A few days ago, I mentioned two “candidate miracles” that recently occurred on this continent. One was a case of Miraculous Multiplication; the other was the incorrupt body of a deceased nun. As I’m already a Catholic and serious about it, these don’t “prove” anything to me, though they say that God continues to work in wondrous ways when He deems it appropriate.
This morning, PJ Media’s Lincoln Brown has some thoughts on miracles and their relation to faith. It’s worth reading in its entirety, but the haymaker is this vignette from his seminary years:
Years ago, a tiny Chicago parish had either a statue or picture of the Virgin Mary. It either moved or shed a tear. I don’t remember which. But the word got out that a miracle had occurred at this church, and people began arriving by the thousands. There were long lines and congested traffic and the church was going broke from hiring around-the-clock security to handle the crowds. As expected, a TV news crew showed up and the reporter asked the priest, “Father, does this qualify as a miracle?” The priest looked at the long line of people outside of the church. He looked back at the reporter and said, “The real miracle is faith.”
I could not have put it better.
There are a lot of people mincing about, straining to persuade you that faith is a con job. Any faith; by their lights, you must reject all of them. Oddly, these persons, who tend to deem themselves smarter than us believers, can’t distinguish among faiths. Neither can they accept that their own atheism is itself a faith, for it posits beliefs about the supernatural that can neither be proved not disproved: the distinguishing characteristic of a faith. Their attack is composed largely – in some cases, exclusively – on bad things some persons have done in the name of some faith. Never mind whether the faith in question promotes such things, or would excuse them.
The late Marshall Fritz, a remarkable and highly effective exponent of libertarian convictions, was also a devout Christian. Among the things he placed at the foundation of his politics was a cleavage question that can be used to separate good beliefs from bad ones:
That’s a key question about any proposition. “Would accepting this proposition lead me down an evil path?” Another, of course, is “Would accepting this proposition cost me anything? If so, what?”
It does cost something to accept a Christian faith:
- We must acknowledge that we are not supreme over ourselves.
- We must accept that we owe a debt of gratitude to God;
- We must accept certain limitations on our behavior.
But Christ Himself made it plain that God asks very little of us:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. [Matthew 11:28-30]
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. [Matthew 19:16-19]
Not a lot to ask in return for an eternal life in the bliss of heaven, is it? But more to the point, the commandments He enunciated – Christianity’s principles – are entirely wholesome.
So much for the militant atheists and their claims that faith leads to evil.
All the same, there’s the unverifiable / unfalsifiable obstacle to get past. There’s no way to prove Christianity, as if it were a mathematical proposition. There’s evidence, but it’s all of the sort that can be dismissed if you’re sufficiently skeptical and determined. That’s true even of recent Church-accepted miracles. So miracles cannot serve as a trustworthy foundation for faith.
He who sincerely embraces Christianity must commit to it personally, rather than because he’s been compelled to accept it. Some do so because they find the evidence persuasive, as did Lee Strobel. Others do so because people they admire have done so. Others receive a personal jolt that they cannot bring themselves to dismiss.
So why miracles?
We can’t be sure. They do tell us something. Some of them, such as Fatima, are so well attested that efforts to dismiss them are too strained to credit. Those speak of a flexibility in natural laws that mortals cannot exploit. Others have an “iffy” quality: they work unpredictably, as at Lourdes. Perhaps such a miracle tells us that we must walk part of the road to faith on our own. Still others are beyond my power to interpret.
At the conclusion of a long and laborious life elucidating the teachings of the Church for general comprehension, Saint Thomas Aquinas said something that – to him, at least – seemed to obviate everything else he had said and written: To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.
Perhaps, as the priest quoted in the first segment said, faith is the miracle: the one that precedes all others, and makes them visible and believable. For we are surrounded by the miraculous, utterly immersed in it. What is more miraculous than human existence – indeed, than Creation itself?
May God bless and keep you all!