The Doctrine of Miracles -- By: John A. Witmer

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 130:518 (Apr 1973)
Article: The Doctrine of Miracles
Author: John A. Witmer


The Doctrine of Miracles

John A. Witmer

[John A. Witmer, Librarian and Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

[Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted in booklet form entitled We Believe in Miracles and is available from Office of Publicity, Dallas Theological Seminary, 3909 Swiss Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75204 for $5.00 per 100.]

Affirmation of belief in miracles is an essential part of the theological commitment of Dallas Theological Seminary. It is an ingredient of biblical, historic Christianity. It is inseparably joined to the biblical doctrine of God as Creator and Ruler of all things. Miracles are woven into the fabric of Scripture, and belief in them is a concomitant of the historic Christian doctrine of the Bible as God’s Word to men. C. S. Lewis rightly calls Christianity “…the story of a great Miracle.”1

Reactions to Miracles

This historic Christian affirmation of belief in miracles faces two differing reactions in contemporary thought. The first is bemused silence, which grows out of the fact that the word miracle is used in such loose ways today that it has been robbed of much of its historic meaning. For example, Miracle on Thirty-Fourth Street is a fantasy for youth by Valentine Davies, but it serves to identify the word miracle for many with the imaginary world of fiction and of myth. Miracles, it is thought, like the adventures of Hercules and Sinbad the sailor, never take place in real life. Again, when Roger Staubach led the Dallas Cowboys to two touchdowns in less than two minutes to win the 1972 NFC Championship over the San Francisco ‘49ers, the feat was called “the miracle victory.” This ties the word miracle

to unusual human exploits and what Mary Hesse calls “…the remarkable, unpredictable, coincidental, nature of the events.”She points out that in most such cases “…there would probably not be any implication of a divine or providential act in the events described.”2

Still another use of the word miracle is found in the popular radio and television evangelist’s challenge to his audience, “Expect a miracle today.” In this case a “divine or providential act” is implied, because the challenge is frequently coupled with the evangelist’s promise, “Something good is going to happen to you.” Here miracles are equated with the providential blessings of life. The implication is that miracles occur day after day in the lives of the evangelist and his associates and anyone who responds to his challenge. Li...

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