Last December I posted a review of audio book by Eric Metaxas titled Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life among other audio book reviews here. I have also posted my review on Amazon and yesterday I got an email of the following comment concerning my criticism that Metaxas could have been more theologically discerning. Here’s the comment left on my Amazon review:
Keep in mind that the Bible supports the idea that people with bad theology can still do miracles. The Apostle Paul talks of people who do miracles for their own glory yet Christ is still preached so he is ok with it. (Phil 1:15-18)
So it doesn’t matter if people with bad theology do miracles… so long as the Name is glorified.
Is it true that “it doesn’t matter if people with bad theology do miracles?”
Here’s my response:
- I want to begin by saying I don’t want to be unnecessarily harsh nor theologically nitpicky, as I think one can become like that. I think there are doctrines of Christian truths that are secondary but at the same time there are doctrines which are fundamentals of the Christian faith and some secondary doctrines that are important for healthy Christian walk with God and piety. Sound doctrines matter. Hear what Paul in 1 Timothy 6:3-5 has to say:
If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.
- The first thing this individual who commented said was “Keep in mind that the Bible supports the idea that people with bad theology can still do miracles.” His Biblical support for his claim that people with bad theology can still do miracles? “The Apostle Paul talks of people who do miracles for their own glory yet Christ is still preached so he is ok with it. (Phil 1:15-18)” But the passage from the Bible does not support his claim.
- Let’s read Philippians 1:15-18 first: “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,”
- Paul in Philippians 1:15-18 is not talking about “people who do miracles” since…the verse isn’t talking about miracle workers. Instead Paul is talking about those who were preaching and proclaiming Christ.
- Also we cannot use Philippians 1:15-18 to support the idea that “people with bad theology can still do miracles” since the passage does not suggests these preachers had bad theology. Paul specifically identified that’s what is wrong with these preachers is that they have the sin of “envy and strife” (v.15) that serves as ulterior motives to preaching out of “good will” (v.15). They preach “out of selfish ambition” (v.16). While “envy and strife” and ” “envy and strife” are sinful, they shouldn’t be equivocated as the same thing as subscribing to and proclaiming a bad theology.
- While our friend has failed to established “the idea that people with bad theology can still do miracles” from Phillippians 1:15-18, I do believe that people with bad theology can perform “miracles,” although perhaps not in a way that he might suspect.
- The demonic Man of Lawlessness is described by Paul in the following matter: “that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders,” (2 Thessalonians 2:9).
- Do you remember Pharaoh’s magicians? “Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the [a]magicians of Egypt, did [b]the same with their secret arts” (Exodus 7:11).
- What about false converts? “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many [n]miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:22-23)
- The supernatural of course does not automatically mean God’s name is glorified. Theology matters!
- Of particular note is Matthew 7:22-23 that was mentioned. In that example the miraculous were all done in Jesus’ name. That is, they were done for the glory of the name. But still these individuals were not accepted by Christ because of their practice of lawlessness. Remember that beliefs and works are interconnected; practice of lawlessness reveals more one’s theology accurately than what one might profess with their lips.
- From the last point I can’t help but to think of how much we need to turn to God for grace for our sins by believing in the truth of Christ’s person and work as proclaimed by the sound doctrines coming from Scripture! The Gospel is right and good theology; and since the Gospel is God’s means of saving sinners, the Gospel as good theology ought to be deemed very valuable that we want to protect it from corruption and not just downplay it just because there is the miraculous. I don’t think I was wrong to note my concern in my review.