The problem of the a priori rejection of miracles

I have been pondering this for some time. It seems that a lot of people of the skeptical persuasion like to rule out miracles from the onset of any investigation. Is it any shock if you approach a book like the Bible with the presupposition that miracles can’t happen, that you’re going to have to explain away a lot of the gospels or allegorize it as teaching “deeper truths” or just say it’s inaccurate?

Let us take a skeptic. This will be a man who has spent his whole life crusading against the supernatural. One day though, an angel appears to him. This man is skeptical at first, but the angel does not go away despite any attempts to think it a hallucination and this angel also tells him something about his life he’s never told anyone or ever wrote down before. He is told something no one else would have any way of knowing.

This man then goes to his skeptical friends. He wants to tell them that he’s convinced that some theistic belief must be true. After all, he’s seen an angel. Now we get to the problem. How is he going to convince his friends who are of the same mindset as he that he has seen an angel?

If he says “But I saw it!”, he will be told “Sure you did. You were just hallucinating.” “This angel told me something no one else would ever know!” That will get him “It was just a projection of your self-conscious.” If he says “I’ve always been reliable and honest in what I say to you!” He will get “Yes. But this time, you’re obviously mistaken.”

<> If the supernatural is ruled out a priori, then there is really nothing that could be said that could convince someone of the skeptical mindset. No matter who you are, as soon as you appeal to the supernatural existing, it will be “explained away.” G.K. Chesterton once said we accept the testimony of a little old lady on mundane events but as soon as she says she’s seen an angel, we refuse to accept it.

Now someone might say that I as a Christian will only accept miracles in my religion. That is not the case. I am open to miracles in any religion.  They could be done by powers or opposed to God or they could be ways of God revealing himself to people in those religions that will turn them to him.

So why do I accept biblical miracles? Because the accounts are close to the times, the miracles are absolutely essential to what is going on in the story, and the accounts are accurate in the ways that I can test them.

Compare this to the miracles of Islam. Mohammad is stated as saying he didn’t need any miracle as the Koran was the miracle. The accounts are written generations after he died and they are not seen as essential to his ministry. Could some have occurred? Maybe. I have reason to be skeptical though.

My only complaint here? That the skeptic is not being fair. If you want to be skeptical of miracle claims, go ahead. To rule them out a priori though is begging the question and it is no shock that if a man rejects miracles as impossible before studying the Scriptures, that he will reject them as nonsense.

Support Deeper Waters on Patreon!