Atheist Objection: Miracles Are Not Possible

For those who do not believe that the New Testament is a valid narrative of true events, the miracles of Jesus remain a primary objection. The following arguments are addressed in this article:

  • “The Miracles Of Jesus Are Fabricated”
  • “Miracles Violate The Physical Laws”
  • “Why Don’t Believers Perform Miracles Today?”

Argument 1: “The Miracles Of Jesus Are Fabrications”

When critics of the Bible read the text of the New Testament which describes the miracles that Jesus performed, they often state that the inclusion of these miracles are good reason to conclude that the New Testament is not reliable.

  1. Miracles were predicted by the Hebrew prophets of the Old Testament to validate the identity of the Messiah when He arrives on earth. See The Prophecies Of The Messiah
  2. The miracles that Jesus performed, as described in the New Testament, match these predictions. See The Messianic Prophecy Bible
  3. No other person in the history of the world has been recorded as performing all of the miracles that were predicted for the Messiah, except Jesus.
  4. This defines Jesus as the only true Messiah.

One of the first principles that any student of the Bible learns is that God chose prophecy as the method of validation, whereby the reader could prove that He is the author of the text. It was by predictive and fulfilled prophecy that God told the people of Israel that they would be able to validate whether the prophets of their time, were really speaking the words of God.

Very often when a prophet would make a prediction that he said was from God, this prophecy would have a near application to the people he was writing to. Some of the prophets predictions were for a future generation. Many were applicable to the final generation of earth, just before the Messiah would return a second time to to establish His kingdom.

If the prophet wrote a prediction that must be fulfilled during the time in which he was living, it was very easy to validate whether this prophet had told the truth and was speaking for God. If the prophecy failed, the prophet was stoned to death and all of his words were deleted from the Hebrew scriptures.

If the earlier prophecies of these men was fulfilled just as he had written, the people had confidence that what these men predicted for the later days, would also come to pass. This is especially true for the 400 Prophecies of the Messiah

The Guidelines For All Prophecy is In The Book Of Deuteronomy, Chapter 18

First, Moses begins by a predicting that a “Prophet like Himself,” will come into the world, who is the Messiah (verses 15-19). Moses instructs a future generation to watch for this man, test Him by the words of the prophets to see if He fulfills the words of the prophets by performing miracles to prove His identity.

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ 17 “And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. ~Deuteronomy 18:15-19

Second, Moses tells the people of Israel how they can tell the difference between a false Prophet and one that is from God, in verses 20-22.

20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. ~Deuteronomy 18:20-22

When John the Baptist starts his ministry at the Jordan river, the Pharisees come to ask him if he is “That Prophet” that Moses described. These leaders of Israel want to know if John the Baptist is the Messiah. John tells them “No, one who comes after me,” He will be the Messiah. When Jesus begins to perform the miracles described by the prophets, He is asked by the Pharisees and leaders of Israel, “Are you that prophet Moses predicted, the Messiah?” Jesus answers, “I AM.”

But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus said, “I AM. ~Mark 14:61-62 (NLT)

This is an interesting answer from Jesus because He not only affirms that He is the Messiah, but also, He uses the eternal name for God: “I AM,” (ἐγώ egō; εἰμί eimi) to define His true identity. The Greek terms: ego-eimi, means, “the self-existent One,” who has always lived. Jesus is saying that He is both God and Messiah, and He has always existed.

John The Baptist And Jesus’ Identity As Messiah

When John was arrested by Herod and sentenced to death, He began to have doubts about whether Jesus really was the Messiah. He sent word to Jesus through one of John’s disciples to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah whom the Prophets foretold.

Jesus’ response tells us a great deal about His identity:

And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”  ~Matthew 11:2-5

Jesus was reminding John that the Messiah would perform miracles as a ministry of healing to validate His identity. John should know that Jesus is the Messiah because He is performing miracles exactly as the Messiah was predicted to accomplish. This is what the prophet Isaiah predicted for Messiah:

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert.  ~Isaiah 35:5-6

When we examine the narratives about Jesus we find that Matthew wrote that Jesus performed these miracles, exactly as Isaiah had written 700 years before Jesus came to earth. The facts are, the Old Testament scriptures predicted that the Messiah would perform miracles as proof that He is God. Jesus was simply performing what had been written for Him.

We have, not only the testimony of men who saw Jesus perform miracles, but also the prophets of the Old Testament who said that the Messiah would perform miracles.

These prophets had been told by God to write prophecies for the Messiah that would describe Him as, opening the eyes of the blind, opening the ears of the deaf, the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing, as we find in Isaiah 35:5-6. When we examine the text of the New Testament, we see Jesus doing precisely what Isaiah wrote. These men had written their predictions hundreds of years before Jesus arrived.

Although the prophets wrote and described what Messiah would do, they did not understand all that they were recording.

This salvation was something the prophets did not fully understand. Though they wrote about it, they had many questions as to what it all could mean. They wondered what the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about, for he told them to write down the events which, since then, have happened to Christ: his suffering, and his great glory afterwards. And they wondered when and to whom all this would happen. They were finally told that these things would not occur during their lifetime, but long years later, during yours.  ~1 Peter 1:10-12 (TLB)

Where Is The Evidence?

According to critics of the New Testament, the miracles which Jesus performed never actually happened. They base these opinions upon their view as atheists that God doesn’t exist and miracles are not possible.

Whether we use the 24,593 surviving manuscript copies of the New Testament, or 5,800 Greek Manuscripts, these are only surviving copies. It is highly likely that there were tens of thousands of additional copies of the New Testament letters that were also penned, which did not survive time and decay. This is a matter of basic logic; if 25,000 survived 1,800 years, there must have many times this number to start with.

Papyrus autographs (originals) found in Egypt, have survived up to 3,700 years due to the dry climate in Egypt. In antiquity, Egypt exported papyrus writing materials all over the world. In these other locations outside Egypt, original autographs written on papyrus rarely survived for more than 2-300 years. The practice of copying original manuscripts was quite common, especially amongst early Christians due to their desire to spread word of Jesus all over the world. Understanding that in P46 (and others), we have good copies of entire letters of the New Testament from before 225, this is sufficient evidence that the original autographs were written not long after the events took place.

Jesus told the disciples that He would “bring to their remembrance” all things He said and did, and that they were “witnesses” of these things. Then He told them to take what they saw and heard and send it to the whole world, which is precisely what history shows they did. The appearance of the Codex before the end of 100, was used exclusively by Christians. This allows us to understand that the disciples were writing the events of Jesus on papyrus not long after the events took place.

These things being understood, we have a reliable narrative of what took place during the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This is evidence. It survives history. It states that Jesus existed, claimed to be God, performed miracles to validate His claim to be God and fulfills the Old Testament prophecies for Messiah. These surviving manuscripts prove that Jesus was was crucified, and rose from the dead on the third day, because eyewitnesses said they saw Jesus alive afterwards. These events were predicted for the Messiah by the Hebrew prophets.

We have the historical record of the Christian church that demonstrated that by 350 A.D., the number of Christians in the world had grown exponentially to 33,882,208, or 56.5 percent of the population of the world.⁠[1] If the resurrection did not take place as the four gospels describe, then how do we explain the explosive growth of the Christian church to over 33 million believers and 56 percent of the world’s population, just 300 years after the resurrection was first reported?

This massive growth in the numbers of people who believed in Jesus was due to the message by the eyewitnesses that Jesus had risen from the dead and fulfilled over 400 Old Testament prophecies, in 25 of 27 of the New Testament letters. Christians have the best documented and proven events in the history of the world in the historical record. We have not only the trustworthy narratives of the New Testament, but the history of the world that was turned upside-down and changed significantly, because Jesus died and rose from the dead.

Who Do You Trust?

The atheist and critic says that these things didn’t happen. The 24,593 surviving manuscripts says these events did happen. Since these critics weren’t there and the men who wrote these things, were there—I believe them—not those today who think they know more than the witnesses who saw these events..

Rejecting the narratives of Jesus because they contain descriptions of miracles for Jesus, is not a valid argument. The men who wrote that Jesus performed these miracles, even though they saw Him do these things, did not believe in Him at first. It was not until after Jesus was raised—as He had predicted—as the Hebrew Prophets predicted, that they believed. These writers of the N/T said that they remembered, later, all that the prophets had written about Messiah, and that Jesus had done precisely what these prophets said the Messiah would do. It was upon this realization that they penned the words which resulted in the documents we have today. These men state repeatedly throughout the N/T that they saw these things with their eyes, heard them and are witnesses of these events.

After Jesus was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said. ~John 2:22 (NLT)

This is sufficient evidence (and there are many others) for any intelligent person to believe the New Testament is true.

It’s important to understand that there is no empirical evidence to support the idea that what is written about Jesus in the New Testament is not true. There is no proof that anyone fabricated the narratives of the four gospels which describe Jesus as performing miracles, or His claim to be God. These conclusions are based primarily upon the opinions of non-believers, most of which are either agnostics or atheists.

Because these pundits don’t believe God exists, they assert that the writers of the New Testament made up their stories about Jesus. This is the basis from where they conclude that He cannot be God, nor capable of the miracles that are ascribed to Him in the New Testament.

Argument 2: “The Miracles Of Jesus Violated The Physical Laws Of The Universe”

Regarding the miracles of Jesus that are presented in the four Gospels, the primary point of contention for critics is that they violate the laws of nature and are therefore impossible. By their very nature, miracles require a procedure that makes use of a physical law in a manner that we are, as yet, unaware.

The idea that Jesus violated these physical laws is based upon the assumption that we fully know and understand the operation of these physical laws, and of course, we do not.

What is often misunderstood regarding the miracles that Jesus exhibited is that they really did not violate any law. The physical laws of the universe do not define the outcome of events, only they manner in which they must occur.

People have problems with the miracles that Jesus performed because human beings cannot do these things. Not many of us have ever seen something happen supernaturally, in opposition to the normal laws of physics.

What we don’t realize is that science does not know all there is about the physical laws which govern the universe.

What Jesus did, which we consider supernatural, were really just natural events that God is capable of because He created these laws.

The universe itself is a miracle because it began suddenly when nothing existed prior to its singularity. Although science continues to struggle in explaining how the universe suddenly appeared out of nothing, all of the alternative explanations do not result from provable science. These theories result from mathematical calculations that conclude that other universes are possible and our universe may have come from one of these other universes.

The problem with these ideas is that they are not provable or observable. What is provable and observable science is that the universe began suddenly, when nothing existed prior. No matter. No space to put matter in. No time to mark its duration. No laws to govern or define its process. No gravity to control its development. Everything started perfectly in one millionth, of one millionth, of one millionth, of one millionth, of a second (planck time).

There are nearly 2,000 fine tuned constants that were precisely set at one Zeptosecond of the universe at its commencement, and continued for 13.799 billion years. Fine tuned constants cannot occur by accident or through any natural process because they must be set precisely the first time. These constants required for life on earth, were precisely set the first time. Had they been altered by 1 and 10 duodecillion, human life on earth would never have taken place. This defines these precise physical constants as purposeful, planned, and executed by an intelligent Being.

See The ArticleHow God Created The Universe: Science And The Bible In Symmetry

Argument 3: “Why Don’t Believers Also Perform Miracles Today?’

We might wonder why the atheist or critic would ask such a question. The reason for this inquiry is because of what Jesus said in the New Testament: “These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe.

There are two instructions concerning miracles that Jesus gave to His followers in the New Testament: First, promises to the followers of Jesus who first saw Him and those who heard about Jesus from eyewitnesses; Second, to the followers of Jesus throughout all the ages after the New Testament was assembled.

To people who either saw Jesus crucified and risen, or heard about these things from eyewitnesses, Jesus enabled these persons the ability to perform miracles that would validate their claims about Jesus:

These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.” ~Mark 16:17-18 (NLT)

The reason that it was necessary for early believers to have the power of miracles, was because the New Testament had not been written at that time. There was no historical record of the events that took place. There were no revelation as to how Jesus had fulfilled the 400 prophecies of the Messiah. There as no record of the miracles, crucifixion or resurrection of Jesus immediately after these events took place.

For this reason, in order to prove that Jesus was the Messiah; He was crucified and resurrected from the dead, the early followers of Jesus were able to validate their claims about Jesus by performing the same miracles that Jesus had performed.

To the believers who live on earth today, we have the entire New Testament record. We have the testimony of those who said that they “saw” Jesus perform the miracles described in the New Testament. The writers of these narratives said that they “saw” Jesus crucified and then risen three days later. There is a testimony in the Book of Acts that over 500 people saw Jesus alive at one time.

(John) “We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. ~1 John 1:1-3 (NLT)

(Peter) “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. ~Acts 2:22,32 (NLT)

Paul often takes the reader through many Old Testament scriptures for the Messiah, and applies them to Jesus, using His miracles as proof:

(Paul) “And now we are here to bring you this Good News. The promise was made to our ancestors, and God has now fulfilled it for us, their descendants, by raising Jesus. This is what the second psalm says about Jesus:

‘You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.’ (Paul quotes from ~Psalms 2:7)

For God had promised to raise him from the dead, not leaving him to rot in the grave. He said, ‘I will give you the sacred blessings I promised to David.’ Another psalm explains it more fully:

‘You will not allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.’ (Paul quotes Psalms 16:10)

This is not a reference to David, for after David had done the will of God in his own generation, he died and was buried with his ancestors, and his body decayed. No, it was a reference to someone else—someone whom God raised and whose body did not decay. “Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. ~Acts 13:32-38 (NLT)

Paul said that David is not writing this scripture about himself, he is describing the Messiah. Then Paul applies the Messianic Psalms, 2:7 and 16:10, to Jesus because these prophecies were written for Him. The miracles that Jesus performed should not come as a surprise to anyone who has studied the Bible. They were predicted for Messiah and the fact that Jesus was able to perform these miracles, is evidence that He is the Messiah.

Because we can read these things in our Bible today to prove who Jesus is, we don’t need the power of miracles. In this modern world we live in, people who do not want to believe what the Bible says, do not believe any evidence that is presented to them. I know this is true because I have been presenting evidence to atheists for over 40 years. They are not convinced by evidence because their problem is not intellectual, it is spiritual. They choose not to believe and this determination prevents them from seeing anything that is contrary to their firm opposition to God.

The Greatest Miracle, We Can Perform Today

For this reason, Christians do not need miracles of healing to validate the claims of Jesus. We can offer people what Jesus described as, “even a greater miracle.”

To tell someone about Jesus and lead them to receive Christ as their Savior, these people receive the greatest miracle in the history if the world: forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. ~John 14:12 (NLT)

From God’s viewpoint, the greatest miracles that occurs on earth is when a lost sinner finds salvation in Jesus Christ. If we heal a person of blindness or make them walk again, they will still die in their sins without Christ and be lost for eternity. If we can lead them to Jesus and they are saved, they may remain blind or handicapped while on earth, but at their death, they will enter into an eternal life where they will be perfect in every way and never die. This is the greatest miracle.

Jesus said that those who believe in Him will do the same works of leading people into salvation that He came to do. We will even do greater works than Jesus because we can lead many more to salvation than He was able to accomplish during his limited time on earth. This is “the greater works,” that Christians perform today.

I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. ~John 5:24 (NLT)


NOTES:

[1] Stark, Rodney (9 May 1997). The Rise of Christianity. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-067701-5.

 



Categories: Agnostics and Skeptics, Common objections by Atheists, Empirical Evidence for God, How Salvation Occurs, Jesus is God, Jesus is the Messiah, Messianic Prophecies, Messianic Prophecy Bible, New Testament Criticism, Origin of the Universe, Physical Constants, Reliability of the New Testament, Robert Clifton Robinson, Science and the Bible, The Existence of God, The Historical Jesus

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