Do you believe in miracles?
By Frances Andrews, Regional Security Director, Middle East & Europe Region
This was a question posed to me during a service at my church several weeks ago. It seems deceptively easy, but it can be harder to answer than you may think. In fact, this question stuck in my head for weeks after.
Every personality test I’ve ever done ends up using words like rational, analytical, consistent, objective and logical in the description somewhere. I like preparation, planning, knowledge, conclusions and certainty, or at least having a level of confidence that there is a solution. On top of this, I work in security management, so, it’s perhaps not surprising that my initial reaction was a slightly hesitant and muddled, “Well…I suppose so…but…it’s hard to explain, isn’t it? And does it really matter? It’s not particularly important.”
A few years ago, I was at dinner with some colleagues at the time and the conversation turned to religion. It was the first time I’d openly told my colleagues I was a Christian. One of them replied by saying, “What?! Really?! But I always thought you were so…logical!” How could someone so rational and objective believe that someone turned water into wine, fed thousands of people from fives loaves and two fish, healed people of terrible illnesses, and walked on water?
Rationality and objectivity are vital in security work, and highly valued by all of us across the sector. So the idea that having a faith was contrary to this makes it a criticism that is levelled at security professionals in a specific way; it can lead to all kinds of (facetious) follow-up questions about why we even bother to do our jobs if we think miracles can, do, and will happen.
Logical, rational, scientific, or even “enlightened” thought are sometimes seen to be at odds with believing in miracles. So much so that some biblical scholars have come up with ways to explain what the miracles in the Bible mean, or offer different attitudes towards them. Here are four broad examples of these attitudes which some Biblical scholars have outlined in various works:
- The phenomena that happened in the Bible did happen but were natural occurrences and Jesus only seemed to be involved.
- Events never happened, but the gospel writers included them to make Jesus look divine.
- Impressive things did happen but they can all be explained away by modern science.
- It doesn’t matter whether they happened or not, because they are not central to Jesus’s mission.
So, does it really matter either way if we believe in miracles?
I found it helpful to consider what a miracle actually is. Ultimately, I think, miracles are an act of power: they are powerful (meaning they require power) and demonstrate power. Astonishing acts in the Bible clearly come from Jesus’s power and show Jesus’s power.
The heart of Christianity, expressed most Sundays in churches across the UK with the Nicene Creed, is; “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ… For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day He rose again, in accordance with the Scriptures.”
We believe a fully dead man was brought back to life by God. This required power from God, and demonstrated God’s power. There is a miracle at the very centre of our faith. So…if we believe this miracle, should it be so hard for us to believe the others?
In security, we spend a lot of time thinking about risk, which is the impact an event might have combined with the likelihood of it happening. In this respect, miracles are high impact but very low likelihood events. It’s sometimes easy to forget that miracles can and do happen. This has been particularly heightened during Covid, when we’ve witnessed personal, national and global chaos, fear and suffering.
But these are the times, as a colleague of mine recently reflected, that miracles often happen. There are no guarantees of course – – we should always continue to prepare and be ready for the worst – but the act of believing that miracles are possible is ultimately about living with hope and faith that things, beyond our comprehension, can get better. It’s not a sign of a weak security manager to leave space for belief in a miracle. And it’s not a sign of a weak Christian to plan as if miracles won’t happen. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like hoping for the best is too big an ask, but when you look close and see miracles all around us, how can the answer be no?