Monday, March 28, 2011

Unhelpful Answers: Who Would Knowingly Die for a Lie?

Publications on Christian apologetics tend to serve a couple of different functions. Primarily they serve to aid people who already believe by addressing certain challenges to the faith thereby strengthening the believer’s confidence in what they already accept. This is one of the most valuable functions of the apologist, however, it is important that even when used in this way that the arguments are effective enough to hold up under rigorous examination. The average Christian may not require the most sophisticated formulation of an argument as would be used in formal apologetics but as children of the Truth we should still expect that they are arguments that work. Unfortunately some of the most popular arguments used in common conversation are not the most helpful or useful arguments when considered carefully.

One of these “unhelpful answers” as to why Christianity is true is the argument that it is very unlikely that you could get 11 people to knowingly die for a lie. I first recall reading this argument in Josh McDowell’s book More Than a Carpenter and since then I have seen it used by other apologists such as Lee Strobel etc, as well as many other well meaning Christians. The force of the argument is that most people will do whatever necessary to sustain their lives and it is therefore highly unlikely that you could get multiple people to all submit themselves to torture and ultimately death for something that they know to be a lie.

There are a few weaknesses to this argument but there is one in particular that I think disqualifies it as a serious apologetic defense. This is fundamentally an argument from probability. The person using this argument is saying that the odds of 11 people being willing to die for something they know to not be true is so highly improbable that it is more reasonable to assume that they were telling the truth. Taken in isolation as an abstract argument it seems on the surface to be reasonable. The problem is that if you use this argument then you must weigh the probability of those 11 people being willing to die for a lie against the probability that what they were saying is true.

In this case we have to ask which is more probable, that 11 people were willing to die for something they knew was not true or that God took upon Himself humanity, allowed Himself to be delivered over to sinful men, was crucified, and then resurrected Himself. To keep it simple let us just focus on a single element of the Christian message. What is the probability that a human being who has been dead for 3 days would come back from the dead? I agree with McDowell and others who claim that it is highly improbable that 11 people died for a lie, however, we must ask if that is more or less probable than one person coming back from the dead.

When taken together the various elements of the Christian gospel are far less probable than 11 people dying for something they know to not be true. Indeed, it is the uniqueness of what happened in Christ that is emphasized in the scriptures. The willingness of those men to die for the truth of the gospel is a testimony to the strength of their faith and an example to us of the commitment we are all called to. Their unwavering dedication to their Lord is therefore a powerful message for us but we should be careful not to rely upon it as a “proof” for the truth of the gospel. Our salvation rests upon us accepting that something that is tremendously improbable happened… that the almighty sovereign God of the universe sent His only begotten Son to die in our place and be raised from the dead so that His mercy and love might be demonstrated and His righteousness vindicated. We must admit that this is about the most unlikely thing that we could ever conceive of and yet we believe that this is exactly what happened. Let us pray that God would grant us the same commitment to that truth that He granted to the apostles by faith even unto death.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A brief consideration of objections to studying the doctrines of grace

Many Christians get uncomfortable when the topics of election and predestination come up. In fact, a conversation about any of the issues related to the doctrines of grace is potentially a cause of heartburn for a great many believers.  Many think these issues should only be sparingly handled and that it is usually better to not dig into them too deeply. I agree that it is certainly possible to handle these issues in an unhelpful or even damaging way but through the years I have noticed that much of the concern goes beyond concerns about appropriate balance or humility. In numerous occasions both in classes specific to the topic and in general bible studies where the question was raised I have been advised that these are issues that are best left mostly unexamined by the average Christian. Careful consideration of these objections demonstrates that there is something particular to these doctrines that causes them to be uniquely concerning to people. I would like to take a moment to briefly reflect upon the most popular reasons usually given as to why these topics should not be studied too seriously.

  1. These things are too complicated and we will never be able to understand them:

It is true that we should be wary of anyone who claims to have all the answers nailed down perfectly on these issues but is it true that these doctrines are uniquely complex? The answer is no. The doctrine of the incarnation for example is far more complex than are the doctrines of grace. Also fundamentally more complicated is the doctrine of the Trinity. I have, however, never been advised that I should avoid teaching on either of these. In fact, most people are excited to learn more of what the bible teaches about those truths. They recognize that they will not be fully comprehensible but want to know what has been revealed about them in a way that tends not to be the case with the doctrines of grace. It is true that the doctrines of grace are not fully comprehensible but neither are many other basic truths of our faith (we are laboring to understand God after all) and there is much more explicit scriptural teaching on the doctrines of grace than there is on other complicated topics such as the Trinity.

  1. There are brilliant Godly people on both sides of this issue:

This is closely related to #1 in that it implies that since other smarter people couldn’t come to a consensus that we shouldn’t bother. It is true that there are brilliant thinkers on both sides of these issues but our responsibility is to seek to understand the Word of God as best we can with the grace given to us. The things of God are spiritually discerned and the truths of any basic Christian doctrine are not attained upon the basis of the strength of our intellect but rather by God who reveals it. Indeed, there is no major theological issue upon which there is not a variation of opinion and yet on most of these things we are content to study them together and formulate our own conclusion. For example, issues such as the function, efficacy, and mode of baptism have a scholarly history just as divided as the doctrines of grace but within fellowships those issues are seldom avoided. It also seems to me that if there are various opinions on an important issue that there is more not less reason to look into it.

  1. We should not try to pry into the deep and secret things of God:

This concern is often followed by quoting Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God”. The implication is that by delving into these issues we are going beyond the boundaries of what the Lord intended for us to be concerned with. There are certainly things that the Lord has kept for Himself but the second half of Deut 29:29 reads “but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” The secret things belong to God but what He has revealed is given to us for our benefit and they “belong to us”. Our understanding of these issues should be biblically based and not simply philosophical speculation. The scriptural passages that bear upon these teachings are not hidden or secret. These themes run throughout the bible and include some rather long and extensive sections of scripture. In fact, they are so frequent that it is necessary to have a position of some kind on these issues in order to interpret many whole teaching segments including the overall argument of entire books such as Romans, Ephesians, 1 Peter etc. I agree that the why and how of these doctrines applied to particular lives and events is to a great extent a hidden thing in God but I believe that they are so is clearly revealed. The issue becomes one of interpretation of those passages. Whether it is well developed or not, if you are studying the bible you are already utilizing some kind of understanding of these doctrines to support your overall understanding of the revelation of God in the scriptures.

  1. These are not practical concerns… What difference does it really make?

Some Christians argue that we are called to witness the gospel and teach people to do what God has commanded and to what extent He is guiding, planning, or reacting to this doesn’t change that so why worry about it. Shouldn’t we pray as if everything depends upon God and work as though everything depends on us?  

There are few things that have more of a practical impact on the lives of a believer than their position on these issues. First, your perspective on these issues influences how you understand the very purpose of ministry, teaching, preaching etc. The type of worship service, type of evangelistic activities, and even the way that you pray will be influenced by your view of God and how He relates to His people. Second, your understanding of God’s sovereignty has a tremendous influence on how you respond to the challenges, trials, and setbacks in this world. It affects how you process things like the ultimate purpose behind the earthquake and tsunami that recently hit Japan or the pressures to compromise your integrity that might be placed upon you by your employer or associates. Third, the questions of what is involved in salvation and how it is attained and if it can be lost are preeminently practical questions that are foundational to Christian life and experience. If these doctrines do not make a difference in the lives of believers then I submit that they are either not understood or not believed.

  1. They are divisive

It is true that an examination of these doctrines can be divisive but we would do well to ask ourselves upon what basis they cause division. Often division is the result of stubbornness, pride, or arrogance. Obviously none of these is from The Spirit and are all inconsistent with the humble submission of the believer to the Word of God. If, however, these doctrines are investigated in Christian love and humility recognizing that they are difficult and seem to us all to be unnatural when we first encounter them then it is my experience that they can be discussed in a positive and productive way even with those who struggle with them. On the other hand there is a sense in which the Word of God divides His children from those who are not willing to submit to His teaching. As Luther said, wherever the Gospel is preached there is opposition. There are many other issues that are even more divisive such as the role of women in leadership, homosexual Christian identity, and even the style of the worship music that conservative churches continue to teach on openly without reservation.  Yes, these doctrines can be divisive but if handled with humility they should no more divisive than any other spiritual teaching in God’s Word.


I don’t doubt that these (and many others) are sincere concerns among brothers and sisters who raise them. If, however, we pause to reflect upon the logic of them we will see that there must be something else involved because those same people do not often seem to be as concerned about many other issues that would rightfully fall under the same objections. There are many complex and sensitive issues that we routinely discuss among ourselves when we gather to study. Certainly since these doctrines touch upon our fundamental understanding of God and salvation they easily lend themselves to emotional reactions. To change ones mind (either way) regarding these truths requires the alteration of ones very view of the world and God at a basic level. The reason, however, why we are naturally hesitant to investigate them is that they also require a fundamental shift in how we understand ourselves. Whatever position we hold, we should not be afraid to seek an understanding of what God has revealed to us in His word. The Word of God was not given only to the scribes and scholars, it was given to all of us for our own edification and growth and every truth in it is there for our benefit. Since God chose to include these truths in His word we have a responsibility to address ourselves to them. I pray that we always do so with due reverence and humility so that both the stronger and weaker brothers and sisters might be built up.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

God's Work in Ours

In our time one of the most contentious questions, especially within Reformed theological communities, is the nature and process of sanctification. There have been many debates about the necessity of personal holiness and its relation to ultimate salvation. Some are hesitant to argue that works of righteousness are necessary to salvation and others insist upon it. It seems to me that part of the issue in the modern debate is due to the failure to make appropriate distinctions with regard to the cause, means, and effect of sanctification. The following passage from Abraham Kuyper’s The Work of the Holy Spirit provides a helpful perspective on the biblical teaching. He shows that personal holiness is a necessary effect in our lives that originates wholly from God’s gracious work in us.

“The difference between sanctification and good works should be well understood. Many confound the two, and believe that sanctification means to lead an honorable and virtuous life; and, since this is equal to good works, sanctification, without which no man shall see God, is made to consist in the earnest and diligent effort to do good works.

But this reasoning is false. The grape should not be confounded with the vine, lightning with thunder, the birth with the conception, any more than sanctification with good works. Sanctification is the kernel from which the blade and full ear of good works shall spring; but this does not identify the kernel with the blade. The former lies in the ground and by its fibers attaches itself to the furrow internally. The latter shoots from the ground externally and visibly. So is sanctification the implanting of the germ, of the disposition, and inclination which shall produce the blossom and fruit of a good work.

Sanctification is God’s work in us, whereby He imparts to our members a holy disposition, inwardly filling us with delight in His law and with repugnance to sin. But good works are acts of man, which spring from this holy disposition. Hence sanctification is the source of good works, the lamp that shall shine with their light, the capital of which they are the interest. Allow us to repeat it: “sanctification“ is a work of God; “Good works” are of men. “Sanctification” works internally; “good works” are external. “Sanctification“ imparts something to man; “good works” take something out of him. “Sanctification” forces the root into the ground; to do “good works” forces the fruit out of the fruitful tree.

To confound these two leads the people astray. The Pietist says: “Sanctification is man’s work; it can not be insisted upon with sufficient emphasis. It is our best effort to be godly.” And the Mystic maintains: “We can not do good works, and may not insist upon them for man is unable; God alone works them in him independently of him.” Of course, both are equally wrong and unscriptural. The former, in reducing sanctification to good works, takes it out of God’s hand and lays it upon man, who never can perform it; and the latter, in making good works take the place of sanctification, releases man from the task laid on him and claims that God will perform it. Both errors must be opposed.

Both sanctification and good works should receive recognition. Ministers of the Word, and through them the people of God, should understand that sanctification is an act of God that He performs in man; and that God has commanded man to do good works to the glory of His name. And this will have twofold effect: (1) God’s people will acknowledge their complete inability to receive a holy disposition otherwise than as a gift of free grace, and then they will earnestly pray for this grace. (2) They will pray that His elect, in whom this work is already wrought, may show it forth in God-glorifying works: “Chosen in Christ Jesus, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Ephes. i. 4).

                                                                                                            -Abraham Kuyper

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Giving up Church for Lent?

 A priest at an Episcopal Church decided to give up church for lent this year and instead decided to practice Islam for 40 days. Read the article HERE. Thankfully, even in the rather liberal Episcopal Church, his superiors recognized this as an outright rejection of Christianity and informed him that he must stop or be defrocked. "He can't be both a Christian and a Muslim," said Bishop George Wayne Smith of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. "If he chooses to practice as Muslim, then he would, by default, give up his Christian identity and priesthood in the church." Amazingly this minister did not anticipate any problems with what he was planning to do.

I was planning to write an entire post on this but rather I will just make a few brief comments. Do not even most unbelievers know that the very first commandment is to have no other Gods? Do so called ministers such as this even have the most passing familiarity with what is in the scriptures? Why bother using the name Christian if you have rejected all of its fundamental content? Is this not this kind of display dishonoring to both Christians as well as Muslims?

Let us pray for this minister that the Lord opens his eyes and also for the Bishop who has demonstrated integrity by putting a stop to this nonsense.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Unhelpful Answers: “God had nothing to do with it.”

“Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth?” (Lam 3:38)

When tragedy befalls people it is a natural impulse for them to ask the question “why did God allow this to happen”. When we encounter a person who is deeply wounded by some calamity in their lives as believers we are moved to compassion and our instinct is to comfort the afflicted. By grace we recognize that the ultimate comfort is found in God and we want to see the disconcerted flee to Him and so be delivered from their affliction. This is good and right but unfortunately many well meaning Christians try and place an unbridgeable gap between the negative experience and God in an unbiblical way. They respond to the question “why did God allow this to happen” by saying something similar to “God did not do this, the devil did, God had nothing to do with it.” While we may understand the intention of the person who gives this kind of answer upon further reflection we will see that it is most unhelpful.

All orthodox Christian’s regardless of their theological perspective wish to maintain the sovereignty of God in some sense or another. I have never met any Christian who denies it. There are, however, important distinctions in the way that various groups understand that sovereignty to operate. Many who would support giving the kind of answer referred to above deny that God plans or intends any calamity or affliction. They argue rather that He merely permits them.

Let us assume for a moment that this is true. Even If God merely permits these calamities He must retain the sovereign power to also prevent such things from happening. A person cannot be said to permit something unless they also have the ability to prohibit the same. If, however, God has the kind of sovereignty that gives Him the power to prevent such things or also to permit them then God must choose which particular actions or events He will permit or prevent. Therefore, even if you deny that the Lord ordains such things you still cannot claim that somehow He has nothing to do with them. Unless we deny God’s power over His creation in some circumstances (i.e. rejecting historical Christianity and the teaching of the bible) we must admit that God, for His purposes is in some sense involved in these events. The answer that “God has nothing to do with it” is simply not a possible answer for the Christian.

There is another reason why this is an unhelpful answer especially for those who are believers. Despite the best intentions it is simply not a comforting thought that the devil has some power to afflict, wound, or otherwise hurt us without that ability being submitted to the good purposes of God. It is not a pleasing thought that there is a raving maniacal enemy out there who has the power to randomly destroy based upon his own agenda. Is it not more comforting to know that even the devil himself is in the final analysis under the power of God and despite his own rebellious efforts remains a tool used by God to ultimately bring about His holy and good purposes?

How then should we comfort the afflicted believers? We should do it on the same basis that is used by the writers of scripture. The bible teaches that as believers we are included in the plan of God and that everything that happens, good or bad, will be for our ultimate good. Paul explains to the Romans that

“God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8:28)

James reveals to us that these trials actually provide a valuable contribution to our spiritual development.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

Peter, like James shows us that we should rejoice at our trials because in addition to perfecting of our faith as individuals they will also result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of our Lord.

“ In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,  so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6-7)

These are just a handful of the numerous passages that demonstrate that there is a purpose in the suffering and trials in our lives that will ultimately be for our good and the glory of God. When we come to understand who God is and who we are we know we can trust Him that everything in our lives, though we may not understand it, is in His hand and ultimately will glorify Him. As His children our greatest joy should be in His glory. We should be willing to exchange all that we have if He should require it of us having implicit trust in His judgment. We should pray for the grace to say with Job “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10) and “Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15). We have confidence that the attacks of the enemy cannot go beyond what the Lord has purposed. Again we recall the story of Job where we see that Satan cannot afflict beyond what has been prescribed by God.

Likewise we know from many other places in scripture that it is the Lord Himself who ordains even the seemingly negative things in our lives (from our perspective). As Joseph tells his brothers after they learn who he is, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen. 50:20) Notice that there are two distinct intentions referring to the very same action. The evil of the brothers caused Joseph to be sold but it was also the good purpose and intention (plan) of the Lord. This isn’t God reacting to the evil it is Him positively working out His plans even through the sinful acts of evil men. Jeremiah tells us that the Lord does not afflict from “His heart” but He does afflict. Our great hope and confidence is that He does so for a greater purpose.

When some affliction befalls us or someone we know we may not be able to explain the Lords purpose in it but for the believer there is no more comforting thing than to know that the God who loves them remains in control. If we trust in Him we can face whatever tomorrow brings not because of our own strength but because of the power of the one to whom we belong, the one who purchased us with His blood.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:35-37)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Book Review: Michael Reeves, The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation.

669316: The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation

By Michael Reeves / B&H Academic

Burning pyres, nuns on the run, stirring courage, and comic relief: the Protestant Reformation is a gripping tale, packed with drama. But what motivated the Reformers? And what were they really like?

The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation, is a lively, accessible, and fully informative introduction to the Reformation by Michael Reeves. It brings to life the movement's most colorful characters (Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin,), while also examining their ideas, showing the profound and personal relevance of Reformation thinking for today. Also included are a lengthy Reformation timeline, a map of key places in the Reformation, further reading suggestions, and, in this U.S. edition, a new foreword by 9 Marks Ministries president Mark Dever.

This book by Michael Reeves was not what I expected. It does not contain the type of contextualization that one would expect from a history book nor does it provide any coherent social, political, economic, or theological understanding of the Reformation. It is also not really a work of biography in the pure sense. It is essentially a series of biographical sketches that is intended to introduce the reader to some of the main characters of the Reformation. The writing isn’t all that great and the organization of the material makes the reader feel as though they are jumping from one thing to another in a somewhat rushed and disorganized fashion. It is not the book I would recommend for anyone who was looking for a serious introduction to either the history or theology of the Reformation.

Having said that however; it is probably one of the most accessible books I have read for readers who simply want a brief introduction to the major figures of the time period. It is clearly not intended as a weighty history or theology book and it likely serves well its intended audience. The book deals with most of the main characters and touches on important themes that provide the reader a starting point for further reading or for those who simply want a brief introduction. It is very short, easy to read, and includes enough drama and comedy to hold the readers attention while also giving a basic sketch of key issues. This book does a good job serving a particular need as an easy to read introduction to the key personalities of this fascinating and important time period. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Does God Still Do Miracles?

There are some people who have understood the traditional Reformed teaching that miracles do not continue into our current time to mean that God no longer works supernaturally in the world. This is not the case. There is no contradiction between the teaching that miracles have ceased and that God still heals, preserves life, and works out various things in extraordinary ways through prayer.

As we have seen before, it is very important when listening to or reading theologians that we pay careful attention to how they define their terms. The confusion regarding this matter is, I think, directly related to the way that the word “miracle” is used in a technical sense by theologians. The theological definition of a miracle is “a work effected in a manner unusual, or different from the common and regular method of providence, by the interposition either of God himself, or of some intelligent agent superior to man, for the proof or evidence of some particular doctrine, or in attestation to the authority of some particular person.” (Samuel Clarke’s definition)

Notice that this is very different from the way we typically use the word miracle. We talk of various things being miracles such as the birth of a child, the conversion of a lost soul, the survival of a person from a major accident, etc. These things may be remarkable in their own right but none of them technically qualify as miracles. A birth of a baby is an amazing thing but it has happened almost every single day in human history and is governed by ordinary physical processes.  The conversion of a sinner does not qualify because it is not a directly observable phenomenon. The verifyable healings and remarkable survival stories I am familiar with also occured according to natural (though improbable) processes. Virtually none of the things that we typically call miracles meet the criteria set forth by the technical definition. In fact, even some of the marvelous incidents recorded in the scripture are properly displays of providence rather than miracle.

The bible uses a number of different words to describe what we refer to as the miracles of Jesus and His disciples. They are called signs (shmeion), wonders (pala), and power (dunamiV). There are many in our day who hope to see similar manifestations in their own lives and there is no shortage of teachers who assure us that with enough faith this is possible. That kind of thinking, however, misses a very important distinction between the true biblical miracles and the kinds of things we sometimes refer to as miraculous answers to prayer. All the technical miracles of Jesus and His prophets and apostles have a particular characteristic in common. They are designed to give attestation to a particular teaching or the authority of a particular person who is being used by God as an agent of revelation.

As Herman Ridderbos explains in his book The Coming of the Kingdom, “Nowhere in the gospels do we see that a miracle has an independent or transcendent function detached from the preaching of the gospel.” He goes on to point out that in the gospel narratives the attempts to get Jesus to do a miracle apart from the attestation of His message and authority come from the devil and those opposed to Christ and are strongly rejected by Him. The miracles themselves apart from the acceptance of the message in faith are of no ultimate value to those who experience them (Luke 17:17-19, Matt 7:22-23). The miracles were intended as a validation of the message of God and to function as an undeniable divine stamp of approval. The miracles of Christ (and the apostles) therefore cannot be separated from the message and the identity of the message giver.

The miracles of the bible therefore are different in at least two ways from what we pray for today. First, they obviously involve a violation of natural or physical laws. Jesus raises the dead, controls the weather, walks on water, and when He uses miraculous healing the results are instantaneous and undeniably dramatic. I have personally witnessed people who have been delivered from sickness and others who survived and recovered from horrible accidents when the probability of them doing so was virtually non-existent. In each case, however, there was a recovery process. I have heard testimony from others who claim that they were sick with disease one day and the next day it was gone. I have no reason to doubt their testimony but in each case the process was possibly the result of physical processes, however unlikely. This is rather different from the miraculous healings of Jesus who instantaneously restored people who had not walked in 38 years, or whose hand was atrophied in an overt demonstration of His power. Second, as I already mentioned, those miracles were always combined with a prophetic proclamation of the Kingdom of God. The miracles were intentionally timed and positioned to validate The Message and were not performed solely as acts of kindness. They are always pointers to something beyond the physical.

God continues to work in magnificent ways in the lives of His people. Although miracles in the technical theological sense are not to be expected today miracles in the more common ordinary usage of the word do indeed continue to happen. The Lord answers prayer, heals the sick, provides for needs, delivers those in peril, and much more. The difference is that He normally chooses to do this according to His divine providence whereby He directs all things rather than through a suspension of natural or physical laws. We are not seeking signs, rather when we pray, having already believed, we are entrusting our needs and desires to Him.

There is one final issue related to this that I would like to address. There are Reformed theologians who teach that it is essentially impossible for a true miracle to occur today since the canon is now closed. The argument is that if a true miracle occurs then it means that God is giving new revelation which would imply that the message of the scriptures is not complete, full, or sufficient. I have to be careful here because I very much believe in the sufficiency of scripture but I do not think that it is necessary to argue from that position that true miracles are impossible.  There could conceivably be circumstances where God may miraculously confirm the Gospel message already given without raising up a new prophet in the full sense. I would be skeptical of any such claim because it is clearly not the way the Lord normally works and He has called us to be discerning of the spirits but I also cannot limit God. If God chooses to He can certainly perform a true miracle. However He chooses to work I praise God that I can approach His throne of grace in prayer and in the confidence that He will answer.