More on miracles: CT on fake news and resurrections

There have been lots of discussions here on what exactly is a miracle and whether or not they happen today. I read this article a few days ago on a plane ride, and I thought it would be interesting to discuss. The author, Craig Keener, the author of a book I have frequently cited for people interested in an “academic” treatment of the topic of miracles from a Christian perspective.

If some African Christians accept miracle claims too quickly, many of us in the secular West indulge the opposite cultural temptation. Our heritage of antisupernaturalism, stemming from 18th-century Deists and the naturalist philosophy of David Hume, predisposes us to dismiss all miracles. That way, at least, we cannot be embarrassed by claims that turn out to be fraudulent.

What do you say to accounts like the ones Keener reports?

2 Likes

Healthy criticism when it comes to second hand eyewitness reports, although I hesitate to discredit them therefor. It is just that this is a topic where one needs credible reports with as much evidence as possible to persuade skeptics. At the top of my head I can recount half a dozen miracle healings Keener reported which fit that bill, with credible eyewitnesses, as well as medical documentation, which I think show such a miracle to have occured. The same goes for some of his described events of someone raising from the dead. In short, the credibility variies in the events Keener recounts, but I´d say that the strong evidenced once he presents should prove hard if not impossible to credibly explain them away.

E: And I just want to say, I read the article and pastors faking their own miracles makes me furious. It inevitably takes away some credibility from any other claim and ti doesn´t help anyone when one has the larger picture in mind.

2 Likes

I would like to see more documentation with actual respiration rate and electrical activity. Most of these examples do not include those (many are from areas without EEG and EKG; a baby on the back is not well observed) and even in the monitored ones, outliers do occur.
I appreciate Keener’s warning to look for signs of charlatanism.

Randy do you have those books or should I send some examples from the healing section which meet your standards?

1 Like

Please don’t take my skepticism as any more than Thomas’ response. :slight_smile: It might be good to review those, but I don’t want to be negative, either. @DOL Denis Lamoureux is an evolutionary biologist who I respect a lot, and is actually Pentecostal.

I wonder sometimes if there is a possibility of proving a miracle; I’m wondering also why most resurrections appear to occur within a few minutes of death, and not days afterward. Maybe my attitude is incorrect–it seems sometimes to be like that of Lewis’ cynical dwarfs in “The Last Battle”–“No one’s going to take us in! The dwarfs are for the dwarfs!”. If so, I would be wrong.

I look forward to this discussion.

I tend toward the Thomas side also, but keep an open mind especially in those cultures that may see miracles as a sign from God. Often I see things medically called miracles that are within the expected range of outcomes. On one hand, any healing is a miracle of sorts, on the other it may be an outlier but still not unexpected.
Things get pretty fuzzy at times. We recently had a missionary in Central America report on a child who was sent home with a feeding tube and brain damage, and who showed progressive improvement over 6 weeks after they prayed over him to the point that he was up and walking and eating on his own, though still with neurological impairment. It was presented as miraculous though I have seen numerous patients make similar recoveries in care centers, presumably without prayer or miraculous intervention. I let it go without comment of course, but at the same time felt somewhat complicit in their presenting something that is not quite accurate.

2 Likes

In my extended family I often hear things like “God was good, so-and-so made it home safely last night”. Seems odd to me to make ones personal safety God’s responsibility. And why do we never hear “God was horrible, so-and-so didn’t make it”? Probably best to conduct our business as if there will be no miraculous intervention if we fail to hold up our end. But maybe I’m missing some context here.

I am also naturally skeptical, even though I know of people and situations where “miraculous” things happened according to multiple trustworthy witnesses.

This isn’t a medical thing, but a few years ago, the indigenous denomination we work with was hosting a showing of the Jesus Film which had recently been dubbed in their language. They promised a meal to people who showed up to watch. They planned to feed 100 people, but about four times that number showed up. So they prayed over their pots of stew believing God could multiply food, and started ladeling out full bowls. They did not hit the bottom until the last few people were coming through the line.

So, maybe they underestimated how much food they actually had. But, these are poor people who are well versed in doing the math of how much food feeds how many people. Everyone who was involved in the cooking says there was no way that the number of chickens they butchered and the number of kilos of corn and chilis they used could have possibly filled that many bowls and they swear God did a miracle like the oil and flour or the bread and fish in the Bible.

Sometimes I remind myself that my worldview totally allows for miracles and ask myself what motivation I have for always trying to explain them away.

5 Likes

Not so much “make it God’s responsibility” as “acknowledge God’s presence”. I do this all the time - thanking God for safe travel (especially on behalf of loved ones) fully knowing that someday we could be hurt or die in a traffic incident ourselves. So I also do what I can to make sure I don’t cause such an incident. But on the day it happens to me my expression to God may likely be something very different than “thanks”, but Lord willing - He will still hear something from me whether it be an angry “why this?” or even still a tearful “thank you.” It’s a relationship. Much of it routine (of which we’re usually glad). I routinely thank God for the food on the table not one whit thinking this means I need to stop believing in farmers and grocery stores.

2 Likes

This is tricky – I think skepticism is healthy, but at the same time, I don’t think I’d question a miracle report from a friend if it was someone I trusted, or from a missionary who is giving of themselves for others and not out to build their reputation over it. The unholy union of “miracle” talk with the prosperity gospel and faith healers doesn’t help anything. Anyone who names a ministry after themselves brings up red flags in my mind.

Sometimes I’m tempted to just shrug and remember James 1:17:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

An acquaintance of ours recently survived a type of cardiac arrest which kills 99% of people who experience it. There just so happened to be security guards in the area who had equipment and knowledge enough to help him until EMTs arrived. I have no problem with calling that a miracle. Not that it’s all about percentages or numbers, but as trite as it is I think there’s something to the saying that there are two ways to live: as if nothing is a miracle or as if everything is a miracle. I don’t consider things like “getting a good parking space” to be interventions from God as if he revolves around my comfort, so we often cheapen the word. But if all is grace and we can’t tell 100% when God “intervenes,” then I think “miracle” is an appropriate term.

3 Likes

LOL, that’s my husband’s number one criteria for dismissing someone. (He grew up with health and wealth stuff.) Though we are from the same sending church as Ron Hutchcraft of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries so we granted him an exception. :wink:

2 Likes

Coincidentally on the ride to the airport the day I read the CT article, my dad was telling me the story of an acquaintance of his who had just been on the news. He had a heart attack at the airport and was flatlining for much longer than the time doctors say you can be flatlining without brain damage. He credits it as a miracle. But of course you can also say the right people were there at the right time with the right technology and he beat medical the odds for his outcome.

3 Likes

I believe that it important to check out this reply to Keener’s work. The link is Part 1 of 14 parts that offer responses to Volume 1. https://lutherwasnotbornagaincom.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/a-review-of-craig-keeners-miracles-part-1/

This link is the response of the blog author after reading Volume 1 in its entirety: https://lutherwasnotbornagaincom.wordpress.com/2017/04/22/review-of-miracles-volume-ii-by-craig-keener-chapter-13-part-1/

The author of the blog states, “So I read Volume I of Keener’s Miracles and reviewed it here on this blog. I was not impressed. Keener admits that he did not spend ONE single dollar on research. Not one. He simply collected anecdotal claims of miracles.”

Yes, I’ve seen that. I am not one bit surprised that someone who tries to write an academic treatise on miracles has critics. But, like I said above, there is nothing in my worldview that demands such skepticism and like Keener, I personally know people with these “anecdotes.” I would not point to his book as “proof” of God anymore than I would point to the Gospels as “proof” of Jesus’ resurrection.

R.C. Sproul once said if you believe in raising the dead - go practice at the cemetery. I think he was having a go at somebody. Not sure. From his Reformed based on Hebrews 2:4 these were signs given by God to verify the deity of Christ. But because the writer includes the gifts of the Spirit and because Hebrews was written fairly early several others believe the function of a sign still exist…to point as a testimony of God’s presence.

The problem is that cynicism, secularism and science has saturate our thinking. I enjoyed the article especially how it closed.

PS: I hate cancer.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 3 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.