≡ Menu

What To Do With Weird Miracles

When it comes to Christianity, believing in miracles is par for the course. I mean, if God can form the world out of nothing, then I reckon He can do just about anything. And in the Bible, He does. In fact, some of the most important biblical events are founded upon miracles: the Creation, the Passover, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection. Yes, if you’re a Christian, believing in miracles is par for the course.

The downside of believing in miracles is the amount of weird ones out there. Take this church in northern California. From Bethel’s ‘signs and wonders’ include angel feathers, gold dust and diamonds:

When “angel feathers” first started to fall at Bethel Church, [Senior Pastor] Bill Johnson thought birds had nested in the air conditioning ducts, he said.

“Then it happened in a restaurant and all different places – on an airplane,” he said. “I don’t know, I don’t teach it, it just happens.”

Johnson said he bases his belief that the feathers are a sign from God on a Bible verse that says, “there is healing in his wings,” and he doesn’t try to explain it.

Among the miracles supposedly occurring at Bethel are the “random” appearance of diamonds, heavenly glitter on the hands of the anointed, and physical manifestations of the glory of God in the sanctuary. In response to this outbreak of “signs and wonders,” Pastor Johnson has started the School of Supernatural Ministry wherein he hopes to equip others to reproduce such miracles. He even shared the story about a former student who started a DRT (Dead Raising Team) that “got approval from Mason County to be listed along with other county services and had been given badges so they can go behind police lines if there’s an accident or fatality.”

Angel feathers. Gold dust. DRT’s. Weird? Yup. From God? I dunno.

When it comes to weird miracles, Christians usually fall into one of two camps.

On one side is Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson had a hard time intellectually digesting the miracles in the gospels, so he removed them. What was left has been called the Jefferson Bible. It’s a Bible without miracles.

There are many modern variations of this. While Evangelicals profess to believe in the miracles of Scripture and a supernatural world, most of them live remarkably materialistic lives. In fact, in a piece entitled Why “Supernatural Fiction” is Under-represented in Christian Bookstores, I suggested that one reason Speculative Fiction is under-represented in Christian bookstores is because Christians have embraced a materialistic worldview. In a more rigid quadrant are Dispensationalists who openly state that miracles are a thing of the past, and no longer needed. Then there are the “cult-watchers” who’ve made a mission sniffing out frauds, extremists, and biblical aberrations. To these all folks, the Bethel miracles are probably hogwash.

On the other side, are the more Charismatic and Pentecostal wings of the church. These are the sectors where prophesies, visions and miracles are commonplace, where every other word is a “word from God” and miracles can be purchased with a “tithe offering.” To this crowd, the Bethel miracles are probably thrilling.

So on one side is skepticism and disbelief, on the other is uncritical acceptance.

My suggestion is that we concede neither extreme.

When it comes to weird miracles, the question is never Can God? but Did God? Can God raise the dead and sprinkle jewels? Why not? He did weirder things than that in the Bible. The real question is Did God? Did God drop feathers and scatter gold dust? See Mike shrug. Of course, some will call me cynical, faithless and unbelieving. And I admit, I could be. What I’m trying to do is allow for the possibility of miracles — even weird ones — without having to box God in, arbitrate or be completely gullible. Call it critical faith.

Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. (I Thessalonians 5:19-21 NIV)

We are to “test everything” — that means we shouldn’t blindly assume that every supposed miracle is an act of God. But in all our testing, we must not “put out the Spirit’s fire.” KJV translates that, “quench not the Holy Spirit.” Test, but don’t quench. Be critical, but not unbelieving.

As long as miracles are possible, plenty of weird, wacky, unexplained ones will happen. And this is what people don’t like. They want to box God in, slip a spiritual condom on so they don’t contract Pentecostalism. It’s easier to just believe God doesn’t do miracles, than to sift through all the stupid claims people make. It’s easier to just disassociate myself from those wacky Pentecostals than to call them… brothers. But the fact is, God can do whatever He wants, and He doesn’t have to abide by my rules or explain Himself to me.

The wrong thing to do is to embrace ALL supposed miracles because God might have performed SOME of them. Equally wrong is to reject ALL miracles because SOME are weird.

* * *

What is your first reaction when confronted with a weird miracle? Do you find it easier to tolerate supposed miracles or simply dismiss them?

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on Reddit
{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Jason Joyner July 8, 2010, 12:49 PM

    Hey Mike – very fair and balanced post! (How “Fox News” of you ;))

    I mostly grew up in a Southern Baptist Church that got a pastor that turned *gasp* Charismatic on them. We eventually split off into a non-denominational Charismatic church. There were some weird things that happended there (it was around the time of the Toronto Blessing). Some of it seemed to really have the power and presence of God. However, some things began to go too extra-Biblical for my taste and my fiancee’s. We ended up leaving and now attend a church that is considered Charismatic/Pentecostal but rarely practices much of the gifts, it seems.

    We miss some of the, for lack of a better word, “anointing”, but we struggle with extremes of where our former church has touched. For instance, they endorsed Todd Bentley’s Florida movement before there was too much of laying on of hands ;).

    I agree with you that God has the freedom to do what he wants. My question is how does it bring Him glory or lead people to Him. I’m not sure how feathers or gold dust accomplishes that. Maybe if the poor were getting the jewels (of course He can’t do that though – He promised we’d always have the poor…d’oh! There goes my health and wealth gospel…)

    Thanks for always keeping thoughts provoked. I make sure to keep up here. Blessings!

    • Mike Duran July 8, 2010, 1:00 PM

      Jason, I appreciate your readership! You sound like you’re on a similar arc as me. I was weaned in a Charismatic environment but watched it drift into weird extremes. For instance, I was around for the Vineyard’s “Holy Laughter” phase (which I think was connected to the Toronto Blessing), but split after individuals started “roaring in the Lord.” Don’t ask.

      Anyway, we attend a much more “restrained” church now (read: non-Charismatic) and I find myself often wishing there was “more.” However, I’m afraid if I someone prophesied, spoke in tongues, or was slain in the Spirit, they’d be politely asked to leave. Oh well, nowadays I keep my Jericho Marches to my office.

      Thanks for commenting, Jason!

  • Jay July 8, 2010, 1:07 PM

    One of the most interesting things about Christianity is its history of miracles. The degree to which God uses miracles is rather tempered; He is never as showy as He could be. He cuts His power with a good dose of materialism, as if speaking in code to our own instincts and sensibilities: he uses childbearing, bread and fish, and donkeys most of the time — never usually bright lights and bravado. It’s like the rich man who drives the subcompact to work. He uses it because it gets him there, but what matters is that he *does* get there.

    If you’re looking for a purely mystical religion, then Christianity is not for you. Scripture is rife with accounts of a God who has immense power but has some class to hold it back with the filter of crude creation.

    I’ve heard of the golddust/gold teeth phenomenon. The wife and I used to go to a church that eventually claimed to have those miracles happen, but they were exposed as fraudulent. We didn’t stick around too long after that. I’m sure some of the claims out there are genuine. I’d like to know the stats on that.

  • Nicole July 8, 2010, 1:37 PM

    Geez, easy on the Pentecostals, Mike. I know the Crazy-matics and some Pentecostal churches went to the extremes, but now they’ve allowed the pendulum to swing in the other direction which quite frankly sounds like yours and Jason’s church.

    You’ve used the appropriate and absolutely necessary scripture to keep the spiritual discernment always in operation. How fitting that man decides to instantly form “a School of Supernatural Ministry” so he/they can add their human wisdom and organizational skills to the miraculous. The “traditions of men” gag me.

    Miracles come from God and it’s clear from scripture they can also come from the supernatural demonic element. Test the spirits. The gifts still work under the Holy Spirit’s discretion and appointment and, yes, anointing. And God-ordained miracles do happen. Thank God.

  • David Willis July 8, 2010, 8:13 PM

    I believe our example should be Jesus. The miracles he performed, outstanding each one, were not a part of a show. There was no theatrics. Jesus wasn’t a showman. He was a mirror reflecting the Father’s glory. He was a vessel carrying the Father’s love. Each miracle came from that place.

    If you think about it he never really did the same miracle the same way twice. He kept people guessing. He kept people off balance. He met each need as he came across it.

    I don’t doubt for a minute that miracles outside my scope of understanding happen all the time. The question I ask is who do they glorify? What are they reflecting? If Jesus didn’t need smoke and mirrors or to make a big production of things, his church doesn’t need it either.

    • Mike Duran July 9, 2010, 5:41 AM

      Yeah, Jesus and the faith healers of today seem to have little in common. Although gauging when said faith healer is glorifying themselves is also a fine line. Without knowing someone’s heart, it’s nearly impossible to do so. One more reason we should entrust the final judgment to God. Thanks for your comments, David.

  • Jill July 8, 2010, 9:01 PM

    I grew up in a Baptist church that went charismatic, and I’ve seen it all. For a long time, I was jaded toward charismatic churches, and I think it’s because I didn’t get a lot of substance there. Currently, my husband and I attend an LCMS, and I long for some of the charisma I grew up with.

    I had to do a little soul-searching not that long ago. Ultimately, I think God forced me to remember that many of those charismatics whom I had turned against as a young adult were strong Christian people–people who had mentored me as a child spiritually, if not intellectually.

    I do believe that God still performs miracles. The LCMS church I attend believes that God does, too. They are simply skeptical of speaking in tongues and other really showy outward signs of spirituality. I haven’t made up my mind on everything yet–thank God for that!

    You have the right idea. Test the spirits, rather than assuming, foolishly, that the spirits don’t exist.

  • BR July 9, 2010, 7:30 AM

    Just call it like it is: horse feathers!

  • Tim Ward July 9, 2010, 7:49 PM

    Interesting post, I’ve never heard of feathers or diamond manifestation. I ascribe to the God can do anything, but miracles and signs were less prevalent (1 Tim. 5:23) after the ministry was established through the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20), the completion of the Bible ended the gift of revelation (1 Cor. 13:8-10).

    This is what I ascribe to, as a Dispensationalist, but don’t mean to but heads with anyone with a different interpretation. I say all that, just to point out in Mike’s post that Dispensationalists are further broken down into camps: that believe in no miracles (small minority) and even no gifts; those who believe that the gifts of performing miracles like prophecy, tongues and knowledge are done away or have ceased of themselves, but do not deny God using a miracle to give someone a revelation or a tongue in a moment of need; and the same as the last, but redefine the gifts of prophecy (a right word at the right time instead of Thus says the Lord…) and are “cautious but open” to claims of miracles.

    I’m not saying you didn’t know that, and your blog wasn’t really meant to be such a close examination, but I thought I’d add my two cents to a subject that I love to learn and talk about.

    As far as your questions: I am skeptical of the person claiming the miracle in a “testing” sort of way without ever doubting God’s ability and sovereignty; and I find it difficult in my desire to love God with my whole heart to ever dismiss his power, but I do have a cautious heart from my studying of false miracles.

Leave a Comment