All Posts /

Are Miracles Possible?

Are Miracles Possible?

Years ago, I (Sean) was speaking with an atheist, a PhD student in physics. He asked me, “How can you believe in miracles like the resurrection of Jesus? Hasn’t science shown that when people die, they stay dead?” I responded by saying, “You’re right, science has shown that under normal conditions, dead people stay dead. But the Christian claim is that Jesus rose supernaturally — that is, that God has acted in history by raising Jesus from the dead. If there really is a God who created the world and designed its laws, then the norm of dead people staying dead can’t restrict God from supernaturally raising His Son.”

Here’s the simple point that must be repeated:

If God possibly exists, then miracles are possible.

Some skeptics want to dismiss the possibility of miracles unless God’s existence can first be demonstrated. But this is backward. It is not up to the theist to prove God’s existence, for if the existence of God is not impossible, then miracles are at least possible. To reject miracle claims outright, the skeptic needs to prove that God does not exist. But the nonexistence of God has never been shown. Rather, since the mid-nineteenth century, God’s nonexistence has often been assumed. Not only has God’s nonexistence not been demonstrated, but there are also good reasons to believe that God does exist.

The Characteristics of Miracles

Since the nature of miracles is often misunderstood today, here’s a closer look at what constitutes a miracle.

Miracles Are Supernatural Events

Miracles are supernatural events, not events produced by finite power. Some agent external to the world brings about the event we call a miracle.

Miracles Are Rare

Miracles do not happen often. They are connected to God’s supreme oversight of human history. We shouldn’t be presumptuous or demand a miracle. If miracles were frequent, they might be predictable. If they were predictable, then what would distinguish a miracle from the normal course of nature? The Bible even describes periods when miracles were particularly rare (see 1 Samuel 3:1).

Miracles Are Unpredictable

God is a free agent, and there is no conclusive formula that allows us to determine when, where, or how a miracle will occur. Miracles are unpredictable, and finite beings can’t always predict the activity of a divine being. God is under no compulsion to perform a miracle, so if God brings about a miracle, it’s due to His initiative and will. To make this point, philosopher Timothy McGrew invites people to imagine encountering a cabin in the forest that initially appears to be uninhabited. But upon inspection, you discover a cup of hot tea on the table. The hypothesis that the cabin is uninhabited would not lead you to predict the presence of the hot tea. The point of this imaginary scenario is that even though we cannot predict when miracles will occur, they nonetheless are of evidential value in confirming special divine action.1

Miracles Can’t Be Tested with the Scientific Method

The unpredictability of miracles means we can’t test them with the scientific method. The scientific method requires a hypothesis, a controlled experiment, and a conclusion. Since God is sovereign, we cannot test His actions as we can other events in nature. But this doesn’t mean we can’t investigate the miraculous. In some cases, scientific tools may help. For instance, science could be used to verify that someone had a medical condition, such as a tumor, and then that tumor is gone. Miracles occur within history, so they can be investigated like other events in the past.

Miracles Always Promote Good and Glorify God Alone

Miracles are not like magic tricks for show but have the distinct purpose of glorifying God.

  • Since God is good, miracles are meant to promote good, and God alone deserves the glory for miracles.

Miracles Are Not Contradictions

God can’t create square circles or married bachelors because they are logical impossibilities. But there’s nothing logically contradictory about some events that are not physically possible. For example, it’s physically impossible to walk on water. But there’s nothing logically contradictory about it, and thus God can make it happen if he desires.

The Purpose of Miracles

To provide us a context in which to examine miracles, we also need to explore the purpose of miracles. Miracles are for more than amazement. They serve God’s purposes in two primary ways. First, they confirm a message from God.

Miracles are a sign of the truthfulness of God’s word.

Second, miracles confirm a messenger from God. In John 3:2, Nicodemus says of Jesus,

Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with Him. — NIV

Many people followed Jesus because of the signs and wonders he performed.

Modern Miracles

“If miracles are possible,” says the skeptic, “then why don’t they still happen?” That’s a fair question. If miracles happened nowadays, that would certainly give added support to the biblical accounts of miracles. In his book A Simple Guide to Experience Miracles, Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland describes and verifies a few modern-day miracles.

J. P. gave a talk on the supernatural to a group of students. One student, David, had been born legally blind in one eye, able only to vaguely distinguish dark and light. Another student, Elise, was inspired by J. P.’s talk and decided to pray for the healing of a few students, including David. The next day, David found that he was able to see perfectly fine with the eye in which he had been legally blind. J. P. received email confirmation from a ministry leader as well as from Elise and David about this healing account.2

Nathan was diagnosed with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) at the age of thirteen. After suffering with it for nine years, he sought out surgical correction for his condition. Nathan learned he would need a series of five surgeries and require medication for the rest of his life. While Nathan was at a Bible study meeting, the guest speaker suddenly announced there was a person present who suffered from GERD. Nathan identified himself as that person, and the speaker prayed for Nathan’s healing. Nathan was instantly healed and has not suffered a single incident since that meeting. He also received confirmation of his healing from his doctor.3

J. P. himself has also received healing of an illness. He had caught a bad virus and was left with severe laryngitis that would take seven to ten days to heal. J. P. was distraught, as he had courses to teach and a speaking engagement that week. But when his wife informed his church elders of his laryngitis, they prayed for J. P.’s healing. As the men prayed, J. P. felt warmth in his chest and throat flowing from the elder’s hand, and J. P. was completely healed.4

J. P. is not the only scholar who has documented and verified accounts of the miraculous. New Testament scholar Craig Keener has written a thoroughly researched two-volume study of modern-day miracles entitled Miracles, as well as a popular-level version of this study, Miracles Today.

  • Miracles do still happen today.

And because they occur today, we can be all the more confident that they occurred in biblical times as well.


Are miracles possible? Again, your answer to this question most likely depends on your worldview. If you believe that the natural world is all that exists and you accept only natural explanations to events, no matter how unlikely, then you already have a philosophical presupposition against miracles. But this is an assumption, not a proof. If it’s possible that God exists, then it is certainly possible that this God may choose to intervene in the regular course of nature in a unique way. After all, if God can create the universe and all its laws, then certainly God can violate those laws if he wants.

Miracles are most definitely possible.
  1. As cited in Stephen C. Meyer, Return of the God Hypothesis: Three Scientific Discoveries That Reveal the Mind Behind the Universe (New York: HarperOne, 2021), 357–58.
  2. P. Moreland, A Simple Guide to Experience Miracles: Instruction and Inspiration for Living Supernaturally in Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2021), 126–30.
  3. Moreland, A Simple Guide to Experience Miracles, 131–33.
  4. Moreland, A Simple Guide to Experience Miracles, 122–23.

Excerpted with permission from Evidence for Jesus by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell, copyright Josh McDowell Ministry.

* * *

Your Turn

As believers, we need to be prepared with an answer when someone challenges the validity of miracles. How would you answer? Come share with us!