Do we believe in miracles?

When we read Biblical accounts of strange or impossible happenings we bring into that reading our own beliefs and expectations.  Someone who is naturally a skeptic will interpret miracles through a lens of skepticism.  Likewise, a person who wants to believe will readily accept miracles at face value.  Neither position determines the reality of the miracle itself.

Events such as the burning bush, the various plagues that afflicted Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, manna in the desert, and the fall of Jericho are significant occurrences in the history of the people of the covenant.  Skeptics find means to explain these away as usually as natural phenomena, albeit sometimes abnormal natural phenomena, while eager believers declare these spectacular events as literal fact without any examination at all.

One such event of significance is the occasion of the sun and moon remaining fixed in the sky for an extended period allowing the people of the covenant to continue to slaughter their enemies which is found in Joshua chapter ten.  Though this may appear to be one more instance in the series of miracles listed above, this particular episode stands out as unique.

Unlike the miracles that preceded it, this miracle was astronomical in scale.  Whether describing the movement of the sun and moon or the movement of the earth, this event is clearly bigger in scale than earlier miracles.

Furthermore, as an astronomical event, this happening would have been witnessed not only by Israel and the enemies they slaughtered, but by the entire world.  This means that other cultures are likely to have some record of either a long day or long night depending on where in the world they were located, and in fact, myths do exist in various cultures (at least Greek, Maori, and Culhuacan as far as I know) concerning an extended day/night.

Whether or not these texts refer to the same event is debatable.  And here is the point of this mess of a post:  the path to understanding miracles is a knife’s edge.  One may easily fall into lifeless rationalization on one side or thoughtless acceptance on the other.

The historical-critical method is a tool to be used to increase our understanding of this reality in which we find ourselves.  Equally important to remember is that the historical-critical method is not the creator or definer of truth.

When we explain away all the unexplainable phenomena we encounter, we have not miracles.  If we accept every fantastical occurrence we encounter as fact, miracles become normative and cease to be miraculous.  Miracles only remain miracles in the balance.

For a longer, better, deeper look at Joshua 10:1-15, look here and here.

For a more thorough approach to miracles and the historical-critical method, check this out.


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