What about miracles? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
It’s nice to know that Mills at least began this chapter with a joke.
If you have read, even casually, the six preceding chapters of this book, then you have become somewhat of an expert on the arguments for, and against, the Bible’s reliability and Divine inspiration. You are therefore better informed than most Christians on these issues of science and theology. You are also more knowledgeable than 90 percent of the professional clergy in America, who know a lot about preaching the Gospel, but little about proving the Gospel.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 156). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
Because nothing says being knowledgable about the material such as refusing to interact with major sources in defense of that material. Sadly, the part about 90% of the clergy could be true. One of my hopes doing this blog is to reverse those numbers.
From here, Mills goes on to talk about the miracles a Christian notices in his daily life.
Foremost among these daily “miracles” is the “comforting presence of the Holy Ghost.” Christians claim that external or scientific proof of God’s existence is for them unnecessary, because the Holy Ghost bears witness in their hearts that He is real and that the Bible is God’s Word. Christians pity the “fools” and “lost souls” who reject religious dogma because these skeptics fail to appreciate and to experience for themselves the self-evident proof that God provides through His “Inner Comforter.”
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 157). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
There’s a reason I’ve never supported Bill Craig’s fifth argument for God. It’s easy to knock down or mock. If Mills ever saw this blog, he can look through other posts of mine where I have told Christians to regularly not base their attitudes on feelings or think that God is speaking to them through feelings. This is not to say that there are no emotions in our Christian walk, but that they are not the guiding force.
Aside from feeling God’s presence, the most common “miracle of Christian perception” is having one’s prayers answered by God, or otherwise witnessing God’s direct intervention into the natural course of human events. For example, church congregations often pray for the swift recovery of a sick or hospitalized individual. If this bedfast individual later recuperates, the church boastfully attributes his recovery to their miracle-working God. If, instead, the afflicted person dies, this sad outcome is literally never counted as evidence against God’s existence or against God’s ability to answer prayer. The disappointment is stoically accepted as “God’s will” or as a purely natural event irrelevant to theological debate. “It was simply his time to go.”
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 159). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
Does Mills expect a universe where every prayer will be answered yes? Just watch Bruce Almighty to see what happens in that case. Sometimes He answers yes and sometimes no. If a miracle does happen though, that does count as evidence of God’s existing. As for evil, I would be glad to talk with Mills about evil any time. I have a number of approaches I use for that, many are on this blog.
However, there are a number of times prayers are answered that I think is not just coincidence. Consider what is happening in the Muslim world as many Muslims are becoming Christians after prayers and visions of Jesus. The thing with events like this is for Mills, every single one of them has to be a coincidence. For me, just one is positive data. Who has more at stake?
Mills refers to John Glenn seeing Earth from space and speaking of its beauty and saying “There has to be a God.”
But I also recall vividly that, at the very moment Glenn uttered his oft-repeated words about a Creator, the Shuttle was flying over Central America, where Hurricane Mitch had just destroyed the infrastructures of five entire nations. Thousands of people had just been killed and hundreds of thousands left homeless. Government officials calculated that it would take 30 years to rebuild. But none of my Christian email correspondents said a thing to me about the carnage and catastrophic damage wrought by the storm, which was raging only 200 miles beneath Glenn and the Shuttle. I hesitate to emphasize the negative. But, here again, Glenn’s “vision of God” was based on selective observation. If Glenn’s family had just been wiped out by the storm, I doubt that he would have voiced such an idyllic view of Nature. So whenever Christians point out to me that many intelligent people believe in God, I agree wholeheartedly. But I, in turn, point out that the empirical observations made by these intelligent individuals, though usually accurate, are frequently selectively employed.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 162). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
But if selective vision is wrong for Glenn, it’s also wrong for Mills. Mills looks at evil and suffering and says “No God.” Glenn sees beauty in the world and says “God.” The question is if atheism can give a basis for beauty and order better than theism can give for evil. We easily can. People went against God and chose lesser goods that in turn caused them to do evil in pursuit of a lesser good over a greater one.
Mills goes on to say about all this that:
Such an undeniably mixed bag would lead an objective observer to conclude that Nature is governed neither by benevolent gods nor by evil demons. Nature simply exists and, irrespective of our desires or best interests, operates through natural law, rather than through mystical or purposeful legerdemain.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 162-163). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
Yet Lewis spoke about this years ago. If this was really the case, why would people think of an all-good and all-powerful and all-knowing God? That’s the last kind of God we would expect. That’s probably why so many people for years were polytheists. It made sense.
Suppose that I were standing near Kennedy’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery, and the ground suddenly opened up revealing a coffin. I see the casket opening; and a man who looks exactly like John Kennedy sits up and walks away. Even under these bizarre circumstances, it is still more probable that: (a) I am misperceiving what is occurring, or (b) that someone is playing an ingenious trick, or (c) that I am witnessing the filming of a movie, or (d) that I am dreaming, or (e) that the man I saw was not actually John Kennedy, or (f) that someone has slipped me a hallucinogenic drug, or (g) that I have fallen victim to psychosis or (h) that I am completely fabricating this story. Any of these explanations is infinitely more plausible than the assertion that John Kennedy genuinely rose from the dead. These explanations are more plausible even when I claim to be an eyewitness to the event. Whenever miraculous tales are secondhand or, like Scripture, are handed down from generation to generation, the veracity of the original stories is forever untestable and is thus unworthy of serious consideration. A naturalistic explanation—however far-fetched it seems—is invariably more likely to be accurate than a supernatural explanation.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 164). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
A valid question to ask Mills at this point would be “What would convince you?” If the answer is “nothing”, then Mills’s position is not based on evidence. Were that the case, evidence to the contrary would change his mind. It can be thought believers believe because they have a dogma in favor of miracles, but Chesterton turned this on its head years ago in Orthodoxy.
“The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.”
And no, in all of this, he doesn’t touch the resurrection. He doesn’t bother interacting with resources like Craig Keener’s Miracles, which was out by then. There is not a single miracle that he really looks at and deals with.
Not a shock.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)