Church of Christ Deism: Background, Part 1

i_dont_believe_in_miracles_i_rely_on_them_tshirt-p235921785579041865yk07_400In this series of posts I want to explore the idea prevalent among the conservative Churches of Christ that miracles ended with the end of the apostolic age. Now, there are many among the progressive Churches who would reject the idea of modern-day miracles as well, but the opposition to modern-day miracles is much stricter among the conservative congregations.

It would be a mistake, of course, to charge all within the conservative Churches with taking the identical view. They don’t. But it appears to me that the dominant view today is that miracles ended within a generation after the apostles — and “miracles” means any violation of the laws of nature.

Now, to understand the significance of this doctrine, it’s important to study it in a bit a more detail. You see, the definition of “miracle” usually given among the conservatives is —

MIRACLES DEFINED. … Correctly, a miracle occurs when the natural laws of the universe are restrained by the hand of God so that an otherwise unexplainable phenomenon results. If a baseball released from a skyscraper rose in the air instead of falling, that would be a miracle because the law of gravitation requires that it descend. On the other hand, should a sick person, given only six months to live, gradually recover, that would be not a miracle since the recovery would have been effected through the natural laws instead of in opposition to them. While we might be unable to explain the recuperation, this is not a miracle as the natural laws have not been restrained.

I borrowed this definition from a 1977 correspondence course by Monroe Hawley, and it’s entirely typical of conservative Church of Christ thought. Notice the contrast Hawley (normally a very sensible writer) makes: if God restrains the natural laws, it’s a miracle. If God does not — if the event happens by purely natural laws — then it’s not a miracle.

Similarly, Wayne Jackson makes much the same definition in the Christian Courier,

A miracle is a divine operation that transcends what is normally perceived as natural law; it cannot be explained upon any natural basis.

Jackson is, at least, consistent in his thinking, asserting in another article,

Since there is no Holy Spirit baptism today (Ephesians 4:5; Matthew 28:19,20), and as there are no living apostles, it is obvious that, so far as biblical evidence is concerned, no spiritual gifts are being given to believers today.

On the other hand, Jackson asserts that God does act via providence even today.

The New Testament is filled with promises which affirm that God will answer the prayers of his people and work in their lives. But since Jehovah is not functioning miraculously (see 1 Corinthians 13:8-10), obviously he is operating providentially. Things that may appear perfectly natural, from the human point of view, may be being directed by Jehovah!

Other writers distinguish between miracles done by man, by the power of God, and miracles done by God.

For God to answer prayer would not be a miracle in the sense we are studying. God in His providence can answer prayer. What the writer is affirming is that the miraculous gifts which were bestowed upon men in the early church that enabled them to perform miracles have ceased.

This what we lawyers call “a distinction without a difference.” When Elijah prayed to God to consume his sacrifice with fire, and God answered with fire, was this a “miracle”? Or an answer to prayer? Obviously, it was both. Just so, Jesus spoke of some miracles coming about by the power of prayer (Mark 9:29). Surely, the argument is more than: it’s okay to heal by prayer but not to heal by laying on hands!

And how do we distinguish between God acting miraculously and God acting providentially? Jackson argues,

Here is another case in contrast. When the Assyrian army threatened the city of Jerusalem, God supernaturally destroyed 185,000 enemy soldiers in a single night (Isaiah 37:36). Over against this, Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, was dealt with in a different fashion. Jehovah caused him to “hear tidings” that prompted his return to Assyria (Isaiah 37:7); there, in accordance with divine prophecy, he was killed by the hands of his own sons (cf. 37:7,38). Unquestionably, providence was implemented! In each instance, Heaven was guiding certain events. In the one case, divine activity was direct, independent of means. In the other case, it was indirectly employed by the use of means.

And so … “indirect” operations of God are providence and direct operations are miracles? But Jesus healed through an indirect means — placing mud on a blind man’s eyes, for example — and surely that’s was a miracle! Just so, God’s returning Jonah to the Palestinian coast via the means of a fish was a miracle — despite the use of intermediate means.

And there’s another problem here. The laws of nature are deterministic — or, at least, not susceptible to change by prayer unless God himself intervenes. If I pray for my sick friend to get better and he gets better solely “though the natural laws instead of in opposition to them,” then not only would no miracle occur, God would not have answered my prayer. If my friend gets well, it’s because the laws of nature caused his recovery, not because God heard my prayer and made something happen that othewise would not have happened. Right?

You see, I think my conservative brothers are making a category mistake, assuming that providence does not violate the laws of nature — and, of course, it does. If God did not providentially intervene to, for example, cause the surgeon to heal, nature would have taken its course and the surgeon would not have healed.

And because the conservatives are teaching a self-contradictory doctrine, their followers are quite understandably confused. Because their followers can’t consistently tell the difference between a “miracle” and “providence,” they are reluctant to credit God with answers to prayer — outloud. But if you give a group of Christians — even quite conservative ones — a safe place in which to say what they really think, you’ll soon be overwhelmed with stories they’ve personally experienced that sure sound like miracles.

As a result, our members often speak as though God is inactive, and yet they see and believe in a very active God. And that should tell us something about our doctrine.

If you think about it, the denial of modern-day miracles necessarily denies several other things as well —

* The Holy Spirit could not work on the heart of the Christian in any way. The Spirit could work through the Bible, of course, but not by doing anything after the Bible is complete. In other words, the Spirit works only in the sense that readers are persuaded by the Spirit’s words on the pages. If the Spirit had died in, say, AD 150, history would be unchanged.

* There’s no providence. In other words, if God is influencing events today, then he is necessarily violating the laws of nature. If not, then what form does his influence take?

* Prayers are only answered if they require no divine activity on earth. If we ask for our sins to be forgiven, no problem; but if we ask for a friend’s illness to be cured, tough luck.

* We cannot see God’s actions other than through the pages of the Bible. Therefore, we can’t be witnesses and so can’t testify (or witness) to the work of God in our own lives. Rather, for nearly 2,000 years, God has done nothing on this planet other than keeping books on who is saved and who is not. And this leads us to sneer at the “Baptist” practice of witnessing — and causes us to condemn those among the Churches of Christ who think they’ve experienced something worth sharing.

It’s a dismal, depressing religion.

  For God to answer prayer would not be a miracle in the
 sense we are studying.  God in His providence can answer
 prayer.  What the writer is affirming is that the
 miraculous gifts which were bestowed upon men in the early
 church that enabled them to perform miracles have ceased.
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35 Responses

  1. Jay,
    My being open to the Holy Spirit and all the Holy Spirit is was the major reason I came to question my first 4 years of anti-spiritual indoctrination in the Churches of Christ. I had been taught that miracles ceased with the death of the last apostle, that all the demons had been bound and sent to hell at the death of the apostles, and that God’s Spirit only operated through the written Word of God-the Bible.

    My first crack in this thought came at ACU (then ACC), when a Spirit-filled American Baptist Puerto Rican pastor came to ACC to complete his BA degree in 1968. He was persecuted by the students at ACC for being Baptist, Spirit-filled, and living a holy life. He was tormented day and night, and he and I became friends, though we disagreed on doctrine. I saw all of these baptized COC pagans persecuting this man, who had such a Spirit of love about him, that I came to question whether Acts 2:38 baptism had actually saved his persecutors. I spoke with a friend of mine about this, and I was told: “Well, it’s boys being boys!” in reference to the young men persecuting him.
    The Spirit-filled Baptist spoke with me about this, and said he did not believe he was dealing with Christians at ACU. He prayed for me, and said that one day I would be a great preacher of unity and fellowship and Jesus and that I would leave the COC. This made me mad, but about 2-3 years later I left the COC for a fuller understanding and obedience to the Holy Spirit.

    My second break came when I was preaching in Colorado. I had 3 days of demonic attack for which I had no categories to explain. I finally prayed through it, and felt a large layer in my COC thought and structure had been ripped off.

    This was an area where I could not speak with my elders, without being fired. My then wife was not capable of addressing what I told her without her suggesting I see a counselor. I did, took the psychological battery of tests and found out I was not crazy. Part of my spiritual paradigm had changed drastically. The rest of the change came when I openly opposed the Vietnam War and became a conscientious objector.
    COC-ism without the Holy Spirit is in fact a dismal religion, void of power, and has nothing to say to our world struggling with demonic forces.

  2. Yes, once you understand the fullness of God’s deism, you can’t continue to abide the “dismal, repressive” religion that you describe in this post.

  3. In an Internet forum a few years back, a brother wrote that we only pray because we’ve been commanded to, not because we think that God is actually going to do anything. (!) He went on to say that God is no longer active in this world.

    What a sad way to live!

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  4. I’ve often wondered if that doctrine of “no miracles” was created to undermine some Catholics who believe in “crying statue” miracles, etc. I’ve often seen blanket condemnations of some doctrines and practices because they were too Catholic, Pentecostal, Baptist, Institutional CoC, too black (yes, that’s right), etc.

  5. Jay,
    When scripture speaks of “signs/wonders/miracles” (SWM) is ALWAYS includes human participation. Someone declares/demands X to happen and it does. I find no reference to a spontaneous SWM. The purpose of the SWM is to give credence to the one “performing.” While seeming “miraculous” events (cancer disappearing/surviving tornado) occur frequently, there is no human declaring before hand that such will happen.
    If I were to awaken tomorrow with a full head of hair, I would thank God (perhaps???) for his intervention. No miracle. If, OTOH, you placed your hand on my bald pate and declared that my hair would be restored that very moment and it was, I would accept anything you say/do as being from God. Miracle!

  6. And that Brother Dan is a distinction that is no distinction which trivializes God’s action in our lives almost to the point of insult.

    In our little congregation in the past three months we have experienced constant demonic attack, coupled with deliverance through spontaneous prayer. (Praise God for non CoC resources that helped us fend off these attacks!) We have experienced dreams and visions and an outpouring of warning and comfort through prayer and searching the Word that has been staggering to witness. These “phenomena” are spread out over a group of about 20 people who are all receiving similar guidance from the Spirit. A few have kept journals throughout and to compare these makes me want to fall to my knees in worship – dozens of different passages of scripture all saying the same thing about where we are, what God is doing and where God is taking us.

    All of this is perfectly Biblical and I was raised and indoctrinated to disbelieve all of it.

  7. I believe God still performs miracles. God still changes people’s lives. God still saves people.

    I absolutely believe if a missionary were to come across a tribe of people and neither knew the others language if it is God’s will that they hear the gospel from this man at that time God could make a miracle happen and they will hear him tell them the gospel.

  8. Always err on the side of giving God thanks and praise for what He has done. As you walk, He will teach you when He works. The longer you walk, the more you find out He works in every nanosecond of every moment because the universe was made by Him and for Him (Colossians 1), and the spiritual realm and the physical realm are linked (for the moment…).

    It is a miracle that any of us have been left alive in our separation from God after the Fall. The natural Law (according to God) is that sin deserves death, without mention of a waiting period, or possibility of parole. But He has suspended that Law to get glory for Himself in saving His own, to live forever with Him. If we can start our praise and thankfulness for miracles there and work up, we’ll all be a lot better off than trying to nitpick the laws so we can feel “good enough” to please Him.

    The way you know you’re pleasing to Him is this: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” Since this is true, let’s not pick and chose what we will praise God for out of a need to do everything perfectly to please Him. Instead, let’s thank Him and praise Him for both the good and the bad (James 1, Eph 5).

    Doing this will chap the enemy’s hide. Therefore, I like it. :^)

  9. I think that it is funny that some use 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 say that there are no longer any miracles or prophesies, but do not argue that knowledge has ceased.

  10. Well, for some it has. 🙂

    God bless.

  11. I think if we worked hard enough at it, we could logically categorize God right out of the business of miracles entirely.

    We’re already pretty dadgum close.

    Of course, we’d have to ignore a whole raft of scripture detailing what the direct observers of miracles did in response to them:

    “Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.” ~ Matt. 9:6b-8

    “The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.” ~ Matt.15:31

    “The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.’” ~ Luke 7:15-16

  12. Jay,

    Do you plan to compare and contrast the miracles of today with those in the New Testament?

    Rich.

  13. Brooke Greenberg by every law of nature should not be in existence today. She has doctors and scientists baffled. 20/20 has kept up with her story for years.

    http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Health/story?id=7880954&page=1

  14. Kris,

    You are on to something. Much of what we believe or refuse to believe is reactionary. We fear being like Baptists or Catholics more than being wrong about God and his work in the lives of men.

    As someone smarter than I said the history of our theology and therefore mission has been “correctional” at the expense of being redemptive.

    Jay mentioned prayer. Much of our public prayers reflect our theology, we say a lot but ask for nothing and expect nothing and get nothing.

    There is a common misconception that God started to deal with his creation in a completely different way after the death and resurrection of Jesus than he did before. You can make a case for some real changes but prayer isn’t one of them. God always has wanted his people to pray and he has always been predisposed to answer those who believe he rewards those who seek him.

    Jay, you ended by saying “What a dismal, depressing religion”. You hit the nail on the proverbial head. When you take the activity of God the Holy Spirit out of the picture what you have is religion….only, not Chrisianity.

    Royce

  15. First to Gary C. Thanks for giving your painful ACC(U) story. I went there starting in the Fall of ’68. Didn’t meet your Baptist preacher, but met some of Full Gospel Fellowship and others. I have never liked the quick rejection of anything outside the local experience, and found many at ACU who did, and others who didn’t. Any read of history will show that defending the status quo is standard human experience. Even worse is building a creaky scripture path to prove the accepted norm.
    Second you can define miracle to exclude most of Jesus wonders. After all telling someone to go wash in the pool of Shilom to be cured isn’t a showy miracle.
    Unlike other articles on Christian worship practice or faith where we try to find what God wants us to do or believe, any limit we construct on what God can do is crazy!
    If you read the whole Bible, miracles seem to happen in clusters. Genesis 1 is the big miraculous bang, followed by generations of low key events. (God was active but not demonstrative.) Noah’s era had several in the animals on the boat and ofcourse the blockbuster flood. To Noah, the revelation of what was to happen (flood) and what to do about it (build) we major, but to a skeptical outsider, until the flood happened not much to demonstrate. In similar fashion, the revelations to Abram were major, climaxing in Jesus, but to the outsider nothing to see. I sure a skeptic of the ftime would she Sarah’s late pregnancy as unusual but not miraculous. Even the visit of angels and later destruction of the cities of the plain probably were not miraculous to an outside observer. Same for Isaac, Jacob, and even Josepth.
    The age of Moses had to be miraculous to anyone of the royal court. The pillar of fire and manna had to be most curious. Other miracle outbreaks were Joshua, Elijah and Elisha.
    God never stops being active in His world, but most of the events probably didn’t rock the skeptics. In our day of atomic clocks, the sundail going back would be major news, but not in its era.
    Then comes Jesus. The miracles were witnessed by many, and proclaimed as without prescedent. They continue by apostles and converts, but seem to wane. To me that era was over but God can begin another anytime He wants! I take Cor 13 as an historical statement or revelation, depending on when you think it was written. It doesn’t say anything will forever cease.
    Lastly, I’m a miracle skeptic. I’ve seen faith healers, and people get a dose of confidence but not miraculous healing. I have seen way againist the odds answers to prayer, which are miraculous to me but would not be to an outsider. I have had quick, improbable things happen that I pertioned God for, but no one but me would see it as a miracle. I’ve never seen a faith healer raise the dead or instantaneously cure an obvious ailment like leprocsy.

  16. So that’s why Jesus consistently told people not to spread word of his miracles?

    Did Jesus give a lecture on his identity before, during, or after stilling the storm?

    Finally, the idea that God is the only being in the cosmos capable of bestowing miraculous power is a seriously unbiblical and very spiritually dangerous doctrine.

  17. I not only believe in miracles from God I depend on them!

  18. Kris:

    Actually it used to be a very common doctrine among Protestants of all stripes that miraculous gifts ceased after the Apostles died.

  19. Jay:

    I believe in always being fair to ones opponent with their use of terminology. I think the distinction between “miracle” and “providence” must not have come across well. Being a former ultra-conservative myself, I’ll try and explain it a little better than perhaps brother Jackson did.

    “Miracle” and “Providence” merely indicate two different ways in which God operates. Sometimes we can look at something that happens and see there is no way for that to have happened without God intervening. Other times, things happen that could have been God at work but we have no way to know for sure.

    For instance, Mordecai says to Esther “who knows if you were brought to the kingdom for such a time as this.” It isn’t a denial that God may have worked but from the human perspective we just don’t know.

    Another way to think about it is that providence is when God uses the laws of nature (rather than breaks them) to cause something to happen. There are several things that happened in my life that I believe God had a hand in but this side of heaven I will never know because, if God did have a hand in them, God worked within the laws he created to cause their happening.

    It may not be a distinction you agree with making but it is not a distinction without a difference.

    Incidentally, before someone asks, yes I currently believe God works supernaturally in the world today. Probably more than we’ll ever know.

  20. Joe,

    I think you make a better statement of the case than the many articles I’ve read from conservatives. Yes, many would refer to “‘providence” as God’s working in a way that does not demonstrably violate the laws of nature. It’s not that God didn’t violate the laws of nature — he just did it in a way that requires faith to see God’s hand.

    But I read dozens of conservative Church of Christ articles on providence before writing the post — and ALL defined “providence” as not violating the laws of nature.

    I have something of a physics background, and nature is either totally deterministic or else totally random. That is, if something happens in the natural world (absent divine intervention) it happens either because the laws of nature absolutely require that result or else it was the result of Heisenberg uncertainty (sheer randomness, governed by strict mathematical laws).

    Therefore, if God “does” something other than let nature run its course, he violates the laws of nature. He may not do it in a spectacular way, but that’s what he does.

    Therefore, I can’t agree that God “uses the laws of nature (rather than breaks them).” That seems to me to be a contradiction in terms. I think it’s more accurate to speak of how obviously God breaks the laws rather than to speak of God changing nature’s behavior within its law.

    This doesn’t create the bright-line test many are looking for — but I doubt that God meant to create a bright line.

    The one exception I can think of is that God (or his Spirit) can and does influence the supernatural part of our mind. I don’t think that necessarily violates any laws of nature — but this is the area where the conservatives can be particulary doctrinnaire — as when they oppose the “direct operation” of the Holy Spirit.

    But the conservative position is often stated inconsistently. Where I grew up, the “direct operation” of the Spirit was heresy, but it was routine to pray for God to “guide, guard, and direct us” as the end of church! Just so, it’s still customary in many churches for someone to pray that the preacher have “a ready recollection.”

    So I guess it’s okay for God to do these things but horrific heresy if the Holy Spirit does it.

    Sadly, I perceive a trend toward resolving the inconsistencies by rejecting both the Spirit’s and God’s work in our lives.

  21. Some members of my family, and some friends are Pentecostals, others are C of C or Baptist. Some seem to define the sun coming up today as a miracle, and others miracles are passe. I think both extremes are not logical. Unfortunately, with this topic, most people seem to be extremists.
    Second problem is as seen above, is many miracles are private or small audience. Even the plagues of Moses, were not miracles to Hititties. The Roman soldier at the cross of Jesus, believed something special happened, but in Rome it was just another day.
    I understand the distinction between providence and miracle but it probably doesn’t matter to individual faith.
    If God changes what usually happens to benefit me, the mechanism, natural or supernatural, is for Him to choose.
    Jonah wanted a miracle, the powerful Assyrian state to fold. Jonah wanted providence, the plant that shaded him to not wither. He didn’t get either. The miracle was prevented because God cares about the innocent children and animals (Jonah 4). The non-providence was to teach HIs prophet compassion. Maybe, we have things to learn before He intervenes on our behalf, so us miracle skeptics aren’t Diests, but slow learners!

  22. Larry,
    Thanks for the good note. I have seen a few “miracles” happen: a leg’s length restored before my eyes, my wife being healed instantaneously of a serious connective tissue disease, and3 or 4 others since 1971. I really distrust the majority of faith-healers, though probably some miracles occurred in spite of them.

    When the “Toronto Blessing came forth a few years ago, I was neutral to it at first, as I thought it might be a genuine move of God. Just because I asked some discerning questions about the source and nature of the power (yes,there was real power), I was hatefully spoken to, accused of not being saved, and received a lot of abuse.
    My conclusion from my study is that the TB spirit was an evil spiriit, and it had infiltrated many charismatic circles with a lot of weird stuff-almost animalistic and orgasmic.

    In our culture, we may see less miracles, because we do not expect them or think they can happen or we just lack the faith that God can still do miracles.

    I believe that heals spontaneously in visible miraculous ways, more so in other cultures which are open to the Spirit”s work.

  23. To Jay,
    I remember hearing a COC missionary talking about “the great Indonesian Revival” of the late 60’s/ He was there at the time on a different island, and went to investigate what had happened and his two main bones of contention AGAINST a miraculous outpouring of God’s Spirit in Indonesia were:
    1. too many women involved in evangelism.
    3. the water turned into wine should have been red,not white.

    I heard that and just groaned: women involved in sharing the Gospel was fine with me then and now, also perhaps Indonesians were used to rice wine and not the wine of red grapes. I think he made some comments about the “resurrected” people dying later. Nothing this man said convinced me miracles did not happen, and left the door wide open.

  24. It is quite possible that the American church (all denoms) have missed out on the global revival, simply because “there wasn’t enough faith for him to do any miracles there.”

  25. Brad,
    Amen to that. I read stories of Christ appearing in visions to devout Moslems, and they are converted to Jesus without any Western missionaries. Now that is a miracle. God is still the God of miracles and God will do as He pleases without the permission of the mainstream COC.

  26. Missionaries see much more than they tell their supporting congregations — nothing seems to dry up support faster than claims of miraculous intervention.

  27. One example, but specific enough that we should be able to extrapolate to the general without much difficulty:

    The laws of nature say that a bolt of lightning will be created when the appropriate atmospheric conditions have been generated by the reactions between land and different air masses. Those reactions are governed by their own natural laws, etc etc. If God makes lightning shoot out of the blue clear sky, that’s an intervention into the laws of nature. If God accelerates the process, that’s an intervention into the laws of nature.

    If God changes something, then SOME law of nature had to be violated. Any intervention into that process will be a “violation” of the laws of nature. ANY tweaking of the system is an intervention.

    If the system is closed, if God is walled off from Creation, or at such a distance that he cannot/will not act in Creation, then of course, such talk is foolishness.

    If the system is open, and if God is as close as the classic Hebraic-Judeo-Christian worldview of the last 6,000 years teaches (as opposed to the distant God of Deism, etc), then why are we surprised when God gets involved? Why do we believe he shouldn’t get involved?

    Perception doesn’t equal truth — just because we perceive something as having occurred naturally doesn’t mean it actually did. The soldier in Scripture fired an arrow into the air “at random” but God made that arrow strike the king. (1 Ki 22:34; 2 Chr 18:33) Miracle or providence?

    in HIS love,
    nick

    PS – what if the splitting of God’s activity into “miracle vs. providence”, as well as natural law in general, are merely fallen human categories constructed to help us comprehend the world we find ourselves a part of? I don’t think we’re even out of kindergarten on this stuff, and we act like we know so much.

    I mean, have you ever SEEN a “natural law”? Aren’t they just ideas? What is it about our idea of God that suggests it would be beneath Him to make the sun rise every morning? I wonder if the obedient, God-glorifying angels kinda giggle a little bit while they do the bidding of God and keep the universe going?

    I’m not suggesting that I know how things operate. But I trust that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” So I can’t bring myself to tell anyone that God “can’t have done” a certain thing.

    I am inherently skeptical of miraculous claims, especially in our area of the world that is so much like Nazareth — so convinced of its familiarity with Jesus that it can’t believe anything good. I’m also inherently skeptical of the God-origin of any power displayed by the televangelist crowd. God isn’t the only source of power in the invisible world, and demons gleefully danced with the Israelites around the calf that Aaron told them was Jehovah God that saved them from Egypt.

  28. To all,
    Demonic possession, demonic attacks, and the overtyl supernatural are more open in the developing nations than in the so-called West or developed nations.

    Satan has done a pretty good job de-sacralizing our culture and ridding it of the divine or supernatural, where most “christians” are actually practicing atheists: saying they believe in God the Almighty on the on hand, and deny God’s power on the other hand.

    I have seen maybe a 1/2 dozen cases of demonic activity in this country that were pretty overt. Other times, I am sure I failed to recognize the divine and/or demonic due to my cultural upbringing (even though I have tried to shake that off since 1971).

    Dr. Kurt Koch of Germany did a lot of work on Christianity and the occult. I highly recommend his work to anyone. If we took his research at face value, we would have a lot better church in this country.

    Thanks,
    Gary

  29. M Scott Peck’s “People of the Lie” would be good reading for a lot of people as well.

    As one of my elders said, “Why would Satan waste resources with demonic possessions over here? We’re already possessed by ‘sexual immorality, impurity, and covetousness'” (Eph 5:3)

  30. Does anyone here believe they have (or know someone who has) been given the power to perform miracles as the apostles and whom they chose to have such powers in the New Testament?

  31. Nope — because the apostles were given power and authority directly from the Messiah himself.

    But that isn’t the only way people of God in Scripture did miraculous things, now was it?

  32. Miracles are supernatural they don’t always have to happen the exact same way as other miracles. God is allowed to do miracles as He wants to

  33. Jay:

    We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I personally believe that God using the laws he created is different from suspending them.

  34. I made pretty much the same argument in a letter to the Carolina Christian thirty years ago. If you don’t expect God to intervene to change a situation, why pray for it? Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever comes to him must believe that he exists AND that he rewards those who diligently seek hin. God does intervene, and causes things to happen that otherwise would not happen.

  35. Maybe it would be better to say that it is an irrelevant distinction.

    Is a distinction between miracles and providence actually drawn in scripture? What is the significance of the distinction, in biblical terms?

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