I’ve been interested in the topic of miracles for as long as I can remember—what they are and under what circumstances they happen.
As a Christian Scientist, the power of God to heal has always been a cornerstone of my religious faith and I’ve been blessed on several occasions to experience this power firsthand. That hasn’t stopped me from being interested in the healing experiences of other traditions, though—whether it be the intensely vetted miracles that have happened at Lourdes since at least 1858, or the spontaneous recoveries that are sometimes reported by evangelical Christians at their revivals. It’s fair to say that today, an increasing number of Christian denominations—and perhaps people from other religious traditions, too—are open to the healing power of the divine.
What is a miracle? Merriam-Webster defines it as “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.” Many faiths would agree: miracles are supernatural in nature, and they’re typically seen as rare instances where God chooses to momentarily set aside natural law for the benefit of the miracle recipient. Why they happen to some people and not others? It’s hard to know.
Christian Science takes a different perspective, and it’s notable that Merriam-Webster’s third definition is specific to Christian Science: “A divinely natural phenomenon experienced humanly as the fulfillment of spiritual law.”
Divinely natural? Spiritual law?
“Miracles do not happen in contradiction to nature, but only in contradiction to that which is known to us in nature,” wrote St. Augustine.
Mary Baker Eddy—the discoverer and founder of Christian Science—also believed that miracles are natural. They’re just not widely understood. “The scientific manifestation of power is from the divine nature and is not supernatural, since Science is an explication of nature,” she wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.
Interestingly enough, Harvard medical doctor Jeffrey Rediger—who has been investigating “miracle” cases for more than fifteen years—wrote this in a 2016 Washington Post editorial: “Miracles only contradict what we know of nature at this point in time … I believe that miracles are actually consistent with mental and spiritual laws that we are only beginning to study.”
One “miracle” experience that’s meant a lot to me was published in the Christian Science Journal by Lona Ingwerson in September 2014. Her family’s home was caught in a wildfire as Laguna Beach, California, burned in 1993. Whipped by gusty winds, the fire was moving at 160 kilometres an hour and consuming homes every few seconds. Yet these words kept playing in Lona’s mind, even as her family was evacuated to a nearby town: “The flame shall not hurt thee.” Lona recalled praying to ward off feelings of discouragement, since they believed their home was already lost.
The next morning brought a surprise, when a news channel showed a picture of their house standing alone amidst the wreckage. When asked about what had happened, the local fire chief stated he “could not discount divine intervention” due to the speed of the fire and because it had actually touched the house. Her family was humbled to realize that it was the prayers of their worldwide church family that had stopped the flames.
We’ve all felt evil’s flames at our doorstep at one time or another, but I firmly believe the God I worship is the same God people from other faith traditions worship. Every time I hear of a “miraculous” experience it reminds me that every one of us—if we turn humbly and faithfully to God—has the potential to walk on holy ground.
Matt Jackson has been fascinated by how science and religion relate to each other for as long as he can remember. He is a member of the Christian Science church in Victoria, BC, and has been a professional writer and editor for 22 years.
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* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, February 22nd 2020