New Evidence from Underground radio interview

Are the stories of the Bible history, or mythology? The science of archaeology can help to provide the answer. On January 30, 2016, Kevin Conover of the Educate for Life radio program interviewed Dr. Scott Stripling and Dr. Bryant Wood of Associates for Bible Research (ABR).

A philosophical perspective on miracles – part 4

This is the final in a series of 4 articles on miracles, based upon a podcast I listened to, and was inspired by, by Tim McGrew. The articles are really handy for defending the faith and they take a look at miracles from a philosophical perspective.

Links to all 4 articles are given below:

https://aeon01.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/a-philosophical-perspective-on-miracles-part-1/
https://aeon01.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/a-philosophical-perspective-on-miracles-part-2/
https://aeon01.wordpress.com/2016/09/06/a-philosophical-perspective-on-miracles-part-3/
https://aeon01.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/a-philosophical-perspective-on-miracles-part-4/

Listen to the interview here: http://crossexamined.org/podcast/

Following is the final article:

Frank Turek:
Tim, quite frequently you hear this objection: “Well, if God does miracles, why doesn’t He heal amputees?” How would you respond to that?

Tim McGrew:
There’s a couple of different ways to respond to that. The first one is, didn’t He do that in the New Testament? Right? Didn’t Peter cut somebody’s ear off and Jesus healed it with a touch, in Luke 22:51? So we’ve got one record of that but I think the question is not usually brought forward to say, “Why doesn’t He do that in the New Testament?” But I think it’s brought forward to insinuate that things that are called miracles today are really just not the sorts of things where we could be sure they were a miracle at all, right? It’s oh, I think my toothache feels somewhat better…was it a miracle?

Frank Turek:
Right.

Tim McGrew:
And who knows? You can’t really tell from something like that. So I think that’s the insinuation. And if that’s the insinuation I would say, first of all, let’s have a look at Craig Keener’s books because he talks about people who were certified as dead and he’s close up to some of these. In one case I heard him talk on a conference at Oxford and he said, “And I know a lot about this case because the person who is dead is my sister-in-law.”

Frank Turek:
Mmm hmm…

Tim McGrew:
That is pretty close up to the facts. So I think we should look at stuff like that. But the other thing that I want to say is, suppose that in our time no miracles ever happened. What does that tell us about the adequacy of the evidence that we do have for the resurrection of Jesus? Because that’s the central event, right? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that this is the thing without which our faith is in vain. This is the hinge of Christianity. If it doesn’t turn, we’re done for. So what if it turned out there are no contemporary miracles, what would that mean about the resurrection? And the answer is, not much. It’s an attempt to distract us from looking at the evidence we do have by talking about the kind of evidence some people wish we had, which maybe we do and maybe we don’t, and I’m not going to try to pass judgement on that…I’m going to refer people to Craig Keener or Robert Larmer, who’s a Canadian philosopher who does work on these things. There are people out there who are prepared to talk very specifically about contemporary miracle claims.

Frank Turek:
Yeah I’m not sure amputees aren’t healed because I’m not everywhere so there may be instances. I can’t recall if Craig had any in his book…he may have had certain physical deformities healed…instantaneously…like a club foot. In fact Gary Habermas talks about a club foot spontaneously healing, not over a period of time but over seconds…but I can’t recall if a person had a finger grow back or an arm grow back, something like that.

But even if that doesn’t occur, as you said, that doesn’t affect the testimony we do have about the greatest miracle after the first verse of the Bible and that is the resurrection of Christ. We’ve got good evidence for that…so, it’s just an interesting question because you always hear atheists bringing it up. I’ve never seen a miracle – like you, Tim – but there’s a lot of things I haven’t seen that I believe in. I believe in George Washington…I’ve never seen him. I believe in my mind…I’ve never seen that. I believe in gravity…I’ve never seen gravity though I’ve seen the effects…There’s a lot of things I believe in that I haven’t seen.

Tim McGrew:
Reminds me of a line from an old Woody Allen movie, if only God would give me a clear sign like making a large deposit in a Swiss bank account…sorry, God’s not in it for the parlour tricks! Let’s talk about more important things than that.

Frank Turek:
I recall Lawrence Krauss saying, “If you were to write in the stars, I am here, then it would be worth thinking about” yet He’s written a genome that’s 3.5 billion letters long, a unique genome in Lawrence Krauss’s cells that only he has and somehow that’s not enough for Krauss. He needs “I am here” in the stars but a 3.5 billion letter message you know of DNA just doesn’t quite do it for Krauss. So ok, I think it goes back partially to what you said earlier Tim and that is, some people just don’t want to believe.

You know it’s interesting too that scientists believe in many singular non-repeatable events, Tim. They believe in the origin of the universe…that’s not a repeatable event. They believe in the origin of first life…not a repeatable event. They believe in the origin of new life forms, they believe in archaeological discoveries which are not repeatable. They believe in say a famous murder, the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. You can’t go back and recreate those OJ Simpson murders…and yeah, he did it. You can’t go back and recreate those, they’re not repeatable events, they’re singular events just like miracles are singular events. Yet they’ll believe these singular events, the scientists will, but they won’t believe a singular event like a miracle so I think it’s kind of special pleading, they’re ruling out what they don’t want to believe and they’re only believing what they do want to believe.

Tim McGrew:
I’m afraid with many people that’s the case. On the other hand, there are some people who would say I’ve never seen a good argument for any miracle, what kind of evidence do you have? And when I run into those people I don’t assume that they’re all dishonest and unwilling to look at the evidence…let’s see, let’s give them the evidence. And here’s somewhere where Christians could do better. If we were more proactive in putting forward the evidential case that we have there would be fewer people out there who have heard very little about what Christians believe. And so in part we have to take some of the responsibility if our contemporaries aren’t hearing it. Maybe it’s because not enough of us are saying it clearly.

Frank Turek:
Well that’s for sure and that’s why I love having you on the program because you say it clearly. And you’re clearly well qualified in this area. In fact tell our listeners about the websites. One of them you already have up that they can access right nowTim, and then there’s one that’s coming down the road…that’s going to be a tour de force around this issue of David Hume and miracles.

Tim McGrew:
The site that’s available now is called the Library of Historical Apologetics (historicalapologetics.org). There are dozens of works you can download in pdf form, all these are public domain works, there’s no copyright infringement. There’s also links to various talks I’ve given where I make use of some of these works.

If you’re interested in seeing this on a wider stage, if you want to see not dozens but thousands of works put together, cross-indexed and searchable (with graphic displays on who was provoked by this work, who was inspired by that work), then keep an eye out for the Special Divine Action Database that we have, that is coming out. I think we’re at fifteen hundred, seventeen hundred works, cross-indexing these, they’re all in English and we’re showing you who the influences were and you can trace those conversations and surf through them graphically. It should be live this November. This is a really good scholarly tool, you can use it to write papers. It’s open to anybody whatsoever. Churches could even use it to form study groups as it shows the influences between authors.

Frank Turek:
Outstanding Tim, thanks for being on the show, great stuff today.

A philosophical perspective on miracles – part 3

This is the third in a series of 4 articles on miracles, based upon a podcast I listened to, and was inspired by, by Tim McGrew. The articles are really handy for defending the faith and they take a look at miracles from a philosophical perspective.

Links to all 4 articles are given below:

https://aeon01.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/a-philosophical-perspective-on-miracles-part-1/
https://aeon01.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/a-philosophical-perspective-on-miracles-part-2/
https://aeon01.wordpress.com/2016/09/06/a-philosophical-perspective-on-miracles-part-3/
https://aeon01.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/a-philosophical-perspective-on-miracles-part-4/

Listen to the interview here: http://crossexamined.org/podcast/

Following is the third article:

Frank Turek:
Why is there such a strong anti-supernatural bias, particularly in the academic world?

Tim McGrew:
Well there’s lots of reasons for that. One of them has to do with academic fashion, the kind of culture of following along in the footsteps of people around you, and the people who trained you. We see this in an almost comical way when it comes to clothing fads and fashions, but it really comes home to you when you look at the way people drift towards certain perspectives. In the humanities we are particularly subject to this phenomenon, to the extent that even a passing familiarity with Christianity is considered to be non-essential for an education.

Frank Turek:
Hmmm…

Tim McGrew:
For example, I had a colleague once, a truly brilliant guy, degree from a fine school, promising career ahead of him, and he asked me what I was reading. I held it up and said, “It’s a book of the four gospels.” And he looked at me…”Four gospels?” He’d never heard of them. That is part of the explanation.

Another part of the explanation is something Thomas Nagel brings out in his book “The Last Word.” He says he disbelieves in God not just because the arguments he has are better than those of the other side but also because he doesn’t want to believe in God, he doesn’t want the universe to be like that. He says, I think his line is, “I have a cosmic authority problem.” And that’s a remarkably candid admission but I do think that many people if they were asked would be reluctant to take seriously the idea that this is the way the universe is because that would upset a whole lot of other things that they hold and it’s always hard to make large scale changes in your beliefs. And that’s something Christians are subject to as well, I don’t mean to say that only skeptics have a hard time changing lots of their beliefs, Christians do as well, but also there’s an academic culture of just not taking them seriously at all.

Frank Turek:
I’m reminded also of the famous admission by Richard Lewontin who basically said we cannot believe in miracles because we cannot allow a divine foot in the door. And when you fast forward to Thomas Nagal whom you brought up who wrote the book “The Last Word” in 1997…well, as you know his more recent book “Mind and Cosmos” he’s really struggling with this issue now. Because he realises that naturalism can’t explain so many aspects of reality. And his atheistic colleagues are getting real worried, that he’s making too much sense. You notice that Tim?

Tim McGrew:
Yeah I think they have a death watch out for him, “Oh, when’s he going to jump the shark here?”

Frank Turek:
I know (laughs). I always say to folks, the greatest miracle in the Bible is the first verse, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” If that verse is true every other verse is at least believable because if God can create the universe out of nothing then He can do whatever He wants that’s not logically impossible inside the universe. He can walk on water, He can part water, He can raise Jesus from the dead, He can make axe-heads float, He can do all this. And everything seems to indicate that the first verse of the Bible is true so lesser miracles are much easier to believe if the greater miracle of all has already to occurred…so to have this anti-supernatural bias is in my view to close your mind off and to do so dogmatically. And that’s why I like your very reasoned approach that you take in the new book coming out, the Four Views book, which again is called?

Tim McGrew:
Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy.

Frank Turek:
OK, it’s coming out in a few weeks friends, or actually in about a month, so you need to get that. Tim is a major contributor to it. And Tim, let’s deal with the question you quite frequently get regarding sort of an objection to this whole idea…the New Testament writers were naive and gullible, you just can’t trust them. How do you respond to that?

Tim McGrew:
I think the first thing I would say is that by far the bulk of the New Testament was written by two highly educated people, Paul and Luke. So if we’re going to go all snobbish about educational attainments these two guys were in the upper echelons of education for their time. Paul with rabbinic learning but also with a knowledge of Greek writing, sometimes quoting Greek playwrights and poets. Luke obviously an extremely highly educated person, his vocabulary shows you that, the precision with which he handles the Greek language shows you that and if you put the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts together, then you put together the Pauline epistles, you have got most of the New Testament right there. So the very first thing to say is that’s a misfire.

The second thing to say, and maybe the even more important thing, is just how much sophistication does it take to distinguish a dead man from a living one? Do you need a higher degree to do that? Is it the kind of thing where if we’d had Galen on the spot we would have believed him because he was a Greek physician? But ordinary people, people who lived in an agrarian society, didn’t they see enough death? For example in the lambing season if you’ve got a lamb that’s stillborn can you distinguish it from the ones that get up and start gamboling around? These people saw a lot of death, they were probably a lot closer to it than most of us unless we’re undertakers. So I think that’s kind of an odd objection. We’re not talking here about some nuance of quantum mechanics, you don’t need to be a physicist to say, that’s what we should expect. We’re talking about dead bodies and living men. It’s not that hard.

Frank Turek:
And the issue of the virgin birth, or the virgin conception I should say, I think you point this out elsewhere, is that they didn’t have any problem knowing where babies come from. In fact Joseph was ready to break it off with Mary not because he didn’t know where babies come from but precisely because he did know where they came from.

Tim McGrew:
Exactly. So it’s not that this came as news to the first century Jews. In fact CS Lewis had a friend Austin Farrer who got so frustrated with this stupid chronological snobbery that he actually put a question on the Triposts, the exams at Oxford that said, “Just how ignorant was the first century Jew?”

Frank Turek:
Hmmm…And?

Tim McGrew:
Really they didn’t know where babies came from? And students had to write their reasoned responses to that question. I would have loved to have seen some of the responses.

Frank Turek:
(Laughs)

Tim McGrew:
But that was the question that was put forward…how ignorant? How?

Frank Turek:
And they go from scared, scattered, skeptical disciples because they knew He was dead to the most overwhelming, excited, peaceful missionary force the world has ever known. Twelve people turned the world upside down. And it was precisely because they knew dead men always stayed dead unless, as you said earlier, Someone intervenes. And in this case obviously the Being who created the universe and created the human body of Jesus can resurrect the human body of Jesus if He decides to do so. And He did. Now by the way, Tim, why is a resurrection more plausible on a character like Jesus than say just an average Joe?

Tim McGrew:
Wow, tons of reasons. Can we start with the fact that the entire arc of Old Testament prophecy imbued with the promise of this coming Messiah, leads to Jesus and to nobody else, points to Jesus and to nobody else. To take nothing else, take Isaiah 53. Read it aloud to a skeptical friend of yours. Don’t tell him where it’s from, he’ll see that you probably have a Bible in your hand, and just say, “Who’s this talking about?” And they’ll immediately say, “That’s stupid. Of course it’s Jesus.” And then you tell them, even on the most skeptical dating of this book, it was written centuries before the era of the New Testament and the birth of Jesus. That alone ought to be enough to draw people up short and make them say, “Whoa! Really?”

Then you have the fact that He has a very distinctive message, one that you could not have predicted by trawling through the Old Testament and pulling out passages. Yes, He seems to be the fulfillment of prophecy but also His life, His character and HIs message were not things you and I could just cobble together by reading the Old Testament. There is a very interesting question here. If there were a God and He wanted to act, where would He do it? And the answer is to certify a message of unprecedented religious importance for us, and that’s exactly the kind of thing that Jesus is offering. Now that doesn’t by itself prove that His message is true but that’s the kind of place you’d expect a miracle if God worked a miracle at all.

Frank Turek:
That’s right. You quote the Roman poet Horace who said this, “Let not a god intervene unless there be a knot worthy of a god’s untying.”

Tim McGrew:
Right.

Frank Turek:
That’s just very well said. God is not going to do a miracle for no good reason.

Tim McGrew:
Right. Don’t bring him in because you can. Or just to do some kind of circus trick. If it’s really something important, something worthy, then OK. That’s where God should come in if God comes in at all.

Frank Turek:
And God I think has come in, and we’re going to talk more with my friend Timothy McGrew of Western Michigan University…after the break.

A philosophical perspective on miracles – part 2

This is the second in a series of 4 articles on miracles, based upon a podcast I listened to, and was inspired by, by Tim McGrew. The articles are really handy for defending the faith and they take a look at miracles from a philosophical perspective.

Links to all 4 articles are given below:

https://aeon01.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/a-philosophical-perspective-on-miracles-part-1/
https://aeon01.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/a-philosophical-perspective-on-miracles-part-2/
https://aeon01.wordpress.com/2016/09/06/a-philosophical-perspective-on-miracles-part-3/
https://aeon01.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/a-philosophical-perspective-on-miracles-part-4/

Listen to the interview here: http://crossexamined.org/podcast/

Following is the second article:

Frank Turek:
Tim you have written a pithy little article on the interaction between miracles and science. Can you give the article name from Slate Magazine?

Tim McGrew:
This came about as part of a symposium, with a lot of different people chiming in, some pro, some con. My essay was called, “Do miracles really violate the laws of science?” You can do a Google search for this with my name, which should pop up with the Slate article. It’s a short article, I had to write it under some wording constraints but that was ok, it was a fun article to write.

Frank Turek:
It was, and why don’t we address that right now. Do miracles somehow violate the laws of science? What would you say to that?

Tim McGrew:
The first thing I would say is no. Let’s talk about our definitions here. David Hume saddled the world with a false dilemma when he pitted miracles against the laws of nature. Basically, science tells us, and formulates in its laws, statements about what happens when nature is left to itself. Miracles, if they occur at all, occur because nature is NOT left to itself. So really, to say that a miracle is ruled out by the laws of nature is just to make a mistake about what the laws of nature tell us. When you consider the natural world as a closed system with no inputs from the outside we have sets of regularities and rules and we can do wonderful things with that…and I think everybody ought to be very excited about the successes of science in that way. But if something is intervening from the outside then the whole picture changes and you have to ask yourself what grounds do we have for believing that someone is intervening from outside of the system?

Frank Turek:
And you write in a longer piece as well, in a four views book…has that four views book come out yet Tim, the one you sent me an article on?

Tim McGrew:
It’s due on September 13th.

Frank Turek:
What’s it called, so our listeners can get it?

Tim McGrew:
I believe it’s called “Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy.”

Frank Turek:
You sent me an advanced copy and you write in it, science tells us what nature does when it’s left to itself…miracles, if they occur at all, occur precisely because nature is not left to itself and you go on to say this. Believers and skeptics agree that there is a stable causal order, a normal course of events in which virgins are not pregnant and dead men stay dead and precisely because they are agreed on this point it cannot be a significant piece of evidence against the occurrence of miracles. Some conception of the ordinary course of nature is required for us to even make sense of the notion of a miracle which otherwise could not be recognised for what it is. I think that’s a brilliant point, Tim. There’s no way for us to identify what a miracle is unless we have the background of regular, repeatable natural events. Miracles by definition would have to be rare events if they’re going to get our attention. If they were occurring regularly we would think they were some sort of natural phenomenon. But the very idea that they occur rarely and they’re against the backdrop of nature is what has them stand out so we can recognise them. Now with that in mind, what is the purpose of a miracle from a biblical perspective?

Tim McGrew:
Ok, the very first thing I want to say is I wish I could take credit for that point but the old books win again. That’s a point made vividly by one of Hume’s critics who wrote while he was alive…William Adams. Much as I would like to say that that’s my own brilliant idea, actually I’m just getting it from reading old books. Now as to the biblical purpose of miracles, they come out very clearly in a little interchange Jesus has with Nicodemus in John 3. You’ll remember that Nicodemus comes to Jesus BY NIGHT because he’s a little bit afraid and he says to him, “Rabbi, we know you’re a teacher sent from God because no man can do the works that you do unless God be with him.” These are signs of divine authority and they are to function to help us identify divine teachings and messages. After all, if there’s something we need to know, that God wants to communicate to us, we need to be able to separate it out from a fine-sounding philosophy or a brilliantly-written novel or play or poem. We need to rise above the level of human inspiration. How can we tell that? Because the messages are accompanied by signs that cannot be done by people working without the authority of God.

Frank Turek:
Hmmm….So the sign confirms the sermon, the miracle confirms the message or the messenger…and friends, that’s why often you see in the Bible that miracles are bunched around certain people like Moses, Elijah and Elisha, and Jesus and the apostles. These miracles aren’t done for entertainment purposes, they’re done to confirm that these individuals are presenting new revelation from God and the people should take it as new revelation from God because miracles are poured out through these people. Now Tim, a lot of people will say, Well maybe miracles have occurred but why don’t we see more of them today? They seem to be occurring throughout the Bible, some will say, but we don’t seem to see them today. What do you say to that?

Tim McGrew:
Ok, there are a couple of different issues entangled here. One of the things that I would want to say is we don’t see them scattered evenly throughout the Bible. As you said, they tend to bunch or to use CS Lewis’s phrase, we find them at the “great ganglia of history” where things are coming together. So if you were to use the scriptures as your sort of rule of thumb in what you should expect, you should not expect them to be salted evenly through all of history from biblical times onward.

The second thing I want to say is there’s a distinction between saying the special gift of working miracles is current today and saying miracles happen today. Many Christians believe in prayer and believe God can work miracles in answer to prayer who would not believe that somebody like Benny Hinn is specially commissioned to work miracles.

Frank Turek:
Hmmm…

Tim McGrew:
So that’s a distinction that some people slide over, I think that needs to be recognised.

The third thing that I would say is that if miracles were to happen we would expect them to happen only in places where they were really most needed…and curiously enough there is a rather substantial amount of contemporary testimonial evidence to the occurrence of miracles particularly in places where the church is under persecution, or where you might think that they’d be in the greatest need of some kind of a sign. Now I’m no expert in that and speaking candidly, I’ve never witnessed a miracle, but when I read a work like my good friend Craig Keener’s two volume work on miracles and I read all of the documentation he’s amassed, it makes me wonder if I need to get out more.

(NOTE FROM NAOMI:
While in the John Cade Unit, where I was placed because my faith in Christ was defined as mental illness, I experienced intense persecution and two miracles in quick succession. The miracles occurred after I had been fasting for two weeks, as part of seeking God with all my heart. The situation was that a nurse wanted to take blood samples and urine from me while I was very dehydrated and could produce neither naturally. I prayed to Jesus to help the lady with her samples. At that point, suddenly, blood flowed into the test tube and dilute urine was soon copiously produced into the bottle the nurse had given me. I was astonished and comforted as I knew Christ was honouring my fast and protecting me under great duress.)

Frank Turek:
Hahaha, yes. If we look at Craig Keener’s two-volume, hernia-inducing work…it’s very voluminous, these two volumes. If just half of what he says in there….ten percent of what he says in there is really true and I have no reason to doubt any of it, miracles are occurring today. But as you pointed out Tim, I don’t think there are people out there with the gift of miracles, I think miracles occur when God wants to do them for particular reasons. You say in particular areas where they’re more needed today. I think another insight that you were probably about to get to as well is the almost counter-intuitive impact of miracles on some people in the New Testament, particularly Caiaphas and others. Can you comment on that a little bit?

Tim McGrew:
Yes…so, I think it’s a really important distinction to make between the evidence FOR a miracle and the willingness of someone to respond in a reasonable way to that evidence. People have vested interests. They have their way of seeing things, they have their system of belief and maybe they have their way their life is going and they’re pretty happy with it. And then along comes a miracle and it RUINS things. If you want to see a really vivid, dramatic portrayal of that, there’s a novel by Graham Greene, a mid-20th Century author, called, “The End of the Affair.” The main character is a skeptic and he disbelieves in God but is angry at Him. But he deliberately slams the phone down before he can hear someone that he knows telling him that a miracle has occurred because he doesn’t want to hear that word. People are resistant to things, and they’re irrationally resistant. We know this is a matter of general truth but it really comes home when you read the New Testament and you see people say in John 12 who, once a notable miracle has occurred with Lazarus being raised and there’s no denying it, what do they do? Well they start making plans to kill Lazarus again!

Frank Turek:
(Laughs)

Tim McGrew:
Wow! Really? It’s no wonder Gamaliel had to tell them in Acts 5, you’ll end up fighting against God (see Acts 5:34-40).

Frank Turek:
(Laughs). It’s true, they don’t want to hear. I’m reminded of a quote from GK Chesterton, who said this, he said, “The believers in miracles accept them, rightly or wrongly, because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them, rightly or wrongly, because they have a doctrine against them.” In other words, they’re dogmatists.

Tim McGrew:
Yeah, that’s a quotation from “Orthodoxy” by Chesterton I think. It’s near the end.

Frank Turek:
Yes, yes. And it seems so many people out here have an anti-supernatural bias that regardless of what evidence you put in front of them they are not going to believe that any kind of intelligence or any kind of miracle worker was involved. And in fact we’re going to pick this up after the break. And when we come back we’re going to get into the issue of anti-supernatural bias, we’ll talk a little bit about science disproving the possibility of miracles, we’ll also get into amputees – why doesn’t God heal amputees – and some other questions as well. So don’t go away.

I hope you enjoyed part 2 of the five part series on miracles. Part 3 to follow within the next few days. May the Lord Jesus bless you now and always.

A philosophical perspective on miracles – part 1

I am going to write a series of 4 articles on miracles, based upon a podcast I listened to, and was inspired by, by Tim McGrew. The articles are really handy for defending the faith and they take a look at miracles from a philosophical perspective.
Links to all 4 articles are given below:

https://aeon01.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/a-philosophical-perspective-on-miracles-part-1/
https://aeon01.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/a-philosophical-perspective-on-miracles-part-2/
https://aeon01.wordpress.com/2016/09/06/a-philosophical-perspective-on-miracles-part-3/
https://aeon01.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/a-philosophical-perspective-on-miracles-part-4/

Listen to the interview here: http://crossexamined.org/podcast/

Following is the first article:

Dr Frank Turek:
In an age of scientific enlightenment, can we really believe in miracles? Particularly miracles of the bible, in particular the New Testament. Many atheists say miracles are impossible, some even claim they are anti-scientific. Some may even claim that science can disprove miracles. And isn’t the evidence always better to say that a miracle has NOT occurred than to say that a miracle has occurred? We may also cover the objection many atheists bring up: if your God can do miracles why doesn’t He heal amputees? And didn’t the New Testament writers just make up the resurrection story? These are all questions we’re going to try to get to today if we get time. Tim McGrew is currently looking at miracles from a philosophical perspective, it’s a very intense area of research for him. He teaches at Western Michigan University. And recently he has been doing a lot of research into the dialogue David Hume and his opponents and supporters had back in the 1700’s on this issue of miracles.

Tim McGrew:
All this began by my doing a piece on miracles for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. One thing that came out as I was doing the research to write that piece is that although David Hume is important in the conversation, he neither started nor ended it. Many of the points he raises have already been raised by other people in the debate and they have been responded to. So there are many different voices in the debate, up to the present time.

Some three years ago the John Templeton Foundation decided to fund a grant doing research on this perspective and my task has been to create an online database which will contain all perspectives, all voices and, more importantly, it will link them up to see who was responding to whom. You can then trace the controversy and read their works there on the website. We will be putting that online soon: it’s a great research tool, for laypersons and scholars alike.

Dr Frank Turek:
What was Hume’s main argument against miracles, Tim?

Tim McGrew:
There are two parts to this:

  1. There’s some interpretive dispute about this but it seems he is saying that the idea of a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature. So if a miracle occurred the laws of nature are false. But the evidence we have for the laws of nature is the best evidence we can have for any kind of empirical claim. And since it’s the best we can imagine having and the testimony to a miracle is at best a weaker kind of argument, science wins, miracles lose, and it can never be reasonable to believe in a reported miracle. That, in a nutshell, is the way most people read the first part of Hume’s argument against miracles.
  2. After that he gets into subsidiary arguments in the second section. In that section he talks of things like: were the people who testified to a miracle highly educated, did they do it in a notable “theatre of the world” (so other eyes could be watching them and catching them out if they were falsifying things), were they men of wealth, prestige and power so they had a lot to lose if they were shown to be misrepresenting the facts, aren’t there miracles from many religions thereby cross-cancelling each other and leaving us back where we started?

All of the above arguments Hume brought up in part 2. But all of these arguments had been canvassed before he wrote. His main contribution therefore to the debate was in part 1.

Dr Frank Turek:
Would it be fair to say Tim that Hume’s argument against miracles was more epistemological than ontological? In other words, he was making the point that we can’t really know if we have a miracle. He wasn’t saying miracles are impossible ontologically, that there’s no way they can happen. The argument against a miracle claim (epistomologically) is always better, in his view, than the evidence for it.

You hear this quite frequently when I go to campus colleges, the atheists will say, “Well…extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Miracles are extraordinary claims and you have to have extraordinary evidence for that. What would you say in response to that?

Tim McGrew:
Well I guess the first thing I would ask is: what do you mean by extraordinary evidence? Do you mean one gigantic piece of evidence or – as in many other areas of life – can we build a very strong case by a bunch of ordinary pieces of evidence that all point in the same direction? There are claims that are improbable, for example, that my cousin will win the lottery with a ticket he has bought is an improbable claim. And yet, if he sees the winning number announced on television and phones me up and says, “I’ve got it! I’ve got the winning ticket!” I have plenty of reasons to believe him. We believe in the improbable all the time and are perfectly reasonable in so doing so we shouldn’t use “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” as a stick to beat people with who might sometimes be justified in believing the improbable.

Dr Frank Turek:
It’s an interesting example you give. That your friend’s won the lottery is an improbable event. But the ordinary evidence, that he has the winning ticket, is enough for you to say, “He DID win the lottery, as improbable as that is.”

I hope you enjoyed part 1 of the five part series on miracles. Part 2 to follow tomorrow. May the Lord Jesus bless you now and always.