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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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62 Responses to 497

  1. Pete Rehn says:

    Since God wanted us to have perfect relation to Him and His creation and faith and our Holy Spirit restores our relationship?

  2. Robb says:

    Water is wrong and wine is howit should be in the natural order?

    Excellent :D

  3. Robb says:

    I have grey eyes. Are they unnatural?

  4. Pete Rehn says:

    eyes can tell of a mans heart, its somewhere in the bible. maybe your heart is grey? heh.

  5. JF says:

    The opening section of “Miracle” on Wikipedia is excellent.

    I find it unhelpful to have the same word for something “extremely unlikely” (what Wiki calls ‘casual usage’) as for something which requires divine intervention.

    I believe that perceived miracles are the product of everyday probabilities and the deep-seated human need to feel that something bigger than us is looking after us.

    The word “miracle” often seems to be applied when someone feels an overwhelming sense of gratitude (that a longed-for outcome has occurred) but has nothing and no-one tangible on whom to bestow this gratitude directly.

    It’s good that we have a word and a concept to help us make sense of this overwhelming gratitude in these rare moments of unlikely and perhaps unexpected blessing. But the obfuscation (deliberate or not) of applying the terminology of “absolutely beyond the possibility of nature” stuff to merely “extremely unlikely” stuff should be obvious.

  6. JF says:

    I am a victim of the winky smiley.

  7. Robb says:

    My year 10’s are watching Jesus of Nazareth. The centurion* asking for his servant makes meparticularly glad for the grace God sometimes bestows upon us with a miracle. Just say the word and it will be so. Jesus does that. Our faith in Him makes it so.

    Sometimes the highly unlikely is that unlikely that it is miraculous. Sometimes we try to ignore that God is present and offering His grace.

    *Stringfellow Hawks mate from Airwolf :D

  8. Ben says:

    Isn’t it CS Lewis (in miracles) that suggests that the supernatural is inherent all around us. The idea that Man can break the cause and effect of natural law thorugh free will means thats the supernatural becomes normal.

    I love the cartoon – to me follows the kingdom theme from previous discussion – God’s kingdom coming (or bring restored) hungry being fed. The party being restarted and the blind seeing!

    Do we still believe that the relationship is restored through what could be described as signs and wonders? If so why do we feel so uncomfortable with a healing ministry….?

  9. sarah says:


    Ben – maybe because of all the people who do it.

  10. Robb says:

    Ben – secessionism.

  11. Robb says:

    As an afterthought…

    Are signs and wonders the cause of or the result of a relationship being restored?

  12. zefi says:

    the natural is just supernatural with high frequency of occurrence.

    “I am a victim of the winky smiley.”

    I feel you. Was a victim of the darkglasses smiley.

  13. Ben says:

    Robb – had to check Secessionism out on Wiki – to soundbite a response I think this is when people lower their theology to their experience rather than expecting their experience to reflect the bible.

    The cause surely is God… the result is the sign and wonder? The first sermon I ever hear my now wife preach was on water turning to wine. The crux was that we forget that signs point to something; they don’t point to themselves.

    Signs and wonders/healing ministry is uncomfortable when we worship the wonder and not the Wonderful One! (is it cheating when you try and answer your own question)

    My church is seeing healing happen (and we don’t charge an entrance fee…. yet!) but to start with I struggled cause I had so much doubt about it’s integrity…

  14. Robb says:

    Something for the mix – “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” Mark 16:20

    So the relationship is restored and the signs and wonders ensue rather than he relationship being restored by the signs and wonders?

  15. janetp says:

    JF (5): “I believe that perceived miracles are the product of everyday probabilities and the deep-seated human need to feel that something bigger than us is looking after us.

    The word “miracle” often seems to be applied when someone feels an overwhelming sense of gratitude (that a longed-for outcome has occurred) but has nothing and no-one tangible on whom to bestow this gratitude directly.”

    I totally agree.

    Not sure what to think about ‘divine intervention’ in this context, but I found Jeffrey John’s “The Meaning in the Miracles” helpful. He argues very pursuasively that if your only response to the miracle stories is “what REALLY happened?”, you’ve missed the point.

  16. Robb says:

    Like mt old testament lecturer used to say “That is a question. Its not the right question but it is a question.”

  17. beatthedrum says:

    Love that one,so true. Spot on 10/10

    Akthough when i first saw it i hought the eyes were david bowie….

  18. Chris F says:

    Not sure about this – if a blind eye is restored to a bright seeing eye (even if it is green!) to be sure this is restoring a perfectly natural relationship.

    But it doesn’t happen naturally – so when it does, to call it supernatural, a miracle, seems accurate to me

  19. JF says:

    “Sometimes the highly unlikely is that unlikely that it is miraculous”

    Is it also a “miracle” when you get a rare disease that only affects one in 10 million people?

  20. @JF(20): No, that’s just shite

  21. Forrest says:

    Could the “They are a perfe tly natural relationship restored” be the restoration relationship of God’s intimate interaction with this earth and us of mankind upon it?
    Once there had been distance between God and fallen man, but now there is no distance?
    And there being no distance between God and man is the relationship intneded in the first place at creation?

    We had thunderstorms all night – some “good” ones too!, and I’m just now awake at noon – did the above make sense? It’s still blurry around the bifocals.

  22. jonbirch says:

    my point is chris f… god created man and woman to have authority over creation. that biblically is the way it was always intended. christ, as the second adam, restores that relationship… he commands and creation responds… perfectly natural. no magic, no supernatural, no intervention from god… just spit and mud and relationship back in its correct order. gotta love it. :-)

  23. jonbirch says:

    amazing forrest… we cross posted. you are hinting i believe at something i’m being more explicit about… does that make sense? :-)

  24. iaincotton says:

    Hi Jon. Some interesting strands your spinning at the moment. Here’s my bi-monthly contribution!
    I wonder if there is any part of nature that isn’t “super”? Does nature tick along all by itself without any input from God, and then pow!!, God intervenes and we call it a miracle. maybe there is a lot more miracle in the everyday than we notice.

    If the laws of physics and the subatomic particles are Gods servants, we shouldn’t be too surprised when jesus turns water into wine!

    Could be that miracles are supernatural, but so is everything else in the cosmos.

  25. jonbirch says:

    could be iain. i think i have an aversion to the word supernatural. i think it is unhelpful in this context as it conjures up thoughts of otherworldliness. where as miracles seem to be very much of this world. miracles are not apparitions or ghosts or spirits or the like and i think it is bad theology that leads people to conclude that miracles are such supernatural manifestations. just some thoughts. :-)

  26. JF says:

    Jon I’m intrigued by this. What is an example of a miracle which is “very much of this world”?

  27. JF says:

    Zefi (12): No, the supernatural is not a subset of the natural. They are mutually exclusive.

    In my life I have never experienced anything supernatural, nor have I met anyone who claims to have done so.

    Personally I doubt the existence of a supernatural realm entirely.

    Yet the church performs exorcisms, so there must be something to it? Mustn’t there?

  28. Robb says:

    I think perhaps too much influence on the argument is coming from William Friedkin.

    We are starting to use the spiritualist type definition of supernatural rather than “more than natural”. We have also started to creat a ‘realm’ in which to place it.


    StillI come back to my mother who isn’t dead yet.

  29. Robb says:

    That I guess is when superstition takes us from ‘the supernatural’ to ‘The Supernatural’…

  30. JF says:

    Supernatural doesn’t mean “more than natural” !!!!

    It means

    1: of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe; especially : of or relating to God or a god, demigod, spirit, or devil
    2 a: departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature b: attributed to an invisible agent (as a ghost or spirit)

  31. Robb says:

    How very forthright of you.


    1. of, pertaining to, or being above or beyond what is natural; unexplainable by natural law or phenomena; abnormal.
    2. of, pertaining to, characteristic of, or attributed to God or a deity.
    3. of a superlative degree; preternatural: a missile of supernatural speed.
    4. of, pertaining to, or attributed to ghosts, goblins, or other unearthly beings; eerie; occult.

    Super meaning ‘an article of a superior quality, grade, size, etc.’ – natural meaning ‘existing in or formed by nature’.

  32. JF says:

    Forthright is good. I looked that up in the dictionary too :-)

    I feel that key issues are being evaded / obfuscated by what for me seems to be rather woolly use of language. This may be my fault as I am perhaps not versed in the same idiomatic use of language as some others on here (this came up some months ago when I got the wrong end of the “worshipping” stick).

    But please bear with me; I am sincerely trying to understand the phenomenon that people refer to as a “Miracle”, but 32 comments in, I am no closer.

  33. Robb says:

    But are we trying to reduce Christianity to a form of Deism* through this argument?

    *God is creator but does not interact with the world.

  34. drewman says:

    Join the club JF. I neither see. experience or am convinced by accounts of the ‘miracles’ that are happening all around us according to some sections of the church. The problem for me is that we want the miracle to follow the pattern set in the Bible as we read it.

    – Axe heads floating – stick=snake=stick – spit and mud = sight.

    It seems that the precedent that is set in the Bible is simply no longer being followed today. However, there are those who doing their best to convince themselves and others that the biblical ‘shape’ miracles are not only happening but increasing in frequency and miraculousness (if thats even a word).
    In some of my experience to question that is simply not allowed, frowned upon and worthy of some kind of spiritual black mark.

    If its of God then should you really need to sell it as a miracle? I don’t know but walking on water rates as pretty miraculous to me and pointless if it doesn’t simply say ‘Hey, I’m the man’!

  35. drewman says:

    Rob, cross posted – but without some sort of clear straightforward evidence – God and Jesus really rather set a pattern in providing it for us, because they knew just how ‘doubt’ works I guess, then at some point a deism is all thats left.

    Otherwise we are back to whole emperors new clothes again only this time its us who are the naked ones.

  36. jonbirch says:

    “…and pointless if it doesn’t simply say ‘Hey, I’m the man’!” yes indeed. hey, i’m the man! not… hey, look at how god is intervening… perhaps?
    i too have never witnessed a bonafide miracle… cripple walking, blind man seeing, that sort of thing… most things i’ve seen seem rather silly… gold teeth etc… and i’ve still seen no evidence that anybody has a gold tooth they didn’t have before. it’s all rather desperate really.

  37. Robb says:

    there are those who doing their best to convince themselves and others that the biblical ’shape’ miracles are not only happening but increasing in frequency and miraculousness (if thats even a word).
    In some of my experience to question that is simply not allowed, frowned upon and worthy of some kind of spiritual black mark.

    Yes there are many who question the bollocks that a lot of charismatics talk. Sorry, I posted the link to that guy on the original thread dedicated to him. Clearly there are many within the charismatic movement who are equally as concerned about him and his lack of authority/accountability.

    There are many in the charismatic movement who are realistic and theologically reflective and questioning.

    And still my mother* continues to breath and walk and talk and baffle medical science. She should have died 10 years ago. She was in a hospice bed dying. Now she breathes. Her doctor is an athiest. He says “There is no explanation for this, you should be dead.”. Mother tells her story of God. “It is not God” is the reply.

    Sorry, I don’t have that much faith.

    *Least Charismatic woman you could ever meet. Probably closest to a Pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic than anyone else I’ve ever met. I work as an RE teacher in a Catholic school – I know a looooooad of Catholics!

  38. Robb says:

    and pointless if it doesn’t simply say ‘Hey, I’m the man’

    Sorry, forgot to say, this is the best way of testing anything that someone claims to be a miracle from God. In the Bible they were all for a purpose. “Wayhey, I have a gold tooth”? What rubbish. “I can control speaking in tongues”? What rubbish. This is what a reflective charismatic will ask.

    But then we could make these criticisms of any movement/denomination within Christianity. Kind of defeats the purpose of Generous Orthodoxy though and punches a hole straight through christian unity.

  39. Robb says:

    Sorry, forgot to say, this is the best way of testing anything that someone claims to be a miracle from God

    grammar of a potato

    Forgot to say that this statement is the best way of testing something that someone claims to be miraclulous. What is the purpose of it?

  40. Ben says:

    We had a woman who was deaf in one ear be able to hear again 2 weeks ago in church.

    Another woman who had divictulitus (sp? a servere stomach problem that stopped her being able to lay down and carry on with normal life) healed 5 weeks ago.

    A woman with bad back and knees healed 2 weeks ago.

    A man with arthritis of the sholder ease 3 weeks ago.

    Two people with sore throats that have healed within the past 6 weeks.

    John Deere (hinself a skeptic for years) has written a great book called ‘suprised by the power of the spirit’ considers that the reason most people don’t believe in miracles is simply because they have never seen one…

    I come from a strong evangelical background and was very skeptical but have been working in a charismatic ‘new wine’ church for 2 years and am now absolutely convinced that God performs miracles – but agree with the cartoon, in my experience, they are the restoration of the natural (by supernatural intervention; maybe??? bit confused by definition of supernatural.)

    Have a couple of more stories but they’ll have to wait till I have time to do them justice.

  41. jonbirch says:

    when i agreed with ‘hey, i’m the man!’ what i was agreeing with was a sense in which jesus points to himself as the way to the healing of all things. when anyone else does that they are a burk! :-)

  42. Robb says:

    Yes. Sorry I heard it as being burks rather than The Man :D

  43. jonbirch says:

    that’s alright. i thought we’d agree on that. :-)

  44. janetp says:

    Robb (38): I have a similar ‘miracle’ story. A close friend of mine nearly died 2 years ago last Christmas (I saw the 4 doctors and the priest being hurried to the bed, while I had to wait with her distraught sister in the visitors’ room). Now she’s fine. At the time, I prayed for a miracle (not knowing what else to do) and it seemed to me it had been answered, but perhaps I’m using the word in its colloquial sense? I certainly don’t believe she was ‘zapped’ by something supernatural (in the superstitious/occult sense), and a good part of her recovery was down to the skill and care of the medical staff.

    Perhaps it’s in situations like this that we find out what we’re truly made of – and in the working out of that, we do things that are beyond what we consider ‘normal’.

    I’m not sure I’m explaining very well. What I mean is that perhaps the truly astonishing thing is that our understanding, even of ourselves, is so limited that we consider miraculous that which we simply weren’t aware was possible? I’m reminded of the bit at the end of Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy finally gets to go home – something she’s been trying to do all along. She asks the Good Witch what to do, and the GW tells her she already has the ability to go home – she’s always had it, but she had to go on the journey in order to learn that she had it (learn to access it?)

    Maybe that’s what Jesus was getting at with the story of the mustard seed – a tiny bit of faith is enough to show us what is truly possible in this world. But as Jon says, not Supernatural in the superstitious/occult sense.

  45. drewman says:

    I’ve always imagined that Burks is spelt with an e!

    Ben I hear you and plenty of others, who truly do see these things.
    Its just that I truly don’t.

    I do see a lot of folk who need to believe that miracles still happen (in the biblical sense – not the watered down version that we often experience)

    Because if they, miracles, don’t happen it means that the God that they believe in needs to change shape and be understood by a different set of parameters. Thats scary as it harks back to whole God-in-a-box thing.

  46. Robb says:

    Mother is by no means a well woman. She is however alive. She went into the hospice on deaths door. A lot of her well being is down to the long term medical care she has received. But when they took her to Lourdes it was a last gasp attempt before she died. They literally scraped her up and put her into a plane. That was 12 years ago. Her bad bloods went right down, her good bloods went up. She carried on breathing. She eventually went on to get rid of her wheelchair. Doctors can’t explain it. Its a mere coincidence that she went to a place where thousands of people were praying for a miracle.

  47. drewman says:

    I could get excited about that Robb. Its gentle, powerful and unhyped

  48. Robb says:

    Thanks Drewman, that is where discernment usually comes into it. If it isn’t gentle, powerful and unhyped it probably is something “other” than it is claiming to be. If it is being shouted out of a TV with a toll free number it is probably bollocks*.

    One point I can’t reconcile is when people claim it is their faith that has made it happen. It is all about ego. My faith has made it so. I healed seven people. Erm no. Whenever Jesus says “it is your faith that has healed you” it is the humble faith of someone who is broken and has nothing relying wholey upon him. Their faith is putting their trust in Him.

    Their faith is in themselves and their own ability to perform a ‘healing ministry’.

    Did anyone see My Name is Earl last night?

    That is where the abuses detract from the real wonders that God sometimes chooses to perform.

    *Ancient english for Old Balls.

  49. janetp says:

    I agree with Drewman, Robb. It’s a wonderful story. I’m not sure I could go along with your last statement, though: Its a mere coincidence that she went to a place where thousands of people were praying for a miracle. I guess we’re back to defining ‘miracle’ again, aren’t we?

    But then, I swing from wanting to believe (and therefore tending towards superstition) to wanting not to be an idiot (and therefore dismissing any possible ‘evidence’ that doesn’t meet my criteria), so if you ask me again in a day or so, I’ll probably agree with you wholeheartedly! :)

  50. Robb says:

    Sorry janetp, I forget that my huge sarcasm and irony doesn’t always translate to the written word. Her doctor insists that she defies nature and that it isn’t a miracle [as God does not exist]. I guess the phrase defies nature sums the definition of miracle up.

  51. drewman says:

    Janetp -wow! I think I’m on the other end of your see-saw. I share the thought ‘is it or is it not coincidence’ and have just recently started to take comfort rather than fear from the simple ‘I don’t know’ answer.

    Great use of ye olde language Robb!

  52. drewman says:

    Janetp – sorry you were on a swing not a see-saw – sod it.

  53. zefi says:

    JF (28): No, supernatural is not a subset of natural; it’s the other way around.

    And no, they are not mutually exclusive.

  54. Forrest says:

    Two thoughts this morning.
    (and that’s as many as I’m good for)

    Perhaps instead of ‘super-natural’, these things are ‘supra-natural'; that meaning above and beyond what we see as the natural?

    Had to go get dictionary to make sure of that! It also said ‘supra-‘ may mean preceeding, coming before.
    Yeah, there are things of God, acts of God, which would preceed the natural. Creation would fall under that category.

    Robb in #38, wow!
    Incredibly unscientific comment by that doctor that there’s no explanation for it – you know, that cause and effect thing, science says every effect has a cause.
    The effect is that your mother is alive; therefore there IS a cause, an explanation.
    Maybe not one the doctor wishes to see, though.

  55. jonbirch says:

    robb… your mums doctor really isn’t an expert on nature is he?!… and the nature of nature to present us with unexpected and wonderful things. :-)

  56. Robb says:

    I think that it is his theology clouding his science. Just like Dawkins, he is starting with the conclusion and working out the steps to see it.

  57. Robb says:

    Oh, pants, pressed send again.

    My other point is that I don’t have enough blind faith believe that God isn’t here interacting with us.

  58. Forrest says:

    Robb, I’m confused as to what that is.

    Should it read:
    (emphasis mine)
    “My other point is that I don’t have enough blind faith ‘to’ believe that God ‘is’ here interacting with us.”


    “My other point is that I don’t have enough “blind” faith to believe that God is not here interacting with us.

    alright, gotta run, soup on in kitchen

  59. JF says:

    Jon (56): Yes nature does present us with unexpected and wonderful things. Amen.

    And your blog doesn’t half present us with some food for thought too! Thanks again for it!

    I’m still where I was at comment 5 though. It seems to me that positive, welcome, rare events are attributed to God’s intervention, but negative, unwelcome, rare events are not attributed to the same cause. I don’t have a problem with this if this is the nature of faith. This is what I am trying to understand though.

    By coincidence I finished “The God Delusion” on the flight home today (an earlier thread caused me to pick it back up after I’d left it for some time). The extent to which the final chapter covers the same issues as this thread is uncanny. Right down to the Cardinal Hume story and the paragraphs that follow.

    I do feel quite enlightened as a result, so quite a big day as I try to work through my own church upbringing and the fact that many of my friends have an obvious faith.

    Am reading something less contentious on social physics next!

  60. Robb says:

    Forrest – Option B. I argued it well enough to win 500 quid of The People Vs Jerry Sadowitz. He usually bells off anyone who mentions God ;)

  61. jonbirch says:

    thanks jf. :-)

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