What’s Up with Miracles in the Bible? (Tough Questions Teenagers Ask)

“I get Jesus, but do I have to believe in the crazy stuff?” 

By “crazy stuff” the student who asked me this question meant some of the seemingly fantastical elements of Christianity. This is a fair question, and it is an honest question. The question is not whether our students have to hold to a specific interpretation of each of the stories in Scripture. Rather, the question is whether our students need to be open to and believe in the Bible’s accounts of miracles. The answer for our youth ministries must be a resounding yes. To put it simply, it’s the “crazy” stuff that God uses to save us. 

For those of us who have grown up in the church, a lot of the Bible’s testimony seems normal. But for our students who aren’t as familiar with the Bible, Christianity is kinda weird. Let’s be honest and call it like it is. Christianity is quite odd. Between talking snakes, creation ex nihlo, and water being transformed into wine, there are a lot of stories within Christianity that are an affront to our modern sensibilities. To many teenagers, these seem like mere fiction. 

As the Apostle Paul teaches us, however, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Cor. 15:13-15). If anything sounds crazy to the nonbeliever, it’s Jesus’ bodily resurrection. And Paul says our entire faith revolves around that seemingly crazy event! If Christ did not rise from the dead, faith in Christ is useless. If nothing else, this means to be a Christian, one must believe in what others would consider crazy.

So as youth ministers, we find ourselves needing to teach that seemingly ridiculous things actually happened. This does not mean that Christians are unreasonable, nor that we have to teach our students to believe against reason. What we will see is that it is perfectly reasonable to believe that the miracles recorded in Scripture indeed happened. 

When Jesus taught, he regularly used questions as a way of guiding his audience through ideas—for example, when he asked, “Who do you say I am?” (Matt. 16:15). We can model Jesus’ teaching style on this topic by asking two questions to help our students think through miracles.

Are Miracles Impossible?

Now, let’s establish something. It’s not foolish to believe in miracles. A lot of times, when people object to miracles, it’s not so much a question of the evidence for any specific miracle. Instead, it’s a general feeling that “miracles just can’t happen.” Most people assume that miracles break the laws of nature, which seem to be ironclad. 

But here’s the thing: When we treat “the laws of nature” like an unbreakable, cosmic rulebook, we’re actually buying into something called Naturalism. Naturalism says that the natural world is all there is. The thinking goes like this: nothing from outside nature can ever intervene, because nothing outside nature exists in reality. The issue with this line of reasoning is that it doesn’t actually hold. We can only say that if nature is all that exists. It’s pretty circular logic!

Plus, think about how we even figure out the “laws” of nature in the first place. We observe what usually happens, over and over and over again. From our observations, we draw conclusions. But this assumes that our observations are comprehensive! If a man lived in a part of the country where he had only ever seen white swans, under a naturalism framework he would assume that “All swans are white.” Imagine his shock when he first sees a black swan! Would his discovery of a black swan be a breaking of the universe? No, it just shows that his definition of a swan needed a little updating.

The same could be said of miracles. Perhaps miracles aren’t breaking the rules of nature; they just show us that the rules aren’t quite what we thought they were. Yet if we believe our only source of knowledge and truth comes from the random workings of a material universe, why should we even trust our reasoning? If there’s no guiding intelligence behind the universe, our thoughts are just the result of accidental chemical reactions. But if that’s true, it undercuts the reason we use to dismiss miracles.

Our experience of the universe is incredibly limited. Just think about how our understanding has expanded in the past few centuries. Our understanding of the solar system, medicine, and many other subjects has grown exponentially. While we can marvel at the advancement humanity has made, it shows us that our knowledge is never as comprehensive as we think it is. Especially as Christians, when we encounter something beyond our understanding, we need to have the intellectual humility to say, “maybe there is more going on here than I understand.” 

For example, imagine you tried to explain WiFi to someone from the Middle Ages. That person would think you were out of your mind. The idea of an invisible net that grants access to knowledge, along with videos, search engines, and other entertainment would be absurd. In reality, the existence of WiFi is not absurd, but it would seem ridiculous to someone with limited experience and understanding of technology. 

To assume that miracles are impossible is to assume to know everything about our reality. We have to remind our students that we don’t and can’t know everything. If God, the Creator of the universe, exists, we have to be open to the possibility that he might choose to do something beyond our expectations from time to time.

Are Miracles Improbable?

Let’s say a student agrees that miracles aren’t strictly impossible. She understands that theoretically, should God exist, he could cause a miracle. But there’s still a lingering question: Are miracles likely to happen? After all, miracles by definition don’t occur often! This objection may sound different, but if we look more closely, it’s similar to the first question. For our students to think miracles are unlikely, they are making deeper assumptions about the world

When we teach our students about the character of God, we are teaching them an apologetic that says miracles are not only possible; they are also probable. Because if God exists—and not just any God, but the God of Christianity—we can and should expect him to interact in the material world. The God of the Bible is not a passive observer of the universe, nor is he a creator who made the world and then stepped away. We should expect our God to have acted and continue to act in our world. If anything, miracles both past, present, and future, should seem probable. 

Genesis 18:14 tells us that nothing is too difficult for the Lord. The creator and sustainer of the world holds all power. His arm is not too short to enact miracles. The Bible is rife with examples of God performing the miraculous. Exodus 14-15, for example, gives us a story of the Lord parting the Red Sea in front of hundreds of eyewitnesses. Jesus gives us at least one reason God does the miraculous when he tells the Pharisees that miracles are evidence that the kingdom of God has come (Luke 11:20). Our God is one who longs to demonstrate his Kingship and to establish relationships with his children. Miracles are one way God has done this. 

Sure, if a generic god exists, maybe miracles are improbable. But we as Christians don’t believe in a generic god, we believe in the God of the Bible. When our worldview says the God of the Bible exists, then miracles are not just possible, but they seem highly likely!

Trusting God at Work in the Lives of our Students

Youth ministers, we have a tall task. Our calling includes helping to shape the worldview of our students. They are bombarded with affirmations that the material world is all there is, and God charges us with opening their eyes to him—the loving God who created, sustains, and is sovereign over this world. God calls us to the work of discipling our students toward belief in things that seem crazy by the world’s standards. When we show our students the beliefs that they don’t realize are leading to their skepticism, however, we can help open their hearts and minds to the gospel.

The same Spirit who powered miracles in the church of Acts is the Spirit who will ultimately transform our students’ hearts and minds. So take heart. You can make the most convincing argument in the world, but “unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Ps. 127:1). Our job is to remove barriers and to trust God with the rest. 

As Christians, and especially as ministry leaders, we cannot abandon the miraculous. After all, the resurrection of Christ anchors our hope and transforms our lives. As youth ministers, we get to guide our students to see this as possible and likely because of the great power and character of God. 

For more resources on teaching the Bible to teenagers, check out our Bible-based curriculum and comprehensive scope and sequence, available on Rooted Reservoir.

Bradley is a middle and high school math teacher at Jubilee Academy in Louisville, KY. He lives there with his wife, Carol, and son, Upton. He received an MA in Apologetics and an MA in Theology from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is currently a PhD student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary studying Philosophy.

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