- A miracle is a violation of the known laws of nature.
- We know these laws through repeated & constant observation (empiricism).
- The testimony of those who report such miracles contradict the known laws of nature.
- Consequently, no one can rationally believe in miracles.
At a glance, we should see a couple of problems with this. First, how can we know the limits of these so-called laws of nature? The human mind is a finite thing. Thomas Edison once said that "we don't know even a millionth of one percent about anything." The more that true science discovers about the boundless nature of our universe the more accurate Edison's statement becomes. The laws of nature simply cannot be defined in any concrete way.
This brings us to another problem with Hume's proof. The second precept suggests that our knowledge of said laws is based upon experience and observation only, what we call empiricism. But as we stated in the last post, many of the ideas within the context of the "laws of nature" cannot be empirically observed. Concerning the origins of life and the universe, nobody was around to see them, but even common events in nature cannot be confirmed empirically. Why? Two reasons: 1) There will always be exceptions, and 2) The number of observations will always be finite.
For example, one of the most prominent fossils discovered by early paleontologists were of an order of fish called the coelacanths. For decades, they were studied, classified, and widely believed to be extinct since the end of the Cretaceous period, supposedly about 65 million years ago. Then, in 1938, a South African fisherman hooked a living coelacanth out in the Indian Ocean and reeled him in. Now that's a fish story. So much for the extinction theory. What this tells us is that we cannot know an infinite truth from finite observation. Even Hume insisted that we cannot be 100% sure that the sun will rise on the morrow.
All such arguments against miracles can be similarly refuted. Yet, they are persistently offered. Why? Because ultimately they are arguments against the existence of God. If miracles occur, then God exists. That is why I say that miracles represent the battle lines. "Miracles are improbable," said Hume, "and their possibility is so remote that no thinking person should consider them." But, we can make a great argument that, not only are miracles possible, they are indeed probable, and as we shall see, actual.
Modern atheists put forth the notion that the universe sprang into being randomly, by chance (one of their favorite terms). But chance can only tell us about the likelihood of events. It is a concept of statistics and probability. Only a force or a power can cause an event. Chance has no power, and thus cannot cause anything.
When we study life and its limitless boundaries, we see system upon system of sophistication and complexity beyond our ability to comprehend. Every minute thing in this maze of incredulity is the product of some cause. Even Jefferson said that "it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consumate skill, and indefinate power in every atom" of life. Creation represents the effect of some greater reality. An effect cannot be greater than its cause, nor can it be more complex or more intelligent.
We as Christians call this cause God. The atheist will respond with countless intellectual absurdities as to why He cannot be, but the fact remains that the great design of our universe implies a Designer. This incredible process of design is an act, and if there is an God who can act, then there are clearly acts of God. Because of this, it should be imminently more logical to look at human history with the clear expectation of the miraculous, rather than a dim, unwarranted skepticism of the same.
Following this line of thinking, let us examine three famous miracles of the New Testament which are routinely considered preposterous by modern skeptics. First of all, would the God who spoke the universe, with all of its irreducible complexity, into being, have any particular difficulty in by-passing a single biological component of conception (a process which He, too, created) to produce one very unique child. "What! A virgin birth? No way, not possible," The skeptic stammers in reflex. But, look at who we are talking about here. Can not the Designer tinker with the design? When you think of it that way, there is nothing improbable about it.
How much of a problem would it be for such a being, who created everything we see ex nihilo, from nothing, to produce a large quantity of food from, say, five loaves and three fishes. Does it really seem like such a stretch?
And what of the Resurrection? "Could not possibly have happened," says the atheist. "No sir ree Bob." The separation of the Resurrection from the Gospel is the founding principle of modern Bible criticism. But, again, given that the Creator we are discussing brought a complete human being from the dust of the ground, just how difficult would it be for such a being to simply re-animate a body previously formed and whole? Hmmm?
We human beings have a particular tendency to ignore the common place and to question the unique. The miracles of the Bible are unique. An event such as the sun standing still in the sky in Joshua 10:12-14 (In actuality, the earth pausing in its rotation) goes against the normal pattern of nature. Those who witness such an event marvel and wonder. But when they attempt to tell others of what they have seen, it is normal to expect skepticism and ridicule.
The truth is, there are miracles about us each moment, everywhere we look. We could spend every waking second, if we desired, in the close observation of these wondrous things. But, because there are so many that take place at any given time, they appear commonplace to us, and sadly, are taken for granted. We do not notice them.
The great Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoeyevsky, once observed that everywhere he saw people praying and hoping for a miracle so that they could have faith. But "it is not miracles that generate faith," he wrote, "but faith that generates miracles." In many ways, miracles are a problem of perception. If we disavow God, then we have already precluded the miraculous. But if we believe in an omnipotent Creator, then we should see the specific miracles of the Bible as confirmation of His message to us, and we should perceive the miracles of the natural world as evidence of His eternal power and majesty.
Love in Christ,