Do miracles still happen today? How would we recognize a miracle as genuine? In this bonus episode, which Sean recorded on his YouTube channel, J.P Moreland discusses his latest book. Then they take live questions at the end from both believers and skeptics.
JP Moreland is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. He is the author of multiple books including The Soul: How We Know Its Real and Why It Matters.
Sean McDowell: Welcome to Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith and Culture, a podcast from Talbot School Theology, Biola University. I'm your host, Sean McDowell, professor of apologetics. Today we have a bonus episode for you from one of our beloved faculty who we've had on the Think Biblically podcast multiple times. It's J. P. Moreland talking about his latest book on a Guide to Experiencing Miracles. If you've ever really wondered, how do I know when something is a miracle and how to respond to some common objections against miracles, but also just hear some stories of some testable miracles we can be confident really took place, you're going to enjoy this episode. Now, I first recorded it on my YouTube channel. So, the setup and some of the details are a little bit different, but for those of you who listen Think Biblically podcast, you're going to find this is right in line with the content that you've come to love.
Sean McDowell: So, enjoy. And as usual, we hope you'll consider sharing it with a friend. Do miracles really happen today? And can people experience the supernatural in their daily lives? Our guest today, Dr. J. P. Moreland says, "Yes", on both of those. Now, before you turn away, if you're skeptic and you think here you go, some undocumented cases or Christian who says, "You know what? I'm just skeptical that miracles happen today." There's something unique about our guest today. He's not only a friend of mine, a colleague at Talbot School Theology, Biola. But he's listed among one of the top 50 most influential living philosophers.
Sean McDowell: And I mentioned that because he's a very careful rigorous thinker. One of the people that has most shaped my thinking. So, when we talk about miracles, you may disagree with him in the end. But trust me, he's thought about this and done his homework and has some stories and evidence to share that I think believers, skeptic and beyond should take the heart. Dr. Moreland, thanks so much for coming on the show and talking about your book that's not even out yet. You're actually giving us a very early interview and glimpse of your book that at the recording of this is still two months out. And we're going to talk about that, but thanks so much for coming on.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: It's always a joy to be with you, Sean.
Sean McDowell: Well, let's just start with some miracle stories. I know right away, people are thinking, give me a case of a miracle that I can trust. We're going to walk through a few. But you start early in the book with a story of a friend of yours, who I also know from Talbot, Klaus Issler. And how he received a check for $2,117 and 60 cents. Tell us the story.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Well, every story in the book, I have documented embedded very, very carefully. And this is one of those that I have an eye witness to and my dear friend, who I taught with for 35 years, saw in his own class. Dr. Issler had a class where he would begin with asking for prayer requests. And there was one student who had been struggling really badly with an inability to pay for his seminary education. And he was about a halfway through it or a little bit more. And he was looking for guidance about whether he should continue you or not. And he asked the Lord for the funding. And if it didn't come that he was going to leave seminary, which he didn't think he was supposed to do. And so he began to pray because what he needed was the exact amount was $2,117 and 60 cents to finish up his tuition payment.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: And so in the class, he raised his hand and told the class, "Would you pray for me? I need this exact amount of money and I'm going to need it by a week from now on Friday." Well, so they all prayed about it. And nothing came in the first few days. And this young man was very discouraged, but something had happened to a relative of his wife. And she was, I think she had passed away. And she was in her home cleaning out office and getting rid of old papers. And she discovered a envelope that was made out to her and it was old and it was dusty and she opened it up and it was a government bond that was made out to her. And it was for something like 1,850 or 60 dollars.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Well, it was shocking. And she told her husband about this. And he said, well, at least that gets us a good way there. And so she went to the bank and she cashed this on a Wednesday or Thursday. And he had to make the payment Friday. What she didn't realize was with the interest on that bond, the amount that the bank gave her was $2,117 and 60 cents to the penny.
Sean McDowell: Wow.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: The exact amount of money that a week or so earlier, the class had asked God for that amount. And out of nowhere at the midnight hour, the day before he had to pay, that precise amount came to them. And it was a clear answer to prayer. It was a miracle.
Sean McDowell: That's unbelievable. And I have to really emphasize, I got to read the early copy of your book and preparation for this. And you research and document these carefully. These aren't just stories from a friend, from a friend, from a friend. So, let's jump to another one. You tell the story about the healing of Susan Semogram.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: This is a very, very amazing story. And it happened a handful of years ago, 15 years ago. And I was able to get eyewitness documentation from the people that prayed over her and what happened. They saw it. But I was asked to do an interview on a, I think it was a PBS special or something like that, getting both believers and unbelievers in miracles. And I wanted to share this. And so I went back and did further research. I was able to get ahold of her and she sent me an email and I have it in my file where she said, "Yes, this is exactly what happened to me." All the details were right. And it had continued on to the present. So, the story was so. She validated what other eyewitnesses had seen. She was Jewish and she was terminally ill. She had 31 points of cancer in different nodes all throughout her body.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: The cancer had metastasized all throughout her body. And on a PET scan, you could see the 31 different points of cancer. The doctors told her that they were going to commit her to Hospice care because there was really nothing that they could do. And it would be better for her to spend her remaining months or weeks in Hospice. Well, she started coming to our church's prayer room. We had a healing prayer room on Monday nights. She wasn't a Christian or even, I don't know, a believer in God. But a friend said, "What do you got to lose?" So, she came two nights and nothing really happened. But the third night she came and a group of people, four or five, took her to a room to lay hands on her to pray after asking permission.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: And by her own testimony, she felt a healing warmth, or like an oil from the top of her head down into her toes. And she had never experienced anything like that, Sean. And she intuitively sensed something happened in her body. So, that week she went back to her doctor and got an appointment and said, look, this happened to me. Would you take another CT scan or whatever it was? And they did. And she had absolutely no cancer anywhere in her body. In fact, she was able to look at the before and after plates. And you could see the cancer before, but afterwards it was gone. Utterly gone. Well, she, as Jewish, committed her life to Jesus.
Sean McDowell: Wow.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: And now 15 years later, when I talked to her for my book, she said, "I am still an enthusiastic Jesus follower. And the cancer has never come back. Since that day of prayer it's lasted for 15 or so years." That is a miraculous healing.
Sean McDowell: Okay. J.P, Tell us the title of your book to make sure we get it right. I want people to pre-order it, where you document all of this.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Yes. And many, many more that we can't cover. The book is called A Simple Guide to Experience Miracles. And my purpose in A Simple Guide to Experience Miracles, it's not just to share stories, but to equip and empower people to begin to have the faith to practice these things themselves. And to enter more into the supernatural.
Sean McDowell: We're going to get into how we identify a miracle, the evidence for prayer working, angels, demons. But I got to hear a few more miracle stories from you before we get there. And by the way, when we get towards the end, we're going to take live questions and we'll be given away a free copy of Dr. Moreland's book, as soon as it is available for the best question. So, make sure you stay with us. What about your own healing from Laryngitis?
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Well, I came down, this has happened a few years back, but I came down with a really debilitating Laryngitis on, I think it was a Thursday and I literally was, I had to talk like his. I couldn't make much of a sound. My throat was like sandpaper. So, I went to the walk-in clinic. I didn't have an appointment on Saturday. And the doctor said, "Look, we've been seeing all kinds of these in the last few weeks. I know exactly what it is. And you just got to ride it out." And so I whispered, "How long will it take?" And she said, "This is going to take probably if it came on to you Thursday, it's going to run at least about a week. And you ought to start seeing some ability to talk and feel normal." Well, I had to teach all day, Monday.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: I had a speaking engagement at a church on Monday that they had all ready publicized and done so much. I couldn't call and just cancel, but I thought I'm going to have to. So, I went to church on Sunday morning and my wife, I wasn't going to say anything, because I didn't think there was any hope. And my wife told Kenny Slezak, another elder at the church, what was going on. So, when the church service was over, I get up to get out of there. Because I was going to go home and call Scott Ray, our chair to get ahold of the secretary and have my classes canceled. And I was going to call the church. And that was what was on my mind. Well, Kenny Slezak grabs me and says, "Wait a minute, you're not getting out of here. Your wife said that you can't talk. And we need to pray for you."
Dr. J. P. Moreland: And so I just grunted a little bit and said, "Okay, that's fine." And so they laid hands on me and to be honest, I wasn't paying much attention. Because really I wanted to get out of there. It was kind of a bother. Because I wanted to get this done and get these people called and get this thing off my plate. Well, Sean, I was standing there and out of nowhere, there was this warmth that came on to my throat while they were putting hands on me and praying. And like I said, it wasn't placebo. I was not even thinking about it. And I started talking normally right then. And I said, "My voice is back." Well, I was healed completely. And I never came back. I taught all day Monday, was able to keep my speaking engagement contrary to what the doctor said. And I was instantly healed of that problem. And it was a severe case, because the doctor told me that this was happening.
Sean McDowell: Part of the power that you walk through and we're going to get to in a minute is how you know something actually is a miracle. And it's the timing of this that is so powerful. We're going to come to that. Now, let me ask you one or two more of these. You and I talked about a bunch of stories that we could share, but let me ask you one about a specific graduate student of yours named Nathan.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Nathan [Ellison 00:14:06] was a very bright student of mine at the graduate program. He had been on the Long Beach State debate team. They had defeated Harvard and so on. And he was a new student and he was a very, very intelligent, bright guy. And I had shared in class one day, some of the things that had happened to me. And so I get a knock on my office door and it's Nathan and he'd never come to visit me. And he said, "Do you have a few minutes?" I said, "Well, of course." And he said, "I've got to tell you what happened to me because I'd be embarrassed to tell you until you told me that you're open to this kind of thing." And I said, "Well, please tell me." He said, "Well, when I was at Long Beach State, before I met a girl who I fell in love with."
Dr. J. P. Moreland: "But she was a Christian, I wasn't. And she wasn't interested in me. And when I was a little boy, my father left my mother. But when he would come to visit, it was clear that he loved my brother more than he did me, because he always remembered his birthdays. He didn't remember mine. When he brought us gifts, my brother got better ones than I did. And at that time I was diagnosed with what's called GERDs, it's Gastroesophageal reflux disorder, where your throat has fluid from your stomach that you can't keep down. And I ended up leaving my dad and my brother and deciding to live with my mom full time, instead of going back and forth. And when I went to college, I had for 10 years or longer, not slept this single night without sitting up."
Dr. J. P. Moreland: "I slept every night, propped up with a pillow. Like I was in a lean back chair, because if I laid down these fluids would come out. They still did, but it wasn't as bad. And I just suffered from this for 10 years. I finally became a Christian and I married this girl. And she didn't know how bad it was because I kept her awake at night. Because I would cough and so on. And she said, I can't sleep in the same room. You've got to get this fixed. I said, oh, I didn't want to get surgery. But I went to a doctor and he said, There's a hole in your throat that's so big, it's going to take five surgeries to get it done. And what I'll do is the first one. I'll stretch it a little bit and then we'll let that heal. And then I'll bring it in a little bit further and make the hole smaller. And after five you will still, it'll be like 85 to 90% well. But there'll still be a small problem."
Dr. J. P. Moreland: So, Nathan said, "I signed up to get the surgery in three weeks." Or whenever it was open. "And in the meantime there was a Bible study we were a part of, and there was a missionary from the Southeast Asia part of the world who was alleged to have performed miracles. And we went to hear him speak. And so he shared some stories and he said, "I'd like to pray for you all. So, would you mind bowing your head?" And he said, "I think God is speaking to me right now. And I believe that there is someone here who has Gastroesophageal reflux disorder."
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Now his wife didn't know the scientific name. She knew it as GERDs. So, there was nobody in the room, but Nathan that knew he had this and could call it by that name. His wife knew it, but she had never shared it. And he said, "And when you were a boy, you and your dad, you rejected him and left him because he did not love you in the way you should be loved. And I believe the Lord wants to heal you, but he also wants you to reconnect and ask forgiveness with your ... Well, I mean, this blew his mind, because nobody knew this.
Sean McDowell: Sure.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: And this guy was telling him stuff that there was no way he could know. He walks forward, said, "I'm the guy." And Nathan said that this guy laid his hands on his throat and prayed against this. And he said, "J.P., I was healed. I went back to the doctor and they took further scan of my throat. And the doctor came out and said, I don't know how to tell you this, because I know we didn't misdiagnose this. I've got the photographs to prove it. You don't have anything wrong with you.
Sean McDowell: Wow.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: "There's nothing, no hole in your throat." And to this day, I've seen him a couple of times. It has never come back. And he ended up reconciling with his dad. I mean, it was just an unbelievable event.
Sean McDowell: That's amazing. What I love in you do in this book is you have personal stories of miracles, answers of prayer that you've seen and angelic encounters we're going to talk about. But you also cite some professional studies, peer reviewed studies in some cases. And then also cases of people that you know. So, you're coming at this from a range of perspectives, but there's a natural, healthy skepticism, I would say. And maybe because both of you and I have training in philosophy and have seen abuse about miracles in the church. Rather than have us just completely turn it away. There should be a healthy, willingness to believe them if the evidence is there. Now one more account I want you to talk about is this, this surprised me as you talk about how the role that miracles have played, not only the growth of Christianity historically, but specifically in China. Today, modern day China. And this was documented or at least discussed in the Washington Times.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Yeah. Yeah. It is widely known now by scholars, including a well known professor at Penn State who wrote a book on the new Christendom. Documenting that the rise of Christianity since about 1970 is largely due to an outbreak of supernatural miracles all over the world. And he's got a well known reputation as a scholar. What happened was that I got a hold of an article from the Washington Times a few years back. And the Washington Times, I'll just remind our readers, our listeners, is not a Christian newspaper. So, the Washington Times had an article in there on the role of miracles in the explosion of the underground church in China. And they cited a case that they had investigated where there was this Buddhist woman who went to the hospital and had a life-threatening illness and was in the process of passing away.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: And there was really little hope for her. Her Buddhist family had come to stand around her and give her support. But a Christian woman heard about this event, just an ordinary woman in the underground church. And she took a risk and she went to the hospital and she went to her room and she said to the family, "I am a Christian, may I pray for your relative's healing." And she prayed, and this woman was healed on the spot.
Sean McDowell: Wow.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: And her entire Buddhist family converted to Christianity because of that. I was at a meeting five, six, seven, eight years ago to listen to a missionary couple from China. The husband had a PhD in organic chemistry from UC Berkeley and decided to go into missions work. Guy's really smart. And they'd been there for seven, eight years. And I said to him, I said, "I got a personal question to ask you, have you ever seen or heard a credible account of a miracle happening in China that you cannot refute?" And he looked at me and said, "You got to be kidding me." He said, "J.P., these are happening so often that in these underground house churches, it is just expected that if the congregation prays over you, that you're going to be healed." So, it's not healing that has to be explained. It's non-healing because there's so much of it. And he had personally seen it and said, "This is playing a huge role in the spread of Christianity."
Sean McDowell: I just got to emphasize again, that for those watching this you and I could spend the next three, four hours, plus just talking about the case is in your book that you carefully document and share and have vetted. We're not going to do that, partly because of time and second, I want them to get your book A Simple Guide to Experience Miracles. I think it's excellent. But one of the questions that'll come up is people say, okay, all right. How do we really know these are miracles? I mean, couldn't they be serendipity? Couldn't they be coincidence? What criteria, especially because your training is in philosophy, should we use to know with confidence that a miracle has happened?
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Sean, this is a great question. And there is a very clear answer to it that is not a religious answer. It's actually a scientific answer, because just recently some cave configurations were discovered in a cave where Neanderthals existed. And for a long time there was a debate about whether these were natural formations or if they were actually sculpture products of Neanderthals producing them. And they used the principle that I'm going to tell you about to decide that it was clearly something that the Neanderthals had done. This principle is used in forensic science to decide whether a death was an accident or whether it was an intentional action of a murder. And so this is a well established principle. Now the issue is that in the world there are two kinds of causes. There are causes that are just, non-personal where a flash of lightning splits a tree.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: And then there are personal causes where my wife might set up the dining room table for guests to come over for dinner when we engage in a free action, and there's something that is the result of like a house is produced. Now, whenever two factors are present, it is beyond any reasonable doubt, in fact, there are almost no false positives where you apply the principle, but you're wrong. And the two principles are this, is the highly improbable? Is it very unlikely to happen? Now if the answer to that's yes, that's necessary, but not sufficient. That's got to be there, but it's not enough. Because if you and I were playing Bridge and a $500 pot was at stake and I dealt you 13 cards and I dealt myself 13 cards, but my hand was a perfect Bridge hand on the first deal.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: And yours was just a random set of cards. Both of our hands would be equally improbable since they both consist of the same number of cards. But nobody would be suspicious with your hand. But the reason people would suspect rightly that I cheated and that my hand was there was result of me making it, is because there is something special about that particular result besides the fact that it's what happened. In your hand there's nothing special about your hand besides the fact it's the hand you got. But with the perfect Bridge, there's something special about that hand. Namely, the rules of Bridge say that if anybody gets that hand, they win. So, it's the combination of independent specialists that it's special independent of it happening. And it being highly improbable that guarantees that it was done by a person. In Ohio the Republican was in charge of printing the ballots in state congressional elections.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: And in eight different districts, there were like seven parties that were running against one another. Their Republican was first on all the ballots. The Democrats sued the Republican and they won in court. And the reason was that first of all, that was highly improbable given that there were eight different kinds of ballots being produced. And there were six or seven different parties. That Republican would be first on everyone was very improbable. Still, the improbable does happen once in a while. But there was something special about the Republican being first. Namely, whoever's first on the ballot tends to get more votes than the second place and third and fourth. The fact that the Republican had an interest in Republicans winning those elections, made the Republican being first special.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: And the fact that it was highly unlikely combined the show that it was beyond reasonable doubt that he had cheated and this was not the result of a law of nature or randomly, it was done on purpose by a personal agent. And so that principle, which is satisfied in a court of law, it's used in forensic science, can be applied to prayer. I could give you an example if you like.
Sean McDowell: Sure. That makes sense. If we go back to the case of say your friend Klaus at the beginning, it's improbable to find a cheque from a while ago, that's improbable itself. Most of us don't find that for a certain amount of money in a drawer, but then it meets the specification of exactly what they had prayed for. Put those two together, tells us the most reasonable explanation is a miracle.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Yes. And it's almost beyond reasonable doubt. Because the principle applies to either finite agents like you or me being the producer of something. Or a divine agent that still works. And so years ago, when I was first be came a Christian, I was going back to Colorado to serve. I prayed that God would provide a white house with a white picket fence, with a nice grassy front yard. That was around two miles from campus for no more than $130 a month. And I looked everywhere and I couldn't find anything. Finally, I got a call from another staff member that said, "Are you still looking for a house?" It was near Golden Colorado. I said, "Yeah." And so she sent me a pastor's phone number.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: He said he wanted to rent to Christians. I drove up to the house and I drove up and found a white house with a white picket fence around it with a nice grassy, the front yard, just a little over two miles from campus, $110 a month now. Now, it's the high improbability of that, plus the fact that outcome was special, because that was what I had prayed for.
Sean McDowell: Gotcha.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: That makes it beyond any reasonable doubt that it was the result of a person. And in this case, a pretty smart, pretty big person.
Sean McDowell: Okay. Now we're going to move towards the end when we get to questions, to question and answer, I see some great ones and comments here from folks and the best question we're going to send a copy of your book. I've got a couple more in miracles, then I want to hear your evidence for prayer, angelical manifestations and demons, before we get to Q&A. What would you say to people, either skeptics who are not Christians or Christians who just have a hard time believing that miracles really happened? We can't just decide to believe things we don't believe. What would your encouragement be for them?
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Well, I understand that. And my attitude is neither skepticism or gullibility, but I adopt a wise openness. And so I think that's important. So, what I would say would be that you need to start investigating this and doing research on it. Here's one thing to do, get a hold of some credible books. And I have, my book I think is credible. And there's another book coming out. Lee Strobel had a book out. And Craig Keener's got a book. I give you other sources of books that recount vetted miracle accounts that have a ring of truth, but they're also authenticated. And so begin to read credible accounts in reliable books and well respected authors who document these things. That's number one. Number two, Sean, I've gone into so many churches and I've said, "How many of you, raise your hand, have had God speak to you in a way that could not have been coincidence?" 70% of the [inaudible 00:33:06].
Dr. J. P. Moreland: How many of you have seen a divine healing or know somebody who was healed that could not have been a coincidence? 60%. On it goes. The point I'm making is that these things are happening all the time, but nobody talks about them, because they're embarrassed. They don't want to think they're looking super spiritual. So, my point is ask people that are Christians, have you ever seen or heard a credible account of a healing or answered a prayer or an angel appearing. And listen, query them. I mean, if you're not convinced, ask them how they know this happened. Start looking into it by reading and by asking people that are in your circle of friends who maybe know of one, but they just don't ever talk about it. Now, those would be a couple of suggestions I would recommend.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: I think the final and quick thing is if you make a case that God exists, and if you can make a case that the new Testament documents are historically reliable and that Jesus is highly like to have risen from the dead. Then you have good reason to think that there could be such a thing as miracles. And the only thing that's left to do is to investigate. And I think that you shouldn't be overly skeptical or gullible, but you should let the evidence go where it leads. That's what I've done. And that's what I do in the book, A Simple Guide to Experience Miracles.
Sean McDowell: Well, you do it well. And again, I hope people are going to pick it up. But one of the things that you talk about is identifying where the real objections are and then addressing them. And there's so much wisdom in that. Now, before we get to prayer, one question I've got to ask you is obviously a lot of times God does not perform miracles. You and I prayed for our dear brother Nabeel Qureshi former Muslim who became a Christian. And if I could think of anybody God should have healed from my perspective is Nabeel and yet he didn't. So, yes, there's evidence for miracles. What about when God doesn't do miracles?
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Boy, that's tough. And I have 14 carefully researched answers to that question in the book. So, I list 14 reasons that help explain why God doesn't answer a prayer. And I can't go over all of them, but let me just say, first of all, the timing might not be right. It may be that if you wait a bit, it would be better. For example, we prayed for my son-in-law to get a new job, because he had a job from hell where his boss was aggressing against him and had targeted him. And nothing showed up for about a year and a half or two years. It was terrible. Finally, out of nowhere, a new job came along and he got it and has it to this day, the reason he got this new job was because he had been at this other place long enough for him to have learned the skills needed to get this better job.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: So, the reason God didn't answer that is if he would have, he wouldn't have gotten the better job. So, sometimes it's a matter of timing. Sometimes it's a matter of God seeing a bigger perspective and recognizing that if he did answer the prayer, it would actually make things worse off in the long run. Though right now it would feel like it's a good thing. And I think that we've all seen cases where we're glad God didn't answer a prayer. Dallas Willard said to me, before he died, he said, "I'm glad about 30% of my prayer don't get answered." So, that would be another one. And I think sometimes it has to do with the person not really wanting to be healed, if it's healing. And it may be that their faith is weak and they need to grow their faith by hearing other stories. And I talk in the book about how to grow in your faith and expectation. Those are some reasons, but I got to admit it's hard, especially if you're hurting.
Sean McDowell: That list of 14 is one of my favorite parts of your book, because I'd thought of some of those, but comprehensibly in one list to think through a bigger picture, why God may not heal is really, really helpful and powerful. I appreciate the work you did on that. Let's talk about prayer. Now, similarly, you have tons of stories of answer prayer. And I want to use one that I think some people could say, maybe this is trivial because it's a pool table. But it also illustrates that God cares about the big things, and also many times shows his love in what we might consider the smaller things.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Well, that's spot on, Sean. And this was a big thing to my children, even though in the scheme of things, it was little. But God does care about the little things, as well as the big. My kids were getting into the middle school years, and we wanted them to hang out at our house with guys and stuff. We wouldn't want them hang out at other people's houses for obvious reasons. But our house was, it wasn't very fun to be at. And so what we did is we transformed our garage into kind of a rec room. And I put a little foosball table in there, but that was it. And what the girls said to, my daughter said, "Dad, we need a pool table because guys, they love playing pool and we'd like to play pool."
Dr. J. P. Moreland: And I said, "You know what? I just, I can't afford a pool table. And if you want one, we're just going to have to ask God for it." So, they said, "Okay, let's do it." So, we held hands as a family, my wife, me and both my daughters who still remember this, now as they're grown and married themselves. And we ask God to give us a really good pool table just like the kind that you find in a pool hall, that isn't a cheap one, if you hit it, it shakes. And then I said, "In Jesus name, amen." And so we moved on. About a week and a half later, we're at my daughter, Allison, the soccer game. And there were like 20 families, and 20 moms and dads there. And one of the fathers that I had said hi to, but I didn't know him.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Sean, he walks up to me and he says, "Hi, I'm so and so." And I said, "I'm J.P." And he said, "How you doing?" I said, "I'm doing well." And he said, "Well, listen, this may sound odd to you. Could you use a pool table?" I said, "What?" He said, "Yeah." He said, "I've been renting a house out to three guys. And they haven't paid their rent in four months and I kicked them out and they're on. But they left this pool table in the basement. I don't want the darn thing. I want to get rid of it." And I said, "Well, why did you ask me?" And he said, "Well, I don't really know. I don't know. I just noticed you came up to you." And I said, "well, you're not going to believe this, but I've been praying for about little over a week for a pool table."
Dr. J. P. Moreland: "And this is" ... He said, "Well, I'm a Christian. I didn't know you were a Christian." And so what happened was he, after the game, he had a big old truck and a bunch of other fathers went and got this thing and brought it to our house. And it was a pool hall pool table.
Sean McDowell: Amazing.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: And we had that thing for 12 years. I finally donated it to the church when they went to college and left. And they still use it up there. But it was, just my girls, their eyeballs where the size of silver dollars. It was unbelievable.
Sean McDowell: I bet they did. Now you have a ton more examples of answered prayer. That's just one. But you also have a section in your book, because it's not just about miracles. It's about the miraculous supernatural realm that you believe angels exist and can be experienced today. Give me one example of a credible case of an angelical manifestation.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Well, I haven't, in my own case and I'll try to make this quick. But about 2004, I was speaking in April or May at a church in Seattle for the weekend on Friday night, a woman came up to me and said, "Dr. Moreland thank you for your talk. But I have to tell you the entire time you were speaking, there was a tall angel behind you and two shorter angels on either side of you guarding you." Well, I thought she was crazy and I didn't pay any attention to her at all. So, I said, "Well, thank you so much." And I got away from her. Fast forward to September and I'm going through a hard time. And I prayed something I'd never prayed in 35 years as a Christian. I said, "God, I don't know if those angels are real or not."
Dr. J. P. Moreland: "But if those three angels are real and if they're either not here or here, would you send them back and let me know, they're here. Amen." So, about a week and a half later, I get an email from one of my graduate students. By the way, I have all this in a folder. All these emails are in a folder here. And it was a guy named Mark Step. And in the email, he said, "You're going to think I'm crazy. But while you were lecturing in metaphysics for 10 to 15 minutes, I saw three angels appear standing around you. And then they disappeared and I'd love to talk to you about it." And so I called him and he came to my office and I said, "What in the heck are you talking about?" And he said, "J.P", he said, "I got to tell you."
Dr. J. P. Moreland: "I was sitting over near the window in Myer, 108, the classroom, all of a sudden these three white robed beings, I couldn't discern faces, were standing" ... He drew a picture of it. He said, "I've got a picture here." And there was a taller one behind me and two shorter ones. And they weren't floating. They were standing around me. And I said, "Do you see angels a lot?" Thinking maybe he was a cook. And he said, "I've never seen an angel in my life." So, that was the second confirmation. I got a confirmation a week and a half later that I'll skip, it's in the book. But there are two other ones that are pretty dramatic. About five years later, I got a call from a lawyer and businessman who wasn't a student, but he knew I'd gone through anxiety issues.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: And he said, "Look, can I come to your office? I just need help." He came, I laid hands on him. I got him to get on his knees at the end and prayed over him for healing. And then he left and it was a great time. Two years later in the summer I get an email from this guy. He said, "You might not remember me." Well, I did remember him. And I've got both emails in my file. But he said, "There's something I have wanted to tell you for two years, but I didn't know how to do it. So, I'm just going to tell you. When you got me on my knees to pray, my eyes were closed and I felt presences come in the room. And when I opened my eyes, J.P., I saw three angels standing around you. And there was one behind you that was taller and two short ones."
Dr. J. P. Moreland: So, I contacted him and said, "Have you ever heard anything about me talking about this before or anything where I've mentioned this?" And he said, "I really am not sure I know what you're asking me." He'd never heard a thing about it. Okay. Fast forward to three years ago, I'm in a conference in Portland, Oregon. It's apologetics conference. I speak on Saturday morning and there's a 30 minute break. So, I'm at the book table. I brought an adult friend of mine with me, Mark Stevens. And I'm sitting next to the two assistants in the apologetics program, the two Megans, you know them. And they're both there. And this 40-ish year old woman comes across the room to me and says, "Dr. Moreland I wanted to thank you. I've been an atheistic Jew my whole life. But a year ago I converted to Christianity and your books had something to do with that."
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Oh my, I was just ... And she said, "I also feel like I really need to tell you something." She said, "When you were speaking this morning, I saw ... And I said, "Stop. Don't go any further." I said, "Megan, are you ladies listening?" And I said, "Mark, are you listening?" So, all three were listening. And I said, "Now don't go any further. I want to ask you, did you see any angels around me?" She said, "Well, yeah. How did you know?" And I said, "I'll tell you later, do you know how many there were?" She said, "Yeah, there were three of them." I said, "Were they floating? Were they standing? Where were they?" And they said, "Well, there was one behind you. And one on either side." One more question. Do you remember the relative sizes? Or did you not notice that?
Dr. J. P. Moreland: She said, "Oh yeah. The one behind you was real tall dude. And the two on either side were shorter." And I asked her, "Did you heard me talk about this?" And she was a new enough Christian. She'd never listened to me on YouTube or anything. She didn't know anything about it. That is five separate. I didn't mention one of them, a confirmation of the very same thing. That's tough to explain in a way that it would stand up in a court of law.
Sean McDowell: J.P, I want to emphasize just because I see a few comments of people that might not have the context here that you believe the Bible is true. Jesus rose from the grave. And you're not saying we need all these experiences to prove the Christian story is true. You state in the book, it's sufficient. If Christianity's true, God answers prayers. If Christianity's true, there are miracles that have happened and happened. You are pushing back on this naturalistic worldview, trying to get skeptics to realize there's a good case for miracles and encourage Christians to live in the power that scripture talks about. Is that fair?
Dr. J. P. Moreland: That's exactly what I'm doing. That's very fair. That's exactly right.
Sean McDowell: Good. Well, let's do this. You have a whole section where you talk about the demonic. For sake of time, I'm going to skip over that and people are going to have to pick up the book. You have similar stories. But I want to make sure we honor some of the questions of people that have joined us. And I'm going to write down, keep notes here. At the end you just get to pick the question you think it was most interesting, helpful, insightful. And we'll make sure we send that person a free book. I've seen a whole bunch of questions that have been listed here. Please restate them and then just to make sure I see them, because I may have missed some of these before. Let's start with this one. Here's just more of a comment. And I'll let you weigh in on this one, J.P. Troy says, "Even though I'm a believer, I've been in Pentecostal churches all my life and seen a lot of crazy people make some pretty crazy claims. It has made me very skeptical. Your thoughts."
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Well, you want me to repeat the question even though ...
Sean McDowell: No, no, go ahead. I'll state it. And then you can jump in with your thoughts.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Well, I actually share this dear friend's skepticism. And what I see is that in too many charismatic and Pentecostal type churches, a lot of it's fake and it is forced. People try to make something happen and they feel like they're a [inaudible 00:49:05]. I never try to make things happen. I simply pray and let it go. But we don't determine what a real dollar is by saying that counterfeits may mean there aren't any. No, we measure counterfeits by the real thing. And just because something is abused, it doesn't follow that there aren't legitimate uses of it. And what I'm suggesting is that if you just sort out the craziness, which I am one of, that turns me off and it's done more harm than good. There are still a number of, a multitude of legitimate cases that are coming from the Jesus Film newsletter, credible books, accounts that just can't be dismissed, by real people who saw these things. And so don't throw out the wheat with the chaff. Get rid of the nuttiness, I agree. But don't go too skeptical, because there are credible cases. But be thoughtful about them.
Sean McDowell: Good. I think that's great. KD has a question, says, "What countries or cultures experience more miracles? And why do you think that is if you know?"
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Hard to say, because there are a lot of miracles taking place in the United States. But we just, we don't talk about them. But there are myriads of documented miracles though we get the impression they're not happening because we don't talk about them. That's why my advisor early is important. But I think the outbreak of miracles is going on largely in India, China, Africa, Brazil, and in countries like that. And for two reasons, I think the first reason is that they haven't been naturalized. They still believe in a supernatural world. So, they're not initially skeptical about, God could answer prayer, does or heals, because they haven't been indoctrinated into philosophical naturalism.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: We tend to be skeptical and so we don't [inaudible 00:51:28] enough faith. One of the purposes of my book is to give people an increase of faith so they can step out with stronger faith and see more happen. That's number one. Number two, I think people in other countries need this more because they don't have access often to medicine and things like that. And I could tell you a story after story where God has healed people and they've come to Christ because they were Muslims and they were out in the Bush and there was no place for them to get medical help. Well, we have access to that. So, those would be some reasons, but let's not think they're not happening here.
Sean McDowell: That's great. Jose's got a question for you. He says, "What is J.P Moreland's response to the claim by skeptics that magic and miracles are the same?"
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Well, I would never answer a question like that. Instead, I would ask the skeptic number one, what do you mean by magic? And what do you mean by miracle? Clarify your terms for me. And number two, why in the world would you believe something like that? So, I wouldn't accept a burden of proof. I would make the skeptic, first of all, clarify, what does he mean by, or she by magic and miracles. And then what possible evidence do they have in making an assertion like that?
Dr. J. P. Moreland: But my answer would be that magic is something that happens as a result of some kind of in incantation or some kind of ritualistic procedure. And they are either not real miraculous events or they're demonic events and that presupposes they're demons. But I make a case for that in the book. A miracle is an intervention that is performed by God and is done for a specific purpose. And it is not the result of me learning the right kind of recipe for a stew I'm making or a certain chant. It is instead taking faith that I have and addressing God. And it is God that does it, not my ritual. And so there is a difference there.
Sean McDowell: Okay, great distinction. Here's an interesting one for you from Mark White. He says, "Do you think God may answer a weird prayer that is growing taller after one has stopped growing, if he is short and that is causing him pain and sadness?"
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Yes, I do. There are cases of this that have actually been documented and there have been eyewitnesses who have observed the lengthening of legs with ... and some of this has actually been videotaped. So, this kind of thing does happen. Now, I cannot say in your case that it will, but I don't know what would be wrong in you gathering some friends or going to a vineyard church or a church where they practice these things. And they're credible. They're not crazy and goofy. And putting this before the Lord and letting people lay hands on you and pray over you. I see nothing ... if that is the desire of your heart express it. But I would urge you to get help from all your brothers and sisters to join with you, especially some who are advanced in how to pray for these things. And to lay hands on you and help.
Sean McDowell: That's great. Here's one for you, J.P. Wesley says, "If we believe that demons can deceive people with magic and do the miracles that you mentioned, how do we know we are not being deceived by miracles?"
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Well, that's actually, I think the wrong question. You don't start out with a question, how do we know we're not deceived? You start with a question, what are cases we know? And then we measure deception by comparing them to the real standard. So, you start with like, if it's sand or whatever, you start with a standard, and then you judge missing the mark by the mark. Not the other way around. So, you don't have to answer the question, well, how do I know that this is a sin, because I might be deceived about it being such? Well that's because I know what goodness is, and I can be mistaken, but there are cases where it's clear. So, I would say that we have cases that are clearly miraculous, where we were speaking to God, our hearts were right.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: We were in the right place. We were earnest and sincere. And we were relying upon the Lord Jesus to respond. Now I cannot imagine in a case like that, where God would allow us to be deceived by a demon, when we've come to our father. Jesus said, "If you ask your father for bread, he's not going to give you a snake." And so I think the deception occurs when a person has been fooling around with things they shouldn't, and that could be pornography, the occult, and there is an attachment to them and they come asking, but they're double minded and they're broken in a way that is allowing them to be influenced by the dark side. Now there, I would be very careful about an answer to something, because demons can imitate a lot of these things, not all of them, but some of them. And there are cases of that.
Sean McDowell: J.P, let me ask you, we have time, maybe one or two more, this little bit more of a personal or pastoral question, which you do talk about in the book. Samuel Park says, "What should we do when we have been praying for miracle for a long time, yet, God hasn't answered it yet?"
Dr. J. P. Moreland: I give advice in that. And one thing is that sometimes prayer isn't so much asking as it is co-laboring with God about the problem. Like when Moses had his hands up, he was directing God's power on the battle field. But when he dropped his hands, that power was cut off. That's not a stupid story. That's an example of co-laboring. And sometimes prayer is you're working on a problem with God during the time you pray. So, you say, I got 15 minutes, I'm going to work on this thing. I'm going to direct God's power to this, and I'm going to continue massage this thing I'm hoping will break through. So, that's one thing.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: So, that gives you reason to continue to massage what you're wanting. The other thing is that I think that you ... a rule of thumb is that you pray as long as you will desire to, unless praying is becoming a distraction to you, and you were becoming obsessed on getting a positive answer to the prayer. If it is starting then to harm your own personal life, because you're obsessed and preoccupied with it and distracted, I think at that point it's time to move on. Because it's actually not helping. But up until then, I think you pray as long as you desire and you're able, and it's not tearing away from your spiritual life. It's actually cooperating in your growth.
Sean McDowell: Very helpful. There's a ton more questions here. We obviously don't have time to get to. Some you don't address in the book, many you do. But I want to ask you, we got six in here to get what you think is the best question. We're going to send a free book, but let me ask you really fast, like 30 seconds. You're a huge fan of our program at Biola and Biola Apologetics. This channel is brought by that and sponsored and supported. Why should people think about entering the program?
Dr. J. P. Moreland: Oh, Sean, this is a day when people need to not only know what they believe, but why. We have got to be trained and why we believe. And I don't know of a better program in the entire country than the one that you and I both teach in. And I think the Talbot M.A. and apologetics is the best way to get first grade training.
Sean McDowell: Well, thanks for saying that. We'd love to have anybody watch. We have a full distance program now. If you have an undergrad degree, you could potentially qualify and be in the program and have J.P and myself in class would be a treat. All right. So, we had six questions and you can pick whatever one interests you. One was the skeptic ... or do you know? Go ahead.
Dr. J. P. Moreland: I do. I think it was actually the first one. And the book, A Simple Guide to Experience Miracles, I would like to be sent to this dear friend when it comes out and you can interact with them, but that would be my choice.
Sean McDowell: Troy [Hinkel 01:00:49] this was your comment, actually. And I recognize you from interacting online. He's joined a ton of our streams. Troy, you got yourself a copy of J.P Moreland's book. So, through my website, email me, it's just firstname.lastname@example.org. It'll go to my assistant. He will forward it to me. Troy, give me the specific address and we will make sure that you get a copy when it's out, of JP's latest book. Again, we're here with Dr. J.P. Moreland and he's got a new Book, A Simple Guide to Experiencing Miracles. You can order it online at Amazon. If this is helpful, you think a skeptic would be open to considering the claims miraculous, share this link with them or any Christians who need to be concerned, share this as well.