Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How Many People Claim To Have Witnessed A Miracle?

A person doesn't have to witness a miracle in order to have sufficient reason to believe that one occurred. But how many people in the modern world claim to have witnessed a miracle?

Numbers are often hard to come by, and the quality of the information can vary from one circumstance to another. We often have to piece things together and make rough estimates. But there's enough information to go by to lead us to some significant conclusions.

Craig Keener cites a large variety of sources that give us numbers for different groups, and he often refers to hundreds of millions of miracle witnesses (Miracles [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011], 762). One survey found that 48 percent of people in the United States claimed to have witnessed at least one miracle (238). Even among noncharismatic Christians alone in the United States, more than a quarter claim to have witnessed a healing (505-506). Surveys and other sources have found that half or more of converts to Christianity in China claim healing, their own healing or somebody else's, as one of the reasons why they converted (264, 297, 300-302). Keener notes that "In sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, 56 percent of Christians claim to have witnessed or experienced divine healing." (313) He cites data showing that most doctors claim to have witnessed one or more miracles among their patients (427-428, 721). In some countries, half or more of Christians claim to have witnessed an exorcism (813). And so on. He cites far more information than I can repeat here. Though such numbers tend to be higher among charismatics, Keener argues at length for percentages well into the double digits even among noncharismatics. Among Pentecostals and charismatics alone, he estimates the number who claim to have witnessed a healing at three hundred million (238). He estimates that more than a third of Christians who are neither Pentecostal nor charismatic claim to have witnessed at least one healing (239). And healings are just one type of miracle. When other miracles are included, and non-Christians are added to the total, the number has to be well beyond a billion. I would expect it to be in the multiple billions.

That sort of information still leaves a lot of questions unanswered about the quality of the miracle claims. And because of Keener's Christian background, interests, and other factors, he has more access to data on Christian than non-Christian miracle accounts. Some of his polling data and other sources cover both Christian and non-Christian claims, but many don't. And even where we think a miracle has occurred, we still have to ask whether it's Divine, demonic, or human. One miracle may be a direct act of God, whereas another is empowered by a demon and another is the result of a paranormal human capability. Estimating how many people in the modern world claim to have witnessed a miracle still leaves a lot of questions unanswered. But it's one line of evidence among others that we should take into account.


  1. I think implicit in Keener and Jason's presentation is the point that it only takes one convincing miracle to disprove naturalism, whereas naturalism must disprove every single reported miracle.

    So what's more extraordinary: that miracles sometimes happen, or that every reported miracle in world history is bogus?

  2. I agree with Steve. Additionally, I think skeptics would have to disprove every claimed miracle in order to say that miracles have never happened.

    I'm not only a Calvinist, but a continuationist when it comes to the charismatic gifts. I'm aware of various Christian people and ministries that I personally believe (rightly or wrongly) consistently operate in the supernatural. Of those, the one that I'm most impressed with (and respect the most) is Roger Sapp and his ministry.

    Healing of Michelle's back http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egUvBU2JqIs

    Healing of Mike's back http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ve5IkjpSklo&feature=plcp

    Roger Sapp's claim of partially healing a deformed foot (i.e. creative miracle): http://youtu.be/kQiZwVQ5XRA

    Roger Sapp's claim of a creative miracle that's too amazing that most people would probably doubt it: http://youtu.be/9DlnaghC96

    I'm not claiming/guaranteeing these are not fraudulent. Only that I don't think they are.

    Btw, my theological views on healing is different from Roger Sapp's. He's a Charismatic who I would describe holds to a more classic Pentecostal understanding of healing. My views on healing are based on my synthesis of Calvinistic teaching and Charismatic/Pentecostal teaching. I believe that it's always God's Revealed Will to heal, even if it's not always God's Will of Decree to heal. But unless God specifically indicates that it's not his intention to heal, then we should assume God is willing (per James 5:14-16 and other verses); since as Calvinists we are supposed to live and operation according to God's Revealed Will (not God's secret Will of Decree).

    In the same way we are to indiscriminately seek the salvation of all people regardless of their status of election or non-election (which we don't know) based on God's revealed will to save all who will believe; so we are to seek the healing of all people regardless of whether God's hidden will of decree is to heal them 1. now fully, 2. now partially and progressively, 3. later in this life (whether instantaneously or progressively), 4. after the resurrection, or 5. never.

  3. One of the links didn't work. here's the link again:

    Roger Sapp's claim of a creative miracle that's too amazing that most people would probably doubt it:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DlnaghC96I&feature=channel&list=UL

  4. Every single Christian has witnessed a miracle, personally, firsthand...The miracle of being born again.