SPidge Tales

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Faith and Miracles

Miracles are never a stumbling-block to the realist. It is not miracles that prompt realists to belief. The genuine realist, if he is an unbeliever, will always find strength and ability to disbelieve in the miraculous, and if he is confronted with a miracle as an irrefutable fact he would rather disbelieve his own senses than admit the fact. Even if he admits it, he admits it as a fact of nature till then unrecognized by him. Faith does not, in the realist, spring from the miracle, but the miracle from faith. If the realist once believes, then he is bound by his very realism to admit the miraculous also. The Apostle Thomas said that he would not believe till he saw, but when he did see said: “My Lord and my God!” Was it the miracle that forced him to believe? Most likely not, but he believed solely because he desired to believe and possibly he fully believed in his secret heart even when he said: “I do not believe until I see.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky, "The Brothers Karamozov"

We’ve all done it. We’ve all wondered why we never get to see miracles take place, why God won’t let us hit the homerun when we ask Him, or why God won’t put all the knowledge in our head right before the start of the test that we should have studied for. All those Bible characters got to see miracles, and even some of them got to benefit from miracles, with cool stuff like the parting of the Red Sea and the turning of a handful of loaves and fishes into a meal for thousands. Why can’t we get miracles? Why are the only miracles we ever hear about just stories in the Weekly World News right next to an article on the most recent alien abductions?

Some would say that it is because miracles are not possible and that they are just made up stories in the Bible. That is as much of a religious or faith based claim as the positive belief in miracles. How would one know that miracles couldn’t happen? You can’t prove it either way. Besides, there is evidence for miracles and signs (the Greek word for “miracle” literally means “sign”) of miracles all the time. Such as the documented appearances of the Virgin Mary, and other events. The reason why miracles are infrequent and that God doesn’t show up and begin doing wondrous deeds every time someone tempts Him for “proof” of His existence is because, like Dostoyevsky says, miracles do not bring about faith; faith allows us to see miracles.

Jesus performed miracles, healings, and wondrous deeds throughout his earthly ministry. Yet, there were still many people who did not believe in him, and thought he was a charlatan. Even his own disciples were constantly misunderstanding him and what he had to say. When Jesus healed the blind man, his accusers would not allow themselves to “see” the miracle, because it was performed on the Sabbath, and they could not “see” beyond the narrowness of their interpretation of the Law to recognize that resting on the Sabbath does not preclude helping others. They could not see that, though Jesus performed a miracle and cured one man’s physical blindness, his real mission was to cure spiritual blindness and hardness of hearts.

When two men look at a beautiful sunset, one may see evidence of God’s creating work and love for us. The other may just see evidence of blind chance and a world without need for God. The sunset is a sign, and like any sign, depending on one’s viewpoint, it could be pointing in different directions. When a 7th grade boy pulls out a girl’s ponytail, it could mean that he has a crush on her. It could also just signify that he is being mean.

God does not perform lots of miracles because He knows that it will not cause people to believe in him. He gives us free will and does not force us into faith. Take the story of The Grand Inquisitor, told by Dostoyevsky’s character Ivan Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov.

Torquemada, a Cardinal in the Church, was busy burning heretics in the 15th Century. By burning heretics, he could scare and compel others into believing in the Church, or at least pretending to, thereby keeping order. Torquemada no longer believed in Christ, himself, however he, in his wisdom, "knew" that compelling belief in the people would make their lives ordered and easier. Freedom would just bring chaos and unhappiness to them. Suddenly, Jesus walks in and begins performing miracles, and healing people. Torquemada has him arrested, and condemned to death. We are given mention here of the temptations Jesus faced in the desert from Satan.

Satan tempted Jesus, saying to him, “if you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread” and end your hunger. Jesus quoted Scripture: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on the word of God.” Satan took Jesus to the highest point of the Temple in Jerusalem, and told him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down and the angels will catch you, since Scripture says God will order his angels to catch you.” Jesus replied, “Scripture also says, do not put the Lord to the test.” Satan’s final temptation was to offer Jesus dominion over all the people of the world, if he would only kneel down and worship him. Jesus would not do it, for the Scriptures say to worship God alone.

Torquemada demands to know of Jesus why he did not take up the devil’s final offer. After all, if Jesus had done this, Torquemada agonized, then everyone would have followed Jesus, and there would be no heretics to burn. If people didn’t have the burden of freedom, Torquemada would not have to burn so many heretics to keep them in line.

Jesus did not respond to Torquemada’s pleadings. Torquemada was ready to burn Jesus, but Jesus gave him a kiss. Torquemada shuddered, then opened the prison doors and told Jesus to go.

God chose to give us free will, rather than compel us to belief, because he wants something far greater than simple obedience…he wants our love. Miracles are scarce because God wants us to have faith even without seeing. Thomas needed to see the wounded hands and feet of the Resurrected Jesus before making his profession of faith. This is not how we are supposed to come to faith. Rather than asking God for signs before we give him our faith, hope and love, we should have faith as a sign of our love for God and hope for eternal life.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did Torquemada really give up faith in Christ, or was that Dostoyevsky's interpretation? I need to get into Dostoyevsky, there's so much reading to do! Ahh! Can't wait until I'm out of school in a year and half. Take it easy, AMDG, Bernie

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

p.s. I'm not saying Torquemada was a saint. I'm just saying, his misguided zeal doesn't mean that he didn't have a sincere devotion and commitment to Jesus Christ, even if he carried it out wrong. Just like St. Paul was a zealous Pharisee, but his violent ways were contrary to the will of God.

9:17 PM  
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8:35 PM  

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