What is an accurate interpretation of these passages?
For John 20:29, my thoughts here.
For 1 Corinthians 5:6-7, my thoughts here.
A brief summary for each:
- From John: it is good to believe based on evidence. It is good to put God’s promises to the test. It is bad to tell God we don’t like the evidence He’s given us. God expects to provide reasons to believe, expects people to test His promises, and expects them to act rationally based upon that evidence
- From Paul: God gives a glimpse of what He can do, and He asks people to put more stock in that than in whatever the world clearly dangles in front of our eyes. By design, we cannot currently see the full picture. But we know someone who can, and we trust Him, so we walk in His direction & at His direction.
Does walking by faith preclude miracles?
(Note: in the sense that we shouldn't expect them because we don't need them, we walk by faith so miracles aren't necessary anymore.)
No. Faith/trust in the Lord has been part of the program all along--this is apparent even under the assumption (which I don't hold) that miracles were restricted to Biblical times:
- Proverbs 3:5 - Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
- 1 Timothy 1:12 - I know the one in whom I have put my trust
- Matthew 8:26 - Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? [note that it's "little" faith, not "no" faith, so they have some faith]
Clearly the apostles (and other Biblical figures) had faith and witnessed miracles (and yet, despite seeing miracles, their knowledge was not perfect--consider, for example, Peter's actions in Gethsemane & at the home of Caiaphas. He had seen miracles, he had faith, yet there were things he did not yet understand). Faith & miracles are not mutually exclusive.
Spencer W. Kimball wrote a book entitled "Faith Precedes the Miracle" outlining that the direction is from faith to miracle, not the other way around.
If we grant that miracles are a type of sign, the following teaching of Joseph Smith is insightful:
9 But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that
10 Yea, signs come by faith, not by the will of men, nor as they
please, but by the will of God. (D&C 63:9-10, see also Mark 16:17)
Does witnessing miracles preclude faith?
(Note: in the sense that if we witness miracles, then we will know that the supernatural is real instead of simply believe in the supernatural by faith.)
No. Alma addressed this topic very directly. He compared the word of God to a seed that grows into a great tree. A few key passages from Alma 32:27-43 below (emphasis mine):
But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an
experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even
if ye can no more than desire to believe...
Now, we will compare the
word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in
your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not
cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the
Lord, behold, it will begin to swell...as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then
you must needs say that the seed is good...And now, behold, because ye
have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and
sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is
good. And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge
is perfect in that thing...
...and now behold, after...[this] is your knowledge perfect? Behold I
say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have
only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the
experiment to know if the seed was good...
And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye
of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the
tree of life. But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree
as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with
patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root;
and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
(See the full passage for a more detailed discussion of the experiment Alma recommends).
Alma makes a clear distinction between gaining knowledge in one particular thing, versus having a perfect knowledge of everything. God can give us sure knowledge of something without giving us sure knowledge of everything--we may see some parts of the picture, but we do not see the full picture--we exercise faith in Him who does.
I suggest then, a difference between a) knowing God is real, and b) knowing how God is going to get His work done. One can know "a" without knowing "b", and knowledge of God can give us confidence to trust Him even though we don't know "b".
Is it possible to have faith and witness miracles at the same time?
If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this
mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and
nothing shall be impossible unto you (Matthew 17:20).
though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains (1 Cor.
Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to
him that believeth (Mark 9:23)
Miracles are expected to accompany faith.