Craig Keener is a prolific writer and great scholar. Some of my favourites amongst his many titles are: Revelation: NIV Application Commentary, The Gospel of John (2 vols), The Historical Jesus of the Gospels and Gift Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today.
And just in time for Summer reading, Craig has authored the two-volume Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. He recently gave an interview to Christianity Today, It’s Okay to Expect a Miracle. Craig’s own story of coming to faith is fascinating as is the ministry that he and his wife are involved with. Here are a few of his responses:
“In your book, you use the phrase “supernatural causation,” but you seem uneasy with it. Is anything not supernaturally caused? What makes a miracle different in terms of God’s involvement in everything else he does, such as sunrises?
I felt I had to use the category of supernatural because, to address the questions as they exist in our culture, I needed to articulate it in terms that were at hand.
But the category of supernatural really isn’t a biblical perspective. It’s using Hume’s paradigm. If we believe that God is the Creator and is sovereign, then he is at work in the whole world around us.
I would make a theological distinction between gifts of healings and the signs and wonders in the Gospels and Acts. Both show God’s compassion. If we prayed for healing (as we are told to in James 5), and somebody experienced it through medical treatment, that’s a gift from God. But that’s not going to convince anybody on the same level as will somebody being raised from the dead.
One is a gift from God and the other is a sign. Is that the right terminology?
In both cases, God is conferring a blessing, but only one is evidentially persuasive, drawing people’s attention to the gospel.
A friend of mine talks about his brother, who had burns all over his body. His father had been praying. My friend looked up to see that his brother’s skin was completely pink. God chose to do it immediately and visibly. But he didn’t have to do it that way for it to be a blessing. When it’s semeion—a sign—it gets people’s attention.
How do the healing and miracle testimonies from the majority world influence the Western church?
We have an explosion of miracles taking place, especially in conjunction with the spread of the gospel. Some things are outside the norm for most Westerners, whatever kind of church we are associated with. It’s probably good for us, to shake us up. Extraordinary things are taking place around the world.”
Acts 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is
“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”