THE buzzword in religious circles today is ‘miracles’; a church either has to have miracles or it simply has nothing to offer.

This has resulted in a situation where people, mesmerized by the miracles, have to double­ dip for salvation.

Double ­dipping for salvation relates to people belonging to traditional churches alternating between the miracle churches and the conservative churches.

Charismatic churches are famed for outlandish miracles which, among others, involve people walking on water, babies supposedly being born within three days and people receiving wads of United States dollars in their pockets from nowhere.

As a result, in the absence of these wonders, churches, particularly traditional churches, have struggled with a laity torn between the lure of miracles and worshiping God in the absence of the highly fancied miracles.

We have seen things like towels and aprons being used in healing. We have seen people falling en­masse each time the ‘man of God’ lifts his hand.

Miracles have also ranged to the extreme category where people have been made to eat grass and drink petrol.

However, empirically, some of these miracles, like instant weight loss, have attracted a lot of criticism.

In fact, like I have noted on several occasions, it is this miracles rush that has, to a huge extent dented Christianity.

It has led to a rise in the number of people slamming religion, arguing that it leads to people becoming ‘brain dead’ and docile.

Now, the question is: what exactly makes a miracle? How do we identify whether a miracle is from God or not? Remember, the Bible also states that even the devil transforms himself into an angel of light.

Even William Shakespeare, in one of his analytical interludes, cited that the devil can cite scripture for his own use.

So what is it with the miracle frenzy? Is the world experiencing ‘miracle wave’ as the exponents of modern miracles would like to say? Miracles or magic A miracle refers to something, an occurrence which is beyond the comprehension of the human mind.

It is metaphysical; that is to say it can only be explained in terms of the supernatural. A miracle defies reason, logic or science.

It is not subject to the natural laws of science. Again, one may ask, what then is magic? Is magic the same as a miracle? Well, magic relates to something allegedly supernatural; it is associated with the supernatural as well.

In magic, they can have a human being laying an egg. They can have paper turning into money.

Now, seeing clearly that both a magical act and a miracle go into the supernatural, how can one make a distinction, particularly at a time when every contemporary church is laying claim on miracles?

The difference between magical acts and miracles is as real as wood. As far as Christianity is concerned, any ‘miracle’ that is performed in the absence of a need is simply a magical act.

That is how a Christian can tell fake from genuine. For instance, a pastor may walk on water in a swimming pool. But the question is: does the act fall in the category of a miracle? Surely it doesn’t. What’s the point of walking in a swimming pool? Where is the need? A real miracle, biblically, was demonstrated when a need arose.

It was not a needless affair of display of power. Jesus performed hundreds if not thousands of miracles in his time and one common denominator in all his miracles is that they were performed when a need arose.

For his very first miracle at the wedding at Cana he turned plain water into wine. Why did he perform the miracle? Simple, the wine had run out at the wedding? Again, why did Jesus feed five thousand people with two loaves and five fish? The answer is simple; they were far from their homes and the need arose when people fell hungry? One may check through the entire Bible and it’s replete with this self­evident truth.

A miracle is performed or comes into being when there is a need. That is precisely what today’s world needs to understand to save it from wolves in sheep’s clothing.

One may even go on to check with the miracles from the apostles left by Jesus Christ and the common factor remains: there was a need. It is far removed from the magicians who have invaded Christianity today.

A magician performs supernatural acts in the absence of a need. A magician is a show­man. He simply displays his magical prowess for self-glory.

There is really no need to be met except exciting people. It’s all about supremacy and mesmerizing people. The majority of the miracles displayed in churches today are nothing short of the antics of magicians.

There is absolutely no need for people to be walking on water (supposing they did) when there was no need.

When Jesus walked on water, it is clearly noted that the boat had moved ashore and he was far hence the miracle.

What is the purpose of showering people with miracle money ­ able bodied people who are gainfully employed for that matter? Such acts cannot be classified as miracles at all. They may probably be categorised as some form of magi.