There have been in the past, are now, and always will be those who claim to have the power to perform miracles. For centuries the Roman Catholic Church has given credence to miracles performed, for example, at the shrine of Lourdes, in France. Today there are many sects throughout this country and others who have evangelists roaming about who are “faith healers.” And Scripture emphatically warns the Church that Antichrist himself shall do wonders and shall deceive many by his miracles.
Recently a magazine called “Faith Digest” came into my hands. It is published by a certain evangelist whose name is T.L. Osborn, who is conducting crusades throughout the country and in Canada. In this February issue he speaks of many of the miracles which he performed. At a crusade in Stockton, California a “demon-possessed woman” was disrupting the meeting with her frantic shrieking. It was but the work of a moment for the crusader to jump from the platform, lay hands on the woman, and drive Satan out so that she was restored to normality and converted. This, obviously, had considerable to do with the success of the crusade.
Osborn was once a missionary to the heathen, but concerned that his native country of America was more in need of the gospel than the heathen, he has returned, and with dramatic results. To quote the magazine:
A book could be written unfolding the many accomplishments of these crusades. I recall a night of particular blessing in Detroit, Michigan. Brother Osborn preached one of his dynamic faith messages in the lovely Ford Auditorium. Numerous miracles took place and the auditorium was turned into a “house of praise.” Those who received healing ran up and down and [should, no doubt, be “the,” H.H.] aisles glorifying God for His healing power. In practically every service across North America, hearing aids, glasses, trusses, or other “crutches” have been discarded as the afflicted have joined in “the prayer of faith” and received complete healing.
Recently Time devoted a brief article to this matter of faith healing. The article speaks of the fact that:
The faith healing service at which a minister lays hands on the lame, the halt and the blind while praying for a cure from God, is a growing U.S. religious practice. Pentecostal, Preacher Oral Roberts, best known of the nation’s circuit-riding faith healers, has made the practice a standard feature of his big-time revival meetings, which draw crowds of up to 33,000. Even some Episcopal ministers conduct healing services.
The article calls attention to a committee appointed by the United Lutheran Church which studied the matter and reported its findings. This committee warned the Church to stay away from faith healers while charging that faith healers:
Fail to recognize as God’s gift to man proven scientific methods.
Endanger the whole spiritual life of believers by . . . leaving the implications that failure to be cured is due to lack of faith on the part of the afflicted.
Make a spectacle of human misery and exploit the hopes and fears, the frustrations and disappointments of the desperate, the disturbed, and credulous.
One remembers also the famed days of Amy Semple McPherson.
There are several points to be remembered in considering these claims of miracles:
1) According to Scripture, miracles are always signs. They point to the wonder of the grace of God in the salvation of the elect. They are therefore preeminently signs of the incarnation of Jesus Christ who came into our flesh to save His Church. This incarnation is the central and principal miracle of the ages—all other miracles pointing to it. Modern “miracles” have not this aim, but deliberately turn attention away from the wonder of grace to the “healing” itself.
2) Miracles were always performed by the prophets and the apostles as signs that accompanied the preaching of the gospel, for the gospel was the Word of Jesus Christ. We may be sure therefore that where the gospel is not preached, there no miracles are performed. Those that corrupt and distort the gospel according to the perversions of wicked men and make mockery of the truth of God may lay claim to performing miracles, but they lie.
3) Miracles were performed in the Old Testament because the attention of the believers was directed to the promise of God realized in the coming of Christ. Miracles were performed by Christ that the power of His divinity might be revealed with incontrovertible proof. Miracles were performed by the apostles because the Scriptures had not yet been fully recorded and God used miracles to seal the truth of the gospel through the preaching of the Apostles. From this it may be safely concluded that, since Scripture is complete, there is no longer any need for miracles. It is therefore highly doubtful whether God still performs miracles to seal the gospel. Surely the history of the true Church has not been a history of miracles, but a history of the power of the gospel in the gathering of the Church. Neither the Reformers nor the faithful in the Church since the Reformation have ever claimed to have power to perform miracles—especially of healing.
4) This does not mean that God cannot, if He will, still perform miracles. But surely the greatest wonder of all performed every day, is the wonder of regeneration and conversion wrought by the power of God in the salvation of His elect. If, at the end of the ages, God again uses miracles to preserve His Church until the Lord returns, our God is able to do this. But this is a distant cry from the evil claims. 6f Rome and of “faith-healers” that are so common today.
5) Always those who are enemies of the gospel and opponents of the Church try to establish their wicked claims by imitating the miracles of Christ and His apostles. They make claims to miracles to give their false religions some credence. They try to imitate the gospel of Christ by these wicked means. This is also the purpose of Antichrist, when he makes claims to have the power of miracles. But Jesus warns: “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers, believe it not.”Matthew 24:4, 5, 11, 23-26.
PREDICTIONS OF THE END
It is not only the claims of faith healers that show the extremes to which false religion will go; cults and sects and even nominal Christians often concern themselves with predictions of the time of the end of the world. There comes to the attention of those who read newspapers and news magazines groups who periodically make their guesses as to the time of the end. Many were sure that this year once again was the last year of history, and that February was the last month. This was due to an unusual conjunction of planets in the sky. Sometimes two planets come close together, sometimes more. This year occurred the very extraordinary conjunction of all seven planets. They were within sixteen degrees of each other. An astronomer in Belgium said that this was closer than all seven had come to each other since A.D. 1186 when they were bunched within twelve degrees.
But astrologers had their heyday waiting for the predicted event. In India all kinds of natural calamities such as floods and earthquakes were predicted. Some claimed there would be only two days of danger; others said the world could not relax for five years. The masses were frantic.
But if this was true in India, it was also true in civilized America. The Hayden Planetarium of New York was called by many people for reassurance that nothing would happen. Especially in California, the home of cults, people were worried and unsettled. One woman lived in a tent on a vacant lot, sure that that would save her. A group from Santa Cruz fled to Cleator, Arizona convinced that that town would be spared by the disasters. Radio Station KNX scheduled a program in Los Angeles on the earth’s astrological peril. Heightening the sense of disaster was the fact that at the time of the conjunction of the planets there was also a sun eclipse that could be seen from the Pacific Ocean.
But nothing happened, and the superstitious will now have to wait until A.D. 2000 before the planets come together again.
It would almost seem as if the fear and terror of the coming of Christ that fills the hearts of the wicked prompts these wild and futile predictions of the coming of the end of the world. But God moves the planets in their orbits, and while, no doubt, a certain amount of concern fills the hearts of the people of God at the thought of the events that must still take place before Christ comes, nevertheless they look to that coming with calmness and serenity. They know many things must still take place. They know too that they shall never be able to say exactly at what moment the Lord will return. But the coming of the Lord is their redemption. It remains for them to watch and to pray.
A NEW SOLUTION TO SCHOOL AID
It has recently been reported that at last Congress has found the key to the puzzling problem of school aid. There is, of course, the proposal bf President Kennedy to give aid to public schools, but this has generated a prolonged controversy between those who support the bill and those who insist that private schools also have rights to this aid. It is claimed by the President that any aid to private schools would be a violation of the First amendment and a destruction of the principle of separation between Church and State.
The solution is rather clever. Aid will be given to public schools without any strings attached; but aid will also he given to private schools for those branches of study which do not have any religious content. Aid for science buildings and science teachers will then be granted to all schools on the basis of the principle that in this field no religion is taught. To quote one commentator:
This means that, to get federal aid, any college, for instance, operated by a religious body must physically separate the classes wherein religious teachings are given from those where teaching of ordinary school subjects is carried on. Certainly in the teaching of physics or any other scientific subject or in the teaching of mathematics, there is no likelihood of any religious doctrine being introduced.
Obviously, this is an unacceptable compromise. It has always been the principle of our own Christian schools that the truth of God must be the basic principle of every subject of the curriculum. In fact, we have always maintained that our schools are only “Christian” to the extent that history and geography, physics and mathematics as well as Bible are taught from the viewpoint of the truth of Scripture. Our own teachers’ seminar is busy with this problem at present. Each subject is discussed from the principles of the truth of Scripture. And this is surely correct, for the truth of God is one. It is impossible to say, Here in Bible religion is taught; there in chemistry the Word of God and the knowledge of the Lord do not apply.
But at least Congress is happily anticipating a solution to a knotty problem that will still keep them popular at the polls.