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As far as I'm aware, most Christians have never personally experienced anything "overtly miraculous", that is, no words of knowledge, no prophecy, no miraculous healings, no dreams, no visions, no audible voice from God, no angelic encounters, no demonic encounters, no tongues (xenoglossy), no Christophanies, etc.

If continuationism is true, then how do continuationists explain the absence of "overtly miraculous" experiences by the vast majority of Christians?

If continuationism is true, then why do most Christians never get to experience this continuation?


Related

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  • The NT clearly teaches in many places a diversity of spiritual gifts. Why should everyone experience one of those?
    – curiousdannii
    May 24 at 4:37
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    @OneGodtheFather - No. It's my common sense perception after having partaken in lots of discussions on the topic. May 24 at 5:48
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    It is my own lifelong experience (I am now seventy years old) that, as you say, most Christians have never personally experienced anything "overtly miraculous", Many talk about such occurrences but when pressed, they admit to none themselves and to have witnessed none, themselves. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    May 24 at 5:55
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    @OneGodtheFather - A little update, I found this article: barna.com/research/… May 24 at 5:56
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator "no words of knowledge, no prophecy, no miraculous healings, no dreams, no visions" Hmm ... all of these are pretty vague. May 24 at 6:21

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I propose at least 5 reasons for this to be the case:

1. Seek the best gifts

In 1 Cor 12:31 Paul counsels people to desire/covet/zealously strive for the best gifts. The seeking & zeal imply action on the believer's part; believers are not instructed to sit back, relax, and wait for God to deliver gifts with 2-day shipping (tracking number included). Jesus taught people to ask, seek, and knock. Apparently some blessings are given contingent upon asking for them (in faith) and contributing one's own best--albeit meager--efforts.

When we consider the intense labor & trial Paul was called upon to endure in order to convey the gospel with spiritual power (e.g. see 1 Cor. 2:4), why should we expect otherwise?

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2. Diversity of Gifts

Paul's comparison of the faithful to hands, feet, noses, etc.--each essential although performing different functions--presupposes that not every gift is given to every believer--the analogy falls apart otherwise. We should not expect every gift to be demonstrated in every individual, but that the collective gifts/strengths individuals bring to the work accomplishes what no single individual could do.

Nowhere do the scriptural texts on gifts suggest that they have provided a finite list of all possible gifts...indeed, the fact that the lists given in different passages are not identical requires that the individual lists are not intended to be exhaustive. There is no Biblical basis for concluding that if a gift is not enumerated in the Bible it cannot come from God.

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3. Purpose of miracles

What is the purpose of miracles?

John 6:66 makes it pretty clear that miracles are not the secret sauce to conversion, and that God doesn't just want people's curiosity, He wants their heart.

I suggest that God performs miracles to aid His children in accomplishing what they otherwise could not do on their own, not to show off. If the goal of miracles were to impress people into believing, God could just show Himself to everyone with thunder & lightning. Jesus could have just appeared to everyone in Jerusalem after the resurrection. God could solve every problem in the way people desire immediately upon request. This is not God's plan or program - He wants to change people, not merely ooh and aah them like a stage performer.

I share further thoughts on why God deliberately does not appear to everyone on my channel here.

(additionally, if God is supplying miraculous aid to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, one would expect that miraculous healings would decrease in frequency at least a little bit as medical knowledge advances...it wouldn't be particularly consistent for someone to plead to God for healing while denying readily available aid that He has inspired. Cue the cliché about the man dying in a flood after God sends a boat, helicopter, etc. to rescue him and he turns them all down)

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4. Apostasy

For believers in the Great Apostasy, such as myself, the unsavory realities described by Paul in 2 Tim. 3:1-7, 2 Thess. 2:3, etc. suggest a time where the gifts & power of God would be less evident in many people's lives. Indeed as recently as the 19th century it was commonplace among many Christians to believe that:

there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them. (source -- note that I am quoting what others have said, this statement does not at all reflect my personal beliefs)

This viewpoint clearly depicts a time when people are less likely to expect gifts from God, less likely to ask for them, and less likely to attribute divine aid in their lives to God when it does come.

Mark 16 teaches that "signs shall follow them that believe" (not "them that believe shall follow signs"). If there is a decline in belief, access to truth, authority & power from God, or other features often associated with apostasy, a decrease in frequency of signs should not be surprising.

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5. Sacred nature of divine experiences

  • John is the only evangelist who does not write about the mount of transfiguration, even though he was the only one of the four who was present.
  • Mary had sacred experiences--surely most of which we know nothing about--and yet it is said of her:

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)

  • Jesus taught that we should not cast our pearls before swine. If people choose to mock belief in miracles reported in the past, why would they be any less condescending towards miracles reported in the present? What good would come of tossing a few more pearls in their path? (see also Jesus' excellent summary of this reality in Luke 16:31, and His teaching in Luke 12:47-48 for why it is merciful to not give people light & truth they aren't ready for).

I suggest there is little to be gained in sharing deeply personal, private experiences in impersonal, public ways, unless instructed by God to do otherwise. A powerful spiritual manifestation cannot be adequately represented by the clumsy, imprecise symbols we call words. As a result, many believers will point people directly to the source, rather than trying to impress people by showing off their own blessings.

I am aware of modern examples of all of the miraculous phenomena described in the OP. A public internet forum is not the place to share them. (Alas, this means that there is a chronic, statistical underreporting of miracles on the internet).

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Conclusion

While God does show a pattern of validating--through demonstrations of His power--the authenticity of the call of His servants who are asked to open a new chapter/covenant/dispensation of His work (think Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc.)--it is my experience that most of the miraculous gifts God gives to the faithful are private, personal experiences, designed to convert & develop the believer and aid them in doing His work, not to score headlines.

It is not my place to question the sincerity of anyone else's convictions. But it is my experience that when people diligently & sincerely apply Jesus' command to ask, seek, and knock, God gives knowledge & power in miraculous ways.

These gifts from God may not always be dazzling, and they may not ever be publicly known, but as impressive as moving a mountain may be, I propose that a far greater miracle is performed every time God changes a person's heart.

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29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. (1 Coronthians 12:29-31)

The Apostle Paul gave us reason to believe that most believers would not experience most gifts, so we must depend on each other collectively to hear from God.

Every phenomena on your list except angelic visitation is one that I have either experienced personally or has been experienced by someone whom I know closely.

  • The man I know (a dentist named Ross) who saw Jesus personally was healed of blindness due to an injury as a result of the encounter.
  • A woman at my church named Lynette prophesied that I would soon meet a woman; I met my future wife a few weeks later.
  • On another occasion, I was at a prayer meeting at church when I suddenly felt the overwhelming urge to pray for a woman named Sally I did not know well who had not attended in over a year. I later found out that at the time we were praying, she was on the other side of the world in Papua, New Guinea, in the hospital following an attack by a gang that nearly killed her, clinging for life. I also learned that other friends of hers from around the world were all struck in the same way.
  • I once lost hearing in my left ear. While at the ear doctor's office, I was led to read Exodus 4, where God says that he is the one who makes people deaf. I trusted that God was in control and was at peace. Two days later, my hearing returned.

Belief in miraculous gifts is taught in church doctrinally but maintained through personal contacts among believers who share their stories of how God has worked wonders for them.

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Consider what happened during biblical times when there were overt miracles:

He divided the sea and caused them to pass through;
And He made the waters stand up like a heap.
In the daytime also He led them with the cloud,
And all the night with a light of fire.
He split the rocks in the wilderness,
And gave them drink in abundance like the depths.
He also brought streams out of the rock,
And caused waters to run down like rivers.

But they sinned even more against Him …
— Psalm 78:13–17

Time and again, God or his prophets demonstrated spectacular miracles to people that already believed, and in almost all cases, those people were awed, but only briefly, before returning to their sinful ways.

Spectacular miracles get people’s attention, but they don’t have lasting effects.

Jesus used overt miracles both to attract and retain a small number of loyal followers and to leave an impression on other people so that they would remember what had happened after he was gone. But very few people were convinced simply by having seen these events.

Since then the church of God itself has remained small; this is not the time when God is trying to convert and save the world (if it is, he’s been doing a rather poor job of it). For two thousand years, Israel served as a physical example of the effects of following and not following God’s laws. For the next two thousand years, spiritual Israel (Christians) have been providing examples of following God’s laws in their spiritual sense.

Miracles do continue to happen within the church of God, but they are small, individual, and generally not reproducible or provable.

It’s only during the end times that spectacular miracles will again be performed. For instance:

And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. … And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.

When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.

Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.

The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.
— Revelation 11:3–14

As always happens, the message will generally be lost. God will perform spectacular miracles, but most people will dismiss them and celebrate the deaths of those that performed them.

Some people though, perhaps those represented by the lukewarm church of Laodicea, will recall the biblical prophesies, understand that they are actually happening, right now, and many of them will "be zealous therefore, and repent" (Revelation 3:19).

But until then, the personal miracles of conversion, of healing, of answered prayer, of etc. continue to occur within the Church, but there is no need for them to be spectacular or public.

For a better and more complete explanation, see Why No Spectacular Miracles Today? | United Church of God, which ends with this summary:

Even when God does speak and interact directly with us as He did with the likes of Elijah and Enoch, man will still not repent. No, miracles are not the answer, at least not the miracles you spoke about in your letter, but rather the miracle of true conversion is what man so desperately needs.

Were their needs greater than ours, as you posed in your letter? No. All mankind has the same need—the Spirit of the Living God, miraculously dwelling and working in their hearts and minds. Let us be searching for that lasting miracle, not the fleeting, attention-getting miracles that usually lead no one anywhere.

As much as miracles are great and wonderful, they never have and never will convert the hard, stony heart of man. Only the miracle of the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit will ever perform that miracle. And that is what God is doing today, through the work of His Church and people, as He offers the opportunity for the miracle of a transformed, Spirit-led life to those who are willing to accept that gift—that miracle.

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