Has the new wave come to a crash again? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Dealing with our opponent with massive hubris once again, we come across this claim:
“5)…100% FACT: the gospels are overflowing (jam packed) with what we call SCI-FI material (like superhero comic books) (voice coming from the sky, a guy floating up into the heavens, zombies breaking from their graves and marching into a major city, a flesh and bone man vanishing into thin air [puff, gone], etc, etc, etc) …RED FLAG!!!!”
This is simply an argument from credulity. The argument goes like this.
The gospels contain events considered miraculous.
Miraculous events do not happen.
Therefore, the gospels are not historical.
If this were the case, this would be a good argument, but the problem is that this has not been shown to be the case. It has not been shown that miraculous events do not happen. Someone could say “I have never seen good evidence” but that only means that they have never seen it. It does not mean that no one ever has, and considering after Keener’s research there are numerous claims all around the world, no one can say that there are no longer being claimed today miracles, which would mean at least some people claim to have evidence.
So where are we going to go to see if miracles do not happen?
The first place most people go to today is the sciences, but this plan will not work. Someone can believe in the sciences fully and still believe in miracles. Why? The sciences only tell you what will happen if there is no interference from another agent outside the chain of events. They cannot tell you that there can be no interference.
In fact, to believe in miracles, one must have a basic idea of science. Now of course, the ancients did not know all about science that we do, but they did know some facts that we would not contest. They knew it took sex to make a baby. They knew it took an object like a boat to move on water. They knew that water does not suddenly turn to wine on its own.. They knew dead people stay dead.
In fact, this is how they recognized a miracle had taken place. This was an event outside of the ordinary that they had no explanation for. In fact, we today still have no explanation for many of these events. Imagine being a doctor verifying that your patient was dead and had been dead for a number of hours and then come some Christians wanting to pray anyway. You grant them their request figuring “What can be the harm?” and lo and behold, the dead patient comes back to life and moves around on his own and is in good health.
Would you be justified in thinking a miracle had taken place?
Now do you have to abandon atheism to be open to miracles? Not at all! Of course, finding a miracle could make you abandon it, but at this point, all you need is a non-dogmatic approach to miracles. You can say all you want “I’m skeptical of miracles, but I want to keep an open mind.” Of course, you also want to make sure that you don’t stack the deck way too high. All that is needed is sufficient evidence.
Another place to go to would be history. Does history show that miracles have taken place?
Unfortunately, the problem is that usually our metaphysics drives the way our history goes. If you come to the evidence and have as an a priori that miracles cannot happen, then what do you do when you find a miraculous event happening in any piece of literature? Well that can’t be a real event!
There are some miracles in the Bible that one would be at difficulty to demonstrate happened. For instance, did Jesus turn water into wine at the Wedding of Cana? It is highly doubtful we will ever find a drop of wine in Cana still that we can say came from this wedding. We can look at the story and ask on its own some questions.
Is the story in a generally reliable account?
Does it contain anachronisms?
Is it an eyewitness account or does it have an eyewitness source?
Has the story remained unchanged?
What is the length of time between the event and the writing?
We could ask this about several miracles. Was a blind man healed? Did a centurion have his servant healed? Did Jairus’s daughter get raised from the dead? Some of these miracles we might find something that can corroborate them. We could make an archaeological finding that showed someone honored a site where such an event was to take place, but that would not demonstrate the event.
A greater exception to this would be the resurrection of Jesus since we have numerous claims afterwards that need to be explained as well as the rise of the Christian church that needs to be explained. Due to the greater effects of this miracle, there is far more evidence.
So if we look at history and realize our metaphysics is driving us, then the place to go to is our metaphysics. For those who don’t know, metaphysics refers to the study of being as being. Biology studies material being that lives. Physics studies being in motion. Theology studies the being of God. Mathematics studies being in so far as its numeral. Ethics studies being in so far as it is related to the good. Metaphysics studies being as just being.
This gets us into questions of what is the basis for existence, what is existence, and is there any existence outside of our material world? I have written elsewhere on this blog on reasons for believing in God’s existence. (See my posts on the Five Ways of Aquinas.)
If we find that God exists, what is there to stop Him from acting on the natural world? Then this gets us into theology. Why should one choose theism over deism? Yet if there is historical evidence for miracles, such as the resurrection or the works of Keener, then deism has a problem.
Note in fact it could be the case that there have been no miracles in history. It does not mean there can be no miracles in the future. If we say God exists and realize He has not done any miracles yet, it does not mean He never can do them.
In conclusion, the irrefutable fact seems quite refutable. An argument from credulity is not an argument.
J.P. Holding also replies here.