Metaxas and the Miraculous: A Review of Eric Metaxas’ Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life
Eric Metaxas has taken his talents to an exploration of miracles in his brand new book Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, And How They Can Change Your Life. When I first heard about his newest project I was both excited but also a bit nervous. Most of us know Metaxas’ considerable storytelling ability from his New York Times bestselling Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and also his Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Campaign to End Slavery. Indeed if it wasn’t for these recent books, many would not know of the heroic and herculean efforts of these Christian men. They each serve as distinct counterexamples to the exceedingly nearsighted Hitchens-esque claim that nothing good comes from religion, in general, and Christianity, in particular. So given that I teach in the area of apologetics and philosophy, I was excited to see someone as witty and insightful as Metaxas treating this very important area. However, my worry was that the literature on miracles is (what I like to call) crazy technical. It is commonplace for an article or chapter on the evidential value of miracles to assume proficiency with such things as the axioms of probability calculus. Most of us who fail to have such proficiency tend to skip that chapter and we are faced with the prospect of engaging a culture deeply committed to anti-supernaturalism without the tools of apologetic reflection on the miraculous.
So here comes Metaxas with a popular-level treatment on an area that has seemed impossibly dense. Will it be overly simplistic or will it like so many others dip into the overly technical? I’m happy to say that Metaxas delivers a, dare I say, miraculously adept treatment of the apologetic issues involving miracles that never wanders too far into the stale tedium of so many other works on this issue. It’s the miraculous after all. It should be captivating! It’s in the miraculous that a theology of the divine meets the real world. It is precisely in the miraculous that we, the finite and natural, meet God, the infinite and divine and heaven comes down…literally! What could possibly be more exciting and enrapturing than that? This, I think, captures the tone of Metaxas’ new book. He wants us appropriately fascinated by this intrinsically fascinating topic.
The book is divided into two parts. The first part functions as an apologetic of miracles. It provides a structure for how to think of miracles and identifies, in a general sense, and argues for the sorts of miracles we see in the history of the world, including such things as the fine tuning of the cosmos and the resurrection of Jesus. In the second part, Metaxas turns to (true) storytelling. We take a journey through a compendium of events from the lives of people Metaxas knows personally that defy naturalistic explanation. The second part is striking in its diversity in type (from healings to angelic activity to affectionate squirrels) and its diversity of participants (i.e., it is not only televangelists with bad hairdos that claim the miraculous).
Though it is a captivating entrance into the topic one may find a stone or two left unturned, since it is, again, not intended to be a thorough and technical treatment. If you find yourself wanting to know more about this crucially important but sometimes difficult area, then I suspect Metaxas will say “mission accomplished!”