There have been numerous posts in my blog about the “Third Way”. This is probably the last, about the “end of the Third Way” and the lifestyle that’s enabled when arriving there. It is also, most astonishing, the last to the “Second Acts” series of posts, canceling that project resp. leaving it to be “just some visits” while on my tour through Africa.
They have the Scriptures
Miracles seem not to happen in people groups that can be expected to realize that Jesus is the Christ by looking at the Scriptures and judging them by their history etc.. Abraham said, when requested to send Lazarus back from the dead, they have the Scriptures – may they hear them. They really had the Scriptures, as they were in a culture that was enabled to judge and understand them. (However, Jesus performed miracles also among the Jews … perhaps to have them written down as scripture for us to believe, see the Gospel of John: these are written so that you may believe.) The Romans and Greek were not in a culture to understand the scripture of the Jews, that is to judge them correctly, even if translated to them; so they experienced miracles. And today, it seems that miracles happen mostly in regions and people groups that either do not have the Bible at all, or do not have the education to be able to see its truth. (I got this impression when watching the “finger of God” film and subtracting the decadent alleged miracles.) This general rule might have many exceptions and should not be thought of as a rigid one, but it seems to be a general rule.
This also means: the fact that Jesus is the Christ can be realized by looking at the Scriptures, and by judging the reliability of the Scriptures by looking at other artefacts of history. In our Western culture, it needs no miracles for that, and I should not expect them for that. Means that the role of miracles as “signs” is obsolete here. Intellectual people are blessed because they had the possibility to gain education, so God seems to expect they also use their education to get to know something about God.
So all in all, it seems that being a Christian in a Western culture means: believing that Jesus is the Christ, on the basis of history and written tradition (“Scriptue”), and trying to live accordingly. But without expecting supernatural experiences at all (they might happen nonetheless, however). Means, life feels “all natural”, as there is normally be no direct, supernatural contact to God, either, so no visions, voices etc.. “Only natural ingredients”. This is a very relaxing view of life and “religion”. It concedes that there is some mystery in what we believe: we do not really know why God does not want to be more obvious.
But what about answers to prayers?
Christians may pray, and expect answers to prayer. Also in highly civilized societies. According to my observations, what one can expect as answers are solutions to problems, but implemented with natural means, normally no “signs and miracles”.
The difference is: signs and miracles prove that there is a supernatural agent (God), while solutions only justify to strongly assume, but not to know, that God was at work. Nonetheless, it’s possible to live that way, even be thankful for what one assumes to be the work of God. It just is no immediate encounter with God, again emphasizing the importance we in highly civilized societies must attribute to history and written tradition (the “Scriptures”).
Third way of practical faith
If God does not do anything currently, thank him for what he did in history. Especially, thank Jesus that he provided eternal life for us through his death. That way, in third way, our occupation in this world is to thank God for what he did for us. (Inspired by the sermon of bishop Anba Damian on Freakstock 2009.)
Of course, searching confirmation for what we believe about God, by searching for his contemporary activity, is not forbidden. But don’t be desparate doing so – history is already enough to believe. Also, signs and miracles will be observable in other countries just like they are not observable here. Which means I will need no scientific methods to prove them, just as I do not need them to prove their absence here. Just stopping by and seeing them will do.
Conclusion: In essence, it seems to be fact that cultures that can understand the Bible should believe because of the Bible and history, while other cultures will get signs and miracles to be able to believe. This is also ok with intellectual integrity, as it means that a Christian is not to expect supernatural experiences with God when believing in a Western country; so I do not have to search these to confirm my faith, as they are not promised. Which means that the project as a research expedition is canceled, while I will still be interested in seeing God at work whenever I will be able to get a glimpse at it.
End note: it it interesting to see how it took 2-3 weeks for my brain to process the “Finger of God” movie, leading me to these conclusions (above) just now. So thinking is a pipeline: for continuous output, you need continuous input, but your feeding is rewarded weeks later.