One of the hallmarks of the final days, as noted by Scripture, is a horrifying level of unbelief.
Jesus said it Himself:
“Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
—Luke 18:8b ESV
The end of all things depicted in the Book of Revelation shows that even when all of the earth is afflicted by the outcomes of supernatural wrath, mankind refuses to believe:
The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
—Revelation 9:20-21 ESV
There are some today who want to cast aspersions on the Kingdom of God and its many miraculous components, and they want to question how the Holy Spirit works in believers. Oddly, many doing so call themselves Christians. Though they claim to abide by the authority of Scripture and not by personal experience, they regularly challenge the miraculous in the Bible’s pages by asking where all the miracles are today. And they ask why those Christians who still believe in the miracles that are the hallmark of the Kingdom can’t always manufacture those miracles when such is demanded.
These naysayers like to point fingers at the ones who still have faith that supernatural works can occur through the ministrations of simple believers filled with God’s Holy Spirit. When a miracle does not happen, the naysayers often mock those who still believe in the miraculous.
But what the naysayers never take into account is the power of unbelief within a community. They do not ask how it is possible for the Revelation passage above to be true, that despite all the unrepentant have seen and experienced, the recipients of unprecedented levels of supernatural wrath remain in the grips of the powerful delusion that is unbelief.
We turn to the authority of Scripture to explain what happens when an entire community is gripped by unbelief:
[Jesus] went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. —Mark 6:1-5 ESV
Jesus, the Son of Man, who was filled in all His being by the Holy Spirit, who was the sinless Messiah and Alpha and Omega, could do no mighty work in a community filled with unbelief.
When we consider the times we live in and the supposed paucity of miracles we see, do we ever ask if the reason for the lack of the miraculous is because the community around us is mired in unbelief?
Do we ask ourselves what a community of genuine belief can do when all unbelief has been thrown off?
Do we ever think that the miracle denied the faithful person is because everyone around that faithful person does not believe?
Or do we blame the faithful person?
Or worse, do we blame God?
The question of the miraculous today never takes into account the crippling power of unbelief, especially when multiplied throughout a community. And those who would question the miraculous never ask if their unbelief and the unbelief of those they gather around them is what stands in the way of miracles.
9 thoughts on “The State of the Miraculous in a World of Unbelief”
I want to add this as an illustration of how Jesus handled those who do not believe in miracles:
What did Jesus do?
He took with Him His disciples who were most likely to believe.
He sent the mockers away.
Then He raised the dead.
I’m glad I read this today. Thank you.
You’re welcome, Julie. Be blessed.
Thank you for the reminder! I’ve been thinking the same thoughts lately. We just do not know nor understand the power of belief/unbelief. That it is not just within us as individuals is evident in the passage you reference. It explains a lot. May we say Lord I believe, help my unbelief! James speaks of the danger of doubt when we pray, oh what an insidious battle we must fight. What God knows vs what we think we ‘know’.
In the Christian faith, the answer to the question of Why? is always deeper and more complex than many of us are willing to tackle. Sometimes it leads to greater faith, and sometimes it leads away.
I think of stories in the OT like the story about Saul. He broke faith with God the Bible says when he did not obey God, and he sought the guidance of mediums in preference to seeking God’s guidance. Saul’s kingdom was removed from him and given to David, a man after God’s own heart.
Many people today are seeking the guidance and following the practices of ungodliness. They reject the teaching of Jesus in large part as these teachings apply to their daily everyday lives. There is mental and verbal consent and agreement with the teachings of Jesus but they are not applied into lives. It’s considered ‘old fashioned’. What’s new? New Age guidance. The world’s beliefs, etc. are received and applied in many believers’ lives.
Can we really question that there seems to be little of the miraculous in our lives and churches when we turn from God and embrace lies? On top of this there is little if any teaching going on in ministries and churches that address these issues squarely on. We don’t want to ‘offend’ anyone.
More than New Age belief, I think the problem in the West is a combo of the remnants of the Enlightenment and pure scientific rationalism. The people laughing (as in the Mark 5 passage in my comments above) are in the grips of those two anti-faith systems, even if they claim to be Christians. This is only worsened when those who claim to be Christians simply do not believe what the Bible says, then they try to use the Bible to make excuses for not believing it. I know their kind of recursive logic makes no sense, but there you have it.
This is not to say that New Age errors don’t afflict people who claim to be Christians. If anything, the charismatic movement is loaded with folks spouting modified New Age nonsense, and that’s one of the main reasons that aforementioned conference happened. Yes, a purge of the bad teachers needs to occur, but not because of a call to do so from those who don’t even believe in the charismata anymore, but from within the charismatic movement’s own house.
I have been saying this for years regarding error in the Church: Each sect needs to start by cleaning its own house and stop pointing out the other houses’ problems. The mark of maturity is (like the elder men who dropped their stones first in John 8) to acknowledge one’s own failings first, fix them, then return to a position of righteous rebuke. Get the log out of your own eye first, then pick the speck out of your brother’s.
How is it that we cannot do this?! Oh, I know: pride.
If we have revival, let humility be the primary mark of it!
Let me add this:
I am a charismatic. I fully support the contemporary operation of the gifts of the Spirit.
I also believe that Jesus was fully man and fully God at all times. (Sadly, not all charismatics believe this.)
I believe that when He was incarnate, Jesus was still fully man and fully God, but the Scripture that speaks of Him “emptying Himself” meant (in part) that He chose not to work miracles through His nature as God but instead performed them as a fully Spirit-filled man. He did not stop being God; that’s an old heresy. However, as our model, as our brother, and as the Second Adam, He chose to operate from the Spirit. This is why He says that it is possible for us to do even greater works than He did; if He had done those works out of His divine nature instead, this would not be possible. Nor would His addendum “because I am going to the Father” makes sense unless that was in reference to the Spirit coming to empower men and women.
How people understand out of which nature Jesus did His miracles will largely determine whether they believe the gifts are still for today and that Spirit-filled people can do miracles by that same Spirit. If a person believes Jesus did His miracles out of His divine nature, then I believe that person is much more likely to be a cessationist and to dismiss the modern operation of the gifts.
In this case, one’s Christology most likely determines one’s pneumatology (and vice versa).
Good, thought-provoking post, Dan. I’ve often thought about unbelief, but never from the point of view of a community of unbelief. Interesting indeed.