Consider the African witch doctor, practitioners of ancient Native American Medicine, wiccans of both the white and black magic persuasion, tales of witches and stories of warlocks. Consider the vast number of miracle claims prominent on the earth now and in history. The question as to whether or not any of these claims has any validity peeks my interest. I believe that God has such power to do whatever He wills through whomever He wills. Of that there is no question in my mind. The question I have refers to practitioners of such miracles or magic who have not derived their power from the one true God. Whence do they receive power, if they have received power at all?
I must clarify regarding the subject. I am not a mystic, I simply believe that miracles are possible and are performed, at the least, through human vessels. I will also state that unless the one reading this article confesses the possible existence of miracle claims, he or she will not benefit from such a reading. My point in this short memorandum is not to defend miracle claims, only to call into question the origin of such events if indeed they are true to the vast number of testimony regarding them.
If the Christian community is to believe that God can do whatever He will through whomever He wills and so lend validity to Christian miracle claims throughout the world, then he must also seriously consider other miracle claims. To consider these claims Biblically, we must observe the entirety of Scripture. The space needed to tackle such an enormous question would also be enormous. I do not wish to write a book on the matter at this time, only raise a question. Perhaps, though, a book will be in order at a later date.
The question I wish to raise, though it is doubtful that I will arrive at a coherent answer any time soon, relates to the notion that we are the image of an invisible God.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, Let there be light, and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and He called the darkness night. Evening came and then morning: the first day. Then God said, Let there be an expanse between the waters, separating water from water. So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above the expanse. And it was so. God called the expanse sky. Evening came and then morning: the second day. Then God said, Let the water under the sky be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear. And it was so. God called the dry land earth, and He called the gathering of the water seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, Let the earth produce vegetation: seed- bearing plants and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And it was so. The earth produced vegetation: seed- bearing plants according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Evening came and then morning: the third day. Then God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night. They will serve as signs for festivals and for days and years. They will be lights in the expanse of the sky to provide light on the earth. And it was so. God made the two great lights — the greater light to have dominion over the day and the lesser light to have dominion over the night — as well as the stars. God placed them in the expanse of the sky to provide light on the earth, to dominate the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. Evening came and then morning: the fourth day. Then God said, Let the water swarm with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky. So God created the large sea- creatures and every living creature that moves and swarms in the water, according to their kinds. He also created every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. So God blessed them, Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the waters of the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth. Evening came and then morning: the fifth day. Then God said, Let the earth produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that crawl, and the wildlife of the earth according to their kinds. And it was so. So God made the wildlife of the earth according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and creatures that crawl on the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth. So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female. God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth. God also said, Look, I have given you every seed- bearing plant on the surface of the entire earth and every tree whose fruit contains seed. This food will be for you, for all the wildlife of the earth, for every bird of the sky, and for every creature that crawls on the earth — everything having the breath of life in it. I have given every green plant for food. And it was so. God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Evening came and then morning: the sixth day.” – Genesis 1:1-31 HCSB
God created male and female together in His image. Here, there are a several points that must be made and several conclusions at which the Bible believer must arrive.
- Male and female are together the single image of a perfect God. Male cannot represent that image on his own, nor can female. This is why the marriage relationship is so important.
- If we were created to be God’s image, then we can look to all of humanity and find characteristics of God. Mankind represents part of who God is. Unfortunately because of man’s fall and because of sin, the image of God no longer exists wholly in mankind. Mankind has made himself an idol.
- Since we behold such characteristics as reason, emotion and desire we can be confident that God also beholds those characteristics and was the source of those characteristics in us. Sin, though, causes us to honor those characteristics in a manner contrary to God’s design.
- Our being created in God’s image means that all men have an everlasting existence; though each one’s destination depends on whether or not he lives in relationship with the one true God.
- If God is the King of kings, and each of us was created in His image, then it also follows that each and every human being was designed to be a king or queen. Thus, the idea of representative rule directly follows.
- If God has external reach, which He must have in order to create substance outside of His own mind, then we must also have external reach.
Thus, brings to light the question I wish to ask. If we consider God’s external reach to be miraculous, is it possible that human beings could hypothetically perform ‘miracles’ simply because God created them to resemble Himself? Or, does our inherent ability for external reach limit itself wholly to the physical reach of the body outside of the mind? Even scripture admits that miracles not initiated by the King of kings take place. Pharaoh’s wise men were able throw down their sticks, and watch them turn into snakes (Ex. 7:12). Saul asked a medium to communicate with Samuel’s spirit even though it was forbidden and the medium was able to do so (1 Samuel 28:12). When God confused the languages of humanity and scattered them throughout the earth, He stated negatively that nothing humanity purposed to do would be withheld from, or impossible for him (Genesis 11:6).
The miracle of the physical body
The idea of our having any external reach whatsoever is phenomenal in itself, even if that external reach doesn’t include an inherent ability to move mountains just by having enough faith. God has given each a physical body with which to affect the universe around him or herself. Each person even has the God-given ability to affect other physical bodies. It seems as though the physical body, or the material self, does not exist necessarily. That is, there is a possible world in which the material self would not exist, or in which the material universe would not exist at all. Thus, the development of physical objects at all is a miracle. The thought that energy would at first take a material form is a miracle.
What does it mean that God would create a physical universe and then place a physical being, who seems to transcend all other creatures, in command of that universe (Genesis 1:28)? Our having a physical body, which differentiates us from a spiritual God, enables us to rule over a physical world. Since mankind is the image of God, according to scripture, we can be confident that mankind rules as God’s physical representative in this material universe. This ideas raises an interesting question about Christ’s physical reign on the New Earth. How will it affect God’s design of representative rule? Though I don’t have time to address this now, I will in the future.
So it remains, as physical agents, individuals can affect a physical world in any way that can be imagined. The amount and quality of external reach that can be accomplished through the physical body is simply miraculous, and illuminates for us God’s statement at Babel, “If they have begun to do this as one people all having the same language, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6 HCSB).
The miracle of the mind
I stated in the previous section that our having a physical body enables us to rule over a physical world. It is as well that our spiritual existence requires us to be submitted to a spiritual God. Though it may be bold of me to claim, I am confident that every individual, no matter his worldview, is submitted and under the authority of God. It is through mankind that God rules over the earth physically.
I have come to understand the mind to be the spiritual existence of mankind. I am a dualist in the sense that each person exists both as a mind (soul) and a body, that the mind and body interact with one another and are interdependent. The mind seems to contain the consciousness, the rationality, the desire and the emotion of each individual. It is the mind that seems to grant humanity a spiritual awareness and instinct, whereas other creatures seem to only have the physical. It is by the mind that individuals claim to have faith. It is by the mind that people claim to have spiritual gifts and power. It is by the mind that individuals learn and think critically. If the material body is indeed the miracle that allows our external reach, then the mind must be the miracle by which God has given each identity and cognition (or internal reach).
It is the mind that learns to interact with the body after we are born. It is with the mind that any person is able to dream of the external reaches that are to be performed by the body. The mind is what seeks to answer questions about the universe that God has created (and thus is the reason for such an article as this), and the body that investigates and allows the mind to find answers. It is the mind that reasons and places those answers in context and in rational form. Without the mind, mankind would be as every other physical creature on this planet, acting purely on physical instinct; as no doubt some people have taking custom to doing.
If the material world would have come about on its own (unlikely), then purely material bodies would not in themselves be able to develop something so miraculous as the mind. In a sense, Darwinism would not exist because no mind would exist in order to reason or to develop hypotheses. Creatures would react purely on physical instinct (which existence of is also miraculous).
The mind, as understood to be the soul, allows individuals also to reach into the spiritual world, since it is a spiritual entity, and to communicate with the spiritual world.
So, the physical body allows each to reach into the physical world and the mind allows each to reach into the spiritual.
The ongoing question of human based miracles.
It also seems as though mankind’s first instinct throughout history has been a spiritual instinct. Even as far back as the prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux, it is thought that people painted the animals they wished to hunt in order to gain help from the spirits or the gods. As far as we can tell, spirituality has always been preeminent in mankind’s nature. The fact is, even when he has interacted physically with the material world, mankind has found it necessary to seek help from the spiritual world. It makes sense, even just considering mankind’s brief history to claim that mankind, though he is a physical being, is also a spiritual being. He has the ability to affect both the physical and the spiritual world. He has external reach. Despite our look at the Imago Dei, it is still unclear as to whether or not miracles can be founded on the nature of human beings. In other words, do I have an inherent ability to heal the sick? After all, I was created in God’s image?
I find it doubtful that men inherently have this sort of ability according to the created order. There would have been no need in a perfect, physical world. At mankind’s fall (Genesis 3), sickness and death were introduced, thus introducing a need for healing and longevity on this earth. It is more reasonable to think that God created mankind without the inherent ability to perform miraculous signs because these miraculous signs are not needed according to God design. Since this earth is no longer the way it was when God designed it, there is a need for such miraculous signs, and the existence of such on this earth also means the existence of counterfeit signs.
Though mankind, being physical, is the vessel ruling physical creation as God’s representative, spiritual beings can affect a physical world and had such ability before man’s fall.
- God first created the Physical world, and therefore can interact with it.
- Mankind, as a spiritual being, was created in a physical world with which to interact.
- It makes sense that Angels, being wholly spiritual, should also be able to interact with the physical world because every other known spiritual being can.
Satan was able to influence the serpent to tempt Adam and Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3:1). The first miraculous sign was performed outside the power of God by a spiritual being other than God. It then follows that miraculous “signs” were conceived in imperfection. It also follows that when God performs a miraculous sign, He performs it in order to reach an imperfect world. It also follows that miraculous signs performed by human individuals are dependent on the broader spiritual world as it interacts with the physical world. This means that, strictly speaking, miraculous signs either come from God, or from something other than God. If such a power is not found in God, then it comes from a source in opposition to the God we serve. It also follows that, though performing miraculous signs sounds appealing, humanity was most likely not designed to do so; and performing such signs should be done in the interest of advancing the Kingdom of God in an imperfect world.
- Miraculous signs are not the same as the miracle of creation
- Miraculous signs were a result of imperfection
- Our physical and spiritual reach is part of God’s perfect design
- If certain miraculous signs are not from God, they are in opposition to God
- God’s people should only seek to perform miraculous signs by God’s power and in order to advance God’s Kingdom on an imperfect earth.