07 January 2009

The wrong miracles

by Frank Turk

Yeah -- wow. So I look down this morning and I see the image you see at the right there, and I realize I should have had a TeamPyro post today ready for you people because it's Wednesday.

How can it be Wednesday? What happened to Tuesday? Is this what it's like to get old -- to have days vanish?

As I deal with my existential crisis, Let me comment briefly (heh) on something that came up in the last couple of days which is bound to draw ire from a lot of people for a lot of reasons. I want to talk a minute about the apologetic value of defending OT miracles.

Now, read this closely so you don't say something you ought to apologize for after you read (or have someone tell you about) what I will have written here: without any reservation, I affirm creation in 7 days, every single miracle and supernatural event of both the OT and the NT, and I affirm that God can do as He pleases in and above Creation because He's the creator and sustainer. So as you read this, don't hear me say that I discount the miraculous.

But here's the thing: I believe that God can do all those things -- a global flood, preserving all the animals in a boat, parting the Red Sea, speak through dreams, etc. -- because I have faith in God. The Bible's authority speaks to me because my faith makes me ready to hear what the Bible says and receive it and believe it. When I didn't have faith in God, it all looked like gibberish to me.

That doesn't mean the Bible didn't have the authority to speak to me on these issues: its authority is above and before my willingness or ability to listen. And in the end, because the Bible has the authority is has, people are going to be judged by that standard in the end.

In that respect, the Way of the Master approach to evangelism is a wholly-valuable approach, presuppositionally, to telling people the truth about their real problem before God. It doesn't seek to get them to first, for example, accept a 6-day creation before showing them that the Law says they are sinful people under condemnation. They know in their hearts what the law says (Rom 1-2)(Rexella - thx van Impe groupies everywhere), and WOTM is an appeal to that -- which, I think, is a good thing.

But think about that in terms of the apologetic value of defending OT miracles -- or even NT miracles (excluding 2, which I will get to in a minute) -- to unbelievers. There's no sense in doing that at all -- because they could believe all the miracles and still miss the point of the Old Testament. Look at this from John 6:
So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal."

Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?"

Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."

So they said to him, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"

Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst."
You know: these are Jews who believe that Moses made miracles in the desert, and that they can trust the Torah to tell them the truth about the history of that time. But here they are, with Jesus standing in front of them, frankly missing the point. They believed the OT miracles -- and missed the Messiah!

So before you break out the apologetic argument to substantiate any or all of the miracles in the Old Testament, keep something in mind: those miracles, in the best case, are merely parables about Jesus -- however historically-accurate they may be. Believing in those miracles doesn't give you faith in the one who is just and also the justifier of the ungodly.

On the other hand, what if we were wiling to say something like this: "Listen [unbeliever's name goes here]: I'd be willing to stipulate your unbelief in the miracles God made in Israel if you'd be willing to talk to me about one of two non-negotiable miracle of the Christian faith. Paul, who was the first global evangelist for my faith, said that if the resurrection was not true, then he was himself a liar and all his followers were the most-pathetic of all men. Let's talk about the miracle of the ressurection."

In that miracle, we also get a front-door to the other non-negotiable miracle of our faith -- which is forgiveness of sin. You know something? If we spent as much energy on appealing to people to repent because God -- who ought to rightly judge them -- has provided a solution to the problem of His wrath -- a miraculous solution, because there's no logical or natural solution to His wrath except our punishment -- think of all the really-worthless arguing we'd have to give up.

Don't waste your time on the wrong miracles. The flood of Noah is not good news: finding out that the tomb is empty, and Jesus Christ is risen -- a sign of His power and His authority, and of the worthiness of His sacrifice -- is actually Good News.


Solameanie said...

That's something that I've often pondered. Skeptics today say, "show me the miracle." The children of Israel had eye-popping things happen right before those popped eyes, including a pillar of fire, a parted Red Sea, manna in the morning, and a host of others. Yet they still rebelled.

It shows that the wicked, unbelieving heart of man is really the problem after all.

DJP said...

Have you ever bumped Phil before? Is that a resolution thing?

Terry Rayburn said...

Good points, Frank.

Josh McDowell, of Evidence That Demands A Verdict fame, has documented many conversions of people who set out to DISprove the resurrection, and have come to belief in Christ through the process.

Another interesting phenomenon:

I've never met someone who comes to faith in Christ and immediately starts discounting the veracity of OT miracles. But I've seen many who were dead-set against OT miracles who came to faith in Christ-and-Him-crucified and immediately believed every OT miracle they could think of.

Boerseuntjie said...

I often lament the fact that evangelism & preaching today has turned into apologetics, which in the best possible way (Albeit good and has it's place), MISSES the point of the Saviour - Redeemer: He came to SAVE His people from THEIR SINS.

Matthew 1:21
"And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

THE basic Motto of Christ is after all:

Luke 5:32
"I have not COME TO CALL the righteous, BUT SINNERS, TO REPENTANCE.”"

1 Timothy 1:15
"This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world TO SAVE SINNERS, of whom I am chief."

Luke 24:46-48
"Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that REPENTANCE AND REMISSION OF SINS should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things."

Good point well made.

For those unfamiliar with The Way of the Master and Living Waters' approach of Biblical Evangelism:

See this short Cartoon - Are you a good person?

Your servant for the glory of God Alone, by grace Alone through Faith Alone.

Sir Brass said...

Sola, I think our Lord also said something similar in the parable of lazarus and the rich man.

"If they won't believe moses and the prophets, then they won't believe anyone even if he rises from the dead." (not verbatim)

FX Turk said...

Terry -- that's exactly right. That's exactly the teleology of faith: to Christ, and then to His whole counsel.

DJP said...

It was with me as Terry says as well. I didn't believe the OT miracles; then I came to believe Jesus and, believing Jesus, I believed the OT miracles, because He did.

But, at the risk of Franking your meta: what if somebody says, "I know that {insert OT miracle here} could not have happened. But Jesus thinks it did. Therefore Jesus is not believable."

You — do what?

Solameanie said...

"Franking" a meta, Dan?

Hoo boy. I've heard of franking privileges, but never meta-franking. A new term enters the lexicon.

Becky Schell said...

Agreed Frank. Understanding the death and resurrection of Christ is the miracle that leads to eternal life (and I do mean that understanding is a miracle for stinking, rotten sinners who hate God - Romans 3:9-18).

All of the miracles of the Bible are faith builders for the believer; they reveal the character and nature of our Lord and help us to better understand, worship, and magnify Him.

FX Turk said...

I point out to them -- and this is a great question, DJP, so you derail wen you see fit -- that I'm not asking them to become a Jew.

See: I'm not asking them to believe that God took an insignificant people out of the world for His own purpose, and that in order to belong to that people you have to believe all the testimonies of God's work for them, both blessings and curses. Not yet, anyway.

What I am asking them to believe is what Peter asked the Jews who believed that anyway to get after: that the point of God's work in this world is not incidental and temporary miracles. You know: David is dead and buried, right?

They don't have to know, believe or even understand the OT to hear the message of Jesus: what they have to do is see that they are broken, God-offending people, and that requires a permanent solution.

I'm asking them to believe that God is in the permanent solution business, and that His solution was not done in a corner someplace.

However, if they persist, point this out to them: I get that you are mired in unbelief. That's not even a question here -- I know already that you don't have faith (protests aside) or even some kind of confidence in God. All I'm asking riught now is that you listen to the story I am telling you.

You know: many people can sit through an hour of the History channel on any number of subjects and merely give that showing an open mind. In our case, we are asking them to listen to our story for about 10-15 minutes and give us an open mind.

I know they are unbelievers: that's why I want to tell them this story. And if they don't want to listen, what sense is there in trying to explain to them that the word "species" is not in the flood account? Why would that suddenly change their mind?

NiftyDrewFifty said...

So what is the evidence for the resurrection then?

Chad V. said...

"The flood of Noah is not good news"

I gotta disagree Frank. God's wrath against sin is demonstrated and salvation in Christ is demonstrated. You could and should talk about the flood along those lines.

I don't know what you mean by "one of two non-negotiable miracles of the Christian faith". Um, I'm not willing to concede that any miracles are negotiable.

Doc said...

Ah, there's Drew; I'll leave it to the powers-that-be to deal with him. 'Don't feed the trolls', and all that.

I agree totally with the thrust of this post, with regards to personal evangelism, and even to 'broadcast' evangelism (i.e. to a larger group in some way). However, culturally/societally we have gone from one in which the best minds knew and professed that Scripture was true (one thinks of Pascal, Bacon; those who founded Harvard, Princeton; etc), to one in which the 'best minds' profess no such thing, and in most cases are quietly or vocally hostile to Biblical truth. Growing up in an intellectual, atheistic family, I think that gave me just that much more 'cover' for my atheism, as it were; in addition to moral rebellion I could add that little oomph of intellectual pride: to become a Christian I'd have to 'leave my brains at the church door'. In fact, as I assume is well accepted here, the situation is quite the reverse: all lines of argument (historical, moral, existential, cosmological, etc) rationally point to God. It is indeed the fool who says in his heart there is no God.

'Conservatives' (to whatever extent) seem to be 'coming out of the closet' in Hollywood these days; the same sort of thing needs to happen more and more in the 'scientific' fields: folks with advanced degrees (especially in the hard sciences) proclaiming that they see no contradiction whatsoever between the data that they gather and organize, and the testimony of Scripture; and that they do not think that life, the universe, and everything are the accidental byproduct of a cosmic burp some umpty-billion years ago. I know of one such organization: Doctors Doubting Darwin (I think I'm a member, actually, altho' I've never done anything more than put my name on a roll as far as I remember...). I'm sure there are others, and I pray for their success. Just imagine if the bulk of all PhD historians clearly acknowledged the historicity of the NT including the account of Jesus' miracles and resurrection; d'ya think Drew would still be trolling?

Having said all that, again I agree with the main point: in evangelism pointing out one's need for forgiveness, and the grace of God through Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross and His resurrection, is the way to go.

James Scott Bell said...

Paul began his address in Athens with Creation: "The God who made the world and everything in it..." and ended with the resurrection. I find those bookends still to be best.

Everyone "knows" the heavens declare the glory of God. They resist this, however, and end up like Richard Dawkins, who admits he "doesn't know" how the universe began, only that it cannot have been the God of the Bible.

Confront people with existence itself, and they will have to see they are little Dawkinses (at worst) or else agnostic --which means open to further discussion.

Then, at the other end, try asking "What do you think happens when you die...and what do you base that on?"

GZimmy said...

"How can it be Wednesday? What happened to Tuesday? Is this what it's like to get old -- to have days vanish?"

I hate to tell you, Frank. I'm still trying to figure out what happened to 1979!

CR said...

Frank: They believed the OT miracles -- and missed the Messiah!

Another minor detail and aside, those Jews (at least those that were unregenerate) during their trek in the wilderness actually saw the OT miracles like the parting of the Red Sea (or Sea of Reeds) and the pillar of cloud and fire (daily for a while) - all those miracles that they saw - did absolutely, 100%, nothing for them in terms of saving faith.

FX Turk said...


Paul said it this way --

"Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,

"'I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.'
"Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

"'The Lord said to my Lord,Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.'

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."

Anonymous said...

Greg Bahnsen said about apologetics that the role of apologetics is to silance opposition. It does not convert by itself (as good calvinists know).

Without God acctually reforming your mind, the unbeliever cannot accept the miracles of Christianity. Even if he were to see a dead man raised in front of him he would still not belive.

30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
Luke 16:30-31

Hadassah said...

Why don't you just put some pictures of delicious-looking, melt in your mouth, perfectly glazed donuts on your post next time?

'Cause I think all of the other people on their New Year's diets would really appreciate it.

Other than that, excellent post.

FX Turk said...


If I believe that the flood of Noah is a didactic fable rather tha a historic event, can I be saved?

If I believe that the ressurection of Christ is a didactic fable rather than a ahistoric event, can I be saved?

I think the answer to the former is "yes", and to the latter, "no." If you think otherwise, I'd enjoy reading why.

trogdor said...

It would really be hard to have picked a better passage to make this point than John 6. Consider their demand of Jesus: Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, "He gave them bread from heaven to eat".

What had Jesus done the very previous day (vs. 1-14), if not met their demand exactly? They demanded a sign, specifically miraculous bread - which he had just done!

Further, Jesus confronted them on this, saying they weren't there because of the signs (i.e. they didn't really care about God's truth/the Messiah), but only because they wanted bread. So they respond by asking for a sign - and might we suggest... more bread? Classic.

And of course, Jesus responds by trying to get them to take their eyes off of the miracles for just one second, and look to the one who performs them. To stop being content with bread that will satisfy hunger for a few hours, and long for the God who promises life that satisfies eternally.

The point of the miracles isn't the miracles. Thanks for the reminder.

NiftyDrewFifty said...

So what is the evidence for the resurrection then?

I would guess that the response is the evidence of hundreds of eyewitness testimonies (including women) in the gospels and the subsequent growth of the Church from there on out.

If this is one's criteria of evidence for their entire faith, then I don't understand why everyone here is not a Hindu and a follower of Sathya Sai Baba, the south Indian guru. Not just hundreds, but millions of eyewitnesses attest to his miracles: that he was born of a virgin, has raised the dead, and materializes objects. And these eyewitnesses are contemporary first person accounts, not hearsay in copied texts from people who lived 2,000 years ago.

So why are you guys not Hindus? Or do you just believe that you were the fortunate one to be born into the society with the religion with the true miracles and the right God. I guess you would if you were a calvinist. How convenient, your religion just happens to put you on the right side of God's graces and at the center of his plan and destined for heaven. No doubt you wouldn't believe in it any other way.

FX Turk said...


Let me make this clear, Drew -- one of the things every single unbeliever does when faces with the declaration of the Gospel is disbelieve. And by that, I do not mean that they merely fail to drink out Kool-Aid: I mean that there are is no end to the lengths to which they will go to find another objection.

Your original question was, "Well, I just can't believe Noah." Excellent: I don't think you really grasp the story of Noah (see our exchange at JT's blog), but you don't have to believe Noah -- I think you have to believe Jesus.

Next question -- which is reasonable -- "What about Jesus?" Excellent: I say what Peter testified to about Jesus -- the common evidence that Jesus died for sin in accordance with the Scripture, and rose from the dead in accordance with Scripture. The evidence is that Jesus is who he said he was.

Next question -- and it's interesting how this question subtly changes the course here -- "What about evidence for Sathya Sai Baba?" The subtle change, of course, is away from Jesus to the topic of epistemology. That is, you have changed from questioning one set of evidence to questioning whether one can trust evidence.

And here's my offer to you: I'd be willing to discuss the issue of epistemology with you if and only if you do not change the subject from Epistemology to metaphysics or teleology or some other line of inquiry.

Can you do that, or are you willing to admit that you really are more interested in asking a new question than you are in finding the answers to the one(s) you have already asked?

FX Turk said...


I am glad Skynet let you live.

Rachael Starke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NiftyDrewFifty said...

Frank- good point, I agree that in some sense I have changed the argument for evidence from within scripture to outside of it.

The reason I do this is because I don't think one can prove something solely based on its own declarations. Its like pulling yourself up by your own bootsraps.

Here is how your argument sounds to me:
Why is the Bible the truth? Because its God's word. But why is it God's word? Because it says so.

That just doesn't work. So the reason I change the subject to epistemology is I am looking for a way to verify the claims that the Bible makes independently from itself.

This use of epistemology is something we use all the time in our lives.

For example, when eye laser surgery came out 10 years ago, many of us do not rush out to get the surgery done right away even though doctors were claiming that the procedure worked and was safe. No, we waited for a couple years, observed people who had it done without problems, double checked with other doctors and medical journals, and then after a sufficient amount of tested time went ahead and got the surgery after enough self assurances that the procedure was safe.

All I am proposing is that we have the same level of seriousness when it comes to our faith.

Unfortunately, in the end, I don't think we really can have the same level of assurance when it comes to God, who he is, what he wants or thinks, or if he(I can't even help referring to God within a gender) is even something we could fathom with our human minds. I don't necessarily like that anymore than you do, but that's just the way it is.

So maybe that's just the extent of our faith. And therefore doubt is not a vice but a virtue, and the only reasonable stance any of us humans can have.

Rachael Starke said...


The question is not just "Did the resurrection happen" but why it happened.

Jesus performed all of His miracles to make one essential point, which Matthew describes in this way:

Matthew 9
"9:1 And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. 2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he rose and went home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men."

The resurrection is the ultimate "proof-event" that Jesus' words to that crowd, and especially the unbelieving scribes, were true.

And they are so true that anyone of us here would joyfully die to defend. And we'd do it because we have been given that confidence in their truth by God Himself. None of us was born believing, especially me. I practically dared God to prove Himself to me. But He did, and He will prove Himself to you too, if you ask.

And you must ask.

James Scott Bell said...

Sathya Sai Baba...

Is he the guru confined to a wheelchair now? When he rises from the dead, call me.

FX Turk said...

That's a nice sermon from and for agnosticism, Drew.

Tell me: do you use that epistemological yard stick when you go to the restaurant? For example, a new Taco Bueno opens across from work, and therefore you wait a couple of months to see if anyone dies from their food prep practices before you go and check it out?

I ask because you say your view is rational. I don't think it's actually rational: it's skeptical at best.

As to the point that my epistemology is radically different than yours, I would say the one I am advocating is radically different than the one you are advocating. I'd be willing to bet a t-shirt from my pawn shop, however, that what you practice looks more like what I am going to advocate here than what you are advocating.

FX Turk said...


You're getting ahead of ourselves here, and you're violating the only rule I have asked Drew to abide by. Let's stick to Epistemology for a minute here -- the Gospel will be readily apparent in less than three more exchanges.

Rachael Starke said...

Thanks Frank - i believe you. Consider my hand slapped. :)

Mike Riccardi said...

I don't mean to interrupt the flow of the exchange between Frank and Drew here, but I wanted to say that I thought this was a great post. And I also wanted to add another verse that I think makes this point point blank: John 12:37. It says, "But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him."

I wanted to make a comment on what Drew said, and I believe it to be epistemological, but if I'm wrong I won't be offended if the comment is deleted or just ignored.

So the reason I change the subject to epistemology is I am looking for a way to verify the claims that the Bible makes independently from itself.

My response to that is you're searching for a reality (or an epistemological foundation) that doesn't exist. There is no such thing as reality independent from the Word of God, whether anyone (including you or I) believes it or not. This is why presuppositionalism is the Biblical method of apologetics. The Bible never concedes its terms. God is always asserting the absolute authority of His Word by virtue of it being His Word.

That's why we Christians understand that effective evangelism respects the reality that all are hardened against the Truth by default, and will not change their stance without being regenerated. And that regeneration only comes by the very Word of God (Rom 10:17, 1Pet 1:23-25). So we proclaim the message, the living and enduring Word of God by which men and women are born again.

One's only hope of understanding these things is not by external verification. It is only by being saved, having one's mind opened by Christ Himself through the means of His Word, that we can properly evaluate the Bible's claims and come to the correct conclusions.

I believe that's what Terry meant when he said this, in the third comment from the beginning of the thread, with which both Frank and Dan agreed: I've never met someone who comes to faith in Christ and immediately starts discounting the veracity of OT miracles. But I've seen many who were dead-set against OT miracles who came to faith in Christ-and-Him-crucified and immediately believed every OT miracle they could think of.

NiftyDrewFifty said...


Yeah, actually one time I didn't bring the yard stick to Taco Bell and paid dearly for it after a chalupa:) Actually now that I think about it, that's probably why I haven't gone to Jack in the Box since they had that ebola scare 10 years ago. Remember?

You're right, I am being skeptical. But my whole point is that skeptibility is the rational way to be.

When has someone gotten into trouble for having too much skeptical inquiry? I can think of a million circumstances where the corollary has occured.

When it comes to miracles, here is what Hume said. If you see a miracle what is more likely, that the universal laws of nature were suspended on your behalf, or that you are under a misapprehension? Its why most of us don't believe that people actually see UFO's when they claim they do, even though I believe they do believe they see them.

When it comes to the resurrection, its not even at the same level as that. Its just hearsay from people who lived 2,000 years ago.

Moon said...

"Don't waste your time on the wrong miracles. The flood of Noah is not good news: finding out that the tomb is empty, and Jesus Christ is risen -- a sign of His power and His authority, and of the worthiness of His sacrifice -- is actually Good News."
Thank you very much for this post! and Amen!!

KRG said...

I agree that we can't sell people on Jesus by selling them on miracles (esp. OT miracles). Indeed, if someone became a "Christian" because the think miracles are cool or have a thing for supernatural mysticism are they really Christians? The only way to become a Christian is to love Jesus & trust him above all else, not to love the supernatural. However, arguing the validity of miracles and the historicity of the Bible can be very helpful in removing obstacles to belief. Why would anyone believe one portion of the Bible when another is verifiability untrue? It is the flip side of the fundamentalist's insistence that you can't pick and choose which sections of the Bible to believe.

Now, when dealing with miracles in general we are left with 2 basic options:

1) it is a genuine instance of the supernatural
2) it is a parlor trick like any illusionist can demonstrate

In the case of the resurrection the witnesses are a great place to go to sort trick from miracle. Not only the witnesses of his resurrection, but of his death. The Romans knew how to kill people, they would know if someone was dead or “swooning”; their testimony of his death should be sufficient for knowing that if you do see him alive and well there was a genuine, supernatural resurrection. As hundreds of witnesses attested some at pain of death, Jesus who was dead was walking around alive and well. (to put it in a nutshell)

Now, in the case of other miracle workers such as Sathya Sai Baba (assuming they are genuine miracles) we don’t follow them because its not just the miracles. Jesus even warned:

For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. - Matthew 24:24

So we don’t believe he is God just because of the miracles but because of the miracles and testimony of the scripture, i.e. fulfillment of OT prophesy (2 Peter 1:16-21) and the unity of the Bible itself including it’s historical accuracy.

Chad V. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Solameanie said...


There have been ample books written on evidence for biblical accounts of events, including the resurrection, although those books are not needed to establish the authority of God's Word.

I, too, don't wish to distract from epistemology, but I do feel constrained to say this. If Jesus is not raised, we are still in our sins. That means you, too.

That's the testimony of Scripture. You'd be wise to heed it.

Mike Riccardi said...

KRG: However, arguing the validity of miracles and the historicity of the Bible can be very helpful in removing obstacles to belief.

The notion of "removing obstacles to belief" short of regeneration itself is foreign to Scripture. A man is saved or unsaved, a child of God or a child of the devil, subject to the law of God or hostile to it. There are not degrees of hostility. You're dead or you're alive. You don't become a closer-to-being-alive corpse.

Why would anyone believe one portion of the Bible when another is verifiably untrue?

They wouldn't. But let's argue that we could verify that truth. The problem is: that truth cannot be verified by any other means than regeneration and understanding the whole of Scripture with a redeemed mind. That's the point of saying that people saw miracles and didn't believe. The very fulfillment of all these guys were expecting was standing right in front of them. The other day He had fed 5,000. Today they're asking for a sign. The 5,000 two days ago would be the verification you're talking about, and that they're still asking for. So that verification didn't remove any obstacles to belief, and it still doesn't. Sure, it manifests their inconsistency. It testifies against them and makes them more accountable. But it does nothing in terms of bringing them closer to belief.

KRG said...

I guess I missed an option for dealing with miracles that Drew pointed out, that it is a misapprehension, hallucination or something of that sort. However, with the accounts of the resurrection we are not dealing with individual appearances but to crowds (1 Corinthians 15:6). It is easy to believe an "supernatural" occurrence is actually a hallucination, but generally hallucinations are private, individual events; hundreds of people don’t have the same hallucination at the same time. That’s why when we see something unbelievable we turn to our friend and ask, “Did you see that?” So with the resurrection we are left with the first two options again.

Trying to dismiss NT testimony because it is old also falls short. What is the shelf life eye-witness testimony? There is much evidence that the NT we read is the same as what was originally written. For a basic into reasons to believe I would recommend Tim Keller’s “The Reason for God” for more in depth study look at his bibliography.

KRG said...

Mike, I agree that NOTHING short of regeneration will not lead to belief however the post was about whether there is value in defending OT miracles (which I think can be cast in the more general light of defending the veracity of the Bible).

“There's no sense in doing that at all -- because they could believe all the miracles and still miss the point of the Old Testament.”

I disagree, though I would not start there if it comes up in evangelism I will gladly go there because I believe that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17 see also Romans 10:14) so as long as I am preaching/defending the word, be it OT or NT I think that the Spirit does use what we say to effect belief. Otherwise why would be called to preach? In this regard I think I am following the example of Paul who reasoned with his listeners (Acts 17). So perhaps “removes obstacles” wasn’t precise enough, but I don’t think you could say that using these arguments is “foreign to Scripture” as long as you understand that it is not the power of your argument that accomplishes belief but the power of God working through the word you preach.

If you truly believe there is no value in defending OT veracity to unbelievers who say the whole scripture is bunk because they don’t buy the flood or creation, at what point does argumentation become of value? Can I defend the accuracy of the NT? Or do I just say, “Believe in Jesus, you’ll understand later.” All scripture gives testimony of Christ, so if the Spirit can use my arguing the flood to help someone believe the resurrection, then I will argue the flood. The key is bringing it back to the resurrection, not thinking that if they concede the flood the job is done. So I think it is impossible to argue that there is no value in this.

CR said...

I don't know if this will help, but I thought RC Sproul had a great article on making distinction between what is a miracle and what is supernatural.

(Just as another aside, I believe it takes greater power for God to work things through providence than miracles. Miracles are amazing, but to work things through providence through history through millions of decisions made by men through history takes more power, I think, then just doing some miracles, here and there). For example, look at what the Lord did in history by preparing the world for the advance of the gospel by Hellenizing the culture beginning with Alexander the Great conquering the known world. That takes more power.)

But aside from that, the real power of the gospel is to deliver people from darkness (addictions, hating God, complacency, etc.) Give me the Lord's supernatural (as opposed to "miracle") power to deliver dead souls from darkness over any miracle or signs or wonders. I mean give me God saving people I've been praying for, for a while, over any parting of a sea or burning bush, any day.

The miracles in the Bible will become more palatable over time for whom God is saving, because, well, He is saving them and their eyes become open. So, issues like, evolution or theodicy, e.g., don't become problems anymore for them.

Chad V. said...


I'd enjoy you justifying the phrase, " the two non-negotiable miracles" as if any miracle in the bible is negotiable.

The point is not what vital truths need to believed to be saved, the point is what is your responsibility as a Christian in evangelism. It's your responsibility to stand on and support all scriptural truth with out compromise or acquiescence. Those miracles are part and parcel to God's person. Ignore them and you present God to the person you witness to falsely.

How would you suppose to go about convincing sinners of their need of Christ if they don't believe that they were created by God in His image and accountable to Him because He is their creator? Will you side step that if the person says he doesn't believe that?

How will will you show them the Christ of scripture when you won't try to teach them that Christ is the creator of all things? Will you side step that if you encounter resistance there?

Believing in the various miracles in scripture won't on it's own save you but the miracles are no hinderance to the gospel. In point of fact in many of the evangelistic sermons in the bible testimony of miracles is often given in support of the gospel.

Consider this, Christ proved the resurrection to people who didn't believe in it or much anything else supernatural by using the miracle of the burning bush. Mark 12:18-27. Christ relied on the truth of miraculous events in scripture to prove His point to people who didn't believe in the miraculous.

FX Turk said...


Once you realize that I never said miracles are a hindrance to belief, but in fact I said, "those miracles, in the best case, are merely parables about Jesus -- however historically-accurate they may be. Believing in those miracles doesn't give you faith in the one who is just and also the justifier of the ungodly."

My complaint here is that arguing about shadows and types detracts from the real thing. Stop arguing about the things that won't save anybody.

Once that is extracted from your very serious concerns, there's not much left.


If you don't use that epistemology when you eat at a restaurant or a fast food joint (and you don't) when plainly you have more immediately on the line regarding your health and welfare, how can you call it a rational "way to be" when you do not apply that standard in a rational way?

You use the standard to avoid believing something with potentially long-term benefits, but you abandon the standard when it would have considerable and palpable immediate benefits. That's not rational: it's selective.

But here's the broader problem, Drew: you're not being irrational. It may be by default, or by accident, but it turns out you haven't abandoned rationality: you have accepted the testimony of the proper authorities. That is: you have experts (the local health department) who have the authority and the skill to know whether your local fast food place is filthy and dangerous or if it maintains the basic standards of cleanliness.

You have chosen the testimony of experts, Drew. That's far more rational than saying something else in this case because here's the truth: except for the major violations of the health code, you and I don't have what it takes to know without help what's clean and what's not.

And you do that all the time. You do it when you cross the street -- trusting that the drivers are all licensed and tested. You do it when you bank. You do it when you accept employment or read a book.

Your epistemology is not a wholly-personalized test kitchen for all facts: it is in fact heavily reliant on the testimony of experts and authorities.

Would you agree with that, or would you say that this is an overstatement? If you don't agree, explain what you do when you accept a paycheck or pay your bills with a check.

CR said...

Chad:How will will you show them the Christ of scripture when you won't try to teach them that Christ is the creator of all things? Will you side step that if you encounter resistance there?

I don't believe Frank is saying you can't discuss about the Lord being creator. I believe what he is talking about is that you don't need to do apologetics for OT miracles to create a biblical framework to convey the gospel message to unbelievers.

In fact, I would say, especially in the West, in our growing post-modernism culture, starting with creation (I don't believe getting into the details whether the days are 24 hour days or ages is required) is becoming more and more necessary.

We can't start with phrases like "the Bible says" because people growing up in our culture are clueless about the Bible. We can't even start with sin (which is what the Way of the Master starts with) because sin to most people (if they believe in it) is horizontal not something that is vertical.

It's becoming more and more evident now we have start with creation and providence and once we reason with them and create a biblical framework for the gospel message by introducing and talking about creation and that God created them and therefore He can do what He wants and send people where He wants them and dictate how we must live (because He created us) then you can talk about sin and that creates a framework for the gospel.

Paul used this method in Acts when it came to preaching the gospel to Gentiles (with Jews he used OT - but he couldn't use that method with Gentiles because some Gentiles were clueless on OT Scriptures).

In order to introduce a biblical framework for the gospel message (especially in the Western post-modern culture) you don't need to introduce or start with apologetics on OT miracles.

VcdeChagn said...

Good post Frank...just a few comments because this one hit home...I'll try to keep it short.

1. Until I was 25, I basically said that if God wanted me to believe in Him he would show me a miracle.

2. Went from an agnostic to "believer" when I was about 25. Believed in the supernatural but didn't "get" it.

3. Didn't really act on my belief until I was 30 (1997) and got Evidence that Demands a Verdict. All of a sudden I realized it was TRUE...and that whole cold water down the back feeling happened..then things started changing.

4. Last weekend I taught my Sunday School class (5-12 yr olds)that miracles don't really matter. I listed off all the miracles that the Israelites saw during the Exodus and how little it mattered to their obedience.

If I was teaching teenagers I'd just print out your post and not have to do any prep work :)

Mike Riccardi said...

KRG: ...the more general light of defending the veracity of the Bible. ... so as long as I am preaching/defending the word...

KRG, I don't think that it's our responsibility to defend the Bible's veracity, or to defend the Word, in the way you're talking about it. (The only way in which we are to defend the word is to protect its purity by proclaiming what it says and refuting what it doesn't say, cf. Tit 1, 1Tim 6:13-14, etc.).

I don't believe that the Word needs defending. Nor do I believe God wants us to think that His Word needs to be defended or proved true by any other means than by tasting it and approving it. He presents His Word to us and requires -- and expects -- that we believe it because it is His Word, and for no other reason. Therefore, I don't believe it's the believer's job to present external evidence to convince the unbeliever of the Bible's veracity. And, even if I did, they would never be convinced, because of the reasons that I cited before. 1 Cor 2:14 sums those up nicely, I think.

Also, think about it this way. The Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit. Now, do you defend your sword? Or do you defend with your sword? Certainly it's the latter. And how do you defend with your sword? By wielding it, and nothing else. If you use another weapon, what does that communicate about your attitude/beliefs about the sufficiency of that weapon?

...be it OT or NT I think that the Spirit does use what we say to effect belief. Otherwise why would be called to preach?

I think the Spirit uses what Christ says to effect belief. We preach His Word, not our own. So of course the Spirit uses preaching to save. But preaching what? Arguments? Evidences? No... it is the preached word (1 Pet 1:25).

In this regard I think I am following the example of Paul who reasoned with his listeners (Acts 17).

I disagree, and I think that is a misuse of that passage. Paul did nothing in that passage that tried to defend God's veracity. He simply asserted facts. No concession, no defense. He just asserted them as true, and required -- and expected -- belief as a result. Let's take a survey. Paul asserted:

- That God made the world and everything in it.
- That He is the one God, Lord, Master of heaven and earth, so their polytheism is errant.
- He does not dwell in temples made by humans, so their idolatry is pointless.
- He's not served by humans.
- He is the source of all life.
- He made every different kind of people and gave them their dwelling places.
- He did all these things so people would seek Him.
- Again, that their idolatry is foolish and worthless.
- That He was merciful and didn't punish their sin and ignorance immediately.
- That He commands everyone everywhere to repent of that sin and ignorance.
- That He will judge the world and condemn them for their sin in the person of Jesus, the appointed One, the Christ.
- That He raised this Jesus from the dead as a proof of these things.

That's the sermon on Mars Hill. No back-and-forth. No defense of the veracity of these things. No argument. Just the assertion of them as fact.

If you truly believe there is no value in defending OT veracity to unbelievers who say the whole scripture is bunk because they don’t buy the flood or creation, at what point does argumentation become of value?

I would say argumentation is of very little value, and we're not called to argue. We're called to proclaim. Preach a message that doesn't change. If someone has an objection, I think it's OK to answer it, but we answer it on the basis of Scripture alone.

Also, I think argumentation is of great value as an encouragement to believers who are able to "receive the things of the Spirit," because they have the Spirit of God.

Can I defend the accuracy of the NT?

You could, but it will never move someone closer to being saved or accepting the message.

Or do I just say, “Believe in Jesus, you’ll understand later.”

This is a caricature of my position. What I would say is you preach the Gospel, point them to Jesus as the one who takes away the sin of the world, sin that they bear, that condemns them to eternal, conscious punishment apart from their Creator, who created them to know Him. If they're focused on other things, those things are fruitless until they trust Christ. Can you answer their questions? Absolutely. But you must know that it will do nothing in terms of bringing them closer to receiving the Gospel. Only the preached word of Christ will do that.

All scripture gives testimony of Christ, so if the Spirit can use my arguing the flood to help someone believe the resurrection, then I will argue the flood.

Then you'll waste your time. What you can do is present the Flood as a historical event (because the Bible does) and then demonstrate how that was a prefiguring of the salvation given in Christ. But what you should not do is present what I just said, have the unbeliever say, "Well I reject the flood as historical," and then start defending its historicity. It's wholly fruitless. Because even if you were able to provide compelling extra-biblical evidence, they still would not believe.

"But he said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'" -- Luke 16:31

But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. -- John 12:37

So I think it is impossible to argue that there is no value in this.

Hopefully you see why I disagree with this. But just in case, what my point is at the simplest level is that man's total depravity is what prevents him from believing the Gospel. And nothing but regeneration fixes that. All the arguments, all the discussions, all the presentations and evaluations of evidence accomplish nothing. All we're interested in is salvation. Salvation is only possible by regeneration. And regeneration is only possible by preaching the Word of Christ.

Chad V. said...


I think I'm starting to see what you're saying. I think I may have misunderstood you some what. I wouldn't advocate arguing about the shadows and types either. However, what I would and do advocate is stating gospel truths on the foundation of the truth and historicity of the O.T. and all that it records.

If some one says "I don't believe in the flood" I say "Well the flood tells us about God's wrath against sin and the Ark tells us bout salvation in Christ etc.". The flood becomes my anchor for my presentation of gospel truth. Whether or not the person I'm witnessing to believes in the flood is not my concern. My concern is that I present the gospel on it's own bedrock. The Holy Spirit will do the arguing for me in the sinner's conscience.

Of course believing in the flood doesn't save anyone, but neither does believing in the resurrection in and of itself. I believed in the resurrection for years before I was saved. As I recall the Sadducees were the only sect of the Jews who didn't believe that vital doctrine, the Pharisees did and it didn't do them any good at all, it didn't save them or make it any easier to talk about forgiveness of sins or Christ with them. So I'm having trouble seeing your line of reasoning when you say that the resurrection gives us a foot in the door to then talk about forgiveness of sins. I think a discussion about the flood could be just as effective. I think it just depends on the specific situation.

And Frank, what about the incarnation? Isn't that another non-negotiable miracle of our faith? No one can be saved with out believing the incarnation. Why did you limit your non-negotiable miracles to just two? Certainly you intend to include this miracle in your list.

NiftyDrewFifty said...

Frank - I think I would agree that often we take a lot of our opninions based on the testimony of experts and authorities.

That I think is why, in regards to evolution, I would rather trust the overwhelming majority of biological scientists, and geneticists (eg. Francis Collins) and archeologists, and geologists, etc., that the theory of evolution is on the same level of certainty and veracity as the theory of gravity or plate tectonics, than the opinion of some pastor trying to discredit evolution because the Bible makes no mention of it.

Maybe we are just 1/2 a chromosome away from chimpanzees by coincidence, but I doubt it.

And then I can simply look up into the sky and see the stars that are millions of lights years away, and realize that the earth and universe is so much older than 6,000 years that the geneologies just are not right. I guess God can be tricking my eyes, but then why should I even trust my eyes to read and interperate the pages of scripture correctly?

Chad V. said...


You absolutely must start with "the bible says". It's irrelevant wether the person you are witnessing to is a bible ignorant gentile or a bible knowing Jew. You must begin showing people that the bible teaches their accountability to God, creation, the Fall, Salvation in Christ on the Bible's authority. It's the only authority you have in witnessing.

How are you going to teach people about Providence or Creation without saying the bible teaches these things?

Your battle is not with flesh and blood, it's with principalities and powers. The bible is your sword. Sheath your sword and you've lost the battle. If you try to teach someone providence or creation they are going to say "Where did you come up with that?" Your answer must be,"the bible says so." You do no glory to God by not establishing His word as your source of authority on the front end.

FX Turk said...

Drew: one warning only -- you're changing the subject from epistemology to your interpretation of the Bible and/or your interpretation of science.

Stick to the subject -- don't ask new questions when the old one(s) haven't been answered yet.

In making that exhortation, think about this:

Let’s make sure you don’t misinterpret what I’m saying here by a near miss: the question is not merely do we “take” opinions from “experts and authorities”. One of the classic errors in popular opinion-making is using the pronouncements of one kind of expert in matters they have no business talking about – so taking the word of a Ph.D. in Art History for a matter of Sociology, or using the notoriety of a movie star as the basis for forming an opinion about Global Warming™, is a logical fallacy.

My point is that when you trust a banker to cash a check (or bounce a fraudulent check), or you trust the health department to keep McDonalds from serving you actual feces, you have used the proper experts to form an opinion. This is crucial.

And it is crucial because the wrong experts will always yield the wrong answers.

FX Turk said...

For all: I am extraordinarily busy today. I might not be back to the thread today at all.

Don't lose it while I'm away.

CR said...

Chad: How are you going to teach people about Providence or Creation without saying the bible teaches these things?

With polytheists like the Lystrans, Paul began the good news with the message that God is the creator of all that exists. Otherwise the message would not be understood.

holmegm said...

If I believe that the flood of Noah is a didactic fable rather tha a historic event, can I be saved?

If I believe that the ressurection of Christ is a didactic fable rather than a ahistoric event, can I be saved?

Yeah, but ...

What about the virgin birth? Is it OK to think of that as a didactic fable? That's pretty intertwined with the nature of who Jesus is. How do you feel about leaving that question open?

I guess I'm saying I'm not sure if your question is the right one to be asking. I'm not so much disputing the answer.

Chad V. said...


Yes, I agree, but if Paul was asked where that teaching comes from you know what his answer would be; "it's written in the scriptures".

FX Turk said...

After a ridiculously-busy day, I come back to the meta here and find people confusing orthodoxy with the Gospel.

You know something: at Pentecost, Peter didn't mention the virgin birth -- and 3000 were saved.


Someone does not have to have every iota of Biblical narrative memorized and confessed in order to receive the Gospel.

And my point in this post ...

... ugh. You people. I will make a new post to reiterate and make excruciatingly-clear the point of my last post.

CR said...


Just for clarification, I'm not saying that it is not necessary to mention any miracles anytime, ever, when explaining the gospel. We have examples as part of Paul's missionary method of returning to synagogues for three Sabbaths, explaining and proving that it was necessary for Christ to rise from the dead. (Acts 17:3).

Here's another important observation, despite Frank's example from Scriptures that 3,000 were saved immediately from the proclamation of the gospel, that is not going to be the norm of how God saves people. When we proclaim the gospel, it's not going to be done in one fell swoop.

As much as I appreciate things like Way of the Master and street preaching, that method will not work on most people. You don't get to say the message in one fell swoop, but like Paul, you're going to spend some time with people. In other words, we see examples in Scriptures, where the Lord does not persuade men in one fell swoop, but over spending time in different areas.

Now, we do have some examples, of where it seems to happen instantly. But that is not the case in all instances.

So, e.g., you start with creation and providence. You come back to them, and you say, "hey, Joe, remember last week when we talked about creation and providence and that God created us and he is in control of history and all that?" Then you talk about sin. And so on and so on.

I'm not saying that you never in your several discussions of explaining the gospel, never mention any miracle. What I'm saying is that if you begin with a discussion as if you're in the Bible Belt, with, "the Bible says", I think you're done.

Chad V. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chad V. said...


I agree with what you say except for one thing. I don't think that stating that you speak from the authority of God's word is going to finish off your attempt to witness, ever, no more that talking about the resurrection finished Paul's attempt to witness in the Areopagus.

Look, I don't think that I have to preface every encounter with the phrase "the bible says", but I do it most of the time, and if any one ever asks, "where did you come up with this?" your answer had better be; "God's word says so, the scriptures say so, etc."


I eagerly await your follow up.

CR said...


I didn't say that simply stating that you speak from God's authoritative word will end a conversation. I said that starting with, "the Bible says" may end it, because many people are not going to know what you're talking about, because they don't know what a Bible is.

I heard my pastor told a story about some guy wearing a cross and this guy came up to him and asked him, "why are you wearing a plus sign around your neck?"

People are really ignorant of the Bible and its contents.

Here look at this, the before and after conversation.

I'm not saying you can never say the "Bible says." I hope that clarifies what I'm saying.

Chad V. said...


I see what you're saying. Here's the thing. I have never ever run into some on who doesn't know what the bible is. Even the most ignorant person I've witnessed to has known that the bible is a religious book that Christians gain their teaching from.

At the worst all I can see happening is that I have to take a moment to explain to someone, "well, the bible is the word of God. It's His revelation to man concerning what who God is and what God requires of Man. It also tells us about the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ." or something along those lines.

I don't handle every witnessing situation the same way. My strategy in each situation depends on the circumstances.

I see what you're saying CR. I just don't agree. I'll never criticize anyone for starting with the words "the bible says..."

Chad V. said...


I like the contrast in the two videos you linked to and I agree with the second approach 100%. Like I said before, I don't see anything wrong with the saying "the bible teaches us....". If some one is actually going to listen to you that phrase isn't going to halt the conversation. It never has in my experience any more than saying, "can I talk to you about Jesus Christ and how through faith in Him we can have forgiveness of sins?"

BTW, that line is usually my opener when I witness to a stranger cold.

Hanani Hindsfeet said...

You're a hero Frank Turk!

I was tortured by the mysterious use of the term "rox alla" every time Todd Friel made a Scriptural reference...

Now I understand it's "Rexella [van Impe]"

Here I was thinking it was some sort of fancy Latin...

You have brought me solace and I can now find an equally trivial perplexity to be bothered by in my spare time...

Joel Spencer said...

While I surely don't endorse WOTM in any capacity, there are no "wrong miracles" within the Word. Even the Flood is an account of redemption and provision for God's people.

With that being said, I could be no further from being a "basher" of the Gospel. I am however fully convinced that everything within the Word has purpose and life.

I find that I just don't really agree with anyone. (smile) I just think Christianity is so far from where It should be, only God can show us how to get back.

CR said...


I think Mark Dever in his book, The Gospel & Personal Evangelism makes the point that I've been trying to make.

He says that when we are talking to our non-Christian acquaintances, we want to make sure they understand what we mean.

Dever notes this has been Paul's missionary method's also. The apostle Paul began with the OT when he was talking to Jews but when he spoke to a group of Greeks in Athens he began by quoting their own sayings (Acts 17).

To the Jews, Paul became a Jew to win them, to those not having the law he became like one not having the law so as to win those not having the law.

Using your quote, there are times you're going to have to define who Jesus is, what "faith" is and what "forgiveness" is.

I remember my pastor telling us a story about a guy when he asked who he thought Jesus was, the guy responded by saying, "He was a cool dude that got killed."

We really can't expect people especially in this post-modernist culture that is springing up to know what we're talking about unless we explain it. That's all I'm saying.