Miracles and Science: The Significance of Worldviews

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If Martin and I would have time to get this far in conversation, I’m sure we would have swiftly passed the red herring of natural science being the touchstone upon which to examine biblical miracles. But Martin could point out that Hume made a number of other arguments against miracles, namely:

Witness testimony is often suspect.
Stories get exaggerated in the retelling.
Miracles are chiefly seen among ignorant and barbarous people.
Rival religions also have miracle stories, so they cancel each other out.

These arguments are substantial, and I refer to footnote 3 [see part 1] for an introduction to the voluminous literature they have inspired. However, we can take a little stab at the first two objections. It is true that witness testimony cannot always be trusted and that stories change with time. But these are the same problems that face legal systems and historians. Nonetheless, we can employ the tools of these professions to examine biblical miracles. Take, for example, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is significant extra biblical historical evidence that he indeed lived. Much has been written about the general trustworthiness of the Gospels. For example, there is much internal evidence, in both the style and content of the narratives, that the writers themselves were convinced that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. Tradition holds that 11 of the 12 original apostles were martyred for this belief that turned a group of cowards into a people who “turned the world upside down.” Although it is well beyond the scope of this essay, a very strong case for the plausibility of the resurrection can be made.[1] Similar analysis can be brought to bear on other miracle claims, including those of other religions. After all, every meaningful system of thought must be open to careful scrutiny.

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