the weblog of Alan Knox

A History of Miracles

Posted by on Jan 15, 2009 in blog links, church history, spiritual gifts | 10 comments

Christianity Today is publishing a new blog called “The Christian History Blog“. There is one post in particular that my readers may be interested in: “Signs and Wonders: The Charismatic Power of Early Christianity“. This is how the author begins his post:

When we teach about the early church, we frequently omit the story of spiritual gifts.

Cessationism is the belief that the miracles of Jesus’ lifetime and the apostolic period happened solely to attest to the authority and inspiration of the apostolic writings, and that miracles and extraordinary spiritual gifts ceased after the writing of the apostolic documents was concluded.

As writers such as ex-Dallas Seminary professor Jack Deere have argued, this is a position with no biblical foundation. But it also has a problem with the historical record. That record shows clearly that the early church was quite active in the charismatic gifts at least through 200 AD. There was a decline in the 3rd century, and then again it became active.

The remainder of the article lists historical records of miraculous works through the fourth century. Many of the writers and writings are familiar to me: the Didache, the Shepherd of Hermas, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyon, Origen of Alexandria, and Augustine of Hippo, for example. But, when I studied church history, no one mentioned the extent of the miraculous in the early church.

I’ve written about this before in a post called “Irenaeus and Miraculous Gifts“. Its amazing what you can learn about this early period of the church when you read their writings instead of what others say about them.


10 Comments

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  1. 1-15-2009

    Reading about your visit brought to mind visiting a work site, a business. Which is what that was, minus the paycheck for everyone.

  2. 1-15-2009

    Alan,

    Hey brother got a few questions for you.

    1. What has been your experience with the miraculous?

    2. Why do you think cessasionism has taken the Church by storm?

    3. Should we as local churches begin to pray that God would do miracles do us, or should we just stay with the status quo?

    4. Should we as individuals pray that God would use us do the miraculous?

  3. 1-15-2009

    Alan,

    I’ll add a question to Lionel’s.

    Why would God work in such a way, with a people who are self-sufficient, self-assured, and self-confident, not to mention self-righteous and self-satisfied?

  4. 1-15-2009

    I’m struggling with the same questions. I’d love to hear ideas…

    -Alan

  5. 1-15-2009

    Oops my above comment was meant for the earlier post not sure how that happened.

    Miracles and such since the first century? They have occured. People see them and ignore them. People are told about them and they choose to ignore the telling, discount it. If we choose to be blind and deaf because of all those self items AJ ennumerates, then that is what we will be. Until God chooses to blow us out of our world and into his but then we just become one of the nut jobs that others discount.

    As far as desiring and praying for a show of miracles, what do we want, God himself or the things of God, his promises, his miracles? Will we take just him and be content? How much different are we from Simon the Magician when we go to prayer for the manifestations of God? The last thing this “modern” church needs is to establish a miracle seeing program but I suppose if we don’t have it already we soon will. We can’t “do” God without a program, even an un-program.

  6. 1-15-2009

    Could it be that the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, and the lepers being cleansed (or other sicknesses healed) is evidence of the good news? Just part and parcel of the kingdom of God?

    I’m not sure I understand the question “Can we take just Him and be content?” since I believe that healing is, in fact, a display of His love – and a display of Him for Himself as He is.

    The other side of that question would be “Can we take God without His miracles?” Why would we want to? Not entirely sure. Except maybe it’s more culturally comfortable for us.

    I do think that the Enlightenment has had a profound impact on the church and our view of all this stuff. For the Enlightenment thinker, a belief in miracles is mere superstition, and we’re “all grown up” now, and no longer need this aspect of who God is.

    At the same time, I think the potential for wrong motives exists. If our motivations are entertainment, glory from men, or some other self-oriented purpose, that’s a problem. Simon the Magician is a good example of that. But for this one example in scripture, there are myriads of others that promote the use of the miraculous as a normal part of kingdom life.

    But the potential for wrong motives is true of everything we do – not just the miraculous. If our heart is to love – and God brings someone who needs healing into our path… It can be an act of extreme love, concern and selflessness to pray for their healing.

  7. 1-15-2009

    Hi Alan,
    I write new blog post on a weekly basis. I barely have the inclination when I do write. But, I must say, I am impressed with how you consistantly have enlightening information to share, such as what is in the content of this post.
    Thanks,
    Jim

  8. 1-16-2009

    Read Matthew 13:53-58

    Perhaps this gives us some insight as to why so many of us, especially in the “wealthy” West, don’t witness the miracles of God.

    Peace in Jesus

  9. 1-16-2009

    I can say that miracle is alive. It’s happening every moment. My mom brought me to church every Sunday. She prayed every night. Only for safety. One day, church bombed with hundred of refugees inside. (Just you can type the word “ navaly church” in Google and find out the fact) my mom heart was broken after that. She was numbed. She said to me, God is an innocent like us. God mean love. We will get some real love from someone or something. Few years later, she injured by air attack. She said that it’s happened to me like church. And she died. I have no idea about god but I love my innocent mom. When I see the church I remember my mom. I feel good about remember her.

    The Buddhism says that don’t kill even insects. But Buddhism follower killing children mothers old people and all people. They bomb church, temple, hospital, schools, house and everything. In our sky, lots of war flights flying. It is made from Russia. Israel, America, Argentina, china. And the ocean lots of countries war ships. And the land lots of countries tanks. It is over 60 countries supplied those to kill us. It is a competition supply. But all the result was miracle. Human miracle. We are small community. We saw all miracles than other community in the world. I can say that god doesn’t need to make a new miracle now. When you get little bit real love that is a miracle. It’s happening every moment.

  10. 1-16-2009

    Chinna,

    Thank you for your comment. I’d love to hear more of your story. Yes, true love is a real miracle.

    -Alan