I’ve got a very devote Eastern Orthodox friend (he left evangelicalism and converted a few years ago…he is 24…) he goes on and on about all these fantastic miracles…about saints whose bodies do not decay and even omit “fragrance”…um…something about fire that won’t burn a bishops beard or something…I don’t know…sounds legendary…
What should we make of them? Deny them?
I don’t know. It soundsÂ like folk theology to me as well.Â As I said in a previous blog, this type of mindset is common no matter where you are. In other words, it is not an East or West thing, but a characteristic of the human conditions. People flock to where the “
miracles” “signs” are. While I understand this mentality (since miracles and signsÂ can and often do evidence the presence of God), it is hard to determine what the meaning of such miracles are.
Does it mean that since these things are happening, then that is where the true church is? I am sure that is how many would interpret it. If the miracle itself becomes the determining factor of the true church, I believe that we will be standing on shaky ground. The church exists where the Gospel exists. It does not matter whether it is Orthodox, Catholic, Pentecostal, or an Evangelical Bible church. The Gospel must be the foundation for the church, not
The question I would ask about saints’ bodies not decaying, omitting “fragrance,” and beards not burning is one of meaning. What do these type of miracles mean?
I think we need to be very careful that these types of occurrences, whether they happened or not, do not replace the Gospel and become a Gospel themselves. When this happens, as we have seen in many abuses coming from some of the less responsible in the charismatic movement (I will let you decide who), the Gospel gets completely lost in sensation seeking. Eventually, the one true miracle of Christ’s resurrection which does communicate something -Â God’s message of righteousness, our horrible sinful condition, and His love, grace, and mercy -Â doesn’t find a place. I would go out on a limb and say that the biggest problem with the church today is the loss of the Gospel and its replacement by sensation seeking Christianity.
Having said that, we do need to be careful that we don’t put God in a box of our own theological design. Advances in the Gospel through the progress of revelation were authenticated through miracles. Paul said that his authority and messageÂ should not be believed because he simply claimed such, but that the miracles and signs that accompanied his ministry authenticated his message. When he defended his authority and message to the Corinthians who were conflicted because of the alternate message of those who claimed the same authority as Paul, he sought to establish himself as an true apostle with true authority.
2 Corinthians 12:12 Indeed, the signs of an apostle were performed among you with great perseverance by signs and wonders and powerful deeds.
It would seem that miracles and signs were not so much acts of benevolence or uninterpreted awe, but signs of authentication to a message. This is why Paul could claim the authority he did. As well, this is why we should never accept any claims to ultimate human authority vested by GodÂ without the accompaniment of the message with such signs. This was established very early so that God could protect His name–His reputation–in Duet 13 and 18. Otherwise anyone could claim to have such authority. It was and is an issue of responsible discernment.
While I can’t say whether such miracles [and signs]Â are indeed occurring or what they mean, I can tell you that the miracle of the resurrection did occur and exactly what it meant. I would stick to this. Where this Gospel of mercy is found and believed, there is the true church.
Should we seek such
miracles signs? No. That which has been given is sufficient. Should we ignore miracles signs? No. God may send a message accompanied by such as He has done in the past. The key is in the meaning of the miracle sign. Have I ever seen such a miracle sign accompanied by a message? No. In my opinion, God has not intervened in such a way since the last Apostle. If this is true, all claims of ultimate authority and inspiration are only found in that which has already been authenticated in the Scriptures.
None of us control God. At any time He can cause a saint to have a special fragrance, send a prophet to speak on His behalf, write a new book and put it in the Bible, or authenticate aÂ human head of the Church. I don’t determine this and there is nothing in the Scriptures which would say He cannot do these things. Therefore, I am always open, but responsibly skeptical about such things.Â