Monday, August 13, 2012

Ecclesiastical miracles

In 3:114-115 of the Institutes (in Dennison’s edition), Turretin has a compact critique of ecclesiastical miracles, as Bellarmine’s 11th mark of the church. There’s a lot of sound sense in his brief critique. However, it’s unduly defensive.

Turretin is, of course, attempting to deflect or debunk the Roman church’s claim to be the church of miracles. Unlike the schismatic Protestant sect, Rome is verifiably the one true church because she enjoys miraculous attestation. So goes the argument.

One problem with this claim–a problem which has become more manifest since the Reformation–is the fact that Rome doesn’t enjoy a monopoly on reported miracles. There are reported Protestant miracles as well as reported Catholic miracles. Therefore, even if we grant for the sake of argument that Catholicism enjoys prima facie miraculous evidence, the same holds true for Protestantism.

Of course, this raise the question of how to sift the credibility of reputed miracles. My immediate point, however, is that Rome no longer enjoys any advantage over Protestants in that regard. Let’s take a few illustrative examples:

i) Although I haven’t researched the issue in depth, in Scottish church history, during the “Killing Times,” there were reported miracles involving the Covenanters.

ii) George Müller was famous for miraculous answers to prayer in support of his orphanage.

iii) Pioneering Chinese missionaries like John Sung and Pastor Hsi were renowned for their reputed miracles.

iv) Both in his letters as well as his Magnalia Christi Americana, Cotton Mather carefully documents area miracles.

v) Most notably, Pentecostalism has spawned a vast cache of reported miracles.

vi) Finally, we have Craig Keener’s magisterial survey of miracles, past and present, which is quite ecumenical in scope.

My point is not to vouch for any particular claim, but just to make the fairly obvious observation that this fixture of the traditional apologetic for Roman Catholicism now backfires. We can call your reputed miracles and raise you.

1 comment:

  1. Apparently, John Knox, one of the founders of Protestantism and thus a heresiarch according to the RCC, had the miraculous gift of prophecy:

    That ought to end the debate right there.