In the early seventies I attended a weekend training session to prepare me to teach the youth of our church the January Bible Study for that year. The study was entitled God/Man Alive, it was a teaching on the incarnation of Christ. Our teacher in that training session was Dr. Harold Songer. At that time he was the Assistant Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
During the course of the training session Dr. Songer dismissed the account of Jesus walking on water as an optical illusion, and His forty day fast as being a partial fast and not an absolute fast. I was surprised by his statements and challenged him on both points. It was my first introduction to the liberalism that almost engulfed Southern Baptist Seminaries and threatened to sweep them over the precipice of orthodoxy.
Songer maintained Jesus was walking on the shoreline in Matthew 14:22-33 (there are parallel accounts in the other Gospels) and, when His storm-tossed disciples saw Him from the boat, He appeared to be walking on water, but in fact was not.
The narrative goes on to report that Peter called out to Jesus, that if it was indeed Him, to ask him to come to Him on the water. Seemingly without hesitation, Jesus beckons Peter, “come.” Peter steps on the water and begins to walk toward Jesus on the sea, but takes his eyes of Jesus, and when seeing the wind and waves his faith falters. He begins to sink. But Jesus stretches out His hand, and grasps Peter’s. Having rescued Peter, they both return to the boat and Jesus calms the wind and the sea.
I told Songer his optical illusion explanation did not conform to the biblical scene or explain how Jesus arrived at the boat. He ignored my point and insisted it is impossible for anyone to walk on water. When he claimed Jesus did not go without eating for forty days, I showed him Luke 4:2 where it reads, “He ate nothing in those days.” Songer once again dismissed the biblical account by saying a man cannot live without eating for forty days.
It is common for unbelievers to raise the miraculous events recorded in the Bible as an objection to its trustworthiness, but it is uncommon for believers such as Songer was supposed to be, to levy the same concerns. Maybe Songer was attempting to defend the Scriptures from these sorts of objections by offering a plausible rationale. Who knows why Songer said what he did? But I know typically discounting the biblical record raises equally difficult questions that are hard to answer.
I have found it to be the case that when a person repents of his or her sin, and turns in faith to Christ, they no longer question the miraculous in Scripture. When a person becomes a “new creature” in Christ, the old way of thinking passes away and he or she sees the Bible in a new light (2 Corinthians 5:17). When one experiences the miracle of the new birth, it is hard to deny the other miracles one reads about in the Word.
Then there is the nature of miracles themselves. While the Christian cannot prove divine intervention occurred, skeptics cannot disprove them either. It seems clear God has ordained that the nature of the supernatural must be embraced by faith without which it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). Many base their doubt in miracles on whether they have witnessed or experienced one themselves but lack of experience is not proof certain that others have not experienced or witnessed a supernatural event in their own lives.
Most people doubt the supernatural in the Scriptures, because to accede would imply the Scriptures’ moral dictates are from God and are true. Embracing the miraculous has moral implications. Biblical probity, if practiced, offers the best and most efficacious means of addressing and eradicating society’s ills, but we ignore them to our detriment.
Rather than offering farfetched stories that are unbelievable, the Bible when seen through the lens of a believer presents the best picture and explanation of the reality in which we exist. The Scriptures are the clearest window that discloses the truth in every area of life. The believer is not an unreasonable fool. No, ours is a reasonable faith.