Kirby: Interpreting miracles an individual pursuit
By Robert Kirby
Tribune ColumnistFirst published Mar 16 2013 01:01AM
Ever witness a miracle? I have. It was a bona fide 100 percent act of God with no possible earthly explanation. It transformed my life but it might also have ruined someone else’s.
I don’t normally brag my miracle up. It’s a deeply personal experience. But for purposes of this column here it is: In 1975 an attractive and perfectly normal woman agreed to marry me.
That’s it. That’s my miracle. Pretty cool, huh? Nearly 40 years later, I’m still in awe of it. Absolutely no one would have predicted such a thing possible.
I realize this probably isn’t a miracle or even a big deal for you. You might even argue that there’s a perfectly simple and temporal explanation for it.
What we have here is nothing more significant than a regrettable departure from sanity on the part of yet another woman who married far beneath herself. Happens every day.
You could be right. But then you weren’t there and really can’t say for sure. I was there and have been ever since. If it wasn’t a miracle that she married me in the first place, it’s definitely a miracle that we’re STILL married.
Perspective is where most reported miracles exist. Something happened that was amazing and because it couldn’t be explained with logic, it had to be the work of God.
Also, a miracle isn’t something that can be reproduced on demand. Any truth comes down to the claims of those who reportedly witnessed or felt it.
That’s the problem with past miracles: People don’t always agree on whether or not they really happened. Even being there isn’t always reliable.
Was Moses parting the Red Sea a miracle? Probably to the Jews. But what about some poor chariot driver who just wanted to finish his shift and go home?
The Bible contains accounts of Jesus performing any number miracles and wondrous things —water into wine, healing the sick, making the blind see, walking on water, etc.
The idea behind these miracles is/was to prove a point. Namely that someone with really special powers has to be someone really, well, special.
Human beings have shaky perspectives and worse memories. It’s one thing to take it on faith that Jesus performed miracles in the Bible and a whole other thing to take the word of eye witnesses.
This isn’t just me being cynical. The average group of people can’t agree on something that happened five minutes ago, never mind 2,000 years ago.
Believers tend to believe that everyone who saw the same thing believed, and they would, too, if they had been there. But because we’re talking about human beings, it doesn’t always work that way.
Apparently the witnesses didn’t always agree on what transpired. It’s probably a safe bet that everyone who saw what happened didn’t regard it as a miracle. If they had, things probably wouldn’t have ended up the way they did.
Somehow I just don’t see the Pharisees saying, "Yeah, Jesus can raise the dead and command the elements, but let’s kill him anyway."
We could ask my wife whether agreeing to marry me constituted a miracle. And even though she was there when it happened, odds are we’d probably get some whole other explanation.
It more seems to me that miracles are deeply personal things that probably aren’t intended for public debate. Never mind.