The Role of Miracles in Judaism and Christianity

by Glenn R. Morton 2020

I have been thinking of miracles and what it means to believe God. The earliest use of the word believe in the Bible concerns Abraham. Scripture says (Ge 15:4–6):

And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. 5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. 6 And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness .

What exactly was it that Abe believed? He believed something that was scientifically impossible, that he and his aged wife would have a child. Such an event is out of the range of normal events, yet, if we are to believe what the Bible says, Abe and Sarah had Isaac when he was 99 and she 90. The question is, should we believe such nonsense? I would say, if we have a God, who interacts in this world, yes we should, but many say no we shouldn’t. One could say this isn’t a miracle but that Sarah had some sort of hormonal episode at that age, which made birth possible, It is, however highly unusual.

Recently I have been given two criteria for how we know things are not meant to be taken literally, but figuratively. I want to use these two criteria to look at some of the miracles in the Bible to see what is left of them. I used a list of miracles in the OT but edited the list down.

Christy’s view of how to tell what is and isn’t real, thus to be considered figurative–if it doesn’t comport to reality.

*There are lots of clues, like you point out, that we are not intended to take the Genesis account as describing a historical event. It is a story. But many sentences in the story are meant to be interpreted literally in the reality the story creates. In the story, I think we are to understand God as actually walking in the garden and the snake as actually talking. Those are the “facts” of the story. *That they don’t comport with information we know about reality is how we know it is a story, not a factual account of history. source

Mitch’s view that God can’t violate natural law:

If by miraculous you mean things contrary to the laws of nature, then no, I don’t believe in such things. I do not believe that God breaks the laws of nature which He created and no I don’t believe anything else breaks the laws of nature which He created either. source

Christy’s criteria basically says if it doesn’t comport to reality, then it is figurative, and Mitch says anything that violates natural law must be taken as something other than real history. By this standard one might not allow the birth of Isaac at his parent’s elderly age.

Both of these views are effectively weaker statements or partial statements inspired by the logical positivism of the Vienna Circle. Alfred Jules Ayer gives the logical basis of positivism in the quote below.:

The views which are put forward in this treatise derive from the doctrines of Bertrand Russell and Wittgenstein, which are themselves the logical outcome of the empiricism of Berkeley and David Hume. Like Hume, I divide all genuine propositions into two classes: those which, in his terminology, concern ‘relations of ideas,’ and those which concern ‘matters of fact.’ The former class comprises the a priori propositions of logic and pure mathematics, and these I allow to be necessary and certain because they are analytic. That is, I maintain that the reason why these propositions cannot be confuted in experience is that they do not make any assertion about the empirical world, but simply record our determination to use symbols in a certain fashion. Propositions concerning empirical matters of fact, on the other hand, I hold to be hypotheses , which can be probable but never certain. And in giving an account of the method of their validation I claim also to have explained the nature of truth. ” Alfred Jules Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic, (New York: Dover Publications, 1952), p. 31

Then he lays down the criteria for an empirical statement of fact to be considered to have meaning:

“A simple way to formulate it would be to say that a sentence had literal meaning if and only if the proposition it expressed was either analytic or empirically verifiable To this, however, it might be objected that unless a sentence was literally meaningful it would not express a proposition; for it is commonly assumed that every proposition is either true or false, and to say that a sentence expressed what was either true or false would entail saying that it was literally meaningful.” Alfred Jules Ayer, 1946 ‘Introduction” Language, Truth and Logic, (New York: Dover Publications, 1952), p. 5

Comporting to reality and not violating the laws of physics fits nicely within the above. Consider Quine’s famous sentence,

The present king of France is bald .’

“The definite description here is a vacuous expression. It does not refer to any existing thing, since there is no present king of France. Now, this problem of non-being can be generated by the following argument. The sentence is meaningful and thus is either true or false. If true, then it is true of something, namely, the present king of France, and if false, then it is false of something, namely, the present king of France. So whether the sentence is true or false, there is a present king of France. But this conclusion conflicts with our assumption that there is no such being.” Alex Orenstein, W. V. Quine, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002), p. 28-29

The reason I delved into my philosophical graduate studies is the question of whether or not the Biblical statement below conforms to reality, or is ‘verifiable’ by the standards of logical positivism? Consider 1 Cor. 2:29:

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

This sentence is not verifiable because it is not a statement about our reality. It would fall into the same situation as the bald present king of France, who is not part of our reality, or the statement that “Frodo had hairy feet”. Statements like this do not conform to reality. Into what category do we place the statement “God loves us”? Like the statement about the present bald King of France, if God doesn’t exist, this statement is vacuous. All agree that God is empirically unverifiable, which places him outside of science and what the world views as our only reality. Does this make him as figurative as the miracles? There is no empirical reality which to which God conforms. Furthermore, God might violate the laws of physics, individual claims and beliefs in his inability or unwillingness to do so notwithstanding…

The question that should arise to anyone interested in such things is if we apply such criteria to the scripture to determine what ‘conforms to reality’ and reject what violates the laws of physics, should we also reject the above 1 Cor 2:29?

Should we also spew out of our mouth’s statements of Scripture, equally unverifiable/unconforming to our reality such as Rev. 3:14-21

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. 21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

Even if we can identify those who share traits with that ancient church(which no one actually thinks it applies to them), can this passage be verified? Does it conform to reality? No and no. It is a statement ultimately about where we will sit in another reality. Is this figurative language? Yes. Is it really going to happen, that we Christians will sit with the Father? I may be a stupid, hick geophysicist of 47 years experience doing geophysics, but I say yes, it will happen. Verse 21 does comport to the above definition of reality because reality is much bigger than what Christy defines as reality. Reality is bigger than just what happens in the material universe. To believe otherwise is to gut Christian theology like a bass taken out of my lake or a deer shot in the Fall and field dressed. The parts important to the life, the heart, lungs, liver, stomach and intestines of the fish or deer have been cut out and left on the ground to steam in the cold Fall air, food for the vultures; similarly the intellectual parts of Christian theology, important to the vibrant life of the saint, have been cut out and left on the ground. Whether dead ideas steam in the cold air, I wouldn’t know.

In light of the above, let’s look at some of the miracles taken from here. I have added a few they don’t list. They will be numbered with an A and B. I won’t do all 67 in the list, but only the ones I find interesting.

1. Creation. Creation of the universe, including plants, animals and humans (Genesis 1 – Genesis 2).

Unless one believes that the universe exists eternally past, it had to have a beginning, in which case the laws of physics were created with the universe and were not prior to the universe. In this case God definitely had something to do with it. Some physicist say that the laws of physics existed prior to the existence of the universe, in which case, creation was according to natural law, and God had nothing to do with creation, unless God is moved back to a deistic role of merely creating the laws of physics long ago.

I know Christy would say God chose not to tell us about creation. and accommodated his story to the culture of the day (I would phrase it the stupidities of the day). Since there are multiple religions, each with their creation story, the only way one can know which of the Gods is the true god is by the one who tells the true account of creation. Accommodation removes that source of comparative religious information.

A.God walking in the Garden. This clearly Christy has already stated that such a thing is not to be believed. But has she considered that Jesus was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, that he existed from then, and that he might have been the member of the God head walking in the garden? If we believe Jesus is God, then God walked from Galilee all over Israel, 2000 years ago. Why the concept of God walking is so foreign, I can’t imagine.

B Talking snake I think this is the one that embarrasses everyone. It isn’t cool to believe that this is possible. I think the question here is: Do we believe Eph 6:12

" For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places . "

And do we believe that God created them? Col 1:16 says:

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him”

We don’t know what those principalities and powers have in the way of well, power, to make an animal speak, or to speak through them. Christian theology defines reality as a much bigger thing than material/scientific reality.

But such an event clearly violates both positivist criteria for what is real, so here is another miracle shot down. My problem with shooting things like this down is that it says we don’t believe what God’s Word says, and if this is our position, why believe water to wine, or Lazarus’s resurrection?

4. Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed. Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:4).

5. Pillar of Salt. Lot’s wife turned into a “pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26)

These events go together. It now is a scientific fact that an airburst meteor hit the area of Sodom and Gomorrah. I have a page on my blog that explains it but I won’t put a link in this the opening post cause that is against the rules. An airburst meteorite, that heated rock instantly to 12,000 C would have superheated the surficial waters of the Dead Sea and caused a tsunami. If Lot’s wife was below the splash line of the tsunami, she would have been coated in salts as the superheated water hit her cool body and the water evaporated out almost instantly. (source and I have read unpublished work by these authors)

The only miracle here in this story is that two men came and dragged the family out of Sodom and sent them on their way. Even today we have a hard time detecting such meteors before they enter the atmosphere. How did those two men know to get Mr. and Mrs. Lot and the girls out of the town? Such a thing would violate both criteria because it would mean knowledge they couldn’t possibly have had given their level of technology. The two ‘angels’ must be figurative angels and the Lot’s were just going on vacation by chance the day the meteor exploded…

7. The burning bush not consumed. Moses before the burning bush (Exodus 3:3).

Clearly violates both natural law and does not comport to reality–it must not have happened. That would mean that Moses’ mission was not of God.

22. Balaam’s Donkey Speaks. Balaam’s ass speaks (Numbers 22:21-35).

Like A, the talking snake, this is both embarrassing, uncool and violates both criteria. But again, if we have a God who performs miracles, why not a talking donkey? These criteria might be more indicative of our view of the power or powerlessness of God than it is of what God is capable of doing.

24. Jericho’s Walls Destroyed. The walls of Jericho fall down (Joshua 6:6-20).

The modern problem with this is archaeological based on the traditional chronology, but new information indicates that these events occurred a couple of hundred years earlier and at that time, there is archaeological evidence for the walls of Jericho fell. This miracle does not violate natural law, nor what comports to reality. Seismic waves generated by people walking in a circle would concentrate their energies at the center of the circle and thus might have caused the walls to crumble. Years ago, a geophysicist calculated that China could destroy us by having everyone in China jump from a 6 foot platform at the same time. Yes, it would severely damage China, but the waves would concentrate on the opposite side of the globe wreaking more havoc along the Eastern seaboard.

25. The Lord Stills the Sun and Moon. The sun and moon stayed to allow the Israelites to avenge their enemies. (Joshua 10:12-14).

This clearly violates natural law. But if it happened, there would be no astronomical evidence for it (contrary to many YEC claims) because when everything started again, everything was in the same relative position as when it started. Again, the question is, do we have a great and powerful God, or a deistic demiurge who can do no miracles?

38. Miracle of Elijah and the Widow’s Oil Increase. Widow of Zarephath’s meal and oil increased (1st Kings 17:14-16).

39. Miracle of Elijah and the Widow’s Son Raised From the Dead. Widow’s son raised from the dead (1st Kings 17:17-24).

These two violate natural law–the conservation of mass. If we have a theistic God who involves Himself in our history, who is powerful, then yes, this is certainly possible. If our God is powerless to intervene and break natural law then clearly this is nonsense, and nothing to be believed. This clearly does not comport to what we know of reality. The question is, do we believe that our God is powerful or not?

46. Elijah Carried to Heaven. Elijah carried up into heaven (2nd Kings 2:11).

We all know no man is carried to space much less heaven, by chariots. The story violates everything we know about reality and thus must be figurative. But this one is interesting in that Jesus met with Elijah on the mount of Transfiguration, another event which violates everything we know about nature and reality.

So, these criterion cast doubt on the literalness of Luke 9:29-30: And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. 30 And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias :

People’s clothing does not become white and glistening, and dead people don’t meet with the living. Again, the only way this could happen is if our God is actually a powerful God. If we don’t believe He is powerful enough to do this, could he really raise a man from the dead, be it Lazarus or Jesus?

54. Naaman Cured of Leprosy. Naaman cured of leprosy, Gehazi afflicted with it (2nd Kings 5:10).

Of course, again we know that this is not how leprosy is cured, dipping into the Jordon 7 times. This passage must be deleted

55. Iron Axe Swims the River. The iron axe-head made to swim, river Jordan (2nd Kings 6:5-7).

Clearly some kind of nuttery to believe this–laws of physics being what they are, but isn’t it equally nutty under these two criteria to believe a man dead 3 days arose and ate fish?

56. Elisha Knows the King of Syria’s Plans. Ben hadad’s plans discovered. Hazael’s thoughts, etc. (2nd Kings 6:12). [GRM: Hadad is an old name. My Lebanese wife’s sister dated a Hadad]

57. The Syrian Army Blinded. The Syrian army smitten with blindness at Dothan (2nd Kings 6:18).

This two miss the real miracle. It was that an invisible army was on the side of the Hebrews: 2nd Kings 6:15-17 said

" And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? 16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. 17 And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

This is reminiscent of Paul’s statement that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. But this can only be believed if we actually think there is a spiritual world out there.

59. The Dead Revived. Elisha’s bones revive the dead (2nd Kings 13:21).

Does God actually have this power? If not, then 1 Cor 15:29 can’t be true either:

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed

All of this doesn’t mean we have to be gullible, and can’t examine these events with science. I do have a problem with believing that I should worship a powerless god who can’t raise me from the dead. What would be the point of that?

64. Three Hebrew Boys Delivered from the Fiery Furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego delivered from the fiery furnace, Babylon (Daniel 3:10-27).

Clearly no rational, science minded person can believe that 3 guys walked in a fire and were not hurt. It violates everything we know about reality and the laws of physics. Is your God powerful enough to have done this or do we believe He isn’t? Do we really believe in a powerless god and in a book full of garbage like this?

65. Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Daniel saved in the lions’ den (Daniel 6:16-23).

This certainly doesn’t violate any natural law, but is highly unlikely that hungry lions would ignore a ready snack for several hours. Is this just another figurative story?

New Testament miracles were taken from here

FULFILLED MESSIANIC PROPHECIES (numerous—also see: prophets)

MIRACULOUS CONCEPTION. Technically this doesn’t violate natural law or reality. There is a rare process in biological species known as parthenogenesis, in which the female of the species can give rise to offspring without a father. It is unknown in humans but here is how it could exist in humans. Let’s say the odds of parthenogenesis in humans in 1 in a 50 billion. Well, that might have happened once in the past 50,000 years. There have been around 110 billion people who have lived on earth in the past 50,000 years. If such were the odds, and Mary were the lucky person, then it could happen naturally.

But how on earth would she have a male child?

There are a few females who have xy and androgen insensitivity syndrome. Normally they are infertile, but some have been found who are fertile. Here is an account of this:

Context: We report herein a remarkable family in which the mother of a woman with 46,XY complete gonadal dysgenesis was found to have a 46,XY karyotype in peripheral lymphocytes, mosaicism in cultured skin fibroblasts (80% 46,XY and 20% 45,X) and a predominantly 46,XY karyotype in the ovary (93% 46,XY and 6% 45,X).

Patients: A 46,XY mother who developed as a normal woman underwent spontaneous puberty, reached menarche, menstruated regularly, experienced two unassisted pregnancies, and gave birth to a 46,XY daughter with complete gonadal dysgenesis. source

If parthenogenesis occurred in such a person, Mary’s virgin birth could be a natural event and produce a male if he was not similarly androgen insensitive. While I think it was miraculous, one can’t rule this completely out of the natural realm. It would be a stretch to make it natural, so I believe it is miraculous.

I am going to list the rest of the miracles without comment. Each of Jesus’ and the disciples’ miracles violate what we know of reality and the laws of physics. To be consistent, one believing in these criteria must think they too are all figurative, which leaves us with a Jesus of no special significance. It leaves us with a Jesus who did nothing special. and without the resurrection, there really is no need for Christianity, but it above all violates natural law and reality. I would argue the above criteria actually destroy Christianity.

While the criteria for positivistically comporting to reality and following natural law is used on OT miracles, to explain them as figurative rather than literal events. It is not clear why they should not also be used on the miracles of Jesus as well, making them figurative rather than literal. In my mind, it is far easier and more consistent, to assume God is powerful enough to do these things rather than simply say these all are religious faerie tales. Conclusion after this list.

  1. STAR OF BETHLEHEM appears and leads wisemen to young Christ. [GRM:This
    is not a real heavenly this world star]
  2. HEALING—2 blind men (Matt 9:27-31)
  3. MONEY—needed tax/tribute money miraculously provided in a randomly caught
    fish’s mouth, as promised by Jesus Christ (Matt 17:24-27)
  4. HEALING—deaf and dumb man healed (Mark 7:31-37)
  5. HEALING—blind man of Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26)
  6. JESUS PASSES UNSEEN through hostile crowd attempting his murder
    (Luke 4:28-30)
  7. FISH—the miraculous draught of fishes (Luke 5:4-11)
  8. RESURRECTION—the raising of the widow’s son at Nain (Luke 7:11-18)
  9. HEALING—woman with the spirit of infirmity (Luke 13:11-17)
  10. HEALING—man with the dropsy (Luke 14:1-6)
  11. HEALING—ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19)
  12. HEALING—of Malchus (Luke 22:50-51)
  13. WATER TURNED TO WINE (John 2:1-11)
  14. HEALING—Cure of nobleman’s son, Capernaum (John 4:46-54)
  15. HEALING—impotent man at Bethsaida healed (John 5:1-9)
  16. HEALING—man born blind healed (John 9:1-7)
  17. RESURRECTION—Lazarus raised from the dead after (John 11:38-44)
  18. FISH—draught of fishes instantly caught at Christ’s instruction (John 21:1-14)
  19. HEALING—Syrophoenician woman’s daughter healed (Matt 15:28; Mark 7:24) 21. LOAVES AND FISHES—4,000 fed from 7 loaves and a few little fishes
    (Matt 15:32; Mark 8:1)
  20. FIG TREE destroyed (Matt 21:18; Mark 11:12)
  21. HEALING—Centurion’s servant healed (Matt 8:5; Luke 7:1)
  22. HEALING AND EXORCISM—blind and dumb demoniac cured
    (Matt 12:22; Luke 11:14)
  23. EXORCISM—demoniac cured in synagogue at Capernaum
    (Mark 1:23; Luke 4:33)
  24. HEALING—Peter’s wife’s mother healed (Matt 8:14; Mark 1:30; Luke 4:38)
  25. SEA STORM STILLED ON COMMAND (Matt 8:23; Mark 4:37; Luke 8:22)
  26. EXORCISM—Demoniacs of Gadara cured (Matt 8:28; Mark 5:1; Luke 8:26)
  27. SWINE SUICIDE—about 2,000 swine rush into the water and drown after Christ
    allowed demons to transfer to them from demoniacs (Mark 5:1-20)
  28. HEALING—leper (Matt 8:2; Mark 1:40; Luke 5:12)
  29. RESURRECTION—Jairus’s daughter raised (Matt 9:23; Mark 5:23; Luke 8:41)
  30. HEALING—woman’s issue of blood healed (Matt 9:20; Mark 5:25; Luke 8:43)
  31. HEALING—man sick of the palsy healed (Matt 9:2; Mark 2:3; Luke 5:18)
  32. HEALING—Man’s withered hand healed (Matt 12:10; Mark 3:1; Luke 6:6)
  33. HEALING—lunatic child healed (Matt 17:14; Mark 9:14; Luke 9:37)
  34. HEALING—2 blind men instantly healed (Matt 20:29; Mark 10:46; Luke 18:35)
  35. JESUS WALKS ON SEA (Matt 14:25; Mark 6:48; John 6:15)
  36. FOOD—Jesus feeds 5,000 “in a desert place”
    (Matt 14:15; Mark 6:30; Luke 9:10; John 6:1-14)
  37. THE TRANSFIGURATION of Jesus Christ (Matt 17:1-8)
  38. RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ after declared dead by Roman authorities and
    buried for days (John 21:1-14)
  39. ASCENSION of Jesus Christ to Heaven (Luke 2:42-51)
  40. HEALING—Peter and the HEALING of a the paralytic Aeneas at Lydda
    (Acts 9:32, 35, 38)
  41. TONGUES—miraculous ability to SPEAK AND/OR UNDERSTAND A FOREIGN
    LANGUAGE (tongue) previously unknown to the speaker (See: Gift of tongues
  42. RESURRECTION—Tabitha (Dorcas) raised from the dead (Acts 9:36-43)

Conclusion

There is one more thing to say about applying positivist criteria to the Scripture and then believing that the Scripture is actually revealing the True God. The concept of a true God is not verifiable by positivist standards. Further, believing a document which is so full of positivistically unverifiable/unconformable/non-meaningful statements of miracles, and claims of other worldly rewards, is not an act of a person whose belief system conforms to reality. It is inconsistent to use the criteria above to reject miracles and other uncomfortable Biblical stories and then believe 1 Cor 2:29. Believing a document so unverifiable, so full of weird stuff that it is declared to be unreal and just figurative is not an act of intellectual consistency. Neither can the rejection of miracles be claimed as evidence of the person’s rationality. It is irrational to believe a book so full of miracles, misstatements or statements about some other universe in a galaxy far far away. If one believes in God who gives us seats with him in the afterlife, then what exactly is the problem of believing he can perform miracles? God is an all or nothing hypothesis. Trying to stand in both camps, the popular scientific position of verifiable facts and the unpopular, religious position of unverifiable facts, is not consistent. In life we must chose which side we are on. Being on both sides is like being Benedict Arnold–who eventually learned that neither the Americans nor British liked him. Being double-minded does not make for intellectually coherent argumentation.

I believe the miracles because I believe in God and his power. Abraham believed God (against all observational evidence) and it was counted as righteousness. This is the great divide the world has and it is one which no one can span with intellectual argumentation, or the false science of the YECs.

As an aside it’s interesting that you mention Judaism. Judaism tends to de-emphasise the role of miracles, arguing that consistence with the Torah is more important. If one teaches idolatry, they are a false prophet regardless of whether or not they perform miracles. The miracles are merely a test from God.

This cuts to the heart of why Jews reject Christianity, regardless of whether or not they performed miracles, Jesus and Paul (according to them) taught a false doctrine.

That is modern Judaism, and I would agree with you. The torah constantly has God telling the Israelites of the miracles he did during the Exodus.Thus I don’t believe that was true of ancient Judaism. We had a rabbi come to my church one day to discuss Judaism. I asked her what was the single biggest reason to be a Jew. I expected her to say, “Because I believe it is the true and right religion.” If someone asked me the same of Christianity, that is what I would say, and that would not have bothered me at all. If such an answer meant that she beleived I would spend time in Gehenna, so be it. But what she said was in many ways more interesting but also utterly lacking in faith. She said the biggest reason to be a Jew was because her parents were.

I found that utterly insufficient to be a member of something. Obviously she was not orthodox, but reformed. As Jackie Mason once joked, “My synagogue is so reformed, we don’t even let Jews attend.” lol Which gets to the heart of the issue, Is religion, any religion metaphysically TRUE and worthy of belief in its tenants. If not, then this is a sad purposeless universe.

I am off to another round of chemo be back later.

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But isn’t that the biggest single reason anyone follows any faith? That’s the most efficient way for a religion to grow (for example, that’s why Islam is outstripping Christianity when the conversion rates are similar or even less than Christianity).
It seems that thinking on one’s own about the truth of a faith, despite how we characterize it, is more of a delusion. It may occur in a few cases (we all have struggled with doubt), but what really predisposed me to be a Christian was my wonderful, Christlike parents. Thanks

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Yes, that is the reason. I had an atheist father and a religious nut mother who was a sociopath who tried to kill my cousin. What is true is far more important than what one’s parent’s believe. And in my case I spent years reading other religious documents like Kiti i’iqan, Dhammapada, Bagadvagita, Koran, a bit of the I Ching, Book of Mormon, etc and I read books on atheism. I came close to becoming an atheist because Christians offered me nothing that could be considered scientifically/historicallly true. Indeed, Christians of various stripes offered either a false science or a false bible, with a clueless, impotent God who doesn’t know anything about creation and who can’t interfere in nature to do any miracles. I viewed it as being offered falsehoods on all sides. If I hadn’t figured a pathway to harmonize the biblical problems that others hadn’t considered, I would now be an atheist

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You are far past me in terms of independent reasoning. I admire you for what you have done. It is an example for me.

I have no problems with the Lord walking with Adam and Eve in the Garden.

I see it as a evil spirit that shaped shifted into a serpent and tricked Adam and Eve. But in a sense it was a “snake” but not a natural snake that we would know of.

As you have said, there is a lot of evidence that a destructive event happened in Sodom.

See no problem with the issue. Gods glory was there at that place.

As hard as it is to believe, it is possible that God, at the moment, gave the donkey the brief ability to speak and warn Balaam.

While I do belive that the event happened, I don’t bother myself with finding evidence for it and doubt any would exist with the destruction that took place at the event.

While I won’t deny the chance of it happening, I feel it has a more ANE symbolism to it, God might have slowed down the hours but He didn’t stop the rotation of the earth. The text goes off the assumption that the earth is the middle of the universe and the sun and moon orbit it.

See no difficulty with the event taking place.

God is in the business of brining the dead back to life.

Happened, no doubt, as Enoch was taken away by God, so was Elijah.

See no difficulty in the event. Happened.

See no problem in believing this.

God is always known to give visions and signs to His people.

A miracle yes. but some type of natural cause of the event maybe. What was it, asides from God making the Syrians go blind, was the type of blindness? That would be my question.

Sounds crazy but got to remember I worship someone who rose from the dead three days later, so I see no issue.

God kept them alive and well to show the Jews that Yahweh was still in control and that even though the temple is gone, God is still powerful.

Same as above with the three Hebrew children.

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I think there is a widespread myth in the west about the individual “independently” forging their own path. Nobody does this, even though some think they do. Some are closer to it than others, but nobody is completely independent.

The equivalent mindset if we applied it to technology application would be to say that before anybody is able to use a phone, they must first go out, dig holes, mine heavy metals, process them to purity, invent and design electrical circuit communication systems, build their phone, and only then can they say they have and use this technology. Of course that’s going to apply to exactly nobody.

Religious outlook is the same thing. You may think you forged your own path, but that is a fiction that exists only in the imaginations of the non-self reflective. They may have left their parents’ stated faith behind, but they were still deeply influenced by it not to mention the other truckloads of cultural baggage (much good, much bad) that they inherited and find useful or hindering. If we really did spend our lives re-inventing every wheel for ourselves, there would be no such thing as civilization. And that applies to philosophy / religion every bit as much as it applies to my technology example.

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Which describes a view that God CAN violate the natural law but that He will not because because He made them for a reason and He is not irrational and inconsistent. And He has so many easier natural other ways of accomplishing the same things.

Incorrect. There is no such “law of nature.” That is only an expectation based on what we usually see in human biology. But biology is FULL of exceptions. Thus one should not confuse what science says is impossible with what it merely says is unlikely and how unlikely. For example, it is scientifically impossible for Sarah and Abraham to have had a child without the fertilization of an egg. It is only unlikely that a 90 year old woman would have an egg to be fertilized. The oldest verified case of a woman becoming pregnant (by IVF) was a woman in India at the age of 72 (with another in China claiming an age of 74). This shows that just like virgin birth this is not scientifically impossible just unlikely to have happened without medical procedures and therefore miraculous if true.

And I would say that God does choose to tell us about creation with all the information He sends to us from the Earth and sky, telling us that the universe is 13.8 billion years old and happened by all kinds of mathematically describable processes.

1 A. God walking in the Garden: God can do anything. However we simply do not have enough details from the story to say what this meant exactly.

1 B. The Bible DOES provide information in this case making it clear that the snake was not a talking animal but the angel who became the devil.

4 Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed. scientific explanation possible.
5 Woman turned into pillar of salt scientific explanation possible.
7 Burning bush. scientific explanation possible.
22 Donkey speaks - story does not support this representing a case of animals speaking but rather an odd individual who hears and talks to animals – something which is far from uncommon.
24 Jerricho’s Walls destroyed. scientific explanation possible.
25 Sun and Moon stills in the sky. Happens on Mercury but very unlikely to have actually happened on the Earth. So most likely a subjective experience of some kind.
38 Oil increase. scientific explanation possible.
39 Son raised from the dead. scientific explanation possible.
46 Elijah carried to Heaven. Spiritual (subjective) experience.
54 Cured of leprosy. scientific explanation possible. Medical miracles happen all the time.
55 Iron axe swims in river. Like many many magic tricks, scientific explanation possible.
56 PLEASE!
57 army blinded. scientific explanation possible.
59 dead revived. scientific explanation possible.
64 incorrect! What a rational science minded person will do is to find out the details and see if the event can reproduced in controlled conditions. It is the easiest thing in the world to make such things to appear to be the case and magicians do it all the time!
65 Correct. No natural laws violated.

You really do need to educate your spell-checker. (Autofill and autocorrect are my worst enemas. :grin:)

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Except that cloning would be a counterexample wouldn’t it?

It is frankly quite difficult to think of something which is REALLY scientifically impossible.

How about this… It is scientifically impossible for a solid quartz statue to get up and walk away at room temperature. BUT… this doesn’t mean that it is scientifically impossible for something which appears to be a solid quartz statue to appear to get up and walk away at room temperature!

Here is another one… It is scientifically impossible for an massive object to travel towards you at a speed which is twice the speed of light. BUT… this doesn’t mean that it is scientifically impossible for something which appears to be a massive object to appear that is is travelling towards you at a speed which seems to be twice the speed of light.

While I agree the database of knowledge is not generated by each individual, the interpretation of that dataset of knowledge is interpreted by each individual. I would say that you obviously have no idea of my views of early Genesis and the flood. No one prior to me had suggested what I have–that, sir, is independently finding my own path–it is done through figuring a way to harmonize history and the Biblical account. You may not like my answer, but it is very original because as I said, no one ever published this idea before I did.

Let’s take the flood. Most people on this board accept the Mesopotamian flood. I don’t. Most who accept it are not original thinkers wrt the flood because they are going with a popular view. My view of the flood makes it far older than anyone else suggests and makes Adam and Eve far older than anyone suggests. If that isn’t original I don’t know what is, and I have invented several things in career, so I do know what original thought is all about.

Mitch you really should read what I write and not respond to what I DIDN’T write. I didn’t say Isaac’s birth violated natural law. I also said, one MIGHT not allow the birth at their elderly age, based on your view. I didn’t say anything about it being a ‘law of nature’.

You suggested that scientific explanations are possible, but provide NONE of them. Just because you claim scientific explanations for all of them, a good scientist like me would like to see you put up your evidence to defend these assertions.

In your next note you wrote of Abe and Sarah’s conception of Isaac
:

Except that cloning would be a counterexample wouldn’t it?

It is frankly quite difficult to think of something which is REALLY scientifically impossible.

How about this… It is scientifically impossible for a solid quartz statue to get up and walk away at room temperature. BUT… this doesn’t mean that it is scientifically impossible for something which appears to be a solid quartz statue to appear to get up and walk away at room temperature!

I don’t think cloning would apply to the birth of Isaac. Give me an example of what the quartz look-alike something could be? To walk away requires something alive. Are you saying it is a living creature in a quartz suit? How on earth does this apply to any miracle I discussed?

I would like to hear of this.

I know one :fireworks:

According to the Big Bang theory, 12 to 14 billion years ago the Universe was very small, probably much smaller than a pinhead. The temperatures and pressures inside this microscopic bubble were enormous. This means that it was extremely hot and extremely dense. The birth of the Universe happened when this bubble exploded. Quite some remarkable, creative and intelligent bubble, it created Time, the Laws of Physics, the > one billion Galaxies, each Galaxy approx containing ± one billion stars, each star containing xx planets and last but not least that bubble of 1 mm³ contained the code for Life.

Not reproducible by science.

Miracle.

gbob you really should read what I write and not respond to what I DIDN’T write. I didn’t say you said that Isaac’s birth violated natural law. But you did say

Which is incorrect. I did not say any such thing. And it would not be correct to draw such a conclusion about the birth of Isaac from what I have said.

…but this he said she said arguments is a waste of time and I suggest just sticking to the subject and not wandering into this pointless personal crap.

You pick one and I will provide a possible scientific explanation, and I will probably do so by looking it up on the internet as I have done many times before… like I have with Jesus walking on water and Moses turning his staff into a snake.

me neither.

robot

incorrect.

Not everything is about you.

This is an incorrect description. This was not an exposion of something hot and tiny out into empty space. There was no such empty space. The universe expanded from this tiny hot dense state not because of any kind of explosion but because of the gravitational field equations in General Relativity.

Also incorrect. This hot dense state of the universe did not create time. Time was already a part of it – the point is that however this thing came into existence, time came into existence with it and there is no reason to presume there was a time before this. Science has no explanation how this hot dense tiny universe came into being. Stephen Hawking suggested it was a quantum fluctuation. But that is an untestable hypothesis not much different from the idea of theists that God created this thing.

No but all the data showing that the universe is 13.8 billions years old and started in such a tiny hot dense state IS reproducible.

I would agree in the sense that this is something God did. But would He call it a miracle? I don’t think so. Wouldn’t He just call it a job well done?

Sealskin we are largely in agreement.

Not in isolation, it’s not! It isn’t just “facts” or claims we inherit from our predecessors; it’s ways of thinking about everything too - our very interpretations - which are ours, to be sure, but cultivated by us with topsoil and nourishment that we ourselves did not furnish. I certainly don’t deny you have put your unique fingerprint on it all, and this wasn’t meant as a critique of the vast amount of research you have done. I have nothing but admiration for all that. Sorry if you felt this was entirely pointed at you (it was in part, to be sure) but I was mainly responding to Randy’s observation about our debt (for good or bad I would add) to those who went before us - especially to our own parents; and how this is appropriate and to be expected.

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Is this really relevant to the thread? so what? is my response. Telling everyone that they are interdependent is something everyone knows and adds nothing to the conversation about miracles…

I think that this went back to your discussion with @Reggie_O_Donoghue about the role of miracles in proofs for belief. You had mentioned a rabbi had said she was Jewish in faith because of her parents–not (I think) because of relevance to real world, including God’s miraculous intervention.

It’s a long OP, and I’m sure I am not going to do justice to it.

It’s well thought out from my scanning.

I do feel that most of us are, as Rich Mullins put it, “not as strong as we think we are.” And God knows that, too. He made us. He knows there is not enough empiric or miraculous or textual evidence to convince us any way. If that’s the case, then minutiae are not the basis on which He will judge us–which is a view I think you hold, too.

Interesting about the miracles, though.

Thanks.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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