Anybody else ever feel like Christians’ expectations for their god seem bizarrely low? I know I sure have. Today, I’ll show you some of the goofier miracles Christians are claiming nowadays. These are the things Christians think their god’s been up to while avoiding serious work–and we’ll try to suss out why they’ve landed on these weird ideas.
“Baal! Answer us!” they cried. But there was no response. Nobody answered. So they kept on dancing around the altar that they had made. Starting about noon, Elijah began to tease them: “Shout louder! “He’s a god, so maybe he’s busy. Maybe he’s relieving himself. Maybe he’s busy someplace. Maybe he’s taking a nap and somebody needs to wake him up.”
(Good advice from 1 Kings 18:26-27)
The “Toronto Blessing.”
To make much sense out of some of the stuff to follow, first let me explain about the Toronto Blessing.
Every so often, far-right Christianity experiences some big shakeup. For example, the United Pentecostal Church, International (UPCI) traced their lineage back to something called the Azusa Street Revival. That revival sparked quite a lot of what we call “Pentecostalism” today.
In similar fashion, a lot of today’s middle-aged and older Christians look back fondly to 1994. That year, a church in Toronto shuddered in the throes of religious ecstasy. The church’s pastors invited some guy from Missouri to come preach for them. And euphoria swept through the congregation.
This is one of the prophetesses from the original Toronto Blessing, Stacey Campbell, doing the same schtick 20 years later at an anniversary shindig held at the original church. Just watching this video gives me a headache.
Within a year, that Toronto church’s membership ballooned from about 300 people to over a thousand. The euphoria that had carried this church into such ecstasy began spreading to other similarly charismatic congregations in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom (UK), and beyond. Newspapers reported hundreds of thousands of people converting at these revival services.
Even by the standards of what I used to see regularly in church, these folks sounded downright unhinged. They laughed and wept hysterically, danced, got slain in the spirit, wildly jerked their heads around while babbling prophecies, and more. But Christians put great store by conversion numbers–it’s part of their overall prosperity gospel indoctrination, a topic which is penciled in on our dance card for next week. Believers saw the Toronto Blessing as the beginning of a whole new era in Christianity.
But they were wrong.
The Blessing That Went Nowhere.
For a huge outpouring like this one, the Toronto Blessing had remarkably few positive impacts 20 years later. Christianity continued to dominate American culture for another few years, but it began a slow decline afterward. That decline continues unabated today. In the UK, secularism continues to spread in record numbers.
Some of the people who took part in that original revival still remember it very fondly and claim that its effects have lasted–but I’d be hard-pressed to see how, beyond some individuals who still consider it a high point in their lives as Christians.
With so little going for Christianity nowadays–the revivals that go nowhere, the miracles that get mocked, the ZOMG PROPHECIES that don’t turn out, the leaders who turn out to be raging hypocrites–I don’t wonder that so many older Christians look back at the Toronto Blessing with nostalgia.
Nor do I blame the ones who clearly want another such revival to break out now. As alarming and bizarre as those days were, Christians felt they had a tangible win at last.
However, it didn’t last. In fact, it still divides evangelicals today, with huge apologetics site Got Questions coming down firmly against it. The site all but accuses those who got “blessed” at the revival of being possessed by demons.
The Fillings Transformed Into Gold.
One of the popular “miracles” that came out of the Toronto Blessing involved dental fillings. People claim that during especially-fervent and rowdy church services, up to ten fillings in their mouths change from plain amalgam to bright silver or gold. After the first few reports, more quickly poured in from all over the world–this totally-a-miracle has happened now to many hundreds of people. Some of them claim this miracle after seeing videos of the sermons preached. Others attend various faith-healing sessions or revivals. Often, the pastors and preachers involved pray specifically for this miracle to occur.
One site gathering accounts of these claims reprints a few accounts of the miracle. One claimant recounts what she claims her dentist said to her–but either can’t or doesn’t provide anything more official than second-hand information.
Other Christians claim that “gold dust” falls from the air over them during church services. Occasionally someone claims that the “gold dust” includes diamonds. Nobody can convince them that whatever’s going on is not an omnipotent god showering his favored children with gold and gems.
Obviously, nobody has credibly corroborated a single one of these accounts. (BTW, we’re coming back to this link in a minute.)
This one comes to us from mostly Catholicism. Bi-location allows a particularly holy living person to be in two locations at once. And HOO BOY, a lot of Catholics claim this one. From a nun in Spain who claimed to bi-locate to the New World in the 17th century to Padre Pio in the early 20th century to a mystic who died in 1983, Catholics just get around, don’t they?
This miracle works about like you think it does. The person claiming it zaps around spiritually to some desired location. Sometimes they offer up accounts of what’s happening there. Occasionally they claim to accomplish some great good–like warning other Catholics of trouble in some area, or conveying messages.
In fairness, I note here that only the most wackadoodle Catholics go in for bi-location. The claim attracts its share of criticism from the less-wacky of the group.
Very occasionally one hears about a Protestant doing bi-location. At this site, you can find a woman who thinks someone bi-located to comfort her during a time of sickness:
She said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming to Finland when I was so sick and not expected to live. I’ll never forget your love as you came to my bedside and stayed with me four days and nights holding my hand.” She continued, “But it almost broke my heart when the doctors told me that I wasn’t going to die, and you walked over to the door, waved at me, said ‘Good–bye’ and then just vanished.” I told her I had not been there, but she insisted I was and there was no changing her mind.
At least one of them knew what was what.
This one has always intrigued me, though not because I think anything supernatural is happening. It’s interesting more because of the picayune nature of the ZOMG MEERKUL being claimed. Get this: the Christian involved is running late for a very important date. They squeak into place right on time, when they thought they’d be totally tardy. YOU GUYS. Did their god stop time just for them?
The Christians involved think, yes, that is exactly what happened. He halted the clock, while they continued traveling until they reached their destination on time. Then, he restarted time again.
You can see an example of this claim here at this link, which pulls together a bunch of completely-uncorroborated Christian miracle claims. The relevant snippet:
Making it to an important 4:05 train when I was 5 minutes away from it at exactly 4:05. The train left on time at 4:05, with me on it. God stopped time for me?
At important church services, I regularly heard this claim myself. The funny thing is that it’s not exclusively Christian. An ex-Christian friend of mine heard the same claim from a pair of pagan women trying to get to yoga class on time. Christians think Jesus does it; the yoga ladies thought fairies did it.
Aching to Believe.
Remember that link I mentioned above that we were coming back to? Let’s do that now. The woman who began the thread on that Christian forum, From Glory to Glory (“Glory”), thought her tooth’s amalgam crown had turned to gold. She also claimed to have seen another woman’s fillings turn to gold during the same service.
A few Christians there pushed back on Glory’s claim a little. However, she refused to consider any other explanations. Finally, someone talked her into contacting her dentist’s office. When she did, she learned that she’d received a gold crown from her dentist. He’d replaced her amalgam crown some time ago with gold alloy, and she’d forgotten it had been replaced by him and thought she’d always had the amalgam one.
To Glory’s great and legitimate credit, she returned to the forum to share this information. She felt embarrassed, humiliated, and “heartbroken.” However, she still insisted that she’d totally seen that other woman’s many fillings turn to gold while she watched. She stood by that claim to the end even as her own claim got debunked.
Chastened, Glory said she’d ask the other woman to check with her own dentist. But if that other woman did so, Glory didn’t share the results in that forum.
And even though Glory herself felt satisfied that her own claim had been thoroughly debunked, other members of the forum continued to insist that maybe her dentist had been wrong–and that her crown had in fact been turned to gold. They ached to believe that it’d really happened, especially given Glory’s extremely strong initial belief that it had.
That’s the kind of ache that produces false miracle claims.
Debunks, At A Glance.
Christian gullibility definitely counts in my estimation as a black mark against their many and varied miracle claims. Simply put, I know perfectly well how easy it is to be wrong about a miracle. Almost all ex-Christians can list off times they were totally wrong about their very own claims!
As for these claims here today, they’re easy to debunk.
- Toronto Blessing Stuff: A big part of the revival involved prophecies like those of Stacey Campbell, who went on to enjoy what sounds like quite a career as a prophetess. As usual, these prophecies either stood as no-brainers, or never got tested at all. Same goes for the faith healing claims.
- Dental Miracles: Nobody has ever corroborated a single instance of these claims. Hundreds of Christians have made this claim about their fillings. Not one has ponied up evidence for it happening.
- Gold Dust and Diamonds: Again, Christians offer after-the-fact photos sometimes, but no evidence for it happening. Nobody’s ever managed to capture the event happening and then tested the “gold dust” or “diamonds” for composition.
- Bi-Location: Again, lots of copypasta and no sauce for it. It shouldn’t be all that hard to test this miracle to nail it down, and yet somehow nobody has done so.
Oops. (Also, relevant xkcd.)
Miracles, Miracles Everywhere!
One of the biggest stumbling-blocks Christians face in their faith journey is their religion’s total inability to reconcile its supernatural claims with reality. That hurdle, all by itself, has given rise to the entire industry of apologetics. It also produces some of Christians’ goofier, weirder miracle claims.
Unfortunately for Christians, it also produces the inescapable conclusion that their god isn’t useful for very much. In the miracle claims we looked at, their god comes off as a guy trying to avoid serious work by concentrating on busy-work tasks on the side.
Like sure, he’ll get to studying for his finals–but first he must rearrange all his music playlists so he can study more easily. Sure, he’ll clean the kitchen–but first he must scour every light-bulb fixture in the house. Sure, he’ll eventually return to Earth and kick-start Armageddon, but first he’ll magic a few fillings to gold and “pour out his spirit” in a way guaranteed not to impact the religion overall.
But that’s not the worst part of these claims.
As someone on that Christian forum pointed out to Glory, a god creating gold fillings makes as much sense as one creating crutches for Christians who can’t walk. Similarly, the sorts of miracles we’ve seen here make a mockery of the idea of miracles.
That these claims should be proven false is really the best-case scenario for Christians.
Otherwise, if believers ever managed to support their own claims, they’d reveal a god who ignores the deathly sick, the endangered, and the destitute in favor of doing useless, pointless parlor tricks for those who largely already believe.
Worse even still, this god performs such useless tricks in such a way as to never reveal himself as the source. This “wonder-working” god’s tricks appear indistinguishable from lies, exaggeration, and wishful thinking.
And worse even than that, this god’s followers’ faith in these dubious claims appears indistinguishable in turn from the faith of victims in the very confidence artists and scammers fleecing them. Christians themselves rarely consider corroborating their claims, much less appreciate critical thinkers in their ranks making that suggestion.
The God Who Wasn’t There.
I’ve written before about my slow realization that my prayers had changed dramatically in character from the time of my conversion. Instead of confronting the truth–that prayer did nothing miraculous at all–I instead concocted harder-and-harder-to-falsify prayers.
By the time I realized what I’d done, my prayers had become so innocuous and asked for so little in the way of tangible divine action that anything that happened afterward, short of a jetliner crashing into my home, could potentially be interpreted as a positive answer.
Miracles may work along similar lines. Christians don’t get a lot of evidence supporting their religion’s vast array of promises, threats, and claims. They cling to miracle claims in lieu of that missing evidence. If their god can magic his followers a golden shower out of nowhere, then surely he could raise himself from the dead and cure leukemia!
But they know better than to ask for real miracles. The record on big miracles speaks all too clearly to all but the most fervent Christians.
Big Lie, Little Lie.
Way too many Christians take offense when someone pokes holes in the claims–especially fellow Christians. If these miracle-believers use these claims as evidence in and of themselves, then of course they’ll dislike having the claims refuted.
I can’t even blame them, really. It’s no fun to believe things that aren’t true, especially when one also believes that an eternity of inescapable torture awaits non-believers and apostates!
That said, every single debunked and baseless claim builds a stronger and stronger case against Christianity’s veracity. The last thing Christians should want to do is reveal how gullible and unreliable they are. And yet that’s what their game plan appears to be.
If they lie about ridiculous fake miracles like fillings turning to gold, then we can count on them to do the same about all the big claims they make as well. If they don’t perform their due diligence in verifying these goofier miracle claims, then we can expect they’ll shirk that burden elsewhere.
After I deconverted, I spent the next few years untangling all the lies, bad arguments, and half-baked claims I’d absorbed during my time as a Christian. Now, I’m just thankful that I escaped. Christians’ fake miracle claims remind me that it matters to me that I believe only true things. I have no time for less than that.
And I’m pleased to see that more and more people seem to feel the same way.
NEXT UP: Remember Thom Rainer’s claim last time about “6000-10000” churches closing a year? We’ll look at this figure, and see what he thinks church leaders need to do to reverse that decline. See you next time!
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