Bruce, Have You Ever Had Any “Miracles” Happen in Your Life?

miracle working god

Recently, a reader by the name of Jay asked me:

I struggle with my faith often.

But when I think of the times that my life has been spared I can’t /won’t shrug it off to coincidence.

Have you ever had miracles happen in your life? Have you ever or a family or friend come out of situation that could not be explained?

Do you believe in miracles?

I was in the Christian church for fifty years, and I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five of those years. For most of my life, I believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God. I believed God heard and answered my prayers, and in some instances miraculously intervened in my life. According to my worldview at the time, God was a supernatural being who supernaturally intervened in my life on a daily basis. He was very much of a hands-on deity. I preached thousands of sermons, believing that the words that I spoke came straight from God himself. God worked in and through me, and, at times, did things I couldn’t even imagine. Miracles, right?

During much of 2007 and 2008, I undertook a painful and thorough examination of my life and beliefs. In November 2008, I concluded that I could no longer in good conscience call myself a Christian. In early 2009, I sent a letter to my family, friends, and former parishioners that detailed my loss of faith. It was not long after, that I began calling myself an atheist.

One area I paid close attention to during the deconversion process was answered prayers and miracles. I claimed that God had answered my prayers countless times and had worked miracles in my life. Could these things withstand rational, skeptical scrutiny? (Please see Prayer: Explaining the UnexplainableDoes Praying for the Sick and Dying Make Any Difference?A Few Thoughts on a Lifetime of Praying to the Christian God) After countless hours spent combing through the minutiae of my life, I concluded that most of the answered prayers and miracles in my life could be explained away solely through human means and intervention. In other words, the prayer-answering, miracle-working God I worshipped most of my life was, in fact, quite fallible and human.

But, Bruce, shouldn’t these unexplainable things be called miracles? Shouldn’t you give God his due for answering one out of a million prayers and throwing a miracle bone or two your way? You know, all praise to Jesus for saving one out of four hundred passengers in a plane crash; for saving a Bible while a tornado destroyed everything else in its path; for healing a cancer patient here and there?

In any other setting, someone with such a miserably low success rate would be fired or kicked off the team. The Christian God, truth be told, is batting well below the Mendoza line — a below .200 baseball average. Instead of praising Jesus for occasionally coming through, perhaps there are a few questions that need to be asked.

First, how can we know for certain something is a miracle? Are we to assume that anything we can’t understand or explain is a miracle? Second, how can we know for certain that what we called miracles were performed by some sort of God? Third, how can we know for certain that the God who worked these miracles was the Christian God? Humans have worshiped countless deities over the centuries. How can anyone know for sure that their God is one true miracle-working God? Set the Bible aside for a moment and try to clear your mind of whatever religious indoctrination clutters your thoughts. Does it sound reasonable to say that the “unexplainable” is best explained by attributing credit to a deity no one has ever seen? Or, does it make more sense to explain what we call miracles by saying, “I don’t know.”

I am comfortable with saying, “I don’t know.” I don’t have to have an explanation for everything that happens in my life. Using the Bible and religious dogma to “explain” such things is a cop-out. It allows people to avoid accounting for the unexplainable by saying, “God did it!” I would say to Jay and others like him who are struggling with their faith: “Carefully examine your life. Examine whether what you call answered prayer or miracles can be explained by or through human means. Once you complete this examination, ask yourself, should I still think of the Christian God as a prayer-answering, miracle-working deity?” I think you will find the answer is NO. Now, this doesn’t mean that you are an atheist. Many people, after such careful self-examination, become deists, believing that there is a creator God of some sort who set everything into motion and then said, “there ya go folks, do with it what you will.”  What you can be certain of is this: the personal God of countless Christians who is involved in their day-to-day lives hearing and answering prayers and working miracles is a myth; that we are each accountable for our own lives, and that humans collectively, according to the humanist ideal, have an obligation to make the world a better place to live.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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6 Comments

  1. GeoffT

    Miracles are a very difficult topic for the religious. On the one hand they must claim them at every opportunity, the one miner that escapes a disaster underground, whilst seeking to explain why god doesn’t intervene at other times, and why he allows (causes) unnecessary suffering. Of course, stepping aside from belief in god, or at least an interventionist god, solves this problem; no further explanation is needed.

    Underlying the whole issue is that we fail properly to define exactly what we mean by ‘miracle’. For me it as an interruption in the natural workings of the universe as we understand them. If there is any possible natural phenomenon that could explain the event then it cannot be claimed as a miracle. Even if we cannot think of a natural explanation this doesn’t mean there isn’t one, and claiming a miracle in such a circumstances is wrong, because if evidence is needed of a natural explanation, so it is needed for one that is supernatural! The absence of the former is not, absolutely not, evidence of the latter.

    In any event, just think what the world would look like if miracles were happening around us as many claim. The world would become unpredictable. If forces that we aren’t aware of were surrounding us then we wouldn’t dare move, or go out, or drive our cars, as we’d be ever fearful that the ‘miracle’ awaiting our neighbour would be to our detriment.

    Life is unpredictable. Sometimes it’s good and nice things happen, other times it can be horrible. No further comment is needed.

    Reply
  2. ObstacleChick

    From a standpoint of statistics, just about any outcome is possible even if it isn’t necessarily probable. Did you ever play Yahtzee, and you needed a straight for the win and got it on the first roll? It’s possible though not probable. Was it a miracle? No.

    A few weeks ago I did a Soartan obstacle race which is run on trails. As I was running, a girl leaned against a small tree to stretch. It snapped and broke and fell on my head. If the timing had been different, it would have fallen and hit no one. (I was fine, just a small bruise). Was it a miracle? I didn’t think so!

    Reply
  3. Matilda

    I recall once, Bruce, you said that as you deconverted, you sat down and tried to count the number of answered prayers you’d received over decades…and there were just 5 or so that could possibly have been just that. I told folk for years of the ‘miracle’ that husband and I experienced when, before mobile phones, our car broke down miles from anywhere after dark one Sunday night. We knew this remote road had hardly any traffic at the best of times. We prayed and resigned ourselves to a night in the cold and being late for work the next morning. Then a lorry appeared and the driver got us going, and drove ahead of us about 40miles to our town, then disappeared. X-tians told us we had ‘entertained angels unawares’…and, sorry to say, I believed them!

    Reply
  4. Brian Vanderlip

    The miracle is that we have survived evangelicalism, that we have retained enough humanity to leave behind ‘belief’ in Gods and Almighty Leaders and to endure with humanity, not eternal rewards and gold streets…

    Reply
  5. Caroline

    I have a well-meaning not necessarily religious friend who says all the time things like, “God watches over all the at-risk children who are left at home alone, etc. because they don’t have responsible adults looking out for them.” And I always want to ask what she thinks of the majority of those children who live in the inner city or in extreme poverty who don’t make it and who fall into drug abuse, other crimes, or simply don’t reach their potential. No higher being seems to be looking out for the majority. There are no miracles for them.

    Reply
  6. Caroline

    One more thing: Isn’t the idea of miracles just the flip side of when evangelicals are always going on about how Jesus must be returning soon because of all the strange weather events, wars, etc.? They definitely don’t know enough about history if they think that today’s world is any worse or different than what has come before. I love when one of them says that a natural disaster is God’s vengeance on a country that sanctions abortion, Gay rights and other civil rights,, yet so many natural disasters occur in the most religious parts of the country (Hurricane Katrina !). Where I live there is the occasional weak hurricane (rare) or a snow storm that knocks out power, but we just say it’s weather like many generations before us did.

    This idea of miracles also makes me think about the appearances of the Virgin Mary that ONLY are seen by devout Catholics in predominantly Catholic countries. This has always cracked me up (and I was raised Catholic).

    Reply

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