Thursday, June 8, 2017

WEEKLY COMMENTARY: What Is A Miracle, Really?

I was at lunch the other day with three friends.  The food was good, but the conversation began to wane, until one friend (call him "A") told us about an experience he had recently.  Apparently, one morning he could not find his car keys.  Friend "A" said he was desperate all day and into the evening.  Then an idea popped into his head.  Sure enough, when he looked in the pocket of his Sunday suit, there were the keys.  "It was a miracle!" he told us with enthusiasm.

However, friend "B" was doubtful.  "Was it really a miracle, or just plain luck?"

Well, that raised some questions around the table, especially "What constitutes a miracle?"  So, friend "B" googled "miracle" and told us  that "a miracle is an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs."  That produced some skepticism around the table ---- would God really get involved with lost car keys, even through the Holy Spirit?

This caused friend "C" to tell us about his 10-year-old daughter who had suffered from advanced leukemia, and some doctors had told them that she had only a short time to live.  But, during her second week in the hospital she began showing signs of recovery, and after five weeks she was discharged home to resume a healthy life again.  Friend "C" was sure this was a miracle and that God had intervened.

Several of us said that we believed very strongly that God is a loving parent who controls what happens to us.  On the basis of that belief we acknowledged that we sometimes may interpret facts to fit "C's" assumption ---- primarily as a defense of God.  That transforms what might be an unexplained chance event into a blessedly good result caused directly by God.

"But, perhaps God does not cause all our miracles," offered friend "B".  "Maybe they happen for some reason other than the will of God.  Can you accept the idea that some things happen for no reason, that there is randomness in the universe.  When the practices of medical science and pharmacology cause a desperately ill child to recover, was it God's will?  Or, was it chance that skilled human hands were available to save her?  Suppose that child had been in a remote place which lacked the drugs and skills needed to save her.  Would it have been God's will that she would die, or was the good outcome possibly just because of geographical good luck?"

It was time for friend "A" to offer his thoughts:  "If, indeed, the cure of this child was due to God's handiwork, does that mean that God also intervenes and decides when a small child with leukemia will die of the disease?  If so, would this be some kind of punishment by our loving God for something wrong done by this 10-year-old child?"

I would have found it easier to believe in miracles made by God if there were some clear connection between the good or bad human deed and God.  A parent who gives a gift or a punishment to a child, but never tells the child why he is being rewarded or punished, is hardly a model of responsible parenthood.

This "round table discussion" went on to ask more questions.  Is there always a reason, or do things just happen at random, with no cause?  Was there any particular reason for that child to be afflicted rather than others?  Perhaps "miracle" cures do not reflect God's choices?  Perhaps things really do happen at random?

Or, it may be that God finished His work of creation eons ago, and left the rest to us. Residual chaos, chance and mischance, things happening for no reason, would continue to be with us.  If that is what is happening to us, we will simply have to learn to live with it, sustained and comforted by the knowledge that the earthquake and the auto accident, like the murder and the robbery are not the will of God.  They represent that aspect of reality which stands independent of His will, and which angers and saddens God even as it angers and saddens us.

These thoughts are brought to you by CPC's Adult Spiritual Development Team, hoping to encourage you to pursue some personal spiritual growth this summer at CPC.

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