Believing in Miracles in an Age of Skepticism

3 Reasons to Believe that Miracles are Possible

In a few weeks, millions of Christians around the world will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For many of them, the resurrection has become more about commemorating a tradition than about affirming a doctrine. Nevertheless, as we saw last week, the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead is central to the entire Christian faith. Historic Christianity does not just affirm a generic idea of resurrection, nor does it hold to a spiritualization of Jesus’ resurrection. Historic Christianity, that is Biblical Christianity, is founded on the miraculous event of Jesus Christ’s death by crucifixion and physical resurrection.

Yet, believing in such an astonishing miracle has become increasingly difficult in this age of skepticism. For some people, miracles are a deal breaker in terms of religious belief. Many adhere to Christian ideals and admire Christian contributions in the world. But, accepting a miracle as anything more than a symbolic myth seems too backward for the modern mind.

The late Christopher Hitchens, bestselling author and ardent atheist, frequently debated Christians in a formal setting. He often began his cross-examination by simply asking his opponent, “Do you really believe that Jesus rose from the dead?” When the Christian predictably answered yes, Hitches would turn to his audience and declare, “Ladies and gentlemen, my opponent has just demonstrated that science has done nothing for his worldview.”[1]

The accusation is straightforward, but it cuts deeply. Can a person appreciate modern science and at the same time believe Biblical Christianity with its insistence on the reality of miracles?

Here’s the thing…

I believe you can. The following are three reasons why.
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Is Inherited Belief Inherently False?

Five problems with believing that it is

An idea has made its way from the halls of academia onto the pages of bestselling books and highly-followed blogs. The idea is that a person’s religious beliefs are largely determined by the culture in which that person lives. That is to say, religion is culturally conditioned. On a societal level, families are pressured by way of politics or economics to conform to a religious norm. On a personal level, children are pressured by way of indoctrination to conform. Many conclude, therefore, that religious belief is generally not so much about finding truth or trusting God, as much as it is about brainwashing and fitting in.

In his book The God Delusion, Dr. Richard Dawkins explained it this way:

If you are religious at all, it is overwhelmingly probable that your religion is that of your parents. If you were born in Arkansas and you think Christianity is true and Islam false, knowing full well that you would think the opposite if you had been born in Afghanistan, you are the victim of childhood indoctrination.[1]

Many people in many places have addressed this issue, but their arguments always seem to boil down to two main objections:

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No Blind Faith Here

A Modern Misconception

For many people, the term “blind faith” is redundant. The popular assumption is that a sort of blindness is inherent, and often intentional, in religious faith. This notion is prevalent in popular conversation on the topic. Famous quotes are thrown around, like that time that Mark Twain quipped, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” Or there was that one time Ayn Rand wrote, “Faith is the commitment of one’s consciousness to beliefs for which one has no sensory evidence or rational proof.” In his book, A Manual for Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian identified his two favorite definitions of faith as “belief without evidence” and “pretending to know things you don’t.”

By definition—at least by popular definition—faith is blind.

Consequently, faith and rationality are often seen as incompatible, mutually exclusive terms. They are treated as opposite approaches to truth. On a popular level, it is assumed by many unbelievers that if a person is rational, they have no need for faith. On a personal level, it is assumed by many believers that if a person has faith, there is no need for rationality.

But why do we assume that there is this great divide between faith and reason?

Here’s the thing…

I don’t know.

The Bible describes a marriage between faith and reason, not a divorce. Besides, everyone’s worldview at some point rests on accepting a foundational idea by faith, no matter how much rationality precedes it.

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Talking Young People and Their Worldviews

What keeps young people in the church as adults? What are those who leave missing? What must we do to keep them?

Statistics for young people who leave the church after becoming adults have been haunting pastors, teachers, and parents since the early 2000s. As early as 2005, the Barna Group found that 61% of young adults who had been raised in evangelical homes and churches described themselves as “spiritually disengaged.” Similar statistics have been rising steadily ever since. Depending on the scope and demographics being studied, research has found that the current percentage of churched young people turning from the faith as young adults is well over 70%.

On a personal level, I see these statistics as a glaring reality. Growing up in a vibrant youth group with scores of teenagers at any given meeting, I can attest to the accuracy of the statistics. A large portion of the people I grew up with has moved away from any active involvement in church. For many, the personal connection diminished as we grew up, or else was decimated by church scandal. Many, facing the harshness of life, found few answers to the questions thrown at them by circumstances and doubts.  Now, as a youth worker and high school teacher, I have seen young people who are heavily involved in our church as teenagers go off to college, never to return. Many have found homes at other churches in other parts of the country, for which I am deeply grateful. However, at least an equal number have simply not allowed church to remain a meaningful part of their lives. A significant portion has walked away from the faith altogether.

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The Necessity of Theology

How important is theology, what we believe about God? What happens to a culture when there is a breakdown in theology? What can we do about it?

The Theology We Had

In 2005, sociologist Christian Smith, leading a project called National Study of Youth and Religion, released the findings of a monumental study in a book titled Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Eyes of American Teenagers. The book was the culmination of the project’s five-year study, interviewing over three thousand teenagers ages thirteen to seventeen from across the U.S. regarding their personal religious beliefs. Of all studies done on all the aspects of American teenage life, religious ideas have usually gone unnoticed. This study, however, left no stone unturned.

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