The blog Facts About Religion asks, Why are there no more miracles? FAR asserts that “[m]ost Christians say that the reason God performed such evident miracles in the past … was to prove to everyone that his messengers were speaking the truth, and that his message (the Bible) was a supernaturally inspired book.” I’m responding here since my comments on that blog are usually deleted.
I question whether “most Christians” would say that God performed miracles to prove that the Bible was inspired. I for one have never said that, nor heard any other Christian say it. I am also not aware of the Bible recounting a miracle that was performed to affirm the veracity of a written text.
To say that God performed miracles for one purpose is to overgeneralize. God had various reasons for performing miracles, at various times and places. For example the Ten Plagues of Egypt were miraculous, yet they had nothing to do with proving the inspiration of the scriptures. They were performed to prove to Pharoah that Moses had come from God, and to enforce God’s demand that the Hebrew slaves be set free. The deaths of Ananias and Sapphira were also miraculous (Acts 5:5), but they occurred as a punishment for sin, and not to prove anything to anyone. Jesus is often said to have performed a miracle out of simple compassion (Mk. 8:2; Mt. 14:14; Mt. 20:34, etc.).
FAR asks further, “[W]hy would God stop performing miracles today, in a time when billions don’t believe his message, specifically because they have never seen a miracle to authenticate it? ”
FAR’s question assumes that miracles are part-and-parcel of the Gospel, and that no one can be expected to believe in God or in Jesus without having seen a miracle or two. But faith, by definition, comes not by the flesh but by the spirit. To put it another way, faith comes by grace, not by science; “science”, in the sense in which I am using it, meaning “sure and evident knowledge obtained from demonstrations”. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, science and faith are equally certain, the difference being that science is certain about things that it sees, whereas faith is certain about what is unseen (cf. Heb. 11:1): “Now those things are said to be seen which, of themselves, move the intellect or the senses to knowledge of them. Wherefore it is evident that neither faith nor opinion can be of things seen either by the senses or by the intellect.” (See “St. Thomas Aquinas on faith and doubt“.)
To say that, if the Christian Gospel is true, then God must necessarily prove it by performing modern miracles, assumes that faith is obtained through sight. But in that case, faith would no longer be “the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). In other words, faith would be science and no longer faith.
All of this is aside from the fact that faith is more than mere belief in God’s existence and in his power. Faith is also trust in God, the conviction that he is good, that he loves us, and that he is so trustworthy that we may lay down our lives in reliance upon his promises. Some people saw Jesus’ miracles and yet still were not moved to faith. They saw some kind of power but still did not believe it was in their best interests to follow him — either that, or they were not willing to repent of their sins. Miracles don’t automatically change hearts, minds and wills.