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The only miracle

January 18, 2009

Much is made of the excellence, competence, and–yes, extraordinary–proficiency in Captain Sullenberger’s Hudson River landing. Our Gnostic culture is quick to brand this dramatic display of God’s providential grace a “miracle.”

“What is a miracle?” I, a Christian, ask my friend, who claims “no religion.” She does not realize that she does have a religion. My friend is a true Gnostic. She believes that training, education, information, practice–and some inexplicable, fortuitous “convergence”–may coalesce in extraordinary events. She calls these events “miracles.”

My friend believes in miracles, but not in the God who directs them. For her, “the providence of God” is simply another way of saying “a convergence of events.” Ayn Rand referred to a “benign universe” to express the same brand of Gnosticism, even though she berated miracles for defying reason. But I love my friends who persist in calling things miracles that I do not call miracles; I love them very fervently, because I am bound to them by thick tethers of blood.

Every Gnostic does what he can to furnish the vacuum in which his spirit dwells as comfortably as possible. Miracles are the accents, the bright accessories.

But Captain Sullenberger’s landing was not a miracle. It defied no laws of nature, involved no supernatural phenomena, and, in fact, the landing actually represented an ideal occurrence of exactly what is supposed to happen under like circumstances. Every event that converged in the expert landing and the well-coordinated rescue of the passengers was explainable in terms of ordinary phenomena and high performance of typical protocols. Maybe we don’t expect people to perform optimally, but in this case they did, and that probably should not be as unusual as it is.

Miracles have had one purpose from the beginning of time: to demonstrate the power of God. What distinguishes a miracle is that it has no explanation other than the power of God. A miracle is something that is otherwise impossible: not merely highly unlikely, or even extraordinary, but impossible.

Only one miracle occurs on earth today; it occurs with unknown frequency, but it definitely occurs. People witness this miracle all the time, but some believe what they see, and others do not. People are the beneficiaries of this miracle, and they tell others about it, but again, some will believe them, others will not. The one miracle that occurs on earth today is that someone believes in the sovereign grace of God and the saving power of his son, Jesus Christ, who did not believe in this before. But as my pastor has said many times, seeing is not believing. Believing is seeing.

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