THE IMPORTANCE OF MIRACLES
The miracles of Scripture and faith in them are always of essential importance for the believer. This is because the central miracle of all time is the incarnation of Jesus Christ. All the other miracles from the original creation of the heaven and earth, through the many miracles recorded in Scripture, on to the miracle of regeneration—the regeneration of the elect and of the whole creation, the new heavens and the new earth, are so many manifestations of the power of grace in the incarnation of our Lord. Miracles are the essence of the faith of the child of God. The faith of a Christian can very well be summed up in the words, “I believe in miracles.”
It is for this reason that it is always the miracles of Scripture that are attacked by unbelievers. They may attack the miracles recorded on the pages of Holy Writ as incredible to the enlightened mind. But in doing so they naturally also spurn the wonder of regeneration and the miracle of grace in the lives of God’s people. The result of this is necessarily that they also discredit the miraculous and virgin birth of Christ, the blood of atonement shed on the cross, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, His final coming in judgment at the end of the ages—all miracles. This is always the spirit of Antichrist. One cannot deny a single miracle of Scripture without denying them all. And denying them all involves a denial of Christ. That is why the apostle John says in his first epistle: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” I John 4:1-3.
It is for this reason also that the Antichrist himself attempts to imitate the miracles of Scripture to try to deceive people into believing that he is indeed a prophet. The same apostle John informs us in his vivid description of Antichrist in Rev. 13:14: “And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.”
Sometimes these attempts to deny miracles are blatant and coarse; more often they are subtle attempts to explain the miracles in a natural way. There is a good illustration of the latter in a recent issue ofThe Baptist Bible Tribune which quotes from theJewish Chronicle.
A natural explanation for the miraculous escape of the children of Israel, when the waters of the Red Sea divided to let them through to dry land and then closed again to drown “all the host of Pharaoh,” was offered in the religious program “Viewpoint” on BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) television last week.
According to this explanation all the details of the Red Sea crossing, as described in the Book of Exodus, are accurate, except that the event actually took place not in the Red Sea itself but in the Wadi El Arish, on the northern coast of the Sinai Peninsula.
The theory advanced by Mr. W.R. Todd, whose arguments were based, first, on the fact that the rendering of the Biblical words “yam suf” into Red Sea was mistaken, since they actually meant “reed sea”; and, secondly, on an incident which occurred to British troops who were chasing the Turks in the Wadi El Arish in 1916.
Mr. Todd showed a map of the area and pointed out a lagoon called Bardwil Fisheries. He said that what was really a dried mud pan, six to ten feet below sea-level, was nowadays kept flooded to form a mullet fishery. But in its natural state it was Ned with sea water only when the rare gales flooded the whole depression. In between storms the water evaporated in the hot sun.
When a British mounted force entered the wadi in 1916 and rode across the mud pan to bathe in the sea, a wind suddenly arose, clouds appeared, and the horses showed a strange reluctance to move on. A torrential rain broke, the troops reached a sand bar, where they spent the whole night. “The next morning they saw that the sea had broken through, flooding the mud pan with water all around them, only the sand bar remaining dry.”
This, claimed Mr. Todd, was exactly what happened when the children of Israel fled from the Egyptians.
Moses, who had shepherded his father-in-law’s flock for 20 years, he argued, would have known that the mud pan was liable to sudden flooding. “To place it between the people and their pursuers would be sound tactics.”
What happened, then, was this: while the Israelites were on the dry sand bar (which is what the Bible meant by saying they were “in the midst of the sea”), the pursuing Egyptians, unaware of the danger, entered what looked to them like a dry mud pan. But underneath there was “a tremendous bog, in which they were caught.” As the Bible explained: it “took off their chariot wheels.”
In the meantime the sea waters were breaking in and raising the level of the lagoon. “And the water returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh. . . there remained not so much as one of them.”
This is not by any means an isolated case; but it is an illustration of how the miracles of Scripture are denied under the guise of faithfulness to the record of Holy Writ. Against this we must ever be on our guard. The denial of the miracle of creation through an attempt to explain it in a natural way is equally as dangerous and as wrong.
ONCE A SAINT, NOT ALWAYS A SAINT
The intricacies of Roman Catholic theology are not always easy to follow. Sometimes the absurdity of claims of the church is brought sharply into the light. This was the case with a recent decision of the Vatican to de-canonize a saint as reported in Time.
Archbishop Richard Cardinal Cushing was traveling in his chauffeur-driven limousine on the way to the town of Dover in Massachusetts to dedicate a church which had recently been completed, and which was to be named St. Philomena’s. Imagine his consternation when, as he was traveling along reading a newspaper, an item informed him that St. Philomena had recently been stricken from the roster of saints by the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation of Rites. St. Philomena was discovered in 1802 in a catacomb in Rome. It was the skeleton of a young teen-age girl with a fractured skull that was found. On the basis of an apparent inscription on her grave, a glass phial containing what was thought to be blood and a few symbols (two anchors, three arrows, a palm and a flower or torch) she was declared to be a saint that had no need of formal canonization for she had evidently been a-martyr. Her bones were turned over to a priest and enshrined in a church near Naples where these bones promptly produced a flood of miracles and special favors. A nun later claimed to have had a series of revelations concerning Philomena’s life and martyrdom and wrote a biography of this youthful martyr. She was canonized by Pope Gregory XVI in 1837 and several years later her feast day was set for August 11.
Pope John XXIII has issued orders to tidy up the liturgical calendar of the church and strike from the rolls certain saints about whom so little is known that their existence may be doubted. Philomena was the first to go.
Her de-canonization had rather wide-sweeping effects. Archbishop Gushing was especially on the spot and had to change the name of the church he was about to dedicate to “the Church of the Most Precious Blood” during the ceremonies to the utter astonishment of the parishioners who knew nothing about it all. The trouble was that he had also distributed about 800 statuettes of St. Philomena to the Catholics of his arch-diocese, and the new church he dedicated would have to obtain a new stained glass window since she also appeared in it.
There was equally great consternation elsewhere. Sister Marie Helene had devoted 45 years of her life to the cause of St. Philomena, had written a book about her and had raised $10,000 to erect a shrine to her on the campus of Greensburg’s Seton Hill College. 300,000 tourists had visited the shrine of her bones each year and countless churches had been dedicated to her more than 100 in the United States alone. But to those people who had faithfully prayed to her all these years, now in vain, there were some words of comfort in the current edition of “Butler’s Lives of the Saints”: “We do not know certainly whether she was in fact named Philomena in her earthly life, whether she was a martyr, whether her relics now rest at Mugano or in some place unknown. And these questions are only of relative importance: the spiritual influence of her whom we call St. Philomena is what really matters; . . . in the words of our Lord: ‘Is not the life more than meat and the body more than the raiment ?'”
How far from the truth and into what silly absurdities has the Roman Catholic Church led her members through the truth-denying doctrine of the saints!
TRANS WORLD RADIO
Our Reformed Witness Hour has been transmitted for almost a year now over Trans World Radio. This is our foreign broadcast in Europe which reaches throughout a big part of the continent, but is beamed especially to the British Isles. In a recent issue of Time magazine, there is some information about this station which may be of interest to our people.
The radio station had its beginning in Interlaken, Switzerland where a group of Protestant evangelicals including Billy Graham and Dr. Harold Ockenga decided to begin religious broadcasting in Europe. Rev. Paul E. Freed, a Baptist minister, was assigned the task of starting a religious broadcasting station to cover Europe. Before this time there had been no Protestant station in all of Europe although 3/4 of the world’s receivers outside the United States were in this continent. The station was originally built in Tangier, but was forced to move from the north coast of Africa in 1959 when Morocco decided to incorporate the free port of Tangier. There were broadcasting facilities in Monaco which were built by Adolph Hitler for propaganda purposes, and were leased by Trans World Radio from Radio Monte Carlo on a ten-year lease, automatically renewable.
Five giant antennas already carry the station’s programs across Asia to the Pacific and to Spain and Latin America. The programs are carried in Russian, Spanish, Latvian, Hebrew, Arabic, Swedish, Portugese, French, English, Italian and German. Within three months Armenian, Georgian and Uzbec will be added; within a year, Chinese and Hindustani. The group operating the station are now primarily interested in reaching inside Russia. Already they have a half hour program in Russian, soon tot be increased to an hour. There are regular listeners behind the iron curtain as far away as Siberia, and a steady stream of letters arrives out of the U.S.S.R. speaking highly of Trans, World Radio.
NEWS FROM ECUMENICAL COUNCILS
There is some news from various evangelical and ecumenical councils that have met or will meet in the near future.
April 10-14 was the date of the 19th annual convention of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) which met in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The actions of the Convention are included in a brief quote inChristianity Today.
Delegates to the National Association of Evangelicals adopted a resolution urging the organization to make a positive approach to the problem of Communism with a “dynamic presentation of the Gospel rather than engage in the investigation and exposure of individual Communists.” Support was given governmental investigatory functions as necessary for national security.
Other resolutions endorsed (1) tax exemption for church and institutional activities provided such were not of a secular enterprise nature, (2) an appeal to the National Association of Broadcasters to clean UD TV films and 3) church efforts to accelerate educational information on the evils of liquor traffic.
The convention created a new NAB organization post, that of director of information. . . .
Building of a new headquarters building in Wheaton, Illinois, at a cost of $100,000 was approved. It is to be ready for use early in 1962.
The World Council of Churches (WCC), another large group of churches throughout the world, is scheduled to meet in New Delhi, India, this fall. One of the major questions before this assembly will be whether to. incorporate into the World Council the International Missionary Council, an organization of missionary societies and mission boards who cooperate in world-wide mission work. It will be interesting to follow developments of this meeting.
Currently attracting a lot of attention is a new Ecumenical Council called by Pope John XXIII to meet in the near future. There have been many of these councils in the past, the, most well-known being the Council of Trent which drew up the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent in 1563 as part of the counter-Reformation. The Reformation had gained such sweeping victories on the continent of Europe that the Roman Catholic Church called this council into being as part of its attempt to define Roman Catholic dogma and purify the church in the hopes of stemming the tide of the Reformation.
To the newest council several Protestant and non-Catholic bodies have been invited: The Greek Orthodox Church has been asked to come as well as the Anglican Church and. representatives from the World Council of Churches. They will not participate, but come as observers. Many students of ecumenicism view this coming council as a giant step towards healing the breach struck between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism by the Reformation. It is important to watch closely events leading up to and development of the meeting.