If Miracles Do Happen, Then David Hume and Others are Wrong


by Rob Lundberg

Many people use the word “miracle” in many contexts. We may think a team with a of losing seasons winning the championship would be a miracle. Some students think that passing a test would be a miracle. But are these miracles?

What about those who claim to have healing ministries?  Are these ministries really performing miracles?  While I do believe that miracles do happen today, I do not believe that healing ministries are legitimate.  If you would like to take this on email me.

So in this post, I want to address the subject of miracles in a little more detail than a post I wrote in the past.  In that post I argued that miracles were the “calling card” for the existence of God, and that without a supernatural realm, miracles are impossible, and without miracles as God’s supernatural calling card, the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles might have been rejected more than what they were in the past.

The Ghost of David Hume Still Speaks to the Skeptic

My points that I will expound upon are just two:  if God exists then miracles are possible and that miracles are acts of God that confirm a message from God. The rationale for this post is that many skeptics like to appeal to the Eighteenth Century philosopher David Hume’s argument which posited the following:

Because a miracle would be a ‘violation of the laws of nature’, miracles are impossible or that one cannot have a justified belief that a miracle occurred.  (David Hume, “Of Miracles” (Section X.  An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding).

Elsewhere he quips,  “The evidence for the regular is always greater than that for the rare. Since miracles are rare, a wise man should never believe in miracles.”  This is like saying, “But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.  So in the mind of the skeptic, there is no reason to believe miracles have actually occurred.

But is this correct?   What exactly is meant by extraordinary here?  Let me give a short answer to these questions.  

That term extraordinary is ambiguous, meaning that one miraculous event could, in principle, never meet the demand.  For example, if one means by “extraordinary” some particular quality of evidence is needed, then in order to accept the extraordinary evidence for the extraordinary claim, one would need more extraordinarily evidence to support the initial extraordinary evidence for the extraordinary claim ad infinitum is absurd.

If on the other hand, one means by “extraordinary” a particular quantity of evidence, who makes the decision on how much? That is rather arbitrary. Moreover, we have a vast amount of evidence  showing the existence of God, the reliability of the Bible (as we shall see in the coming weeks), and so forth.

Did you know that many non-believers accept many rare events.

For example, the Big Bang cannot be repeated, yet we have solid scientific evidence that the greatest miracle of all actually happened, that is that the universe exploded into being out of nothing a finite time ago.  Many believe that life spontaneously arose from non life, something that has never been observed or proven nor repeated.

Don’t be startled here with what I am about to say. I agree with Hume’s argument. . . if there is no God. But if God exists, we really need to get down the meaning of the word “miracle” in order to prove Hume’s argument short sighted.  I believe Hume’s argument is short-sighted based upon the appeal to the use of  the “violation of the laws of nature” language.

In essence, miracles could be violations of the laws of nature. But what I hope to show is that they are not necessarily violations of the laws of nature. The reason is that if God exists, I would like to pose that they could interruptions or redirections of those laws of nature, where God enters the time space continuum to halt or redirect some event that would have a bad result.  So again, if a supernatural God exists, then miracles, which are supernatural events, are possible.

If God Exists Then Miracles are Possible

If there is a God who can act, then it is plausible to believe that there can be acts of God.  The arguments used against the believable nature of miracles prove too much for the plausibility of miracles. Given that God exists, and if we have good evidence that miracles have occurred, there should be no reason we should not believe miracles can happen.

In past posts, I have argued for the fact that a theistic God exists using a handful of arguments.  I have contended that atheism, agnosticism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Wicca, and any other non-theistic worldview can be proven false with reference to their views of what they believe God is like and what kind of God exists.

So what we are left with are the great monotheistic religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam and any other unnamed theistic worldview as possible contenders for the one true view of reality. How can we adjudicate between these views?  If one of the above belief systems were confirmed by miracles then we should have reason to believe its truth claims.. 

No doubt many in our society would say, Surely you cannot seriously believe miracles are possible. Why not? As Dr. Norman Geisler says, if there’s a God who can act, then miracles are possible. C. S. Lewis wrote, If we admit God must we admit miracles? Indeed, indeed, you have no security against it (C. S. Lewis, Miracles (1974): 169).

So. . . What is a Miracle?

Some of you may have been confronted with this question.  Let me give you a simple definition which you can put in your memory,  and take it further perhaps creating your own portfolio to make a case for miracles.  Here is the definition:  Miracles are Acts of God to Confirm a Message from God But let me move us a little further. 

Miracles are a special type of unusual event. They stem from divine power. They are immediate, lasting, and point people to God. Their primary purpose is to provide a divine fingerprint confirming a message from God.  This definition is pretty direct given that we humanly speaking have the tendency to use the term miracle in a variety of contexts.  

How Loosely Do We Use the Word Miracle?

Many of might remember the plane that was landed in the Hudson River back in 2009. It was bitterly cold Thursday afternoon on January 15, 2009 when a flight bound for Charlotte NC hit a flock of birds, shortly after takeoff from New York City. Captain “Sully” Sullenberger III safely landed the disabled plane in the Hudson River. Then New York Governor David Patterson said, We had a miracle on 34th Street. I believe now we have had a miracle on the Hudson.

Like
many words in the English language, we use the termmiracle quite loosely to describe everything from rare championships occurring in sporting events; to passing an exam that is not studied for;  to the birth of babies; and to Jesus walking on the water. Since the theistic God (of the Bible) exists (skeptics reading this altogether now wince), we know miracles are possible, but what precisely counts as a miracle?

Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, in their book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Crossway 2004), distinguish between six categories of unusual events:

  1. Anomalies: Purely physical events that may be considered “freaks of nature.  Scientists used to consider the ability of a bumblebee to fly as a “freak of nature.

  2. Magic (i.e., Sleight of hand/the hand is quicker than the eye): This kind of event is a human  controlled physical event like those of a trained stage performer doing illusionary tricks.

  3. Psychosomatic events: These kinds of events are the “mind over matter” kind of events where one tricks themselves into believing something actually happened. This occurs frequently with the television “faith healers.

  4. Satanic counterfeit signs:  These kinds of events are derived from limited preternatural power that is meant to lead people away from God.  What does Scripture say?  Here are what I call the Dirty Dozen of occult practices, some of the practices directly linked to the demonic power mentioned in the Bible are:

    a.
    Witchcraft (Deuteronomy 18:10)
    b. Fortune-telling (Deuteronomy 18:10)
    c. Communicating with spirits (Deuteronomy 18:11)
    d. Mediums (Deuteronomy 18:11)
    e. Divination (Deuteronomy 18:10)
    f. Astrology (Deuteronomy 4:19; Isa. 47:13–15)
    g. Heresy (false teaching) (1 Tim. 4:1; 1 John 4:1–2)
    h. Immorality (Eph. 2:2–3)
    i.  Self-deification (Gen. 3:5; Isa. 14:13)
    j.  Lying (John 8:44)
    k. Idolatry (1 Cor. 10:19–20)
    l.  Legalism and self-denial (Col. 2:16–23; 1 Tim. 4:1–3)

What is the difference between the above listed and miracles? While magic incorporates the manipulation of outside supernatural forces to do one’s bidding the direct from whence the miracle originates is quite different.  Yet there are some things that occur in our every day happenings that would have us question on whether or not what we experienced was truly miraculous.  For example, take those things that happen which are just providential. 

What is a Providential Event?  These events are often mistaken for miracles. They are naturally experienced and may have a supernatural timing for God’s purposes. The fog at Normandy, during D-Day, providing cover for the Allies could be considered a providential occurrence.  Can you think of a similar event that you may have experienced that might be considered providential?

Speaking to Actual Miracles:  Miraculous events are those which stem from divine power that are immediate, lasting, and point to the glory of GodA miracle, therefore is  a very specific kind of unusual event which would not apply to sporting events, passing an exam without studying, televangelists holding crusade meetings, or even landing airplanes on rivers. Rather a miracle proves a divine fingerprint most often used to confirm God’s message.

Biblical miracles generally occurred during the times surrounding Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and Jesus and the Apostles.  Those these and others in Scripture those were the times God was providing new revelation and confirming as authentic His message. As the Apostle John wrote in his gospel,

“Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).

Conclusion

Miracles are not for show or entertainment. They are relatively rare and their primary purpose is to confirm God’s message. Why do we not see more miracles?  Richard Dawkins and other popular atheists like to posit this argument.  He and others rant that miracles do not exist. If they did we should see them more frequently or regularly. Therefore they do not exist.  Can we answer this? Absolutely.

Remember that miracles are supernatural events. If we saw supernatural events happening on a regular basis, and every day they would no longer be miracles!   Miracles are acts of God (which Dawkins and others reject) that confirm a message from God (which they reject).  Game over!

Miracles are acts of God to confirm a message from God. Because God exists miracles are possible, and do occur, but not like regular events.  David Hume’s objections are answerable, and we have good answers.

If you have any questions, please send them to realissueapologetics@yahoo.com.  If you would like to leave a comment below, please keep it cordial and I will be happy to interact with you.  Thank you again for indulging this post.


 

Version 3Rob is a blogger, writer and public speaker on a mission to equip the believer to think and articulate what they believe and to communicate the message of the gospel to a confused culture in a chaotic, “brave new world.”

He is available to come and speak to your church, college club, or group. Find out what people are saying.  If you would like to support this ministry with a one time or a monthly gift, you can do that by clicking here

If you would like to book Rob for a speaking event, you can do so by emailing him at realissueapologetics@yahoo.com    If you have other questions about apologetics or doing apologetics, or if you are looking for apologetics resources, contact our ministry by email.



 

One comment

  1. Hey there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Many thanks

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