Chapter Eight

Of Signs and Wonders

David Johnson

 

I would like to begin this chapter by telling you of a great miracle. It is so far beyond explanation, there is no sense in which it can be reasonably questioned, or doubted for the evidence of the supernatural that it is.

But this miracle is much bigger than that. It doesn’t just affirm the supernatural. It confirms the very existence, even the majesty of god, and not just any god, the god of the Bible. This is the miracle that brings honest atheists to their knees in worship and self-loathing, and makes the dishonest ones run for the hills.

I would love to begin this chapter telling you in exacting detail about such a miracle. But alas, I don’t know of one that meets that description, not even close. In fact, I am not aware of any events that happened in space and time that I would label a miracle.

This is a problem because by the reckoning of those who wrote the Bible, god can be identified by miracles. The act of violating the laws of nature is his calling card. Humans are positively identified by our fingerprints. Miracles are god’s fingerprints.

One of the expectations the Christian has is that miracles occur. There is no guarantee of frequency. But we should see them from time to time. More than that, the unbeliever should expect to see them as well. A god that performs no miracles is no god at all.

I grew up in a denomination that denied the existence of miracles. I ultimately came to the conclusion that we had to be wrong about that position. At best, our position was inconsistent. I further came to the conclusion that to be a Christian demanded the belief in ongoing miracles.

The absence of miracles is reason enough to disbelieve in a god, especially the Christian god. Here are a few of the reasons the lack of verifiable miracles is such a barrier to belief:

Providence, and the Hiddenness of god

 

There is a counter-apologetic known as the hiddenness of god. It observes that for a god who wants to be known by everyone, he is awfully hard to locate for most people. One might even say that god is hiding. Whenever we shine the light in his direction, he darts away to someplace where he can’t be found by such means.

You might wonder how my denomination could have denied the miraculous in light of scripture and Christian tradition. The bottom line is that it was just another way for us to keep god hidden. He was there. And he was performing works of wonder and carrying out his plan. He was just not doing it in an overt or detectable way. He was working behind the scenes, hidden.

An overt miracle might be that god causes your car to levitate from traffic and avoid the 6-car pileup. Providence would be that you couldn’t find your keys, and was 10 minutes late, thereby missing the 6-car pileup. We didn’t believe in the first kind of miracle. But we definitely believed in the second.

I eventually came to see that providence was just another kind of miracle. It carried less flash and bang. But it was still an act of god working in a way that contravened nature. The act of clouding your memory for the exact amount of time necessary for you to miss the accident is, itself, a miracle. It is just one that you can’t see. So the real question is, why would you promote the kind of miracle that can’t be seen.

This is where we get into falsifiability. The child that is convinced that a monster exists will not allow you to expose it to the light of day and kill it. They need that monster to be there to justify their fears. If you kill the monster, then they would have to come up with another justification for their fears.

When you walk into the room and declare that you can’t see the monster, they tell you it is invisible. When you declare that you will erect an invisible force field to keep the monster out, they say the monster can get through any force field. When you say you will zap the monster with an unstoppable monster zapper, they say the monster is under the bed.

When you zap under the bed, they say it moved to the closet at the speed of light. You say you will set the zapper to cover everything in the room with one zap. They say the monster stepped outside the room really fast. But it is back now that you have stopped firing.

You can never win.

That is because the child has discovered the joys of an unfalsifiable belief. This belief is not subject to any disconfirmation. If it was, it would quickly be disconfirmed. That is how the Christian treats his god. They know that if their god could be disconfirmed, he would be. So they try to talk about god and his actions in ways that can never be challenged.

We knew that if we said there were miracles, then there would have to be some demonstration of miracles. So we backed a form of miracle that kept god hidden. Yes, god was behind this amazing event. But no, we cannot prove it. And you can never disprove it.

The Problem with Miracles

 

One might reasonably ask why god ever did miracles in the first place. The very presence of miracles in the Bible is somewhat problematic. After all, what was so broken that god needed to violate his own laws of nature to fix? Here are a few other problems with the very concept of miracles:

·        Free will is violated. On the one hand, Christians claim that bad people have to be free to do bad things despite the harm done to good people. So if god ever intervenes, he is thwarting free will.

·        Violating the laws of nature implies a problem with the laws of nature. If god could have set things in motion to achieve a certain outcome, why didn’t he?

·        The fact that god ever intervened suggests that the world is exactly as he wants it to be. If god intervenes to make sure his will is done, then we have to believe that everything is going according to his will. Otherwise, he would intervene some more.

·        Theologically and philosophically, miracles cause more problems for the Christian than they solve. Christians do not avoid problems by suggesting the cessation of miracles. Here’s why:

·        Healing miracles were expressions of god’s compassion. Is he any less compassionate today? Why then, should he stop miraculous healing?

·        Miracles were offered as signs to unbelievers. We still have unbelievers. Does not god want today’s unbelievers to have less evidence?

·        The Bible tells us to expect miracles. Failure to see what we were told to expect is a sign that god is not real. Why would he want anyone to believe that?

For the Christian, the only solution to the problem of miracles is to produce bona fide miracles. This is something that time and again, they have demonstrated the inability to do. Now it is time to look closer at some of these problems, and discover why they are such barriers to belief:

The Promise of Healing

 

If there is any miracle more convincing than a genuine healing, I don’t know what it would be. Sickness is a deep and abiding problem of the human condition. We will all go through bouts of ill health at some point in our lives. We have, or will all see a loved one go through it.

We know the wrenching, helpless, nauseating anguish of watching a loved one suffer. We stand impotent at the hands of such natural, unfeeling cruelty. And we all know how irrevocable certain conditions are.

Natural healing, when it happens, is typically slow, painful, and generally miserable. There are illnesses that we would do anything to avoid. If there was a way to shortcut the process, we would do it. And we are primed to sing the praises of anyone who can relieve the suffering. We are primed for healing miracles.

I don’t know too many atheists who would remain so if a Christian healer cleared out an ICU through the power of intercessory prayer. Don’t show me one person healed via slow, natural causes. Show me a hospital that has to close its doors because no one in town got sick. Show me operating tables that were turned into ping-pong tables because no one needed surgery.

This would be a powerful confirmation that simply does not exist. I am left cold by the healing miracles of Jesus. He did no more to improve health in his time than televangelists do today. Even if his healing was real, it was useless.

Depending on how you count it, Jesus performed 30 to 40 individual healing events. Had I had the power to do so, and was strangely limited to one healing at a time, I could do 40 healing events in my apartment complex in a couple of hours. It would take longer to find people who needed to be healed of something. And it would take even less time to heal them.

So it is hard to fathom why god incarnate couldn’t find more sick people to heal, and more time to heal them. Given three years of ministry, I can’t imagine he was trying very hard, or that it was very important to him.

Consider the strange limitation of only healing one person at a time, or only people who were in front of you, or who could make contact with you, or whom you heard about from someone in your presence.

Why didn’t healing just follow Jesus around? Why do we not have reports of there being no sickness in the entire Middle East during the time of Jesus? It seems Jesus had no more healing reach than faith healers of today.

It gets worse.

Why is there leprosy? Jesus healed a handful of lepers. Yet he left leprosy intact for others to contract it. It is like helping a bear out of a bear trap, but leaving the bear trap primed to catch the next bear that comes along. What is the point of that?

And what of all the things that Jesus and his disciples did not heal? What of malaria, and mental illness, and cancer? How about something simpler? What about amputees? Why did Jesus never grow back an arm, or a leg, or a missing eye? Again, Jesus seems to be as limited in his healing as faith healers are today. None of this even addresses the ultimate healing miracle:

Ashes to Ashes

 

Jesus raised (dare I say, “healed”) the dead. He taught his apostles to do the trick. And he told them they would do even greater things than what they had seen him do. One would think that would produce at least one resurrection every year or so. It doesn’t.

After the time of Jesus, resurrection was treated almost trivially. The trick was done twice in the book of Acts without fanfare. These events were not climaxes to any particular story. They received no attention outside of a single telling. And did not mark anything particularly important. It was as if to say that raising dead people could be done casually.

One was Peter raising a woman because she was generous with her talent in her community. She did not die unfairly. And she was not critical to any particular story. She was just a good woman, not unlike many other good women before and since. There is no explanation why she was singled out for the gift of resurrection. But she was because some people pestered Peter into doing it.

The other occasion was when Paul preached a long sermon. A man sitting by a window went to sleep on the sermon and fell out of the window. I guess Paul felt guilty, and healed the man back to life. There was nothing special about this man or this occasion.

Never mind the cessationists. Among those who believe in ongoing miracles, I know of none who expect a miracle worker to raise dead people. Why not? They expected it in the Bible. Why not now? It would be a most powerful confirmation.

The most logical explanation is that these post-Jesus resurrections stories are only just that, stories. The events they record never happened in time and space. It is telling that Christians do not overly burden us by placing epistemological weight on these stories.

We are not asked to believe in the resurrection of Dorcas and Eutychus. In Protestant circles, there are no religious observances or feast days for these two. We seldom hear sermons about them. It is probably fair to say that those two names mean nothing, even to most Christians.

Those are not the only overlooked and ignored resurrections offered up by the Bible. My favorite resurrection story is the biggest embarrassment to Christians.

The Great Resurrection of Matthew 27

 

You see how excited Christians get over one empty tomb? Just imagine how much more excited they would be over many empty tombs of the saintly dead come back to life, leaving their tombs open and abandoned for all to see. We will have to imagine it. Because while the Bible offers up such a story, Christians are anything but excited about it.

Instead, Christians seem to be embarrassed by it. Even the fundamentalist conservatives don’t like to talk about it. But you can read all about it in Matthew 27. The whole thing is covered by two short verses. It is mentioned by no other biblical writer. It is not even obliquely alluded to anywhere else in scripture. It is as if no one besides Matthew ever heard of the event.

This story represents the biggest miracle claim that also has the smallest amount of attestation. The thing that makes this claim so embarrassing is that it is too big to hide behind historical noise.

With other claims, Christians can say that few people knew about it, or that the records have been lost to time. But neither of those excuses can hide this elephant. It is just too big to be historically obscured.

That said, this absurd tale does not stand alone as a resurrection story Christians ignore. So many resurrections are ignored in the Bible, I challenge the claim that resurrection is even important to them as an evidence.

One Resurrection

 

When examined a little more closely, Christians don’t care about resurrection at all per se. They only care about one resurrection event. The rest doesn’t seem to phase them in the slightest. To get the flavor of this, we will have to refer to Paul:

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Cor. 15:12-20

There are a couple of things to note about this passage: First, Paul only seems to care about the resurrection of Jesus because that is the mechanism by which sins are forgiven, not because resurrection is such a great and convincing miracle. In point of fact, many were not convinced that it had happened. Paul wanted them to believe because it was important, not because it was obvious.

The second thing of note is that Paul failed to mention any other resurrections. This passage focuses only on one resurrection. There is plenty of space to speak of other resurrections such as the one he supposedly performed, or Lazarus, or any of the others, especially the mass resurrection.

This is not the only passage where Paul fails to mention any other resurrections. In fact, Paul never mentions any other resurrections, almost as if he didn’t know about any others. Remember that Paul wrote before a single gospel was penned.

So where does that leave all other resurrection stories? They are given no more importance than healing the woman with the bleeding problem, or healing the blind, or calming the sea. It seems these were not featured stories of Paul’s day. And today’s Christian barely mentions them.

This may explain why they are unimpressed with contemporary stories of resurrection, as in the resurrections performed by Sathya Sai Baba. He purportedly raised at least two people from the dead in our lifetimes. Christians don’t even care enough to bother denying it. Because for them, there is only one resurrection and one empty tomb that matter. The rest don’t really register at all.

There were 9 resurrection events in the Bible. Take away the mass resurrection of Matthew 27, and you have 8. This includes the resurrection of Jesus. Here’s a shocker: 3 of them were in the Old Testament performed by two different prophets, one, while he was dead.

The most impressive resurrection story is of a man whose body was tossed in with the bones of Elisha. After making contact with Elisha’s bones, the man came back to life. Now that’s a resurrection. I suspect 90% of Christians don’t even know about this supposed event.

Compare this to healing the blind and deaf. That was done far fewer times. And maybe less than you think. Some of the stories are likely retellings of the same story with reimagined details. So Jesus may have done it once. Or it may have been done four times. It is impossible to tell just by reading the gospels.

Raising the dead is one of the most common healing miracles in the Bible. It is not special. It is not set aside as the big miracle, the big crowd-pleaser, the big evidence, or the grand finale. It isn’t any of that. It was done by people before Jesus was born. It was done for people we never heard of, and never hear from again. It was done in the Old Testament and in the New, and after the resurrection of Jesus.

When it was time to show signs and wonders, raising the dead never came up. In the Old Testament, we had fire from heaven devouring vats of water to convince the crowd, not raising a dead person. In the New Testament, healing the lame was more of a convincer. Though at least the Lazarus incident was public, if not well known.

So one must wonder why it is not done today. Here, the Bible betrays the Christian with all these miracles. Resurrection is falsifiable. If someone tries to raise the dead and fails, they look like the fool they actually would be for trying. Christians know that they can’t raise the dead. That is why neither preachers nor mourners pray for such a thing at funerals. They would be exposed.

This is why Stevie Wonder is still blind. No one is going to try to heal a known blind person. They know they can’t do it any more than they can raise the dead. No one is going to try and publicly pray some famous person out of their wheelchair. No one is going to try to pray back a missing limb. These are the types of miracles that expose miracles as frauds.

Healers only attempt those miracles that can’t be falsified. They like the comfort of stages where entertainers can control the situation. All of their healing is internal, where it cannot be seen or judged, not external where the world can see it for themselves. This hiddenness of miracles is very much like the hiddenness of god. And it is to this we now turn:

The Hiddenness of Miracles

 

I took this long digression into resurrection to set up this observation: Christians do everything in their power to hide the miracles they attribute to god.

This is exactly what my denomination did. They would only offer mild validation to the kind of miracles that could never be proven one way or the other. That is what the doctrine of providence is all about. We were miracle cowards. We wanted to believe in the supernatural as long as our believe couldn’t be falsified, or get us ridiculed.

On the other end of the spectrum are Christians who revel in the miracle speak. These are the more charismatic groups. They like to make a show of speaking in tongues. Since that is the most common miraculous manifestation of the Spirit, we will begin there.

Tongues of Fire

 

The fantasy writer, Luke, told of the pentecostal event where tongues of fire rested on the heads of the disciples. Immediately, they started speaking in tongues. But the gift of tongues was different in one major respect. Those tongues represented languages that native speakers of those languages could understand.

Today, tongues are just gibberish.

Notice the transition between a performance that might have stood as evidence for supernatural power into something that is unfalsifiable. The transformation is not subtle. Today’s tongues-speakers do not want any part of a language that others are supposed to be able to understand.

Consider the devastating consequences when it has actually been tried. In his book, Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy: Finding the Way to Christ in a Complicated Religious Landscape , Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick had this to say:

Missionaries were soon sent, dispatched to places such as Japan, China, and India. At the time, the more mainstream Bible Missionary Society investigated eighteen Pentecostal missionaries to see how they were faring. Not one of them reported being able to communicate successfully with those to whom they were sent. Tongue-speaking evangelism wasn’t working.

He went on to talk about how this failure did not deal a fatal blow to the movement because it pivoted to reinterpret what speaking in tongues really meant. No longer was it a falsifiable action that could be tested. It became a secret language that could only be understood by the spirit, and those endowed with the gift of interpreting tongues. He went on to say the following:

Very quickly, however, glossolalia became the standard theology, and it persisted in the decades that followed. The initial emphasis on foreign languages for the purpose of evangelism—which had been the dominant understanding at first—was essentially swept under the rug as the belief of a few misguided, exceptional individuals. Such a shift was probably inevitable, as it was only a matter of time before the gift would actually be tested on real foreigners. Yet while the movement now associates glossolalia with the original apostolic Pentecost, the narrative in Acts 2 instead shows xenoglossia.

This incident taught Christians a valuable lesson at the turn of the 20th century: Keep your miracles in a form that can never be tested. We largely have the failure of tongues to thank for that.

Moving Mountains

 

Earlier, I quipped that mountains remain unmoved. But no reasonable person should expect mountains to move unless they read what the Bible has to say about prayer, and actually take it seriously:

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” Mark 11:22-25

There are few better examples in the world of overpromise and underdeliver. The problem with this passage for Christians is that it is too clear and too emphatic. There is no place for it to hide. It is a straightforward promise with a measurable result. Christians have no other choice but to redefine and recontextualize.

Their excuse is that Jesus was not speaking literally. He was speaking figuratively. He didn’t mean that actual mountains would be physically moved and cast into the sea. He only meant that problems in your life that seemed like mountains would be manageable when enough faith is applied. In this way, they take the undeniably miraculous, and turn it into unfalsifiable, untestable chicken-broth soup for the soul.

But honest readers of the Bible must reject this interpretation as false. The immediate context of the passage does not allow for it. If we take literally what just happened previously, we must also take this saying literally about moving mountains.

What came immediately before it was the cursing of the fig tree. To make that incident feel even more literal, Mark has Jesus and crew walk by the fig tree the next day. Peter pointed out to everyone that the tree Jesus cursed had actually withered and died as a result of the magic. We are led to believe this was a literal event that happened in time and space.

That is when Jesus said that the fig tree was nothing compared to what they could do with faith. Therefore, even if you say that it didn’t have to be a literal mountain being tossed into the sea, it still has to refer to some literal event that is more impressive than cursing a fig tree.

But the text does not let us off the hook that easily. Jesus emphasized that his disciples could do anything. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. It wasn’t just the mountain. Jesus double-downed on “anything”. And he didn’t stop there.

He offered precious few stipulations for this to occur. There were only two qualifiers. Have faith without doubt, and forgive any grudges. That’s it. If you are a disciple of Jesus holding no grudges and having no doubts, you can literally do anything.

Except you can’t. And we all know it.

So what exactly has the Christian done with this grand over-promise of Jesus? Let’s take a closer look at what prayer has become:

Statistical Noise

 

Earlier, I spoke of statistical noise without defining what I meant. Statistical noise is the matrix in which Christian prayer operates. It is the indefinite soup of trillions of events that we call life. Within that soup of events, we can always identify something that we can attribute to answered prayer.

The whole idea is to keep prayers watered down enough so that almost any prayer can be deemed successful, and so that the ones that aren’t cannot be tied to any particular failure of god. Statistical noise is a place we can hide god from scrutiny and testing.

You can see how it works by analyzing how Christians pray. Here are 4 things that I have identified as hallmarks of modern, mainstream, Christian prayer:

1.      Prayer that is absent of embarrassment

2.      Prayer that is absent of specifics

3.      Prayer for things that could have happened without prayer

4.      Prayer that can’t be falsified

Let’s consider each of these in turn:

Prayer that is absent of embarrassment

An embarrassing prayer is the kind of prayer that everyone knows will not work, and that brings embarrassment and scorn down on one’s self and the group. It is the prayer for a resurrection at a funeral. No one is going to request this because they would look stupid if they did.

Also embarrassing would be the request for a miraculous infusion of money into the bank account at a car dealership. You don’t have the money. Your credit card has been declined. The average Christian will try to find financing, or wait until finances are better. They do not tend to make fools of themselves asking god for the money at the dealership.

Christians pray it safe by asking for things that would not get them scorned by others who hear them. This protection from embarrassment is not just a public-facing matter. Christians don’t want to be an embarrassment to themselves either. Even in the privacy of their prayer closet, Christians don’t want to be a fool in their own eyes.

Prayer that is absent of specifics

One of the things that can make a prayer embarrassing is the presence of specifics. Christians have become masters of generalist prayers. These are prayers that ask god to bless the sick in the congregation that they might find relief. They might pray for a person by name, but then ask for a general type of healing.

What they never ask for is that all flu symptoms be taken away from a person this very moment. First, we know that isn’t how the flu works. Second, such a prayer would be embarrassing, Third, we would feel awkward asking for something so specific. And fourth, it would expose the prayers as testable. It would definitely be a failure if it didn’t happen that way.

Prayer for things that could have happened without prayer

This is the most useless kind of prayer of all. The only purpose for this prayer is to give god an easy win. The vast majority of answered prayers fall in this category, even by the estimation of Christians.

It is the prayer that a person will be healed from their 72hr cold. When it is gone in about 72hrs, the prayer is deemed successfully answered. Of course, the most likely outcome is that the cold would have been relieved without the prayer.

It is the prayer that one successfully completes a project at work, or that they arrive to their destination safely, or that the tests turn out negative. It is the prayer where we remember the hits and forget the misses. We pray this kind of prayer so that the last one can be avoided.

Prayer that can’t be falsified 

The whole point of all these milk toast prayers is to keep prayer, itself, from being falsified. It is to keep non believers like myself from being able to say that prayer does not work.

The guiding principle for all Christian prayer is to make sure it can never be falsified. You do that by not praying for things everyone knows can’t happen, by avoiding specifics, by praying for things that might have happened anyway, and by making sure nothing in your prayer can be tested in any way.

Despite all these precautions, Christians have an unmoved mountain of unanswered prayers to explain. Here is how they do it:

You Did It Wrong

 

If you didn’t get that promotion for which you and the congregation have been praying for months, it is because someone, somewhere along the line did it wrong. The longer you pray for a thing, the more opportunity there is for it to go wrong. The same is true for the more people praying for a thing.

At some point in the process, it can always be said that your faith was less than absolute. Remember those two little qualifiers Jesus offered? They are both completely impossible to fulfill by humans.

The first is that you have absolute certainty that the thing for which you pray will happen. The way Jesus puts it, you have to believe that you have already received it. This state of certainty is simply impossible to achieve for the average, well-adjusted human being. That is because if we have ever had an unanswered prayer, we know it is possible that the prayer will not be answered. Knowing that possibility exists is all that is necessary for reasonable doubt.

But for Jesus, no amount of doubt is reasonable. You have to demonstrate a level of faith that borderlines on mental illness. There is a good reason why sane people do not pray for mountains to be moved, or for dead people to be raised. We are incapable of convincing ourselves that such things will definitely happen.

Another way we do it wrong is to harbor some anger in our heart against another person. No matter how peaceful you think you are, there is always someone in your life with whom you are not pleased. You may not call it a grudge. But someone examining your prayer life could always say that the displeasure you have with another person is a prayer-stopping grudge. You can’t get rid of it all.

Another way to pray incorrectly is to pray selfishly. We are, by nature, selfish creatures. Even when we act altruistically, there is still selfish motivations. To some degree, self-sacrifice is also a selfish act. We are getting something out of it. So whether we pray for a million dollars, or for a loved one to recover, it is still selfish in some way.

The Christian’s favorite excuse is that one didn’t pray god’s will. Even as a Christian, this one left me baffled. A prayer of supplication is all about expressing our will to god. It is all about bringing our wants and desires to god so that he will fulfill them. Otherwise, prayers of supplication have no meaning.

If all we are doing is praying god’s will back to him, then there is no point to the exercise. All of our prayers can be reduced to, “Thy will be done.” So the reason your wife did not recover from that minor surgery is that it was god’s will that she die. And god’s will is the only will that matters. So really, why are you praying in the first place?

Even if you know that it is god’s will for your wife to die, it would be senseless to pray for your wife to die. Rather, you are praying for what you want – for your wife to live a long, healthy, and happy life with you. But even if you pray this prayer with absolute faith while holding no grudge, it still may not happen because it wasn’t god’s will. Once again, you lose prayer roulette.

And that is just fine with Christians. They would much rather lose 99% of the prayer roulette they play, than to have one situation where their fantasy of effective prayer is absolutely falsified. One reason they pray this way is to keep their god hidden inside the statistical noise.

Conclusion: The Miracles We Should Expect

 

When it comes to miracle expectations, Christianity is all over the map. Some groups believe that every Christian should, at the very least, be able to speak in tongues. Though almost no one prays this way, most Christians acknowledge that randomly raising dead people at our request is something he is capable of doing.

The real question to ponder is this: What type of world should we expect if the biblical view of miracles correctly describes reality? When one reads the Bible and takes it seriously, there are certain predictions we should be able to make. How does expectation live up to reality?

For starters, it should show up in the lab quite by accident. Consider all the magic that should be happening in the world even if only one percent of prayers were answered. Some of that manipulation of space and time should show up in labs and ruin a few experiments from time to time.

We should also catch more than a few on camera. Places like England have cameras everywhere, not just at traffic lights. With so much of our everyday life caught on official still and video cameras, we should occasionally see cars pass right through each other so that a collision could be avoided.

We should see someone shot by a drive-by shooter, and also see the bullet remove itself because that person was covered by prayer. And yes, at some funerals around the world, some of the dead should rise up from the coffin while the spectators are still singing, “Amazing Grace”. At this point, not seeing such miracles occur from time to time is the greater miracle.

Finally, we should see more confident believers. At no point should they be as worried about things as nonbelievers. That is because they know that they can just summon a miracle to save the day. No airplane should crash when it is carrying a Christian, no matter how many engines fail. Christians should never worry about the test results.

But the fact of the matter is Christians have the same worries and fears and griefs as the atheist. Because they both know that no saving miracle is waiting in the wings. As a Christian who didn’t even believe in miracles, I didn’t even see the amount of helpful providence that one should expect. Among those who did believe in the more visible type of miracles, I saw no evidence of such in their lives or assemblies.

At the end of the day, the absence of miracles is the absence of evidence. But it is evidence that we should expect to see. No matter how hard the Christian tries to hide their god amid the statistical noise, the Bible conditions us to expect more. Today’s Christian has conditioned us to expect the kind of universe that would exist were there no god at all.

They are simply trying to recontextualize their story to explain the current reality of our lived experience. The arguments I made here can be utterly destroyed by any Christian at any time. All you have to do is move a mountain, raise a dead person, or restore sight to Stevie Wonder.