Miracles: What they are, why they happen,
and how they can change your life
Hodder & Stoughton £16.99
Times Bookshop £15.30
THOMAS JEFFERSON was so embarrassed by claims of the miraculous in
the Gospels that he edited a version of the Bible which removed
them altogether. Down the years, the notion of miracles has come
under steady fire. From one side, thinkers wedded to scientific
naturalism rule them out a priori. From another side, some
theologians ask whether the notion of God intervening from outside
implies a picture of God as an absentee landlord rather than the
One whose presence permeates all creation.
An early statement for the defence came from St
Augustine, whose nuanced definition saw miracles as "contrary to
what we know of nature". This was broadly the stance of C. S.
Lewis's 1947 book Miracles, which remains popular to this day. Our
approach to miracles is, of course, about more than miracles: it
reveals fundamental assumptions about God, how God engages with the
world, the nature of that world, and how we should pray.
Eric Metaxas is best known as author of a bestselling
biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He now aims to do a C. S. Lewis
for the 21st century, using miracles as a popular-level Christian
apologetic. The book is in two halves, the first a defence of
miracles. Here, Metaxas is insistent: God is "outside the system",
and the miraculous is God "reaching in" from "out there". He
includes an overview of recent scientific research on the origins
of life and the universe, showing what a miracle it is that we are
here at all.
The second half comprises stories of more homely
miracles drawn from the author's circle of friends. These range
from the frankly unremarkable (a family with an orphaned squirrel
finding a lady who looks after squirrels) to the genuinely
astonishing (the angelic rescue of a girl falling from a bridge).
Most of the stories are inspiring and faith-building. But Metaxas
never really engages with the harder questions: Why would God help
me find my car keys, while apparently allowing cancer and genocide?
What about claims for miracles in other faiths? If we claim God
"shows up" in a miracle or time of worship, where is he the rest of
One of the book's more remarkable stories happens at
a Miracle Crusade of the controversial televangelist Benny Hinn. If
Metaxas manages to arouse in Church Times readers a fresh sympathy
for the ministry of Benny Hinn, now that really would be a
The Revd Mike Starkey is a tutor for Church Army
and a freelance writer.