Why Miracles?

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Roy
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Why Miracles?

Post by Roy » 19 Feb 2019, 13:36

This has been something that I have been thinking about for a long time in regards to blessings etc. It has recently come to the forefront with the study topic in the NT being the life and ministry and miracles of Jesus.

1) The Old testament is riddled with miracles. In the story of Moses the priests of pharaoh made their staffs into snakes. This story seems to indicate that the Gods of Egypt had some sort of power or maybe the priests were unwittingly tapping into the power of Satan (if we accept that Satan can perform minor miracles). Regardless, Moses made his staff into a snake that overpowered and consumed the other snakes. The God of Israel was shown to be superior. Similarly with Elijah and the priests of Baal. They were asked to build sacrificial altars and then to call down fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice. The altar of Elijah was surrounded and then doused with water to make his miracle all the more improbable. Elijah called down fire from heaven, the people were convinced of the sovereignty of God and the priests of Baal were executed. One of the titles that we have come to give the Judeo-Christian God is "God of Miracles." Why would all these miracles be important to the tribes of Israel? Are they important to our day in the same way? Why or why not?

2) Jesus is reported to have performed miracles. Is there any doctrinal reason why? What would Jesus have to do in order to perform his divine mission? Are miracles part of that equation? Must Jesus be resurected in order for his mission to be fulfilled? If the answer is yes, could he stay in the grave until the morning of the first resurection to come forth? Are there any reasons that require a resurrection after 3 days? Even setting the resurection aside, are there doctrinal reasons for the remainder of the miracles?

3) After reading the sanitized, whitewashed, and faith promoting version of the founding events of LDS church history, I am struck by how some individuals can attribute miracles to events that some others present saw as just normal. Then fairly quickly thereafter, the accounts of miracles get promoted and embellished for dramatic and faith promoting effect. IOW, the miracles are not reported in secular newspapers and the like and not because the newspapers are trying to suppress or cover up the miracle - from their perspective there was no verifyable miracle.

4) Today we live in a time when miracles seem to be almost non-existant. Part of this has to do with the rise of science and the scientific method. The other part has to do with the flood of information and the ability to research muliple accounts for any reported miracles today. In this environment any embelishment is quickly ferreted out and will serve to make the miraculous claim to be less credible. Our Prophets of today do not perform miracles, the do not prophecy future events, they do no "reveal" new scripture from ancient documents. We have no miracles from the sky showing the divine superiority of our God or condemning what might be termed the corrupted, apostate, and counterfeit religions of our competitors. Essentially we are being asked to have faith and to live faithful lives despite the absence of miracles. If we can believe in God and be good Christians without miracles to back up our claims then why are miracles even necessary? Why Miracles?
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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dande48
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Re: Why Miracles?

Post by dande48 » 19 Feb 2019, 15:29

Most LDS would say we have just as many miracles today as in times past. The priesthood cures incurable diseases. People have visions. People receive miraculous protection. We have modern prophets who speak with and receive direct revelation from God. And for the grander miracles, they would happen if God willed it, and certainly will happen with the Second Coming (any day now).

Miracle stories go through a few steps. First, the miracle happens. It is so sacred, there is agreement not to talk about it. Then people talk about it with only a select few, in secretive, ambiguous terms, because its so sacred. If people were ready, they'd understand. Those who get told fill in the blanks, and talk about it with others in much the same way. It's like a game of telephone, on steroids.

Miracle stories promote faith. People enjoy these stories because they are hard, solid evidence in what they already believe in. Others might not believe, but you have proof! Of course, with the Church and in many other areas of life, any evidence which agrees with you is right and true. Any evidence that goes against what you believe is false and is usually rooted in evil.

Good luck ever starting a religion without strong miracles to back you up. It would be impossible. Without miracles, why would people believe you? Would anybody have believed Joseph Smith without miracles? Or Jesus Christ? Would anybody have believed in Moses, if it weren't for the stories of his miracles?
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
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On Own Now
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Re: Why Miracles?

Post by On Own Now » 19 Feb 2019, 16:08

I have always thought of the miracles performed by Jesus as being symbols of what is possible in us spiritually. In a similar way, Jesus taught in parables: real-world stories with a spiritual meaning.

Jesus fed the hungry, gave sight to the blind, cured those who were sick. In the case of the paralytic that was lowered in from the roof, we are told that Jesus forgave the man's sins. Since many present grumbled, he then cured the man's paralysis "so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins."

I'm not really interested in whether Jesus actually cast out devils, but rather in whether, through spirituality, I can exorcise my own demons.
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." --Romans 14:13

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nibbler
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Re: Why Miracles?

Post by nibbler » 20 Feb 2019, 05:25

1) I get the impression that in OT times one of the purposes of scripture was to establish monolatrism. People believed in existence of multiple gods but the primary concern was to have people worship only one of them. In that context, the magicians of Pharaoh make more sense. Sure Pharaoh has his gods, but the miracles become the proof that YHWH is more powerful. Sure Baal is a god, but the story of Elijah shows how Baal is impotent when compared to YHWH. If the thought process is, "The god with the most power is the god that is most deserving of worship." then it would make sense to tell stories that showcased that power.

Somewhere along the way monolatrism got morphed into monotheism. Not only is our god the most deserving of worship, the other gods don't even exist, there's only the one god. Maybe monolatrism it's a part of the natural progression from polytheism to monotheism.

2) Jesus. Did Jesus perform miracles to fulfill his purposes or did Jesus perform miracles to fulfill our purposes? Is there a difference? :P

I think the authors of the gospels included miracles to help the reader understand the identity of Jesus. Being a literal Son of God is a big claim and the inclusion of miracles was given as a form of proof. It's also one of those interesting contradictions. Jesus said, "Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation." and then goes on to perform miracles that become exactly that, signs.

Different gospels have different focuses but in the book of John in particular it gives a reason why Jesus performed miracles:
John 20:30-31 wrote:And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
These verses come immediately after the story of doubting Thomas. I concede that it's a cherry picked verse and it really only speaks to the author's reasoning behind miracles, not Jesus' reasoning.
If one dream dies, dream another dream. If you get knocked down, get back up and go again.
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nibbler
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Re: Why Miracles?

Post by nibbler » 20 Feb 2019, 05:51

Roy wrote:
19 Feb 2019, 13:36
3) After reading the sanitized, whitewashed, and faith promoting version of the founding events of LDS church history, I am struck by how some individuals can attribute miracles to events that some others present saw as just normal. Then fairly quickly thereafter, the accounts of miracles get promoted and embellished for dramatic and faith promoting effect. IOW, the miracles are not reported in secular newspapers and the like and not because the newspapers are trying to suppress or cover up the miracle - from their perspective there was no verifyable miracle.
One thing that I couldn't help but think when going through my deconstruction phase was, if we experienced this phenomenon within recent recorded history, how much more pronounced would this phenomenon become with stories that are now several thousand years old and were first recorded several decades or even centuries after the fact?

But to your points 3 & 4, perhaps miracles are in the eyes of the beholder.

It's human nature to want to understand the order of things. Maybe it's always been this way, but nowadays I think people are more inclined to seek natural explanations for things. Chalking something up as being supernatural is not as satisfying as knowing the if>then formula. The if>then formula is what gives us order.

I think this is why things we personally believe to be miracles have become "too sacred to share," because after someone shares their miracle story the person hearing the story has an almost instinctive response to look for a natural explanation. Who wants to share their miracle when the only thing it does is open up their story to scrutiny and criticism?
If one dream dies, dream another dream. If you get knocked down, get back up and go again.
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dande48
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Re: Why Miracles?

Post by dande48 » 20 Feb 2019, 07:42

nibbler wrote:
20 Feb 2019, 05:51
One thing that I couldn't help but think when going through my deconstruction phase was, if we experienced this phenomenon within recent recorded history, how much more pronounced would this phenomenon become with stories that are now several thousand years old and were first recorded several decades or even centuries after the fact?

But to your points 3 & 4, perhaps miracles are in the eyes of the beholder.
I think a good example of this is the story of Moses. Moses was a hebrew-born Egyptian prince, at a time where a massive Israelite population was enslaved to the Egyptians. He turned water into blood, sent plagues of frogs, lice, locusts, Thunderstorms of hail and fire, perpetual darkness, and killed the first born (and I'm missing a few). Then, the pharaoh relented and let Israel go, allowing them to loot the gold and riches and the Egyptian population. Later, the armies of Pharaoh were drowned in the depths of the Red Sea...

Except, the only record we have of this happening is from the OT. Egypt, who was notorious for their thorough record keeping, had absolutely no record of these events. And these are events which would've absolutely crippled Egypt and its economy for hundreds of years. In fact, there is no record of a large Hebrew population ever being enslaved. It's my personal belief that Moses was an allegorical myth (who never existed), which was later turned into a historical figure. But IF Moses did exist, I can guarantee his "miracles" were greatly embellished.

But it is still very important to most adherents of any of the Abrahamic religions that Moses did exist, and the miracles are the most inspiring, faith promoting aspect of his story. Not even Jesus' miracles approaches the grandeur and magnificence of Moses (not counting the Creation, atonement, and eventual resurrection of all mankind).
nibbler wrote:
20 Feb 2019, 05:25
Somewhere along the way monolatrism got morphed into monotheism. Not only is our god the most deserving of worship, the other gods don't even exist, there's only the one god. Maybe monolatrism it's a part of the natural progression from polytheism to monotheism.
Speaking of Moses, have you ever heard of Akhenaten? He was an Egyptian Pharaoh, who turned Egypt's polytheism into monolatrism. There are plenty of paralells between his life and the story Moses, which suggest that they might be one in the same, or that the legend of Moses was derived from him (with a few creative adjustments).
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

DoubtingTom
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Re: Why Miracles?

Post by DoubtingTom » 20 Feb 2019, 09:13

Why miracles? Humans like to tell stories, the more incredible and miraculous the better. Over time, some of those stories become embellished or become scripture. It is no coincidence to me that miracles seem to disappear the moment we have verifiable and recordable history.

So obviously, I’m of the opinion that there are no miracles, just stories. Those stories can still serve an important purpose though. But then, according to the Book of Mormon “if these things have ceased then has faith ceased also.” So maybe I’m just fulfilling prophecy. Maybe my lack of belief directly leads to the end of miracles. But then I have to wonder about those stories in scripture where miracles happen specifically to convince people to believe, rather than to reward them for belief. Until one of those miracles happens to me, I’ll keep seeing scripture miracles as stories, and modern miracles as amazing coincidences that have a naturalistic explanation.

Roy
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Re: Why Miracles?

Post by Roy » 20 Feb 2019, 09:59

Thanks for the perspective. I will continue to ponder on this. In SS a few weeks ago the teacher talked about the water into wine miracle at the wedding and how Mary did as was instructed by Jesus even if it did not make any sense. The teacher felt that this must be because Mary must have witnessed many miracles that were not publicized prior to this point. I suppose I understand the temptation to make Jesus perfect and divine in everyway and everything. For some reason his hometown did not seem to remember Jesus as anything special. "Is not this the carpenter's son? We know his mother Mary and his brothers. His sisters still live here." That sort of reaction tends to indicate that the childhood and young adult years of Jesus were unremarkable.
On Own Now wrote:
19 Feb 2019, 16:08
I have always thought of the miracles performed by Jesus as being symbols of what is possible in us spiritually. In a similar way, Jesus taught in parables: real-world stories with a spiritual meaning.
I like this. This perspective may be just the nuance that I need to find meaning in the stories without getting annoyed at everyone ewwing and awwing at the miracles. Maybe Jesus healed the blind man or maybe he didn't. I can still use the teaching of Jesus to be a better person. I can still use the concept of God's only Son as a vehicle to feel God's love in my life and to develop a relationship with him.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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dande48
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Re: Why Miracles?

Post by dande48 » 20 Feb 2019, 10:05

DoubtingTom wrote:
20 Feb 2019, 09:13
But then, according to the Book of Mormon “if these things have ceased then has faith ceased also.” So maybe I’m just fulfilling prophecy. Maybe my lack of belief directly leads to the end of miracles.
That's a real catch 22, isn't it? The stronger you believe, the more likely you are to see miracles. Is it because that belief allowed/caused the miracles? Or are you more likely to see "miracles" because of your belief?
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Why Miracles?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 20 Feb 2019, 22:09

Is it because that belief allowed/caused the miracles? Or are you more likely to see "miracles" because of your belief?
And does the distinction matter in the end?

People don't believe what they see. They see what they believe.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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