Careful with the Word “Miracle”

by Gardner Hall

I see increasing numbers of references among disciples of Christ referring to events in their lives as miraculous, or even asking for a miracle. Perhaps it’s time for a reminder that we don’t live in the miraculous age. That fact almost used to be taken for granted in congregations I know and perhaps for that reason many have neglected to teach on it. Therefore we increasingly see loose usage of the word, perhaps as a result of the influence of postmodernism and its emphasis on feelings over reason.

By definition, a miracle involves an act that violates the laws of nature, in many cases the instant healing of permanent and visible defects (John 11; Acts 3:2; 13; Jn. 9, etc.). Sometimes miracles were supernatural signs such as walking on the water, turning water into wine, feeding the 5,000, etc.

What is marvelous is not necessarily a miracle. The design of our body and especially our brain with the amazing ability to fight disease, give birth, and invent medicines is a work of God that shows His infinite intelligence. But the wonderful function of our bodies isn’t a miracle in the biblical sense.

The danger in applying the term “miracle” to what is not truly miraculous is a cheapening of the concept. If we apply the word to gradually getting better from an illness or to having a tumor shrink with treatment, unbelievers will begin to see “miracles” as no big deal, but something that commonly happens among all people as well as believers. We don’t want to cheapen the impact of the true miracles of Jesus and the apostles! Therefore, let’s be discreet and avoid applying that word loosely.

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