Is it Stupid to Believe in Miracles?

Here is a good article from a ways back by 

By Allen Hairline

In my previous blog I defended the notion that it’s not stupid to believe in the creation of the universe by God. It seems fitting in this Christmas season to also look at another claim derided by skeptics – the possibility of miracles. Here is how Richard Dawkins puts it:

“The nineteenth century is the last time when it was possible for an educated person to admit to believing in miracles like the virgin birth without embarrassment. When pressed, many educated Christians are too loyal to deny the virgin birth and the resurrection. But it embarrasses them because their rational minds know that it is absurd, so they would much rather not be asked.[1]”

There certainly are educated, intelligent, science-respecting modern-day Christians who unashamedly believe in these miracles[2]. There is nothing irrational or anti-scientific about the possibility of miracles unless one can disprove the existence of anything supernatural which certainly has not been done. Contra Hume, I don’t see a non-question-begging in-principle argument against the mere possibility of miracles[3]. In previous blogs, I’ve argued that the origin of the universe and the fine-tuning of the laws and constants of nature to support life constitute evidence for God. There are many other philosophical arguments for a transcendent God capable of acting on nature – which is all I take a miracle to be. Miracles don’t break the laws of nature[4] but merely represent God acting in the universe. If we have evidence of intervention at such fundamental levels as creating a universe, setting up its initial conditions, and setting fundamental parameters to precise life-permitting values, then why think it irrational that God could create a sperm to fertilize Mary’s egg? The skeptic needs to interact with these and other arguments and should not merely dismiss the possibility of miracles by ridiculing believers – as Dawkins advocated when he said “Mock them. Ridicule them. In public.”

To read on, click here: 

Bart Ehrman On The Kinds of Sources Historians Look For In Looking at Historical Evidence: Part One

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

A few years back,  Bart Ehrman wrote Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument For Jesus of Nazareth. Given Ehrman took on the Jesus Myth issue in this book, it should be no surprise that the this book was scolded by many atheists. As I have said before, I have a lot for respect for Ehrman. One part of the book I find rather interesting is the section where Ehrman discusses the kinds of resources historians look for when they are trying to establish the past existence of a person. Let me go over a few of these and see how this criteria helps make a case for Jesus:

First, Ehrman says,

“Historians prefer to have lots of written sources, not just one or two. The more, obviously the better. If there were only two or two sources you might suspect that the stories were made up. But if there are lots of sources—just as when there are lots of eyewitnesses to a car accident-then it is hard to claim that any of them just happened to make it up.”-pg 40-41

So this is the first part of Ehrman’s wish list for historians: How does the Jesus story hold up on this end? We certainly don’t have lots of written sources. But how much should we expect for someone in antiquity? The sermon from the essay from Dr. James Allan Francis in “The Real Jesus and Other Sermons” called One Solitary Lifemakes an interesting point:

“  Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.  He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself…”

It is quite amazing that we even have four biographies for someone in antiquity. And  they are bioi, an early form of biography containing the words and deeds of a historical person. Of course, we have to discuss Paul’s Letters (we will as we go forward) and sources outside the Bible. So sure, we have sources. But to ask for lots of written sources for someone in antiquity seems rather unrealistic.

Ehrman goes on to say:

“Historians also like numerous and early sources to be extensive in scope. If all you have is the mere mention of a person’s name in a source, that is not nearly as good as having a long and extensive stories told (as in lots of sources). Moreover, it is obviously best if these extensive stories are reported in sources that are disinterested. That is to say, if someone is biased toward the subject matter, the bias has to be taken into account. The problem is that most sources are biased: if they didn’t have any feelings about the subject matter, they wouldn’t be talking about it. But if we find stories that clearly do not serve the purposes of the persons telling the story, we have a good indicator that the stories are (reasonably) disinterested. Moreover, in a ideal situation, the various sources that discuss a figure or an event should corroborate what each other’s had to say, at least on the major points if not all the details. If one ancient source says Octavian was a Roman general who became the emperor but another source that says he was a North African peasant who never traveled outside his native village, you know that you have a problem either with Octavian himself, or, as in the case, with the source. But if you have multiple sources from near the time that tell many stories about the Roman emperor Octavian-that is, that corroborate one another’s stories- then you have good historical evidence. “

Let’s look at this point:

“Historians also like numerous and early sources to be extensive in scope. If all you have is the mere mention of a person’s name in a source, that is not nearly as good as having a long and extensive stories told (as in lots of sources).”

How does this request hold up on what we have for Jesus? Well, we certainly have some early sources (40 to 60 ad) that being Paul’s Letters. Paul’s creed in 1 Cor 15. is a very early creed about the death and resurrection of Jesus. While not extensive in scope, Paul’s Letters mention some historical aspects of the life of Jesus such as:

1. Jesus’ Jewish ancestry (Gal 3:16) 2. Jesus’ Davidic descent (Rom 1:3) 3. Jesus being born of a woman (Gal 4:4) 4. Jesus’ life under the Jewish law (Gal 4:4) 5. Jesus’ Brothers (1 Cor 9:5) 6. Jesus’ 12 Disciples (1 Cor 15: 7) 7. One of whom was named James (1 Cor 15: 7) 8. That some had wives (1 Cor 9: 5) 9. Paul knew Peter and James (Gal 1:18-2:16) 10. Jesus’ poverty ( 2 Cor 8:9) 11. Jesus’ humility ( Phil. 1:5-7) 12. Jesus Meekness and Gentleness (2 Cor. 10:1) 13. Abuse by Others (Rom 15:3) 14. Jesus’ teachings on divorce and remarriage (1 Cor. 7:10-11) 15. On paying wages of ministers (1 Cor 9:14) 16. On paying taxes ( Rom 13: 6-7) 17. On the duty to love one’s neighbors (Rom 13: 9) 18. On Jewish ceremonial uncleanliness ( Rom 14: 14) 19. Jesus’ titles to deity ( Rom 1: 3-4; 10:9) 20. On vigilance in view of Jesus’ second coming ( 1 Thess: 4: 15) 21. On the Lord’s Supper ( 1 Cor. 11: 23-25) 22. Jesus’ Sinless Life ( 2 Cor. 5:21) 23. Jesus’ death on a cross ( Rom 4:24; 5:8; Gal. 3:13; 1 Cor 15: 3) 24. Specifically by crucifixion ( Rom 6: 6; Gal 2:20) 25. By Jewish instigation ( 1Thess. 2:14-15) 26. Jesus’ burial (1 Cor. 15: 4) 27. Jesus’ resurrection on the “third day” (1 Cor.15:4) 28. Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to the apostles ( 1 Cor.15:5-8) 29. And to other eyewitnesses (1 Cor 15:6); and 30. Jesus’ position at God’s right hand ( Rom 8:34).

See Part Two Here:

Debate: Does Paul Give Us the Truth about Jesus? David Wood (Christian) vs. Shabir Ally (Muslim)

Here is an excerpt from David Wood’s debate vs. Shabir Ally (Muslim).  I was once told by a Muslim that since Paul never met Jesus directly (he was not one of the original disciples), we can’t trust anything Paul says about Jesus. I said “well I guess we can trust what Mohammed says 600- 650 years later? After all, he didn’t know any of the apostles and based his views of Jesus on a so called personal revelation in a cave?” See our post called The Challenge of Islam: Does Early Testimony Matter to Muslims?

Michael Denton On the Fine-Tuning of the Biosphere

Here is an excellent paper by Michael Denton on the fine-tuning argument. Denton, author of Evolution: A Theory in Crisis and Nature’s Destiny has just published a paper in the journal Bio-Complexity, entitled, The Place of Life and Man in Nature: Defending the Anthropocentric Thesis.Download the full paper and read for yourself here. Be sure to also read David Klinghoffer’s comments on the paper at ENV. Thanks toUncommon Descent for this resource.