By Aian Macpherson
God communicates God to us, through creation, imagination, picture and word and also through miracles. This is revelation. Revelation is about God’s glory (showing us who God is) and the salvation of all creation. This means that we cannot divorce God’s action (which tells us about God) from and divine purpose (what God is achieving through God’s action). If the ultimate purpose of God is to draw all things back to God, then acting through miracles to that end is as much part of God’s faithfulness as the upholding of logic and existence in the universe.
Though to some extent all miracles are revelatory, here I am discussing only those miracles which are recorded in the scriptures and appear most ‘supernatural’ – miracles that lead up to the focal event of revelation or are a part of that event. The focal event of revelation is the life of Jesus who is the Word made flesh. As a case study we will use the Gospel of John. In the Gospel of John miracles are called signs. It is quite clear that the writer, John, picks what miracles to report very carefully in order to show the reader who Jesus is. The miracle is clearly here a vehicle of revelation.
Let’s take one of the most, from a science perspective, extraordinary miracles, the turning of water into wine at a wedding in Canna, reported only in John’s Gospel. Whatever ells we say, the truth is we don’t know how it happened, we don’t understand the mechanics. We are only told the result. It seems quite supernatural. But the point is that God is communicating something about Jesus divinity, about the faith of Mary through her willingness to obey Jesus and about the future of heaven being like a wedding banquet. The normal bound of even the miraculous give way to the necessity of revelation.
In order to be faithful to the ultimate purpose of renewing creation and of drawing humanity back into relationship with God, there is reason to act in an extraordinary way that would otherwise be unfaithful to creation. By analogy, as a father I would be grievously failing in my duty of faithful love to my 1 year old child to beat them. But you walk past a restaurant and see me holding my small child over my arm and hitting them. What are you to think? You come in only to find that the child was choking and that I was saving their life.
In order to understand, in order to know God, we must be shown. It is imperative to the ultimate purpose of God, when we shall know fully, that we know in part.
Let us imagine the whole story of creation is an essay. God proposes a thesis, the ideal gift of otherness. But not being God, the creation is anti-thesis. But God so loves the anti-thesis, even in its otherness to God’s own thesis, that God proposed a synthesis. God would become a creature so that creatures may become like God. We are still living in the antithesis even as we move towards the synthesis. All things in this world exist as antithesis to God. The good news is that God has made a synthesis for us.
Precisely because as humans we have a measure of conscious freedom we need to be presented with a choice: orientate towards the absolute antithesis of God – and become non-being – or towards God in the synthesis. God reveals the plan to us, particularly in Jesus and through miracles such as the exodus, incarnation, resurrection, and miraculous signs in order that we may have choice. In this way miracles are like parables – events and stories that bring a moment of choice. Having performed this revelation in history and brought about the ultimate synthesis in Jesus, further miracles of this kind lay in the hands of God alone. We have the information necessary, our choice lies before us.