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Religion

Does God “Do” Miracles?

Maya Bohnhoff | Jun 21, 2013

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Maya Bohnhoff | Jun 21, 2013

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

MiracleMy atheist friend “Maynard” asks this question: Can god intervene in events whenever and wherever, to violate natural laws and change their course (i.e. perform miracles)?

Does God intervene in natural processes? I’d have to say: “I don’t know,” for the simple reason that I don’t. I don’t know everything about natural laws and how they function and what constitutes “breaking” them as opposed to merely using those laws in ways previously unimagined. But can He? Sure. Personally, I think He intervenes through natural processes.

There was a time not long ago when we called human flight a breakage of laws. People didn’t fly for the simple reason that people don't have wings. Human beings can’t live in space, but we’ve done that, too, by cocooning ourselves in an environment that mimics what we breathe on earth. What both of these miracles require is a sufficiently advanced technological understanding (which, as fellow science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke pointed out, is indistinguishable from magic). If we can do such things with the little bit of subjective knowledge that we have, what might the Being who has a Creator’s knowledge of the system and its potential be able to do?

I see God’s activities as rational, with a purpose behind them. What puzzles me about some of the alleged miracles I’ve read about (bleeding statues, etc.) is what purpose they would serve. Are they proof of something? If so, what? Abdu’l-Baha raised the issue of purpose when He gave a talk on the Biblical book of Daniel:

[Miracles] do not constitute proofs and evidences for all the peoples of the earth, and they are not decisive proofs even for those who see them; they may think that they are merely enchantments. – Some Answered Questions, p. 37.

Many physical miracles that seem to break nature’s laws are attributed to Christ. They may not be breakages of natural laws at all, but rather the manipulation of those laws by a Being who understands them far better than we do. In any event, to me by far the biggest miracle involves a poor carpenter’s son from the backside of the Roman Empire 2000 years ago inspiring millions of souls today who treasure His words and identify themselves with His name. We have completely forgotten people from that same period who had both wealth and power; Jehoshuah ben Joseph, meanwhile, has transformed countless lives for two millennia.

Only a handful of individuals in all of history have performed this miracle. And, while the transformation of human lives and societies over such a period of time does not require the breaking of nature’s laws (though some argue that it does), it is miraculous. Baha’is believe this is the chief way that God “intervenes” in history -- by sending beings like Christ and Moses and Muhammad and Krishna and Buddha and Baha’u’llah to guide us through Their words and deeds.

IsaiahThere’s a passage in the Biblical book of Isaiah that makes this point eloquently. I think all would agree that a unified world and global peace would be a miracle. The prophetic text about this eventuality reads:

And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and the nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us his ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the Law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their swords into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord. - Isaiah 2:2-5

This text demonstrates the way in which God intervenes. His “house” is established (He has a presence on earth) and people will willingly "visit" it. His law will go out and, as a result, mankind will “beat their swords into plowshares” -- that is, turn destructive implements into productive ones. The critical point? What the verse does NOT say. It does not say that God will do these things for us. It says that we will do these things in response to God's presence and law.

Read the next article in the series: Do You Believe that You Have a Soul?

Read the previous article in the series: Can God Change the Past?

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Comments

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  • Joe
    Oct 24, 2013
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    I have often wondered how it works when people pray for miracles. The miracles they are praying for might be help and assistance with the day to day challenges we face. The big question I have never managed to find an answer to is; Does God intervene to solve our problems or does God intervene to give us the strenght to endure. Part of me thinks it's a bit of both.
    I would see intervention for personal trials as a miracle of sorts
  • Jessica Gordon
    Oct 24, 2013
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    I remember having a conversation with someone once that the miracles that Jesus performed were only for those believers present, because that was the only way Jesus could have made them believe. I also remember hearing about how Baha'u'llah offered the heal His son Mírzá Mihdí, but Mírzá Mihdí decided to instead use his death to end the imprisonment of Baha'is. Then, of course, we all know the story of the Bab and His disappearance before from the firing squad. So there's the miracles that the Messangers themselves are able to perform, but I believe they are only used to ...attract believers that wouldn't have been able to believe otherwise, believers who have a higher calling to spread the message of God (think of Tahirih and her dream of the Bab, that was quite a miracle, yet it was only there so she could become one of His most devote followers). But when I think of God, I don't like to think of Him as a giant hand in the sky. I think you're right in saying He intervenes using our natural laws. I think our lives and the nature around us is God's physical manifestation (as well as the Messangers) of miracles around us... so really, all you have to do is look around you. I take every sun-rise on my way to work as God's message to me that He is with me, He loves me, and everything will be okay. If you stop to think of all the atoms in the universe, the stars, sounds, lights, emotions, and the fact that we can show love to one another- that right there is God's miracle.
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