Answering Skeptics Challenges #1 - Doesn't God Do Miracles?

I’m so glad you’re here to get prepared to answer challenging questions that skeptics often ask. The skills you will be sharpening will be in the role as an apologist and in practicing apologetics. This doesn’t mean making an apology for your faith but to make a defense of the faith, like a defense lawyer may do in court. If you’ve ever studied apologetics before then you will be familiar with the apologetics creed,
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”  1 Peter 3:15,16 NIV
The challenging questions we’ll discuss in this class usually come from atheists but I’ve also heard many from those professing to be Christians as well. It does matter where they are coming from because the atheist will have a completely different worldview than someone with just a confused worldview who may be doubting God because of some of these challenging questions.

Almost any question that can be raised against Christianity has been raised many times before. Do you think that after two thousand years there are that many new questions? The so-called new atheists think they are raising new questions but not really. They just ask them in an ignorant, condescending, arrogant fashion. Despite all that, we need to learn the answers to these questions so that we don’t answer them in an ignorant, condescending, and arrogant fashion as well.

This class will be broken up into four sections,
Doesn’t God Do Miracles?
Doesn’t God Care About Evil?
Doesn’t God Do Evil?
Don’t Christians Do Evil?
The core of this class will deal with questions raised by an atheist in a YouTube video called “10 Questions every intelligent Christian should answer”. This video has over six million views, which isn’t that unusual on YouTube, but I find it more enlightening that there are over 1.2 million comments! These comments are mostly the tit for tat challenges between atheists and Christians but it does show that this is a topic Christians will be confronted with, especially those in high school or college.  Let’s watch the first part of this YouTube video and get the flavor of his arguments.



Isn’t that irritating? What are some of his assumptions? What is his view of faith? Doesn’t he think faith equals a blind faith?  The biblical view of faith is more like trust. Nobody knows what is going to happen in the future so we all operate on faith, including atheists. We may get in our car and drive home because we have faith that our driving ability is good enough to find our way home, we trust it. We have faith that the roads are safe enough to make it home without having an accident, we trust the other drivers to some small extent. We have faith that our vehicle is safe enough that it won’t burst into flames. We trust the condition of our automobile. Now tell me, is your faith stronger if you know more or if you know nothing at all about these things? It’s stronger, right?

Faith isn’t a replacement for a lack of knowledge, it is actually a type of knowledge. If you have friend that you trust or have put your faith in what they say and do then you do it because of your knowledge of them. You don’t have much faith or trust in people you don’t know at all so faith isn’t the opposite of knowledge. Our faith, or trust in God is greater based on how much we know about Him and from our experience of His faithfulness to us. If we have a type of faith that is just contrary to logic, reason, and our knowledge then that isn’t a biblical faith. So, I’d expect an intelligent Christian to have a stronger faith if they apply their reasoning skills to their faith and examine it deeply like a good Berean.

Knowledge is justified true belief. If you believe something that is true and you’re justified in believing it then it is knowledge. If I flip a coin and you think it landed heads then that may be a true belief but if I tell you it was heads or you see that it was then that true belief is justified, or that you have good reason to hold that belief. Faith then is knowledge when it is a justified, or reasonable, true, corresponds to reality, belief.

The skeptic may complain that faith is what deals with the supernatural or non-natural but isn’t trusting in something or someone in the future that you can’t measure or weigh, like the driving ability of other people on the road, just as much as much an act of faith? Since anything that will happen in the future is not something you can touch, measure or weigh right now then those events are in a sense supernatural, not part of our natural word in the present time. Hebrews 11:1 Says: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” We do not see what is in the future but we have faith and assurance built on our trust in the One who controls the future. This isn’t blind faith as some would call it. When you are walking along as a child holding onto your father’s hand then you aren’t walking along blindly. These are just some aspects of faith that I don’t believe we think about very often and it isn’t the kind of faith this atheist describes in his video.

This video has ten questions and we won’t be doing them in order but instead we’ll cover them by categories. The category this week is “Doesn’t God do miracles?” Let’s get to his first annoying question.



Question: Why won’t God heal amputees? That seems like a challenging question at first. He sure thinks so. On more reflection it isn’t so challenging.
There are a lot of assumptions behind this question and they deserve to be questioned also.

There’s a great answer to this question on “GotQuestions.org” and I will lay out their answer along with my own observations.

Assumption 1: God has never healed an amputee. Who is to say that in the history of the world, God has never caused a limb to regenerate? To say, "I have no empirical evidence that limbs can regenerate; therefore, no amputee has ever been healed in the history of the world" is akin to saying "I have no empirical evidence that rabbits live in my yard; therefore, no rabbit has ever lived on this ground in the history of the world." It’s a conclusion that simply cannot be drawn. Besides, we have the historical record of Jesus healing lepers, some of whom we may assume had lost digits or facial features. In each case, the lepers were restored whole (Mark 1:40-42; Luke 17:12-14). Also, there is the case of the man with the shriveled hand (Matthew 12:9-13), and the restoration of Malchus's severed ear (Luke 22:50-51), not to mention the fact that Jesus raised the dead (Matthew 11:5; John 11), which would undeniably be even more difficult than healing an amputee.

I spoke with a woman recently who met a refugee from Africa who said her foot had been cut off and God grew it back. I can’t confirm that but how much evidence do you think it would take for an atheist to be convinced that such a thing was done by God? No amount of evidence would be enough.

Assumption 2: God’s goodness and love require Him to heal everyone.
Illness, suffering, and pain are the result of our living in a cursed world—cursed because of our sin (Genesis 3:16-19; Romans 8:20-22). God’s goodness and love moved Him to provide a Savior to redeem us from the curse (1 John 4:9-10), but our ultimate redemption will not be realized until God has made a final end of sin in the world. Until that time, we are still subject to physical death. If God’s love required Him to heal every disease and infirmity, then no one would ever die—because "love" would maintain everyone in perfect health. The biblical definition of love is "a sacrificial seeking what is best for the loved one." What is best for us is not always physical wholeness. Paul the apostle prayed to have his "thorn in the flesh" removed, but God said, "No" because He wanted Paul to understand he didn’t need to be physically whole to experience the sustaining grace of God. Through the experience, Paul grew in humility and in the understanding of God’s mercy and power (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

A good friend of mine is a quadriplegic and he is convinced that he wouldn’t have the strength of character he has now if it hadn’t been for his challenges. He doubts he would have even been a Christian. He ultimately thanks God for the condition he has because of that God had done for him through it. Also Joni Eareckson Tada, as a teenager, suffered a diving accident that left her a quadriplegic. In her book she writes, "The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that God doesn’t want everyone well. He uses our problems for His glory and our good”.

Assumption 3: God still performs miracles today just as He did in the past.

In the thousands of years of history covered by the Bible, we find just four short periods in which miracles were widely performed (the period of the Exodus, the time of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, the ministry of Jesus, and the time of the apostles). While miracles occurred throughout the Bible, it was only during these four periods that miracles were "common." The time of the apostles ended with the writing of Revelation and the death of John. That means that now, once again, miracles are rare. Any ministry which claims to be led by a new breed of apostle or claims to possess the ability to heal is deceiving people. "Faith healers" play upon emotion and use the power of suggestion to produce unverifiable "healings." This is not to say that God does not heal people today— I believe He does—but not in the numbers or in the way that some people claim.

Assumption 4: God is bound to say "yes" to any prayer offered in faith.

Jesus said, "I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it" (John 14:12-14). Some have tried to interpret this passage as a carte blanche from Jesus promising His agreement to whatever we ask. But this is misreading Jesus’ intent. Notice, first, that Jesus is speaking to His apostles, and the promise is for them. After Jesus’ ascension, the apostles were given power to perform miracles as they spread the gospel (Acts 5:12). Second, Jesus twice uses the phrase "in My name." This indicates the basis for the apostles’ prayers, but it also implies that whatever they prayed for should be consonant with Jesus’ will. A selfish prayer, for example, or one motivated by greed, cannot be said to be prayed in Jesus’ name. We pray in faith, but faith means that we trust God. We trust Him to do what is best and to know what is best. When we consider all the Bible’s teaching on prayer (not just the promise given to the apostles), we learn that God may exercise His power in response to our prayer, or He may surprise us with a different course of action. In His wisdom He always does what is best (Romans 8:28).

Assumption 5: God’s future healing (at the resurrection) cannot compensate for earthly suffering.
The truth is, "our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). When a believer loses a limb, he has God’s promise of future wholeness, and faith is "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:4). Jesus said, "It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire" (Matthew 18:8). His words confirm the relative unimportance of our physical condition in this world, as compared to our eternal state. To enter life maimed (and then to be made whole) is infinitely better than to enter hell whole (to suffer for eternity).

I may want to refer to this illustration again later in this class but think of a sick, homeless guy on the street, living in a box. On New Year’s Day he’s given a lottery ticket and it’s a winner. He gets a home, he gets his health back, and he’s reunited with his family. At the end of the year he’s asked how this year has gone for him. He says it was wonderful and he’s so happy. But he’s asked, “But what about that first day of the year when you were still in that cold box on the street. He shrugs it off, “Oh that. That seems so long ago now and everything is so great now, so why would I dwell on that?” His attitude is comparable to what God is doing with us. Even a lifetime of suffering compared to an eternity with God will seem less than the snap of your fingers in duration but that suffering does produce the appreciation we should have for the good gifts God has prepared for us.

Assumption 6: God’s plan is subject to man’s approval.
One of the contentions of the "why won’t God heal amputees" argument is that God just isn’t "fair" to amputees. Yet, Scripture is clear that God is perfectly just (Psalm 11:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-6) and in His sovereignty answers to no one (Romans 9:20-21). A believer has faith in God’s goodness, even when circumstances make it difficult and reason seems to falter.

Assumption 7: God does not exist.

This is the underlying assumption on which the whole "why won’t God heal amputees" argument is based. Those who champion the "why won’t God heal amputees" argument start with the assumption that God does not exist and then proceed to buttress their idea as best they can. For them, "religion is a myth" is a foregone conclusion, presented as a logical deduction but which is, in reality, foundational to the argument. In one sense, the question of why God doesn’t heal amputees is a "gotcha" question, comparable to "Can God make a rock too big for Him to lift?" and is designed not to seek for truth but to discredit faith. In another sense, it can be a valid question with a biblical answer. That answer, in short, would be something like this: "God can heal amputees and will heal every one of them who trusts Christ as Savior. The healing will come, not as the result of our demanding it now, but in God’s own time, possibly in this life, but definitely in Heaven. Until that time, we walk by faith, trusting the God who redeems us in Christ and promises the resurrection of the body.“

Now we’ll turn to the next question that questions miracles.


This challenge immediately reminds me of something that Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason said when he was here at Efree some years ago. He said essentially trying to evaluate miracles and the supernatural with scientific means is like trying to weigh a chicken with a yardstick. In essence, science only can deal with things that can be weighed, measured, tested, repeated, etc.. So trying to use science to evaluate something outside that realm is actually what is nonsense. Science can’t even evaluate history so to dismiss everything outside its realm is juvenile thinking. Can science measure justice, love, trustworthiness, or honor? In fact, science can’t comment on the most important things in our lives so to dismiss what the Bible has to say about the miraculous just because it isn’t in the realm of science is an act of extreme bias. This betrays a philosophy of scientism. 
Scientism is defined as:
“the idea that natural science is the most authoritative worldview or aspect of human education, and that it is superior to all other interpretations of life.” 
So, they are saying that if you can’t deal with it through natural science and the scientific method then it is inferior. Is this idea a scientific statement or a philosophical statement? It’s certainly their philosophy. Tell me, did they come to that philosophy through the scientific method? Obviously not. This belief is self-defeating in that it condemns itself as wrong at the outset. They are cutting off the tree limb they are sitting on. So, to answer this challenge you must challenge them on their presupposition of scientism or it will keep coming back to that over and over. You could ask “How would science prove that Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world by the age of thirty-two? How would science prove that I love my wife? How would science prove the concept of justice?” Unless they could show how science would deal with these things then their philosophy is insufficient to even discuss them. Otherwise, their questions would just keep demanding that you try to weigh one chicken after another with a yardstick.

It has been well argued by philosphers of science that the scientific method only arose out of a Christian worldview, not even the ancient Greek or Roman worldview gave rise to science. A worldview that believes in an immutable God who is the source of all laws governing physics who has a purpose for creating and maintaining the world, then that worldview would lead to the belief that the world can be discovered and understood because it has a rational, logical, and consistent basis underlying it. That Christian worldview led to the scientific method. An atheistic worldview cannot provide that foundation.

There were also some false claims made in this video about the Bible such as the Bible explicitly saying the world was created 6,000 years ago but you will be wasting your time trying to put out all these little brush fires. There are more foundational issues of presuppositions to deal with first as I have shown. Let’s go on to the next question:


Atheists always claim that there is no evidence that there is a God. Well what is evidence? What is one kind of evidence that is accepted and evaluated in every court of law in the world? Eyewitness testimony. So, did Jesus’ miracles leave behind any eyewitness testimony? Of course. These testimonies are called the Gospels and the other letters of the New Testament. There are also other extra Biblical accounts about Jesus that refer to Him working miracles. This is the definition of evidence, the atheist may not believe it, but it is evidence. If the atheist persists in saying it isn’t evidence then I’d seriously challenge if they know what the word means.
There is another obvious piece of evidence that the atheist can try to ignore. What was the greatest miracle Jesus ever did? His resurrection, of course. If Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead and left an empty tomb then I’d venture to say that none of us would have ever heard of him and maybe no record would have existed of him at all. But since he did raise from the dead, and initially thousands of Jewish believers came to faith then many thousands more gentiles across the Roman came to know this Jesus, since all that happened we now have the Christian church, the largest religious group on earth. The church itself is evidence for the greatest miracle of Jesus.

The skeptic should also be challenged to tell what kind of evidence is he looking for that would convince him that God exists and the Bible is true. If you do get an answer then it is likely something that would put the atheist in judgment over God and I doubt it would actually convince them anyway. That leads us to the next question.


There are a lot of assumptions in this question too. Do they expect that Jesus is required to appear to every one who calls upon him like making a genie pop out of a lamp after you rub it? Do they know that this hasn’t happened? I personally know a man from Nepal who was very disillusioned with the Hindu gods he had been worshipping and asked Jesus to reveal himself to him if he was real. He then had a vision that caused him to see a large cross and he heard Jesus speak to him. Even after that he went back to his Hindu gods to give them one more chance. There are large numbers of Muslims today who are also experiencing Jesus through dreams and visions. It is estimated that thirty to forty percent of Muslims who become Christians have had such an experience. I seriously doubt that a skeptic would be convinced by their experiences even if he heard dozens of such testimonies.

Nevertheless, why should Jesus make an appearance to anyone unless it suited His purposes. Even during Jesus’ earthly mission He often hid Himself from the people who sought Him out. He often withdrew away from the crowds. There is a sense here of the hiddenness of God that led the prophet Isaiah to proclaim,

                  “Truly, You are a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Savior!” Isaiah 45:15

If you look at the Biblical accounts of God’s close interaction with His people you will notice that it doesn’t always promote maturity in His people. Adam and Even sinned despite God’s closeness. The people of Israel, shortly after seeing the ten plagues, and the parting of the Red Sea, turned to an idol. When God walked among us in the incarnate son, we even killed Him. God’s hiddeness kinda makes sense when you look at the reaction He gets the closer He is to us. It is also a mercy to the unbeliever to not have God right in his face so that he can’t harden his heart and turn up the heat of his wrath against God. Either the unbeliever will just pile up judgment upon himself or could be hardened against the wooing of the Spirit when the Father does call him to come to Jesus. If Jesus did appear to most atheists after they make a foolish dare they would most likely want to kill Jesus again.

A lot of these challenges involve our expectations about answered prayer in that any prayer that is answered by a supernatural being could be considered miraculous. So, we can’t deal with challenges to miracles unless we also deal with challenges to our trust in prayer. That leads us to this next video. I’ve condensed it down a bit for length but also to reduce the level of my annoyance with this guy.


I think this video is pretty challenging to the simplistic answer given by Christianity.com and I think this atheist is right to point this out. He went on in the video to show that the ‘scientific’ studies on prayer don’t show any correlation between prayer and healing. You may have heard that some studies do but regardless you don’t want to be making your case by pitting one study against another. I wouldn’t trust any of those studies because none of them operate on a Christian understanding of prayer. The video does say that Christians often defend this problem with prayer in saying we’re forbidden to put the Lord God to the test or that God must remain hidden. I would agree that Christians are not to use prayer to put God to the test but that is what the video is doing and, with the tests he used, we wouldn’t be able to tell if God or a jug of milk answered our prayers so let us look at this more properly.

Prayers are to a person, they are not a force. Despite what some Word Faith preachers claim, prayer is not a force, not a ‘force of faith’ as Kenneth Copeland called it. We shouldn’t use answers to prayer as a test of God’s existence. But how should we view them? I would like to illustrate it this way. There’s this 16-year-old son who goes in and he asks Dad to get him a car. The Dad knows this request has been coming for years doesn’t he? Well, he doesn’t want to play his hand. The Dad just smiles and replies, “Trust me.” Now the Dad may have already bought the car and it is arriving tomorrow. That would be a ‘yes’ answer. On the other hand, he may have already decided that he isn’t going to buy his son a car, the answer is ‘no’, because he wants his son to work for the summer to earn it and then he’ll take better care of it since he’ll have spent his own money. Or, the Dad thinks his son is too immature and will have to wait a year. We’re back to the Yes, No, Wait answer again aren’t we? Well, that is a valid expectation in regards to a request to any person. The key part of this illustration is the Dad’s request, “Trust me.” The atheist’s challenge is not whether God answers prayer but whether He exists or not, and furthermore if He does exist, can you trust Him. The “Yes”, “No”, “Wait” are matters of trust not a matter of testing.  Can answered prayer still be a proof of God’s existence, of course, but how?

Answered prayers are proof of God’s existence when they point to God as the best explanation. I hope you noticed that this video twisted the test to their favor in that the prayer for $1000 was answered with $1100 in one case and $1200 in another. What if you got a bill for $953.17 and prayed for that amount and the next day you got a check in the mail from the aunt you haven’t spoken to for twenty years and it was for $953.17? Now that is far less likely to be coincidence and you’d suspect somebody having a hand in this as much as someone being dealt a Royal Flush three times in a row. What if the answer to prayer was that your amputated foot grow back and it did, or that Jesus reveal Himself to you and He did? The best explanation in these cases are that God answered your prayer but that still wouldn’t convince most atheists despite how I told you earlier that these things really do happen.

The proper test of whether a person, a person down the street, or the person of God exists is to make personal contact and not just asking for a check in the mail. Prayer is a means to that personal contact and the skeptic should be challenged to make a sincere request that God reveal Himself to them. Now, the atheists should evaluate their prayer and wonder if they would respond to someone making the same request to them if they are just doing it in a mocking, challenging way and full of contempt. Would they go to someone’s party who asked them like that? Of course not. On the other hand if a skeptic can humble himself and make that sincere request then I believe that God is already working on him and something significant will eventually happen.

Overall, I believe prayer is best understood as God’s means for us to grow in conformity to his will and purposes, in that prayer is meant to change our minds more than it is to change God’s mind.

With that in mind, here’s a tough passage to live by concerning prayer.  “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I want to highlight to the part, ‘give thanks in all circumstances’. You know how atheists grumble over how athletes on TV thank God for their victory, well if they heard a Christian athlete give thanks to God for their loss it would really confuse them. I think we should give thanks to God no matter what. A friend told me how she knew a man who prayed that God would help him lose weight. He did. He took away his car and gave him a bicycle. Be careful what you ask for. A friend told me that he knew a man who was trusting God for a blue Mercedes. He was believing the name it, claim it gospel and was believing for a blue Mercedes. Well this friend was walking to his house one evening and found a little Matchbox car in the gutter in front of his house. It was a blue Mercedes! So, he took it inside and told him, “Hey, look! God finally answered your prayers. This blue Mercedes was in front of your house.” Now, don’t you think God was answering his prayer? I really think so.

God answers our prayers as either yes, no or wait in such a way that it brings glory and honor to him. He is the sovereign king of creation and not our servant. Think of that wise Dad who wanted to give a car to his son because he loved him. The son should give the dad honor and glory when the answer is yes because of his wise provision and knowing in advance what his son would want. When the answer was no the son should give honor and glory to the Dad because he was wise enough to know his son needed to earn the car himself and build needed character. When the answer was to wait a year the son should give honor and glory to the Dad for his wisdom in protecting his son from the risks of being an immature driver. The son of course would not have the perspective to understand the wisdom in the Dad’s action just as we don’t understand the wisdom God shows when he doesn’t give us everything we ask for, or provides in a way that builds character or something else we need like taking away our car and giving us a bicycle. We’ll talk more about prayer and God’s purposes for us in the other classes but I’d like us to focus on rejoicing always, praying continually, and giving thanks in all circumstances because God is worthy of all the praise and honor we can offer and more.

Here’s question for you to consider. Do you need a miracle to believe and trust in Jesus? Did you personally need a miracle to believe and come to Christ?

I say ‘yes’! If you came to faith in Christ then I believe the Bible tells us that it took a sovereign act of God to bring you to the Son.

In John 6:44, Jesus said “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” The Father has to draw a person to Jesus. For this reason, I don’t believe we can argue any skeptic into faith in Jesus but God may be using our discussion and reasoning with them to His purposes in conforming their will to His.

For as it says in John 1:12,13 “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” God does a miracle in each of us, according to scripture, in that he supernaturally draws us to Christ, not out of our own will or decision, but his own. He causes us to be born again. 1 Peter 1:3. So, I read this that if we are faithful in giving the reason for our faith to everyone who asks then it is up to God to work the miracle in that skeptic to bring them to faith just as we were once brought to faith by God working supernaturally in each of us.

If you want to check out other verses about this, you can go to this link.

Recommended resources:
www.CARM.org

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