Book Review: Miracles by Eric Metaxas

Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life was not the book I anticipated it would be. In any way. I hope to express to you, the reader, not only themes and thoughts of this book, but how it personally affected and challenged me in my own thinking. We won’t be lingering in the abstract.

What is Miracles all about? I do not think I could express it as succinctly as Eric Metaxas does in the closing thoughts of the first chapter, so I will let him speak for the book: “What if the half-truth of the desire for something beyond us could meet up with the half-truth of the desire for only what is really real and true, which we can know and see and touch in this world too? What if those two halves could touch and become the one true truth we were both looking for? This is a book about that.”

Miracles is presented in two sections. The first is the Question of Miracles. What are they, how do we define a miracle, how do miracles and science relate, and other questions and discussions of miracles. The second is stories of miracles from sources that Metaxas himself accounts for as trustworthy. It may be helpful to you, as it was me, to see a miracle as a sign. A miracle points to something other than and beyond itself.

In the first section of the Question of Miracles, I was caught off-guard, because this was part of what I didn’t expect. How everything that exists is even in existence is amazing. From the beginning of time until the present, the balance necessary to keep everything in motion is astounding. One of my favorite quotes from the first half of the book is this: “The more science learns, the clearer it is that although we are here, we shouldn’t be.” You will not read a dismantling of science here, but a confirmation of it. Metaxas is not dismissive of science, but rather that which is unscientific. I finished every chapter thinking to myself, “This is incredible.” The tone is conversational, not confrontational. What are we to make of science, the universe, the earth, water, life, suffering, Jesus, and the resurrection? Metaxas asks the reader to consider “what if…” instead of demanding “you should.”

One thing that I felt may be a stumbling block to Christians reading this is the discussion around the age of the earth. Whether you believe that the earth is billions of years old, or six thousand years old, to me, is not a hill to die upon. Do not allow yourself to get snagged on that bramble bush of cognitive dissonance, but consider what IS. Now let’s untangle and keep going.

Moving from the Questions in the first half to the Miracles themselves in the second half, I found myself moving from being amazed to being challenged. This is the next part of what I didn’t expect, as I thought when I started that the book may just be a download of data. What these miracles exposed in my own heart was what I’ve heard referred to as tribalism within Christianity. Eric Metaxas seems to operate outside of the tribes of Christianity. By that, I mean that he does not segregate himself by only participating with one group of doctrines or ideas, but seems comfortable among Episcopalian, Catholic, Presbyterian, charismatics, and Greek Orthodox in his conversation. Being narrow minded is not something you could easily accuse Eric Metaxas of. So what of being challenged? I’ll be honest here. I don’t have much struggle believing that God can create and hold together the unfathomable measures of the universe. But that God could actually work through a faith healer? That felt like an uncrossable chasm to me. I even talked to my pastor about it, who kindly told me that it is God who heals, not faith healers. Even within my own Christian walk, reading Miracles has laid me out as narrow minded. Metaxas gracefully shows us that God works where He will through who He will. God is not and will not be confined to any box that we attempt to cram him into. I could not help but think of the Beaver in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, commenting about Aslan that “He is not a safe lion, but he is good.” Indeed.

So what of this God, and what is he all about? I fell into a trap in the Miracles section. I began to see the miracles not as signs, but as stories of unusual events that happened. The author doesn’t present them in this way, but it is the mindset I carried into it. As I finished the “A Girl and a Squirrel” miracle, I realized something. In the beginning of the book, Eric Metaxas clearly says that miracles are meant to be signs that point towards God. Having read miracle after miracle, I lost sight of that. Eric tells us to read between the lines, but then I found myself only reading the lines. He’s inviting you to investigate for yourself who this God is that cares about the sadness (which we are tempted to call silly) of a 10 year old girl. That God is a God of compassion? This is certainly a challenge in the world where the truth is used as a baseball bat to beat people with. Eric Metaxas not once wields that bat, but is himself a recipient of that compassion. In his own testimony, he says, “God knew me infinitely better than I knew myself, and he had taken the trouble to speak to me in the most intimate language there was: the secret language of my own heart.” I love this.

Further, in the testimony of his own conversion, Eric describes a man he seems to recognize as “He wasn’t an angry man; there was a kindness and gentleness to him. He wasn’t someone with a theological ax to grind; he seemed to embody the peace of God, the way Christians are supposed to but often don’t.” This is another area where I was challenged. I have been that guy with a theological ax to grind, not embodying the peace of God. I’ve had relationships strained because of how dogmatically I have held positions and valued them over the actual person. To read this miracle story laid me bare. In direct contrast to who I have been, Eric Metaxas fits the description of the man he recognized as he writes this book. It was just as refreshing to me as it was challenging.

Miracles is not a book filled with Christian-ese cliches and platitudes. It’s not a theological hammer, crushing you against the anvil of doctrine. It’s not page after page of to-do lists. It’s not a book of fluffy “Chicken Soup for the Soul” stories that bear no weight in the real world. It’s a book you’ll actually enjoy reading. Who is this book for? People who have questions. People who doubt. People who have longings, wishing they knew more and wishing the world was better. People like me. Miracles has gently challenged me to reconsider things I had written off as wrong.

As I was reading the final pages of Miracles, I was sitting in the room with my kids while they watched the movie version of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. As I set the book down, the scene was Reepicheep humbly approaching Aslan to say, “Ever since I can remember, I have dreamt of entering your country.” What I can say of Miracles by Eric Metaxas is that I see a little more clearly, like wiping a layer of fog off a mirror, that there is a God who is not only vast, unconfined and amazing in his power, but personal and amazing in that he would condescend to rest his arms around the shoulders of broken people like me. This God of compassion bids us to come and rest in him. The flames of my dreams of entering His country have been fanned.

You can read more about Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life at http://www.ericmetaxas.com/miracles/

*Disclosure: I was accepted to be part of the Launch Team for Miracles by the publisher. In no way did this require a positive review for the book, but I was only asked for my thoughts and quotes that stood out to me. 

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