Monday, May 3, 2021

Counterfeit Miracles (Exodus 7:1-24)

"Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake" (Exodus 7:12).

We saw in last time that Satan cannot do miracles. Otherwise, Nicodemus would have been wrong in John 3:2 to assume that Jesus’ miracles proved that He came from God. What shall we say, then, about miracles that seem to be done by Satan or one of his fallen angels?

There are basically two foundations for “miracles” outside of the Bible. The first is delusion and the second is fakery. Some people are convinced that they have been healed by a magician or a healer, when, in fact, their trouble was psychosomatic. Some people are convinced that they have seen flying saucers or the Virgin Mary, when, in fact, they have simply deluded themselves in the face of some other natural phenomenon.

Fakery is a more common problem. We are all familiar with magic tricks performed by “magicians” (prestidigitators). Parlor magicians freely admit that they are doing tricks. The same kinds of tricks, however, have been used for millennia by shamans, witch doctors, court magicians, and religious quacks in order to fool people into trusting them.

Pharaoh’s court magicians were able to bring in staffs that “turned into snakes.” Aaron’s rod had actually become a snake by a miracle, but it is clear that Pharaoh’s magicians were simply performing a trick. (After all, if a magician can saw a woman in half, it is a simple matter to turn a staff into a snake.) When Aaron’s snake ate theirs, however, it was clear that a miracle was involved.

For decades, responsible Christian scientists have investigated miracles claimed by people in various branches of the visible church. Under investigation the so called “miracles” do not meet the biblical and historical definition of a miracle. We hear that a person has been raised from the dead. We find instead that someone had a heart attack and was “dead” for three minutes before paramedics revived him. Or worse, at times we find that a story is simply concocted or inflated by a “media evangelist” as a way to generate support from people who follow his “ministry.”

Under investigation, modern “miracles” invariably turn out to be misreported events or worse. God is not glorified in this. Our faith rests not on outward signs but on the Gospel’s objective truth. If you are interested in further study, begin with B.B. Warfield’s classic Counterfeit Miracles.