THE philosopher David Hume¹ delivered himself of the following dogmatic statement: "Miracles are incredible." In order to be able to make that assertion, a man would have to be omniscient and omnipresent. He would have to be in every place in the universe and at all times so that he could intelligently declare that a miracle is incredible. There is a possibility that miracles may have occurred in the past before Hume was born or since he has died. Moreover, in his lifetime, miracles could have been wrought in places where he was not. It was, therefore, ridiculous and absurd for him to say that miracles are incredible.
What is a miracle? According to the derivation of the word, a miracle is an occurrence that causes wonderment. Webster defines a miracle as follows: "An event or effect in the physical world, deviating from the known laws of nature, or transcending our knowledge of these laws; an extraordinary, anomalous, or abnormal event brought about by superhuman agency." Thus a miracle is that which is an exception to the normal rule of things.
The basis of such an event as that which Webster defines as a miracle is to be found in such passages as I Chronicles 29:11,12:
11 Thine, 0 Jehovah, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, 0 Jehovah, and thou art exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honor come of thee, and thou rulest over all; and in thy hand is power and might; and in thy hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.
According to this statement, the Eternal sits upon the throne of the universe. All things belong to Him. He rules all things, for in His hand are power and might. He is the one who is overruling the free actions of His creatures and directing the course of events throughout the universe toward a glorious consummation. He is exalted as head above all things. The same teaching is found in Psalm 135:5-14:
5 For I know that Jehovah is great,
And that our Lord is above all gods.
6 Whatsoever Jehovah pleased, that hath he done,
In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps;
7 Who causeth the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth;
Who maketh lightnings for the rain;
Who bringeth forth the wind out of his treasuries;
8 Who smote the first-born of Egypt,
Both of man and beast;
9 Who sent signs and wonders into the midst of thee, 0 Egypt,
Upon Pharaoh, and upon all his servants;
10 Who smote many nations,
And slew mighty kings,
11 Sihon king of the Amorites,
And Og king of Bashan,
And all the kingdoms of Canaan,
12 And gave their land for a heritage,
A heritage unto Israel his people.
13 Thy name, 0 Jehovah, endureth for ever;
Thy memorial name, 0 Jehovah, throughout all generations.
14 For Jehovah will judge his people,
And repent himself concerning his servants.
The psalmist declares that God does His pleasure, carries out His program, in the four realms: in the heavens, in the earth, in the sea, and in all deeps. He controls the vapor and rain together with the lightning and windsin a word, he is controlling all nature. He is also overruling in human history, overthrowing kings and their governments, establishing others, and giving Israel the land of promise as a special inheritance (v. 12).
On the point of God's controlling all thingsmost minute as well as world-shaping eventsthe Saviour declared to His apostles: "And not a hair of your head shall perish" (Luke 21:18). That God is in complete control of nature is also seen from various passages in the New Testament. In Matthew 5:45, Jesus states that God makes his sun to rise upon the evil and the good and sends his rain upon the just and the unjust. Moreover the Lord God feeds the birds of the heavens (Matt. 6:26) and clothes the grass of the field (Matt. 6:30). Not even a sparrow can fall to the ground without God (Matt. 10:29). He also Works all things "after the counsel of his will" (Eph. 1:11).
These passages of Scripture and others that could be quoted show that God is working all things. What is known as the laws of nature in the realm of the physical universe are but God's activityHis regular way of running the universe, since He is working all things according to the counsel of His will. At the same time He allows all His creatures, whom He has endued with freedom of choice, to make their own decisions and to act according to their own wills.
In speaking of the Genesis account of creation, Dr. O. T. Allis, in God Spake by Moses, states: "It [the recurring phrase 'and it was so'] summarizes and forms a part of the account of the execution of the fiat, which is quite as long as the fiat itself. Nothing is said as to how it was done, about process. This is important. Science is concerned with material and phenomenal things, with processes and changes, with differentiation and combination. This account does not deny process; it ignores it. It speaks in terms of a divine fiat, which can both use and dispense with process. Science deals with second causes: Here the first cause is the almighty actor, and second causes are ignored" (p. 10). Speaking further of the account of creation, Dr. Allis states: "The reason the account of creation given here is so simple and so impressive is that it speaks in terms of the creative acts of an omnipotent God, and not in terms of limitless space and infinite time and endless process" (p. 11).
God is the ultimate cause of all things. As some philosophers assert, He is the uncaused cause of all things. The Scriptures always speak of Him from that standpoint. On the other hand, the scientists deal with secondary causes. They study and investigate material substances and phenomenal experiencesin a word, processes and changes, all of which are secondary causes. Because of these two points of view, there often appears to be a contradiction. The lack of harmony is due to the differences of approach to the subjects and the faulty understanding of the facts and elements entering into each case. God gives to phenomenal and material things their own nature, to each-one its special properties. All things being equal, they act and react the same under similar conditions. Because of the consequent regularity in the processes and developments of nature, the scientist knows what to do to produce a given result.
Reason leads one to believe that there are laws higher than those governing material physical phenomena. The omnipotent God can call into action any of these higher laws or principles which produce results different from those which grow out of the application of the known laws of nature. The scientist can handle material phenomena; and, knowing their nature or properties, he can bring about certain desired results. But, being unacquainted with the laws in the higher realm of nature, he cannot produce anything out of the ordinary. As an illustration of this fact, may I call attention to the airplane? Before the days of the Wright brothers, people in general, and, with few exceptions, the scientists, also, believed that aviation was impossible because by no laws of nature, in their opinion, could a heavier-than-air machine rise into the air and operate. As time went on, and as the scientists learned more about the various phenomena of the material world, they were able to make different combinations and to adopt certain processes and principles, whereby results which nature unaided cannot effect have been achieved. Thus there exists today aviation, which, from the standpoint of science before the days of the Wright brothers, was considered nothing less than a miracle.
We are told that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In this terse, crisp statement volumes of truth are bound up. Millions of men and women know that miracles are possible. In Psalm 34 King David gives his experiences:
34 I will bless Jehovah at all times:
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul shall make her boast in Jehovah:
The meek shall hear thereof, and be glad.
3 Oh magnify Jehovah with me,
And let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought Jehovah, and he answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked unto him, and were radiant;
And their faces shall never be confounded.
6 This poor man cried, and Jehovah heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of Jehovah encampeth round about them that fear him,
And delivereth them.
8 Oh taste and see that Jehovah is good:
Blessed is the man that taketh refuge in him.
In the first three verses of this hymn, David declares that He will bless God and calls upon others to magnify the Lord with him. In verses 4-6 he states that he was in trouble and called upon the Lord, who delivered him. How did the Lord deliver him out of danger? Verse 7 tells: "The angel of Jehovah encampeth round about them that fear him. And delivereth them."
David then urges people to trust God and allow Him to have His way in their lives: "Oh taste and see that Jehovah is good: Blessed is the man that taketh refuge in him." The thought is put in language very easily understood. Having tasted the Lord by faith, David assures his readers that they will not be disappointed, for God always answers the prayer of faith. They, therefore, may know from actual experience that God does hear and answer prayer and does deliver. Countless myriads of people throughout the centuries have taken God at His word, have trusted Him, have let Him solve their problems, and have let Him meet their souls' need. And they have testified, and continue to do so, that, for the one who lets God have a chance in his life, the Lord works all things for his good. I am here to testify to the fact that God does hear and answer prayer in a miraculous manner. I urge everyone to "taste and see that Jehovah is good."
Are miracles incredible, as Hume declared? The Bible is one of the greatest miracles ever wrought. It is a collection of small books, sixty-six in numberthirty-nine in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New. These volumes were written by approximately fifty authors and over a period of several thousand years.² These authors lived in various cultural environments, under different governments, and in varying civilizations. Each of these men had his own personal equation, heredity, and outlook upon life. Each was more or less a child of his environment. Heredity, environment, and will were the three determining factors in their lives, as they are in everyone's life. Some of these writers lived in luxury and ease in days of prosperity. Others lived in dark, gloomy days of warfare, famine, and pestilence. Each had his own personal, as well as community, problems to face; but each wrote that portion of the Scriptures ascribed to him. Notwithstanding the great diversity of environments, heredity, and outlook, these writers produced the sixty-six volumes, which are in perfect agreement. The same general conceptions and ideas run throughout the entire collection. One Book very frequently supplements the information given in other Books.
If a committee of experts should be chosen to select sixty-six different volumes written over such a long period of time by men of varying personality and living in different cultural environments, the series of books would be contradictory from beginning to end. As the one collection of books in which there is perfect unity, the Bible is a miracle of miracles which Hume and those sharing his views do not recognize.
The uniqueness of the Bible is revealed by its depth of thought and wealth of information regarding the Creator, the universe, man in his various relations, the future, and the life beyond this one. The greatest minds have grappled with the Scriptures in an effort to understand and to master their contents. The deeper the intellectual giants have searched the Scriptures, the wider the horizon of unexplored areas have become to themfields of thought to be examined of which they little dreamed. There flows from the Scriptures an ever deepening and widening stream of information, teaching, thought, prophecy, and wisdom. Thinkers in all fields of human activity and endeavor admit that the Scriptures are inexhaustible. This fact proves conclusively that in the original textsthe autographsthey are the very Word of God.
Evidently Hume forgot or did not know of another miracle possibly as great as the production of the Bible. Frederick the Great, it is said, once asked the court chaplain to show him a miracle. Immediately the minister pointed to a Jew standing nearby and said, "There is a miracle." The Jewish nation is the standing miracle of the centuries, and the people of destiny. God has a plan and a purpose for them which continue throughout the centuries of the present dispensation and the glorious kingdom age into the eternal years of the future.
No nation has suffered as the Hebrew people have or as they will yet suffer in the Tribulation"the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30:7). Efforts have been made to exterminate them. Hitler is the last one who tried to do soon a nation-wide scale. While he launched the greatest persecution of the Jew to date, he was unsuccessful in liquidating this nation of destiny. According to reports, he slaughtered approximately six million of the eighteen million Jews who were living at the beginning of World War II. It was his purpose to liquidate every Jew; but, since Israel is the people of destiny, he was unable to carry out his sinister, diabolical plans. The preservation of Israel under the most trying ordeals of history can be accounted for only upon the basis of direct intervention on the part of Godanother miracle of miracles.
To Hume and all who share his views, let me say that miracles are possible. Miracles have been wrought. Miracles are being wrought in answer to prayer. And Israel has been preserved and will continue to be preserved by the power of God. Israel will again in the future figure in world history and will yet play the role foretold by Moses and the Prophets. Miracles are credibleyes, possible.
To deny the possibility of miracles is to deny reality, and to close one's eyes to the facts emblazoned in God's Word is to close one's eyes to eternal truth.
¹ R. C. Trench in his Notes on Miracles, page 73, states Hume's position as follows:
"While Spinoza rested his objection to the miracles on the grounds that the everlasting laws of the universe left no room for such, while, therefore, the form which the question in debate assumed in his hands was this, Are miracles (objectively) possible? Hume, the legitimate child and pupil of the empiric philosophy of Locke, stated his objection in altogether a different shape, namely, in this, Are miracles (subjectively) credible? He is, in fact, the sceptic, which,taking the word in its more accurate sense, not a denier of the truths of Christianity, but a doubter of the possibility of arriving at any absolute truth,Spinoza is as far as possible from being."
² For proof supporting this statement, see my volume Messiah: His First Coming Scheduled, chapter 1.