Two Purposes for the Miraculous

imagesModern man is quick to deny the miraculous. “Miracles are impossible”—says the Bultmannian—since Nature is the whole story. “Miracles are improbable”—says the Humean—since laws of nature are exceptionless and miracles are violations of these exceptionless laws. “Miracles are not necessary”—says the scientists—since science is quickly closing all gaps in knowledge, gaps that pre-moderns used to plug by invoking God.

We’ve tamed Nature, and along with her, our understanding of deep reality. As such, the world is mundane, familiar, Everything. And the resulting stories on offer from which modern man seeks meaning and purpose and identity and happiness are, well, less than compelling: Naturalism, Atheism, Pantheism, Deism. Consumerism, Hedonism, Exceptionalism, Narcissism. Each of these stories, and many more like it, leave us less than satisfied. They are false stories. They leave us in shambles. They promise the moon and produce dust. They make miracles spooky and out of place. As C. S. Lewis suggested in his book Miracles:

“A great deal of the modern objection to miracles is based on the suspicion that they are marvels of the wrong sort; that a story of a certain kind (Nature) is arbitrarily interfered with, to get the characters out of a difficulty, by events that do not really belong to that kind of story.”[1]

Perhaps it’s time to reject the sorry stories that narrate our lives and reconsider once again the miraculous. Perhaps it is time to reconsider Supernaturalism.

Assume Supernaturalism is true. That is, God exists and is the creator of all distinct reality. Further, model God’s relationship to the world he created based on the analogy of an author to his book. On this picture:

“If [miracles] have occurred, they have occurred because they are the very thing this universal story is about. They are not exceptions . . . nor irrelevancies. They are precisely those chapters in this great story on which the plot turns.”[2]

That great story Lewis is alluding to is the gospel. I’ve argued elsewhere that the gospel is not merely the best story every told, but the greatest possible story. A story that is alive. A story that understands you. A story in which you get Jesus.

On this view, we find at least two purposes for miracles:

First, miracles reveal. They reveal the plotline of the true story of the world. They point to a deeper reality than Nature. They point to an eternal dance and invite our participation.

Second, miracles restore hope. Miracles point us to a world where all will one day be made right: the sick will be healed, the oppressed freed, the weak made strong. They are a promise for our hearts and a glimpse of heaven. The world we all long for is coming.




[1] C. S. Lewis, Miracles (New York: Touchstone, 1996), 130.

 [2] Ibid., 131.

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