Miracles Of The Bible Versus Miracles Of Modernism (I)

By Ron Halbrook

Since the Bible claims to be the Word of God, the Bible lays claim to the miraculous. The first verse records the miracle of creation and the last chapter forbids any change of Divine testimony. In addition to particular miracles recorded in the Old Testament, predictive prophecy foretold the coming of the Savior. Matthew 1 shows how that Savior came, entering the world through a miraculous conception. Jesus performed many miracles in His own ministry and also performed them through the ministry of his Apostles. Faith in God is faith in a supernatural Being, in the Bible sense; that faith includes confidence in God when He speaks of things beyond the realm of nature. All spiritual blessings are in Jesus Christ, the Son of God; remission of sins; the gathering of a people unto God and the establishment of his church; the hope of resurrection and of eternal life with God; Judgment Day and the threat of hell fire – all of these things and many others taught in the Bible speak of a reality beyond the realm of nature.

A mighty movement of doubt and disbelief under the name of Christianity began about 100 years ago. The movement has been called Liberalism, Higher Criticism, and Modernism. The latter term was popularized partly by the encyclical Pascendi Gregis issued by Roman Catholic Pope Pius X in 1907, condemning the new tendencies. Modernism is “a method and a spirit, having many common presuppositions, to be sure, but differing widely in specific doctrinal positions” (Smith, Handy, and Loetscher, American Christianity, II, P. 341). Though quite diverse in doctrinal affirmations, Modernism held common premises which helped to define common enemies and which resulted in a rather unified, negative program. The authority of custom and tradition, of ecclesiastical hierarchy, and of Scripture itself were the common enemies. The negative thrust of Modernism brought the verbal inspiration of Scripture, the miracles recorded, and even the Deity of Jesus Christ into question. The concept that the Bible settled religious issues, or any appeal to an authority . outside of man himself, fell under scathing criticism. Well before 1950, Modernism had gone to such radical limits that many religious leaders who embraced its premises pulled back to a middle-of-the-road position, a relatively conservative reaction called Neo-Orthodoxy.

Underlying premises which initiated Modernism 100 years ago and which are widely accepted to this day are: (1) each man’s religious experience is his own authority, excluding external authority whether tradition, ecclesiastical organization, or Scripture; (2) rather than revealing His will once-for-all in the Bible, God is always expanding the revelation of His will in nature, society, and civil government. The Bible reveals God’s will in much the same sense that all of nature and history do, though perhaps to a higher degree. It is evident that in the on-going course, of nature and history God reveals Himself without going beyond that course, i.e. without daily miracles. Therefore, it is safe to say that the miracles recorded in the Bible are not true, at least not literally true. In the Modernist’s reconstruction of Christianity, the miracles of the Bible must be denied as untrue or else reinterpreted as theological, parabolic, mythological, figurative, literary or some other kind of “truth.”

Obviously, two systems are at war, both claiming to be Christianity. One appeals to the miraculous as literal truth, while other rejects the miracles of Scripture as literal truth. What is not so evident is that Modernism, while rejecting the miracles of the Bible, has its own miracles to offer. If we claim to be Christians, we must choose between the two systems, the two messages, the two sets of miracles. These opposite claims cannot both be true any more than “Christian Science and Roman Catholicism” can both “be true at the same time unless the universe is a madhouse” (Brightman, An Introduction to Philosophy, p. 56.).

Miracles of the Bible

Miracles recording in the Bible are not recorded as parables but as historical events. In first-century Samaria, Simon by sorcery snared the populace into regarding him as “the great power of God.” When Phillip came “and preached Christ unto them,” they recognized Divine authority in that message because he performed actual miracles. The sick were truly healed, a thing which Simon’s sorcery had not accomplished. The difference was so great that even Simon himself believed and was baptized. While beholding the signs and great powerful deeds which were done, he could not deny the Divine authority of the gospel. Simon tire sorcerer was converted by a gospel which could be authenticated by truly supernatural acts (see Acts 8:6-13).

John 2:1-11 records the presence of Jesus at a marriage feast in Cana of Galilee. When the guests had enjoyed the supply of wine, consuming it all, Jesus ordered six containers holding a total of about 125-150 gallons to be filled with water. Subsequently, when the liquid was drawn out, the people found themselves drinking juice which was far better than the original supply. This was only the beginning of the miraculous deeds or signs by which Jesus “manifested forth His glory,” proving Himself to be Divine. By such acts, He demonstrated an unqualified power over nature and time.

Once Peter healed a man who had been “lame from his mother’s womb.” When enemies of the gospel examined Peter, rather than denying the miracle they asked, “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” Peter answered that it was the name of Jesus Christ, in whose name alone “we must be saved.” Refusing to accept the authority which had been demonstrated and determined to stop the preaching, these enemies of Christ threatened Peter to shut him up. They had counseled among themselves saying, “What shall we do . . . for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. ” The pretensions to authority made by these men was blunted in the eyes of the public by the obvious presence of Divine power and authority with the Apostles (see Acts 3-4).

The Bible certainly claims that literal miracles have occurred and that they authenticate the gospel message. Not only are these miracles treated as historical events, they are inseparably interwoven with the record of other historical acts. If the miracles are not true, what assurance do we have that any of the other accounts are accurate? Was there a wedding feast? Did Jesus attend? Why did people believe on him at all, if the miracle is discounted? Did Phillip go to Samaria? Did he preach there? What did he preach? Why did the populace displace Simon’s claims by accepting the gospel, if Phillip performed no true miracles? Why did the authorities find it necessary to examine Peter? Why did the people accept Peter’s preaching? If the miracles of the Bible are not true events of history, why should the Bible’s message be counted as the will of God?

Truth Magazine XXIV: 26, pp. 423-424
June 26, 1980