Faith: Belief without evidence in what
is told by one who speaks without knowledge,
of things without parallel. -Ambrose Bierce
I remember as a child when I believed in Santa Clause. At some point, I began go wonder. How can he bring presents to so many children in one night? How does he carry such a great load? How does he get into homes without chimneys? I recall the pride I felt when I told my parents I figured out Santa was them. (Interesting tidbit: Santa and Satan are spelled with the same letters.)
The pattern repeated itself with God. In my teens, I turned agnostic. I was bothered about the similarities with the Santa myth-Jesus knows when you are bad or good, so be good for heavens sake. So again, I began asking questions.
No one could give me satisfactory answers; the faith answer is equivalent to saying, "I don't know." How could a book written 2,000 years ago be up to date with modern knowledge? When I studied different religions, they seemed too similar. When I read the gospels, I wondered how the writers could report private conversations with such detail. The answer came in my early twenties, when I found out that the gospels were written from several decades of oral tradition. What else could it add up to except that the Bible was untrue? What an incredible relief it was to have my life back.
This report is limited to Jesus' performed miracles, but by extension they apply to all miracles, notably his resurrection. To an impressionable mind, anything is possible; but common experience and scientific evidence says humans are constrained by the forces of nature. Believers should not be impressed by Jesus' amazing feats, they should be skeptical. The capacity of humans to misperceive Nature is in direct opposition to the inability of Nature to change to fit human perception.
From the human perspective, if there is a flaw in Nature, perhaps it is because it is not human. It has no values. It is stingy and secretive. It can be terribly harsh and destructive. It is infinitely complex and seems to pick its victims randomly. And worst of all, it kills everything in its own way in its own time. Ultimately, it is omnipresent and omnipotent-it can't be disobeyed. Religion gives it a human face, but it is a mirage.
If there is one thing that should be self-evident about our modern society, it is that salvation comes by learning how Nature works and by applying that knowledge to practical benefit. Nature does not reward ignorance or faith.
The propaganda value of miracles is meant to show that through faith, anything is possible; faith can harness God's power. These examples below represent a sampling of Jesus' stress on prayer and faith.
Jesus answered them, "Truly, I say to
you, if you have faith and never doubt, you will not only do what has
been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be
taken up and cast into the sea,' it will be done.
22And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith." (Matt. 21:21-22)
26But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matt. 19:26)
23And Jesus said to him, "If you can! All things are possible to him who believes." (Mark 9:23)
Conversely, Jesus wouldn't do mighty works for unbelievers.
58And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. (Matt. 13:58)
I'm going to give one dramatic example of what an insidious lie this is. The information quoted below comes from "The Black Death" by Philip Ziegler. The plague came at a time when Catholicism was at the height of its popularity and played a part in weakening its credibility.
One third of England's population died between the years 1347 and 1350, and over one thousand villages were deserted, never to be repopulated. In towns and cities the cemeteries were unable to provide space for all the dead, and violence and crime spiraled. . In the countryside the population was halved in places..
It is reasonable to assume that something close to 45% of all parish priests died.
As a rough and ready rule-of-thumb, therefore the statement that a third of the population died of the Black Death should not be too misleading.
The situation of medicine was not helped by the stern determination of the medieval churchmen to keep the physician in his place.
In the sick room it was the priest who took the lead and the doctor who humbly offered his services once the praying was over. [This accounts for why more clergy died than the population at large.]
Medieval man in 1350 and 1351 believed without question that the Black Death was God's punishment for his wickedness.
This is not to blame the Church for the Black Death or imply that doctors were any more knowledgeable of the cause of the disease, but to illustrate the futility of healing through faith.
Medieval man had reason for believing that the Black Death was God's punishment for wickedness. That belief came from the passage below and was implied by Jesus' healing miracles.
2122 (Deut. 28:21-22)
Religious beliefs also proved to be a source of resistance against medical advances. King Asa is said to have died because he sought physicians and not God.
1213 (2 Chron. 16:12-13)
In Job's time, physicians were somewhat worthless, but this prejudice extended through Medieval Times, as mentioned above.
Jesus uses "physician" as a metaphor for himself as a spiritual healer.
17And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:17)
James stresses sin as the cause of sickness. The prayers of a righteous man can have powerful effects.
any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let
them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;
15and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
16Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects. (James 5:14-16)
Most of the time, our bodies heal themselves. So when shamans gave their chants or when priests said prayers, it would appear as if their magic worked. Some ailments are psychosomatic or caused by stress. Thus, the placebo effect can work as well with sugar pills or by prayer. It was easy for shamans and priests to take credit for "their" cures or blame sin for the minority of their failures.
The report, Messianic Prophecies, demonstrates that the gospel writers' definition of prophecy is so primitive that a modern would not suspect that, regardless of context, any statement in the OT which fit their preconception, qualified as a prophecy. If those statements were true predictions, i.e. they forecast dates, event and person; they surely would have been miraculous. Instead they were as worthless as the little tags in fortune cookies.
By the same logic, two OT prophets stand out as miracle workers: Elijah and Elisha. The gospel writers were so inspired by God that they copied some of Elijah's and Elisha's feats and embellished the rest.
Elijah made fire come down from heaven to consume fifty men.
12(2 Kings 1:12)
Elijah parted the Jordan River so he and Elisha could cross over.
8(2 Kings 2:8)
Elijah ascended to heaven. Jesus was not the first.
11(2 Kings 2:11)
After Elisha threw some salt in the spring that supplies Jericho, it protected against death and miscarriage.
21(2 Kings 2:21)
In 2 Kings 4:8-37, a woman couldn't get pregnant because her husband was too old. Elisha told her when she would conceive a son, and she did.
16(2 Kings 4:16)
Elisha brought this same child back to life after he died. So here we have an unknown child who was conceived and resurrected by divine intervention as Jesus was.
35 (2 Kings 4:32-35)
Like Elisha, Matthew 9:23-25 has Jesus resurrecting a young girl. In John 11:1-44, Jesus brought Lazarus back to life. So we have three cases of resurrection prior to Jesus'. What this shows is that Jesus' resurrection does not automatically make him a God.
The story that inspired the writing of Jesus' feeding thousands of people (Matt. 14:15; 15:32) was when Elisha took twenty loaves of barley and a sack of grain, and made it feed a hundred men.
44 (2 Kings 4:42-44)
2 Kings 4:1-7 tells us Elisha took a jar of oil and made it fill many vessels. The idea is similar to when Jesus turned a few pieces of fish and bread into enough to feed 5,000 people.
In 2 Kings 4:38-41, Elisha neutralized a poisonous stew. Mark 16:16-18, Jesus told his disciples that through faith, poisonous snake bites won't hurt them.
these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast
out demons; they will speak in new tongues;
18they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." (Mark 16:16-18)
The Book of Acts
The writer of Acts goes to great lengths to show God's favor toward Peter and Paul with fantastic stories of their miraculous healing powers. Throughout Paul's letters, he doesn't say a word about such powers by him, Peter, or Jesus. By some estimates, Acts was written some forty years after the epistles.
Peter cured a paralytic.
he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years and
34And Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed." And immediately he rose. (Acts 9:33-34)
Paul heals a cripple who could not walk since birth.
Lystra there was a man sitting, who could
not use his feet; he was a cripple from birth, who had never walked.
9He listened to Paul speaking; and Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well,
10said in a loud voice, "Stand upright on your feet." And he sprang up and walked. (Acts 14:9-10)
Paul draws out the spirit of divination from a soothsayer.
were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a
spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by soothsaying.
17She followed Paul and us, crying, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation."
18And this she did for many days. But Paul was annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, "I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And it came out that very hour.(Acts 16:16-18)
When Paul and Silas were in prison, an earthquake opens their doors and unfastens their chains.
about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and
the prisoners were listening to them,
26and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and every one's fetters were unfastened. (Acts 16:25-26)
Paul's miraculous powers were so strong that handkerchiefs that touched him could be carried to the sick and take away their diseases and evil spirits. When some Jewish imitators tried exorcising in Jesus' name, the evil spirit overpowered them, so that they fled out of the house naked and wounded.
God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul,
12so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.
13Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches."
14Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this.
15But the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?"
16And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, mastered all of them, and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. (Acts 19:11-16)
Despite Acts' portrayal of Paul as a miracle worker, in the passage below Paul practically chastises such a notion.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and a folly to Gentiles.
Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,
23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, (1 Cor. 1:22-23)
Faith and healing
There is a Christian sect called The First Church of Christ, Scientist or better known as Christian Scientists. (Now there is an oxymoron: Christian and Scientists. There is nothing scientific about faith healing.) Their founder, Mary Baker Eddy, in her book, "Science and Health," states on the first page, "The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God." Many times Christian Scientist parents have gotten into legal trouble for denying their children medical treatment over preventable deaths. Let's revue some cases of Jesus' miraculous healings.
Your faith has made you well-Jesus stresses this throughout his miracles.
22Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." (Matt. 9:22)
22And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith." (Matt. 21:22)
34And he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease." (Mark 5:34)
52And Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10:52)
Jesus heals leprosy by touching the leper and saying "I will be clean."
behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, if you
will, you can make me clean."
3And he stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (Matt. 8:2-3)
When lepers are declared unclean, it means they are not approved by God.
He heals a paralytic by forgiving his sins and saying "Rise, take up your bed and go home." The implication is that his sins were the cause of his paralyses.
behold, they brought to him a paralytic, lying on his bed; and when
Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic,
"Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven."
6.he then said to the paralytic-"Rise, take up your bed and go home."
7And he rose and went home. (Matt. 9:1, 2, 7)
He heals a woman who has been hemorrhaging for twelve years. It sounds like menopausal bleeding.
behold, a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came
up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment;
21for she said to herself, "If I only touch his garment, I shall be made well."
22Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." And instantly the woman was made well. (Matt. 9:20-22)
If Jesus can calm down a storm by rebuking it, who is to say that he can't create hurricanes with a little encouragement. This is as silly as witch doctors doing rain dances.
when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him.
24And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.
25And they went and woke him, saying, "Save, Lord; we are perishing."
26And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?" Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.
27And the men marveled, saying, "What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?" (Matt. 8:23-27)
Ladies and gentlemen, this demon stuff has been replaced by medical science. If there are believers reading this who doubt me, I dare you, the next time you get sick, to go to a priest or an exorcist instead of a doctor. Or try praying like the Christian Scientists do.
Jesus sent the demons from two men into a herd of swine. The herd rushed into the sea and perished in the waters.
when he came to the other side, to the country of the
Gadarenes, two demoniacs met him, coming out
of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way.
29And behold, they cried out, "What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?"
30Now a herd of many swine was feeding at some distance from them.
31And the demons begged him, "If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of swine."
32And he said to them, "Go." So they came out and went into the swine; and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and perished in the waters.
33And when the demon had been cast out, the dumb man spoke; and the crowds marveled, saying, "Never was anything like this seen in Israel." (Matt. 8:28-33)
Through faith, Jesus cured the daughter of a Canaanite woman. He would not help her at first because she was not Jewish.
behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, "Have
mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by
23But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying after us."
24He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
25But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me."
26And he answered, "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs."
27She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."
28Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matt. 15:22-28)
Jesus rebuked the demon in an epileptic man until it came out of him.
when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and kneeling before
15"Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.
16And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him."
17And Jesus answered, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me."
18And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. (Matt. 17:14-18)
The girl is dead, but Jesus tells her that her faith will bring her back to life. A corpse with faith?
turned, and seeing her he said, "Take
heart, daughter; your faith has made you well."
And instantly the woman was made well.
23And when Jesus came to the ruler's house, and saw the flute players, and the crowd making a tumult,
24he said, "Depart; for the girl is not dead but sleeping." (Matt. 9:22-23)
Jesus brought a widow's son back to life.
drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a
man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and
she was a widow; and a large crowd from the city was with her.
13And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep."
14And he came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise."
15And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother. (Luke 7:12-15)
Lazarus had been dead for four days when Jesus raised him from the dead. Note verse 44; his body was wrapped in bandages. Jews certainly don't wrap their dead in bandages. Lazarus was a mummy! This tale came from an Egyptian source.
said, "Take away the stone."
Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to
him, "Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead
41So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out."
44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." (John 11:38-44)
Jesus feeds 5,000 with five loaves and two fish, and had twelve baskets left over.
it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a lonely
place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the
villages and buy food for themselves."
16Jesus said, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat."
17They said to him, "We have only five loaves here and two fish."
18And he said, "Bring them here to me."
19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.
20And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.
21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matt. 14:15-21)
Jesus feeds 4,000 with seven loaves and a few fish, and had seven baskets left over.
Jesus called his disciples to him and said,
"I have compassion on the crowd, because they
have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat; and I am
unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way."
33And the disciples said to him, "Where are we to get bread enough in the desert to feed so great a crowd?"
34And Jesus said to them, "How many loaves have you?" They said, "Seven, and a few small fish."
35And commanding the crowd to sit down on the ground,
36he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.
37And they all ate and were satisfied; and they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over.
38Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children (Matt. 15:32-38)
These two miracles can be explained astrologically. The sign of Virgo is represented by a woman carrying grain stalks in her hand-bread. Pisces is represented by two fish. There are five sectors between Virgo and Pisces. If we count Virgo and Pisces, they add up to seven.
Gospel Zodiac, breaks down the gospel of Matthew according to the motifs of the Zodiac. What this means is that the gospels are patterned after the one year cycle of the sun-Jesus is a sun hero. Thus, the sun is at its strongest in the spring and summer months. Of eighteen specific healing miracles, twelve of them occur in the spring when the sun is growing in strength, and four of them occur in Virgo, for a total of sixteen, when the sun is in the strongest half of the cycle. His healing began in Pisces and ended in Libra.
Allegorically, in the dark months between Scorpio and Aquarius, the sun didn't have enough strength to conquer the demons which represent darkness.
Walking on water
While we are on the topic of occultism, the story of Jesus walking on water has a precedent in the OT. I've underlined four things to note distance, wind, darkness and walking on the sea. See Jesus' Ghost.
he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other
side, while he dismissed the crowds.
23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
24but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them.
25And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.
26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" and they cried out for fear.
27But immediately he spoke to them, saying, "Take heart, it is I; have no fear."
28And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water."
29He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus;
30but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me."
31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "O man of little faith, why did you doubt?"
32And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. (Matt. 14:22-32)
The Hebrew translation for spirit, rauch, means "wind." Thus, Jesus' walking a long distance on the water at night when it was windy was inspired by Genesis 1:2. Darkness upon the face of the Deep and the Spirit or wind of God was moving over the face of the waters.
There are very few Christians stupid enough to risk their lives or their children's lives by trying to heal through faith and prayer. Conversely, there is no risk in believing in life after death. If they can't put their faith in relatively minor miracles, how to they expect to win the big one?
See also Sun Miracles