A miracle is an extraordinary manifestation of supernatural power, perceptible to unbelievers as well as believers. Grace is a manifestation to believers only: Miracles are manifestations to unbelievers. A miracle is something perceptible to the senses, or to the intelligence, of a natural man. A miracle, therefore, may be called something tangible: something that we can lay before him and allege to him: something concerning which we can make an appeal to his natural perceptions: something concerning which we can charge it upon his conscience, that he knows within himself that such a thing has taken place. The world, therefore, is opposed to the doctrine of miracles: and opposed to it for this very reason, because they are tangible or perceptible. And mock professors, in like manner, shrink from the doctrine of miracles: because it brings them, at once, to an issue with the world. They shrink not, equally, from the profession of spiritual truths; because these may be eluded by the world, and lead to no issue. Doctrines, the world can explain away: miracles, it cannot. Here is something that it cannot get over. It is easy, for instance, to say to a man sick of the palsy, “Thy sins be forgiven thee;” because there is nothing to shew, at the moment, whether they are so or not: the issue stands over to the day of judgment. But it is not so easy to say to him, “Arise, and walk;” because, if the speaker be an impostor, he knows the sufferer will not rise and walk, and he dreads the consequent exposure.
One doesn’t have to be committed in advance to history’s inability to deal with miracles in order to begin to realize that one cannot claim that Christianity is grounded purely in history while other traditions are at best shrouded in myth. One simply has to apply the most basic Christian principle to one’s investigation of the competing claims … treating others as you would want them to treat you. The Golden Rule. And so what does it mean to do history from a Christian perspective? … It doesn’t mean defending Christian claims to miracles and debunking those of others, nor accepting Biblical claims uncritically in a way you never would if similar claims were made in our time. It means doing to the claims of others what you would want done to your claims. And perhaps also the reverse: doing to your own claims, views and presuppositions that which you have been willing to do to the claims, views and presuppositions of others. Once one begins to attempt to examine the evidence not in an unbiased way, but simply fairly, one cannot but acknowledge that there are elements of the Christian tradition which, if they were in your opponent’s tradition, you would reject, debunk, discount, and otherwise find unpersuasive or at least not decisive or compelling.
This vital study offers a new interpretation of Hume’s famous “Of Miracles,” which notoriously argues against the possibility of miracles. By situating Hume’s popular argument in the context of the eighteenth-century debate on miracles, Earman shows Hume’s argument to be largely unoriginal and chiefly without merit where it is original. Yet Earman constructively conceives how progress can be made on the issues that Hume’s essay so provocatively posed about the ability of eyewitness testimony to establish the credibility of marvelous and miraculous events.
We can never assert that, in principle, an event resists naturalistic explanation. A perfectly substantiated, anomalous event, rather than providing evidence for the supernatural, merely calls into question our understanding of particular natural laws. In the modern era, this position fairly accurately represents the educated response to novelty. Rather than invoke the supernatural, we can always adjust our knowledge of the natural in extreme cases. In the modern age in actual inquiry, we never reach the point where we throw up our hands and appeal to divine intervention to explain a localized event like an extraordinary experience.
Geivett and Habermas have collected some of the best available scholars around today to present a case for the actions of God in human history. The book begins with David Hume’s work on miracles along with a response from Antony Flew (the eminent Humean scholar). Then, a barrage of Christian philosophers and theologians tackle the issue of miracles in each chapter. Some of the chapter titles include – “Defining Miracles” (Richard Purtill), “Miracles and the Modern Mind” (Norman L. Geisler), “History and Miracles” (Francis J. Beckwith), “Recognizing a Miracle” (Winfried Corduan), “Science, Miracles, Agency Theory, & the God-of-the-Gaps” (J.P. Moreland), “The Evidential Value of Miracles” (Douglas Geivett), “Miracles in the World Religions” (David K. Clark), “The Incarnation of Jesus Christ” (John S. Feinberg), “The Empty Tomb of Jesus” (William Lane Craig), “The Resurrection Appearances of Jesus” (Gary R. Habermas), and more.
Personally I’m not sure just who or what Christ is. I still pray to him in a pinch, but I talk to myself in a pinch too — and I’m getting less and less sure there’s a difference. I used to wish somebody would just tell me what to think about Him. Then along came Elder Babcock, telling and telling, acting like Christ was running for President of the World, and he was His campaign manager, and whoever didn’t get out and vote for the lord at the polls we call churches by casting the votes we call tithes and offerings into the ballot boxes we call offering plates was a wretched turd of a sinner voting for Satan by default. Mama tried to clear up all the confusion by saying that Christ is exactly what the Bible says He is. But what does the Bible say He is? On one page He’s a Word, on the next a bridegroom, then He’s a boy, then a scapegoat, then a thief in the night; read on and he’s the messiah, then oops, he’s a rabbi, and then a fraction — a third of a Trinity — then a fisherman, then a broken loaf of bread. I guess even God, when He’s human, has trouble deciding just what He is.
In his survey of the history of thought with respect to miracles, Craig traces the demise of the plausability of such supernatural events amongst biblical scholars, expressed first in naturalistic explanations for biblical events and ultimately in the repudiation of the reliability of the biblical texts. Craig addresses the influence of Bahrdt, Paulus, Schleiermacher, Strauss, and Bultmann before turning to their intellectual forebears, the thinking of Spinoza and Hume and the backdrop of Newton’s mechanistic universe. Craig offers a response to each of these principal thinkers in turn, concluding that “the presupposition of the impossibility of miracles should play no role in determining the historicity of an event”, even an allegedly supernatural one. In so doing, he challenges the notion that natural law must preclude miracles and provides a patient response to each of the principal objections. Craig’s lengthy article is a worthwhile read both for its summary history of biblical scholarship and for its recommendation for appropriate criteria in the study of history. ~ Nate
William Alston brings a philosopher’s perspective to prayer, the somewhat audacious belief that humans can speak with God. Alston considers in particular the yet more remarkable belief that God responds to our petitions. A 2005 Rasmussen poll found that 47% of Americans pray daily or nearly every day. But however common, prayer rarely benefits from this kind of philosophical reflection. Alston addresses the issue of God’s foreknowledge and omniscience and how these comport with the notion that God’s action in the world can be moved by prayer. In particular, he considers objections to the idea that a “timeless” God can engage in dialogue with creatures who are in time. He concludes: “God is essentially timeless in the sense that, apart from His free choice to the contrary, none of His actions or states would be datable nor would He live through temporal succession. But God has the capacity to freely choose to render His activity, or portions thereof, temporally ordered. And this permits Him to enter into genuine interaction, conversational and otherwise, with temporal creatures.” ~ Nate
Basinger responds to Anthony Flew’s contention that: “the historian must maintain with respect to any alleged miracle that the event did not in fact occur as reported”. Basinger concedes that Flew’s argument has merit, but argues that it ultimately fails. And by the way, to save a trip to dictionary.com, “nomology” is the science of laws. Basinger concludes: “The fact that an alleged occurrence is incompatible with current nomologicals must indeed be seriously considered when the historian rules on its historicity. However, Flew has failed to demonstrate that a seeming counterinstance must be shown to be consistent with current nomologicals before the historian can justifiably rule that it can be known to have occurred. Alleged ‘miracles’ cannot be dismissed this easily.”