What do I think of chapter 8? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
One would hope that as we moved past history into philosophy, which would be more of McCormick’s forte, the arguments would get better. I honestly came here expecting to see some good arguments for atheism, arguments against classical theistic arguments, and material that I would have to really wrestle with. I know. I know. It’s so foolish to expect this after atheist books fail so often to get things right. McCormick unfortunately doesn’t exert any more skill here in his main area than he does in an area he’s not skilled in.
This chapter is about asking why all the gods are hiding. Of course, this presumes that they are hiding. It’s all about really how the evidence is interpreted. I contend that one problem with many atheists is that reality is taken as a given, as if it could just exist and continue to exist on its own. Once we have it here, there’s no need to explain how it stays here. Both need to be explained.
Something McCormick wants is better miracles than what we have. For him, many miracles just seem like magic tricks. (Okay. Well, let’s have him go out to a field with no supplies whatsoever and feed 5,000 men not counting women and children with a few loaves of bread and some fish) For most magicians, to get to do a lot of their tricks requires a lot of equipment. Jesus didn’t have that, but let’s go on anyway.
A requirement McCormick thinks we should have for this is objective and impartial observers. Of course, how we will know this is something I wonder about, especially since we’ve already had talk about people with low IQs and people without knowledge of science. Does he mean atheists like himself? (Which obviously are totally impartial and objective.) Who does he have in mind?
Interestingly, when I read this I thought of a quote from Chesterton about the jury system and ordinary men.
Our civilisation has decided, and very justly decided, that determining the guilt or innocence of men is a thing too important to be trusted to trained men. It wishes for light upon that awful matter, it asks men who know no more law than I know, but who can feel the things that I felt in the jury box. When it wants a library catalogued, or the solar system discovered, or any trifle of that kind it uses up its specialists. But when it wishes anything done which is really serious, it collects twelve of the ordinary men standing round. The same thing was done, if I remember right, by the Founder of Christianity.
He also suggests that miracles should be bigger and grander. After all, if the goal was bringing Jesus back from death to demonstrate His deity to all humanity, why show Him to just His devoted followers for a few moments?
There’s that darn word if again. If. If. If. But what if it isn’t? McCormick approaches the text as if the question of a modern atheist is what is being addressed. Last I checked, the Jews and most others at the time weren’t questioning that God existed. In fact, it wasn’t entirely over the deity of Christ. This was about the Kingdom of God and that would be for the Jews.
Besides, what does McCormick want? For the once and for all sacrifice to happen multiple times in history to multiple people in every generation because that would be more convincing? Does he really think this would help anyway? If he thinks we have differences now, imagine all the differences we’d have with each culture having their own tradition of Jesus coming and dying and then debating over those traditions where they differ any.
What McCormick wants is a God who is continually working to show Himself, but apparently, nothing about making real disciples who will really do the work because, hey, God is already doing all of that. Why bother with evangelism? It’s all on God’s head.
Finally, Jesus didn’t just appear to His followers. James and Paul were both skeptics. Of course, this is evidence that McCormick never really interacts with. As we saw, McCormick’s evaluation of the resurrection leaves out key pieces of data and there is of course even more that he never touched.
He also says make it something an Almighty being would do. At this point, it’s important to note that McCormick is doing theology so I have to ask one question. How does he know? How does he know what an Almighty being would do? What is his source on this material? Does he have experience in dealing with Almighty beings and knowing how they would and would not act?
He also thinks you should pick a better audience because for these people, their lives were filled with spirits, scary events, supernatural action, etc. None of the facts about nature we take for granted were part of their knowledge base. These are all fascinating claims to make. Unfortunately, there is no demonstration of them. It’s as if McCormick has bought into the whole “Ancient People Are Stupid” line entirely.
He seems unaware that the miracles they saw they knew to be miracles because this doesn’t happen naturally. Even today if most of us saw someone touch a leper and saw them instantly have their skin healed, we would be justified in thinking a miracle took place. Ancient people also built boats, because they knew people didn’t walk on water, and they worked to grow food and catch fish, because they knew these did not just multiply instantly on their own.
He continues this by asking what if you were God and were trying to convince an audience of your existence and communicating your desires. Who says that’s the goal? McCormick keeps playing this card over and over and doesn’t demonstrate it. Atheism wasn’t the question and the Jews already knew the desires of YHWH in their Scriptures.
In looking at all of these reasons and others, McCormick concludes by saying that the problem is that not a single miracle in all of history passes this criteria.
Not a single on.
It’s worth noting that when this book came out, Craig Keener’s Miracles was already out, but of course, you won’t see McCormick interacting with that. Apparently, he can easily say every miracle included in that book is false. It’s amazing how atheists seem to have this absolute knowledge of all history and all miracle claims all over the world.
McCormick says that the problem is divine hiddenness. I contend that the whole term isn’t a misnomer. I think the problem is on our end of not knowing how to evaluate evidence. (And McCormick has shown he’s not good at it with history so why trust him now?) A lot of people have given reasons why God doesn’t just appear suddenly to everyone or something of that sort. These include free-will and creating disciples and things of that sort. McCormick says these are fascinating but they fail for a number of reasons.
Inquiring minds want to know what those reasons are.
Inquiring minds will be disappointed.
He goes on to say that if you want to argue for the resurrection, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t have it that God is the reasonable outcome of the resurrection and endorse arguments for divine hiddenness. This is quite the claim.
What is missing is any reason to believe it. Why not? McCormick doesn’t tell me.
He also says that the fact that the arguments for God and the resurrection are weak even to other believers and unconvincing makes the problem more difficult. Well again, this is a statement I have to take on faith. McCormick gives no evidence. Nowhere in here does he interact with the classical arguments for theism. I don’t care frankly if the lay person finds them unconvincing. What I care about is if they’re true or not.
Of course, McCormick seems to be an authority on unconvincing.
McCormick then says God could have given us much more if He wanted us to believe. Again, who says that’s the goal? Just believe? I can get several people to get married easily. Getting them to have a marriage is different.
McCormick goes on to say that you can’t hold that the best explanation of the historical evidence is the resurrection and that there is room for us to believe or not believe. Again. Why not? Why can’t you? What argument has been given? None whatsoever. It’s amazing to me how many times atheists are people of faith. They think they can make an assertion and well, that settles it.
McCormick does point to some people who did have some direct interaction. Abraham still chose to sacrifice Isaac. (Didn’t say anything about him stopping it) The problem is what is the situation with Abraham? Abraham still had a great deal of free will as if you just read his story in Genesis, he still did some stupid things. He lied about his relationship with his wife and he got his concubine pregnant to help God with the promise. Abraham’s event with Isaac happened after a lifetime of foolish choices.
We could say this for most anyone else. It’s most ironic since he mentions the devil and the devil no doubt made the most foolish choice of all. Of course, this assumes God owes everyone a personal appearance and even still in what context? Jesus’s event isn’t just a random event in history but based on a long history of promises to Israel.
McCormick also says that if Allah is real, it would be “perverse, capricious, and unjust for Allah to then judge you and condemn you for failing to believe.” (Loc. 2624) Sorry, but I have to disagree with this. If Islam is true, I deserve all the judgment I get because I have been teaching just the opposite about God Himself. I have no problem saying that because I am convinced Islam is not true, but God doesn’t owe me anything. If I am wrong, I deserve the judgment.
This all gets amusing when McCormick sets up a fake dialogue where a critic asks why the resurrection evidence isn’t better only to be told God wants X. McCormick then has the critic ask “How do we know that God wants X?” (Loc. 2639) Keep in mind, this is the same person who throughout this chapter has been saying “If God wants X.” McCormick is making the claim. Not I. Yet apparently, if a Christian did do that, that would be foul.
Next time we look at miracles and no, it doesn’t get any better.