faith in fireworks

Before I get to the pre-written stuff, a link to Keaton’s gallery – where I’ve uploaded a small set of new photos.

OK, here goes a house cleaning: all the “God” tagged drafts I’ve had lingering rolled into one entry, cleaned up as much as I could stand before I got tired of re-writing months old ideas, and published as one. Some of this stuff is pretty good, some isn’t as developed as I’d intended… but here goes.

Ever wonder why God doesn’t do miracles anymore?

Oh sure, every day, on the 700 Club, God’s modern-day miracles are enumerated and trotted out for applause: seven puppies saved from a burning building, a child’s cancer going into remission, a twisted I-beam from the World Trade Center rubble takes the shape of a cross. But I’m not talking about those kind of miracles. No, I’m talking about the kind of miracles designed to convince people that a) there is a God, and b) He’s a powerful God to be feared and worshipped. Miracles, I mean, like those described in the Bible: burning bushes, making the blind see and the lame walk, parting seas, and booming voices from the skies – to name a few. Where are those miracles? Doesn’t God love us enough anymore to give us those slaps in the face and wake up our faith? To use a bit of Paul’s own logic: If 1st century Christians needed miracles to help them believe in and fear God, how much more do we, two-thousand more years removed from the events, need them?

Why don’t people receive visions and revelations directly from God or angels? Why don’t they have inspired dreams or waking conversations with the Lord, why are there no more prophecies? Why has God stopped talking to the people he created, the people he loves and desires to come home to him? Why end it all X years after Christ fulfilled the ultimate prophecy? Why not keep talking, nothing new to reveal? OK, fine… but what about a, “Hey, Mr. Believer, it’s God here. Just wanted to talk to you and let you know I still love you. Don’t forget to spread my gospel, OK? Alright then, bye.” Christians usually explain this by saying the revelations and prophecies of old were simply to “start” the church, to get the ball rolling. Once the Bible was assembled, believers had it as the ultimate truth – and could no longer be fooled or taken in by false prophets. Thus no need for any more direct communication from God. But even with the Bible… wouldn’t the occasional communique from God help bolster faith, help confirm he’s still out there?

Most modern Christians will tell you that, even though there were many amazing miracles in the Bible designed to spread belief in, and fear of, God – that belief model wasn’t working. They’ll say, despite the wonders performed, the people still doubted God, still wondered if He existed, still disobeyed His commands. They’ll most likely tell you that a faith based on miracles is a hollow, easily forgotten, faith. These are all good points, I guess… a faith where you have to believe of your own accord, without fireworks and fanfare, that’s much harder to swallow – and therefore much more devout, right? Bah, I still argue that stopping the sun in the sky tomorrow would cause some currently doomed souls to stop and question their disbelief, would plant a see of doubt into their hardened hearts. And, wouldn’t God want that? Sure, a faith based solely on miracles could be a shallow faith, the believer always left wanting for the next big magic trick to keep them faithful – but does mean that a good old fashioned miracle has no value? I say no.

You’ve heard the saying, “There’s no atheists in a foxhole,” right? Absolutes are always tough, but I do think it’s true that a lot of folks tend to call on God in the thick of it, believing in Him or not. And, while it’s surely not true that there’s never been an atheist in a foxhole, I’d bet more than a few in-a-foxhole non-believers end up calling on God as mortars whiz by. I would submit that, likewise, there’d be a similar amount of atheists-turned-theists at the local God-does-miracles show.

So let’s stop all this, and take the explanation that we simply don’t need miracles anymore. We have the inspired Word of God, and that’s enough to win souls – and anyway, a faith based on the teachings of the Bible alone would be a stronger faith than one based on witnessing miracles. So, sometime shortly after the events of the New Testament, God stopped performing miracles, stopped sending prophecies to his people, stopped casting spirits and demons out of the spirit-plagued and possessed. But, if God stopped all this, particularly the casting our of demons and spirits – one of two things are true. Either people are, to this day, still getting possessed by demons and plagued with spirits while God simply ignores them – or the Devil stopped sending said demons and spirits to possess and plague.

But, are we also to assume that Satan, God’s nemesis, also decided to stop possessing people with demons, stopped afflicting people? The church has no problem saying that Satan is still “tempting” folks these days, they say such things all the time. If Satan can still reach into this world enough to effect temptation on mankind – are we to believe he’s simply “limited” himself to that? No more demon possessions, no more spirits? I hope not, because the power to lay hands on the afflicted supposedly died out with the apostles – and, anyway, God doesn’t need to do miracles anymore – so you’d be on your own should you get “demons.” I guess the Christian defense of this could be twofold: either there are no more possessions, for whatever reason; or, if there are, you can simply pray them away. I think I’m getting too far off into the weeds here… I’m gonna reign it in a bit.

So you say modern-day miracles would only cheapen peoples’ faith in God? I say bull-puckey. Modern-day miracles would wake some people up, reaffirm faith in some, and, in the least, get people talking. Modern-day miracles would be a good thing for God and Christianity, there’s not a doubt in my mind.

So again, ever wonder why God doesn’t do miracles anymore?

One of the things the church Sharaun and I go to regularly is big on is not “adding to” or “subtracting from God’s word.” For the religiously uninitiated, this means that the church is a self-professed “Bible-based” institution – using only the Holy Bible for all creeds, rules, and procedures. It’s not an uncommon view among Protestant religions, especially those born out of the Protestant Restoration in the early 1900s. Ignoring some of the many things that could be said about this, I wanted to, instead, concentrate on the use of this idea as a basis for “ignoring” or placing a zero-value on the many historical and apocryphal writings that have survived time and are available today. I think this is bunk, and is probably one of the most selfishly-motivated misinterpretations of a couple straightforward verses:

Revelations 22:18
Clearly, John is referring only to the “book” that he has just finished writing – his Revelation. He doesn’t want anyone adding to, or subtracting from, that particular book. We can be ultimately sure of this because of a couple things: Firstly, at the time John wrote Revelation, there was no bound collection of writings called a “Bible.” The Bible as we know it today didn’t even exist, so John couldn’t possibly be referring to our modern-day canonization. Second, John makes it explicitly clear that he’s referring the book of “this prophecy.” He limits the scope of his statement to the prophecy of the Apocalypse he’s just given, simple as that.

Deuteronomy 4:2
Here, Moses is revealing God’s law to his people – and the context couldn’t be more clear. In fact, using this Old Testament verse in application to the entire Bible is more ludicrous than doing it with the verse in John’s Revelation. Deuteronomy is the last book of Moses, and not only was there surely no bound book called a “Bible” at the time, but there were many more Old Testament writings yet to come, not to mention the entire New Testament. If we think of these writings on a timeline, any post-Deuteronomy writings would technically be additions. The statement here is obviously in reference to the Mosaic Law, not some yet-to-be cobbled-together book dubbed “the Bible.”

So, church, open your eyes and minds; don’t be afraid. The usage of these two verses to limit potential inspired or relevant text to the Bible only is narrow-minded and a stretch of interpretation. I completely disagree with any interpretation of these verses which focuses on “limiting” information sources to a Bible that didn’t even exist at the time.

Last up, a religion link rodeo. Just to close things out.

Check out this super-interesting (to me) analysis of the problem of “fit” in regards to Noah and his ark. Two animals of every kind, on a boat – I’ve often dismissed it as fable for reasons of practicality, but the detailed look provided in the previous link does a good job actually trying to affix some measurements and numbers to the whole deal. It’s worth a look, if you’ve ever wondered about it.

Lastly, some good reading on the endlessly-interesting Mormons.

Goodnight folks, sorry to get all God on ya again.

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6 Replies to “faith in fireworks”

  1. Just a few thought on being tempted by the Devil. First, Jesus was tempted by the Devil 3 times. He didn’t try to cast the Devil out of himself. He used the scriptures he knew (‘it is written’) to show Satan why he was not going along with his suggestions. He didn’t cast Satan out, the Devil left on his own – “And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.” (Luk 4:13)
    Casting out demons was never intended to be a solution to effect Satan has on the whole world constantly. (2Corinthians 11: 14,15.
    The book of Jobe chapters 1,2 shows that God allows Satan to test all who claim to serve him.
    What God does do is tell us how to resist Satan as Jesus did. (James 4:7; Ephesians 6:11,12; 1Corinthians 10:13)
    Just something to think about. Be well.

  2. Okay… sorry I’m behind on this comment but my schedule hasn’t allowed me to write this up until now. Big questions Dave, and some very good points. I won’t pretend to have all the answers but I can share my opinion…

    On your first topic regarding miracles, I think the first question to ask is, what is the purpose of miracles? I think the purpose is not necessarily to build faith (although they may do that) but to show that the person performing the miracle has God on their side, so that you could ESTABLISH faith in the person and what they said. Anyone could claim to be God’s messenger, but not anyone could stop the sun in the sky, so a person would know to listen to the guy who’s moving the celestial bodies around at whim. Of course, one would have to be on the lookout for the charlatans trying to trick folks into thinking they are a prophet, so one would have to be able to tell the difference between the real, certifiable miracles you are talking about and those that are more “questionable.” Before God’s revelation to man was complete, miracles were needed to verify the authenticity of the person giving the prophecy, message, etc. Once that revelation was complete (Bible), there was no purpose for miracles and so miracles ended. To back this theory up (Biblically speaking), see the following verses: John 20:30-31 (“that you may believe” – establishing faith), 1 Cor. 13:8-10 (prophecies/tongues/knowledge is in part, the whole revelation is perfect). Basically I think that miracles ceased around the time of the apostles’ deaths – they could transfer miraculous powers to others according to Acts but apparently no one else could do this. By the time they died, the Bible was written (although not collected in book form) and so miracles ceased since they were no longer needed.

    I’m with you in that I would love to see some old-school, genuine-article miracles, but I don’t need them, and I don’t think anyone else should need them, either. I know you touched on this in your post, but I think the root of the matter is that if faith requires proof, then it’s not really faith, is it? Again, the miracles are there to establish that God is real and He is worth putting your faith in, but at some point proof ends and faith begins. A few passages to chew on: John 20:24-29 (esp. v29), Rom. 10:17, 2 Cor. 5:7, Heb. 11:1.

    In regards to the whole demon-possession argument, I think that God allowed Satan to send demons to possess people for a short period of time. I think that the New Testament is the only part of the Bible that records instances of demon-possessed people (I could be wrong about this, but I don’t know of any possession in the OT). Keep in mind that the events of the OT span several thousand years (at least) and the NT spans only about a hundred years. I think that demon possession was allowed during this relatively short time so that Jesus (and later through his followers) could show his power over demons to cast them out. Once the Church was established and the revelation complete, there was no need to show this power any longer (along with any other miraculous power passed on by the apostles) and so possessions stopped. I’m sure that Satan wouldn’t opt-out of possessing people; rather I think a bound is put on his power in that area.

    On the second topic regarding adding/subtracting to God’s word, I think you make some excellent points. Yes, I think you are right to point out that both passages are referring specifically to the text they are contained in. I hadn’t really thought of it in this way before, thanks for pointing that out. However, I think that these verses still can apply in a more general sense. There are other places in the Bible that speak about God’s word being superior to man’s and that He doesn’t want anyone messing around with it (see Isa. 55:8-9, Gal. 1:6-9, 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Of course, all of these were written at a time when there wasn’t a “Bible” per se, the canon of the Bible was decided later.

    Sorry this is so long-winded, but you brought it up. 🙂

  3. I don’t buy into your God stuff, however I’m pretty sure there’s no book of “Jobe” in your arbitrary, narrowly edited, intolerant and conveniently (mis)translated collection of texts used by the church to fuel the fires of fanatical religious combat and fill the corrupt coffers of the holiest bigots in the name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit.

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