William P Wilson. Miracles: God, Science, and Psychology in the Paranormal. Editor: J Harold Ellens. Volume 2: Medical and Therapeutic Events. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008.
A miracle is an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs. This definition is often contested by those who do not believe that there is a supernatural God or, if he exists, that he intervenes in human affairs. Most of the leaders of Israel did not accept the miracles of Jesus even though they were empirical evidence of his divinity. Because he was God, Jesus could perform miracles. When asked if he was the Messiah by the disciples of John the Baptist, Jesus told them that the miracles he performed accredited his messiahship (Matthew 11:4-6). Interestingly he cited mostly healings. He said, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” Miracles continued to occur after his death. Even as late as the fifth century after Jesus’ death, St. Augustine in his City of God cited 71 miracles occurring over a two-year period as testimony to the existence of God. Five of these were of raising of the dead. Because he called attention to them, one has to assume that most people in his day still did not believe miracles occurred.
Just as in Jesus’ lifetime and in the apostolic period, there have been those who have denied the work of the Holy Spirit and his dispensation of gifts (John 14:12). More recently those called cessationists have averred that miracles ceased at the end of the apostolic period because they were only for the apostolic age. It is said that Calvin and Warfield were the major proponents of the cessationist’s point of view. Miracles did not cease as they claimed. Throughout the centuries miracles have continued to be reported. Edward Gibbon, the historian, says that, “The Christian church, from the time of the Apostles and their disciples, has claimed an uninterrupted succession of miraculous powers, the gift of tongues, of visions and of prophecy, the power of expelling demons, of healing the sick and of raising the dead.” There is no question, though, that there are many in theology, science, and philosophy who still dogmatically state that miracles cannot and do not occur. Two most vocal philosophical critics in the recent past were Spinoza and Hume. At the present time Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have emphatically denied the existence of a creator God and the occurrence of miracles. Still there are continuing reports of documented miracles.
Before we attack the question posed by the title it is necessary to clarify the terms religious and spiritual. Many people use the terms synonymously, but they in reality have slightly different meanings. To be religious is to be devoted to religious beliefs and practices. The meaning of spiritual used here is the same, but we believe that miracles are empowered and thus effectuated by the Holy Spirit or by evil spirits. We will use the term spiritual as an etiologic descriptor of miracles since Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:10 states that one of the gifts of the Spirit is miraculous powers. Miracles happen by the power of the Spirit.
Others report miracles in our day. There are many books and articles relating to miracles in the medical literature. Many of them call some of the advances made in medical care miracles. A few report the occurrence of miracles in which God is purported to transcend nature and heal patients with diseases that are not treatable surgically or medically. The theological literature has many more references, but only a few report miracles in the world today. There is, however, one book entitled Megashifts by James Rutz that reports many miracles including the raising of the dead in 52 countries of the world. He states that these are documented miracles and provides the evidence to support his contention. Even so, we still have to ask if miracles occur in our society, and if have we seen them and thus are able to witness to their reality.
Miracles have never ceased because Jesus deputized and empowered his disciples to perform miracles (Luke 9:1, 2 and Luke 10:1-9). Later he told them that they would do greater things than he had done (John 14:12). His prophecy came true since his disciples were the instruments of many miracles during their ministry, but their greatest miracle was the Christianizing of the Roman Empire.
If we define a miracle as an event that is above nature and has no natural explanation, we must have testimony to its occurrence and a description of its relationship to God’s intervention if there is any. Thus the claim of a miracle has to have acceptable verification. It is for this reason that the Shrine at Lourdes has a panel of 20 persons including physicians to evaluate and certify the occurrence of a miracle occurring there. The Catholic Church has officially recognized 68 miracles that have occurred. This is in light of the claim that over 4,000 cures have occurred. The miracles at Lourdes are said to have been examined and certified as authentic by the committee. For a cure to be recognized as a miracle, it must fulfill seven criteria. It is necessary to verify the illness, which must be serious, with an irrevocable prognosis. The illness must be organic or caused by injuries. There must be no treatment at the root of the cure. The latter must be sudden and instantaneous. Finally, the renewal of functions must be total and lasting, without convalescence. The certified miracles have occurred in the last 50 years. Their criteria are addressed to healing miracles.
Medicine has set criteria for healing with its treatments. It has used these to document its cures. Most cures are surgical. Medical treatments usually only control and ameliorate disease even though in the last 50 years we have cured infections. Modern medicine has developed what are called research protocols to document the effectiveness of a treatment or medicine. Most often they require two groups of patients. One of these is given the presumed active treatment, the other, a control group, is given a placebo. The data related to the effect of the treatment is collected and subjected to statistical analysis. To document the continuation of God’s intervention in illnesses many demand that we conduct experiments using standard research protocols. This would mean that investigators would use what is called the scientific method for investigation. This method is defined as follows: (1) observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena; (2) formulation of a hypothesis to explain the phenomena. In physics, the hypothesis often takes the form of a causal mechanism or a mathematical relation; (3) use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations; (4) performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments.
It is obvious that miracles cannot be investigated by usual scientific methods since we cannot control the variables and perform experiments. Other religious phenomena can be investigated when the person becomes his/her own control. Thus we see papers on behavioral change after salvation or after other religious experiences that do not need statistical analysis although when the data is subjected to statistical analysis the results are significant. Any research on miracles could only have an n of one since they all differ. Even so, if the change is profound and instantaneous as a result of a spiritual intervention it is significant. In our reporting of miracles in the following paragraphs each person must have had a condition that had not responded to acceptable treatments or needed radical intervention, and there was a spiritual intervention that resulted in an immediate and dramatic healing or beginning of healing of the condition. No medical or surgical treatment was administered, and the change had to persist for an observational period that was more than 24 hours. In the case of medical diseases, there had to be structural or functional change demonstrated either by technical methods or by examination.
Examination of Miracles
As Gibbon said, there is more to miracles than physical healing. The miraculous changes that take place in persons with salvation experiences are rarely if ever seen in ordinary life. There are, of course, self-actualization experiences that result in changes in personality and behavioral changes, but they are only in direction and not in fundamental personality characteristics. Alcoholics become abstinent 35 percent of the time when they take part in the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) program, but most of them continue to have serious neurotic problems. The AA program is religious (deistic) in content. In contrast, alcoholics who have an authentic conversion experience not only quit drinking and have no subsequent craving for alcohol, but their personality is also radically changed. They go from being selfish to being selfless. They become altruistic and are able to relate intimately in their relationships. The same is true for drug addicts.
William James in his epochal book entitled The Varieties of Religious Experience said that the following changes take place with conversion: (1) there is a happy mood; (2) there is a perception of truths not perceived before; (3) there is a feeling of cleanliness within and without; (4) there is a new sense of purpose; (5) the person is now able to love more intimately than before. All of these changes do not occur with secular interventions, and even if some of them do occur they never take place instantaneously. These extraordinary changes take place only by divine intervention and results for the most part are permanent. Indeed it is a rare event that persons turn their backs on God or revert to their previous behavior if their conversion has the results described by James.
I have noted that Gibbon classified speaking in tongues, visions, and prophecy as miraculous powers. Tongues are indeed of divine origin, but they are so common in the Christian world today that we can remove them from the classification of miracles. They can also be demonic in origin. There is no question that visions and prophecy are also miraculous but their frequent occurrence removes them from the extraordinary classification. They are part of our supernatural communication with God who chooses to use these means.
Prophecy is a gift of the Spirit, but much of what is considered prophecy is treacle and of no significance. There were false prophets in the days when Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel were prophesying. This is not to deny that there are legitimate prophets in the Christian world today, but they are few in number. David Atkinson, in an excellent monograph written for the Anglican church, has defined prophecy as revealed in the Bible, and according to his criteria many of the “prophets” of today do not meet biblical criteria. Therefore, I will make no effort to cite prophetic utterances as evidence of miracles. I must add that one kind of prophecy described by Atkinson, the application of scripture to the condition of society today, is still being actively given.
The casting out of demons is a miraculous event. Satan has convinced most people in our society that he does not exist, so he is free to work his destructive influence on all who are susceptible to his influence. All unregenerated persons are susceptible as well as those regenerated who have weaknesses. Many Christians have areas of habitual thinking that are contrary to God’s laws, and are called strongholds. Using these, Satan infects them in three ways. They can become possessed, oppressed, and obsessed. The deliverance of persons from a possession state has been considered a miracle. Jesus gave his disciples the power to deliver infected people from possession.
Even though many claim that demon possession is explainable psychiatrically, the criteria for demon possession given by Nevius clearly set apart the demonically possessed persons from people with psychiatric disease. These criteria are: (1) there is the automatic presentation in the victim of a new personality both cognitively and behaviorally. They have names and attributes that harmonize with their names. Also facial expressions, bodily movements and postures harmonize with their names; (2) the personality possesses supernatural strength, knowledge, and/or intellectual power; (3) there is a complete change of moral character; (4) there is hatred to God and especially to Christ. In the light of these criteria it is obvious that many psychologically determined problems attributed to demons today are not really due to demonization. Even so there are many people in our world and especially in the Third World who are truly possessed and manifest the characteristics listed by Nevius. Oppression and obsession are more common in our society.
God is still in the business of healing miraculously. Jesus made it clear that not only were his disciples to proclaim the Gospel, but they were also to heal the sick. He healed individuals, as well as groups as large as three thousand. The blind saw, the deaf heard, the mute spoke, the lame walked, lepers were cleansed, infections of all kinds were healed, and the mentally ill were normalized. His disciples did the same although not in the same numbers. As I have noted above, God has continued this activity up to the present.
Then there are dead people restored to life. Jesus raised several to life. The most notable was Lazarus. He also raised to life the son of the widow of Nain, and the synagogue leader’s daughter. In Acts Paul raised up a boy who fell from a third-floor window. In this case it is not clear that he really was dead. Peter was responsible for the raising of Dorcas who was dead. As I have previously noted, St. Augustine claimed to have seen five people raised from the dead. As reported by Rutz, Reinhard Bonnke, a German evangelist, was responsible for the resurrection of a man in Nigeria while he was preaching. Amazingly he did not know the corpse was in the building. This event along with interviews with the doctor and the mortician who attested to his resurrection was recorded on videotape.
God heals in five ways. He heals: (1) by divine intervention; (2) using modern medical interventions; (3) with time; (4) by giving a person the ability to bear his “thorn in the flesh”; and (5) he heals when a person dies and receives his or her resurrection body. Although many medical miracles occur as a result of human intervention, we will cite only cases where God intervened when prayer entreated him to heal.
A Methodist pastor in his forties had been very successful but felt led by God to leave a small Wesleyan denomination and join the United Methodist Church. He did, and in a few years he was again successful. He then began having heart attacks. These were not treatable by catheterization, but he continued his work and received medication. In time he had a total of five hospitalizations for severe angina. He was finally told that he could not continue, and since nothing could be done for him because of the involvement of all the major arteries of his heart in extensive lesions, he would in time die.
His bishop finally told him that he was going to transfer him to a small dying inner-city congregation, and when he died the church would be closed. The minister did not take the church to have it close, so he worked at helping it come alive and it thrived. Finally after several years, he had another heart attack and was hospitalized. His physician catheterized him and found that he had 75% occlusion of his major arteries. The degree of occlusion was so extensive that he could not have stents put in to open them up. He was told he was going to die in the near future.
After the initial examination, he was lying in bed in the hospital when three couples from his church came into his room. After exchanging pleasantries they announced that they were going to pray for him to be healed. He told them that he would be pleased if they did, so they came around the bed, laid hands on him and began to pray. They prayed for nearly 3 hours when all of a sudden his pain abated, his heart rate normalized, and his breathing became less labored. At that moment he knew he was healed.
The next morning his doctor came in and was amazed to find him with almost all signs of cardiac decompensation gone. The next day he took him to the catheterization lab, recatheterized him, and found that all three vessels were now completely patent. The physician, who was not a Christian, had to admit that what had happened was a miracle. He had x-ray evidence that proved it.
In recounting the story, my friend, whom I met after the miracle occurred, told me that he had an extraordinarily high cholesterol (500 + mgm/dl) so that 10 years later he had to have three bypasses, but treatment of his hypercholesterolemia has prevented any further occlusion of his arteries and he is well 20 years later. He is now in his eighties. Thus he experienced both a divine miracle and a medical miracle.
I was attending a weekend renewal conference where we usually had a healing service on Saturday night. There were several thousand people there so we had a large number of teams praying for healing. The organization believes in the priesthood of all believers, so most of the teams were made up of lay persons (as am I and my wife). I do not know how many people we had prayed for but there was a fairly large number when a young woman who was obviously pregnant came up and told us she was depressed and wanted prayer for her depression. She did not mention any other problems. Because she was a nurse, I was particularly moved to pray for her a little more fervently than usual. We did pray for her and nothing happened. Others were waiting so she left. I did not hear from her after the meeting even though she could have contacted me through the organization.
The next year we met in another town and again my wife and I were praying in the healing service. As we prayed I noticed an older woman with a cute little red-headed baby lying on a blanket in front of me. She had moved there from another part of the auditorium while we were praying. Finally, when we had finished praying for the many who wanted prayer, the woman beckoned to me. I went over to where she was sitting and she told me that the baby’s mother wanted me to pray for her child. The mother was a nurse who was on duty and could not come. The child had asthmatic bronchitis from time to time and she hoped he could be healed.
I was tired so I told her that Dr. Francis MacNutt was still praying for people and maybe she should take the baby down to where he was ministering. She very quickly said, “No, his mother wants you to pray for him!” “Why?” I asked. She responded by telling me that his mother had been at our meeting the year before and I had prayed for her depression. She was instantly healed of the depression and at the same time her asthma that she had for almost 30 years was healed too. Whereas she had regular attacks of asthma before the conference, she did not have any after and discontinued all her medications.
I did not wish to disappoint his mother. I picked up the baby and prayed for him as fervently as I could. I do not know what happened since I saw neither the mother, grandmother, nor baby again. There was no doubt in the mind of the nurse or her mother that an unexpected miracle had occurred that night when I had prayed for her depression.
The next two cases were provided by Larry Eddings, MDiv, who has had a healing ministry for over 30 years.
Bill, a 55-year-old heavy equipment operator, came forward during a Sunday service of worship and asked for prayer as he was scheduled for heart bypass surgery the following Tuesday. I, along with the congregation, asked God how we should pray for Bill. We sensed that God said to ask him to give Bill a new heart. That was our prayer, “God, we ask you to give Bill a new heart. Amen.”
On Tuesday Bill phoned and asked to talk with me. I said, “Bill, aren’t you supposed to be in surgery today for the bypass surgery?” He replied, “Yes, I was scheduled for it, but when I came in they ran the whole battery of tests again to make sure that I was ready for surgery. In the process the physician said to me, ‘Bill, I don’t know what has happened, but you have a new heart. You don’t need surgery.’” Bill never did have to undergo bypass surgery and is still, several years later, strong and healthy.
An added note about Bill: He had received Jesus as his Savior two weeks prior to this event. He asked permission to stand in the pulpit the Sunday following his healing and share with the congregation what he “saw” when we were praying for him. He shared, “I saw Jesus standing before me. He reached into my chest, unhooked and removed my old heart. Then he reached toward heaven, took a new heart and placed it in my chest and hooked it up.” He witnessed God doing a divine heart transplant. That was his testimony to the congregation regarding his healing.
Gretta was a 70-year-old woman who came from Tucson, Arizona, and attended a week-long Christian family camp in Hawaii. She came off the plane in a wheelchair. She wore a neck brace, shoulder braces, and a body brace, and walked with two canes. She had been in a car accident in which someone ran a stop sign and demolished her car and her spine. She was an Orthodox Jewish woman who had recently accepted Jesus as her Messiah and had become a Christian. In the process her husband divorced her, her children disowned her, and they all considered her dead. She harbored much bitterness and unforgiveness in her heart because of the treatment she had received from her family and also against the person who caused the accident.
As she worked through the process of forgiveness of those who had offended her and sought God’s forgiveness for her bitterness toward them, she began to experience healing and release within her body. After one day she was out of the wheelchair. On the second day she removed her neck and shoulder braces. On the third day she took off her body braces and put away her walking canes. On the fourth day she danced to the tune of a lively Israeli melody, giving praise to God for her physical and also emotional healing.
Added note on Gretta: When the camp was finished, she teamed up with a 25-year-old Jewish woman who had recently become Christian and the two of them went into Waikiki and witnessed to the Jewish business community there about Yeshua, the Messiah, and his healing power as evidenced in her life. We were back in Hawaii two years later and she was still on the streets of Waikiki doing ministry.
Healing and a Miraculous Escape from Prison
Charles Stanley in his In Touch magazine relates the story of Brother Yun, a Chinese house church leader who was imprisoned by the Chinese government for a third time. On this occasion his legs were beaten so badly that he could not walk. The bones were probably shattered. He was so crippled his friends had to carry him to the bathroom. One day he heard a voice telling him he must escape. He was, however, in the maximum security prison at Zhengzhou and any effort to escape would mean death. Still a voice in his mind said to him, “Go now, the God of Peter is with you.” When he was taken to the bathroom he decided to go, got up on his feet and started walking. “Receive my spirit when the guards shoot me,” he prayed as he walked out down the stairs and out a gate that was opened only long enough for him to get through. He walked by several guards who did not see him although they were looking at him. He continued to pray. He went through a large iron gate that was strangely unlocked, across an open courtyard to the main gate of the prison. It was open and unattended. He then disappeared in a yellow taxi that just happened to be standing there. The next day he was pedaling a bicycle to a shelter that a family had prepared for him after they were told in a dream he was coming.
Not only had Yun’s legs been healed in his escape but God had made it possible for him to escape. It was the same as he had done for Peter as described in Acts 12. This story has three miracles in it. They are that his legs were miraculously healed, he was able on his healed legs to walk out of a maximum security prison, and the family was informed of his coming and their task to care for him.
We do not have x-ray evidence that the bones in his legs were shattered, but the fact that he had not been able to walk on them is documentation of a healing miracle. There were many witnesses to Yun’s escape.
I was speaking in a small church outside of Antananarivo, Madagascar. After the service I was asked to go to a nearby house to pray for a hopelessly crippled man. He could not leave the house even in a wheelchair, which he and his daughter could not afford. We drove the short distance to the red brick house where they lived and went inside. In a dark room on the north side of the house sat a man in a padded chair. Outside the open window was a pig pen with a pig inside. All through our stay, our conversation was punctuated by pig grunts. The man in the chair obviously had severe arthritis. It appeared to be ankylosing spondylitis. To confirm this diagnosis, I did a brief examination. I found that he had fixation of his joints in his back, his elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles. His knees and elbows were fixed at 90 degrees. His head was bowed forward onto his chest and he could not lift it up. In all his joints he had limited mobility. He had severe, advanced ankylosing spondylitis!
My interpreter explained to him why we were there. After the initial interchange, I asked him if he was a Christian. He said he was not. I then told him that my prayers would be more effective if he was a Christian and asked him if he would like to become one. He said he would. After he made the transaction, I told him we were now going to pray for his healing. I did not expect anything to happen since he was so crippled, but in obedience to the Lord’s commandment to heal the sick, I prayed. As I did I visualized his joints being freed up. I could do this since I had worked with patients with his disease in the pain clinic at my hospital. It is difficult to chat through an interpreter, but we did the best we could to comfort him and departed. I thought no more about what we had done and in a few days came back to the United States.
Two years later I got an e-mail from the missionary I had worked with telling me that he had gone back to the church to preach. He noticed that there was a padded chair on the front row. Just before the service started the man we had prayed for walked in with his legs straightened and his arms swinging by his sides. He took his seat and participated enthusiastically in the worship service. It is a tradition in Madagascar to have prayers after the service with all the people in a circle holding hands. My missionary friend said that as they prayed the people began dancing. This is customary in their worship. He looked over to where our arthritic man was and noticed that he was dancing as enthusiastically as the other worshipers. He did not describe the position of his head. Curious, I wrote him back and asked him if he could lift up his head. He answered, “He lifted up his head!”
Let us now turn to the miracles that occur with conversion. I am reluctant to cite these since they are so common. Yet I will describe the dramatic changes that occurred in two persons with whom I had professional contact and who were miraculously changed.
A 29-year-old woman was a patient in the federal narcotics hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. I was conducting a research project on the family life of heroin addicts. I was interested in knowing what kind of homes they came from since I wanted to know if their parenting or lack of it in childhood was etiologic to their problem. At the end of my examination, I also had questions concerning any religious experiences or instruction they had and their hope for the future after their incarceration.
In my inquiry she told me that for five years she had been a prostitute supporting her pimp, her boyfriend, and herself. She also had come from a profoundly dysfunctional home. She had been sexually abused as a child and had been promiscuous before becoming hooked on heroin and becoming a prostitute to support her addiction. When I came to the questions concerning religious instruction she said she had none. When I asked her about any religious experiences, she said she had. I asked when it occurred. She said, “Yesterday.” “In this place?” I asked surprised. “No not here,” was her retort. Curious, I asked her to tell me about it.
“Well, we have this secretary on our unit who is a pastor’s wife. She often would offer to take us to religious meetings. We would go just to get out of the place. Three days ago she asked us if we would like to go down to the Coliseum to hear a speaker. She could only take 11 of us so we had an election to see who could go and I got elected. It came time to go, and we got in the van and left. When we got there, the sign over the entrance said, ‘David Wilkerson Crusade Here This Week.’ I did not know who he was so I went in wondering what he was going to say.” He was the founder of Teen Challenge, a ministry to addicted teens.
“After we got seated we sang a couple of songs and this man came out with a big black Bible and prayed. Then he began to speak. He first of all began to ask questions. They were the same questions I had been asking myself. The only difference was that he had answers that came from the Bible. I began to get scared, so as he talked I felt I had to get out of there. Finally he came to the end of his talk, and as he did he asked all those who wanted to give their lives to Christ come to the front. I thought, now is my chance. I will leave and wait in the foyer for the rest of the group. I got up and walked to the end of the row expecting to turn right and go out. But you know what, Doc? I couldn’t turn right. I had to turn left and I didn’t walk. I ran to the front! Tears were streaming down my face and I could hardly see, but when I looked around the other 10 girls were there too.” She described her experience with tears again streaming down her face.
My next question was, “Do you have any hope for the future?” “You bet I do,” she said, “I have Jesus.”
“Where are you going when you get out?” “I don’t know, but I am not going back to the street! God has a safe place for me.” And she didn’t go back. She went first to a Teen Challenge center and then to a rehabilitation farm they operated in Pennsylvania and in time went to college. I lost track of her then.
I need to point out that the average amount of time a patient stayed off drugs after discharge from Lexington was less than 6 months. She was off 3 years. Earlier I met others who had gone through the Teen Challenge program and had been off for 7 to 10 years. In my professional experience, the recidivism rate for heroin addiction was nearly 100 percent, but for Teen Challenge it is only 25 percent.
One of my students at the seminary was a young black man who was outstanding as a student. At the beginning of the semester I asked the students to give their personal witness to the class. He told us that he grew up in a dysfunctional home and that in his late teen years he got addicted to marijuana and then to crack cocaine. He then became a street person, sleeping under bridges and eating out of dumpsters and garbage cans. He did this for three years when God sovereignly reached down and drew him to himself. He found shelter and in time got a job and a place to live. He joined a church where he was received with love. He then decided to go to college and enrolled in the top state university where he majored in sociology. After he got his degree he went to graduate school and got a master’s degree in the same subject. Not satisfied with what he had learned, he came to the seminary and took all the counseling courses we offered. His thesis for his MTh degree was focused on counseling in the black church. He was incensed when he found that none of 40 pastors he interviewed did any counseling.
Demonization and Deliverance
A 19-year-old ethnic Malagasy woman was brought to me because she would be violently thrown to the floor, whereupon two male voices would come out of her claiming to be former kings of Madagascar. They spoke Malagasy. This was unusual since she had been raised in France and only spoke French. Her parents, who taught in a French university, were a witch and a warlock. She had been sent back to Madagascar because of her spells, with the idea that her grandmother could find some help for her. None was available in France. She had come to a healing community where it was recognized that she was demon possessed, but the local people including the chaplain and physician could not bring about deliverance. After her history was presented, I had the names of the two kings written on the blackboard that was in the room. I then had her brought in and after I was introduced, I asked the interpreter to have her say, “Jesus is Lord.”
She had barely begun to utter the sound of J when she was violently thrown to the floor, where she lay thrashing about. The locals got very excited and began yelling at the demons. I told them to stop since I knew demons were not deaf. I then called the demons by name and told them to come out and be taken away for disposition. I hardly got the words out of my mouth when she blinked her eyes and sat up. We helped her to her feet and had her sit in a chair next to me. I then, through my interpreter, told her that to maintain her freedom she needed to accept Christ as her Savior. She eagerly agreed and made the transaction. I brought her back the next day during my instruction period and had her say, “Jesus is Lord.” She said, “Jesus really is my Lord!” She had no further spells during a follow-up period of one year.
I gave a lecture in a local church on demonization and deliverance. At the end I asked any persons who wanted deliverance to come forward and I would pray for them. A young couple did come up and as I started to pray for the woman, she rested in the Spirit before I could do any deliverance. I had not discerned that she was demon possessed. I then prayed for her husband and he too rested. As I was preparing to pray for the next person, she suddenly burst out alternately speaking in demonic tongues and screaming. I had to attend to her and prayed that what I thought was one demon to come out of her. She got quiet for a few seconds and then began to scream again. I commanded a second demon to come out and again she quieted for a few seconds before she screamed a third time. I then commanded a third demon to come out and she quieted, sat up, and was freed. I did not have time to find out what the demons’ names were since she was screaming so loudly. I later found out that her father had sexually abused her when she was 15, and when she got pregnant, he forced her to have an abortion. She had lived a rebellious life since then. She was promiscuous, having had three illegitimate children and suffering from pseudologia fantástica(fantastic lying).
Since her deliverance she has been a different person, telling the truth and making an effort to learn how to be a good wife to her husband. She also had to give her life to Christ, and have her postabortion syndrome healed.
Multiplication of Food
Father Richard Thomas, Society of Jesus, was appointed to Our Lady’s Youth Center in El Paso, Texas. He had a professional staff of psychologists and social workers. His center was supported to a great extent by the United Fund. Shortly after he took over as director he returned to New Orleans, where he had graduated from seminary, to attend an alumni reunion. While there he attended a prayer meeting at the invitation of his classmate, Al Cohen. There they asked Father Thomas if they could pray for Mr. Cohen. He told them they could and they laid on hands and prayed. After they finished Father Thomas noted that he had a headache, so he went back to his room and went to bed. He awakened about 2:00 A.M. and the room was filled with a brilliant blue light. He also felt the presence of God so powerfully that he could hardly move. This finally left him and he went back to sleep. After the reunion he left for El Paso, but on the plane he had the impression that he was to terminate the employment of the psychologists and social workers and return any money from the United Fund that had not been spent. Back home he did this obediently.
Wondering what to do next, he felt compelled to go preach on the streets, although Catholic priests did not usually preach on the street. When he did, people got converted. His converts formed themselves into a group who met with him at the center as a small community. The community grew. When Christmas came his people wanted to do a project for the poor, so at the suggestion of a U.S. mail carrier who was a member, they decided to go across the border and feed the scavengers in the Juarez, Mexico, garbage dump.
From their preliminary observations they estimated that there would be 150 people. They prepared enough food for the 150. They went to the dump and set up their tables and called the people to come get the meal. Three hundred fifty people showed up. Dismayed, Father Thomas’ people wondered what they were going to do. “Rick” (Father Richard) told them to feed the people until the food ran out. They began and they kept feeding until they had fed them all. When they looked at their remaining food supplies, they realized that they had as much food as they began with. The food had been multiplied. They then took the residuals and fed children in orphanages until the food really did run out.
This story is documented in a book called Miracles in El Paso. However, the version I have rendered was related to me by Rick and verified by some of his people. There were many other miracles that occurred in Our Lady’s Youth Center ministry, but this was the most dramatic.
The Blind Saw and the Lame Walked
I belong to a group that sponsored major Holy Spirit conferences. We held one in New Orleans where about 25,000 people were in attendance. One of our plenary speakers was Reinhard Bonnke. On Saturday night things did not go well since one of the minor speakers spoke way beyond his allotted time and no one cut him off. Even so, Bonnke plunged in, giving a very evangelical teaching. At the end he asked for those who wanted healing to come forward. As we watched, four blind people were led forward and five wheelchairs were rolled up to the area in front of the stage. Bonnke went down to them and prayed for them and others. The blind saw and the lame got up out of their wheelchairs and walked. They all testified that they had indeed been blind and lame for years and that they now could see and walk. I was not able to examine these people before and after their healing, but their personal testimony and our witness of their healing verified God’s intervention.
The most miraculous of the responses to Bonnke’s presentation occurred earlier when he gave the attendees an invitation to accept Christ as their savior. It resulted in the positive response of over 2,000 Catholic nuns and priests. Bonnke thought that there had been a mistake. Surely they had misunderstood him. But no, it was no mistake, they really were seriously responding. The counselors were overwhelmed after the service by such a large group.
I can describe many other miracles such as visions and speaking in tongues, both real and unknown, but they are recorded elsewhere. The reader is referred to those resources that are readily available.
The described miracles do not completely meet the criteria we set at the beginning. Some of these discrepancies have to do with our lack of knowledge concerning the course of the healing. For instance, we do not know how immediately the healing of the person with ankylosing spondylitis took place. We do know that no medical interventions were applied, so his healing had to be by God’s intervention. I also do not know the circumstances of my student’s healing from crack cocaine addiction since I was not a participant in his healing. I do know that there was no medical treatment. Also we have no knowledge of the amount of anatomical damage that the Jewish woman in Hawaii had. We do know that she had braces prescribed by her physicians, so they must have had evidence that she had anatomical damage.
The question, “Do religious or spiritual miracles occur today?” has been answered. Edward Gibbon has said that there is an unbroken succession of miraculous powers in the church throughout its history. In spite of the cessationist’s view that miracles ceased at the end of the apostolic era, St. Augustine’s report of miracles that he had witnessed gave the lie to that claim. Throughout time others have reported miracles in spite of constant denial of the verity of their claims. The author has reported a series of cases that he has personally been able to observe or verify by reliable witnesses. The answer to our question, then, is yes. Miracles do still happen today. Claims to the contrary are then based on passion or prejudice and are, therefore, not rational.
Miracles do occur in the world today. In spite of protestations by some scientists, documented events occur regularly both in this country and in the rest of the world. Most of the miracles are similar to if not replicas of the miracles Jesus did and those that have been reported through the entire history of the church. There is no reason why we should not expect them to continue.