Eric Metaxas has a new book about miracles soon to be released. The full title is: Miracles, What they are, Why they happen, and How they can change your life. I received a pre-release copy to review.
Don’t let the title fool you. It is really an apologetic defense of the Christian faith. Yes, it is about miracles, but that is the apologetic angle or approach that is taken. It is also a balanced book, so no need to fear an off the deep end charismatic perspective about miracles. Metaxas is also writing for a broad audience – no matter where they stand on Christianity or belief in a supernatural world. Any Christian jargon is explained. There are footnotes that refer you to other books if you want to delve deeper into an issue. (Several books have been added to my “to read” list!)
The book has 2 parts: part 1 is apologetic or explanatory, and part 2 contains personal stories from people who have experienced miracles. In other words, part 1 prepares you for part 2. While a different writing style entirely, part 1 reminded me of Philip Yancey’s book Rumors of Another World. There isn’t rock-solid proof of the supernatural, yet there are hints and rational reasons for belief in it.
Metaxas makes many good points in part 1. We all come to the table with presuppositions. Will we refuse to even consider the possibility of a supernatural world? To do so seems more closed minded than certain Christians can be accused of being. To completely forbid any rational inquiry that is not strictly scientific and within the closed naturalistic system…is not scientific. Is it? Science can’t prove the system is closed. Science has limits. And what if science points us beyond science?
Three chapters address the issue of miracles and science. Metaxas interacts with both scientists and scientific statistics about the incredible fine tuning for life on earth and the existence of our universe. This is the core of Metaxas’s approach. The statistical chance for life, and all the details themselves interlocking with each other is… mind-boggling and astonishing. Life and our universe is a miracle!
And if that is the case, certainly we can consider it possible that God stepped into our world through the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. And that Jesus performed miracles and rose from the dead. (And can perform miracles in our lives today!) There is an exceptional apologetic chapter on the resurrection of Jesus and all its implications.
Metaxas also defines how he is using the word miracle. What is a miracle? It is hard to come up with a standard definition that everyone would agree with. But essentially a miracle is a transgression of the laws of nature by God. God performs a miracle to reveal himself or communicate with human beings. In other words, miracles aren’t purposeless but are pointing to something beyond themselves.
Metaxas encourages common sense and rational inquiry. Not everything is a miracle. Miracles should be examined with the greatest critical rigor possible. If we aren’t careful with what we believe in, we will end up believing in anything. Indeed some Christians have been guilty of naive gullibility. If we don’t separate fake miracles from the real ones, we do the real ones a grave injustice and do the truth itself an injustice too.
I also appreciate how Metaxas emphasizes in the introduction of the book that we may never personally experience a miracle, and that does not indicate anything lacking or defective about our faith. Having written biographies on William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Metaxas points out that we have no record of anything miraculous happening in the lives of these two men.
On a related note, there is a chapter that covers questions about miracles. For example, why do miracles happen to some people and not to others? How can we take miracles seriously if they seem to be random? Is God capricious? Read the book for Metaxas’s worthwhile thoughts regarding these tough questions.
Finally, there is part 2 of the book that contains multiple modern day miracle stories. Metexas states that the miracle stories are only from people that he knows personally, and he vetted the stories and their details as carefully as possible. Yes, there is subjectivity in miracle stories but we all need to be reminded that history itself comprises the subjective accounts of human beings. [Something that I have blogged about.) The miracle stories are varied: physical healings, conversion miracles, seeing visions of Jesus, angelic appearances, etc. They are grouped together by type. A handful of the miracles didn’t quite fit the definition of a miracle for me, but the majority did so.
I recommend this book to you – believers and non-believers alike. It is an apologetic book with a different approach. It may just open the door to conversation with the skeptic in your life and perhaps help them consider the possibility of a supernatural realm. And it may help the believer be more open to the miraculous. Indeed, those who read my blog know that I am cautious about such things. Yet, if God created our incredibly fine-tuned universe and stepped into our world through the virgin birth of Jesus, certainly God may work in unexpected ways today.