(In the last articles which we wrote on this subject, we were discussing Dr. Ralph Janssen’s views of Scripture. We discussed his views of Scripture’s inspiration and how those views of inspiration affected other ideas he had about how the Scriptures came into existence. In this article, we are going to discuss how Janssen’s views of inspiration affected his ideas of miracles.)
Probably no views of Dr. Janssen aroused the fear and suspicion of the church as much as his views on the miracles of Scripture. In order to try to explain this in as simple a way as possible, it is probably best first of all to explain just what Janssen said about some individual miracles.
In fact, Janssen did not discuss individual miracles all that much. It seemed as if he preferred to discuss in a general way what he believed was the explanation behind his interpretation of miracles. But once in a while he did describe how, in his opinion, miracles took place. And this was extremely revealing.
On a few occasions Janssen talked about the falling of the walls of Jericho. He did not believe that these walls fell in any miraculous way in the sense in which we would believe in a miracle. But he believed that these walls fell because at the moment when the trumpets of the priests sounded, a severe earthquake shook the city so strongly that all the walls fell before Israel.
How it was that all the walls fell inward on the top of the city; and how it was that just that part of the wall on which Rahab’s house stood did not fall, Dr. Janssen made no effort to explain.
When God brought water out of the rock for the children of Israel at Rephadim in the wilderness, this was not a miracle in the sense in which we think of it. Rather, the water was always present in the rock and was covered only by a very thin layer of stone. When Moses hit the rock, be broke the protective layer and the water gushed out.
How it was possible for there to be enough water in that rock to satisfy the thirst of over 3 million people plus all their flocks and herds, for a very long period of time, Janssen makes no effort to explain.
When the sun and moon stood still at the command of Joshua when the armies of Israel were fighting the kings of the south, the sun and moon did not in fact stand still, but the sun emerged after a very bad storm in which the sky was black, or the sun emerged because of an eclipse.
How it is to be explained that the Bible tells us that there has never been a day like that in all the history of the world, Janssen does not tell us.
The feats of Samson were not really performed as they are described in the Bible. But every nation needs its heroes about which legends and stories filled with exaggeration arise. Israel had to have her heroes, too and found one in Samson. So the stories in the book of Judges about Samson are the heroic legends and myths which were invented to help make Samson a hero in the nation.
There are three or four ideas of Janssen implied in his views of miracles that we ought also to understand.
For one thing, Janssen firmly believed that a proper approach to Scripture meant that we tried to explain Scripture as much as we possibly could in terms of God’s regular and usual providence. That is, he believed that God controlled all things. And so, in the interests of the truth of providence, Janssen thought we ought to explain everything in terms of that providence.
How we would do that with the birth and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is a question to which Janssen did not address himself.
But, in the second place, to try to explain all the miracles in terms of God’s ordinary providence, is to try to explain away the miracles and give them a purely natural explanation. And this is exactly what Janssen did. He took away their miraculous character and effectively denied that anything miraculous happened. And he did that because he tried to explain everything in terms of means. He insisted that God used means in all the miracles and that, therefore, they had a very natural explanation. Just as God used an east wind to separate the waters of the Red Sea, so He used an earthquake to knock down the walls of Jericho.
Yet Janssen insisted that he truly believed in miracles. When, e.g. he was talking about the fall of the walls of Jericho, he claimed the miracle was not in God making the walls fall, but in the fact that just at the right moment, in a very useful way, an earthquake came to destroy the walls. The miracle was in the fact that the earthquake came at just the right moment.
In keeping with this same idea, Janssen believed that no miracles of God could involve a new work of creation. That is why he believed that the water in the rock of Rephadim was already there. God finished His work of creation on the sixth day, and nothing more could possibly be created.
Why this should be so I fail to see. If this whole world is God’s world, and if He has the right and power to do with it as He wills, He may surely create more water if He wishes to do so. Just as Jesus created more bread and fish when he fed 5,000, God created water in the wilderness for His people.
But the interesting thing is that Janssen denied the miracles of Scripture because of His views of inspiration. And if one miracle is denied, then all the miracles are eventually denied, including the great miracle of our Lord Jesus Christ.