Miracles: do they happen?
Quite some time ago, I received an email where someone asked: Why do Christians believe in miracles?
I guess that for many Christians, the reason why they believe in miracles, is because they see these
happening. Indeed, miracles happen.
A little about myself
Author of this little text on this webpage is Hans Bodlaender. I'm 45 years old, father of three children,
and have a job, that can be translated into English as associate professor computer science, at
Utrecht University. As a child, I went to the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and did confirmation there.
I believed in God, in the salvation of Jesus Christ, but I did not believe that God did miracles in our
time. Miracles were, I thought, something that happened in the time when the Bible was written, but not
today. There are many Christians that also think so. I've come to learn in the years that
miracles are not only something of the past, but that they also happen nowadays. So, I'll tell you
here why I believe in miracles.
But what then is a miracle?
The answer to the question if miracles do happen, of course depends on what is a miracle. How
do we define the notion miracle? Looking the word in the dictionary didn't really help
(maybe yours in less vague)... Let's say it is something that happens that does not agree
with the normal natural laws, and thus, we expect an involvement of the supernatural.
Maybe it is better to give some examples.
Examples of miracles
See if you think if the following events can be called a miracle:
You can perhaps think up other examples. Perhaps the first 'type' is most well known
in Christianity, and there are many different illnesses, some even deadly, of which
there are reports (or claims, as the atheist would say) of curing after prayer.
- A person is cured from an illness after people prayed for healing, even while this
is medical not possible or highly unlikely.
- Someone experiences the presence of something he or she calls God, and
afterwards, is a different type of person.
- A man speaks a language he never learned.
- Someone struggles with a very bad habit or addiction, and is free of it, after praying for that.
One handshake away
Well, of each of the miracles mentioned above, I personally know people that have
experienced the miracles. I was sometimes present when it happened, and some of
the miracles mentioned above happened to people of my own family. I had to change
my opinion about miracles happening in our time, because I witnessed them happening
myself. (For those who know the Bible-story: Thomas the disciple is one of my
favorite characters from the Bible.)
Behind several of the miracles, there is a story. Here are a few that I trust to
this large anonymous Internet.
The following one made it to Dutch television, in a program of the Evangelische Omroep
(Evangelical Broadcasting). The pastor of the church was praying in 'tongues' - a
language that is, as evangelical Christians say, given by God. In the group, there
was a couple from Rumenia, and they felt out of place, and had little contact
with the people in the group of Dutch origin. During the prayer, these two people,
who were sitting in the room one chair behind me, heard then the pastor pray
and say words in the Rumenian language - words, directly aimed at them. The pastor,
however, never had learned to speak Rumenian. So, God used the prayer in tongues
to give this special message to the Rumenian people and show all of us something
important. What happened can be - in a certain way - be compared to the story
of Pentacoast, where the disciples of Jesus received the ability to preach the
gospel in languages they never learned.
There are several people that have told me that they received healing from an
illness after prayer. Every day, I see the result of Gods healing: my wife
was pregnant, but it was not going well, and a miscarriage was near. After
praying, my wife felt a special type of peace; at the birth of the child, we
saw what happened, and how God had repaired what was in the womb of my wife.
She asked the doctor what happened. "I have no explanation", the doctor said.
"Do you expect me to believe this?"
I expect that several people will not believe me - and I'm wondering whether people
that know me and read this, now will think I'm crazy. Well, you can believe what
you want, but it is better for yourself if you know God, have Jesus as you savior,
and can experience what God can do in your life. I've told people I know about
the miracles, and people (atheist, but also sometimes even Christians) give another
explanation. I fully understand this way of looking at things: I acted myself also
in this way for many years. But for me, what happened is real, and shows me that
God cares and interacts with us. But if you want to "explain away" all the miracles
I have seen and witnessed, I guess you can come quite far - in the end, the
question is what is the more "logical" explanation, as some of the explanations
seem sometimes quite contrieved.
However, there are much more reports on miracles. In particular, the healing of
people after prayer, also in cases there was no medical hope, is in many cases
well documented and proven. Dutch people can for instance read a precise report for instance
in the end on the book of Ouweneel De God die is: Waarom ik geen atheist ben.
There are more stories, one or two handshakes away: e.g., the story told by me from someone
who heard it of the people themselves: of people in Sri Lanka who were miraculously
saved from drowing by the tsunami in a church.
And some of the things that happen in my life, I call a miracle, while the atheist
has its own explanation, e.g., I used to be afraid for flying in planes, but then
I realized that God was with me. I now am not afraid in planes anymore (and am happy
with a window-seat, while I used to ask for seats near the corridors). I must
confess that I still am much more fond of trains, but not anymore because I fear
When talking about miracles, there are a few things that should be made clear, I think.
Sometimes, the miracle does not happen
It should be noted however, that sometimes, miracles that we would like to happen,
do not happen. In so many cases, people with a mortal illness for which we pray
for healing, die. I'll refrain here to make the theological discussions why we
see this. Note that the fact that something sometimes does not happen does not
imply it never happens.
So, while God indeed works in our lifes, this does not mean that everything
is always easy.
If you are ill, go to a doctor
All good things are a gift of God to us, for which we can be gratefull: food,
our houses, etc. Doctors and the medical knowledge are also a gift of God to
us. So, if we are ill, we should have medical care. The idea of some people that
one should not see doctors, but only pray for healing is wrong and
dangerous, I think.
The devil can also do miracles
Well, if you are allergic to intolerant Christians, please skip this paragraph.
Not all miracles are from God. For instance, I think one can classify people
with "supernatural healing" as follows: some have received a Godly blessing
to pray for people such that many they pray for receive healing from God;
some are frauds; and some can work miracles, but receive their power from
a wrong and very dangerous source - not God, but its enemy, the devil.
Miracles on world scale
I also believe God leads the history of the world. I see Gods hand in
events like the fall of the Berlin wall, the end of apartheid. In former
East Germany, the fall of the wall started with silent people in and
around a church.
So, I learned to believe that there are indeed miracles, done by God - like
Thomas the apostle who believed after he saw. I hope that readers
of this will experience Gods work in their life and know what Jesus has
done for them.
Hans Bodlaender, October 9, 2005