When did miracles end?

Prof. Scott K. Taylor, guest blogger

The fight between Protestants and Catholics helps explain what is at stake in the belief in miracles. But the controversy was not simply about Catholics believing in miracles, whereas Protestants did not. As we know, the New Testament features miracles, many of them, performed by Jesus and his followers.

Committed to the truth of the Bible, Protestants could not simply dismiss Biblical miracles. So their argument fell along the lines of: “Well, of course Jesus and the Apostles performed miracles, but that was then, during a special time. No one does anymore.” But that response begged the question: When did the age of miracles end, and why?

Yale’s Carlos Eire likes to point out the essential ridiculousness of the Protestants’ position. Because one thing that Protestants did continue to believe in, among other things, was the power of witches to fly. So witches, empowered by the devil, could break the laws of nature, but holy believing Christians, empowered by God, could not?

By 1600, then, in Catholic southern Europe, saints could fly. But in Protestant northern Europe, only witches could. Both sides believed in flying or levitation. But each side ascribed a very different meaning to it.

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