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Dear Evangelical, Why Don’t We See Any Miracles in Your Church?

healing
Cartoon by Ryan Kramer

One of the thorniest verses in the Bible for Evangelicals is John 14:12:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

Evangelicals believe that the fourteenth chapter of John is the very words of Jesus. This chapter tells Evangelicals not to have a troubled heart; that 2,000 years ago Jesus ascended back to heaven to prepare a room/mansion in heaven for them. When they die or if the Rapture happens before they die, Evangelicals are promised the keys to a brand new home in the sky. This chapter also tells Evangelicals that Jesus is THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life, proving to Evangelicals the exclusivity of their peculiar version of the Christian gospel.

In verse 14 Jesus says, If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. Ponder these words for a moment. Think about all the prayers Christians have uttered over the centuries, prayers asked in the name of Jesus without nary a response. Think about this verse in light of the current Coronavirus Pandemic. Evangelicals love to say that God answered this or that prayer, but pressed for proof of their supernatural claims, they quickly retreat to the safe confines of faith. (Please see A Few Thoughts on a Lifetime of Praying to the Christian God.)

Let’s do some Bible math:

If ye shall ask any thing in my name, will do it + He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do = a church that should regularly see people raised from the dead and healed; a church that should be able to feed the hungry; a church whose leaders work miracles, including walking on water, turning water into Welch’s grape juice, and healing the deaf, blind, and dumb. Add to this, Jesus also said in Mark 16:15-18:

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

According to Jesus, those who believe in him would cast out devils, speak in unlearned new languages, handle venomous snakes, drink poison and not die, and lay their hands on the sick, miraculously causing them to recover from their illnesses.

Is it not then fair to ask where such Christians are today? Where can a non-believer go to see Christians doing greater works than Jesus? Why are hospital beds not empty, mental hospitals closed down, and world hunger eliminated? Surely if, as the Bible says, Christians are to do works greater than Jesus, we skeptics have the right to say show us.

Most Christian sects come up with elaborate schemes to explain away the normative meaning of these verses. The works of Jesus and the early church were sign gifts, many Evangelicals say, and once the canon of Scripture was completed these sign gifts were no longer necessary. I wonder if Christians who say this ever consider that what they are basically saying is that Jesus was lying in John 15/Mark 16 or that there should no longer be the expectation ofย  verifiable miracles. (I use the word verifiable to turn away those that want to appeal to all sorts of subjective experiences that they say are proof of God working a m-i-r-a-c-l-e.)

waiting for a miracle
Graphic by David Hayward

In the delusional world inhabited by Pentecostals, snake-handling Baptists, and those who subscribe to CHARISMA magazine, greater works than Jesus are being performed on a regular basis. When asked for verifiable proof of their claims, appeals are made to faith or Christians mutter, I just KNOW that MY GOD is in the miracle-working business. Funny business God is in . . . no advertising or place of business, yet non-Christians are expected to believe the business exists. I know there is a McDonald’s right here, says the Charismatic, because a book I read tells me there is.

Here’s my challenge to Evangelicals. Please pray that God supernaturally heals me from my physical maladies, or that God stops the Coronavirus Pandemic in its tracks. If she does, I will believe and recant every word I’ve ever written about the Bible, God, Jesus, and Christianity. Wouldn’t it be a great testimony to the miraculous power of almighty God and the veracity of the Christian narrative if God healed an atheist like me? Instead of praying for God to kill me, why not pray for God to heal me?ย  Better yet, forget me. Heal my wife. I’m waiting . . .

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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16 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Melody

    “The works of Jesus and the early church were sign gifts, the Evangelical says, and once the canon of Scripture was completed these sign gifts were no longer necessary. I wonder if Christians who say this ever consider that what they are basically saying is that Jesus was lying in John 15/Mark 16 or that there should no longer be the expectation of verifiable miracles.”

    Yep, this one. The same was said of speaking in tongues even though plenty of Christians still did that. Speaking in tongues was supposed to be a gift for converting people that spoke another language in a time before language courses ๐Ÿ™‚ so not to be used in church…. only on the missonary field

    So I believed that. But then Jesus does promise it….and when it was challenged at various atheist websites and Godless in Dixie, I think, I took that one on, even though a part of me knew it wouldn’t work. They were sort of the dying twitches of my wiltering faith…. So I prayed for a few specific but huge miracles, hoping a tiny tiny bit that it would work and still quite ready to repent if so, but knowing full well (say 98%) that it was over, that it wouldn’t happen and my faith would probably be even more gone after….

    During that time I also still went to church occassionally, being both angry and skeptical but also silently hoping for them to say something, anything, that would bring me back in. So I’d sit there with my ears far opened wider than usual just waiting for something conclusive, something so big that I would be convinced that God did exist, that Jesus had washed our sins away and that the atheist arguments would fall away or be actually challenged by it. Nothing happened, one thing seemed a bit promising and I listened even closer but it didn’t deliver… After a few sundays like that, and none of the miracles happening, and all of the arguments dancing through my mind, I simply had to accept that this was more or less the end of my faith.

    I could quote C.S. Lewis and say it was quite unwillingly and in some ways it was (struggling and wanting to hold on to my faith) but in many ways it was a liberation as well.

  2. Avatar
    Brian

    Speaking of miraculous things, I have been reading recent developments over at Doulas Wilson’s den of perfect interpretation, Christ Church (sic) You have written about this hateful bully before:
    https://brucegerencser.net/?s=Douglas+Wilson&searchsubmit=U
    but it seems that the more hateful and proud he becomes, the more people flock to him with offerings. He is one good specimen of the possibilities of inspired scripture, that is for sure. I would dearly love to know what happened to that man in childhood. Any history you are aware of?

  3. Avatar
    Kenneth

    Remember how God answers prayer: no, yes, not yet. This is where I had problems with prayer when I was a believer. What is the point of even praying if God knows our needs already anyway and things will work out his way anyway? Possible outcomes if we decide to pray about something:

    NO: Asking God for something and not getting it. The same as God not existing, hence why we never got it answered.

    YES: Either coincidence on getting it “answered” OR it really was never answered, but a reason was given from the Bible or made up in our head for why something that happened to us was a “yes” to a prayer. God not existing gives the same explanation.

    Not yet: It never will be answered and we will forget about it eventually OR it won’t be answered until we find a reason on our own for the answer (if we wait long enough things will turn in our favor). Again, God not existing gives the same explanation.

    So what does God do? Nothing…

  4. Avatar
    Ian

    For the Calvinist, prayer is even more than ridiculous. Since Fod had predestined every tiny thing that will happen, there truly is no need of prayer.

    I brought this up a few times and was called fatalistic. I just couldn’t see the point. My littlest guy prays several times a day for a missionary (that he’s only met twice) to be healed of cancer. What is going to happen to his faith when the missionary finally dies? I guess my little guy didn’t have enough faith or was asking for selfish reasons.

  5. Avatar
    Dennis

    IF there was a church that had the verifiable miracles promised by this man Jesus, they would not be able to contain the people that would desire to attend. There would be no need for all of their fun and games to get people to attend.
    These verses and the lack of seeing any evidence of their fulfillment was one of the many reasons I left. I always wondered if there wasn’t anyone who fulfilled the requirement of ‘belief’ to qualify or whether it was so much BS. I chose the BS route.
    I also heard the ‘canon completion’ hogwash as well as “The early church needed these miracles to establish itself. Once established, they were/are no longer necessary.” Yeah right. As though the church is such a strong, earth shattering institution today and doesn’t need help!

  6. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    ***terms and conditions apply, but we don’t know which ones exactly so we make a long lust, mostly attributable to the failings of humans but a few due to God’s plan or mysterious ways, kind of like the slot machine

  7. Avatar
    BJW

    Yeah. I actually know people from the Way Ministry, and they literally believe if their faith is big enough, they won’t die. Of course, no one has had that faith yet. Not their God’s fault, oh no, not at all.

  8. Avatar
    ... Zoe ~

    When I got to David’s graphic tears stung my eyes. It actually shocked me to see myself in a graphic.

    Thanks for bringing this post back around, born-again so-to-speak. ๐Ÿ™‚

    A second round of something in my eyes when you wrote this: “Instead of praying for God to kill me, why not pray for God to heal me? Better yet, forget me. Heal my wife. Iโ€™m waiting . . .”

  9. Avatar
    BJW

    Apparently fundies and evangelicals are so committed to making others miserable, that they can’t see a very basic thing. If they were actually committed to healing the sick and tenderly helping all of their fellow man, they’d see people flood into their churches. The love would be impossible to resist. But since it isn’t really about love but power, they aren’t in any danger of any of that. Because they would have to have unconditional love and that is the one thing they will never have.

  10. Avatar
    Chikirin

    Not even miracles, just some conversions would have been nice. I prayed for people to be saved and I evangelized, but I never saw any get saved. I wasn’t even praying for myself, but for others, and doesn’t God want people to get saved? I guess not! The people who got saved were really just people who’d been raised christian and then cooled off and then when they got back into church again, we hailed it as a conversion when it really wasn’t.

  11. Avatar
    Phillip

    John 14:14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

    Are you one of the Twelve?

    Mark 16:15 And he said unto them…

    Why do the Twelve need to know that I will be followed by signs? They’re long gone.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      You do realize that your hermeneutic destroys the Bible and discredits the works and teachings of the Christian church over the past 2, 000 years?

      That said, Iโ€™m all for it. Such interpretative voodoo castrates the culture war and renders Christian morality moot. Sweet, right?

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