By Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (Dec. 14, 2015) — It’s that time of year: Christmas. For the Christian, it’s the season to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ—the second Person of the Godhead. Yet beyond a baby in a manger and wise men, there lies something more profound, deeper: the incarnation of God begun by a miracle. A supernatural event occurred with the conception of Christ. According to Biblical Christianity, Mary miraculously conceived Christ via the work of the Holy Spirit, interposing the natural sequence of conception (See Matthew 1:18). At the foundation of the Christmas story lies the miraculous.
Miracles are important to Biblical Christianity; dare I say, essential to the classical, historical view of the faith. Miracles are clearly taught in Scripture, and therefore crucial to our understanding of God and his work within our world.
In order to grasp the profound nature of the incarnation, we must comprehend the nature of a miracle.
First, according to Dr. Norman Geisler, a miracle “ is a special act of God that interrupts the natural course of events.” The fact that a miracle can occur is founded on the premise that there is a theistic God. And if there is a God (which Christianity affirms), then miracles are possible. Geisler states it as thus: “If there is a God who can act, then there can be acts of God. The only way to show that miracles are impossible is to disprove the existence of God.”
Second, we must define a “special act of God.” According to Geisler, classical Christianity defines miracles “in either a weak sense or a strong sense.” Following Augustine, “the weaker definition describes a miracle as a ‘portent [which] is not contrary to nature, but contrary to our knowledge of nature,’” A “portent” is a signal, a means to indicate God’s work in the world. The strong sense follows Thomas Aquinas, who taught that a miracle is “an event that is outside nature’s power, something only done through supernatural power.” Here’s the bottom line for both views: a miracle is a divine intervention, “ a supernatural exception to the regular course of the natural world,” as Geisler states.
Third, Geisler discusses the probability of miracles. Here we found that miracles are possible. Geisler argues on the basis of three sources: philosophical, historical, and probable. Geisler states, “It is true that philosophy shows miracles are possible, but only history reveals whether they are actual. But it is also true that, granting the existence of a theistic God, miracles are probable.”
To demonstrate the probability of miracles, Geilser gives two reasons: God’s ability to perform miracles, and God’s desire to perform a miracle. Concerning God’s ability, the argument is simple: “a theistic God has the ability to perform miracles since he is all powerful. “ The desire of God is rooted in God’s nature and character. Geisler writes that God “has the desire to perform miracles because he is all-knowing, or omniscient, and all good or omnibenevolent. One who examines history to see whether God has performed any miracles already can know that God is the kind of God who would if he could, and he can.”
Finally, we must ask if God can and does perform miracles, why? What is God’s rationale behind an interruption to the natural laws? Geisler helps answer these questions.
First, God desires to communicate with his creation. And according to Geisler, “a miracle by definition is an event that does this very thing. Miracles heal, restore, bring back life, communicate God’s will, vindicate his attributes,” and the like. God’s character is to communicate with his creation—to demonstrate his love and care.
Second, miracles are acts to confirm “the word of God through a messenger of God.” Here God substantiates his people and purposes; he validates his word and work in the world. And it was by this means God confirmed Jesus (John 3:2). Geisler asks, “How better could God confirm to us his spokespersons…that an intelligent, personal, moral Creator would want to communicate in the most effective way with his creatures?”
So as you sit around the Christmas tree this season with family and friends, pause for a moment and think about the reality of the reason for the season: the miraculous birth of the Savior, the Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. (See the prophetic pronouncement in Isaiah 9:6). And thank God that he intervened in our natural world to bring us a supernatural event: the conception of his Son—the hope of the world.
Christmas is truly a marvel of the miraculous—the time when God communicated to the world through Christ (See Hebrews 1:1-2), demonstrating his love in the lowliness of the Child (See John 3:16).
To learn more about miracles, read “The Big Book of Christian Apologetics” by Norman Geisler.
For more information on Dr. Geisler’s classes, check out Veritas Evangelical Seminary: http://www.ves.edu
Photo captions: 1) The Nativity by Andrei Rublev (14th Century). 2) Big Book of Apologetic by Norman Geisler. 3) Veritas Evangelical Seminary. 4) Brian Nixon.
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About the writer: Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, and minister. He’s a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus (BA) and is a Fellow at Oxford Graduate School (D.Phil.). As a published author, editor, radio host, recording artist, and visual artist, Brian spends his free time with his three children and wife, painting, writing music, reading, and visiting art museums. To learn more, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Nixon.
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