Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The Bible and Me Part VII - The Supernatural

[I've struggled for a long time with my relationship with the Bible. It has been a rich source of insight and spiritual nourishment to me, but also at times, a source of deep doubt and confusion. My intention in this series is to share a little of how that relationship has developed over time. If you're a Christian and you're trying to work out your own approach to the Bible then it won't give you all the answers, but it may give you some questions and insights that could help you along the way. If you're not a believer, but you're interested in the Christian faith - or in Christians in particular - then it may give you a little insight into how some of us tick!]

[The Bible and Me Part I - Beginning to Question]
[The Bible and Me Part II - Creation]
[The Bible and Me Part III - Inerrancy]
[The Bible and Me Part IV - Scripture vs Tradition]
[The Bible and Me Part V - Job]
[The Bible and Me Part VI - The Difficult Bits]

So far in this series, I've taken what many hard-line evangelicals might see as a rather "liberal" approach to the Biblical text. I've pointed out that some parts of it - e.g. the creation narratives and the book of Job - don't appear to me to be intended as literal historical accounts. I've also suggested that even some of the parts that are written in a more "factual" style, may not be entirely and perfectly historically accurate.

For many who take such an analytical approach to the Bible, it often seems that the next logical progression is to doubt anything in it that smacks of the supernatural. In the modern western world we have little time for alleged phenomena that seem to defy scientific analysis and explanation. If it can't be explained scientifically then it can't really have happened - or at least, not quite the way it was recorded to have happened anyway.

In my view though, if you're going to try and strip out all the miracles from the Bible just because you find them hard to believe, then you might as well just go the whole hog and strip God out as well! Apart from the very existence of an omnipotent deity, the miraculous is right at the heart of the Christian faith, which includes two essential truths that are impossible to believe if you're not willing to believe in the supernatural:
  1. That in some mystical way that no theologian ever seems to have completely got their head round, Jesus was "the Son of God" - i.e. He was God and came from God at one and the same time - He wasn't just an ordinary man.

  2. That on the third day after He was crucified, Jesus miraculously rose again from the grave!
These truths are what make the Christian faith unique, and are at the heart of the power that it has to change people's lives and to turn this world upside down. These truths tell us:
  1. That God is interested in us and our world.

  2. That God is humble: He was happy to be treated as one of us, with no special airs or graces. In fact, more than that, He was willing to be mocked, ridiculed, persecuted and - ultimately - even tortured and executed by those He created.

  3. That God cares - deeply and intensely - about His creation, hence His willingness to go through all of that in order to make a way for us to be reconciled to Him.

  4. That death is not the final word. Jesus did something crazy - stupid even - He met violence and power with ... love and self-sacrifice! He taught His followers to love your neighbour and turn the other cheek and set the ultimate example in doing so Himself, and the result was ... death and defeat!! D'oh!!! But no! Just when they thought it was all over, on the third day Jesus appeared to His followers, risen from the dead, and a rag-tag bunch of defeated and disillusioned disciples were transformed into the most powerful evangelistic movement the world has ever seen: one which thrived under intense persecution as it followed Jesus' example, spread throughout the world, and 2,000 years later - in various forms (some more compromised than others!) - is still going strong today!
To deny the Resurrection or the Deity of Christ is to rip out the very heart of the Christian faith and to destroy the reason for the hope that we profess, and yet you can't believe in either of these things without also believing in the miraculous.

Apart from this, the miraculous was at the very heart of Jesus' life and ministry on earth. His miracles were often referred to as "signs", which is what they were; of who he was and what he had come to do. The miracles indicated that God and His kingdom - which Jesus, the "Messiah" had come to inaugurate - were breaking into the world in a real and tangible way; that God had literally come to dwell among His people. Some of the miracles were about healing and setting people free from physical and spiritual bondage. Others were about God's abundant and miraculous provision. Still others - seen only by Jesus' closest followers to whom He was ready to fully reveal Himself - spoke directly of His power and His Lordship, even over nature itself.

The myriad miracles in the gospels make up such a large, central and inseparable part of the accounts, that it isn't possible to strip them all out without emptying the gospels of most of their content, or radically altering the character, and massively reducing the potency of the Jesus who we Christians profess.

The miracles say that God is involved, God can be involved, and He's able to be involved in your life in a real and tangible way. And if you're willing to lift your eyes just a little higher - above what you think is possible and what you are able to explain, then you might just be surprised to discover that the God of miracles can still show Himself to you today...!

[The Bible and Me Part VIII - Noah and the Flood]

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