miraculous. 40
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 294
Indeed, the temporary suspension, violation, reversal, and
breaking of natural laws was an obvious and necessary part of
many miracles recorded in Scripture, and for miracles in general.
Of course, pagan philosophers want to deny this. For example, the
very influential seventeenth century Rationalists philosopher
Benedict Spinoza (1632–1677) wrote:
Nature cannot be contravened, but . . . she preserves a fixed
and immutable order. If anyone asserted that God acts in
contravention to the laws of nature, he, ipso facto, would be
compelled to assert that God acted against His own nature-an
evident absurdity. 41

This is nothing less than the worship of Creation rather than the
Creator. Unfortunately, even among orthodox theologians, there is
an unnecessary and unfounded crusade to deny that miracles
momentarily suspend the normal laws of Nature. Accordingly, Dr.
Geisler writes:
Theists define miracles in either a weak sense or a strong
sense. Following Augustine, the weaker definition describes a
miracle as “a portent which is not contrary to nature, but
contrary to our knowledge of nature. . . .” Others, following
Thomas Aquinas, define a miracle in the strong sense of an
event that is outside nature’s power, something only done
through supernatural power. [In this sense] A miracle is a
divine intervention, a supernatural exception to the regular
course of the natural world. 42

Augustine (354–430), of course, popularly wrote in his City of


God (c. 426):
We do, of course, call all portents [miracles] against nature,
but they are not. For how is something against nature that
happens by the will of God? How can this be when the will of
so great a founder is without a doubt the nature of every
created thing? And so a portent is not against nature, but
against the nature which is known. 43

Accordingly, we have already noted the difficulties of Augustine


melding together the natural and supernatural. 44 Here we will
address the erroneous thought that for God to intervene in Nature,
is to act against Himself.
It would seem a great deal of this kind of thinking has come in
response to David Hume’s arguments against miracles in the
treatise noted above. Actually, Hume stated it as a fact that a
miracle would violate the laws of Nature. 45 However, Hume’s real
argument was actually based on a disbelief in the value of historical
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 295
testimony, not that natural laws couldn’t be broken. He essentially
said that such a break in natural laws would be so rare that the
evidence for it, compared with the continual evidence for natural
laws against it, would not be great enough to believe a miracle had
occurred. Therefore, instead of addressing Hume’s skepticism
regarding the value of history, (not to mention the nature of God
and the truth of Scripture) many theologians have attempted to
defend miracles by denying they violate Nature.
For example, the great Baptist theologian A. H. Strong (1836–
1921) wrote:
[Hume states]: “A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature.”
Christian apologists have too often needlessly embarrassed
their argument by accepting Hume's definition. The stigma is
entirely undeserved. If man can support the axe at the
surface of the water while gravitation still acts upon it, God
can certainly, at the prophet's word, make the iron to swim,
while gravitation still acts upon it [cf. 2 Kgs 6:6-7]. 46

Contrary to this very intelligent scholar, it is not an


embarrassment to accept Hume’s definition of a miracle, for it is the
Bible’s own definition. And while Dr. Strong might have been
correct in not interpreting every miracle as a violation of natural
laws, as we will note below, some of those recorded in Scripture
certainly did.
Nonetheless, this apparent mis-reaction to Hume has persisted
in Christian scholarship today, resulting in the Evangelical anti-
supernaturalism described above. For example, Colin Brown writes:
Many of the . . . miraculous events in the OT did not involve
suspension of natural causes. The locusts which plagued
Egypt were blown there by a strong east wind and were blown
away by a strong west wind (Exod. 10: 13, 19). The arrival of
the quails coincided with the spring migration (Exod. 16:13).
[T]he manna . . . may have attracted the quails . . . The
parting of the Red Sea was caused by "a strong east wind"
blowing all night (Exod. 14:21). In such instances the event is
a providential ordering of natural causes for the benefit of the
people of God. 47

Similarly, Millard Erickson writes in his popular, and otherwise


helpful Christian Theology:
[The] suspending or breaking of the laws of nature usually
introduces complications requiring a whole series of
compensating miracles [so?]. In the story of Joshua's long
day (Josh. 10: 12-14), for example, numerous adjustments
would have to be made, of which there is no hint in the
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 296
narrative, if God actually stopped the revolution of the earth
on its axis. [Never mind that Joshua asked specifically that the
sun would stop in the sky and that the text says twice it did].
While this is certainly possible for an almighty God, there is no
indication of it in the astronomical data. [Could not God have
made the necessary “numerous adjustments”?]
There are two other problems, one psychological and one
theological. Psychologically, the apparent disorderliness
introduced into nature by the view that miracles are violations
of natural law unnecessarily predisposes [unregenerated]
scientists to be prejudiced against them. This definition
makes miracles particularly difficult to defend. As a matter of
fact, there are those who categorically reject miracles strictly
on the basis of this definition. And, theologically, this view
seems to make God work against himself, thus introducing a
form of self-contradiction. . .
[W]hen miracles occur, natural forces are countered by
supernatural force. In this view, the laws of nature are not
suspended [really?]. They continue to operate, but
supernatural force is introduced, negating the effect of the
natural law [essentially breaking it it would seem]. In the
case of the [floating] axhead [2 Ki. 6:5-6], for instance, the
law of gravity continued to function in the vicinity of the
axhead, but the unseen hand of God was underneath it,
bearing it up, [breaking, violating, reversing the law of gravity
in that place at that time] just as if a human hand were lifting
it. This view has the advantage of regarding miracles as being
genuinely supernatural or extranatural, but without being
antinatural, as the [other] view makes them to be. 48

Several responses are in order. First, it should be conceded that


not all miracles can clearly be described as violations or
suspensions of Nature. This is why we have elsewhere defined a
miracle as an extraordinary revelation of God’s supernatural power .
. . by which He intervenes in (not necessarily violates) the ordinary
and natural processes He has ordained. For example, one thinks of
the several timely storms recorded in Scripture (cf. Deut 11:13-14,
17; 1 Sam 12:16-18; Jonah 1:4; Amos 4:7). In such cases there is
not a stopping or breaking of natural laws, but rather a use and
manipulation of them such that they occur with a timing, location,
and intensity to serve God’s purposes. Therefore, these
manipulations of natural laws are just as miraculous as any other,
although they do not seem to violate or suspend natural laws.
However, we would suggest that the manipulation of Nature in
some miracles is so great that it should be considered a violation
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 297
and alteration of natural laws. For example, Dr. Brown writes, “The
parting of the Red Sea was caused by ‘a strong east wind’ blowing
all night (Exod. 14:21). In such instances the event is a
providential ordering of [merely] natural causes.” However, the
Red Sea miracle required significantly more than a mere ordering of
Nature, but also an unprecedented altering of it.
In other words, how strong a wind would it have to be to open
up a sea from shore to shore and cause the bottom to be dry (cf.
Exod 14:21-2)? This was like no other “wind” that has ever blown.
No matter how anti-supernaturalists want to massage the attributes
of these events as the biblical text presents them, they are
manipulations of natural laws to the point of temporarily, but
significantly modifying and violating them.
Along these lines, C. S. Lewis (1898–1963) attempted to protect
Christ’s miracles from the accusation of violating Nature by
maintaining that they were simply a case of speeding up natural
laws such as the body’s natural powers of healing. While it may be
true that Christ at times did something similar to what Nature may
do in time, the remarkable acceleration of those laws is a significant
altering of them that anti-supernaturalists are reluctant to admit.
For example, if an automobile is designed to cruise at sixty miles
per hour and one day it travels at six hundred miles per hour, we
would suggest its original design has been significantly altered.
Nonetheless, even if some miracles in Scripture can be
explained as mere mild manipulations of natural laws, there simply
is no honest way to re-explain all of them in this way. For example,
the “sun” will not naturally be “stopped in the middle of the sky
and delayed going down about a full day” (Josh 10:13). Even
the “angel” who “shut the mouths of the lions” (Dan 6:22)
performed a miracle that violated Nature, as hungry lions usually
eat humans if nothing else is available. Water does not have any
chemical properties that will cause it to turn into “choice wine”
(John 2:9-10) or hold the weight of men walking on it (cf. Matt
14:25-29). There is no power in humans or Nature that will enable
a “furious storm” to instantly become “completely calm” (Matt
8:24-26) upon command. Nor is there any power on Earth that will
enable a man who has been flogged, crucified, stabbed, certified by
all present (friend and foe alike) to be dead, and placed in a
guarded tomb; to be seen living and well only three days later by a
multitude of people.
The biblical examples of miracles over the usual laws of Nature
could be multiplied, and none of them could have occurred without
supernatural intervention and the actual suspension and violation of
natural laws. All of Nature serves God in any way He sees fit,
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 298
including either sustaining humans by maintaining natural laws, or
amazing humans by temporarily breaking those same laws.
There is also a claim by anti-antisupernaturalists that a decision
on the Creator’s part to intrude on His Creation is somehow
contradictory to His perfection. As Dr. Erickson said above, the
view that God violates Nature, “seems to make God work against
himself, thus introducing a form of self-contradiction.” On the
contrary, Nature is not God. God is the Person that created the
thing we call Nature, and it is only a pantheistic 49 perspective that
would make the “self-contradiction” Dr. Erickson speaks of possible.
When God violates Nature, then, He is not violating Himself.
God’s miracles do indeed violate, break, reverse, and otherwise
modify natural processes in order to achieve God’s purposes.
Unfortunately, while some great theologians like Augustine have felt
that fact disparages God, others have rightly (in our opinion),
believed it actually glorifies Him. Accordingly, Vernon C. Grounds, a
Chancellor of Denver Seminary wrote:
Undeniably nature has an order, but, fixed and dependable
though it is, the order of nature is not iron-clad, a strait-jacket
in which God finds himself helplessly bound. Biblically viewed,
nature is plastic in the hands of its sovereign Creator. 50

The respected Reformed theologian B. B. Warfield believed that:


“miracles are not merely above nature or our understanding of it,
but against nature, requiring an adequate cause, the Creator of
nature himself.” 51 In addition, Warfield wrote:
It is equally inconceivable that His activities with reference to
it [Nature], or even within it, should be confined to the
operation of the laws which He has ordained for the regulation
of its activities and not of His. What power has this little speck
of derived being to exclude the operation upon it and within it
of that almighty force to whose energy it owes both its
existence and its persistence in being? Have its forces
acquired such strength as to neutralize the power which called
it into being? Or has it framed for itself a crust so hard as to
isolate it from the omnipotence which plays about it and
successfully to resist the power that made it? 52

Likewise, J. I. Packer has stated, “There is nothing irrational


about believing that God who made the world can still intrude
creatively into it.” 53 Similarly, C. S Evans comments:
Sometimes it is argued that a miracle would be a sign of
inconsistency on God's part; God "would not violate the laws
he has made." However, natural laws are not normative
ethical or legal principles that it would be wrong for God to
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 299
violate. Nor does it seem that it would be inconsistent of God
to perform some special action for a special reason on a
special occasion. It is the sign of a brilliant stylist, and not an
imperfection, for a writer to make an exception to a literary
rule that she normally follows, and that a lesser writer may
feel the need to slavishly obey. 54

Along the same lines, James Orr wrote:


The definition of miracle, with Hume and others, as a
'violation' of the laws of nature, is a question-begging and
objectionable one. It suggests a sanctity belonging to the
usual order of nature which is by no means to be attributed to
it, and precludes the view that nature itself, in the divine
purpose, may be subordinate to a higher spiritual order,
whose ends call for an action of God above and beyond what
nature is capable of.
In nature itself one law crosses and modifies the action of
another, and higher laws suspend or control the action of
lower. Mechanical laws are over-ruled by chemical and vital.
Gravitation is counteracted by the raising of the arm in
obedience to an act of will. But nothing in nature is 'violated'
thereby. The whole system of nature, in its reciprocal
relations, is a unity, and all, in the last resort, depends on
God, whose will, guided by His wisdom, is the ultimate law-the
law of all laws, cause in all causes. 55

More recently, the Christian philosopher William Abraham has


agreed that the “classical definition” of miracles is “events which
violate a law of nature.” 56 Elsewhere he explains:
A further worry is that if God intervenes [into Nature], then his
intervention must somehow be capricious and unpredictable.
Now certainly it will not be predictable, for God remains free in
all that he does. It will not, however, be capricious. If God
intervenes, we can be sure that he will do so for some
legitimate intention or purpose. It will, to be sure, often be
very difficult to discern why God intervenes or, for that
matter, why he does not intervene. His ways are not always
our ways or our thoughts his thoughts. But that his action
should be capricious seems on the face of it false. 57

Similarly, we have elsewhere quoted John Gerstner (1914-1996)


who pointed out a common misunderstanding when he writes:
[T]he argument for miracle is not meant to be an argument
against the regularity of nature. It is merely an argument
against the regularity of nature in every particular instance.
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 300
Indeed the argument for miracle rests on the regularity of
nature generally. There is no such thing as supernatural
events except as they are seen in relation to the natural. And
they would not be extraordinary if there were no ordinary
against which background they are seen. 58

Not only are such concessions to anti-supernaturalists


unnecessary in somehow trying to protect God’s character, they are
equally unnecessary in an attempt to impress unbelieving
humanity. We quoted Dr. Erickson above as stating, “the apparent
disorderliness introduced into nature by the view that miracles are
violations of natural law unnecessarily predisposes scientists to be
prejudiced against them.” As demonstrated above (section B.1),
miracles are primarily intended to impress in a preexisting
atmosphere of God given faith. The effort of making erroneous
concessions to unbelievers to try to make miracles more acceptable
to them ignores this truth.
Biblical miracles were indeed complete violations of natural
laws, and we need to recognize the possibility that God intends to
offend the mind of unbelievers with His miracles, not console them
in their sinful state. Such concessions simply result in a lie.
Robert Reymond, Professor of Systematic Theology at Knox
Theological Seminary is rather refreshing regarding particularly
Evangelical anti-supernaturalism when writes:
I have no sympathy with the contention of many theologians
that miracles of power are simply interventions of God into
human affairs in ways which run counter to known or
observable processes but which do not really violate the laws
of nature. Some may be such, but others are clearly contrary
to the laws of nature, such as Jesus' changing of water into
wine, and it seems to me that it is catering too much to
modern man's hostility to the whole idea of the supernatural
so to define biblical miracles that they are emptied of their
supernatural uniqueness.
I believe that the [Westminster] Confession of Faith more
accurately reflects the true situation when it states: "God, in
His ordinary providence, maketh use of means, yet is free to
work without, above, and against them, at His pleasure"
(IV/iii, emphasis supplied). 59

A related error to the denial of the violation of Nature in divine


miracles is a misconception of divine providence. Several respected
Evangelical theologians label supernatural manipulations of Nature
as divine providence, then exclude the miraculous from the idea of
divine providence, and therefore make such actions non-
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 301
supernatural. For example, the rightly respected Christian apologist
Norm Geisler reveals a reluctance to define a miracle as a
supernatural manipulation of natural forces when he writes:
That they [natural laws] are not miracles does not mean
they do not belong to God's special providence. He uses them
and is in control of them. We can be sure that sometimes he
intervenes in their operation in dramatic ways. A fog at
Normandy aided the Allied Forces' invasion of Europe on D-
Day and the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany. Fog has
natural causes, but the timing of this one was an evidence of
God's providence. But it was no miracle. Bullets bouncing off
the chests of Allied soldiers would have been a miracle. . . .
Some events are caused by God indirectly, not directly. That
is, God uses natural laws to accomplish them. These may be
quite remarkable and may stimulate faith, but they are not
supernatural. Robert Muller gathered his English orphans
around the dining table and gave thanks for food they did not
at that moment have to eat. At that time a wagon loaded with
bread broke down in front of the orphanage, and all of it was
given to Muller. That was an act of wonderful providence, but
it was not a miracle. 60

First, there is an erroneous claim here that anything labeled as


divine providence is not miraculous. Accordingly, when God
manipulates “natural laws” it is simply divine providence. As we
wrote elsewhere, “it is important to distinguish between the
supernatural power in miracles from the divine power working in
Nature, if we are to distinguish miracles at all.” 61
We would suggest this same failure to distinguish between God’s
power operating in the ordinary processes of Nature from the
supernatural power that operates in miracles, is a fundamental
error in Wayne Grudem’s discussion of miracles in his Systematic
Theology. In fact, he states clearly that he does not want to define
a miracle as “a different kind of working by God.” 62 More
specifically, Dr. Grudem’s error would seem to be based on an
oversimplified definition of divine providence which is how, “God
preserves, controls, and governs all things.” 63
What Dr. Grudem apparently fails to recognize is that God
“governs all things” through both natural processes implemented
and maintained by His power, and, on rare occasions, supernatural
events which interrupt and manipulate those processes. The former
means of divine governance properly comes under the heading of
providence, but the latter is a miracle, and it is best to distinguish
the two.
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 302
Dr. Grudem confuses the issue by referring to the natural
processes God has implemented as continuous divine
“intervention.” 64 And because he also considers miracles as divine
intervention, therefore failing to distinguish the natural from the
supernatural, he also drops several important attributes from his
definition of a miracle. For example, he rejects the idea that a
miracle is “a direct intervention of God in the world,” 65 or “an
exception to a natural law.” 66 While we agree that the natural
processes that maintain Creation depend on the continual power of
God operating within them (i.e. providence), we suggest that a
miracle can only be noticed because it is “an exception to a natural
law.”

B.5) Scientific advances have not and will not explain away
biblical miracles

As noted above, anti-supernaturalists insist that miracles be


understood merely as operating according to ongoing but unknown
natural laws. Again, Augustine heavily influenced this kind of
thinking. More recently, the influential British philosopher Patrick
Nowell-Smith (1915-2006) has written:
No matter how strange an event someone reports, the
statement that it must have been due to a supernatural agent
cannot be a part of that report. [Just because] no scientist
can at present explain certain phenomena, it does not follow
that the phenomena are inexplicable by scientific methods,
still less that they must be attributed to supernatural agents. .
. . [T]here is still the possibility that science may be able, in
the future, to offer an explanation which, though couched in
quite new terms, remains strictly scientific. 67

This same idea was proposed by the twentieth century


Cambridge philosopher of religion F. R. Tennant when he said that
no one is in a position to claim that certain events are miraculous,
“so long as our scientific knowledge of Nature is inexhaustive.” 68
What is implied here is that future scientific discoveries will
provide natural explanations for miracles, including the biblical
ones. More recently, the philosopher Anthony Flew has said:
The very essence of the work of the scientist demands being
open to new possibilities in observations of nature. If new
observations conflict with present theories, the scientist needs
to revise his or her theories, not blame the event on
something supernatural. Thus the best approach to
understanding an anomalous event, which might otherwise be
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 303
regarded as a miracle, is always to expand our understanding
of the potentialities of nature. Rather than claiming we saw
something supernatural, we should recognize that nature is
capable of doing more than we had expected. And so it
becomes impossible a priori ever to identify an event as a
miracle. 69

Such theories may initially seem to have some value. Except for
the fact that several thousand years later we are still waiting for
believable scientific explanations for the miracles recorded in
Scripture. It would seem such skeptics would have us wait many
more thousands of years expecting a scientist to “naturally” explain
how Christ walked on water and multiplied a little fish and bread to
feed thousands. If they want to wait, they can wait, but any
reasonable person who believes in God will accept the biblical
explanations at face value. In fact, we would suggest that because
God obviously intended such miracles to be supernatural, we can
rest assured that no such undiscovered natural processes even
exist.
As C. S. Lewis wrote in his study on miracles:
You and I may not agree, even by the end of this book, as to
whether miracles happen or not. But at least let us not talk
nonsense. Let us not allow vague rhetoric about the march of
science to fool us into supposing that the most complicated
[modern] account of birth, in terms of genes and
spermatozoa, leaves us any more convinced than we were
before that nature does not send babies to young women who
'know not a man'. 70

We will add that there is a tendency as well to allow modern


science to increasingly dilute miracles as well. It is suggested that
just because we think we have figured out how something works, it
necessarily ceases to be a miracle. However, the severe limits of
scientific discovery discussed elsewhere argue against this. 71
Modern botanical research has done nothing to diminish even
the “ordinary miracle” of a daffodil. While scientists have been able
to put a label on the process by which the flower produces its
energy (photosynthesis), they have no clue as to how such a
remarkable process ever developed, and few clues as to how it
really works, and they certainly cannot mechanically duplicate it.
The honest scientist, whether they are studying plants, animals, or
the stars, will admit that every “discovery” of what they think is
true, only produces dozens of more questions, many of which will
never be answered this side of meeting the Creator.
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 304
While modern science still has not given a plausible explanation
for any of the biblical miracles, nor do we have reason to ever
expect them to, the suggestion that they may some day do so does
not discount such miracles. While we have no evidence for it, God
may increase the extraordinariness of miracles to match the
technological advance of the people He is purposing to effect. Just
because a miracle may be able to be explained by future science,
does not mean that God did not intend it to be perceived as
supernatural at the time. We have quoted Bernard Ramm
elsewhere concerning humanity’s “alphabet of power” by which they
readily recognize a miracle:
Christian evidences deals with the action of God in
transcending the alphabets of power of the various cultures
and periods into which his revelation came. When God so
transcends an alphabet of power, he has prepared the
situation. God has controlled the alphabet of power of the
people to whom he shall speak; he has chosen, furthermore,
to act supernaturally in connection with his plans of revelation
and redemption. 72

Along these lines, Sproul, Gerstner, and Lindsay have written:


Suppose by the year 2000 scientists are able to revive dead
bodies. That is not the same thing as saying that in A.D. 29 it
was a natural phenomenon to revivify a dead body. If the
scientist has achieved that ability by A.D. 2000, does that
prove that it was not a supernatural event two thousand years
earlier? Because one could resurrect a body in A.D. 2000 by
natural means does not imply that that was the case two
millennia earlier. Manifestly, raising a body from the dead, as
Christ's body was raised, was something which could have
been done-at that time in any case-only by the immediate
exercise of divine power. Whatever scientists may be able to
do in the future could hardly disprove a past miracle.
Something may be a miracle in A.D. 29 that is not a miracle in
A.D. 2029. 73

A related example would be the relationship between the virgin


birth of Christ and our ability to artificially inseminate women today.
While we can make virgins pregnant today “without a man,” as
Lewis put it above, no doctor knowing the complexities of such a
procedure today would claim that it could have been done two
thousand years ago, and apart from the artificial means involved in
invitro fertilization.
We have also seen that particularly Evangelical anti-
supernaturalists have downgraded Christ’s miracles by attributing
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 305
them to some sort of super knowledge, rather than super power.
There is no reason to believe this, whether biblically, scientifically,
or reasonably. Nonetheless, John Gerstner remarks:
[I]f Christ had had the kind of knowledge which this theory
attributes to him, such knowledge would have been as
miraculous as the miracles it attempts to explain away. For
centuries before and for centuries after, no other person but
this solitary, untutored Jew knew how to walk on water.
Modern science has performed many amazing feats in this
century, but it still is nowhere nearer than it was in Jesus' day
to multiplying loaves and fishes by a mere word. 74

Finally, many have suggested that in our own more


technologically advanced world, that the miracles of Christ, the
Prophets, and Apostles would not have the same effect. More
specifically, the claim is that these miracles were believed because
the people were especially ignorant or gullible. This was one of
David Hume’s foundational premises for denying the existence of
miracles.
In reply, Dr. Geisler writes: “In both New and Old Testament
contexts, people did not show naïve acceptance of every alleged
word or act from God. Like moderns, they wanted proof.” 75 Along
the same lines, Stephen T. Davis says:
The implication seems to be that the people of New
Testament times were much more backward and superstitious
than we are; that is why they were prepared to believe in
miracles at the drop of a hat. They just didn't have the great
benefit of our advanced scientific knowledge and reasoning
power.
But surely this is misleading. If belief in miracles was so
commonplace during ignorant times like the first century, why
were such biblical miracles as Jesus' turning water into wine or
Jesus' being raised from the dead taken to be so significant?
It seems that the idea of water being turned into wine or of a
dead man living again was no less intellectually scandalous to
first-century folk than it is to us. (Note the reaction of the
apostle Thomas to talk of the resurrection of Jesus in John 20,
or of the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers to that same sort of
talk in Acts 17.) 76

In any age of human existence, it is “The fool [who] says in


his heart, “There is no God” (Ps 14:1), and likewise denies His
miraculous deeds.
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 306

Extras & Endnotes

A Devotion to Dad

Father, we exalt in your ability and willingness to show yourself


mighty in the miracles you have done. From Creation to
Resurrection, you have demonstrated Yourself worthy of our
worship. Help us to defend the miracles of Scripture against those
who would steal Your glory by attacking them. And help us to
treasure the miracles recorded in Scripture as a revelation of what
kind of God we serve.

Gauging Your Grasp

1) How do we define anti-supernaturalism?

2) What are the distinguishing characteristics of the different types


of anti-supernaturalism we discuss?

3) Who are some influential Christian scholars and theologians who


seem to go to great lengths to give natural explanations for the
miracles in the Bible?

4) What is your opinion of the more “natural” explanations for the


miracles recorded in Scripture?

5) What are some of the unfortunate consequences of anti-


supernaturalism toward the miracles recorded in Scripture.

6) What are some of our arguments against anti-supernaturalism?


Would you have additional ones?

7) Why do some anti-supernaturalists want to deny that divine


miracles violate natural laws? What is our response to this
perspective? What is your response?

8) Why do we claim that no scientific understandings will


undermine the purpose He has for the miracles recorded in
Scripture? Do you agree or disagree?
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 307
Recommended Reading

 C. S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study (Macmillan, 1947).

 In Defense of Miracles, Douglas Geivett, Gary R. Habermas, eds.


(Intervarsity, 1997). Several good articles concerning the more
philosophical questions regarding miracles.

 Jesus the Miracle Worker: A Historical and Theological Study,


Graham Twelftree, (Intervarsity, 1999). A reviewer in JETS
writes:
Twelftree sets forth four objectives. He seeks to identify (a)
how the Gospel writers understood Jesus’ miracles; (b) how
Jesus most likely understood them (these two objectives are
covered through part 3); (c) to what extent the miracle stories
reflect “what actually happened”; and (d) what the
implications are for the quest for the historical Jesus (covered
in the book’s final parts). . . .
Twelftree has done admirably in presenting just such a
corrective, and we are in his debt for this magnificent
treatment of the intricate and intrinsic relationship of Gospel
miracles to the historical Jesus. 77

 Yun, Brother and Paul Hattaway, The Heavenly Man: The


Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun
(Monarch Books, 2002)- A good book that honestly chronicles
modern day miracles with biblical circumstances and
characteristics, without a super-supernaturalist or mega
mystical agenda.

Publications & Particulars

1
Norm Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Baker, 1999),
521.
2
Reference unavailable.
3
Anthony Flew, “Neo-Humean Arguments About The Miraculous” in In
Defense of Miracles, Douglas Geivett, Gary R. Habermas, eds.
(Intervarsity, 1997), 45.
4
Quoted by Geisler, 457.
5
For further discussion of David’s Hume’s historical arguments against
miracles see chapter 2.7.
6
For further discussion of deism and rationalism see chapter 2.10.9.
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 308

7
Geivett and Habermas, 11.
8
Geisler, 521.
9
Norm Geisler, Introduction to Christian Philosophy (Baker, 1980), 262.
10
Rudolph Bultmann, “The New Testament and Mythology” in Kerygma and
Myth, ed. Hans Werner Bartsch (Harper and Row, 1961), 5. However,
Geivett and Habermas note:
While the last few decades of the twentieth century have witnessed
the efflorescence of various approaches to the study of miracles,
much of recent critical theological thought has been more open to
some sense of God's acting in history. . . . One notable exception to
this trend is the position adopted by the controversial Jesus Seminar.
Acknowledging the need for further research into the historical Jesus,
these scholars favor a return to a mythical approach to the Gospels,
more in concert with the methodologies of Strauss and Bultmann.
(13).
11
J. I. Packer, Concise Theology (Tyndale House, 1993), 58.
12
Excerpt from section 4.13.B.
13
James Orr, Revelation and Inspiration (Eerdmans, 1952), 131-3.
14
Colin Brown, “Miracle,” New International Dictionary of New Testament
Theology (NIDNT) Colin Brown ed., 4 vols. (Zondervan, 1986), 2:628.
15
Colin Brown, “Miracle,” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
(ISBE), Geoffrey W. Bromiley ed., 4 vols., (Eerdmans, 1988), 3:372. It
is somewhat difficult to ascertain what Dr. Brown believes as, to his
credit, he remarks in his book, Miracles and the Critical Mind (Eerdmans,
1984), that, “I have to confess that I am more than ever convinced that
we cannot have Christianity without the miracle-working Jesus of the four
Gospels.” (vii).
16
Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed., (Baker, 1998), 432.
17
James D. G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit: A Study of the Religious and
Charismatic Experience of Jesus and the First Christians as Reflected in
the New Testament (Westminster Press, 1975), 71-2.
18
For further discussion of rationalism see chapter 2.9.
19
For further discussion of divine authentication see sections 3.1.C-D and
7.1.B.5.
20
Benjamin B. Warfield, “Christian Supernaturalism” in The Works of
Benjamin B. Warfield, reprint, 10 vols. (Baker, 2000), IX:29.
21
Gordon H. Clark, “Miracles, History, and Natural Law,” in The Evangelical
Quarterly, 1940, Volume XII, p. 24.
22
For further discussion of the process of saving faith see chapters 4.16;
6.2-3
23
Excerpt from section 10.1.B
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 309

24
Many of the abuses, frauds, and doctrinal errors of super-
supernaturalism have been detailed by John MacArthur in Charismatic
Chaos (Zondervan Publishing House, 1992) and even the Charismatic
Bible teacher Hank Hanegraaff in Counterfeit Revival (Word, 1997).
25
Jonathan Edwards, Treatise Concerning Religious Affections,
introduction; online at www.ccel.org.
26
H. D. Lewis, Philosophy of Religion (English Universities Press, 1965),
303.
27
Ronald Nash, “Miracles & Conceptual Systems” in Geivett and Habermas,
116.
28
Winfried Corduan, “Recognizing a Miracle” in Geivett and Habermas, 107.
29
For further discussion regarding the effect of the unregenerated sinful
nature on the epistemological abilities of humans see chapters 4.12-14.
30
Bernard Ramm in Revelation and the Bible: Contemporary Evangelical
Thought, Carl F. H. ed. (Baker, 1958), 258.
31
For further discussion of the very real supernatural nature of the
antichrist’s miracle working see chapter 10.6.
32
For examples of the supernatural power of the spiritual regeneration that
only occurs in conjunction with the Christian Gospel see applicable
sections of Book 5: Biblical Apologetics.
33
For examples of modern day miracles see esp. chapter 10.2.
34
R.C. Sproul in Miracles and Modern Thought, Norm Geisler ed. (Probe
Ministries, 1982), 155.
35
William Abraham, Divine Revelation and the Limits of Historical Criticism
(Oxford, 1982), 167.
36
For further discussion of fideism see chapter 2.10.
37
For further discussion of the need for objective evidence for biblical faith
see chapters 6.12-14.
38
For further discussion of the fact that divine miracles are especially
intended for believers rather than unbelievers see section 11.6.E.
39
For further discussion regarding the response of the unregenerate to
miracles see section 4.13.B.
40
Excerpt from section 10.2.A.6.
41
Benedict Spinoza, A Theologico-Political Treatise, trans. by R. H. M.
Elwes (Dover, 1951).
42
Geisler, BECA, 450.
43
Saint Augustine, City of God, 12, 21.8; online at www.ccel.org.
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 310

44
For further discussion of the importance of distinguishing between the
natural and supernatural see section 10.2.A.6.
45
Webster’s defines “nature” is several ways including, 1) “a creative and
controlling force in the universe,” and 2) “the external world in its
entirety.” (789). Of course a Christian world view would only accept the
latter, and this is all we mean by the term.
46
Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology, 3 Vols. (Judson, 1907, 1953),
121.
47
Brown, NIDNT, 2:628. It seems a little contradictory for Dr. Brown to
consistently say that the miracles of the Bible were recognized as such
because they, “differed radically from [the observers’] expectations based
on the normal course of nature” (281), but then to insist that the Bible
does “stress” that such phenomena are not “violations of nature” (Ibid.).
48
Erickson, 433.
49
Geisler writes concerning pantheism:
Means all ("pan") is God ("theism"). It is the worldview held by most
Hindus, many Buddhists, and other New Age religions. It is also the
worldview of Christian Science, Unity, and Scientology. According to
pantheism, God "is all in all." God pervades all things, contains all
things, subsumes all things, and is found within all things. Nothing
exists apart from God, and all things are in some way identified with
God. The world is God, and God is the world. But more precisely, in
pantheism all is God, and God is all. (BECA, 580)
50
Wycliffe Dictionary of Theology (WDT), Everett F. Harrison, Geoffrey W.
Bromiley, and Carl F. Henry eds., (Hendrickson, 1960, 1999), 357.
51
John H. Gerstner, “Warfield’s Case for Biblical Inerrancy” in God’s
Inerrant Word, John Warwick Montgomery ed. (Bethany Fellowship,
1974), 125.
52
Warfield, IX:35.
53
Packer, 58.
54
C. S. Evans, Faith Beyond Reason (Edinburgh University Press, 1998),
58.
55
Orr, 112
56
William Abraham, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Prentice-
Hall, 1985), 153.
57
Ibid., 198
58
Gerstner, 30-1.
59
Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith
(Thomas Nelson, 1998), 409.
10.12: Anti-supernaturalism 311

60
Geisler, BECA 472-3. On the contrary, we would suggest that such
apparently supernatural manipulations of Nature are miracles. In fact,
elsewhere Geisler is willing to call such events a “class two” miracle,
something that R. F. Holland calls a “contingency” miracle, and W.
Corduan refers to as a “constellation” miracle.
61
Excerpt from section 10.2.A.6.
62
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994), 356.
63
Ibid., 355.
64
Ibid.
65
Ibid.
66
Ibid., 356.
67
M. Nowell-Smith as cited in New Essays in Philosophy Theology, Anthony
Flew and Alasdaire MacIntyre eds. (Macmillan, 1955), 246-8.
68
Brown, Critical Mind, 219.
69
Corduan, 100.
70
C. S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study (New York: Macmillan,
1947), 59.
71
For a fuller discussion of science from a Christian perspective see 2.5.B.
72
Bernard Ramm, Henry, Bible, 261.
73
R. C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsey, Classical Apologetics: A
Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional
Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1984), 283.
74
Gerstner, 38.
75
Geisler, BECA, 454.
76
Stephen T. Davis, “God’s Actions” in Geivett and Habermas, 174.
77
Paul Copan, JETS 44:2 (June 2001), 337-8.
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 313

Chapter 10.13

Miracles & Super-supernaturalism


A Monumental & Divisive Delusion

Table of Topics

A) Basic Beliefs of Super-supernaturalism

A.1) Defining super-supernaturalism

A.2) “There is an abundance of miracles occurring today”

A.3) “Christianity is ineffective without an outpouring of


miracles”

A.4) “There is something wrong with Christians who are not


experiencing miracles”

B) The Primary Source of Super-supernaturalism: The


“Charismatic” Movement

B.1) Defining charismaticism

B.2) Charismaticism vs. historicism

B.3) “Perhaps the single most significant development in


twentieth-century Christianity”

C) The Seriousness of Super-supernaturalism

Extras & Endnotes

Table 10.13: The Four Views of Miraculous Gifts


10.13: Super-supernaturalism 314

Primary Points

 In fact, the greatest and most important uniqueness of


“charismatic” churches over other Christian churches is not
their love or holiness or evangelistic effectiveness, but merely
their claim that God has uniquely restored the miraculous
gifts to them after over 1600 years of absence.
 Only in the last one tenth of one percent of Church history
has super-supernaturalism gained any significant acceptance
in the Church, which is why we refer to non-super-
supernaturalists as historicists.
 Super-supernaturalism claims almost 500 million followers
world-wide.
 Basic beliefs of super-supernaturalism include: 1) there is a
multitude of physical miracles occurring in the world today, 2)
such physical miracles are essential to the effectiveness of
Christianity in our world today, and 3) it is because of some
moral or spiritual deficiency in non-super-supernaturalists
(Western) churches that they are not experiencing what the
super-supernaturalists apparently are.
 Super-supernaturalism is the unbiblical and harmful over-
expectation of, and over-dependence on, miracles. This
includes the belief that miraculous gifts and extraordinary
means of revelation apart from Scripture are regularly
operating in the modern Church.
 Historicism reflects the fact that for about 1600 years of
Church history, the universal belief and practice of God’s
people was opposed to all of the uniquenesses that the
“charismatic” movement claims today.
 Super-supernaturalism has a very difficult time explaining
why the cessation of these gifts lasted for so many centuries,
and have now been restored only to them.
 Super-supernaturalists also refuse to admit, or take seriously
enough, is that the modern versions of the miraculous gifts
they claim, do not match the attributes of their biblical
counterparts.
 Although the issues regarding super-supernaturalism are
serious, it must be kept in mind that this debate is, for the
most part, between authentic believers in Jesus Christ.
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 315

Primary Points
continued

 In the debate over super-supernaturalism there are only two


options: 1) either historicists Christians and churches have
missed out on the biggest outpouring of miraculous power
ever in the history of the Church because of their lack of faith
and zeal, or 2) super-supernaturalists Christians and churches
are guilty of the most divisive and demonic deception that has
ever occurred among God’s people.
 The solution to this debate must be based on the proper
interpretation of Scripture, not on human experiences.
 One could not point to an issue throughout all of American
Church history that has divided more churches than disputes
over super-supernaturalists doctrine and practices.
 Our super-supernaturalist friends have misinterpreted both
the Bible and their experiences.
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 316

A) Basic Beliefs of Super-supernaturalism

A.1) Defining super-supernaturalism

In the previous chapter our concern was the unfounded


skepticism that people have regarding the supernatural nature of
the miraculous events recorded in Scripture. Here, our concern is
the unfounded sensationalism concerning miracles and miracle
working outside of those recorded in Scripture. While some in the
Church may suffer from anti-supernaturalism regarding miracles in
Scripture, many more have fallen into super-supernaturalism,
claiming modern miracles and miracle working in an abundance that
rivals the days when Christ walked the Earth.
Of course we believe God is doing all kinds of miracles today,
and have documented some throughout Knowing Our God (KOG). 1
In fact, considering all the things we believe to be miracles (i.e.
conversion, love, spiritual serving gifts, exorcisms, demonic
possession, etc.) as discussed elsewhere, some might accuse us of
being super-supernaturalists. 2 And when it comes to the miracles
recorded in Scripture, and the born-again experience throughout
Church history, we are. However, when people are claiming that
they are working miracles to the same degree as OT Prophets,
Christ, and the Apostles, we are alarmed at the heresy involved in
such claims and the harm it will do to the Church.
Elsewhere in KOG we define a miracle as: an extraordinary
revelation of God’s supernatural power or communication by which
He intervenes in the ordinary and natural processes He has
ordained because they are not sufficient to accomplish or
communicate His will. 3 An important concept here is that God has
ordained natural processes that are so sufficient for accomplishing
His will, that miraculous interventions are relatively rarely needed.
At the core of super-supernaturalism is a disdain for those God-
ordained natural processes.
Accordingly, the great Evangelical theologian J. I. Packer has
written:
Super-supernaturalism is my word for that way of affirming
the supernatural which exaggerates its discontinuity with the
natural. Reacting against flat-tire versions of Christianity,
which play down the supernatural and so do not expect to see
God at work, the super-supernaturalist constantly expects
miracles of all sorts--striking demonstrations of God's
presence and power--and he is happiest when he thinks he
sees God acting contrary to the nature of things, so
confounding common sense. For God to proceed slowly and
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 317
by natural means is to him a disappointment, almost a
betrayal.
But his undervaluing of the natural, regular, and ordinary
shows him to be romantically immature and weak in his grasp
of the realities of creation and providence as basic to God's
work of grace. Charismatic thinking tends to treat glossolalia
[speaking in tongues], in which mind and tongue are
deliberately and systematically disassociated, as the paradigm
case of spiritual activity and to expect all God's work in and
around his children to involve similar discontinuity with the
ordinary regularities of the created world. This almost
inevitably makes for super-supernaturalism. 4

Essentially, we define super-supernaturalism as the unbiblical


and harmful expectation of, and dependence on, miracles. This
includes the belief that miraculous gifts and extraordinary extra-
biblical means of revelation such as dreams and visions are
regularly operating in the modern Church.

A.2) “There is an abundance of miracles occurring today”

This has led to three primary tenets of super-supernaturalism


which are reflected in the following quote from a foremost promoter
of super-supernaturalism, the respected Christian apologist J. P.
Moreland. In a recent book, Dr. Moreland claimed that God healed
his scratchy throat one day in answer to prayer. This may be true.
However, he goes on to claim several other things that would seem
to characterize super-supernaturalism:
But there's something else looming in the shadows of my
healed throat, and it is so wonderful, so powerful, so real, that
nothing can contain or stop it. According to every credible
statistic available, it [the occurrence of physical miracles 5] is
bursting forth at a breathtaking rate all over the world. If we
Western Christians want to be a part of it, we will discover in a
fresh, new way that it is a main part of the solution for the
crisis of our age. 6

Here, Dr. Moreland touches on three primary beliefs of super-


supernaturalists: 1) There is a multitude of physical miracles
occurring in the world today, 2) Such physical miracles are essential
to the effectiveness of Christianity in our world today, and 3) It is
because of some moral or spiritual deficiency in particularly Western
churches that they are not experiencing miracles like the super-
supernaturalists apparently are.
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 318
On the first tenet of super-supernaturalism, several leaders
within its ranks have claimed the abundance of physical miracles
uniquely among them and around the world. Against such a claim,
we have discussed the actual rarity of miracles in both biblical and
modern times. 7 Nonetheless, super-supernaturalist Jim Rutz has
said:
Since about the mid 1980s, a tide of miracles has begun to
engulf the entire planet. As time goes on, miracles are
multiplying like loaves and fishes. 8

There is obviously a great deal of debate in the Church today


about how many claims to miracles among super-supernaturalists
are actually true. For those who would suggest Mr. Rutz is
exaggerating, Dr. Moreland answers: “One reason people don’t
know about these matters is that they do not share miracle stories
with others when they experience them.” 9 This would seem to be
his best answer to anyone who would doubt the super-supernatural
claim that an abundance of miracles are occurring among them.
Are all the people who truly experience a miracle from God usually
prone to keep it to themselves? Not in our experience.
While most would think Mr. Rutz is exaggerating, Dr. Moreland
nonetheless has attempted in recent writings to make miracles
seem abundant. His primary tactic is to describe supposed miracle
after supposed miracle around the world. However, it would seem
that in order to share the best stories, he had to repeat three of
them in his latest book from previous books. 10 Evidently, there
hasn’t been any better stories over the last few years. If amazing
miracles are so abundant, why the redundancy?
In our opinion, Dr. Moreland, like Mr. Rutz, and all super-
supernaturalists, resort to exaggeration in order to support their
first tenet: miracles are abundant. For example, after sharing the
story of a Muslim man in a remote Muslim country receiving a vision
telling him to go to a certain place to hear the Gospel, Dr. Moreland
writes, “Supernatural events like these are happening all over the
world, but they also happen quite regularly in this country.” 11 We
don’t believe so.
Along the same lines, John Wimber (1934-1997), founder of the
Vineyard Association of Churches, claimed some years before he
himself contracted cancer:
Today we see hundreds of people healed every month in [our]
. . . services. Many more are healed as we pray for them in
hospitals. On the streets and in homes. The blind see; the
lame walk; the deaf hear. Cancer is disappearing! 12
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 319
Unfortunately, as we demonstrate elsewhere, actual research
into Mr. Wimber’s claims prove that he was lying. 13
Because such investigations into the claims of super-
supernaturalists have exposed consistent exaggeration, 14 it has
become more common to hear predictions of an upcoming
outpouring of miracles. Accordingly, Mr. Wimber had said:
We are entering a time in history in which the ability to
perform mighty deeds is going to become somewhat
commonplace. . . . There are already in Korea and Japan
religious groups that do not relate to Christ at all who are
healing the sick and casting out demons and performing
miracles over nature. 15

Likewise, John Arnott of the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church


has said:
We are currently in a time similar to the ministry of John the
Baptist and will soon be coming into a time resembling the
ministry of Jesus where powerful signs, wonders, and miracles
will take place. 16

The well known super-supernaturalist Benny Hinn is typical


when he claims:
The day is coming, I tell you this, I know it like I know my
name, the day is coming there will not be one sick saint in the
body of Christ. Nobody will be, nobody’s gonna be, no one will
be raptured up out of a wheelchair. No one will be raptured
out of a hospital bed. You’re all gonna be healed before the
rapture. 17

Finally, the popular author Dallas Willard has said:


[W]e should come to a point that we expect to see the
miraculous outbreak of the Kingdom take place as an
“ordinary” part of our “extraordinary” Christian lives. 18

A.3) “Christianity is ineffective without an outpouring of


miracles”

While there is obviously the claim of a current or upcoming


outpouring of miracles in super-supernaturalism (tenet 1), there is
also the belief that Christianity is rather ineffective without such an
outpouring (tenet 2). For example, the Pentecostal NT scholar
Gordon Fee equates physical miracles and gifts with experiencing
more of the Holy Spirit and claims their necessity when he writes:
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 320
In recapturing the dynamic life of the Spirit there will also be
the renewal of the charismata, not for the sake of being
charismatic, but for the building up of the people of God for
their life together and in the world. . . . I also believe that
that perspective . . . must become our own, if we are going to
make any difference at all in the so-called post-Christian,
post-modern era. 19

One wonders what the leaders of the Protestant Reformation in


16th century Europe, or the Great Awakening in 18 th century
America, might have to say about such a notion. As we discuss
elsewhere, they saw great and real revivals of Christianity and were
rather convinced that super-supernaturalism was a demonic
distraction, instead of being integral to the effectiveness of the
Gospel. 20 Nonetheless, the second principle of super-
supernaturalism is that Christians today need to be working
miracles like the King did in order to accomplish God’s purposes on
Earth. And they’re not talking about the spiritual miracle of
regeneration.

A.4) “There is something wrong with Christians who are not


experiencing miracles”

Thirdly, then, inherent in super-supernaturalism is the claim


that there is something wrong with Christians and churches that are
not experiencing miracles like they supposedly are. There is at
least the indirect but clear implication that super-supernaturalists
are somehow spiritually superior to others because they are
uniquely exercising the faith and virtue necessary to experience
more miracles from God in their churches. Along these lines, the
popular super-supernaturalist author Jack Deere writes:
Apostasy, legalism, and lukewarm faith are serious problems
in the church today. These things significantly hinder God’s
miraculous ministry among contemporary believers. However,
I believe that there is another factor that is a greater
hindrance than all three of these put together. I am referring
to the present unbelief that is rampant in the church. . . . The
surprising thing to me today is not how little God heals among
the conservative [i.e. non-super-supernaturalist] evangelical
church, but that he heals at all. So much of the church is so
filled with unbelief that I am truly amazed that anyone ever
gets healed. 21
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 321
The obvious implication is that wherever more miracles are
supposedly happening (i.e. the super-supernatural churches), the
people there possess more faith and suffer less from, “Apostasy,
legalism, and lukewarm faith” and “unbelief” in God. One might be
tempted to be offended by such an arrogant statement, particularly
when it is absolutely untrue. And in terms of “apostasy” one may
conclude from subsequent chapters of KOG that Mr. Deere is
pointing his finger in the wrong direction.
Nonetheless, the third tenet of super-supernaturalism is clear:
the reason miraculous healing is not occurring in the churches to
the degree it could is because of something lacking in the Church.
The unavoidable conclusion of this is that the reason miraculous
gifts have been restored only to super-supernaturalist churches
after over 1600 years of absence, 22 is that these churches are
superior in Christian virtues to not only churches throughout that
long history, but the historicist churches today.

B) The Primary Source of Super-supernaturalism:


The “Charismatic” Movement

B.1) Defining charismaticism

Dr. Packer’s mention of “Charismatic thinking” as synonymous


with super-supernaturalism is expected, considering the beliefs,
practices, and claims of this movement. In fact, the greatest and
most important uniqueness of “Charismatic” churches over other
Christian churches is not their love or holiness or evangelistic
effectiveness, but merely their claim that God has uniquely restored
the miraculous gifts of tongues and healing to them after centuries
of their absence. Accordingly, the belief, practice, and promotion of
super-supernaturalism are almost exclusively found among
“Charismatic” churches. 23
By charismaticism we are referring to the movement that began
with the Pentecostals in the early 1900’s, spread into
denominational churches in the 1960’s and 70’s, and has merged
with what is referred to as the Third Wave (supposedly of the Holy
Spirit) churches today. Pentecostal churches include Assembly of
God, Church of God, Open Bible, Apostolic, Foursquare Gospel, and
Full Gospel. Third Wave churches include Vineyard and a variety of
independent congregations.
The foremost American personalities in charismaticism include
Oral Roberts, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert, Kenneth Hagin, Pat
Robertson, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Myers, C. Peter
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 322
Wagner, John Wimber, and Ted Haggard. While there are some
differences in the beliefs of these leaders of “charismatic”
Christianity, they all hold to the essence of it: the return of the
miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, including healers and tongues,
after their absence from the Church for about 1600 years.
Wayne Grudem, formerly a Professor of Systematic Theology at
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a “charismatic” himself,
concisely summarizes the history and makeup of the debate
concerning this issue:
Pentecostals refers to any denomination or group that traces
its historical origin back to the Pentecostal revival that began
in the United States in 1901, and that holds the following
doctrines: (1) All the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the
New Testament are intended for today; (2) baptism in the
Holy Spirit is an empowering experience subsequent to
conversion and should be sought by Christians today; and (3)
when baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs, people will speak in
tongues as a “sign” that they have received this experience. . .
.
Charismatic, on the other hand, refers to any groups that
trace their historical origin to the Charismatic renewal
movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s and that seek to practice
all the spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament
(including prophecy, healing, miracles, tongues, interpretation,
and distinguishing between spirits). . . . Charismatics by and
large have refrained from forming their own denominations,
but view themselves as a force for renewal within existing
Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. . . .
In the 1980’s a third renewal movement arose, a movement
called The Third Wave [of the Holy Spirit apparently]. . . .
Third Wave people encourage the equipping of all believers to
use New Testament spiritual gifts today and say that the
proclamation of the gospel should ordinarily be accompanied
by “signs, wonders, and miracles” [i.e. “power evangelism”]. .
. . Though they believe the gift of tongues exists today, they
do not emphasize it to the extent that Pentecostals and
Charismatics do [but rather, prophecy has come to the fore]. 24

We thank God for all He has done through the “charismatic”


movement, and for the dear Christian brothers and sisters who
would claim membership in it. However, often throughout KOG we
refrain from referring to this movement as “charismatic,” because
this implies a uniqueness and even superiority in Christian grace
(charis), and by further implication, a superior possession or
experience of the Holy Spirit.
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 323
On the contrary, surely no right-minded “charismatic” would
desire to claim such a superiority over their Christian brothers and
sisters, especially since they cannot demonstrate one. Biblically
speaking, being “led by the Spirit,” experiencing His power, and
living “not under law” but by “grace [charis]” is most clearly
manifested in the “fruit of the Spirit” which the Apostle Paul
describes as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:4, 18, 22-3).
“Charismatic” Christians in general are not superior in these virtues
of love and holiness compared to other Christians, and these virtues
are the real essence of Christian charisma, and being empowered
by the Holy Spirit, making all obedient Christians true
“charismatics,” not just a particular sect.
As we have said, the greatest and most important uniqueness of
“charismatic” churches over other Christian churches is not their
love, holiness, or evangelistic effectiveness, but rather an emphasis
on and practice of: 1) emotional worship, 2) speaking and/or
praying in an obscure tongue, 3) claims to direct divine revelation
through spiritual gifts such as prophecy, and 4) claims to a greater
abundance of miracles in general through the gifts of healing and
miracle working.
Therefore, throughout KOG we use the terms emotionalism (see
chapters 4.8-11), glossaism (Gr. glossa: “tongue,” see Book 12:
The Truth About Tongues), prophetism (see Book 9: God’s
Prophets), and super-supernaturalism (see chapters 10.14-16) to
refer to these distinctives respectively, while recognizing that they
may exist elsewhere as well. Accordingly, we believe this allows us
to address the areas of concern we have regarding the movement,
and avoid speaking critically of the movement as a whole, which
has many good, although not unique, attributes as well.
Likewise, we refrain from referring to those Christians who
would differ from “charismatics” as “non-charismatics,” erroneously
implying again that the latter is somehow lacking in grace or God-
given spiritual gifts. Rather, those who oppose the bizarre worship
of emotionalism, the obscure utterances of glossaism, the extra-
biblical revelations of prophetism, and the miracle-a-minute
mindset of super-supernaturalism are better labeled as historicists.
This reflects the fact that for about 1600 years of Church history,
the universal belief and practice of God’s people was opposed to all
of the uniquenesses that the “charismatic” movement claims today.
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 324
B.2) Charismaticism vs. historicism

A recent book on the topic of miracle gifts is entitled Are


Miraculous Gifts for Today? The editor Wayne Grudem divides the
debate into four camps: 1) cessationist, 2) open but cautious, 3)
charismatic/Pentecostal, and 4) Third Wave. As demonstrated
above, the differences between the latter two (three) are not worth
discussion and both “charismatics,” Pentecostals and Third Wave
churches share a super-supernaturalist mindset.
The “open but cautious” view is an interesting one. This is Dr.
Grudem’s label for those he describes as follows:
These people have not been convinced by the cessationist
arguments that relegate certain gifts to the first century, but
they are not really convinced by the doctrine or practice of
those who emphasize such gifts today either. They are open
to the possibility of miraculous gifts today, but they are
concerned about the possibility of abuses that they have seen
in groups that practice these gifts. . . . I suspect it is the
position held by the majority of evangelicals today, at least in
the United States. 25

Several responses are in order. First, it is unfortunate that the


cessationist position has been narrowly defined to “relegate certain
gifts to the first century.” It is often also defined as stating that the
miraculous gifts could not operate anywhere today. Accordingly,
this view has several weaknesses. One, it can be proven that the
miraculous gifts such as prophecy and healing extended into the
fourth century. Two, nobody should put God in a box, and it should
always be admitted that God can do anything He wants. Thirdly,
this cessationist position is very politically incorrect in a world
where hundreds of millions claim these gifts.
We suggest it is because of these weaknesses that many would-
be cessationists have wanted to label themselves as “open but
cautious” or “charismatic with seatbelts.” Such a position cannot be
accused of putting God in a box, and it at least seems kinder to
super-supernaturalists. In fact, the “open but cautious” group
would seem to be a very likely source of potential converts to
super-supernaturalism because if super-supernaturalists can just
reduce or remove their perceived abuses, this group is supposedly
quite open and accepting to the operation of miraculous gifts. And
this may be all too true because of a lack of biblical convictions on
the matter.
In our opinion, the “open but cautious” view is not careful
enough to define the biblical purpose of these gifts, suggesting they
could return without the need of implementing a new covenant with
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 325
new extra-biblical revelation. Nevertheless, it should be noted that
“open but cautious” Christians, churches, and denominations
practically operate the same as the cessationists they wish to
distance themselves from, because the miraculous gifts do not
operate among them either.
Our own view is historicism. The characteristics of this view are
as follows:
1) The biblical purpose of miraculous gifts such as tongues,
prophecy, divine knowledge and wisdom, and healing were to
receive and authenticate the New Testament revelation.
2) Accordingly, the attributes of these gifts were truly and
undeniably supernatural, and supernaturally authenticated.
3) Accordingly, there is an honest recognition of the historical
fact that the early Church testified to the cessation of all of these
gifts by the fourth century at precisely the same time as the
sufficient recognition, copying, and distribution of the New
Testament revelation was completed.
4) Historicism also recognizes the fact that from about 350 to
1950, or about 1600 years of Church history, practitioners of
“charismatic” doctrine were virtually universally shunned by
orthodox Christians as dangerous heretics.
5) Historicism distinguishes the miraculous gifts from the fact
that God is still performing miracles and at rare times providing
visions. However, these have nothing to do with the biblical
attributes of the Scripture and sign gifts that biblical Apostles and
Prophets possessed, and which super-supernaturalists claim today.
Consequently, all the categories of super-supernaturalism, and
even the “open but cautious” view as well, have a very difficult time
explaining why the cessation of these gifts lasted for so many
centuries, and have now been restored only to super-
supernaturalists. Unfortunately, they almost universally fall back on
what appears to us as the arrogant, self-serving, unfounded
accusation that churches existing before them were too sinful,
bureaucratic, and unbelieving for such miracle working to operate.
What they refuse to admit is that God’s purpose for the
miraculous gifts was to uniquely authenticate the initial messengers
of new divine revelation of the New Covenant and when that
revelation was received, recorded, copied, and distributed, these
gifts were no longer needed and ended precisely when the Apostle
Paul predicted they would 26 and when early Church Fathers claim
they did. 27
What super-supernaturalists also refuse to admit, or take
seriously enough, is that the modern versions of the miraculous
gifts they claim, do not match the attributes of their biblical
counterparts. Their “miracle workers” do not heal consistently and
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 326
completely on command, 28 their “tongue speakers” do not
miraculously speak foreign human languages, 29 and their
“prophets” do not accurately predict the future. 30 And yet super-
supernaturalism still wishes to claim the miraculous gifts of the
Prophets, Apostles, and the King Himself. This is just one of the
many things that we believe is “unbiblical” about the many claims
of the modern “charismatic” movement.
As mentioned, the central debate between historicism and all
the varieties of super-supernaturalism noted above is the question
of whether or not miraculous spiritual gifts have been restored to
the super-supernaturalist churches, and why they have not been to
the historicist churches. As already noted, a recent book regarding
our topic is entitled, “Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?” 31 For some,
the answer is a simple “No.” Unfortunately, however, such a simple
answer is not adequate today for several reasons.

B.3) “Perhaps the single most significant development in


twentieth-century Christianity”

First of all, it would seem that hundreds of millions of people all


over the world would strongly disagree with such an answer, being
part of one of the fastest growing movements in history. As
Pentecostal historian Walter Hollenweger puts it, “from zero to 500
million in less than a century, a growth which is unique in church
history.” 32
Regarding this movement, the Dictionary of Christianity in
America says:
[The] movement has emerged as. In contrast to the
stigmatization of early adherents, contemporary charismatics
bask in the light of a modern-day success story. . . . No one
knows just how large the movement is, nor is there agreement
even on who should be included in its ranks. The latest
estimates suggest over 30 million adherents in the U.S., with
over 450 million worldwide. 33

Likewise, the Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic


Movements reports that:
By 1990, the Pentecostal churches, together with their
spiritual children in the Charismatic Renewal movement, and
New Church movements, together formed 23.4 percent of the
totality of the world’s church-member Christians, and by far
the largest group in Protestant Christianity. 34
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 327
Along the same lines, Harvey Cox, Professor of Religion at
Harvard University asks:
Why [do] Presbyterians, Methodists, and Episcopalians seem
to be losing members—down 20 to 40 percent in the [last]
twenty-five years . . . while certain other churches, mainly
Pentecostal ones, have doubled or tripled their memberships
in the same period? . . . [There are] reports that
Pentecostalism [is] growing very quickly in Latin America,
Africa, and parts of Asia. . . . I [have] read some of the
amazing statistics, including the estimate that Pentecostal
churches are growing at a rate of 20 million new members a
year. 35

The New York Times has also noticed what they call “the fastest
growing trend within Christianity.” 36 Reporter Walter Goodman
goes on to say that this growing trend promotes an “experiential”
Christianity that “promises an emotional encounter with God”
manifested by “shaking, screaming, fainting, and falling into
trances.” Unfortunately, this is a factual and undeniable description
of super-supernaturalism.

C) The Seriousness of Super-supernaturalism

Therefore, the issues surrounding super-supernaturalism are


quite serious. First, the issue involves the correct interpretation of
a significant portion of the NT. Interpretations of biblical texts, and
opinions on how the Bible is to be interpreted vary so widely
between super-supernaturalists and historicists that they are
essentially reading two different Bibles. These differences in biblical
interpretation are so great that they cannot coexist, and in light of
God’s desire that we accurately interpret His word, the issues are
more than worth some discussion. This is particularly true when
some of the most respected Bible teachers and scholars of our day
are increasingly interpreting the Scriptures in favor of a super-
supernaturalistic view. 37
Secondly, super-supernaturalists interpretations of both the
Bible and their experiences result in not only essentially reading a
different Bible, but several vital Christian issues are affected. Is
there a “super prayer language” that enables only those who have
been blessed with the gift of tongues to communicate with our
Father in an additional, and more intimate way, than the rest of
God’s children pray?
Would God do more miracles in and around our lives if we just
expected them more? Are historicist Christians and churches
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 328
missing out on an unprecedented outpouring of the Holy Spirit?
Could we be more effective in evangelism if we would embrace
super-supernaturalism? These are among the claims of this
movement and it becomes obvious that if we truly desire to be in
God’s will, and effectively minister in the Church today, we had
better have a biblical response to these questions.
Thirdly, the beliefs and practices that divide historicists from
their super-supernaturalists brothers and sisters are not minor, but
major. Accordingly, Robert L. Saucy, Distinguished Professor of
Systematic Theology at Talbot School of Theology is right when he
shares:
Among the many theological issues over which Christians
differ, some hinder practical fellowship far more than others,
especially those that immediately impact the life of the church.
People may live together happily while differing on theological
interpretations that do not directly or significantly impact
behavior (e.g. eschatology or creation issues). . . . Such is
not the case with the topics [concerning super-
supernaturalism]. Many of these issues directly affect
behavior within the corporate church, making it difficult for
people of differing positions to fellowship together. 38

This explains, of course, why so many churches have simply


split over this issue. In fact, one could not point to an issue
throughout all of American Church history that has divided more
churches than disputes over super-supernaturalists doctrine and
practices.
Along these lines, D. A. Carson, Professor of New Testament at
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School writes:
In the whole range of contemporary Christian theology and
personal experience, few topics are currently more important
than those associated with what is now commonly called “the
Charismatic movement.” . . . Whatever their theological
commitments, young clergy will wrestle with questions raised
by the Charismatic movement as frequently, and in some
instances, as painfully as anything else that comes their way. .
..
As judged by the Charismatics, non-Charismatics tend to be
stodgy traditionalists who do not really believe the Bible and
who are not really hungry for the Lord. They are afraid of
profound spiritual experience, too proud to give themselves
wholeheartedly to God, more concerned for ritual than for
reality, and more in love with propositional truth than with the
truth incarnate. They are better at writing theological tomes
than at evangelism; they are defeatist in outlook, defensive in
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 329
stance, dull in worship, devoid of the Spirit’s power in their
personal experience.
The non-Charismatics themselves, of course, tend to see
things a little differently. The Charismatics, they think, have
succumbed to the modern love of “experience,” even at the
expense of truth. Charismatics are thought to be profoundly
unbiblical. . . . If they are growing numerically, no small part
of their strength can be ascribed to their raw triumphalism,
their populist elitism, their promise of short cuts to holiness
and power. They are better at splitting churches and stealing
sheep than they are at evangelism, more accomplished in
spiritual one-upmanship before other believers than in faithful,
humble service. They are imperialistic in outlook (only they
have the “full gospel”), abrasive in stance, uncontrolled in
worship, and devoid of any real grasp of the Bible that goes
beyond mere proof-texting.
Of course, both sides concede that the caricatures I have
drawn admit notable exceptions; but the profound suspicions
on both sides make genuine dialogue difficult. This is
especially painful, indeed embarrassing, in light of the
commitment made by most believers on both sides to the
Bible’s authority. 39

The most serious elements of the debate between historicists


and super-supernaturalists can be summed up in the following two
options, one of which must be true: 1) Either historicists Christians
and churches have missed out on the biggest outpouring of
miraculous power ever in the history of the Church because of their
lack of faith and zeal, or 2) super-supernaturalists Christians and
churches are guilty of the most divisive and demonic deception that
has ever occurred among God’s people. We do not think these are
exaggerations. In fact, super-supernaturalist Robert Andrews has
essentially admitted the same when he writes:
Can we expect spiritual gifts to be operative in the church
today as they were in the New Testament, or has God changed
the way He relates to His church and through His church to
the world? This is no peripheral issue; it strikes at the heart of
our ability to fulfill the commission Jesus Christ has given His
church to attack the very gates of Hell by discipling the
nations.
If the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit have indeed
ceased to function, those who attempt to exercise them are
deceived, and they are wasting their time and energy on a
gigantic effort in the flesh which is not only useless to
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 330
accomplish anything of genuine spiritual value, but may even
be counter-productive.
On the other hand, if spiritual gifts are to be a part of our
spiritual arsenal for the accomplishment of the task before us,
ignoring them or resisting them severely limits us and
removes God-given weaponry from the church. So the
question of the present-day legitimacy of spiritual gifts,
including the revelatory gifts, is of utmost importance. 40

And all of this explains why this must be a biblical evaluation of


super-supernaturalism. The tendency is to discuss these issues in
light of our experiences rather than what the Bible says; and it
would seem today that the primary difference between historicists
and super-supernaturalists has more to do with what they have or
have not experienced, rather than with what they have studied in
Scripture.
Ask a super-supernaturalist brother or sister why they do and
believe what they do, and they will most likely begin answering by
describing experiences they have had, rather than explaining
particular texts of Scripture that produced their convictions.
Because of this, it is hoped that anyone reading this section of KOG
will set aside their experiences for a moment and take a second,
sincere look at what the Scripture says.
However, super-supernaturalists are not the only ones who may
depend too much on experience. Ask a historicist why he or she
doesn’t practice or believe what the super-supernaturalists do, and
their answer is also commonly in the realm of experience. Their
confidence in their conviction would seem to rest significantly on
simply how “weird” and bizarre they think some of the modern
super-supernatural phenomena are. Or simply on the fact that they
haven’t experienced what their super-supernaturalist brethren
have.
The question could then be asked that if they did experience
super-supernatural phenomena, would they have super-
supernatural convictions? Unfortunately, considering how
persuasive supernatural experiences can be, and the relative
difficulty and complexity of distilling clear biblical teaching on the
subject, it is feared that many would.
The obvious question at this point then is does the Bible contain
a clear and authoritative teaching on these issues? Because if it
doesn’t, there is no reason to argue about it. Obviously it will be up
to the reader to decide, but it is confidently (although not
arrogantly) asserted here that the Bible does give a clear teaching
on these issues if one is at least as open to accepting and trusting
it, as they are supernatural experiences. It is additionally
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 331
suggested that our super-supernaturalist friends have
misinterpreted both the Bible and their experiences.
This is obviously a considerable claim considering how many
people around the globe share their beliefs and practices, and
considering the consequences if those beliefs are wrong. To
misinterpret the Scriptures is to be potentially deceived by satan
and unavoidably misrepresent God, things that no sincere Christian
desires to do.
While the issues raised by super-supernaturalism are significant,
there are understandable reasons why many may be hesitant to
confront them. First, just the overwhelming popularity of super-
supernaturalism can make one timid to disagree. Secondly, the
issues are complex and not only include the need to accurately
interpret the subjective experiences of super-supernaturalists, but
also to accurately interpret some of the most difficult passages of
Scripture. This explains why godly men have come down on
several different sides of the issue.
Thirdly, if indeed our super-supernaturalist friends are wrong in
their interpretations of both their experiences and these Bible texts,
then that is not easy either because some of them are just that,
among some of our dearest friends, and the differences
understandably strain the friendship. Finally, it is never attractive,
nor easy, to critique others, knowing that the weight of your own
errors and erroneous beliefs could sink a battleship. No Christian is
perfect in their interpretation or practice of Scripture.
Although the issues regarding super-supernaturalism are
serious, it must be kept in mind that this debate is, for the most
part, between authentic believers in Jesus Christ. Regardless of
what excesses or errors may be present and practiced among
super-supernaturalist brothers and sisters, they are still just that,
our brothers and sisters in Christ, saved and forgiven by the same
blood as any true Christian. Unfortunately, in a debate such as this,
the term “charismatic” or super-supernaturalist can almost become
a cuss word. That is not the intention here and these terms must
be held in high esteem, reflecting the fact that they often represent
true sons and daughters of the King.
Any mature Christian knows one must be extremely careful to
admit and address the plank of doctrinal error in his or her own life
before seeking to address the specks of error that may exist in a
fellow Christian’s life. The most important doctrine in Scripture is
love, and God would not have it violated in any discussion regarding
the other doctrines. Still, there is a time to “speak the truth in
love” (Eph 4:15), and this and the following chapters is an attempt
to do just that.
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 332

Extras & Endnotes

Table 10.13: The Four Views of Miraculous Gifts

View Beliefs Proponents


Pentecostals and
Believe: 1) There is a multitude
of physical miracles occurring in “Charismatics” barely
the world today, 2) Such physical beginning in the early
1900’s, but growing rapidly
Super-super-

miracles are essential to the


naturalism

effectiveness of Christianity in since 1960.


our world today, and 3) It is
because of some moral or
spiritual deficiency in particularly
Western churches that they are
not experiencing miracles like the
super-supernaturalists apparently
are.

Don’t want to put God in a box Perhaps the most common


and are therefore “open” to God view among “non-
granting miraculous gifts, but are charismatic” Evangelicals.
“Open but

“cautious” because of the abuses


cautious”

of them in super-
supernaturalism. However, they
are not careful enough to define
the biblical purpose of these gifts
and they practically operate just
like the cessationists that they
think are too dogmatic.
The gifts were for the purpose of B. B. Warfield, many
tionism
Cessa-

receiving and authenticating the fundamentalist churches.


NT revelation and ceased in the
first century when the Apostles
died.
The gifts were for the purpose of Knowing Our God
Historicism

receiving and authenticating the


NT revelation and ceased in the
fourth century when this
revelation had been sufficiently
recorded, copied, recognized,
and distributed.
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 333
A Devotion to Dad

Our Father in Heaven, in charismaticism we fear we are witnessing


one of the greatest deceptions to ever afflict Your Church. It is
somewhat overwhelming to think about it, incredibly challenging to
biblically dissect it, and necessary to do it all in love if we are to
please You with not just holding to truth, but grace as well. All of
which is why we ask for Your divine help, not only to write
accurately on these issues, but to help a multitude of Your people
live closer to the truth, experiencing Your grace.

Gauging Your Grasp

1) How do we define super-supernaturalism?

2) What are the three basic beliefs of super-supernaturalism?

3) What do we claim is the most important uniquenesses claimed


by “charismatic” churches over other Christian churches?

4) What is cessationism?

5) What is the “open but cautious” view?

6) What is historicism? How does it differ from cessationism, and


the “open but cautious” view?

7) How recent is super-supernaturalism in Church history?

8) How large is modern super-supernaturalism estimated to be?

9) What are the two monumental options in the debate over super-
supernaturalism?

10) What must we keep in mind in this serious debate?

Publications & Particulars

1
For examples of modern miracles see esp. chapter 10.2.
2
For further discussion of what we see as miracles see chapter 10.2.
3
Regarding our definition of a miracle see section 10.1.C.
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 334

4
J. I. Packer, Keep in Step With the Spirit (Revell, 1984), 193-4.
5
We distinguish between physical miracles such as the physical healing of
the body, and spiritual miracles such as conversion to Christ. The latter
is the “greater works” that Jesus promised we would do and is, of course,
happening in abundance today. However, it is not this spiritual miracle of
conversion that super-supernaturalists are normally speaking of, and
claim that physical miracles are abundant as well. For further discussion
see section 10.1.D.
6
J. P. Moreland, Kingdom Triangle (Zondervan, 2007), 166.
7
For further discussion of the rarity of miracles see section 10.2.B.
8
Quoted by Moreland, 171.
9
Ibid. 161.
10
For redundancy in miracle stories illustrated in Dr. Moreland’s books see
In Search of a Confident Faith (Intervarsity, 2008), p. 216, footnote 7, p.
217 footnote 10, p. 219 footnote 24.
11
Moreland, Faith, 153.
12
Max Turner, The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts (Hendrickson, 1998), 332.
13
For further discussion of fraud in super-supernaturalists claims see
sections 11.7.B.9 and 11.8.E-F.
14
Regarding exaggeration in super-supernaturalism see sections 11.7.B.9
and 11.8.E-F.
15
John Wimber, “Speaking on Paul Cain and the Office of the Prophet,”
Vineyard Christian Fellowship, Anaheim, CA, 2-19-89, audiotape.
16
John Arnott, “Moving into Increasing Anointing”, Spread the Fire 1, 3
(May/June 1995).
17
Benny Hinn, “Praise the Lord,” 11-8-90, audiotape. The awkward
grammar is not due to mistakes in the quotation, but rather to Hinn’s
“unique” style of speech.
18
Quoted by Moreland in Kingdom, 182.
19
Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence (Hendrickson, 1994), 902.
20
For a discussion of the perspective of leaders of the Great Awakening
concerning aspects of Charismaticism see section 11.7.B.7.
21
Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit (Zondervan, 1993), 152,
154.
22
It is a historical fact that the early Church, beginning about 300 A. D.,
universally believed that the miraculous gifts had ceased to function in
the Church, and it was not until the mid 1900’s that a significant number
of Christians in America believed otherwise. For further discussion of the
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 335

history of miracle working see chapter 11.7. Regarding the history of the
gift of tongues see chapter 12.13.
23
However, super-supernaturalism is also among promoters of the
“testimony” or “illumination” of the Spirit in which a miracle is being
claimed for the proper recognition or interpretation of Scripture. On the
contrary, through the initial spiritual miracle of regeneration, the Spirit
fixes our human reason, enabling it to conduct the historical and
hermeneutical research necessary for these tasks. In general, we must
watch for the tendency to expect or claim the miraculous intervention of
the Spirit where He is not needed and God has already enabled us to do
what He wants us to do. For further discussion see chapters 3.4-5.
24
Wayne Grudem, Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?, Wayne Grudem ed.
(Zondervan, 1996), 11.
25
Ibid., 13
26
Regarding Paul’s claim that the miraculous gifts would cease with the
completion of the NT revelation see chapter 8.6.
27
For further discussion of the timing and purpose of the cessation of the
miraculous gifts see chapter 11.7.
28
For further discussion of how modern versions of the gift of miracle
working and healing differ from the biblical variety see chapter 11.1.
29
For further discussion of how modern versions of the gift of tongues
differ from the biblical variety see chapters 12.2-5.
30
For an introduction of how modern versions of the gift of prophecy differ
from the biblical variety see section 9.1.B.
31
Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?, Wayne Grudem ed. (Zondervan, 1996).
32
Walter J. Hollenwager, Pentecostalism (Hendrickson, 1997), ref.
unavailable.
33
Concise Dictionary of Christianity in America, “Pentecostal Movement,”
Daniel Reid, et al., (Intervarsity Press, 1995), 262.
34
Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, Stanley M.
Burgess, Gary B. McGee, and Patrick H. Alexander eds. (Zondervan,
1988), 811.
35
Harvey Cox, Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and
the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-First Century (Addison-Wesley,
1995), xv.
36
New York Times, Walter Goodman, “About Churches, Souls, and Show-
Biz Methods,” (3/16/95, B4).
37
Regarding the modern popularity of super-supernaturalism among
Christian scholars see section 10.14.D.
38
Robert L. Saucy in Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?, 144.
10.13: Super-supernaturalism 336

39
D. A. Carson, Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1
Corinthians 12-14 (Baker Book, 1987), 11-12.
40
Robert Andrews, in Sola Scriptura and Revelatory Gifts, Donald Codling
(Sentinel Press, 2005), Preface.
10.14: The History of Super-supernaturalism 337

Chapter 10.14

A History of Super-
supernaturalism
The Making of a Monumental Delusion

Table of Topics

A) The Condemnation of the First Super-supernaturalists:


the Montanists

B) The Condemnation of Super-supernaturalism for 1600


years of Christianity

C) The Modern “Waves” of Super-supernaturalism

C.1) The “first wave”: Classic Pentecostalism

C.2) The “second wave”: “Charismatic renewal”

C.3) The “third wave”: The Vineyard Movement

D) The Modern Approval & Popularity of Super-


supernaturalism

Extras & Endnotes


10.14: The History of Super-supernaturalism 338

Primary Points
 When Christians just as spiritual as any today have virtually
universally avoided super-supernaturalism like a spiritual
plague for over 1600 years, we should be very slow to
significantly differ from them.
 The first false teaching popular and serious enough to cause
the first synod was Montanism and it was condemned for the
very things that are unique to modern super-supernaturalism
today.
 Pentecostalism in America essentially began on the very first
day of the twentieth century, January 1, 1900, when Charles
Parham laid his hands on a young women who began to speak
gibberish supposed to be Chinese.
 Parham’s false teachings, racism, and immorality should
cause concern over the roots and fruit of this movement that
has swept Christianity.
 The “first wave” of super-supernaturalism was an
embarrassment to Christians, which is an effect that no real
move of the Holy Spirit has ever had in either biblical or
Church history.
 “Charismatic renewal” has been the most divisive movement
in the history of Christianity, causing more local church splits
than any other doctrinal issue ever has.
 Contrary to super-supernaturalist doctrine, real moves of the
Holy Spirit do not offend other Christians because “love . . .
is not rude”.
 The supposed “third wave” of the Spirit was instigated by a
homosexual hypnotist.
 The doctrinal retreat and defeat that has occurred regarding
super-supernaturalism in only the last one tenth of one
percent of Church history is unparalleled in all the history of
Christianity
 Although the conclusions and biblical arguments of our study
in the following chapters might be considered the minority
view today, throughout those 1600 years it would have
reflected the almost universal view of the most respected
Bible teachers.
10.14: The History of Super-supernaturalism 339

A) The Condemnation of the First Super-


supernaturalists: the Montanists

While today the beliefs, claims, and practices of super-


supernaturalism are widely accepted with little concern, throughout
Church history they have been denounced and condemned as
demonic and heretical deceptions. That does not prove that the
same should occur today, but when Christians just as spiritual as
any today have virtually universally avoided super-supernaturalism
like a spiritual plague for over 1600 years, we should be very slow
to significantly differ from them. While elsewhere we go into more
detail concerning the history of each miraculous gift in question,
here we share a rather brief overview. 1
The first group within Christianity to exhibit super-
supernaturalists tendencies were the Montanists, named after a
self-proclaimed “prophet” named Montanus. This movement began
on the heels of the Apostolic Age around the year 170, spread
widely throughout the known world, and persisted into the eighth
century. As the standard reference Cyclopaedia of Biblical,
Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature puts it:
Montanism, in the first place, sought a forced continuance of the
miraculous gifts of the apostolic church which gradually
disappeared as Christianity became settled in humanity, and its
supernatural principle was naturalized on earth. 2

Likewise, one of the most respected Church historians, Philip


Schaff (1819–1893) writes:
Montanism . . . was an excessive supernaturalism and
puritanism against Gnostic rationalism and Catholic laxity. It
is the first example of an earnest and well-meaning, but
gloomy and fanatical hyper-Christianity, which, like all hyper-
spiritualism, is apt to end in the flesh. Scenes took place
similar to those under the preaching of the first Quakers, and
the glossolalia [tongues speaking] and prophesying in the
Irvingite congregations. The frantic movement soon far
exceeded the intention of its authors, spread to Rome and
North Africa, and threw the whole church into commotion. 3

Because the Montanists believed themselves to be the special


recipients of a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit Dr. Schaff adds
that they:
called themselves the pneumatics, or the spiritual church, in
distinction from the psychical (or carnal) . . . church. . . .
They put a great gulf between [themselves as] the true
10.14: The History of Super-supernaturalism 340
spiritual Christians and the merely psychical; and this induced
spiritual pride and false pietism. 4

Along the same lines, the well-known Presbyterian theologian


Donald Bloesch writes:
The Montanists heralded the new age of the Spirit and the
fulfillment of Christian baptism in a baptism of the Spirit.
They were eager to reclaim the charismatic gifts, including
prophecy and speaking in other tongues (glossolalia). . . . The
Montanists saw themselves as the illuminati, the specially
enlightened. 5

There are two remarkable things about the Montanists that


directly apply to our current topic. First, their similarities to modern
super-supernaturalism are undeniable. They claimed a special
reception of the Holy Spirit, practiced a version of the gift of
tongues that did not involve miraculously speaking in foreign
human languages, and they claimed the gift of prophecy but never
predicted the future.
Secondly, they were virtually universally judged as dangerous to
the sound doctrine and spiritual health of Christians. Accordingly,
Kenneth Latourette, former Professor of Church History at Yale
relates:
The first . . . synod [gathering of early Church leaders] . . . was
held to deal with Montanism. The movement was condemned
as heretical and its adherents were expelled from the Church
and debarred from communion. 6

The very first false teaching that was popular and serious
enough to bring the leadership of the early Church together was
Montanism and it was condemned for the very things that are
unique to modern super-supernaturalism today. While those
Christians less than a century after the Apostolic Age condemned
and excommunicated the Montanists as dangerous heretics
precisely because of their “charismatic” claims, the Church today
lauds similar claims as a movement of the Holy Spirit. 7
So we are left to ask again, why has the mood of Evangelical
Christianity changed so dramatically on this issue over the last one
tenth of one percent of Church history? The simple answer is that
during those same 30 years, American Christianity has experienced
a significant decline in the pursuit and value of doctrinal purity in
general, and has increasingly abandoned Authentic Christianity and
defined spiritual success
10.14: The History of Super-supernaturalism 341

B) The Condemnation of Super-supernaturalism


for 1600 years of Christianity

Super-supernaturalism and its claims to the miraculous gifts of


the Spirit occurred sporadically among Christians until around 1900.
Without exception, these self-proclaimed “movements of the Spirit”
were condemned by the most spiritual, committed, fruitful, and
learned Christians of their day. The Jansenists, French Prophets,
Shakers, Irvingites, and early Mormons all emphasized precisely
what super-supernaturalism emphasizes today, and they were all
condemned as unbiblical, dangerous, deceitful, and divisive
movements of the flesh, if not the devil.
While modern super-supernaturalists can claim that our
Christian forefathers were misguided in their reaction to claims to
the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, it cannot be denied that for well
over the first 1600 years of Christianity, after the Apostolic Age,
claims to the miraculous gifts were extremely rare, and when they
did arise they were denounced and avoided like a spiritual plague.
This, of course, is discussed in much more detail elsewhere in KOG.
8

C) The Modern “Waves” of Super-supernaturalism

In the previous chapter, we noted the popular perspective that


the twentieth century experienced three distinct “waves of the Holy
Spirit” reflected in Pentecostalism in the early 1900’s, “charismatic
renewal” in the 1960’s and 70’s, and the “third wave” in the 80’s
and 90’s. We would like to suggest that both the roots and much of
the fruit of these so-called “waves of the Holy Spirit” have been
characteristically unholy. Regardless of how popular super-
supernaturalism is today, the nature of its beginnings is an
important aspect of evaluating its true nature today.
Accordingly, Rick Joyner, a foremost leader of super-
supernaturalism today writes:
Understanding how true moves of God begin is crucial. . . .
Just as the genetic code that determines what a grown man
will look like is set at conception, the genetic code of entire
movements is usually set even before their birth. 9

Mr. Joyner’s words are self-condemning because, unfortunately, the


“genetic code” of the supposed “three waves of the Holy Spirit” has
some considerable flaws.
10.14: The History of Super-supernaturalism 342
C.1) The “first wave”: Classic Pentecostalism

The twentieth century, of course, marks the beginning of super-


supernaturalism in America. Pentecostalism in America essentially
began on the very first day of the twentieth century, January 1,
1900, when Charles Parham (1873-1929) laid his hands on a young
women who began to speak gibberish supposed to be Chinese.
Accordingly, the Pentecostal historian Walter Hollenwager describes
Mr. Parham as, “the "inventor" of the doctrine of tongues as the
initial, outward sign of the Baptism of the Spirit” 10
While we discuss this incident further elsewhere, it would seem
his false teaching concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit,
grandiose expectations laid upon young college students in his
classes, and demonic influences all coalesced to create an
atmosphere in which speaking in tongues manifested itself. 11
In addition to Mr. Parham’s ardent belief that speaking in
tongues was the evidence that someone had been baptized in the
Holy Spirit, he also believed that “one need only receive the
baptism with the Holy Spirit and he could go to the farthest corners
of the world and preach to the natives in languages unknown to the
speaker.” 12 Pentecostal historian Vinson Synan relates that when
Mr. Parham’s teaching was put to the test by missionary Alfred Garr
in India “it ended in failure.” 13 Mr. Parham was correct, of course,
(unlike his glossaist contemporaries) to claim that the biblical gift of
tongues was the miraculous ability to speak in foreign human
languages just as it had occurred at Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:1-12). 14
However, we believe Mr. Parham was wrong to think anyone he
knew actually had the gift.
In addition, Mr. Parham taught that Anglo-Saxons (whites) were
God’s chosen race. 15 Blacks were not allowed to sit in his classes
but were forced to sit in a hallway. 16 Mr. Parham was against
mixed marriages and felt that there should be a separation of the
races at church services. In fact, while contemporary leaders of
super-supernaturalism such as Rick Joyner refer to Charles Parham
as the “true spiritual father . . . of the modern Pentecostal
Movement,” 17 Mr. Synan reveals that Mr. Parham spent “the later
years of his life as an avid supporter of the Ku Klux Klan.” 18 One
would think this would be a great embarrassment to those within
Pentecostal/Charismatic circles today who are spearheading a noble
effort to bring whites and blacks together.
Finally, because of the many allegations of sexual immorality
that surrounded Mr. Parham’s life, and actually being arrested in
1907 for homosexual activity, it is worth noting the remark of
respected Church historian Edith Blumhofer that, “Pursued by
charges of sexual infraction, Parham was rejected by a large
10.14: The History of Super-supernaturalism 343
percentage of his followers in Texas and increasingly ministered on
the peripheries of mainstream Pentecostalism.” 19
Charles Parham is the recognized modern founder of a
phenomenon that has swept Christianity in the last century, and his
unbiblical teaching regarding the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the gift
of tongues, and his racism, and immorality should cause some
concern regarding the roots and fruit of this movement.
Considering Mr. Parham’s view of blacks, it is remarkable that
the next recognized leader of the Pentecostal movement 20 was a
“Southern Negro [who was a] short, stocky man, [and] minus one
eye,” 21 and who Mr. Synan says, “was given to dreams and
visions.” 22 His name was William Seymour (1870-1922), a student
of Mr. Parham’s (although one of the black “hallway” students).
Although William Seymour understandably took offense at Charles
Parham’s bigotry, he wholeheartedly embraced his idea that the
baptism of the Holy Spirit was solely evidenced by speaking in
tongues.
In the early years of the 1900’s Mr. Seymour moved to Los
Angeles and began meetings that would prove to be a watershed
event in super-supernaturalism. Hank Hanegraaff, the well known
head of the Christian Research Institute and a member of
charismaticism himself, writes in his very important book,
Counterfeit Revival:
On April 18, 1906, subscribers to the Los Angeles Times
were startled by the headline “Weird Babel of Tongues.” The
article proclaimed: “New Sect of Fanatics Is Breaking Loose;
Wild Scene Last Night on Azusa Street; Gurgle of Wordless
Talk.” . . .
The notoriety only served to fan the flame. As news spread,
people from across America headed to Azusa Street to “catch
the fire.” The endtime restoration of Pentecostal power
proved to be so compelling that Christians and cultists alike
suspended their meetings and headed to 312 Azusa Street.
Together they engaged in the “jerks” . . . It wasn’t long
before “spiritualists and mediums from the numerous occult
societies of Los Angeles began to attend and to contribute
their seances and trances to the services.”
In time things got so out of hand that “Seymour wrote
Parham for advice on how to handle ‘the spirits’ and begged
him to come to Los Angeles to take over supervision of the
revival.” When Parham arrived, he was outraged at the
spiritual pandemonium he encountered. He forcefully
denounced the “hypnotists and spiritualists [occult mediums]
who seemed to have taken over the services.”
10.14: The History of Super-supernaturalism 344
While Seymour was sympathetic to Parham’s concerns, he
refused correction, and the two pillars of Pentecostalism
suffered an irreparable falling out. Seymour barred Parham
from ever preaching at Azusa Street again. Parham, in turn,
denounced Seymour as “possessed.” 23

Doesn’t the types of things occurring in these meetings tell us


something about the character of their leader, and what he was
teaching? Why would occultists feel so comfortable in, and
attracted to, Mr. Seymour’s “revival?” We would suggest it was
because there was very little authentic Christian spirituality or
teaching occurring.
In spite of the false doctrine, demonic practices, and virtually
universal rejection of authentic Christian leaders in America
regarding William Seymour’s ministry, modern super-
supernaturalists have made him a hero. Rick Joyner, for example,
regards his “remarkable leadership at Azusa” 24 as the key to
supposedly giving the Holy Spirit the freedom that He needed in
“the recovery of lost truth”:
In spite of almost constant pressure from world renowned
church leaders, who came from around the globe to impose
what they perceived to be needed order and direction on the
[supposed] revival, for over two years Seymour held the course
and allowed the Holy Spirit to move in His own, often
mysterious ways. 25

It is amazing how much we are prone to revise history when


such revisions can serve to support our present delusions. Mr.
Seymour had absolutely no biblical support to claim that his
“revival” was of the Holy Spirit. 26 Tongues and emotional worship
services are features of demonic religions around the world, and
there was little in the first supposed “wave of the Spirit” to prove
that it was. Simply put, the first modern super-supernaturalists
were not known by anyone as exemplary examples of supernatural
virtue, the only real sign of a wave of the Holy Spirit.
Essentially, at this point in the history of super-supernaturalism,
it was regarded as a non-Christian cult by Evangelicals. Philip
Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at
Penn State, relates in his insightful book, Mystics and Messiahs:
Cults and New Religions in American History that the rise of super-
supernaturalism was generally caught up with the rise of American
cults such as Christian Science and Mormonism, and widely
considered a non-Christian cult itself by the Christian community.
Dr. Jenkins relates:
10.14: The History of Super-supernaturalism 345
The 1880’s were an exciting time of growth for the new
movements promising spiritual healing, which coalesced into
the church of Christian Science and the various schools of New
Thought. . . .
Mind-cure [like Christian Scientists] continued to attract a
powerful and lasting religious polemic because it seemed to be
importing into Christianity ideas with strong occult and Asian
connotations, misleadingly labeled a rediscovery of an
authentic Christian tradition. . . .
In their first decades, Holy Rollers [so named because of
their habit of rolling on the ground during their worship
services], or Pentecostals, were consistently viewed as
another classic cult, though they were usually deemed so
outrageous and even ludicrous as not to need the detailed
refutation offered by scholars. . . . In fact, some Pentecostals
did accept heretical and anti-Trinitarian views, but we rarely
find their opinions denounced by the theologians [because] . .
. Pentecostalism was beneath contempt and chiefly featured in
the mainstream media as a source of humor or shock value.
If New Thought [i.e. Christian Science] was a modernist fad of
the leisured, Pentecostalism seemed a bizarre irruption of pre-
Christian primitivism into the twentieth century. They were
the "Noisyrenes."
[Nonetheless] the movement did not lack critics . . . the
most savage attacks came from evangelicals, unsurprisingly
given the . . . sense that Pentecostals were leading believers
away from the revealed truth. Evangelicals stressed the
faddery of the new movement, all the more so given its origins
in the cult wonderland of Los Angeles, "the home of almost
numberless creeds."
British critics scorned a movement born in America, "the
land of wonder-meetings and freak religions." This was no
Christian development, but a snare of Satan. . . . Enemies of
Pentecostal fervor charged that the movement enticed the
faithful to desert reason for a dangerous emotionalism. . . .
Pentecostalism was mindless enthusiasm in the old sense of
that word. . . .
In southern California, the dividing line between the
Pentecostals and the New Age sects was never as hard and
fast as one might expect. . . . At Azusa Street, evangelist
William Seymour was repeatedly troubled by mediums and
occultists who used Pentecostal services as a setting for
seances, and a visiting preacher was shocked to see "the
manifestations of the flesh, spiritualistic controls, [and] saw
10.14: The History of Super-supernaturalism 346
people practicing hypnotism at the altar over candidates
seeking the baptism" . . . .
The two seemingly incompatible strands of belief,
Pentecostal and New Age, were also united by their belief in
spiritual healing. . . . Sinclair Lewis remarked that although
spiritual healings like Sister Aimee's [McPheerson] would soon
become a feature of evangelistic services, they were in the
early days more closely associated with Christian Scientists
and New Thoughters.
Pentecostal sects, like the New Age groups, also had strong
female components in their leadership. However little it
superficially resembles New Thought, Pentecostalism was
similarly denounced as a vehicle for Oriental and occult
influences. 27

However, it was not only the Church which initially denounced


super-supernaturalism but, less importantly the press did as well.
Accordingly, Dr. Jenkins reports that during this time:
Life magazine offered a harrowing photo spread of snake-
handling services, with captions describing "cultists" and
"hysterical saints." . . . When these . . . believers spoke in
tongues, the magazine reported this as "a frenetic gibberish to
which the cultists resort." Newsweek similarly portrayed
[Pentecostals as] a "weird cult" of "fanatical, jerking, cultists."
28

And we are to believe this was a second Pentecost? Let us note


that in the real Pentecost the gift of tongues was readily recognized
by unbelievers as a miracle from God (cf. Acts 2:1-12), whereas in
this supposed Pentecost, it is recognized only as “frenetic
gibberish.” Accordingly, the leaders, doctrines, and practices of the
“first wave” of super-supernaturalism was an embarrassment to
Christians, which is an effect that no real move of the Holy Spirit
has ever had in either biblical or Church history. Authentic
movements of the Holy Spirit do not, and never have, alarmed or
embarrassed authentic Christians. But that was precisely the
foremost effect of the “first wave” of super-supernaturalism in
America, which certainly suggests a defective “genetic code”
indeed.
10.14: The History of Super-supernaturalism 347
C.2) The “second wave”: “Charismatic renewal”

Regarding what would be considered the “second wave” of this


supposed modern outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Hank Hanegraaff
relates:
Most historians point to April 3, 1960, as the official
birthdate of the charismatic movement. On this Sunday
Father Dennis Bennett (1917-1991), an Episcopal priest,
publicly announced to his parishioners that he had received
the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in
tongues. . . .
By 1963 the topic of tongues had become a common subject
of conversation in Christian circles. [In an article in Eternity
magazine] a Lutheran [charismatic] Pastor [referred to
charismatic phenomenon] as ‘charismatic renewal,’ the first
time this designation was used in a definitive manner. . . .
This new designation reflected definitive distinctions between
the [supposed] first and second waves of the Spirit.
In the first wave, tongues were typically considered the
evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In the second,
tongues were thought to be an evidence. Furthermore, while
it had been common for first wave leaders to encourage their
devotees to become denominational Pentecostals, prominent
second wave leaders urged followers to remain in their
denominations and effect change from within. They were
convinced that only through the restoration of charismatic gifts
would there be hope for global revival. . . .
Todd Hunter [national coordinator of the Association of
Vineyard Churches] believes that the second wave crested in
1977 at a hugely successful interdenominational charismatic
conference in Kansas City. After that the charismatic renewal
was “forever divided” and began “to lose its steam.” 29

A prominent feature of “charismatic renewal” was its beginnings


and spread in essentially spiritually dead mainline denominational
churches, including to a great extent Roman Catholic churches, in
which sound doctrinal teaching from Scripture had been abandoned
and even the Gospel unheard of. Nor did “charismatic renewal”
begin with sound doctrinal teaching or the preaching of the Gospel
in these relatively dead churches. And again, the fruits of this
supposed outpouring of the Holy Spirit were never known to be
exceptional holiness or love, but in fact, the opposite.
“Charismatic renewal” turned out to be the most divisive
movement in the history of Christianity, causing more local church
splits than any other doctrinal issue ever has. Not only did
10.14: The History of Super-supernaturalism 348
thousands of churches experience people being torn from their
membership by super-supernatural doctrines and practices, but no
religious movement has experienced more splits among themselves
than this one.
For example, if one were to compare the number of church
splits among Baptist since 1960, with those occurring in super-
supernaturalists churches, everyone knows that the splits in the
latter far exceed those in the former. It is no joke that one of the
reasons for the growth in the number of super-supernatural
churches is because of the selfish, proud, destructive divisions that
have occurred among them.
Accordingly, charismatic historian Richard Quebedeaux admitted
that wherever this so-called move of the Holy Spirit occurred,
Christians, “were profoundly disturbed by the confusion and division
that seemed to attend the appearance of Neo-Pentecostalism in
their denominations.” 30 Likewise, Dr. Paul G. Hiebert, former
Distinguished Professor of Mission and Anthropology at Trinity
Evangelical Divinity School has written:
Unfortunately, divisions frequently occur when renewal takes
place. This is true also in the Charismatic Movement, which,
particularly in third world countries, has been characterized by
divisions and sectarianism. 31

What divisive authentic spiritual renewal could Dr. Hiebert


possibly have in mind? The first century awakening divided
believers from unbelievers. This was the essence of the division
that occurred in the Protestant Reformation as well. The foremost
and most respected leaders of the Great Awakening in the
eighteenth century were unanimous that it was the spiritual fakes
and super-supernaturalists that caused confusion and division
among believers, not the movements of the Holy Spirit.
Along these lines, an article appeared in Christianity Today in
1975 that told the following story:
J. Grant Shank, Jr., writing in Christianity Today described
the arrival and departure from his church of a group of a
dozen tongue-speakers. Grant Shank, pastor of a Nazarene
church (a group that maintains second blessing and Arminian
teaching) gave these friends a warm welcome. There were
smiles all round, hand-shakes and the familiar expression,
much repeated, ‘praise the Lord!’
After several months, relates Shank, it was obvious that
these newcomers regarded themselves as spiritually superior
with a ‘know-it-all’ attitude giving the impression that the non-
glossolalia [tongues] members had not ‘arrived’ spiritually
speaking. This seemed to blind them to the fact that there
10.14: The History of Super-supernaturalism 349
were serious deficiencies in their own lives in the area of
disciplined living. . . .
[P]astor Shank . . . was deeply grieved. He noted that I
Corinthians 12 teaches unity and that whatever brings disunity
is not to be tolerated. He could see a split coming in his
church and after doing his best to offer a basis of cordiality
and understanding with the tongue-speakers he was
compelled to admit defeat.
He had hoped that the additions would be a blessing to the
assembly and result in soul-winning but he came reluctantly to
the firm conclusion that the tongue-speakers ‘did not have the
Holy Spirit.’ They were possessed with a counterfeit, a fake.
They were living on an ego trip, a manufactured religious
‘High.’ The daily lives of these people did not match their
witness, and so they hurt him, the congregation, and their
own testimony as well as the cause of Jesus Christ.
The tongue-speakers left for another church but pastor
Shank has noted that these people become ‘church hoppers’
and when they move on they do not hesitate to take people
with them and when they have left ‘they criticise with barbed
speech persons in the previous church.’ 32

This story reflects the experiences of a multitude of


congregations during the so-called “charismatic renewal” in the
1960’s and 70’s. Instead of bringing a blessing of unity, humility,
and peace among Christians, which any real movement of the Holy
Spirit will do, the most prominent feature of this movement was
that a multitude of Christians and churches experienced the painful
destruction of their relationships with one another.
This is rather alarming considering the fact that, “God is not a
God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the
saints” (1 Cor 14:33). Such things smell demonic, not divine. The
“the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3)
will automatically occur when the Holy Spirit is truly operating
within and among Christians. Relational upheaval and turmoil
among God’s people are the works of another spirit.
Contrary to super-supernaturalist doctrine, real moves of the
Holy Spirit do not offend other Christians because “love . . . is not
rude” (1 Cor 13:5) and the “in your face” antics and claims of the
“second wave” of super-supernaturalism in America had just that
feel. Instead of earning the respect of their Christian peers by their
virtue, they repelled them by their arrogance, weirdness, and
unbiblical doctrines and practices, and no super-supernaturalist can
point to any other authentic movement of the Holy Spirit that
affected authentic Christians the way super-supernaturalism has.
10.14: The History of Super-supernaturalism 350
Of course, super-supernaturalist claim that the many divisions
that occurred during this supposed “wave of the Spirit” were a
result of the Church’s unwillingness to welcome a new move of God.
In reality, “charismatic renewal” was introducing and promoting
Montanist interpretations of Scripture and experience that had been
rather universally condemned as heretical, dangerous, and even
demonic by the godliest people in the Church for over 1600 years.
For all of these reasons, the virtual universal response to
“charismatic renewal” by Evangelical Christians was rejection,
warning, and condemnation. The foremost teachers of
Evangelicalism in that day biblically debunked and denounced it,
including Anthony Hoekema (What About Speaking in Tongues?,
1966), Robert G. Gromacki (The Modern Tongues Movement,
1967), Merrill F. Unger (New Testament Teaching on Tongues,
1971), Francis Schaeffer (The New Super-spirituality, 1972), Joseph
Dillow (Speaking in Tongues, 1975), Douglas Judisch (An Evaluation
of Claims to the Charismatic Gifts, 1978), and Richard B. Gaffin
(Perspectives on Pentecost, 1979), and a number of scholarly
articles in such respected journals as the Journal of the Evangelical
Theological Society, Bibliotheca Sacra, Westminster Theological
Journal, and Grace Theological Journal.
Therefore, while “charismatic renewal” found open doors in
theologically liberal, non-Evangelical denominations, it was
essentially rejected by Evangelical Christianity until the 1980’s.

C.3) The “third wave”: The Vineyard Movement

Many believe that super-supernaturalism would have remained


in those liberal non-Evangelical denominations, and eventually died
out, except the deception found another open door through the
relatively liberal Fuller Theological Seminary and John Wimber
(1934-1997). Accordingly, the charismatic scholar Hank Hanegraaff
continues in his Counterfeit Revival:
Just as the “charismatic renewal is beginning to peter out”
something “dramatic happened.” Along came a man named
John Wimber who, according to such church growth leaders as
Peter Wagner, “spawned the third wave—the third wave of the
Holy Spirit in this century.” [As if the Spirit has only, or
mostly, been active only in modern super-supernaturalism?]. .
..
While the first and second waves had restored such
supernatural gifts as tongues and healing, the third wave
would restore super Apostles and Prophets. Counterfeit
Revival leader Jack Deere says that with the third wave would
10.14: The History of Super-supernaturalism 351
come endtime Apostles and Prophets who would “do greater
works than the Apostles, than Jesus, or any of the Old
Testament Prophets.”
Paul Cain, whom Deere believes to be one of these endtime
Prophets, says that the emerging third wave will “contain the
good [?] of all previous moves and much more. . . . [Cain
says] When God “releases His mighty wave it’s going to engulf
everybody. . . . Something’s going to come so strong to you
that you won’t even know that there be any baptism of the
Holy Ghost compared to the enormous baptism you’re about
to receive.” 33

We are still waiting for this false prophet’s predictions to come true.
The premier leader of the “third wave” is, no doubt, John
Wimber. 34 Erwin Lutzer, longtime teacher at the Moody Bible
Church writes of Mr. Wimber:
The late John Wimber, who founded the Vineyard Movement,
said that the two most important miracles for impressing
unbelievers are "falling [being “slain”] in the power of the
Spirit and filling teeth." Some of the Vineyard Prophets
actually claim to "smell God" when those seeking healing come
to them as the walls of their offices dissolve and they see
visions of the person's past. Clouds with dollar signs appear
over the heads of people in an auditorium who have financial
problems.
John Armstrong is quite correct when he writes, "Advance
courses in healing are offered, as though it were training in
the magical arts." Such an approach blends nicely with the
superstition, magic, and spiritual dimensions of the New Age
Movement.
No wonder Wimber actually defended the practice of
employing medieval relics in healing. "In the Catholic Church
for over a 1,200-year period people were healed as a result of
touching the relics of the saints. We Protestants have
difficulty with that . . . but we healers shouldn't, because there
is nothing theologically out of line with that." 35

Nonetheless, Mr. Wimber wanted to be considered a consistent


Evangelical, which one has to wonder about when he said, “I
identify myself as a ‘conservative evangelical’ in my theology. I
identify myself as something other than that in my practice.” 36
Mr. Wimber’s apparent looseness with the Scriptures may be
further demonstrated by his response to an earthquake that hit
southern California on December 3, 1988. He believed it to be a
prophetic omen and:
10.14: The History of Super-supernaturalism 352
[Wimber] concluded that the interpretation of this omen
would be found in Jeremiah 33:8 [because the earthquake had
hit at 3:38 A.M.]. Wimber explained that “near judgment” had
“come on the Vineyard as a result of immorality in the ranks.”
. . . . But God’s promise through Jeremiah 33:8 was “I will
cleanse them—the Vineyard—from all the sin that they have
committed against Me” . . . .
As Wimber went on to say, God Himself appeared to [Paul]
Cain and told him that since the sins of Vineyard leaders had
been forgiven, “I [Wimber] was the man that he [Paul Cain]
had been looking for [the “endtime Apostle”] and . . . we were
the people [the Vineyard Association of Churches] and this is
the movement that God wants to endorse and begin this
ministry with.” 37

In addition, it would seem that Mr. Wimber had a habit of


embellishing the truth (i.e. lying) for his own advantage at times. 38
It is pointed out elsewhere that super-supernaturalist theologian
Max Turner admitted the same regarding Mr. Wimber’s claims to
the abundance of healing occurring in the Vineyard Churches. 39
Mr. Hanegraaff relates what would appear to be intentional
deception on Mr. Wimber’s part in his own description of how the
“third wave” of super-supernaturalism began:
It was Mother’s Day 1979, and all hell broke loose. John
Wimber had invited a young evangelist to speak during the
evening service at his church. He says the “power encounter”
that took place that night was “similar to the one described at
Pentecost.” . . . Here’s Wimber’s recollection of that
unforgettable evening:
I had invited a young man to speak at the evening service
of the church at which I had only recently become pastor,
what would later become the Vineyard Christian Fellowship
in Anaheim, California. . . . I was apprehensive about him,
but I sensed God wanted him to speak nevertheless. He had
been used by God to lead Christians into a refreshing
experience of the Holy Spirit, and it was obvious to me that
the congregation needed spiritual renewal. . . . That evening
he gave his testimony, a powerful story of God’s grace. As
he spoke, I relaxed. Nothing strange here I thought.
Then he did something that I had never seen done in a
church gathering. He finished his talk and said, “Well, that’s
my testimony. Now the church has been offending the Holy
Spirit a long time and it’s quenched. So we are going to
invite it to come and minister.” We all waited. The air
became thick with anticipation—and anxiety. Then he said,
10.14: The History of Super-supernaturalism 353
“Holy Spirit, come.” And it [it? As if it is a power, not a
Person?] did! (I must remind you that we were not a
“Pentecostal” church with experience or understanding of the
sorts of things that began to happen. What happened could
not have been learned behavior.)
People fell to the floor. Others, who did not believe in
tongues, loudly spoke in tongues. The speaker roamed
among the crowd, praying for people, who then immediately
fell over with the Holy Spirit resting on them. I was aghast!
All I could think throughout the experience was “Oh, God,
get me out of here.”
In the aftermath, we lost church members and my staff
was extremely upset. That night I could not sleep. Instead,
I spent the evening reading Scripture, looking for the verse,
“Holy Spirit, come.” I never found it. By 4:30 in the
morning I was more upset than I was earlier at the meeting.
. . . I . . . found a box of books about revivals and
revivalists and began to read them. By 6:00 I had found at
least ten examples of similar phenomena in church history . .
. 40

First, we will see below that Mr. Wimber is flat out lying about
his church not having “’Pentecostal’ . . . experience or
understanding.” Secondly, what in Scripture or Church history
would lead us to think that losing church members and making
pastoral staff “extremely upset” is a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work?
Finally, whatever “examples of similar phenomena in church
history” that Mr. Wimber found, none of them were considered by
contemporaries as evidences of the Holy Spirit’s work. This we
demonstrate at length elsewhere. 41
Carol Wimber describes this same event as the “watershed
experience that launched us into what today is called power
evangelism . . . [although] she disagreed with her husband on the
date (John says it was 1979, Carol says it was 1981).” 42 Much of
Carol’s rendition significantly differs from John’s, but she concurs
that it seemed the Holy Spirit had visited them. She adds:
One fellow, Tim, started bouncing. His arms flung out and he
fell over, but one of his hands accidentally hit a mike stand
and he took it down with him. . . . The majority of young
people were shaking and falling over. At one point it looked
like a battlefield scene-bodies everywhere, people weeping,
wailing, and speaking in tongues, much shouting and loud
behavior. . . .
Some members of our staff were fearful and angry. Several
people got up and walked out, never to be seen again-at least
10.14: The History of Super-supernaturalism 354
they were not seen by us. But I knew that God was visiting
us. I was so thrilled, because I had been praying for power
for so long.... I got up and started stepping over bodies and
putting my hand next to them. I could feel the power, like
heat or electricity, radiating off of their bodies.
I asked one boy who was on the floor, "What's happening to
you right now?" He said, "It's like electricity. I can't move!" I
was amazed by the effect of God's power on the human body.
I suppose I thought that it would all be an inward work, such
as conviction or repentance. I never imagined there would be
strong physical manifestations. 43

This is the “watershed experience” that launched the supposed


“third wave of the Holy Spirit.” Only one question needs to be
answered. Where in Scripture is the power of the Holy Spirit
manifested in “bouncing,” “shaking and falling over,” “heat or
electricity radiating off of bodies,” or paralysis? As we discuss
elsewhere, these mindless antics have no biblical support
whatsoever, and if they were not faked or of the flesh then they
were demonic. 44
Many have tried to claim some sort of supernatural
authentication of the foundational event of the “third wave” by
telling the following story that Carol Wimber shares:
By 5 A.M. John was desperate. He cried out to God, “Lord, if
this is you, please tell me.” A moment later the phone rang<