One question that comes up a lot when we talk about whether or not miracles still happen is to define “miracle.”
That is a great question to ask because if we say miracle but mean different things then we talk past each other. Here are a few definitions from various Bible dictionaries…even these will show you the diversity in thought:
“An event that defies common expectations of behavior and subsequently is attributed to a superhuman agent; an occurrence that demonstrates God’s involvement in the course of human affairs.” – Lexham Bible Dictionary
“Event which may seem contrary to nature and which signifies an act in which God reveals himself to man. The classical definition of miracle assumes that it is contrary to natural law, but this is a misnomer for two reasons. First, many of the miracles of the Bible used nature rather than bypassed it (e.g., the wind which parted the Red Sea, Ex 14:21). Second, there no longer is a concept of “absolute natural laws”; rather, a phenomenon which is not readily explainable (e.g., quasars) may reflect laws with which science is not yet fully conversant. In Scripture the element of faith is crucial; a natural approach cannot prove or disprove the presence of “miracle.” The timing and content of the process can be miraculous even though the event may seem natural. The consistent rationalist demonstrates the necessity of faith; he would place any so-called miracle in the category of unexplained phenomena rather than accept it as a pointer to the presence of God’s activity in the world. The revelatory significance is also important. In every case God performed the miracle not merely as a “wonder” to inspire awe in man but as a “sign” to draw men to himself.” – Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible
“Extraordinary events that manifest divine power, that are wonders to human understanding, and therefore what human beings perceive as signs from God.” – Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible
“An extraordinary event or feat that can only be explained by the direct intervention of God. Normally a miracle involves the suspension of the otherwise inflexible laws of nature.” – Catholic Bible Dictionary
“According to the traditional view, a miracle is a sensible fact…produced by the special intervention of God for a religious end, transcending the normal order of things usually termed the Law of Nature.” – The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church
“Wonderful events, distinguished from events that only seem to be, or are merely, wonderful. The term miracle is etymologically inadequate and indicates only one, and that not the most important, feature of the proper conception. In general terms miracles may be defined as supernatural manifestations of divine power in the external world, in themselves special revelations of the presence and power of God; and in connection with other special revelations to which they are subservient, as aiding in their attestation, establishment, and preservation.” – The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary
“A miracle, in the popular sense, is a prodigy, or an extraordinary event, which surprises us by its novelty. In a more accurate and philosophic sense, a miracle is an effect which does not follow from any of the regular laws of nature, or which is inconsistent with some known law of it, or contrary to the settled constitution and course of things. Accordingly, all miracles presuppose an established system of nature, within the limits of which they operate, and with the order of which they disagree.” – A Biblical and Theological Dictionary
These definitions open the door for many different things to be considered a miracle. For instance, if anything that requires divine intervention to be defined as a miracle then our very lives are a miracle every moment of the day as God creates and sustains us. Without God’s activity in the world we would die.
But if we look for commonality in the definitions a few things stand out:
- Miracles go against (or in suspension of) natural law
- They are God’s self-revelation
- They can build faith
These three characteristics, in my opinion, are the three that would be the main focus. This would be the case of a healing miracle where someone prays and the person is healed or raised from the dead.
The gray area for me are things like prophetic dreams. There are no laws of nature being broken (item 1). We all dream. But in that dream there are things revealed that build faith (items 2 & 3). Is it a miracle if you dream certain events happen and then they do…particularly when the dream is in response to prayer? Here is one example of this that I experienced.
What I didn’t share in this video was that on that same night my wife had a dream of something that also revealed things to her that no one knew that she needed to share with someone else.
So what are your thoughts? Do miracles still happen? Have you ever seen one? How would you define miracle?