Miracles-What Do You Expect Me To Believe? (Part 5)

Posted: February 19, 2011 in Historical apologetics, Philosophy
Tags: , , , , , , ,

by Matt Lefebvre

This post is a continuation of the series on miracles. Please see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 if you have not read them yet.

Secondly, Hume says that people want to believe in the amazing and the miraculous, so they are easily duped into believing false miracle stories.  However, this need not be a check against any miracle story being considered by weighing evidence and not adding, as I explained above.  Even if there are many more miracle stories that are false than those that are true, if those that are true have good evidence, they should naturally carry more weight.  In my high school, there were a couple students who rarely listened in class, did not do very much of their homework, and barely ever studied.  When it came time for a test, they would cheat, usually by discreetly (or so they thought) looking at someone else’s paper.  If they were caught doing so by the teacher, they would get zero, but it had no effect on those of us who did the test based solely on what we had learned.  Especially when the test involved an essay, it was easy for the teacher to see who actually knew what they were talking about.  In the same way that the teacher still gave the good grades to those who did not cheat, false miracle claims do not explain away positive evidence for better miracle claims.  Having said that, I can at least understand why Hume would remain suspicious of miracle claims because of the unbridled attention they draw.  However, what separates the miracles of Jesus from false miracle claims is the early testimony in the Gospels and the enemy attestation to Jesus’ miracles.  Many miracles have been shown to be legendary, written back into some historical person’s life, but with Jesus’ miracles, even very liberal scholars recognize the early attestation to Jesus’ miracles in the sources behind the Gospel narratives, as Lee Strobel demonstrates (Who Made God?, p.89-90).  In fact, Mohammed, whom Hume uses as an example of competing miracle reports, claimed that Jesus performed miracles, but that he himself was not going to do so.  Miracle accounts for him and other saints come after his death, in sources many Islamic scholars consider to be unhistorical (Who Made God?, p.91, Answering Islam, p.171-172, 254, 257).  It was not just those who wanted to make Jesus look good, though, for the Talmud does not deny that Jesus performed miracles, but rather, it merely attributes the power to sorcery (Sanhedrin 43a).  There are others that could be cited, but the words of very liberal scholar Marcus Borg say more than enough.

“Despite the difficulty which miracles pose for the modern mind, on historical grounds it is virtually indisputable that Jesus was a healer and an exorcist.” (A New Vision, p.61)

Naturalistic explanations have been attempted to explain how Jesus could be seen as a miracle worker, but these fail, because many of Jesus’ miracles were such as those that happened instantly and defy explanation apart from divine intervention, such as curing blindness or disfiguration, or even feeding the 5,000, which appears in all four Gospels.  So perhaps the only way out is to say that these people believed Jesus to be a miracle worker because they were ignorant barbarians.

Click here to see part 6 of the article


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