An inspiring and eye-opening exploration of the phenomenon of miracles from the New York Times #1 bestselling author of Bonhoeffer.
What are miracles, and why do so many people believe in them? What do they tell us about ourselves? And what do we do with experiences that we cannot explain?
In Miracles, Eric Metaxas offers compelling -- sometimes electrifying -- evidence that there’s something real to be reckoned with, whatever one has thought of the topic before. Miracles is also a timely, thoughtful, and civil answer to the books of the "New Atheists" -- Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris -- who have passionately asserted not just the impossibility of miracles and the supernatural, but the outright harmfulness of belief in them.
Metaxas -- whom ABC News has called a "witty ambassador for faith" -- provides the measured and wide-ranging treatment the subject deserves, from serious discussion of the compatibility between faith and science to astonishing but well-documented stories of actual miracles from people he knows.
A more current, anecdotal, and personal version of C. S. Lewis’s 1947 book on the subject, Miracles is a powerfully winsome challenge that miracles are not only possible but are far more widespread than most of us ever might have imagined.
In a decidedly eclectic career, Eric Metaxas has written for VeggieTales, Chuck Colson, Rabbit Ears Productions and the New York Times, four things not ordinarily in the same sentence. He is a best-selling author whose biographies, children’s books, and works of popular apologetics have been translated into more than 25 languages.
As I started reading this book I wanted to highlight a quote I liked however, as I continued reading I realized that nearly every page had so much good content that my pages began to look like a class on annotation! Miracles is a rich book, full of life that penetrates the heart!
After reading "Amazing Grace" and "Bonhoeffer" (two books which deeply affected me), I was very much looking forward to his new book "Miracles." In the first half of the book, Metaxas does an excellent job introducing the reader to what IS a miracle, and does a great job addressing miracles in the realm of science and the universe: "What if science points us beyond science?" the author asks. He cites Bonhoeffer: "We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don't know." Metaxas does an excellent job defending miracles and also the Christian faith in these early chapters.
The 2nd half of the book tell the "miracle stories": conversion, healing, angelic and variety. Reading through each one (some only a couple pages, some longer), deepened my faith. I will continue to recall these miracles in the years ahead and applaud Mr. Metaxas in writing such a great book. I hope the "mainstream" of American culture takes note of this book and its message. It is desperately needed.
My hope is that this book changes perspectives on life in the cosmos, on Christ, His life and eternal mark on history, on the desire of God to do something quirky that is so out of the ordinary that the event just cannot be explained in the natural. The first part of the book explores the concept of miracles. “If God could speak the universe into existence, could he not afterward speak into that existence.” (p.12) “Miracles point to something beyond themselves.” (p. 16) From there, Eric Metaxas gives us science lessons on human life and astronomy (who knew Jupiter has an important part to play in our life on Earth). How life in the universe is calibrated just right through the eons of time is a wonder! Then Eric takes us through the miracles of Jesus, including the greatest, His resurrection, and shows how wondrously applicable the resurrection is to anyone and everyone. The second part of the book compiles stories of miracles in the lives of those people whom Eric knows, and this part is a fascinating read. The miracles detail Eric's conversion to Christ, along with other conversions, and stories of lost keys, a girl and a squirrel, and others beyond comprehension. The book was a joy to read.
This a must-read for anyone who has wondered how God communicates with his children. Miracles are a way for our Father to bring us closer to him, by demonstrating awesome insight into each of our lives and the ability to direct any situation toward His purpose.
This is a wonderful exploration into the miraculous existence of human life on Earth and illustration of how a few of our brothers and sisters have been reminded of God's love.
I read nearly 60 books in 2014 and it looks like this is only one that I gave 5 stars to.
Metaxas writes an important book in the tradition of intellectuals like C. S. Lewis. He approaches the subject of miracles from a perspective of logic and science, not blind faith or literal acceptance of scripture.
A rational, open minded, nonbeliever can read this book and come to the conclusion that believing in miracles is actually more logical than trying to explain them away.
My favorite section is where Metaxas discusses the various impossible events that had to happen in order for the universe and earth to exist in order to support life. There are so many extremely unlikely variables that all have to happen, that believing we are here by random chance takes much more faith to belief than to accept that a grand designer is responsible for our existence.
For example, there is an incredibly fine balance in the ratio of electromagnetic forces to gravitational forces. If it is too much in one direction, the universe would only create heavy stars where the heavy elements are created. If it is too much in the other direction, the universe would create only light stars (like our sun), which are needed to support the existence of life on an earth. How fine a balance? If you are off by 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000001, you won’t get both types of stars.
How easy is it to hit this sweet spot? Caltech astrophysicist Hugh Ross explains it this way. Take a bunch of dimes (and I mean a bunch) and use them to cover every square inch of North America. Now stack another layer of dimes, and another, and keep doing it until your North America shaped stack of dimes reaches 238,000 miles to the height of the moon. Now that’s a lot of dimes, but we are not done yet. Next step -- do it a billion more times. Then take one dime and paint it red and hide in one of these billion piles. The last step is to blindfold a friend and have him pick out the dime on his first try. If you believe this could happen by random chance, you are either nuts or a closed-minded atheist who refuses to see the hand of God in the creation of the universe.
Let’s give our atheist friend the benefit of the doubt and accept the fact that this did happen by dumb random luck. Now it’s got to happen more than a hundred times more because there are that many other “impossible” actions that have to happen for us to exist.
Here is just one more. Scientists think that 4.25 billion years ago, the earth was a much smaller size. Then one day a Mars size mass that had been travelling across millions of light years hit the earth perfectly to blast away an old atmosphere that could not support life and give earth the gravitational mass needed to support life. To assume that this was a random event is like believing two bullets randomly shot from guns on opposite sides of the Grand Canyon could collide head on in such a way to cancel out each other’s momentum. It’s hard to do, but much easier if you are trying to do it on purpose instead of relying again on random chance.
The last part of Metaxas's book retells miracle stories of his personal friends that he vouches for their character that they would be telling the truth. Someone that comes from a background where people do not speak of such experiences, may find these stories hard to believe, but I am familiar with many similar stories from people I know. I believe miracles happen much more frequently than many people would acknowledge.
This is a great book to either confirm your belief in miracles or give you a logical, scientific reason to relook at them and recognize that miracles do happen.
The first part of Eric Metaxas book on Miracles, gives a detailed scientific explanation, although written for the general reader, of how miracles are possible. This section pulled me in. I've read a lot of science about the cosmos, but this section was one of the best I've read. Eric points out how amazing it is that the Big Bang occurred and even more amazing that there is life on this planet at all. When you've finished the section you have to agree with him; it is amazing.
Metaxas uses the scientific information to argue that instead of being a closed system, the solar system is open to the point that an outside force, which could be called God, is able to act on human events. This is his explanation for how miracles are possible. I have to admit that first reading the scientific data and them having it used to discuss the miracle of Jesus Christ and his resurrection is very persuasive.
The second part of the book presents stories of miracles from conversion miracles like those experienced by C.S. Lewis and Charles Colson to angelic miracles and miracles of inner healing. He makes the point that miracles can change your life. His life was changed by a miracle. He makes it very believable.
I highly recommend this book. Whether you're a Christian or a skeptic, this book will give you something to think about.
I was almost disuaded to read this book by its title. It made it sound like the Metaxas was going to put forth pat answers on the who, what, where, when and how of miracles, as well as the formula for securing your own. Happily, the read was much more satisfying than that. Full disclosure: I am a long time Christian and also a long time thinker who is not contented with superficial answers to life's complex issues. He treats the subject in two contexts: the cosmic, creation-related context and the personal, private context. Both are completely appropriate to the subject matter and supportive of each other. There are plenty of scientific data, as well as personal anecdotes which are, by the way, all from people whom the author knows personally. On the other hand, there are instances where the author admits that some things simply can not be known or are not known yet. The author explains beautifully the balance between the knowable and the unknowable, the natural and the miraculous, and even the gray areas that bridge the two. Regardless of where you come from theologically or philosophically, I think you will become enriched and more at ease in musing at life's seeming miracles and mysteries, and you will know that you are in good company when you don't have all the answers.
I enjoyed this book so much! I feel it is an excellent read for both Christians and skeptics. There is so much that both sides can learn from. There are two main parts of the book. In the first half, Eric approaches the subject with a scientific and logical mindset. In one chapter, he talks about how improbable it is the Big Bang occurred, which I found particularly fascinating.
In the second half of the book, Eric tells miracle stories that happened in his life and in the lives of a few people he knows personally. They range from all sorts of miracles - healing, conversions, eternity and inner healing. I really appreciated how the miracles occurred in the lives of Christians from a variety of denominations. It is a reminder that God cares about all people of all denominations.
I think that skeptics would find this book interesting and helpful, because Eric approaches miracles from a skeptical standpoint. He brings up questions that many people have God, particularly in the first half of the book and addresses them wonderfully. Too often the subject of miracles can be something that makes those in and outside of the church feel a bit uncomfortable. The subject is rarely discussed logically among skeptics and those in the church assume that miracles no longer happen today.
I feel that this book truly helps both sides to understand the subject of miracles a lot more. It is truly a book for everyone! Congratulations to Eric on writing another wonderful book!
Disclaimer: I had access to a pre-release digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I saw Eric Metaxas speak at NewDay, a Christian youth camp held in Norwich. I wasn't a camper, I took my daughter that one evening to see Matt Redman, who was signing. Eric was a bonus! He mentioned following him on Twitter, so I did. A few weeks ago he tweeted about people being part of his book launch team, so I filled in the most atrociously poor request form, dangling the carrot of making Miracles my 100th book of the year (I was on 91 at the time) and waited. When I got the email saying I was part of the team I realised I needed to do some serious adding, and fast, to get to book 99, so I could make good my promise to have Miracles as book 100! Several novellas later... TAHDAH!
****BOOK 100 of 2014 - MIRACLES by Eric Metaxas****
Miracles is a book of two parts, both extremely readable, both exciting but in different ways.
Part 1 deals with what miracles are, and includes lots of fabulous science facts about the world, the universe, the moon, gravity, and the amazing precision of it all. I want to write all of these down so you can wonder at them all rig now, but I do not do spoilers (not after my enjoyment of a long anticipated book was ruined by an Amazon reviewer who started her eviewing with the spoiler to end all spoilers). The science in Miracles isn't controversial to non Christians who might pick up a copy, though the conclusions may be challenging! It'll be challenging to some Christians too. My inner science geek is a geek with faith, so the science stuff in part 1 was grand all round. There's also a good look at Bible miracles and why they happened. Loved, loved the exposition of the story of Lazarus as it gave me new pieces of the jigsaw I didn't know before. I'd buy Miracles for part 1 alone.
Part 2 covers actual modern day miracle stories, all the tellers of these stories are known to the author, deliberately so - he felt it would add a layer of credibility to some pretty incredible stories if he didn't just use hearsay but firsthand accounts from people he could trust. There are lots of them, grouped into different types. I tore through this second section in one afternoon whereas the first 8 chapters were consumed more slowly, with lots of asides to my husband, saying, "did you know..."
Overall reading this book was a very positive experience, and I think it has plenty for people of faith and people who don't believe but have an interest in the subject and an open mind to what they might read.
The reading experience of the case studies on miracles was a little like Fox's Book of Martyrs in reverse. The reader knows what's coming, and coming again, and coming again, so what in daily experience would be poignant, even wrenching, becomes a little repetitive. It's not the author's fault. God is just TOO faithful for us to constantly be entirely surprised. :-)
Metaxas is renowned as the author of a much-admired book on Dietrich Boenhoffer (published in 2011). In this new book, he turns his attention to a vitally important subject: our worldview and how it affects our perception of reality.
In the first half of the book Metaxas examines the rules by which we may determine that an event is “a miracle”. One of his most compelling early chapters is about the miracle of life on earth. As a counterpoint to Stephen Hawking’s observation that "We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star" Metaxas gives us a taster of the vast number of fine-tuned characteristics which are necessary to support life. As I read this chapter it put me in mind of one of my own favourite quotes, which comes from Joseph Conrad’s novel Lord Jim:
"This is Nature – the balance of colossal forces… the mighty Cosmos in perfect equilibrium produces – this."
Beyond this, Metaxas goes on to consider the picture of God breaking through into the natural world with miracles, like a great tree bursting through concrete. He examines the questions of God’s apparent “selectivity” – why do some people’s lives benefit from miraculous intervention, and others not?
In the second half of the book Metaxas gives accounts of miracles which happened to himself and to people he knows personally. These stories of miracles are robust and compelling. Some are disturbing, creepy and challenging. Near the end of the book he relates a 9/11 story which holds you transfixed. And he ends with a challenge both intellectual and spiritual.
I found this book thrilling, uplifting and enormously encouraging. Throughout my life there have been times when I’ve instinctively felt something to be true, without having the necessary resources of intellectual argument to lay it on the table before others. In this book, Metaxas encourages us to fully engage our minds on a subject which is far too easy to talk or think about in a “loose” or “woolly” way.
If you possibly can, find time to read this book and to consider what Metaxas says.
This is a miracle book of a different sort. The author begins the book by setting forth a case that believing in the miraculous is both perfectly logical and sensible given what we know from science today. He explores the 'most recent scientific discoveries' to show how strongly all signs point to the supernatural and miraculous origins and continuation of the universe. While I don't agree with the basis of his argumentation I found it an interesting one to follow. The way I see it, belief or outlook about all that there is comes before what one believes is 'rational' and 'logical'. In my mind, of course the author believes these discoveries prove the strong rationality and logical nature of miracles and the supernatural. I doubt others who do not already share his perspective on creation will readily be convinced. As I see it, argumentation and scientific discoveries rarely lead one to faith in a personal loving God. One must experience it to believe.
I found the discussion about what miracles are and how they affect this world thought provoking. I'm not sure if I entirely agree with the distinction between natural and supernatural but it was good to be presented with the argument. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the way in which it sought to 'normalize' the experience of miracles in our daily life. I heartily agree that this should be the norm. Exploring many different types of miracles, from the 'fantastic' to the seemingly 'mundane', the author gives testimony of a breadth of experience not normally explored in the mainstream.
Much more could be said but I would recommend this one to any who aren't quite sure what to think or believe about miracles and want to be presented with some thought provoking arguments and stories about how the supernatural invades our world every day.
Knowing Mr. Metaxas' talent for writing biography's, i immediately jumped into the second part of the book wanting to get into "the stories".. I was not disappointed.. Each miracle, fascinating in it's own right, is based on stories of people the author knew well enough to trust their accounts. One amazing story after another. When i went back and read the first part of the book, the theology of miracles.. the hows and whys.. the science of it all, i was pleasantly surprised to find that i loved it even more. When i read the miracle of the universe, my mind was utterly blown. That one chapter is worth the price of the book. Yes i'm a believer, i have had miracles in my own life and have seen them in the lives of others, but had i not, this book would still hold it's own. I found the author not to be preachy but merely offering his readers a safe place to consider the possibility. Thank you to Mr Metaxas for writing another stunning book and opening up the conversation.
My favorite part of this book was 'The Introduction to Miracle Stories' and the accounts of the miracles given in that portion of the book. When I attended a Socrates in the City Event I had the opportunity to meet and visit with three of the people the author wrote about, so I was delighted to 'meet' them again via the pages of this book. Personal instances of God's intervention in the lives of individuals happen, and these stories need to be told. As I read, I reflected on friends in my own circle who have experienced miracles.
If you are a skeptic, I would like to challenge you to read the accounts in this book, follow the criterion, and perhaps conduct your own inquiry? This, I think, would be very scientific of you. I dare say there are those in your own town who have experienced miracles.
This is an amazing book. It clearly shows how God is still at work in lives today performing miracles that we can not imagine. This is a must read for everyone. The most amazing part is that although the author covers quite a number of miracles, that is only a slight fraction of the miracles that God is performing every day that we never hear about.
This is an outstanding book with a wealth of information about miracles and many beautiful stories that will expand your view of miracles. The book is divided into two sections. Part 1 The Question of Miracles, gives an extensive definition of miracles and broadens the readers view in all directions. The chapters in this section describe the incredible miracle of our world which could not exist without many exact parameters. Metaxes also includes in Part 1 a chapter on Questions about Miracles, The Biblical Miracles and the Resurrection.
Metaxas begins by defining “miracle.” Webster defines it as “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.” The skeptic David Hume didn’t believe in miracles but defined them as “a transgression of the law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent.” Metaxas adds his definition: “When something outside time and space enters time and space, whether just to wink at us or poke at us briefly, or to come in and dwell among us for three decades.” The chapters on The Miracle of the Universe and the one on The Resurrection are outstanding.
Part 2 is titled The Miracle Stories. Metaxas offers chapters on Conversion Miracles, Healing Miracles, Inner Healing Miracles, Angelic Miracles and more. The stories he tells are all of people he knows. He limited the stories in this way so he could be certain their veracity. These stories are all fascinating but several left me wondering (or doubting?) the miraculousness of the story. The idea that conversions are miracles surprised and delighted me. I had not thought of it that way even though I know the Holy Spirit indwells all believers. I will reread this book – it’s that good.
Wonderful. I wholeheartedly agree with the Kirkus Reviews: "[Metaxas] has taken a difficult and often controversial topic and presented it with clarity. Both erudite and intimate, Metaxas invites even the scoffer to wonder."
Part One of the book is dedicated to a scholarly inquiry of what miracles are and why they happen. I especially enjoyed Chapter 4, "Is Life a Miracle?" which lays out scientific research about the necessary conditions for life on this world to exist. Some of these I had heard before, but some of them are not as widely talked about in the scientific community.
Part Two contains individual miracle stories. Metaxas included stories only of people he knew and deemed to be credible. This is not merely a compilation like "Chicken Soup for the Soul." Rather, Metaxas briefly explains further insights to be gained about miracles from each story.
Growing up, I was taught the idea of dispensationalism- that miracles happened in the Bible, but now since we have the Bible as a reference, it is no longer necessary for God to perform miracles today. The personal testimonies from this book helped to dispel that idea. Our God is one who cares about us more than we can ever imagine, and he continues to communicate with us from time to time in ways that can only be deemed miraculous.
Although Metaxas is a Christian, he is careful not to allow his religious persuasion to cloud his arguments. This book would resonate with both believers and nonbelievers.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I appreciated that it was broken up into two parts: (1) The Question of Miracles and (2) The Miracle Stories. There is something for both seeker and saved in this book. Metaxas does a marvelous job of integrating scientific thinking with the miraculous and points out that some of the greatest scientific minds were solid Christians, a point not often brought out to readers. In The Miracle Stories, I was reminded of when I have personally witnessed the miraculous in my own life and how as time goes by and life gets busy I tend to forget those events. Thank you Mr. Metaxas for writing this book to remind me to not take for granted the miracles that are all around me. Also, thanks for reminding me of the importance of sharing our personal miracle stories with others. Everyone needs some encouragement! I was on the Launch Team for this book.
I discovered this great book about miracles while browsing categories in my own book, which describes a miracle I experienced myself. I am still trying to understand my miraculous experience and find a scientific explanation to it. Once many years ago, I found and rescued a little black kitten. I took it home, raised him and surrounded with all the love and attention. One year after he was killed by dogs or driven by a car (I do not know exactly how that happened but I lost him). I deeply worried about this and was simply going mad. Then I so a prophetic dream about my Charm and felt his spirit right above my head. I can swear my cat's spirit visited me. And then exactly one year after Charm's death I found an identical little black kitten on his grave! Upon reading the reviews for Eric Metaxas book Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life, I understood that this book will go deeper in the scientific explanation of miracles and how they happen. That's exactly what I need in order to understand a miraculous phenomenon which happened to me. I have also looked into the book and read some part of it. I found that it's well-written, solid book. All this convinced me to buy the book. I am looking forward to reading it and finding the answers for my questions which I raise in my own story: "Do you believe in God? Do you believe in the existence of a higher power and the other world? Do you believe in miracles and reincarnation?" I am thinking about reading Eric Metaxas book Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life, and then looking back to my own story and trying to understand better the nature of miracles. I was so lucky to have discovered Eric Metaxas book Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life! That's exactly what I need! Thank you Erik for taking your time and writing such a great and important message! Sincerely, Leyla Atke, author of Charm: An Amazing Story of a Little Black Cat
This book was one of those rare books that will be added to my all-time favorites list.
In the first half of the book Metaxas presents the subjects of miracles, faith, and Christianity (whether they are fact or fiction) in such a way that they can be understood by anyone, yet he is not patronizing, simplistic, or preachy.
In the second half of the book he provides a “lab” section providing different examples which potentially demonstrate the reality of miracles (you read it and decide for yourself).
Being convinced of the reality of miracles before reading the book, I almost skipped the second half of the book, not needing any of the “mushy stuff”. I’m so glad I didn’t. Some of Metaxas’ accounts literally jerked tears out of my eyes and strengthened my faith immensely.
Bottom line, in my humble opinion, “Miracles” is truly an inspiring book; a must read.
And by the way, Metaxas has a daily radio program that you can listen too via his podcast (I get it off iTunes) which is a real winner...through (Metaxas if you happen to read this) I wish he’d cool his jets and let his guests talk a little more.
As you can see, I’m pretty high on Metaxas, and for the record, I am not his mother writing under a “pseudonym”; through I do like Greek food.
This review is dedicated to Jada Walrop who gave me this book as a gift (may her tribe increase)
Metaxas has written some really inspiring books. This is another one. I enjoy his writing style because it is easy to read and never pretentious. I could nitpick some minor repeated words and clichés in later sections, but there is no need. The book as a whole stands out because it is informative, inspiring and entertaining—and it took courage to write it.
When you write about religion in any form, especially science and religion, the “experts” come out in force, hammering away at every conclusion—unaware that there are “experts” on both sides. They miss the point. Metaxas knows he can’t eliminate doubt, he just shows that the weight of evidence is on the side of miracles. Those without faith are not going to believe, no matter what.
With stories, Metaxas shows what I have discovered in my own life and the lives of people I have counseled. And that is that miracles don’t have to be “miraculous” on a grand scale. They happen in small, individual ways. Sometimes, we don’t always know we have experienced one until we look back and reflect. We should express our gratitude to Metaxas for making us reflect.
I am familiar with Eric's books. His skillful use of language about God and faith is impressive. I bought this book because a charismatic pastor talked about it, and I thought the book would be good to read. The book is delightful. I learned a great deal about how God is working in our lives through the many testimonies included. More importantly, I learned that I believe in miracles...and I am not alone.
Metaxas is typically a good writer, but this book would not show that. The sentences are sloppy and short, which appear to be intentional to get the wow factor of the book across. This book is odd because Metaxas doesn’t use a traditional definition that theologians and philosophers alike have come to agree on, and the closing chapter seems to call readers to look for miracles more often because they happen regularly. If that were the case then they would no longer be miracles. With that being said this book walks through miracles from conversion stories to dreams to healings to financial rescue to trips to heaven or hell. I am not here to say that these miracles did not happen, but it does seem that man could be explained by natural means. I will also say that the book gives credibility to the false teacher Benny Hinn. The endorsement of the “sometimes controversial” (Metaxas’ words) prosperity gospel teacher is enough for me to say that I cannot recommend this book.
A friend bought us the book Miracles: What They are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life by Eric Metaxas as an encouragement to the journey in recovering health. I expected to find a series of stories describing miraculous accounts from beginning to end, but was pleasantly surprised that over one fourth of the book presented case making of miracles. Metaxas launches into a rational formation of why we should even believe in miracles.
The hot topics of today’s culture are mentioned: Does science negate the possibility for the miraculous? (The highly respectable John Lennox and Francis Collins are mentioned in this subject.) What constitutes a miracle? Is it realistic to believe in miracles in a naturalistic society? Metaxas brilliantly makes the case for life and the universe itself as a sheer miracle, providing mind-blowing data that’s certain to be “highlighter” worthy.
He then segues into the resurrection of Christ, listing evidence that refortifies the faith of the believer and provides food for thought for the skeptic. One of my favorite parts of the resurrection chapter was the poem Metaxas added from John Updike called “Seven Stanzas at Easter” which illustrates with such beauty the reality to the resurrection that is oftentimes muddled in our current culture, redefining what “resurrection” even means. Even though I truly appreciated his case making, I was disappointed in the lack of annotations. (It should also be noted that the “case making” for the miraculous is not as extensive as what you would find in a higher level academic read since this book’s target audience was the everyday Joe.)
Metaxas then writes further of his own conversion story from skeptic to a person of faith which is a pleasurable read, then continues with other stories of the miraculous from only those he knows personally as he can vouch for their credibility. You can read the rest of the review here: ) http://inkblotsofanidealist.com/eric-...
This book was everything that I'd hoped it would be and more. The second half describes miracles, all experienced by people that the author knows personally, concluding with one that happened in the World Trade Centre on 9/11. They aren't "famous" miracles, just ones that happened to ordinary people in response to prayer. The book also describes the miracles in the bible including the resurrection so the timing for reading it was just right but it also has a fascinating section at the start on the miracle of life itself which describes in great detail but in an easy to follow way, scientific evidence for Earth supporting life and for the universe existing. It is all so finely tuned and exact that it makes you worry about the way that climate change evidence is being ignored by the US leadership now. The whole book is fascinating, thought provoking and a real encouragement for any Christian reader.
This is my first encounter with Metaxas' writing outside of childrens books he wrote early in his career that my son has. I read atheist-humanist physicist/philosopher Alan Lightman's The Accidental Universe immediately after this book, and I highly recommend the two juxtaposed. Lightman's book confirms Metaxas' summary of modern physics and cosmology, while taking the completely opposite view. For a preview of the cosmology of the book, check out Metaxas' article in the Wall Street Journal last year, which is supposedly the most-clicked article the history of the website.
Much of this book is autobiographical. Metaxas is of Greek-German descent and was raised in a Greek Orthodox church. When he later comes to a saving faith, he encounters his church in different ways. He reconnects with his German roots in the process of writing his bestseller Bonhoeffer, and he describes what he believes are supernatural events around that book. Metaxas is a good student of C.S. Lewis, quoting heavily from several of his works. I think this book is targeted at two audiences: Hyper-cessasionists like John MacArthur and atheists/materialists skeptical of anything unexplained by nature. On the former, Metaxas notes it would be inconsistent with God's character to intervene throughout history recorded by Scripture to reveal himself to others and encourage His followers and not afterward. To the latter, besides arguing for the probability of design in the cosmos, he also provides testimony that is verifiable by eyewitnesses of various events. One cannot prove either that God created or did not create the cosmos or that any of the recorded events happen, but one can give evidence "beyond a reasonable doubt," which he states is his purpose. Metaxas was a member of Tim Keller's Redeemer Presbyterian, so you know he's been discipled with good doctrine. He's widely considered orthodox and uncontroversial, but some of the details of the miracle accounts are troubling for their somewhat "anything goes" implications.
The first chapters deal with cosmology. I have read Lightman, Hawking, Greene, Smolin, and others on the issue of cosmology, string theory, M-theory, and the multiverse. Why do things exist, and why do they keep existing? Metaxas recounts all of the "fine-tuning" of the cosmological constants necessary in order for our current universe to exist and for life to exist on earth:
"For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp. Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?"
Since the SETI experiments in the 1970s, scientists have come out with increasingly stringent requirements for life to exist elsewhere such that now the odds of our own existence are something like one in ten to the fiftieth power. This is why many scientists, physicists included, do not reject the existence of a Creator.
Hawking and Lightman deal with the anthropic principle in their books, and argue that the only true way around it is the theory of the multiverse, which they readily subscribe to. Comsmologist George Ellis was quoted recently in Scientific American criticizing physicists like them who have moved away from physics and science to pure metaphysical hypotheses which are not testable. "(Lawrence) Krauss does not explain in what way these entities could have pre-existed the coming into being of the universe, why they should have existed at all, or why they should have had the form they did. And he gives no experimental or observational process whereby we could test these vivid speculations of the supposed universe-generation mechanism. How indeed can you test what existed before the universe existed? You can’t."
Lightman argues that since all scientific laws are immutable, God cannot interfere with them-- if he created the universe he's the watchmaker who wound it up and let it go. All events thereafter are the result of random chance as the processes play out. Metaxas' point is that the evidence suggests otherwise-- both that there was an order to design and that things today happen non-randomly, and that the laws of nature are violated. And if everything that happens here is a result of random assembly of molecules, then we have no basis for calling anything a "life," ethics, laws, morals, etc. The randomness of string theorists does not play well with the theory of natural selection, which requires information be transmitted non-randomly via genes. He notes Nobel prize winners in various fields, including physics, who uphold Design as a possibility. For Lightman et al, the multiverse is the answer-- the highly improbable becomes probable when dealing with infinite possibilities that co-exist at the same time. Metaxas calls this "laughable," agreeing with George Ellis and other physicists as this unscientific way out of dealing with a Creator. Metaxas writes that he stops short of calling the media's assumption of materialism being correct and intelligent a "conspiracy."
Miracles are events that happen to people which could not have been caused by man's intervention alone. The creation of the universe was a miracle. God answering any prayer is a miracle, as are the various processes in our body such as its ability to heal. One valid criticism of the book is that it's hard to delineate "mysterious natural process" from "miracle" at some points. Waking up is a miracle.
If you can accept that a Creator God made it and sustains it, then His ability to intervene in the space-time continuum without making everything fly apart doesn't seem a stretch. From cosmology, Metaxas moves to the life of Jesus-- God intervening in the biological process and implanting His nature into a man that develops naturally. Metaxas looks at some of Jesus' miracles and notes that while see the feeding of the large crowds as miraculous, we miss the thousands of healings that took place as "they brought their sick to him and he healed them." He also engages in a couple lengthy sermons related to interpreting the miracles. "The feeding of the 5,000 show God's generosity," etc. This was perhaps weak and unnecessary. He addresses the common arguments against the Resurrection, and does so pretty succinctly. Many Christian apologists I know of always come back to the high likelihood of the resurrection given all available evidence when faced with doubts in other areas. From Jesus, Metaxas moves to conversion stories.
All of the stories in the book are from people Metaxas knows personally, which creates a small sample size but lends reliability that Metaxas vouches for the person's trustworthiness. He tells several conversion stories, giving his own testimony of a changed life and that of others who he saw radically change after turning to Christ. Metaxas does not deal with any radical changes from those joining cults or other religions, nor tell any miracle stories by those who are not Christians or did not later become Christians. This is a weakness of the book. It may also imply that God's common grace does not go from the general to the more specific.
From here, Metaxas retells five healing miracles, the most radical is that of an innmate on his deathbed with AIDS being completely healed of the virus. That is a long story that is worth reading as it also involves another inmate's radical conversion, which has miraculous aspects as well including visions, voices, favor from authorities, and electronics that suddenly stopped working. Another woman is healed of a documented deadly nut allergy that had debilitated her. From there, Metaxas moves to stories of visions, healed marriages, encounters with angels, and phenonenal coincidences. One problem is that there are no journalistic efforts on Metaxas part to verify medical records, eyewitness accounts, etc. In some cases it's simply one person's word-- sincerely held, but lacking credibility to a skeptic. If you are saved from drowning by someone who scoops you out of the water and disappears then that's a miracle, but if no one else sees it then it's just your word. He explains premonitions he had in writing his Bonhoeffer biography, dreams with strange consequences.
Perhaps the more controversial is the story of Lutheran pastor Paul Teske who had a stroke while preaching--his watch also stopped working at that precise moment. He believed God had spoken to him that he'd be healed 28 days later. He went with his wife to a Benny Hinn crusade on the 27th and 28th days. While he was brought on stage and "slain the spirit" by Hinn on the 27th, the healing came while he was in his seat on the 28th, after which Hinn brought him up to give testimony. Hinn then prophecies that he will have a healing ministry. Teske has since written a bestseller titled Healing for Today and appears on TBN.
I find it odd that Teske would feel the need to go to a Hinn crusade on the day he felt he needed to be healed. Hinn is a false teacher, making several unbiblical statements, false prophecies, etc. from stage. Metaxas has no commentary on this, which is somewhat troubling. However, I don't see a lot of criticism of evangelicals of Teske like one will find of Hinn. Interestingly, this person claims he was healed of stroke symptoms after hearing this story listening to the audiobook: https://www.facebook.com/hopeforthebl...
One of Metaxas' final miracles was particularly troubling; a Catholic widow prayed to her husband in heaven for intervention in a particular court case. She essentially demanded a sign from him that he was her husband and cared for her. Metaxas does not comment on whether this is biblical or sound practice, which is troubling. In the end, the judge in the case remarkably had known her husband decades before and he'd had a profound impact on his life. She sees this as a sign from her husband, rather than from God. Not everything supernatural is from God, which is important to remember and is left out of this book.
Metaxas notes that for many of these who have been healed or have had visions of heaven, their fears are removed and they live life differently, demonstrating greater trust in God and willing to take more risks. Those who have had a near-death experience with a vision of heaven no longer fear going there, and have a renewed sense of purpose. Don Piper is not mentioned in the book but I have seen him speak and can testify to his own renewed sense to share the Gospel with others after his documented resuscitation.
In all, I give this book 3 stars out of 5. The author has collected evidence against materialists who argue nothing supernatural can occur. But that evidence is poorly documented. It is also lacking much theological foundation for a Christian. Reading this book at face value, I might pray to a dead relative or think Benny Hinn is legit, which is problematic biblically. The strengths are the summation of cosmology and evidences for the resurrection as well as the testimony of the Christians in this book who are living truly different lives than before and give all glory to God.
I believe in miracles. It’s easy for me to believe in them. It’s hard to talk to people about them and explain why and how they happen. However, after reading Miracles: What they are, why they happen, and how they can change your life by Eric Metaxas, I feel more confident about how to talk about them because he explores both the personal side of miracles, but also the theological and scientific side. I volunteered to read this book as part of the launch team. In return for getting an advanced copy for free, I was asked to highlight what stuck out to me and write a review.
What’s in the book? I enjoyed reading this book and got through it rather quickly. The first half was a slower read as Metaxas takes the time to define and explain the “science” of miracles. The second half tells personal miracle stories from people the author knows. He chose to do this because he could vouch for the credibility of the people telling the stories. Most of these stories are gripping. Metaxas starts by defining what a miracle is and then sets out to give evidence that miracles are real and that they are performed by a real God. A miracle may be best defined by an event “when God pokes into our world” to communicate with us. Miracles can be big with a message for many or small with a message for one. They can happen through signs, events, sights, feelings, actions, people or visions. The personal stories are told by an associate news producer who at one point became almost homeless due to severe allergies and was cured, an actress who had an abortion and received emotional healing and forgiveness (even getting a glimpse of her daughter), and a father and son who both went through an emotional experience singing the same three hymns though they were on different continents. The personal stories are as amazing as the scientific miracles. If miracles aren’t real, how do you explain the miraculous odds that this planet exists and we are living on it? (Chapters 3, 4 and 5) If miracles are real, how do you explain how some of the most awful people in this world can change? (Chapter 9) If God set this world into motion, why can’t He reach out and touch our world and show us His love? (Chapter 8) “Marveling at this is not inappropriate.”
What will I learn? I learned that there are incredible odds against life existing on this planet. I can support my belief in miracles with the facts of the universe. There are so many factors that have to line up just perfectly that it is amazing and unexplainable. I learned to define what a miracle is and why I believe they exist.
My mother’s life is a miracle in that a neighbor lady felt God telling her to take this little child to church with her where my mother met a woman who would take her from a home filled with drugs, alcohol and violence to a home filled with Christ and love. At another point in her life, an angel, perhaps, saved her from a runaway inner tube in a river. A man pulled her to shore and then disappeared. God saved my mother’s life. My husband had a teacher in school who was miraculously cured of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – an unexplained healing: http://bolstablog.wordpress.com/2008/... I’ve heard of missionaries who have received an anonymous envelope in the mail with the exact amount for their month’s rent or doctor’s bill when they had no more money. Or they had a bag of groceries show up the day they ran out of food. God was taking care of their basic needs.
Who should read it? I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in miracles. If you already believe in miracles, or have experienced a miracle, you will walk away with the confidence to explain the faith and science behind them. If you are a skeptic of miracles, this book will give you the chance to hear a well-thought-out defense of their existence. If you’re looking for a book of just people sharing their miracle stories, this is not that book. This book explores the topic in-depth and requires attention and thought. Whether you do or not believe in miracles, this book is worth your time. You will either walk away still a skeptic or you will be convinced that miracles are real and will be able to talk about them to other people.
Is it book club worthy? This book has book club potential. There are no group discussion questions right now. However, having a group of people to talk through the ideas presented in the book could be very helpful.
Metaxas’ Christian faith has never been a secret. He wrote bestsellers on William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, two historical characters noted for their faith. He has been a keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast. But Miracles is the first of his books to be directly and overtly evangelistic about his faith. In Miracles, Metaxas defines a miracle as any time the supernatural (God) enters and affects our natural world. Metaxas asserts in the very first chapter that the reason God would do so is to communicate with people and to get their attention. The first half of the book focuses on non-specific miracles: the miracle of life itself (that we exist is a scientific and biological miracle) and the miracle of the existence of the universe. Metaxas overtly puts forth a Creationist worldview (though also an evolutionary one). He then clearly lays out the miracle of the resurrection and goes through and refutes the standard anti-resurrection arguments (swoon theory or stolen body theory). The second half of the book focuses on specific miracles – all miracles that he documents with names and quotes from having interviewed the people involved in the miracles. The miracles range from stories of incredible instances of healing to personal conversion stories (including his own) to stories of answered prayers. The last chapter draws the primary point of the book to its natural conclusion: if miracles do exist, and they are means by which God is attempting to communicate with people and draw them into relationship with Himself, what then, O reader? I found the book to be eminently readable, and the stories of the miracles to be incredible. For Christians, the miracle stories are affirming and inspiring. My only quibble is that there are a few stories that come off as more New Age spiritual than Christian, but Metaxas isn’t attempting to write a book on doctrine; he’s attempting to draw people into faith by pointing to a God that is trying to communicate with them. The stories are engaging, encouraging, and at times difficult-to-believe-but-how-awesome. Recommended.
Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life by Eric Metaxas
Since the book has a number of reviews, I'll concentrate on my thoughts of the material. Part I (The Question Of Miracle) addresses what IS a miracle. The science behind Is Life A Miracle? and Miracle Of The Universe is profoundly explained and has elements that would appeal to the scientist and the ordinary reader. I found this section poses and answers some "universal" questions.
Part II (The Miracle Stories) presents stories of miracles under the headings of conversion, healing, inner healing, angelic, varieties of miracles and touching eternity...very interesting.
Concluding, Eric Metaxes suggests we consider how miracles can change our lives. I found the read spiritually and scientifically profound. It was moving, insightful and perhaps best of all, thought provoking.
An interesting and a well written book. Really liked the first part of the book where E. Metaxas talks about beginning of the earth, other planets and stars and some of theirs miraculous purpose. Being scientist by myself, there were still a few new information for me. Also I liked the part about Bible, especially the part where the author mentioned parts which are not included in the Bible. The importance of Jesus, his (God’s) miracles, importance of Resurrection for Christianity…were well researched and documented. Unfortunately the second part of the book where the writer describes the miracles experienced by his friends and himself were not convincing. Especially the part about his own conversion neither the story about recovered marriage of one of his friends. In my view some of those people who experienced miracles (mentioned in this book) depended too much on Jesus and faith in God and not enough on themselves and their own efforts.