We continue this with Mackie’s argument against miracles. Mackie says that a theist “must concede to Hume that the antecedent improbability of this event is as high as it could be, hence that, apart from the testimony, we have the strongest possible grounds for believing that the alleged event did not occur.” (p. 169)
This gets to my response now to the Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence argument.
“You got it.”
If someone needs extraordinary evidence, then Christianity has it. If one looks at just miracles in isolation, then there could conceivably be a difficulty in showing if one occurred. However, if one considers arguments for the existence of God and the reliability of Scripture, then we can be assured that they did occur.
The hard thing is it involves us taking away our presuppositions that the natural world is all there is.
Mackie contends that when someone theistic debates someone who is not, their point of view will be that the event is either not miraculous, did not occur, or we have faulty testimony. This though is indeed the problem. It is not proper to approach the question of miracles and assume right off that miracles cannot occur. If one reads the Bible with that assumption, it’s no surprise if they think it’s nonsense.
The best approach would simply be agnosticism at first. Now I argue from the theistic perspective simply because I find the evidence convincing. You might ask me why someone couldn’t then argue from the atheistic perspective. I’d simply point to what Hume said. Because we drop a stone 1,000 times and it falls, it doesn’t mean it will fall the 1,001st time.
Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that a miracle has never occurred. (Alright. We’d have a hard time explaining the existence of the universe, but let’s assume some bizarre theory has explained it.) Is this proof that there is no God and that a miracle hasn’t occurred? We’ll even add in that all theistic arguments have been debunked.
The answer is no. Now Christianity is definitely false if no miracles have occurred, but theism isn’t. It would just mean that we had really bad reasons for believing in the existence of God. It could be there is a god hidden out there who might just want to make himself known one grand time in one grand miracle.
Loftus also has this quote. “Science has progressed on the assumption that miracles don’t occur in the laboratory.” (P. 170) I assume he means that when we reach the lab and do our work, we assume that miracles have never happened and then we do our work from there.
That would be a shock to all the theistic scientists for years who started so many branches of science and made great contributions to learn that they were doing all their work assuming all the while that the universe they lived in was one where miracles did not occur.
This, I believe, is the real assumption of true science. It states that there is a rational order to the universe and it does follow rational laws and that our minds can correspond to this universe as well as our rules of arithmetic and that the universe has a certain beauty to it in its laws. (All of which must be assumed by science. It cannot prove any of them.)
The scientist then works assuming that these laws are the way that the matter in the universe normally acts. He does not assume God cannot act any more than he assumes that one of his co-workers can knock over a vial in the lab. To do so would not violate the laws of nature any more than God acting violates the laws of nature.
In fact, the theist believing in a rational mind behind the universe has a basis for that belief. The atheistic scientist must ask with the assumption that it is true but with no reason behind it. He must act on a leap of faith that his senses are giving him accurate information about the real world.
The question now moves to how can God act in a material world? How can the immaterial act on the material?
So the hidden asssumption is “If you don’t know a way, there isn’t one.”
Why should I believe that though? I believe I have an immaterial soul and that immaterial soul is acting on my material body right now. Do I understand how? Not at all. It doesn’t stop me from typing right now though. I don’t understand how the material acts on the material. I have no idea how the internet works, but that is not stopping me from typing this blog, posting it for everyone, and believing that it can be seen by everyone.
Finally, there’s the idea of “What if some miracles are explained?”
Okay. Loftus starts with the Hebrew boys thrown in the fiery furnace and how they landed on cool spots. So they came out and they were not burned at all because they happened to get to these cool spots.
I don’t know which is more miraculous. That the Hebrew boys survived or that someone finds that explanation credible.
Let’s suppose that the biggest one was explained. Let’s suppose we found a natural explanation for the resurrection. This would also have to be explained:
How it was known it would happen with the coming of Christ in advance through prophecy.
How Christ knew it would happen.
How Christ predicted it.
How Christ found this out long before anyone in modern science ever did.
How it just happened to be the one perfect sinless individual.
How his other miracles still took place.
I don’t expect these answers to come any time soon.
Tomorrow, we shall look at the chapter on William Lane Craig’s inner witness of the Holy Spirit. Those of you who know my past writings might know what I think of this argument.