NT Wright on Miracles

Really quickly, because I’m behinder in everything right now:

Jollyblogger has been working his way through some of the writings of NT Wright lately, and he’s come across a different sort of perspective on Jesus’ miracles. Traditionally, we have thought of Jesus miracles as having to do either with some kind of “proof” that he was who he said he was, or with him doing individual acts of mercy on human suffering. NT Wright, Jollyblogger says, sees something different: the restoration of the lost to Israel, God’s people.

Apparently, the miracles that Jesus performed, according to Wright, were always specifically for the removal of ailments which made people “unclean,” things which severed them from right standing as one of God’s people. In restoring them to health, he was primarily restoring them to Israel. That is, his work of healing performed the same function as his work of forgiving sin. Furthermore, in healing gentiles and Samaritans, Jesus was extending the kingdom of God to people outside the nation of Israel. No wonder he caused such a stir!

At any rate, there are implications here for the arguments between cessationists and charismatics, because the arguments about the continuation of supernatural gifts and miracles turn hard upon the theological *purpose* of those miracles. If the primary purpose of those miracles was *proof*, then we need no further proof: Jesus’ resurrection, the acts of the apostles, the recording of scripture, the continuation of the church – these are plenty proof enough. In fact, further continuation of this kind of proof runs the danger of undermining faith itself. What is faith, when you have no reasonable room for doubt? On the other hand, if the primary purpose was to practically demonstrate God’s faithfulness and mercy toward humankind, how could they ever cease? To say that God had ceased demonstrating his compassion would be to say that he ceased being compassionate.

You see the dischord. But if NT Wright is correct about the primary purpose of miracles, we may have to rethink everything about when and how God dispenses these things. What *does* it mean to say that a healing indicates the removal of uncleanness, and the restoration of a person back to the kingdom of God. How *does* that affect our understanding of when God heals and when he refrains? Why *don’t* you “see Jesus healing people of colds and flu’s and bad backs and sprained ankles” in Scripture?

Go read [Jollyblogger’s post](http://jollyblogger.typepad.com/jollyblogger/2006/09/n_t_wright_on_t.html). While still cursory, it’s a better think-though than here.

2 thoughts on “NT Wright on Miracles”

  1. You are very kind to say that my post offers a better think through than yours, but I really think your third paragraph lays out the tension between and implications of the positions as well as I have ever seen.

    Like

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