I can’t believe that … (3) miracles can happen

English: Icon of the Resurrection

Icon of the Resurrection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So Christianity is full of miracles. The gospels say that Jesus performed many miracles, like healing people of their diseases and walking on water. Christians today believe that God can work miracles in response to their prayers. And, of course, the central event in Christianity – the resurrection of Jesus – is a miracle. So if miracles can’t happen then Christianity is in trouble.

But why think that miracles can’t happen? After all, if there is a God then surely miracles are the sort of thing you’d expect him to be able to do. (What sort of god would he be, if he couldn’t perform miracles?) And yet many people, even those who believe in God, struggle with the idea that miracles can happen.

One worry that people can have about miracles is the vague sense that this is too mythological, too supernatural, for rational, scientific, modern people to believe in. Turning water into wine might seem like magic trick, or else hocus-pocus, and we’re smart enough to know that magicians deal in illusions, not realities. But this kind of objection is rather vague and its not immediately clear what the problem is. Of course, if someone comes to you and says “I can make a rabbit appear in my hat”, you have every right to suspect that the rabbit is just hidden away somewhere and isn’t going to appear from nothing. But that doesn’t mean miracles are impossible, it just means we’re rightly suspicious of those trading in illusions. And there is a danger that simply dismissing miracles as myth or magic: we’re simply engaged in snobbery not proper rational enquiry.

Perhaps a more sophisticated objection is that miracles break the laws of nature. From our repeated experience, and from scientific investigation, we know that the universe behaves in ordered and regular ways. The sun rises every day, things fall down (not up), and dead people don’t come back to life. These are laws of nature – exceptions do not occur, else they wouldn’t be laws.

And that is all well and good but it suggests that the laws of nature have priority over everything else – that the laws of nature were before everything and overrule everything. Now even for the atheist, this is not the case. Because if you believe that the universe came into being from nothing, then it is not the laws of nature that were before everything else but nothing – if this were true, the laws of nature would be as arbitrary as the rest of existence. So the atheist has no particular reason for suspecting that the laws of nature will continue to operate, except that they have so far. But for the believer, the laws of nature do not have priority either. Because if there is a God, who created the universe, then he is responsible for the laws of nature. Now he is God such a sloppy creator that he made rules and laws that even he couldn’t change? Is it credible to think that God could create gravity and yet be unable to change it when necessary? If that idea just seems too silly to be true, then the objection to miracles evaporates.

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Preceding articles: I Can’t Believe That (1) … God would send anyone to hell

I Can’t Believe That … (2) God would allow children to suffer

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Additional reading:

  1. A fact of History or just a fancy Story
  2. Days of Nisan, Pesach, Pasach, Pascha and Easter
  3. Why think that (2) … Jesus claimed to be something special
  4. Why think that (3) … Jesus rose from the dead
  5. Miracles of revelation and of providence 1 Golden Thread and Revelation
  6. This is an amazing thing
  7. A Meaningful Thanksgivukkah
  8. Blinkered minds
  9. Sometimes we pray and pray and it seems like nothing happens.
  10. Materialism, would be life, and aspirations
  11. Bible and Science: Scientific Facts and Theories

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  • Can We Prove Jesus’ Historical Miracles? (humblesmith.wordpress.com)
    the atheists assumes the high ground and asks Christians to prove the creation of the universe, but the atheist has no more ability to explain the beginning of the universe than the Christian. The atheist accuses the Christian of something he is guilty of himself, namely belief without empirical evidence. The atheist berates the Christian for something which he has no better answer. In fact, the atheist answer would seem to ultimately assume that the effect of the universe resulted without a cause, an absurdity.
  • Is Religion Pseudoscience? (psychologytoday.com)
    A pseudoscience is a set of beliefs or practices that pretends at being science—that puts forth evidence and arguments which it says are scientifically sound, but in fact are not. Pseudoscientists argue in support of new fundamental forces (e.g., Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic resonance) and even entities (e.g., ancient aliens). The TV show Ghost Hunters is a prime example; they even have instruments—like voice recorders, EM meters, laser thermometers (and deluxe carrying cases)—which seem scientific, but of course do nothing to detect ghosts. But all pseudosciences have one thing in common: The arguments and reasoning they put forth violate basic rules of scientific reasoning.
  • Villagers worship ‘miracle’ calf in India born with third eye (w/ video) (vancouverdesi.com)
    People are flocking to a small village in southern India to worship a “miracle” calf believedto bean incarnation of a Hindu god, according to Britain’s Daily Mail.The baby cow was born in the village ofKolathur in TamilNadu with a third eye in the middle of its head, much like the Hindu deity Shiva.“This is a miracle calf, so we are worshipping and praying to it like a god,” the animal’s owner, Rajesh, said. “We believe if we worship this calf it will give good luck for us and the people around us.”
  • No Miracles = No Christian Hope (derekzrishmawy.com)
    Whether it be Gnostic mysticism, or German Liberal Rationalism, throughout Christian history there have been numerous attempts to separate the effects, or “inner truth” Christianity from it’s concrete grounding in the narrative of God’s interaction with Israel and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. In other words, we want the value of “loving your enemies” and “forgiveness” without grounding it in the Cross where the Godman concretely loved his enemies and forgave them with his own blood. We want the sense of gratitude and joy on a sunny day without grounding it in the Creator God who gives  it to us and currently sustains all things in things in being.
  • Countering the Straw Man of “Spockian” Atheism (patheos.com)
    In a piece at NPR entitled “Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk,” University of California, Berkeley philosophy professor Alva Noë posted his thoughts on what he calls a “Spockian” worldview. He rejects this “Spock-ism” (a reference to the character on Star Trek) and its

    idea that science is logical, purely rational, that it is detached and value-free, and that it is, for all these reasons, morally superior.

  • True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism Reviewed (wmbriggs.com)
    How rational is it to believe any of the following:

    • Science can explain everything, even itself;
    • The reason anything exists is because of the laws of gravity, quantum fields, and so forth;
    • Jesus of Nazareth was an invention and not a real person;
    • Evolution is why we are so rational;
    • Even though God does not exist you can tell the difference between good and evil;
    • People are only Christians because they were born into it;
    • Miracles are impossible and reports of them are the result of lies, superstition, confusion, and reporting errors;
    • The Gospels on which Christianity relies were written hundreds of years after the fact and are mostly reinventions of other pagan traditions?

    Each of these propositions is not only false but easily proven to be so, as even the most minimal exertions show. Yet believing any, and many more like them, are touted by “New Atheists” as marks of superior intelligence, as enlightened thinking, even as commonsense reasonableness. To these infinitely self-assured folks, disbelief is a synonym of rational. It’s just a guess, but perhaps this irrational belief is why it is so hard to persuade New Atheists of their errors?

  • From Atheism to Christianity: a Personal Journey (po11ycheck.wordpress.com)
    Do you find it difficult to believe in God or accept the claims of Christianity? I did, when I was an atheist, but I changed my mind, and my reasons for doing so may be of interest to you in your own personal journey and attempts to make sense of life.
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    The presence within us of an objective moral law ‘written on our hearts’ points instead to the existence of an eternal Goodness and Intelligence which created us and our universe, enables us to think, and is the eternal source of our best and deepest values. In other words, Lewis argues, atheism cuts its own throat philosophically, because it discredits all human reasoning, including the arguments for atheism. “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.” (Mere Christianity). Only by acknowledging that there is a God, he concludes, can we hope to make sense of human existence, the world we inhabit, and, paradoxically, the problem of evil.
  • Clearing Up the Shenanigans: Tom Gilson and True Reason (arizonaatheist.blogspot.com)
    Am I arguing that “miracles happen too often?” Yes, but Gilson misses my point. It had nothing to do with science, it had everything to do with god. Gilson argued in True Reason that god wants his creationsto be “responsible moral agents;” and god also wants his creations to learn from experience. All of these things would not be possible if we lived in a world “of constant supernatural intervention” because “if there isto much chaos (“noise”) in a transmission, the message (signal) can’t get throughto be clearly understood.” (130)I argued that, at least according tonumerous Christians around the world, their god intervenes in the affairs of the worldon a daily basis and I provided one, among other examples, of a Christian friend who thanked god for coming across a set of chairs in someone’s yard.I also argued that far from being opposed to constant supernatural intervention the entire basis of Christianity is built upon supernatural intervention, including god coming down in human form as Jesus to the creation of the world out of absolutely nothing, which are in fact acts of the supernatural, unlike what Gilson stated in his reply (“it’s more than slightly difficult to see how God violated natural law by creating natural law (as creation ex nihilo indicates).”). Gilson’s argument makes no logical sense. Christians argue all the time that “something cannot come from nothing” but for Christians apparently it’s OK. And I suppose a man rising from the dead or a god-man coming down from heaven isn’t a supernatural event? Gilson says nothing about these core beliefs of Christianity.
  • What has convinced many believers to not believe? … the bible did. (skeptical-science.com)
    The embrace of a specific belief has rather a lot of do with your geographical location, and nothing at all to do with what is and is not actually true. It is those around you that draw you in.
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    Derren Brown, the illusionist, did a series on Channel 4 in the UK called Fear and Faith. During this at one point he gave somebody a camera to record a video diary and told her that for the next two weeks they would be manipulating events in her life so that she could learn life lessons, and that she was to record those lessons on her video diary. Darren Brown is well-known for doing the hidden camera thing and so this idea, once planted, was embraced as factual. One week later she had a video crammed full of the lessons she had learned during the events that they had staged. The reveal was that they had done nothing at all except give her the idea and a camera – everything that happened was her reading meaning into random events. – This is exactly the same psychology at play in the “born again” experience where Jesus is with you and helps you out each day.
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3 thoughts on “I can’t believe that … (3) miracles can happen

  1. “So the atheist has no particular reason for suspecting that the laws of nature will continue to operate, except that they have so far.”
    Should read that the Atheist has no particular reason for suspecting that the laws of nature will CHANGE. Most atheists would contend that the laws of nature apply because in EVERY SINGLE OBSERVATION that has been reliably confirmed, the laws of nature hold true.
    You’re proof of miracles relies upon a God being responsible for nature, and if He exists, surely he can suspend the natural laws to invoke miracles. The 2 main objections are:
    1. You’ve not proved that said god exists. Approximately 3,000 gods have been proposed by people of the would, and I think we’d agree that 2,999 DO NOT exist. What evidence for the last one sets it apart?
    2. Miracles in the days of the bible seem to almost be commonplace. However, now that we have the logic & equipment to accurately weigh evidence, the prevalence of miracles seems very light indeed.
    Looking forward to your thoughts
    Scott

    Like

  2. Pingback: I can’t believe that … (4) God’s word would be so violent | Stepping Toes

  3. Pingback: No other god besides Jehovah who gives all explanation – Messiah For All

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