“Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him.”By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?” Matt 21:23
We live in confusing times where there are so many theories and opinions being thrown out there that we are lost in an ocean of ideas. People no longer have the ability nor the time to sort them all out. Many are beginning to question whether or not reason has the ability to discern between them. It has reached the point where many are questioning whether reason leads to discernment or sophistry?
In this, our time is much like the time that Jesus lived in. Jesus and the early disciples lived in a world of new ideas and conflicting beliefs. From the west, Roman and Greek philosophy was pushing in and from the east, the mysticism of eastern religions were make there way into the west. Within the merger of these world views there was a clash between the reason of the Greeks and Mysticism of the east: the Greeks and Romans looked to reason as their authority for governing their personal and corporate lives. In contrast those in the east look more to personal inward light that we, today, might call a subjective experience for their authority.
However, when looking at the Hebrews we see something different. The Jews believed in a hierarchy of authority passed down by the community in the form of revelation, law and religious office. Moreover, they believed that in order for all revelation to be authoritative it must be confirmed by miracles, signs and wonders. This confirmation of personal authority by miracles was a long tradition that started in the time of Moses and was commanded by the law.
Moses “You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?”If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him (Deut 18:21-22).
This tradition of looking for confirmation by signs and wonders from a teacher continued and actually increased with the dawn of the New Testament. Once the scribes and the Pharisees came to Jesus and asked him by what authority he did something. What they were looking for was a miracle to confirm his authority. We see Jesus confirming his authority by miracles in Marks gospel. Jesus said to those that questioned his authority, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men (Matt 9:4-8).
We see this principle of confirmation of authority at work also in the ministry of Jesus’ apostles. The writer of the book of Hebrews said; “This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will (Heb 2:3-4). The apostle Paul claimed this confirming power in his letter to the Corinthians, “The things that mark an apostle-signs, wonders and miracles-were done among you with great perseverance (2 Cor. 12:12-13).
What can we gather from this? We can gather that an authentic word from God is accompanied with a confirmation of that word by miracles. We might learn that our own culture is much more naïve and accepting in regards to doctrines and opinions of men, accepting them without any evidence that their words are true. As a result we are like those that the apostle Paul speaks about when he says that “they are tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine and the cunning of men” (Eph 4:12). We can say of Jesus like no other man that when he spoke things happened. More importantly, unlike people today he did not attempt to prove his miracles with his words, but rather he proved his words with his miracles.
This view of revelation and miracles also helps us explain the rampant spread of Christianity throughout world in the first century. Luke in his gospel tells us the reaction to a miracle of Jesus by the people, “The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee (Luke 4:31-37). In fact, if we step away from the situation it begins to looks as if the era Jesus lived in was prepared by divine providence for the coming of Jesus. At that time there was a universal road system, the universal economy, a universal language, and a universal authority. For the first time in history the rule of law dominated the world. All of these things expedited the spread of the news about Jesus, and a part of that news was that there was a man who had the authority of God and unlike everyone else he proved it by doing signs, wonders and miracles that no one else had ever done.
What about these corroborative miracles in the history of the church? From studying the early fathers of the church, that is the writings of Christian leaders that lived in the second and third centuries, it seems that these miracles increasingly diminished as the church moved away from the apostolic ministry of the Apostles and their immediate disciples. This should not be considered strange for two reasons. One is that the message of the gospel had already been confirmed by the apostles and earlier disciples and it would seem that God’s intention was never to have the church live on a milk-toast diet of the miraculous. We must remember that we are to walk by faith and not by sight..
One reason why some reject the concept of miracles is that if it was true it would empty their ideas of having any merit or authority. It would reduce all of their ideologies to mere opinion. Without the proof of miracles all they would have is their sophistry and their power of debate which often depends more on personality and speaking ability than truth.
If a person could work miracles they would automatically have more power than those that cannot. So the only thing that those that do not have this power can do is to deny the idea of miracles. For such an idea of miracles robs their ideas of any actual authority. The religious leaders, the Scribes and the Pharisees in the day of Jesus, did not want to accept his teachings however they accepted his miracles as self-evident and realized that they could not deny his miracles less they themselves would look like fools. So, instead of denying them they simply contributed them to Satan.
The denial of miracles today is not based on science but rather on a dogma of materialistic philosophy. The materialists clearly understand that if miracles are true then their philosophy is false, leaving them without any power or authority. It was a philosopher of the Enlightenment, David Hume, who was the first champion of the denial of miracles. However, his arguments have been successfully overthrown by a number of modern philosophers. C.S. Lewis summarizes these arguments in his book on miracles. He shows that a denial of miracles in itself is a faith not grounded in reason.
Here would be a good time to insert some remarks about human reason and knowledge. Much of so-called human knowledge is based on hidden assumptions that are grounded in the faith or speculations of few men. Most of these men never demonstrated their authority in any fashion and a large percentage of them did not live an exemplary life. Where then did they get their authority? You could say that it was their own soul power which gave them their authority. In other words, their intellect and their ability to manipulate others gave them power over others.
What about miracles today? I would have to say that I personally have never seen a confirmation miracle like the ones done by Jesus, nor have I see any actual miracles of healing performed by people claiming to have gifts of the Spirit. What I have seen is healings and powerful works done through prayer. I find this observation and experience to be quite normal and there is evidence throughout history that there were periods of time without miracles or very few. For example, in the book of Judges, Gideon asked the angel that appeared to him “where are all the miracles that our forefathers told us about?” From this we can gather that at the time of Gideon there were fewer miracles being performed in Israel, than during other times.
 By miracles I do not mean what we might call faith miracles. We now understand the power of faith in the healing process of the body. In this article when talking about miracles I am talking about supernatural events that often have nothing to do with faith though sometimes in healings are connected, i.e. the calming of the storm, feeding of the 5000, the raising of the dead. These kinds of miracles have nothing to do with the faith of those that are observing, but rather were designed to create faith in those that are observing.
 Some have tried to dismiss the importance of miracles by pointing out that that the East was filled with miraculous stories. However, when compared to the miracles of the New Testament it is obvious that there is a difference. For one they are not connected with the confirmation of revelation but rather tied more to magical practices and are set forth that way in the narrative. In contrast the New Testament miracles were set forth in a historical narrative. In other words they were intended to be taken as real.
 In his book intellectuals Paul Johnson demonstrates the failed lifestyle of many Western intellectuals. He sums up the book in the last chapter with the question “Why do we listen to such men?”