The Personal Side Of Miracles

My discussion with Craig had been stimulating so far, but it had remained exclusively on an intellectual plane. I wanted to get more personal, to probe beneath Craig's scholarly persona and relate the issue of miracles to his individual life. But I hesitated.

Through my years of acquaintance with Bill Craig, I had noticed some physical challenges he was facing. For instance, I could tell when we shook hands that his right hand was a bit gnarled. Out of politeness, I had never broached the subject with him. Now, as we explored this topic, his apparent ailment raised a troubling question that I could no longer ignore: if God can perform miracles, why hasn't he healed someone who is as devoted to him as Bill Craig has been?

I began slowly. "Look, Bill," I said, "you believe God still does miracles, don't you?"

"I wouldn't deny that miracles can happen today," Craig said. "I would add, though, that there's no reason to expect them to be as frequent or evident as they were with Jesus. Miracles tend to cluster around great moments in salvation history, like the Exodus or the ministry of Jesus, who saw his miracles as signs to the people of the inbreaking of the kingdom of God and his exorcisms as signs of his ability to destroy the powers of darkness."

"Then tell me this," I said gently. "If God loves you and he has the power to heal you, why doesn't he make your physical afflictions disappear?"

Craig didn't seem to be offended by the question. He shifted in his chair and then leaned forward, his voice changing from a professorial tone to one that was more personal and tender.

"Paul the apostle had what he called 'a thorn in his flesh' that he asked God three times to remove," Craig began, "and God's answer was that his grace was sufficient and that his strength is made perfect in weakness. That passage has been a comfort to me in my own life."

He glanced off to the side, perhaps deciding how much to say. When he looked back at me, the sharp, steely intensity of his blue eyes had softened to a vulnerable sincerity.

"I guess I don't discuss this very much publicly," he said, "but I have a congenital neuromuscular disease that causes progressive atrophy in the extremities. In my case it's fairly light. A lot of people with this syndrome have to wear metal braces on their legs. They're completely crippled. I've really been fortunate that mine hasn't been very bad."

"You've asked for a miracle?" I said.

He nodded. "As a young Christian I prayed that God would heal me. But he didn't."

Even though I could tell from his matter-of-fact tone that he wasn't seeking pity, my heart went out to him. "You're disappointed," I said, my words coming out more like an observation than a question.

A slight smile came to his face. "Lee, do you know what has amazed me?" he asked with an unmistakable sense of wonder. "As I look at my life, God has used this disease in so many remarkable ways to shape me and my personality. Because I couldn't do athletics, in order to succeed at something I was driven into academics. I really owe my existence as a scholar to my having this disease. It's what compelled me to the life of the mind.

"And it also affected me psychologically by giving me a tremendous drive to succeed. It caused me to have an achievement and goal orientation, which has helped me to do a lot in life. So I've really seen played out in a very personal way what Paul said-his strength is made perfect in weakness."

"If you could have been healed, would you have wanted to be?"

He let out a laugh. "Well, now perhaps it would be nice, having learned the lessons!" he said.

Then he gave a more serious answer that echoed Peter Kreeft's earlier comments about suffering. "On the other hand, I've become quite accustomed to it. As I look back, I can honestly say that I am glad this was the way God directed my life. He can even use the bad things of life to bring about his ultimate purposes and ends.

"That doesn't mean those things aren't bad-they really are bad. But they're all within the sovereignty of God. Even good can come out of evil."

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