When I was a religion teacher I was often asked why God didn’t perform miracles today as often as he did in the Christian Scriptures. The question is a natural one. As one starts from Genesis and proceeds through Revelation, there are a litany of miraculous events happening one after the other. However, it is easy to forget that the Scriptures aren’t a history of the entire human race. They skip around- after the miraculous events surrounding Daniel there was a 400 year silence before Jesus was born. And even in a single book, there could be dozens and hundreds of years spanned, even though only a few passages have gone by. If we were to chart out when and where God revealed himself, it wouldn’t seem as often as we perceive.
This is where atheists often pick up the question, wondering why he doesn’t reveal himself specifically to them, because after all, that would remove all doubt. Right? I don’t actually believe that. I know an atheist who confided in me that he had an experience which seemed awfully supernatural to him at the time but after a few months and the years went by he found it easier to dismiss. One could only detect a miracle against the backdrop of regularities which we call the ‘natural order’ and that means that in order for God to perform the miraculous in a way for us to know that it is him, his interventions have got to be rare.
This raises an interesting set of questions. A key part of the above sentence was ‘in a way for us to know that it is him.’ Why not, one might argue, appear in a startling way in today’s age? What with all of the technology we have and the ability to test various claims using our highly proficient and never failing scientific method, shouldn’t now be the best time to perform… say… the resurrection? Isn’t now better than 2,000 years ago? Also, the speed at which something as breathtaking as a resurrection could be communicated should surely make such a public miracle today a no-brainer.
But I don’t think so. I have a great-grandfather that was convinced the moon landing was faked, and took that conviction to his grave as an old, old man. Our abilities for movie-making and computer animation today make the moon-landing ‘fakery’ pale in comparison to what can be pulled off by a 15 year old and Youtube. And though there is an improved ability to test claims, there is also an improved ability to fake claims. And while information does travel at light speed these days, that does not mean that the information is good information. Our abilities to check that information on a day to day basis is hampered by the practical limits of our access to the makers of the claims and simple time constraints.
In fact, I suggest that the Resurrection could not have happened given today’s technological accomplishments. I propose that in order for the Resurrection to be credible at all, it would have had to have occurred before the advent of such ‘improvements.’
To add to the matter, let me point out that while we may be more technologically ‘advanced’ then our ancestors in Palestine, that doesn’t mean we have a vastly improved understanding of the natural universe, no matter what the skeptics think. After all, the Resurrection claims put forward by the disciples could only be perceived as profound if it was widely understood that dead people don’t typically rise from the dead. As it happens, we believe that as a general rule today, as well. And just because people in the past didn’t have access to microscopes and fingerprinting methods doesn’t mean they didn’t know how to run an inquiry. Thus, the fact that the Resurrection claims created the Christian church practically overnight right in the very city where Jesus’ enemies moved and breathed is a compelling historical fact that must be accounted for.
All in all, the more I ponder it, the more I believe that Jesus came and died at just the right time. There were fine Roman roads, common currencies, and a common language in the empire, Greek. The message spread to all parts of the Roman empire very quickly, relatively speaking. And yet, it happened during a time when Hollywood magic could not allow us to doubt endlessly about whether or not people could even believe their eyes.
And that’s saying something right there. For all our advances, I bet the last fifty years or so marks the first time when its safe to say that we can’t even believe our own eyes anymore, at least and especially what our eyes take in on the screen. Miracles today? Certainly. Rare? Certainly. God knows the right time and the right amounts. Just because he doesn’t agree with us on the timing doesn’t mean we can dismiss claims in our day, or days past.