Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Is God a Genie?

I was surprised the other day to discover that in Richard Dawkins, in his video "the God Delusion" visits Lourdes and asks about the number of miracles which had occurred there.  He is told that there have been 67 confirmed miracles, and 2000 unexplainable scientific phenomena. This does not include people who are healed of things which could be explained by science, like depression or arthritis, etc. Rather than challenge the miracles, he points out that compared to the number of people visiting Lourdes for the past century this is not statistically impressive.

But I would argue that an average of more than one miracle/ month is pretty darn good!  None the less, this fits in with a greater trend that I have noticed.  That is that while there are thousands of documented miracles in the history of the Church, they are still not common.

I find this really interesting.  On the one hand, I regard the number and nature of the miracles, and their predominance within Catholicism as evidence of the truth of Catholicism.  But it is not insurmountable proof.  It is as though God wants people to have the real freedom to choose what to believe. But that's another train of thought all together.

I do think that what this should indicate to us Christians is that miracles are rare!  There are many Christians who believe in miracles, and that they will happen in answer to all or most of our prayers. But if you read the lives of the saints, it is important to note that not all of them performed miracles.  (At least not while alive) And those that did for the most part did not perform many.

In fact, even Jesus points this out! "I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosyg in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:25-27) (jesus point was different from mine, but it still illustrates what I am talking about.)

 There were many widows....  And "That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases." Mark 1:32-34.  Many?

Maybe Christians do ourselves a disservice by expecting God to perform miracles when it has always been rare. I think many Christians believe in a God who is like a Genie, who has ultimatre power but is just there to serve our needs.  And I think the athiest apologists are right to argue that such a God does not exist-  or at least the whatever miracles there are in Christianity they remain statistically irrelevant.

But the challenge to this is where Jesus says "Whatever you ask for in my name will be granted you".

  I suppose we have to ask; What it even means to ask for something in Jesus name?  Does it really mean just tacking on "in Jesus name" to the end of a prayer?  If someone went to my wife and asked for something in my name, but it was inconsistent with what she knew I wanted, would she grant it?  In fact, no one would do that unless they were authorized by me and in union with my will.
I suspect that therein lies the answer.  I suspect that the saints who were able to perform miracles had achieved a level of sanctity, of union of will with God, that they could actually ask for things in Jesus name.  As for the rest of us, perhaps we should seek first the kingdom, and all these other things will be added.