Results 1 to 2 of 2

Thread: The Case Against Miracles Review

  1. #1
    Department Head Apologiaphoenix's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Corryton
    Faith
    Trinitarian
    Gender
    Male
    Posts
    6,451
    Amen (Given)
    295
    Amen (Received)
    3039

    The Case Against Miracles Review

    Chapter One

    Link

    ------

    What do I think of David Cornerís chapter? Letís plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    David Corner has the first chapter in John Loftusís book on Miracles and the challenge of the apologist. Why is it that an apologist would have a hard time with miracles? Reading through, I didnít really find anything that I found remotely convincing in Corner. It looked like more just pointing back to Hume over and over.

    Also noteworthy is I remember no mention of Keenerís work in the chapter. If a miracle has taken place, then the challenge of Corner is taken care of. Corner could try to just say ďWell, itís some natural thing we donít understand yet.Ē Feel free to think that, but most of us will be unconvinced.

    Early on, Corner starts with defining a miracle. He cites both Augustine and Aquinas, but then goes to Hume. This to me sounds like going to Ken Ham when you want to learn about evolution. Even if you disagree with Augustine and Aquinas, why not go with them because then you know youíre going with someone who represents your opponentsí side? I think we know why. Still, letís see what he says about Hume.

    In his Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding,[ 30] David Hume offered two definitions of ďmiracle;Ē first, as a violation of natural law;[ 31] shortly afterward he offers a more complex definition when he says a miracle is ďa transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent.Ē[ 32] This second definition offers two important criteria that an event must satisfy in order to qualify as a miracle: It must be a violation of natural law, but this by itself is not enough; a miracle must also be an expression of the divine will. This means that a miracle must express divine agency; if we have no reason to think that an event is something done by God, we will have no reason to call it a miracle.
    I do think the idea of being connected to God at the end a good point to have. Suppose we have a case where someone is in a state such as a comatose state and has no response whatsoever and there are people gathered in prayer. Just as they are done praying, the person wakes up. Are they justified in believing in a miracle? Yes.

    The problem also is Corner spends a lot of time addressing supernaturalism, but he never talks about what it is really. He says this about the idea of nature:

    Those who would defend supernaturalism sometimes do this through a commitment to an ontology of entities that exist in some sense outside of nature, where by ďnatureĒ is meant the totality of things that can be known by means of observation and experiment, or more generally, through the methods proper to the natural sciences.

    But what is meant by observation and experiment? I know 2 + 2 = 4 by observation. I donít have to do experiments to find that out. At times throughout the day, I can look out my office window here and see cats. There are many different cats, but I get the idea of cat out of all of them and learn what a cat is despite differences in size, color, etc. The same could be said for dogs.

    I can reason to other things like triangularity or goodness from there. I can also reason to God. I donít do an experiment. I just follow rules of deductive reasoning to get to my conclusion. What I wonder though is by Cornerís definition if the nature of cats, triangularity, goodness, etc. would be part of nature or not. Evolution might explain how cats came about. It doesnít explain how the universal nature of cats exists.

    He also contends methodological naturalism tells us that observation and experiment can tell us all that we need to know. I disagree with this definition of it. What I see it as being is that when a scientist does his work in the lab, he assumes that there are no external agents interfering without cause.

    The first hurdle Corner deals with is testimony. Can testimony evidence a miracle? The problem is Corner presents a number of ways testimony can go wrong, and it can. He never says how it can go right. What are the grounds by which a miracle could be said to have a reliable source? If he cannot give any, then is he not begging the question to say it can never overcome?

    That would make sense since that is what Hume said. The best Corner can say is it will give us the suspension of judgment, but if you approach every testimony to a miracle with ďEither false or suspend judgmentĒ then you will never conclude a miracle has happened. Why? Because you know a miracle has never happened. This gets us into begging the question. More will be said on that later.

    He also does cite Earman, but thereís not much engagement. Earman points out that Humeís argument would work against marvels being believed and would thus be a science stopper if followed through. Earman says this as an agnostic. One point made is that Earman says we could have a large number of witnesses. Corner replies that we have no way of accessing their credibility as witnesses so we shouldnít trust them.

    But again, this just gets us to begging the question. The account cannot possibly be accepted as true. Corner gives us no grounds and even if true, it is insisted that it would have to have a natural cause. Corner has things stacked in his favor here. No matter what, it has to be a natural event because, well, reasons.

    When asked about begging the question, Corner says we canít assume the ďsupernaturalĒ worldview is correct and says an apologist arguing for a miracle is. Yet at the same time, Corner thinks itís just fine to assume the naturalistic worldview is correct. An apologist arguing for a miracle does not have to assume a supernatural worldview. He can present this as evidence for God and the person responding can decide if the evidence is reliable or not. You donít have to accept Godís existence to think there could be good evidence for a miracle.

    Corner later goes so far as to say that we usually say that either an event has a natural cause or a supernatural cause. He argues maybe it had no cause at all. He would have someone who would challenge that. Namely, David Hume, or is this the point where we drop Hume?

    ďBut allow me to tell you that I never asserted so absurd a Proposition as that that anything might arise without a cause: I only maintainíd, that our Certainty of the Falsehood of that Proposition proceeded neither from Intuition nor Demonstration; but from another Source.Ē (David Hume to John Stewart, February 1754, in The Letters of David Hume, 2 vols, ed. J. Y. T Greig[Oxford:Clarendon Press, 1932], I:187)

    And once again I am reminded how far skeptics like Corner will go to to defend their position. It strikes me as a position of believing anything else before believing a miracle. Nature can just go through spontaneous lapses sometimes in uniformity, but yet this would destroy science itself. Would Corner sacrifice science to avoid a miracle? Possibly.

    Corner also asks how a God could do a miracle. He says:

    All of the cases of causal interaction of which we are aware occur between physical entities that are fundamentally similar to one another in terms of possessing physical properties such as mass, electrical charge, location in space, etc. Thus, we know for example how one billiard ball may move another by virtue of the transfer of momentum. But God, as normally conceived by theistic religion, possesses none of these qualities, and cannot therefore interact with physical objects in any way that we can understand. God cannot, for example, transfer momentum to a physical object if God does not possess mass.
    Yet this is again begging the question. What if I believe that I have an immaterial aspect to me and that that aspect of me interacts with my body? Then I have firsthand evidence in my case that immaterial forces can do that. Do I know how? No. Not at all. I donít know how I fall asleep at night either, but I seem to do it every night.

    Even if all that we had indicated physical changes are caused by physical objects, that does not demonstrate immaterial objects canít do the same thing. Corner needs to demonstrate this and he hasnít done so. Furthermore, if I have theistic arguments and I am convinced they work, then I have a priori evidence that this does happen.

    He also says the problem of miracles is they lack predictive power, but why should this be a problem? If I am dealing with a free-will agent, why should I think they will always follow rules like that? My wife will appreciate something from me at one time and the next time not appreciate it. Some days I might enjoy a game and some days I might not. Free-will agents donít act according to natural laws like that.

    He also asks about miracles that do have natural causes, but this is not a problem. Suppose the Israelites cross the Jordan and we are told that regularly the waters stop so people can walk through. The miracle is not that they stopped, but when they stopped, in direct response to prayer.

    In conclusion, I really donít see anything convincing in Cornerís argument, at least for his position. If anything, it makes me more aware of the hurdles skeptics go to to avoid miracles. Itís easier to believe in things even Hume called absurd apparently than to be open to a miracle at all.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters

  2. #2
    Department Head Apologiaphoenix's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Corryton
    Faith
    Trinitarian
    Gender
    Male
    Posts
    6,451
    Amen (Given)
    295
    Amen (Received)
    3039
    Chapter Two

    Link

    -----

    What do I think of Matthew McCormickís article? Letís plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    The only work of Matthew McCormick I had ever previously reviewed here was his work ďAtheism and the Case Against Christ.Ē The great delight of that was getting to catch him in a major gaffe. This one was about the fake god JaríEdo Wens.

    Now after reading this chapter, I am even more sure of the kind of researcher McCormick is. His whole chapter is about God would not perform miracles. Nowhere in this chapter did I see interaction with people like Alvin Plantinga or Craig Keener or anyone like that. Plantinga would have been an important one since McCormickís whole article is really the problem from evil and saying ďWell, if God wanted to do a miracle of healing, He would heal everyone wouldnít He?Ē

    Itís really amazing that McCormickís whole argument is all about what an omniscient and omnipotent and omnibenevolent being would do, because, you know, McCormick certainly has a lot of experience with beings like that to make proper judgments. I went through this whole chapter wondering ďHow do you know that?Ē It certainly doesnít make any sense to me to say, ďIf I was this being, I would do that.Ē Itís like itís never considered that maybe if you were omniscient you would know some things that you donít know now.

    McCormick says

    Even if a full-blown violation of the laws of nature occurs, we have compelling reasons to reject the hypothesis that the all-powerful, omniscient creator of the universe was responsible for it. A being of infinite power and knowledge wouldnít act by means of miracles.
    Well, this is quite a claim. Letís see how good he does at backing it. At least on one level, McCormick puts forward the appearance of being open. As he says later in his essay:

    It would be a mistake, I believe, to rule such a claim out a priori or virtually so with Humeís global standards. Surely the all-powerful creator of all of reality would have sufficient power at its disposal to generate evidence that would be compelling; and Iíd rather be prepared to revise all of my beliefs and the convictions I attach to them proportionally to the evidence.
    As we go through, McCormick says

    The Christian God is, by all accounts, an omni-god. He is the all-powerful, all-knowing, singular, personal and infinitely good creator of the universe. Jesus is alleged to have been his son, who was divine, but he was also a man, by Christian doctrine. The extent to which he was a man and lacked the status of a fully omni-being is a point of some controversy, even between believers.
    Not among believers. Maybe between believers and heretics, but believers have always included in our creedal statements that Jesus is fully God and fully man. This is yet another point that makes me doubt McCormick really understands the Christianity he criticizes.

    He also says that walking on water would require less power than stopping fusion reactions in stars. Sure, but also pointless. After all, God has infinite power so itís not like He has a storehouse He has to reach into and then recharge. I wonder why McCormick keeps bringing up things like this.

    He also says some statements about what a being who is omnipotent could do. One is reverse time, but even this one is debated. Aquinas said that God could not change the past and yet Aquinas never once questioned that God is omnipotent.

    McCormick argues that for some miracles, a being would not have to be omnipotent. This is true, but I donít know of academic philosophers arguing that God is omnipotent on purely miraculous grounds alone. There is always some metaphysics involved.

    This is part of the problem for McCormick. He never looks at arguments for theism. If theism is true, and this can be demonstrated by the Thomistic arguments I believe that are inductive, and then we have evidence of miracles taking place, such as from Keener, then itís reasonable to conclude miracles are the work of the omnibeing that has been shown to exist. McCormick wants to go after miracles still more so he says later that

    The problem is that at any given moment on the planet, now and when these miracles are alleged to have happened, there are millions or even billions of other people who are not being cured, healed, or benefitted by a miracle. A miracle that we attribute to an infinitely good God is problematic because of what it omits; it is alleged that it indicates that God is there, and under some circumstances, he will intervene in the course of nature to achieve some good end. But there are all of these other cases, many of which appear to be perfectly parallel, or even more desperately in need of divine intervention, yet none occurs. While Jesus turns water into wine at one party, thousands or millions of other parties go dry. Even worse, millions of people suffer horribly from disease, famine, cruelty, torture, genocide, and death. The occurrence of a finite miracle, in the midst of so many instances of unabated suffering, suggests that the being who is responsible doesnít know about, doesnít care about, or doesnít have the power to address the others. If a doctor travels to a village with enough polio vaccine to inoculate 1,000 children, but only gives it to ten of them, and withholds it from the rest, and then watches the rest get sick, be crippled, or die, we would conclude that doctor was a monster, not a saint. That doctor had the power, the knowledge, the wherewithal to alleviate more suffering, but did not. That doctor must be lacking in some regard.
    The problem is McCormick is making this argument so he has to back it. His argument is there is no good reason for God to not heal everyone else if He heals one. Okay. Maybe there isnít, but He needs to convince me of it. Itís not just enough to assert it.

    Letís go with the doctor example he gives of the doctor with a polio vaccine. Letís suppose he knew that one child he would give the vaccine to somehow would grow up and become a dictator in that country and murder most of the population. He chooses to withhold the vaccine. We could debate if that was right or wrong, but we can all understand why he did it.

    He goes on to cite Christine Overall asking why Jesus is turning water into wine at a party when He could have been healing lepers. McCormick also says if God can heal everyone, why hasnít He done so already? Why not yesterday?

    The water into wine was done because Jesus was invited to the party and He wasnít trying to make the party go longer, but rather to help the host of the party avoid shame. It was a good act to do to help out. As for why not heal, McCormick wants God to be a Johnny on the Spot fixing all of our problems. Is that really Godís goal? What if God has something far greater and nobler in mind than making sure we all have perfect lives here on Earth?

    McCormick also cites William Rowe about situations in the inductive problem of evil. Note that I am sure Rowe would reject the argument McCormick puts forward as McCormick seems to be going with just the logical problem of evil. Now saying evil exists is no longer enough to refute theism as the majority of atheist philosophers on the subject concede. So what does Rowe say about certain instances of evil?

    William Rowe has called these, ďinstances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.Ē
    So again I have the same question. How does he know? How does he know that this evil could have been stopped without losing a greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse? How could this possibly be established? Note that the atheist has the burden of proof. They are making the claim that needs to be backed.

    McCormick later says:

    If God has the goal of instilling belief, inspiring faith, fortifying resolve, discouraging misbehavior, or enforcing commandments, it takes very little imagination to conceive of more direct, effective, and sustained means of achieving those ends.
    Notice itís ďIf God has the goal.Ē We wait to hear how McCormick has discovered the goals of the Almighty, but that is not coming. He goes on to cite Ted Drange saying:

    if these were Godís goals, then it would have been a simple matter to directly implant belief into all peopleís minds, or perform more spectacular miracles that would convince more people. What would be more personal than if Jesus had reappeared to everyone, not just a handful of easily discredited zealots? Millions of angels, disguised as humans, could have spread out and preach the word behind the scenes. Or God could have protected the Bible from defects in writing, copying, and translation.
    If those were the goals. What if theyíre not? After all, Biblically, itís been when miracles have been at a high that faith has often been at a low. Jesus was doing miracles and got crucified. The Israelites in the wilderness got several miracles and still rebelled. Maybe Godís goal is not just getting people to know He exists. Maybe He wants people to really seek Him on their own and want Him on their own. Maybe He doesnít want to compel, but simply to woo. Of course, McCormickís essay would not be complete without a version of Ancient People Were Stupid:

    Consider the problem this way. For all of the alleged miracles in history, facsimiles that are undetectable to anyone but an expert can be performed naturally by even mediocre magicians and illusionists. David Copperfield makes the Statue of Liberty disappear on television. Penn and Teller catch bullets in their teeth. A Las Vegas magician appears to walk on water in a swimming pool and float in the air over the Luxor hotel. Imagine the social and religious impact these ingenious illusionists could have had amongst the superstitious, poor, and uneducated masses of New Testament Palestine. Religious leaders such as Billy Graham, Peter Popoff, Robert Tilton, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell use cruder and more transparent trickery and deception to win the hearts of millions of people and acquire vast wealth from more educated, modern people.
    To begin with, I donít know anyone who would think that Billy Graham was out there trying to get vast wealth from people. However, does McCormick not realize ancient people knew some basic facts? They built ships because they knew people donít walk on water. They made wine because they knew it didnít just happen. They grew food because they knew food doesnít multiply. They knew blind eyes donít suddenly open and paralytics donít get up and walk and dead people stay dead. This was not news to them. If we want to talk about things modern people fall for that is unbelievable, itís that they still fall for this line of reasoning McCormick gives.

    In conclusion, I am once again seeing why it is that McCormick could fall for something like JaríEdo Wens. He really just thinks heís asking astute questions, but heís not. There is no interaction with any number of Christian experts on the problem of evil whatsoever. There are just blanket assertions. Anyone can raise questions. Itís a shame he doesnít try to find answers.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •