Getting down to brass tacks, I believe the issue that Christians need to focus on here is how do we understand faith in relation to healing and other phenomena? What differentiates between the miraculous and the magical? How is exercising the will different from exercising faith? As we’ve seen it is not necessarily the use of drama and symbols by the healer.
If you look at the way the word faith (Greek: pistis) is used in the Bible is soon becomes clear that it is more than just an affirmation of dogma. It is more than just an affirmation of some historical truths. It is more even than affirmation of loyalty to Jesus as the revelation of YHWH. Christian faith is deep confidence in the power of YHWH to act and the willingness of YHWH to act. Christian faith is the conviction that God has already and will act for us – there is no need to try and coerce him and it would be foolish to do so.
Faith is deeply related to repentance (Greek: metanoia). Translated literally it means change of mind. Faith ultimately involves a shift in consciousness every bit as much as the will-based magic of Neo-Pagans. But is a different sort of consciousness shift.
One thought on “Magic and the Messiah – Part II”
One other angle to explore is that the miraculous is God-initiated. Either by direct encounter or mediated through a consecrated agent the miraculous occurs.
Magic tends to focus on technique to curry favours with the divine, spirit/s, transcendent.
Though there are some common pheneomenological elements in the biblical world – prophets in Israel, prophets outside Israel, divining by lots, omens, night-visions etc; the biblical text drives the reader to contemplate: which deity, more so than which technique.
An attempt to relocate Jesus as magician was attempted by Morton Smith (of Secret Gospel of Mark fame). The primary difficulty he created with his portrait is that he used 3rd and 4th century AD evidence and read it back into the first century.
Some of the distinctives between magic and miracle are explored in the writings of Edwin Yamauchi, especially an essay of his in volume 6 of “Gospel Perspectives” published by JSOT Press.