Do Miracles Happen?
I don't know of many self-professing Christians today that would say that God does not perform miracles. However, one of the things that I love about the Church of the Nazarene is that we have expressly stated that we still believe in miracles. The 14th Article of Faith of the Church of the Nazarene states that,
"We believe in the biblical doctrine of divine healing and urge our people to offer the prayer of faith for the healing of the sick. We also believe that God heals through the means of medical science."
This article is fairly straightforward. We believe that God is still in the miracle-working business. This does not mean that God will perform a miracle every time that we want him to. It does, however, mean that God does perform miracles today, even though we do not deserve this kindness from him. Why do we believe this? Well, let us use the Wesleyan quadrilateral to discover why, as Wesleyans, we must also believe that God does perform miracles.
Scripture tells us that God has performed miracles in the past (one does not need to look far in Scripture to find examples of this) and that God does not change. It follows from this that, if God has performed miracles in the past, he still performs miracles today. Scripture tells us of miracles that were both great and seemingly small that God had performed. All of this was out of his love and compassion and for his glory. If God performs miracles today (and he does), then we know that it is purely from love and compassion and for his glory that God performs miracles today.
Reason also tells us that miracles still happen today. Miracles, as used here, involves any act of God in the world. Despite the circular argument of David Hume, reason still supports the miraculous. In fact, Dr. Tim Stratton has shown in his Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism that the very fact that we are able to reason at all is evidence for the soul, for free will, and for God. The argument itself seems to imply that the very fact that we have a soul and can reason is evidence for God, and thus exist because of a miraculous intervention. This is not the only argument. Ontological arguments that show God to be Maximally Great imply that such a being would not be restricted in his ability to perform miracles. Cosmological arguments show that a miracle has already taken place, namely, the creation of the universe. If this is the case, then it cannot be logically argued that the Creator could not still perform miracles today.
Tradition hands us miracle story after miracle story, showing that miracles have happened throughout the history of the Church. In addition, we cannot ignore the documented instances of miracles that have taken place today. Craig Keener has done an excellent job of documenting these in his two-volume work on miracles.
On the topic of Keener's book, one of his main points is that experience tells us that miracles still occur. There are countless examples of documented miracle stories. Multiple studies, including the one described here, have shown that prayer actually works. Since answered prayer involves God working in the world, then this provides a positive experience of miracles. There are also countless examples of specific prayers being answered (many of which I could testify to about my own life), which is a type of miracle in and of itself. If we are honest, most people who are reading this have experienced a miracle, big or small, at some point in their lives, whether they recognized it as such or not. This being the case, who knows if that doctor that prescribes you one medicine over the other wasn't divinely appointed to have you as a patient so that you would get the right medicine as opposed to the wrong one?
In short, all four sides of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral tell us that we should accept miracles. However, there is a danger that I want to warn against. This is the danger of placing too much focus on miracles. There is a tendency in some groups, such as the New Apostolic Reformation, to place almost all of the emphasis on miracles, and little emphasis on the gospel message of salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ. We must take the warning in Matthew 7:21-23 seriously. If we see a grand miracle every day for the rest of our lives, our hearts may still be far from God. We need look no further than the Israelites in the wilderness to see that this is the case.
Knowing that God still performs miracles and knowing that they should not be the sole thing that we focus on, how should we respond? Our 14th Article of Faith addresses this, as well. Knowing that God performs miracles, we should pray for the sick. If God chooses to heal via miracle, then good. If God chooses to heal via medical science, then good. If God chooses not to heal, we trust that he is still good and faithful. In all things, we trust that God is doing what is best for all of us and for his glory. Our job is to pray, and then trust God.