Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, And How They Can Change Your Life, by Eric Metaxas
This is a book that I was somewhat cautious and hesitant about reading, and I think in the main my caution was warranted by the book’s materials and approach. Miracles are a notoriously tricky subject to deal with, and while I think the author does a good job in limiting the miracle stories he writes about to people whose integrity he can trust, I think there is a lot more going on in these stories than the author understands. All too often in this book the author sees the existence of a possible miracle as confirming him (or others) in behaviors and plans, and draws some baffling and unbiblical conclusions from at least some of the purported miracles . What I think Metaxas understands accurately is that miracles involve some sort of communication from God, but where we differ is in the content of that communication, as the author posits some sort of approval or legitimacy from these events where I would only see the outpouring of generous love from God. And it is that difference in interpreting these miracles that does not leave me enjoying this book as much as I have the rest of the work I have read by the author.
This book is divided into fifteen chapters in two parts that take up more than 200 pages. The first part of the book looks at the question of miracles (I), and examines what it means to believe in miracles (1), defines what makes a miracle (2), and looks at the relationship between miracles and science (3). The author also points out that life itself is a miracle (4), that the universe and its workings are miraculous (5), and answers various questions about miracles (6) before looking at the biblical miracles (7) and the miracle of the resurrection (8). After this the author shares a variety of miracle stories (II) from his own life and people he knows and trusts. These include conversion miracles (9), healing miracles (10), miracles of inner healing (11), as well as angelic miracles (12), various miscellaneous miracles (13), miracles involving eternity (14), before the author closes the book with a discussion of how miracles can change one’s life (15). Overall the first half of the book is better, as the author is on more solid ground when talking about miracles in the abstract than in his interpretation of the miracle stories from his own life and that of others.
As is often the case, the writer is more sure when writing about that which is more distant than that which closer to him. At times, the conclusions drawn from these stories are highly troubling, as the author endorses the loutish behavior of a mafia enforcer, has someone changing the way they pray in order to worship the Holy Spirit, and has a woman imagining her previously aborted baby in heaven. Even so, there is a great deal of worth in this book in the way that the author talks about how God communicates with us in dreams, providential events, and in the lives of those around us. We may recognize that God is communicating with us but can often be much less confident about what exactly God is saying through this communication, as the miracles included in this book are probably misinterpreted more often then they are correctly understood. And yet God still works to communicate with us in ways that we will be sensitive to, even if we do not always get the point that He is trying to convey. Given that we are beings that struggle so much in communicating with each other and with God, it is little wonder that we should so easily misunderstand what God is saying to us.
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