Miracles, Providence, and Healing

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davenporter

Puritan Board Freshman
I have a question regarding a few things as I have been learning more about the differences between ordinary providence and miracles. Also, different people may have different definitions of what a miracle is versus what a providence is, so please give your definition if it differs from mine, and feel free to correct my definitions if you think they are wrong. Also feel free to direct me to any online resources you think may be helpful to me.

(Ordinary) Providence: God's most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures and all their actions through visibly non-supernatural means.
Miracle: A special work of God through a visibly supernatural means. (Is a miracle necessarily a sign?)

1. As I am presently working through Jonah, I am interested in others' thoughts on whether God's providence of the great fish involved His usage of a miracle or whether it was all ordinary providence, especially regarding Jonah's survival for 3 days. Jesus said it was a sign, but I don't know that that necessarily implies it was a miracle.

2. Is it Biblically possible that in this present age someone may be physically healed of an ailment instantaneously upon being prayed for? My wife, whom I trust, claims this has happened to her. If God may act in such a way to heal someone like this, could that have truly happened and be an ordinary providence, since nothing visibly supernatural happened, but she experienced full and final relief from the pain? It certainly didn't function as a "sign" in any way attesting to anyones' "apostolicity" -- there was no magic involved, just a prayer to God.

Okay, I think those are enough questions. Feel free to dissect my post and correct all my faulty thinking. Just don't be mean about it! :p Thanks in advance!
 

rbcbob

Puritan Board Graduate
Your definition of providence is standard. Miracles, as I understand it, are God's sovereign suspending the normal order of His creation and working above and/or without means to bring something about.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
The bullet passing through a "defect" in that girl's brain in Aurora certainly points to divine intervention. Where we need caution is interpreting the significance of that intervention. God chose to save her life; in his providence, others died. We may only use what we already know from scripture to explain the event. I can't imagine how many sermons were preached the next Sunday that had some element such as: "by saving this girl, God was showing us (fill in the blank)."

Same with Jonah. First, we must interpret scripture with scripture: Jesus says that Jonah's time in the fish was a sign. That gives us insight into Jonah's experience -- it was not an every day experience that can be explained physically. (Even if we can demonstrate that a person might live in fish, that isn't the purpose Jesus gives for Jonah. It's not a guide about how to survive at sea.) We must also acknowledge where and how the event appears in scriptures. The prophets were pointing toward Jesus in both his first and second advent. Jesus often referred to how his life or work fulfilled what had earlier been given by the prophets. Since revelation is complete, the role of miracles to affirm a person's ability to speak God's word is also gone. But God still rules over his creation and will intervene where he sees fit.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Benjamin
1. As I am presently working through Jonah, I am interested in others' thoughts on whether God's providence of the great fish involved His usage of a miracle or whether it was all ordinary providence, especially regarding Jonah's survival for 3 days. Jesus said it was a sign, but I don't know that that necessarily implies it was a miracle.

2. Is it Biblically possible that in this present age someone may be physically healed of an ailment instantaneously upon being prayed for? My wife, whom I trust, claims this has happened to her. If God may act in such a way to heal someone like this, could that have truly happened and be an ordinary providence, since nothing visibly supernatural happened, but she experienced full and final relief from the pain? It certainly didn't function as a "sign" in any way attesting to anyones' "apostolicity" -- there was no magic involved, just a prayer to God.
I suppose you are saying that an apparently supernatural healing that may or may not have contradicted the laws of science, e.g. your wife's healing, may not yet count as a miracle, sign or wonder.

Yet paradoxically, an incident like the one of Jonah, which may well have not violated any natural laws, can yet be a miracle, sign or wonder.

This sounds like a valid and important distinction to make.

See e.g. the miracle of the clearing of the Red (or Reed) Sea of water in which God seems to have used wind.

The Lord doesn't have to "break" the physical laws of science for there to be a miracle, but maybe he has to "break" the laws of probability.

On the other hand sometimes he might break the laws of probability and/or physical science and yet it is hyperbole to class the result as a miracle.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Westminster Confession of Faith

Chapter V
Of Providence

I. God the great Creator of all things does uphold,[1] direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things,[2] from the greatest even to the least,[3] by His most wise and holy providence,[4] according to His infallible foreknowledge,[5] and the free and immutable counsel of His own will,[6] to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.[7]

II. Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly;[8] yet, by the same providence, He orders them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.[9]

III. God, in His ordinary providence, makes use of means,[10] yet is free to work without,[11] above,[12] and against them,[13] at His pleasure.
Paragraph III. is the Westminster Summary definition of miracles.
 
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