Friday, September 06, 2013

What Should Christians Make Of Non-Christian Miracles?

Somebody with the screen name Hassan Abdillah recently posted some comments about non-Christian miracles in an old thread. He said something to the effect that if Christians attribute non-Christian miracles to demons, couldn't the same explanation be applied to Christian miracles?

We've addressed that issue many times, but I thought it would be helpful to discuss it again. For one thing, I want to gather together links to some of our posts on the subject.

Earlier this year, I responded to a question I was sent in an email about the possibility that Christian miracles are just manifestations of human psi. Steve Hays also posted in the comments section of the thread.

My series of posts on Craig Keener's recent two-volume work on miracles addresses non-Christian miracles to some extent. See, especially, here and here.

And here's an older collection of links to some of our posts on a variety of related topics (Marian apparitions, UFOs, etc.). My series on near-death experiences, which I link there, often discusses how to evaluate non-Christian paranormal claims. See the comments section of the thread here for my overview of the subject.

I'll briefly summarize a few of the more important principles to keep in mind.

First, keep in mind the concept of a hierarchy of miracles. One system of miracles can outperform another, much like Moses outperforming the magicians of Pharaoh. Not all miracles and systems of miracles are equal.

Secondly, not all supposedly unified miracle systems are as unified as they're made out to be. People often put a large number of paranormal phenomena - near-death experiences, séances, etc. - into one category and present them as a unified rival to Christianity. In reality, those phenomena are highly disunified. It's not a matter of Christianity facing one large rival. Rather, it's a matter of Christianity competing with a lot of individual miracles and smaller miracle systems.

Third, the direct activity of God and Satan isn't the only source of paranormal phenomena in a Christian worldview. Humans can have paranormal powers that are neutral in some sense. For example, some or all humans might have paranormal abilities they were born with or attained through a means we don't yet understand. A paranormal ability given by God or Satan could remain dormant for a while, then be used at some later point, potentially even for some purpose other than what it was given for. In that sense, there's no direct activity of God or Satan involved. And so on. Christians need to avoid thinking simplistically on these matters. There are more options than people often suggest.

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