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Return to 1st Quarter 2018 articles.

The title of this article is Are Miracles Proof of God's Existence.

As an atheist, one of the things that angered me the most was believers using miracles as proof of the existence of God. I spent many years looking for a verification of a miracle happening. When I dug into the evidence, I could find nothing to convince me that something had happened that did not have a natural, physical explanation. Claims of modern medical miracles either turned out to be fabrications or they ignored what had been done medically to help the individual. When the country singer Naomi Judd was cured of hepatitis, she attributed it to an act of God. The doctor who treated her said he felt it was more a product of Miracleinterferon. Many doctors will tell you that they only facilitate what God has built into his miraculous design of our bodies. Recovering from an illness with medical support is not the same as Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

We can explain miraculous escapes as blind luck. When I was in the army, the claims that God protected some of my fellow soldiers did not stand up. Two guys in my battalion were active Christians, and as far as I knew, both lived exemplary lives. They tried to convince me of the existence of God. They both had loving wives, and both had two children. One of them was killed, and the other was not killed in a Korean fire-fight with Chinese soldiers. The one who was not killed claimed that God had protected him. As an atheist, I could see no reason why he should not have died instead of the other. I especially did not see why I should have survived while the Christian died. The adage that “there are no atheists in foxholes” simply is not true. Many of the cases of mental illness stemming from military combat are rooted in men unable to make sense of why they survived when their best friend did not.

As an atheist, I saw Christmas as a commercial holiday with no real religious significance. The obvious materialistic obsession in even the most dedicated Christians denied that the birth of Christ was really the main focus of the holiday. Holiday stories about miracles that happened in association with Christmas were not only difficult to believe but, in some cases, scientifically impossible to support. A true star cannot hover over a manger. The stars you see at night cannot travel in front of some “wise men.” The whole notion of the time of year when Christmas is celebrated did not make sense. The winter solstice was a better explanation for the celebration than the arrival of God’s Son on planet Earth. Shepherds spending the night in the hills with their flocks in late December did not make sense.

Confronted with all of this, many Christians will resort to quoting scripture to back up their claims that miracles prove the existence of God. Matthew 11:4-5 quotes Jesus answering John's disciples' question about whether he was the Messiah by saying, Jesus healing the lame or crippled man“Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” As an atheist, I found this claim to be interesting but not convincing. These are ignorant ancient people living in a pagan world. Jesus stilling the storm in Matthew 8 or raising the dead in Luke 7:11-15 and 8:49-56 was folklore, as far as I was concerned. Like Thomas, unless I saw it, I was not going to buy into what seemed to be silly religious claims.

If there is no God, then the Bible is just a bunch of silly old stories concocted by religious charlatans to control ignorant people. From personal experience, I suggest that quoting biblical claims of miraculous events will not change the mind of most atheists. Someone will quote Romans 10:17, “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” The question here is “faith in what?” If you go back to verse 13 you will read, “for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’  ” The faith here is faith in Jesus. It is not faith that there is a God.

The answer to all of this is not to just keep spouting scripture! The answer is evidence! Proof of the existence of God is only hinted at in Scripture and even in those cases, it points to evidence. For example, Romans 1:20 tells us that God's existence can be “understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Psalm 19:1 tells us that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” In Proverbs 8 wisdom challenges us to understand the wisdom built into every fabric of the creation. Job 38:1 to 40:1 brings us face-to-face with the design built into everything we know of in the cosmos. In the twenty-first century, we are blessed to have literally mountains of evidence in the natural world to help us gain faith in God as the Creator.

Biblical scene of the miracle of transformation of water into wine

Even the miracles of the Bible can be investigated on the basis of evidence. How many people saw the miracles of Jesus? How many people saw him crucified? How many people saw him after his resurrection? The answer in each of these cases is “thousands.” What historical evidence do we have for the validity of Christ? The answer again is in the thousands of ancient manuscripts which verify the life and teachings of Christ as opposed to 12 for Socrates and 6 for Plato. Nearly every day we see new discoveries made by scientists in different fields that support the biblical account or disprove an old claim of an error in the Bible. This journal is just one of many that record this information and our website www.doesgodexist.today continues to grow with examples to build faith and answer some of the challenges that plagued me as an atheist.

The main purpose of miracles in the time of Christ and the infant church was to verify who was credible and who was not. Today we see religious charlatans making claims leading to making money and bilking innocent people out of their savings. There were such people in the first century (see Acts 19:13). Jesus said in John 10:38; 14:11; and John 20:30-31 that the miracles he did were the basis of faith for people of that day. Hebrews 2:3-4 tells us that in the early church miracles separated the hucksters Two fish and five loaves of bread with candle-light and an antique wine jarfrom the true spokespersons of God. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:8 tells us that miracles would cease when the written word was available as a standard of authority to teach God's will.

Let us be clear that God can perform a miracle any time he chooses, but it will be for a specific purpose unique to an individual. Miracles are not a tool to convince an atheist that there is a God. But once we come to faith through the evidence God has provided, the indwelling of the Spirit that Peter promised in Acts 2:38-40 can give us strength and guidance to become new people as Romans 6 describes.

Since I came from atheism to faith, I know how much evidence God has given us. I have now lived for over half a century with God working to make me a new man. I have seen a miraculous change in myself, but the change is in what Galatians 5:22-25 calls “the fruit of the Spirit.” Let God bring that same change and that same fruit into your life.

— John N. Clayton

Picture credits:
© vlastas. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.
© enterlinedesign. Image from BigStockPhoto.com
© AnnekaS. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.
© AnnekaS. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.
© AnnekaS. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.

Scripture links/references are from BibleGateway.com.