Miracles Today with Dr. Craig Keener
Inside This Episode
Do miracles still happen the way we believe they did in biblical times? Why are we so skeptical when people say they’ve witnessed a miraculous healing or supernatural event? In this episode, Dr. Craig Keener, New Testament professor and author of “Miracles Today: The Supernatural Work of God in the Modern World”, shares the concrete evidence he’s discovered for reasonable belief in modern-day miracles.
Featured book: “Miracles Today: The Supernatural Work of God in the Modern World” by Dr. Craig Keener
Julie Mirlicourtois: Hey everyone, welcome to Maybe God. Before we get started today, we'd love it if you would, please, take a moment to leave us your best review on Apple or rate us wherever you listen. You can also share our video clips from your favorite episodes on Facebook and Instagram. These are always to help us get the word out about the work we're doing to create weekly content for doubtful believers and hopeful skeptics.
On today's episode, we're talking about why people are so hesitant to believe in miracles.
Dr. Craig Keener: If a police officer's interviewing people that are in an accident, and somebody comes up and says, "No, don't listen to them. That's not what happened. This is what happened." And the officer says, "So yeah, tell me what you saw." "Oh, I didn't see anything. I wasn't there. That's why I know it didn't happen." I mean, that's absurd. But that's what people do with miracles. "Well, I didn't see it myself."
Julie Mirlicourtois: New Testament professor and author of Miracles Today, Dr. Craig Keener, explains why he believes there's enough concrete evidence for reasonable belief in miracles.
Eric Huffman: So I'm so excited for this. Dr. Keener, welcome to Maybe God.
Dr. Craig Keener: It's great to be with you, Eric. And just call me Craig.
Eric Huffman: Okay, I'll try. I'll try. Although you are responsible for what's probably my favorite Study Bible, by the way. I didn't tell you this when we were getting to know each other before we started rolling, but the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible it's just my go-to. I have worn the original cover out. That's how much I use it. And then I had to put another cover on it. But thank you for that work and for all of your work that you've done over the years.
If you could just tell us a little bit about yourself and where you call home and how you spend your days these days.
Dr. Craig Keener: How does a scholar spend their days? Pretty much reading and writing and teaching. I'm originally from Ohio and now in Kentucky in Asbury Theological Seminary. My wife Médine Moussounga Keener, she was a war refugee back in Congo, where she's from. We've been married now for 20 years. We have a son, David, and a daughter, Keren, and just a happy family together. And now we're grandparents. My background, I was an atheist, and I was converted to Christian faith through an encounter with Jesus.
Eric Huffman: Wow, congrats on becoming a grandfather. Now, you talk about your work with Asbury. And these days anytime somebody hears the name Asbury, what comes to mind is this revival that took shape in recent months. Talk a little bit about your experience with that and sort of your take, if you would, on that event.
Dr. Craig Keener: Sure. If you look at the book of Acts, there's different expressions of outpourings of the Spirit that happens in different ways. And sometimes in recent centuries, there have been these experiences called revivals. But well, people have been praying for it, but when it happened, I think it caught us all by surprise. It was like, nobody could take credit for this. It was just a worship service ran over and the spirit of worship and the all of God's holiness was so great. You could palpably feel the presence of God in that place. Maybe not nonstop, but it went on for a couple of weeks like that. That was pretty amazing. But that was actually at the University. I teach at the seminary. It's a separate institution...
Eric Huffman: Just amazing. Now, when I hear you talk about that events, and I just hear you talk in general, I think, if I'm listening through the years of a skeptic or maybe someone who has more questions than answers about Christianity, you talk like someone who's maybe always been a Christian or maybe you've always been even a charismatic kind of Christian. But that's not the case with you. You converted into this life from atheism. Could you talk a little bit about how that happened?
Dr. Craig Keener: Yeah. I had been an atheist for some years at that point. There are nice atheists, and there are mean atheists. I was one of the mean ones. I made fun of Christians. So after I became one, I had to go back and apologize to everybody. I had to eat crow. Humble myself. But I started wondering what the stakes were if I was wrong. I had never heard of Pascal's Wager, but it makes good sense in a way. If you're wrong, you know, you're sticking a lot in this. So I started saying, "God or whatever, if you're out there, please show me".
I started questioning more when I was 13 and I was reading Plato. I wasn't raised in a Christian home. But when I was reading Plato, he talked about the immortality of the soul. I didn't think his arguments were that strong but I thought his questions were really good questions. Because how can I explain my own existence, my own identity as anything but an infinitesimal improbability without meaning unless there was something infinite or someone infinite? And yet for that to be true and for that to care about something as infinitesimally small as I am in the context of the universe, that being would have to be also infinitely loving. And why would a loving being love me since I wasn't very loving myself? Because I knew...
To make a long story short, there were some fundamental Baptists, who came to me on the street and witness to me, shared with me about Christ, told me Jesus died for me and rose again. I argued with them for 45 minutes. And they were not trained in apologetics, they were not trained also in paleontology. I asked them where did the dinosaur bones come from. They said, "The devil put them there." I was like, "Oh, no, I'm leaving." And so I left. They didn't give me all the right answers but they did give me what the Bible said about Jesus dying for me and rising from the dead.
Eric Huffman: How old were you at this point?
Dr. Craig Keener: By this point, I was 15.
Eric Huffman: Okay.
Dr. Craig Keener: and some people think, ah, you're 15, you don't know anything. But that's not true if you've been reading Plato for a couple years.
Eric Huffman: Yeah, you sounded like a pretty extraordinary kid in that regard.
Dr. Craig Keener: Actually, Jesus' disciples, probably most of them were in their teens. That was the average age for starting His disciples.
Eric Huffman: Right.
Dr. Craig Keener: Anyway, I was so overwhelmed... I mean, it was after I left them, but I was so overwhelmed by the presence of God. I'd studied different religions. I'd studied lots of different philosophies. But this was different because God was there. He made His presence known to me. And I was converted... Like 45 minutes after I started experiencing that, it was like, "Okay, God, I don't understand the Jesus dying for me and rising from the dead, how that can make me right with you. But if that's what you're saying, I'll believe it." I mean, He's right there. What am I going to do?
Eric Huffman: Wow.
Dr. Craig Keener: It left me with all sorts of intellectual questions, because they didn't answer those. And nobody I knew at that point had answers for all those. So that had to come later. It's ideal if you can get those answered up front. But, you know, starting by saying, "God, if you're there, please show me" that's not a bad place to start.
Eric Huffman: Right.
Dr. Craig Keener: Because sometimes He will in different ways.
Eric Huffman: So neither of your parents were very religious in any way?
Dr. Craig Keener: No. I actually didn't know what they were because we didn't talk about religion. I mean, I knew my mom didn't believe in life after death. But when we finally did talk about it, she said she was an agnostic, and my dad was against organized religion.
Eric Huffman: That's an extraordinary story, given the fact that a lot of times you'll hear arguments from agnostics and atheists who are trying to dissuade others from becoming Chris... or trying to defend their own worldviews by saying, well, the only reason people are Christians is because their parents raised them to be or whatever. It seems like in your case, you're definitely the exception to the rule, if there is a rule in that regard.
Dr. Craig Keener: I'm not sure if there is. If there is a rule in that regard, in the sense that... like in one report from the China Christian Council from around the year 2000, they said that of all conversions to Christianity in the previous 20 years, about half of them had been due to what they called faith healing experiences. And within the house church movement, it was much higher. It was like some [inaudible 00:08:45] meaning like 90%.
But in that 20-year period, there have been millions of people who have come to faith in Jesus in China. And we see that in many other parts of the world too, people coming from non-Christian backgrounds, are not always anti-Christian, but non-Christian backgrounds, often had their own indigenous folk healing traditions and yet were so astonished by something that was done in the name of Jesus, that they were willing to abandon centuries of tradition [inaudible 00:09:18] social cost.
So it wasn't just like me having to eat crow and go apologize to some Christians because I'd made fun of them. But they paid even a greater price. So around the world, there are lots of people like me in that sense.
Eric Huffman: Yeah, interesting. Very interesting. Thank you for sharing that part of your journey. I'm sure it's a blessing to people that are hearing it for the first time. I know that meeting your wife and falling in love with her and getting to know her family and her culture has been a huge part of not only your life journey but your faith journey as well. Just talk a little bit about her and how you met.
Dr. Craig Keener: We met through University Christian Fellowship at Duke University. She was an exchange student from France where she was doing her PhD. As I said before, she's from Congo in Central Africa. But she was doing her PhD in France. We were kind of on the same page in terms of commitment to Christ. She was very vocal and her faith. So we saw each other a lot.
She went back to finish her PhD after eight months in the US, and then returned back to Congo where she was caught up in a civil war. She ended up being a refugee for, I think, 18 months during that war. And I've been trying to get in touch with her and couldn't reach her. The last letter I'd gotten from her said she didn't know if she was going to live or die and that her cousin had just been shot dead, her father and brother had just nearly missed being shot dead and troops were closing in on her town. By the time her letter reached me, her town had been burned down.
So 18 months I was praying kind of madly for her safety. I mean, we were good friends, we were fond of each other. We weren't engaged or anything at that point. But after she got out of the war, we definitely didn't wait around so long expressing our feelings. But something interesting with her war experience, too. I have a friend who became an agnostic because he said, there's so much suffering in the world. And I asked her what she thought about that because I mean, the suffering is real, and she said, "We could not have made it without God. I mean, we had to depend on God more than ever during that time."
Eric Huffman: That's interesting, isn't it? A lot of people that witness suffering from afar are more likely to doubt God's existence or role in all of that than a lot of folks that are in the suffering first degree and experiencing it on a daily basis. Fascinating.
Now, your experience with your wife, obviously, your expertise in New Testament studies, all of this sort of worked together to fuel your incredible interest in miracles, which led to the book that you've written most recently called "Miracles Today". Now, my favorite part of your work on miracles is simply the storytelling. And I know there's a lot of apologetics issues and reason and logic that goes into making these arguments. But the stories you tell, I guess, I've been waiting for someone to catalog miracles the way that you have in this work. So one of the miracles that really opened your eyes had to do with your wife's family, your sister-in-law. Could you just tell us that story, please?
Dr. Craig Keener: Yeah. My wife had told me the story but, you know, she didn't have all the details. She hadn't actually been born yet when this happened. So when we visited Congo-Brazzaville, I interviewed Madame Jacques, Antoinette Malombe was locally called. And she said, "Yeah, when my daughter Thérèse was two years old, she was bitten by snake. There was no medical help available in the village. She wasn't breathing. So Madame Jack strapped her to her back, ran to a nearby village, where family friend, Coco Ngoma Moyise, was doing ministry. He prayed for the child, she started breathing again and the next day she was fine.
So I asked, "How long was it that she wasn't breathing?" I didn't know how far apart the villages were. I thought it was like maybe five minutes. But in six minutes with no oxygen, irreparable brain damage starts in. Well, she said it was about... she had to stop and think to get from one village to the other. She said about three hours. And that's by no means the most dramatic account that I have. But that one certainly got my attention because Thérèse has no brain damage. She has a master's degree. She's just recently retired. She's close to my age. And Thérèse is my wife's big sister, Antoinette Malombe was my mother-in-law. And not to doubt my mother-in-law, but we did confirm the story with Coco Moyise.
Eric Huffman: That's incredible. And another story that really stands out that I love to hear you talk about is the story of Barbara.
Dr. Craig Keener: So yeah, Barbara had been deteriorating physically due to a really severe form of multiple sclerosis. And for 15 years, she had spent half the time in the hospital, but this time she was sent home. Everybody had signed a "don't resuscitate" order. The hospital said she won't be back. She was hooked up to a machine to enable her diaphragm to move, that's so paralyzed, most of her muscles were, so that she could breathe.
She had gone blind. In her words, her hands were... she was curled up like pretzels. Her hands were curled up so much that you had to pry them open to get the dead skin out. Her feet were curled up, there was no way... you couldn't... Even if you're holding her up, you pull her out of bed, there's no way her feet could rest flat on the floor.
People had been praying, everybody was expecting she would die. So I didn't know what they were praying for. Some of them probably were praying for healing. Some of them were probably praying God will just give her a mercy. But she heard a voice off to the side, saying, my child rise up and walk. Plus, it was physically impossible but she jumped out of bed, which was physically impossible for...
First thing she noticed, she saw her feet flat on the floor. Second thing she noticed was her hands weren't curled up. And third thing she noticed was she was seeing these things. She wasn't blind anymore. And normally, in cases of healing like this, if you haven't walked for months, your muscles are going to be atrophied. So it's still gonna be hard to walk even though you now are able to walk.
But in her case, it was so complete that her muscles won't even atrophy. I mean, somehow, she calls out to her father, her father thinks it's the sister calling because, you know, Barbara can't talk. And she realizes, "Oh, I don't have to wait for him. She's pulling all the tubes out. She runs out and greets her father and they're dancing around outside.
Now, there were three doctors on this case at the time and all three of them have written this story up. Besides interviewing Barbara, I contacted two of these doctors and got direct feedback from them and was able to clarify some of the things in their written reports. That was 1981. No recurrence. She did pass away after 40 years in 2021 from COVID but no recurrence of MS. That's one of many, many accounts.
Eric Huffman: I mean, in your book, you just roll these off one after another. And clearly, the point you're making is you're building a strong case for the existence of miracles from a human experience angle. I think a common argument you'll hear from skeptics about miracles is, well, I've never seen one and that's enough for me to not believe in miracles. But when you consider the numbers of people worldwide, the great majority, almost 100% of humanity throughout history has believed in miracles in some form or fashion.
So for people today to suddenly say, because I haven't seen one with my own two eyes, I mean, it kind of reeks of arrogance in a way. And I think that's, in a way, what you've done by cataloging these stories, one after another. Is that how you see it?
Dr. Craig Keener: Yeah. David Hume was an 18th-century Scottish philosopher. He borrowed a lot of his arguments from [inaudible 00:18:36]. But he was really the one influential in mainstreaming the argument. It's really a two-part argument. But if I had to summarize it in one sentence, it's there are no sufficiently reliable eyewitnesses that miracles occur. And he could get away with that then.
But there was a Pew Forum survey just over a decade ago of Pentecostals and charismatics in just 10 countries. And in those 10 countries alone, among Pentecostals and Protestant charismatics in those 10 countries alone, somewhere around an estimated 200 million people claim to have witnessed divine healing. The control group was other Christians and somewhere around 39% of them claimed to have witnessed or experienced divine healing.
I mean, that's not to say that all those claims actually represent miracles. Certainly, nobody would say that all of them can only be explained that way. But you can't start with the premise that Hume did that uniform human experience excludes us believing in miracles. How can you speak of uniform human experience when you've got hundreds of millions of counter-witnesses?
It's like if a police officer is interviewing people that an accident and somebody comes up and says, "No, don't listen to them. That's not what happened. This is what happened." And the officer says, "Oh, yeah, tell me what you saw." "Oh, I didn't see anything. I wasn't there. That's why I knew it didn't happen." I mean, that's absurd but that's what people do with miracles. "Well, I didn't see it myself."
I originally started this. I was doing a commentary on Acts, you know, minding my own business, staying in my own discipline. But one of the arguments against the historical reliability of Acts that I needed to tackle in my introduction just dealing with historical questions, which is my domain of study, was people said, well, you never have eyewitnesses, so we claim these things. I'm like, "Well, this is really naive."
So I wanted to find something that would just document some cases. And I started putting some cases in a footnote, but it kept growing and growing. And after 1,100 pages, that was the book on miracles that came out in 2011. I like this one better, this 2021, because I can focus on more of the stronger cases, especially things that are harder to explain other ways, like blindness being instantly healed, deafness being instantly healed, bones growing back instantly, or people being raised from the dead.
People aren't usually psychosomatically dead. I mean, these are things that we won't... I certainly don't see these things regularly. But globally speaking, there enough of these things happening. When we start documenting them, it's pretty clear that these things happen.
Eric Huffman: Now, I know you spoke to doctors sort of anecdotally in some of your stories to backup what had happened in regard to these miracles. Is there any data on doctors and medical professionals these days and their thoughts about supernatural interventions or miracles?
Dr. Craig Keener: Sure. There was another survey that was done. This was a survey with 1,000 doctors in the US. And of them, I think it was 75%, 76%, believed that miracles happen today like they did in biblical times. That's the way the question was worded. Now, just because you believe something happens isn't the same thing as claiming to have witnessed it. But in that survey, over half of the doctors surveyed, and in the context of that question about miracles in biblical times, how many of you have witnessed miracles like that? And over half of them said they had.
Now these are people who are scientifically trained who aren't gonna buy something just because... Well, they prayed, but it could be explained some other way. I mean, this is normally people who would say, Okay, this is something that the best way to explain it is God really did a miracle. So, now, in saying that, using miracle in the sense in which it's historically mostly been used, an act of God that is extraordinary, not the way he normally works in nature, and therefore draws attention to Himself.
Eric Huffman: Right. By extraordinary, do you mean supernatural?
Dr. Craig Keener: Yeah, you can say that. That's how we usually speak of it, although God is supernatural. So anything He does, like creating the world, is supernatural. But sustaining the world is supernatural. But they're things that happen in an ordinary way, the way God set up the world to work. So yeah, we would speak of the other things as the extraordinary supernatural things.
Eric Huffman: Right. The reason I ask is I'll get into arguments in real life or on Twitter here and there with skeptics and agnostics or atheists who would say that belief in the miraculous is by its very nature anti-scientific, or anti-naturalistic, which I guess those aren't the same things. But the idea is that if you believe that the laws of nature as we understand them can be suspended and are not constant, then you don't believe in the scientific method or the scientific processes. What would you say about that?
Dr. Craig Keener: If you don't have an understanding of the ordinary way of things working, you won't be able to identify what's extraordinary. And who better to be able to identify something as being extraordinary as somebody who knows the ordinary way of working? Although, even in the first century and even back in the time of Elisha, people knew it wasn't ordinary for dead people to come back to life after... especially after they've been dead for a little while.
Eric Huffman: Well, that's interesting. It seems to me that that particular argument is rife with chronological and geographical snobbery. It feels a little bit like I was delivered by the grace of God from a strictly secular humanists kind of framework that I picked up in college and stuck with me for the next 13 years, where like you, I made fun of Christians, especially charismatic types of Christians that claimed miracles, and all those things were real. And I thought how silly and how stupid.
At the same time, I was also trying to posit myself as open minded man of the world who wanted to stand in solidarity with people of other parts of the world, people of minority groups and minority cultures, and developing nations and all of that. But those two frameworks collided in a pretty ugly fashion when I found myself, essentially looking down or pitying those lesser cultures. That's how I looked at it then, you know, sort of punching down at those poor people who haven't caught up to us yet, and criticizing the miraculous, or their belief in the miraculous. Does this resonate with you at all?
Dr. Craig Keener: Yeah, for sure. Of course, I mean, even after my conversion, as I go through certain kinds of training in my history of graphic work and so on, I had imbibed certain secular principles. So when I was starting my research, I was being so rigorous in my questioning that it was like I had this really high standard, this really high burden of proof. And obviously, not everything everybody thinks is a miracle is extraordinary. God works through natural means. And certainly for something to be evidence that's compelling to somebody who's an open-minded agnostic... for somebody who is bulletproof 100% atheist, maybe nothing's compelling.
I've had people tell me, "I won't accept it if somebody's raised from the dead in front of me." But for people who are open-minded to... the kind of evidence that people ordinarily ask are, are there any medically documented cases? Are there any cases where, you know, it's something dramatic, like blind eyes being opened instantly and so on? Yes, we have cases like that.
There's a group called Global Medical Research Institute, who are now publishing in medical journals articles, case studies of these. Case studies is really the only way you can go because it's not like something happens every time. It's not like every time you pray for somebody, they'll get healed. Otherwise, we'd have people praying for everybody and nobody would ever die. We know that's not the way the world works.
But we do have cases published. One was of a woman, organic causes, she had gone blind for 12 years. And just she and her husband, they weren't really familiar with miracles happening. They weren't against them, but they prayed together at night. And one night after 12 years of this, her husband just cried out in frustration, "God, please open my wife's eyes." Suddenly, she could see. Medically documented before and after. And this is published in a medical journal. So there are a number of cases like this.
Eric Huffman: With the preponderance of evidence you describe, why do you think there is still, at least in the secular world, overall sort of general resistance or hesitancy to accept this as, in any way, legitimate?
Dr. Craig Keener: Some degree of skepticism is warranted. You don't want to become gullible and just believe everything. Obviously, there's fake stuff out there. There's misdiagnosis. There's misinterpretation. I mean, there's plenty of other things. But a lot of people who just look back, they see David Hume prove this.
Go back and you read Hume's essay. It's really not that logical. He starts by trying to define them out of existence. It is really bad philosophic argument. Well, miracles are, by definition, violations of nature. That's his definition. That's not the traditional conventional definition. But miracles are violations of nature, not just something extraordinary to nature. Nature can't be violated, he says, and therefore, miracles can't happen.
His definition of the laws of nature isn't that the definition that is standard today. Moreover, he got his idea of the laws of nature from Isaac Newton. But Newton and the Newtonians of Hume's day believed in biblical miracles. You know, what he was arguing against was a straw man. Theists don't believe that God is subject to the laws of nature.
Eric Huffman: Right.
Dr. Craig Keener: He established this regularity in nature but, I mean, if he's powerful enough to establish them, He's also powerful enough to do what He wants. I mean, if I drop something and then catch it, have I violated the laws of nature? I've just acted within nature. Is God less powerful than I am? I mean, if there is a God, why should that even follow?
Eric Huffman: As you describe it, I mean, Hume's argument is obviously paper thin. I mean, It's an argument that can be made, but only by redefining all the key terms within it. And not even redefining them very well. Just sort of conveniently redefining them to sort of meet your own needs in that regard. But what about some of the more legitimate questions or conundrums that come up when people start considering miracles? What are some of the more... some more substantive arguments against miracles or maybe even just questions people have about the miraculous?
Dr. Craig Keener: The one that I would have had before it was a Christian was, well, if there's no God, obviously, God can't do miracles. So your starting premise is going to make a difference in terms of the bar of evidence you accept. And if you're sure there's no God, then there's no evidence you're going to accept. You can call them anomalies.
Why did they happen so often when somebody prays? Well, maybe there's some mental force or something like that. But with people being raised from the dead, that one, sometimes people are misdiagnosed as dead. You know, it's happened. It doesn't happen very often. There's something called the Lazarus syndrome, where they estimate like maybe once a year somebody meets all the apparent criteria for being dead and they come back to life.
But in terms of that, being once a year, I have ten people in my own immediate circle who witnessed or experienced being raised from the dead. Again, raised from the dead is far as anybody can tell. The definitions of death actually are sometimes kind of vague today because they're not actually sure how long you can be clinically dead before they can resuscitate you. But these are not people who are resuscitated clinically normally.
We do have a case, Chauncey Crandall, a cardiologist in West Palm Beach, where he did shock the guy with a paddle one more time. But the context was this. The guy had been flatlined for 40 minutes, the death certificate had been signed. Dr. Crandall was going back to make his rounds when he felt led by the Spirit—he's a Christian—to go back and pray for this man to have a second chance to know the Lord, which obviously doesn't happen very often.
This wasn't the first time that he prayed for somebody to be raised. His own son, Chad, had died of leukemia. He prayed for that, nothing happened. But he prayed for this man and then they shocked him with the paddle one more time. Nothing should have happened. And even if something did happen, it shouldn't have been a normal heartbeat. You know, even after a couple minutes, you don't normally get a normal heartbeat after a couple of minutes of being flatlined. The guy was not just dead, he was conspicuously dead. He was a white person, both his face and extremities turned black from cyanosis. But with this shock, the man suddenly had had a normal heartbeat. Jeff Markin had a normal heartbeat.
The nurse started screaming, "Dr. Crandall, Dr. Crandall, what have you done?" Because after six minutes with no oxygen, irreparable brain damage just started in. But Dr. Crandall visited the guy in the hospital a couple days later, the guy didn't have brain damage. He did become a follower of Jesus. He did have an uncomfortable afterlife experience before that but he did become a follower of Jesus. And they go around and share their testimony together now.
Eric Huffman: One of the more, I think, potent arguments against… I guess, against the Christian view of miracles would be that some pleas for miracles are answered by God and others are not, some that are... You know, just as equally sincerely asked for or petitioned are seemingly ignored or not answered by God. Do you have any response to someone who may be listening with that kind of a, you know, why does God say yes to some and no to so many others?
Dr. Craig Keener: I think that one is legitimate existential question. My wife and I had been through seven miscarriages and she's from a culture where having children is like one of the most important things. We do have two kids. And yeah, we have our own health issues and people close to us have died from COVID or heart attacks or other things. But if God healed everybody who asked Him, we probably wouldn't see them as extraordinary as miracles to get our attention. God blesses us with all sorts of things in the world around us. I mean, the healing potential within our body, you know, to be restored in itself fit medical science, and so on. These are all gifts from God and yet we often take those for granted.
If God regularly healed everybody who asked Him, I think people would see that as just part of the natural order rather than as something special. And people wouldn't become followers of the Lord for the right reasons. So we Christians are here. We suffer like other people suffer. Suffering and death are part of this world.
But we see something really interesting in the gospels. John the Baptist, who's more or less on his deathbed, he's about to be executed, sends messengers to Jesus and says, "Are you the one to come or should we look for somebody else?" I thought you were the one to come, but you're supposed to baptize in the Holy Spirit and fire, I didn't see any fire."
Jesus sends the messengers back to John, says, "Tell John, what you've heard and seen: the blind see, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news preached to them." And He's evoking two texts in the book of Isaiah, Isaiah 35:5-6 and Isaiah 61. These passages talk about the restoration of creation. And Jesus is saying to John, John, you don't see the fullness of the restoration. You don't see the consummation, the new heavens and the new earth, and the full restoration of God's people. But this is a foretaste. I am the kingdom Bringer; I'm bringing a foretaste.
Same thing where he says, If I, by the spirit or the finger of God, am casting out spirits, the kingdom of God has come upon you. Matthew 12:28, Luke 11:19, I believe it is, or 11:20, Jesus is saying, the promised future is coming, I'm here to give a foretaste. There's coming a day when God will wipe away all tears in our eyes. And some people say, ah, it's pie in the sky, you know, everything, yeah, you talk about sickness and death will be done away. But God doesn't just leave it there. He also gives us signs of His presence, signs of His reign in the present so that whenever God does one of these things for anybody, whether it's for us or somebody else, it's a reminder to all of us, it's a gift to all of us, because it reminds us of His promise of a world made new.
Eric Huffman: That's awesome. What kind of stories or documentation have you been able to do regarding non-Christians?
Dr. Craig Keener: One example, I have... This one's from one of my students here who went on for his Ph.D. at TEDS. He is from India. He started working with somebody named [Bari Molto?]. Bari Molto had been a shaman but he was cast out of his village due to leprosy. And at one point, a couple of Christians came and prayed for him and nothing happened at that point. But that night he had a dream in which an angel touched him. He woke up completely healed of leprosy, went into the village, the entire village was converted. By the time my student got there, half the region had been converted, people have been raised from the dead, and so on. So my friend, former student, actually was there witnessing what was happening and being a part of ministry team there.
Another professor from India told me about a healing of leprosy that she witnessed where her father washed the feet of Salwan, who was a leper. Now, her father was of higher caste and so this was like totally against the culture. But her father was now a Christian, he was a preacher, washed the leper's feet, the next morning the leper came to the door, his feet... his feet were no longer leprous. He had been healed of leprosy. And she witnessed that, you know, both the night before and then. And actually, that wasn't a conversion, though. That was... She was a-
Eric Huffman: That was extraordinary though.
Dr. Craig Keener: Sometimes people say, How come miracles happen more over there than here? Well, maybe they recognize them more often than we do.
Eric Huffman: Yeah. Maybe they're less distracted or something.
Dr. Craig Keener: There are other reasons, too. I think, like many of my African friends say to me, God has given you guys over there, the gift of medical technology. That's a gift from God. Don't complain. We don't have that. We need the miracles. When Jesus fed the 5,000, they needed it. I mean, the surrounding villages couldn't have fed them. Most villages only had a maximum of 300 people.
But when Jesus says afterwards, Gather up the fragments that remain, He's saying, Okay, for your next meal, you're not going to need a miracle, you have leftovers. God works through natural means, usually, when they're available. But He does extraordinary things, not just to entertain us but when they're needed, and selectively to show Himself there.
Eric Huffman: Wow. I don't know nobody, especially no academic really likes to toot their own horn. But I would love to hear what you've heard from people that I've read your most recent work on miracles and how it is impacting people and maybe how you hope folks that access this book will be changed or affected.
Dr. Craig Keener: People have written and said, This has helped me to believe, often to believe again, because one of their objections has been, well, if miracles happened like the Bible talks about, where are they now? How can they never happen? Oh, they do. So that's been a positive response.
Eric Huffman: Well, Dr. Craig Keener, you are a gift to many people and your work is a gift to the church, especially I will say your work on miracles is needed. A world without miracles, a worldview without the possibility of miracles gets pretty dark pretty fast. It's grim and bleak. So we need reasoned and powerful catalogs of miracles like the ones you've offered, and reasons for believing in miracles like the ones you've offered now more than ever. So on behalf of all of our listeners and behalf of those who are touched by your work, I just say thank you. And thank you for joining us for this conversation today.
Dr. Craig Keener: Thank you, Eric. It's been so, so good to be with you.
Eric Huffman: Thank you. If you're listening now and you want to hear more from Dr. Keener, I encourage you to pick up his book on miracles or any of his work. I do highly recommend the NIV cultural backgrounds Study Bible. I get that for all of my young preachers and mentees that I'm pouring into it is a great tool for any Christian who's interested in learning more about the Bible. So once again, Dr. Keener, thank you for being with us. I hope we get to talk to you again soon.
Dr. Craig Keener: Thank you. I look forward to that.
Eric Huffman: Thank you.
Julie Mirlicourtois: This episode of Maybe God was produced by Julie Mirlicourtois and Eric and Geovanna Huffman. Our editors are Shannon Stefan and Justin Mayer and the director of all of our full-length YouTube videos is Mark Calver.
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