Past Articles in This Series: Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5
In the final episode of The Story of God (tonight 9PM/8 Central), narrator and host Morgan Freeman shares a personal story when, as a teenager, he was in a hospital with pneumonia and an abscess on his lung. When it burst, he almost died. Yet he survived and eventually became one of the premiere actors in Hollywood. Was that a miracle?
Alcides Moreno was in New York preparing to wash windows with his brother on the top of a 47-story skyscraper. While on the platform, the cables snapped, sending both of them hurtling to the ground some 500 feet below. Alcides survived, but his brother didn’t (typically, a 10-story fall is instant death). He’s not sure if that was a miracle, but believes God gave him a “second chance.”
So what exactly is a miracle? The Random House Dictionary defines a miracle as “an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.” We talk of miracles all the time, ranging from somehow getting an A on a test we didn’t study to sports teams succeeding despite everything being stacked against them (think of Leicester City in the Barclays Premier League winning the title yesterday at 5000:1 odds [worse than Elvis getting out of his grave]). But do they really exist or is it just a really big game of chance that happens to swing the right way once in a great while?
Freeman discovers that Christians and Jews are united about miracles being a key aspect of their faith (after all, most of the key elements of the Bible are pretty miraculous according to the above definition, such as Moses parting the Red Sea and Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead). The Catholic Church verifies miracles (two) in order to confer sainthood upon deceased individuals. In addition, prayer and faith in God makes a big difference. Tom Renfro, a pastor of a church in Virginia, shares his personal story about having cancer and not seeing the doctor, asking for prayers instead. He eventually heard God tell him it was time to go to the doctor, then went in for one round of chemo and was completely healed. Renfro attributes the miracle to his faith and the faith of the people around him.
Other beliefs vary as to the importance of miracles. The Egyptians believed everything that happened in a person’s life was the will of the gods. In the case of the Romans, they believed their panoply of gods determined the outcome of chariot races at the Circus Maximus (think Ben-Hur), yet humans could help speed the process along by cheating and such. In the case of Taoism, everything is connected and the fates of an individual are set at birth. However, Jenny Liu, a fate calculator (that’s a great title to put on a resume), tells Freeman there is still room for a miracle since, in her words, “Birds don’t fly; they’re flown. Fish don’t swim; they’re carried.” Buddhists go as far to say that humans can perform miracles such as love, peace, reconciliation, and the transformation of the mind.
Simply put: there’s a lot more to life than meets the eye and, if anything, miracles offer hope to a world that increasingly needs to know possibility can become reality.