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Eric Metaxas - Miracles: What they are. Why they happen. And How they Can Change Your Life.

Hodder and Stoughton £16.99 333 pages ISBN9781473604766

I really enjoyed the author’s blockbuster biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, so I was favourably anticipating this book. This was especially the case when I read one endorsement that suggested it was “a more personal, anecdotal, and updated version of CS Lewis’ 1947 book on the subject – Lewis with jokes added”; what is there not to like?

Well as it happens quite a bit. The book is a game of two halves; the first half takes a look through biblical miracles, the second is a collection of “miracles” experienced by Metaxas or those known by him personally.

The first half is like the kind of material Philip Yancey produces: a popularizing of a wide range of information that might not be readily available to all readers. The bottom line: it is OK to believe in miracles; the Christian faith is rooted in the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus.

The second half is an odd collection of stories. It is difficult to either affirm or deny their veracity, the author does not really provide us with any criteria by which we can make this assessment. There is some amazing stuff in these stories – but are they all miracles? I think that Metaxas confuses miracles with the mystery of providence. 

Providence is God’s regular engagement with us in our normal lives that keeps us together and gets us from A to B. Sometimes this is ordinary, sometime this is spectacular but it is providence, not a miracle. Overuse a word and it will begin to lose its meaning: awesome, unique or miracle.

Many people will enjoy this book but will be left with little sense of what they are to do with it. In life we are called to trust God, live faithfully and leave the rest to him.

God’s gracious engagement with us is always a special blessing but we need to be careful before we give it the label 'miracle'.

John Woods is pastor of Lancing Tabernacle

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