Dale Appleby

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Weekly Reflections

It’s a Miracle!

It’s a Miracle!
How do you know something is a miracle? That depends of course on what you mean by miracle.  If you have an old dictionary published in the mid 20th century it will tell you a miracle is an amazing or wonderful event.

If you look up a modern dictionary you will see the definition has changed. It is now an event that is contrary to the established laws of nature and attributed to a supernatural cause.

This is a significant change in meaning. The old definition followed the meaning of the idea in the Bible. The new meaning has developed from a skepticism about the events described in the Bible. Although most of our Bibles use the word miracle, it is actually a translation of words that mean a wonderful event, or a powerful work. Certainly some of the events described in the Bible are hard to explain using the “established laws of nature”. But most aren't.

But did any of these “wonderful events” happen? Can you believe it? Here is another twist in the meaning of words. Faith in the modern dictionary is “strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.” But that is never the definition in the Bible. Faith is always based on knowledge. It is based on a foundation that is reliable. So if we want to know whether the “wonderful events” happened, we need to check out whether the stories are reliable.

The disconcerting thing about most of the stories of Jesus is that they turn out to be both reliable and confronting. They don't say what we think they should and don't do what we expect. Believing Jesus turns out to be quite a miracle itself.

Dale Appleby

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