Before starting this one, I’d like us to consider something. One argument against miracles is that we don’t experience them in the present (supposedly), so why should we believe that they happened in the past. Ironically, I believe that this argument can turn on the tails of the atheist.
We do not see a case today of life coming from non-life, yet we are to believe that this happened by naturalistic means. (I’m not arguing with theistic evolutionists here.) In fact, we have intelligent men and women working to try to get this to happen and it hasn’t yet. Well based on that, then I think we can conclude it unlikely that it happened in the past.
On the other hand, we can show reports of people having experiences of the divine be they miracles or visions (Which there are several reports of Muslims converting after appearances of Christ to them) and unless all of these are completely false, then it’s quite possible to believe there is a God who can act and if he can, then we’d best be open to miracles.
That said, let’s move on.
Loftus wishes us to review I. Howard Marshall’s reasons for why it can be difficult to know about the past. The first is that the majority of our info comes from Christians.
Note though that there is much from non-Christians. Experts like Edwin Yamauchi have built a powerful case on what we can know about Jesus based on non-Christian sources alone. Nevertheless, we will see briefly why we can trust the writers of the New Testament.
Did they have bias? Of course. Every historian does. A historian only writes what he cares about. The question is though, does this bias influence negatively or positively? Let’s suppose they wanted to really present Jesus as the divine Son of God who has come to bring salvation and who died and rose again.
It would seem then they would want to be faithful to their long-awaited Messiah who is actually their God. It would seem they would realize that their readers would be skeptical. If that was the case, their bias could then work for them in that they’d be as accurate as possible.
This is especially the case with Luke who is said to be one who dots every i and crosses every t. Why do we trust the Bible? I recall the words of a former mentor of mine who was an atheist until Christ came and changed his life. He’s now with his Lord. What did he say? “I can trust the Bible in the things I can test. I’ll trust it in the things that I can’t.”
The second is that it can be pointed out that many similar stories of the miraculous were told by all kinds of respected people in ancient times.
Now there were some cases of healing reported, but it was hardly as common as is made out to be. Again, Glenn Miller at the Christian-thinktank has argued that it is in fact just the opposite, taking on the very work of Richard Carrier that Loftus cites favorably in his book.
Third is that the modern historian lives in a modern world where these don’t take place.
I don’t think I need to repeat my skepticism at this point….
One thing to mention is that Loftus says that they lived in the ancient world in a world where nothing was known about nature’s fixed laws, but just a God who expresses his will in all events.
If nothing was known about them though, then there could be no such thing as a miracle. To understand a miracle is to know that there is a natural order and that something has happened to that natural order in some way. St. Peter did not know that water is two parts hydrogen and one oxygen, but he did know that if he stood on water, he would not be standing long.
We’ll conclude with a look at is this system fair. Why base it on history?
Apparently, a world of constant miracles and interventions is the way to go.
However, having it in history means that it can be accessed by all people in all times in all places. Is there a lot of study to be done? Yes. There is. If it’s for the truth, it’s worth it though. Contrary to Loftus though, I think a lot of people don’t come to Christ because of lifestyle change and there is a part of each of us that still resists the Holy Spirit in this.
Christ calls you to die to yourself. No other religious leader has a message like Christ’s. You have to confess that he is God and you are not. Now is the case 100% certain? No. It isn’t. It’s far more likely though based on the combined total of historical, philsophical, and scientific arguments that God did raise Jesus from the dead.
Loftus tells us that if the miraculous is involved, there can never be a sufficient reason for accepting it.
That’s odd. There’s been sufficient reason for several people for 2,000 years nearly. I find sufficient reason. Loftus might think God judging us is unfair. This though raises another question. Where did this idea of fairness come from? Whatever excuse Loftus has, on the last day, it will not be good enough.
The first objection Loftus raises to his view is that the history of the church is evidence.
Indeed, it is, and for reasons Loftus doesn’t seem to understand. Why would a bunch of people suddenly begin following a crucified criminal and risk all believing that he rose from the dead. This is one of the main reasons in the thinking of J.P. Holding. (I have plans soon to order his book “The Impossible Faith.”
The second is that Jesus said some wouldn’t believe even if God raised a man from the dead.
For starters, that’s not really what the parable in Luke says. It says if they will not believe Moses and the prophets, they won’t even believe a resurrection. Loftus suggest a glowing cross appearing in the sky.
Exactly what would that show?
First off, the people of the world would have to have an understanding of what it meant.
Second, they’d have to still put their trust even if they did understand it.
Third, what will be the content of such a belief?
The reason I don’t think God does these is that while God wants people to be saved, the people need to want it to. They need to be in search of truth. God’s not interested in people knowing he is there just to know he is there. He’s not interested in people knowing Christ is Lord just to know he’s Lord. It is more than the intellect he is interested in. It is the will as well.
The third is that people don’t come because of sin.
I think this is the most likely reason of course.
Well what about the those Tibetan Monks?
First off, have they heard? If not, then we need to wait and see. If they have though, then we have a case of idolatry. I’ve written on this before, but people can often make morality an idol. Morality is a pointer to God. A finger is good at pointing to the moon, but woe to him who mistakes the finger for the moon.
What about the Muslim? They have even more to lose! Doesn’t Loftus know the price in Muslim nations of forsaking Islam and coming to Christ?
Loftus also says repentance is easy. I doubt this is the case though. Changing one’s lifestyle is not easy. Especially when we have to admit we were wrong about some things. We are often quite resistant to the surgeon’s knife.
Tomorrow, we shall move to the next chapter and look more at miracles.