Supernatural Signs Alone Cannot Save

Written by on February 3, 2023

With the third season of The Chosen now airing, many Christians are once again enthralled by the topic of miracles.

In one scene from episode 6, Jesus begins performing miracles in a public square—healing the blind, the mute, and the lame. He is quickly confronted by an angry Pharisee who seems to see his works as malicious tricks rather than divine interventions. This same religious leader almost prevented Jesus from raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead; and despite witnessing the undeniable, he persists in his hatred of Jesus and all Jesus stands for.

My wife, son, and I have been watching the show together, and it’s extraordinary to think about Jesus and his apostles performing signs and wonders for all the world to see. What must it have been like to witness Jesus perform a miracle firsthand? What must it have felt like for the apostles themselves to be granted the same supernatural authority?

What’s even more astonishing is that such wonders did not bring universal adoration. Romans and Pharisees alike watched Christ heal people by the dozens—and instead of believing him to be the Son of God, they chased him from town to town, criticized him, and ultimately crucified him.

Would it be any different today?

Much of American society believes in miracles, theoretically. According to the most recent Gallup surveys, 81 percent of American adults believe in God (though down from 87 percent a few years ago), and of those, 42 percent (including most Christians) believe God hears prayer and intervenes.

Author Lee Strobel (who wrote a seminal book on the topic) found in his surveys that roughly half of American adults believe the miracles of the Bible happened as described and two-thirds believe miracles happen today. And his estimates are conservative compared to prior Pew surveys showing as many as 80 percent of US adults believe in miracles. More impressively, according to Strobel’s work, 38 percent say miracles have happened to them personally.

Anecdotally, many individuals and institutions often act and speak as if divine interventions in daily life are true. The Catholic church methodically and structurally investigates evidence of supernatural activity as a qualification for sainthood.

Pentecostal churches and other charismatic denominations regularly claim to witness healings and other miraculous works of God in their congregations. Even Francis Collins, a distinguished scientist and the former director of the National Institutes of Health in the United States, said he believes in miracles.

Belief in signs and wonders is more commonplace than you might think—and yet there are limits to this belief for most of us.

The average christian seems to have confidence in certain types of miraculous interventions (healing for loved ones, for example, or the restoration of broken marriages). But we tend to blush if someone implies dramatic and overtly supernatural occurrences—for instance, dreams revealing the future, sight restored, or leprosy healed. We are reluctant to accept these more obvious and undeniable happenings, even though they occur throughout the Bible.

Perhaps part of our hesitation, in the modern age, is that we think miracles like these would leave behind a trail of evidence impossible for anyone to ignore. Many Christians and non-Christians alike ask, quite reasonably, why miracles aren’t going viral online every day—especially in an age of smartphones and social media. If they were genuinely happening, we wonder, wouldn’t the proof be so ubiquitous we’d all be forced to believe?

And yet there is overwhelming evidence for miraculous events today.

Craig Keener, perhaps the foremost authority on miracles in the modern world, has written a two-part book series of more than 1,100 pages documenting historical evidence for miracles, complemented by a new (and more accessible) volume in 2021 called Miracles Today.

What makes Keener’s work unique—alongside his brilliant articulation of the types of miracles that occur, the theological reasons for them, and even how they accord with our modern understanding of science—is the meticulous and extensive ways in which he documents these events. He draws parallels between the eyewitness accounts in the New Testament and how we can record similar accounts today.

These are not fanciful or mystical but recorded in great detail from multiple eyewitnesses, and Keener even claims to have witnessed at least two acts of what he calls “special divine action” himself. He counsels us to have discernment regarding miraculous accounts and cautions us not to approach with skeptical disbelief even when some of them are falsified.

Beyond Keener’s perspective are many other accounts, including cases fully documented in medical journals—like the woman who was restored from her blindness or the man who recovered from a gastrointestinal disorder, both after intercessory prayer. There are also numerous YouTube videos of supposed interventions.

People all over the world have recorded stunning supernatural events through videos and eyewitness testimony. Countless churches have attested to the existence of the unexplainable. Some of these stories have even been amplified by best-selling authors like Lee Strobel and Eric Metaxas.

Yet many people, including Christians, continue to ignore or discount such testimonies. It’s hard to blame us for preferring the comfort of skepticism and disbelief. We live in a “post-truth” world where everything seems worthy of doubt. And in this context, it’s often difficult to know what to believe—perhaps even more so today than it was 2,000 years ago.

I became fascinated by this topic when I began writing my new novel, Miracles. I tried to imagine what would happen if a series of supernatural events impossible to ignore were to happen right before our

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