The Case Against Miracles Chapter 1

What do I think of David Corner’s chapter? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

David Corner has the first chapter in John Loftus’s book on Miracles and the challenge of the apologist. Why is it that an apologist would have a hard time with miracles? Reading through, I didn’t really find anything that I found remotely convincing in Corner. It looked like more just pointing back to Hume over and over.

Also noteworthy is I remember no mention of Keener’s work in the chapter. If a miracle has taken place, then the challenge of Corner is taken care of. Corner could try to just say “Well, it’s some natural thing we don’t understand yet.” Feel free to think that, but most of us will be unconvinced.

Early on, Corner starts with defining a miracle. He cites both Augustine and Aquinas, but then goes to Hume. This to me sounds like going to Ken Ham when you want to learn about evolution. Even if you disagree with Augustine and Aquinas, why not go with them because then you know you’re going with someone who represents your opponents’ side? I think we know why. Still, let’s see what he says about Hume.

In his Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding,[ 30] David Hume offered two definitions of “miracle;” first, as a violation of natural law;[ 31] shortly afterward he offers a more complex definition when he says a miracle is “a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent.”[ 32] This second definition offers two important criteria that an event must satisfy in order to qualify as a miracle: It must be a violation of natural law, but this by itself is not enough; a miracle must also be an expression of the divine will. This means that a miracle must express divine agency; if we have no reason to think that an event is something done by God, we will have no reason to call it a miracle.

I do think the idea of being connected to God at the end a good point to have. Suppose we have a case where someone is in a state such as a comatose state and has no response whatsoever and there are people gathered in prayer. Just as they are done praying, the person wakes up. Are they justified in believing in a miracle? Yes.

The problem also is Corner spends a lot of time addressing supernaturalism, but he never talks about what it is really. He says this about the idea of nature:

Those who would defend supernaturalism sometimes do this through a commitment to an ontology of entities that exist in some sense outside of nature, where by “nature” is meant the totality of things that can be known by means of observation and experiment, or more generally, through the methods proper to the natural sciences.

But what is meant by observation and experiment? I know 2 + 2 = 4 by observation. I don’t have to do experiments to find that out. At times throughout the day, I can look out my office window here and see cats. There are many different cats, but I get the idea of cat out of all of them and learn what a cat is despite differences in size, color, etc. The same could be said for dogs.

I can reason to other things like triangularity or goodness from there. I can also reason to God. I don’t do an experiment. I just follow rules of deductive reasoning to get to my conclusion. What I wonder though is by Corner’s definition if the nature of cats, triangularity, goodness, etc. would be part of nature or not. Evolution might explain how cats came about. It doesn’t explain how the universal nature of cats exists.

He also contends methodological naturalism tells us that observation and experiment can tell us all that we need to know. I disagree with this definition of it. What I see it as being is that when a scientist does his work in the lab, he assumes that there are no external agents interfering without cause.

The first hurdle Corner deals with is testimony. Can testimony evidence a miracle? The problem is Corner presents a number of ways testimony can go wrong, and it can. He never says how it can go right. What are the grounds by which a miracle could be said to have a reliable source? If he cannot give any, then is he not begging the question to say it can never overcome?

That would make sense since that is what Hume said. The best Corner can say is it will give us the suspension of judgment, but if you approach every testimony to a miracle with “Either false or suspend judgment” then you will never conclude a miracle has happened. Why? Because you know a miracle has never happened. This gets us into begging the question. More will be said on that later.

He also does cite Earman, but there’s not much engagement. Earman points out that Hume’s argument would work against marvels being believed and would thus be a science stopper if followed through. Earman says this as an agnostic. One point made is that Earman says we could have a large number of witnesses. Corner replies that we have no way of accessing their credibility as witnesses so we shouldn’t trust them.

But again, this just gets us to begging the question. The account cannot possibly be accepted as true. Corner gives us no grounds and even if true, it is insisted that it would have to have a natural cause. Corner has things stacked in his favor here. No matter what, it has to be a natural event because, well, reasons.

When asked about begging the question, Corner says we can’t assume the “supernatural” worldview is correct and says an apologist arguing for a miracle is. Yet at the same time, Corner thinks it’s just fine to assume the naturalistic worldview is correct. An apologist arguing for a miracle does not have to assume a supernatural worldview. He can present this as evidence for God and the person responding can decide if the evidence is reliable or not. You don’t have to accept God’s existence to think there could be good evidence for a miracle.

Corner later goes so far as to say that we usually say that either an event has a natural cause or a supernatural cause. He argues maybe it had no cause at all. He would have someone who would challenge that. Namely, David Hume, or is this the point where we drop Hume?

“But allow me to tell you that I never asserted so absurd a Proposition as that that anything might arise without a cause: I only maintain’d, that our Certainty of the Falsehood of that Proposition proceeded neither from Intuition nor Demonstration; but from another Source.” (David Hume to John Stewart, February 1754, in The Letters of David Hume, 2 vols, ed. J. Y. T Greig[Oxford:Clarendon Press, 1932], I:187)

And once again I am reminded how far skeptics like Corner will go to to defend their position. It strikes me as a position of believing anything else before believing a miracle. Nature can just go through spontaneous lapses sometimes in uniformity, but yet this would destroy science itself. Would Corner sacrifice science to avoid a miracle? Possibly.

Corner also asks how a God could do a miracle. He says:

All of the cases of causal interaction of which we are aware occur between physical entities that are fundamentally similar to one another in terms of possessing physical properties such as mass, electrical charge, location in space, etc. Thus, we know for example how one billiard ball may move another by virtue of the transfer of momentum. But God, as normally conceived by theistic religion, possesses none of these qualities, and cannot therefore interact with physical objects in any way that we can understand. God cannot, for example, transfer momentum to a physical object if God does not possess mass.

Yet this is again begging the question. What if I believe that I have an immaterial aspect to me and that that aspect of me interacts with my body? Then I have firsthand evidence in my case that immaterial forces can do that. Do I know how? No. Not at all. I don’t know how I fall asleep at night either, but I seem to do it every night.

Even if all that we had indicated physical changes are caused by physical objects, that does not demonstrate immaterial objects can’t do the same thing. Corner needs to demonstrate this and he hasn’t done so. Furthermore, if I have theistic arguments and I am convinced they work, then I have a priori evidence that this does happen.

He also says the problem of miracles is they lack predictive power, but why should this be a problem? If I am dealing with a free-will agent, why should I think they will always follow rules like that? My wife will appreciate something from me at one time and the next time not appreciate it. Some days I might enjoy a game and some days I might not. Free-will agents don’t act according to natural laws like that.

He also asks about miracles that do have natural causes, but this is not a problem. Suppose the Israelites cross the Jordan and we are told that regularly the waters stop so people can walk through. The miracle is not that they stopped, but when they stopped, in direct response to prayer.

In conclusion, I really don’t see anything convincing in Corner’s argument, at least for his position. If anything, it makes me more aware of the hurdles skeptics go to to avoid miracles. It’s easier to believe in things even Hume called absurd apparently than to be open to a miracle at all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/31/2019

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Miracles. We have all heard of them, but few of us have taken the real time to investigate them. Sure, we have Craig Keener’s book, but how many among us are really going to pick up and read a two-volume work that contains over 1,000 pages? If only there was a more accessible work out there that was an investigative look.

If we talk about that, aren’t journalists supposed to be good at investigating? Aren’t they supposed to be able to dig deep into a news story and pick out the information that is there? Aren’t they supposed to dig and get to the bottom of the case? Why yes, yes they are. Wouldn’t it be great if a journalist decided to investigate miracles?

As it turns out, one has. This is one who has investigated several cases in Christianity. He is a former atheist who nows teaches apologetics and has even recently opened up a center for applied apologetics. By now, many of you know who I’m talking about. He’s Lee Strobel, my guest on the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel, the former award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune, is a New York Times best-selling author of more than thirty books. He is a former Professor of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University and serves as a Teaching Pastor at Woodlands Church in Texas. 

Lee was educated at the University of Missouri (Bachelor of Journalism degree) and Yale Law School (Master of Studies in Law degree). He was a journalist for fourteen years at The Chicago Tribune and other newspapers, winning Illinois’ highest honor for public service journalism from United Press International. He also led a team that won UPI’s top award for investigative reporting in Illinois.

After investigating the evidence for Jesus, Lee became a Christian in 1981. He subsequently became a teaching pastor at two of America’s most influential churches and hosted the national network TV program Faith Under Fire. In addition, he taught First Amendment law at Roosevelt University.

In 2017, Lee’s spiritual journey was depicted in a major motion picture, The Case for Christ, which was the #3 faith-based movie of the year at the boxoffice. Lee has won national awards for his books The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, and The Case for Grace. In all, his books have sold in excess of 14 million copies.

Lee was described in the Washington Post as “one of the evangelical community’s most popular apologists.” The Christian Post named Lee one of the top seven evangelical leaders who made an impact in 2017.

Lee and Leslie have been married for forty-five years and near Houston, Texas. Their daughter, Alison, is the author of five novels. Their son, Kyle, is a professor of spiritual theology at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University.

We’ll be talking with Lee about his book The Case For Miracles and seeing what evidence he found for miracles. We’ll also talk briefly about his new school that has opened up. He’s a guest that I have wanted to have on for some time and I hope you’ll enjoy the interview as much as I did. (We just recorded this morning in a rare Thursday interview) Please also leave a positive review on iTunes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Does Christianity Violate Logic?

Are any laws of logic violated by the story of Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have a saying about many skeptics that I meet that they honor reason with their lips but their heads are far from it. One such rule is the idea of logic. For many, being logical doesn’t mean following the laws of logic. It means just not believing in God and miracles because those violate logic because, well, they just do because that’s not logical.

To be fair, some skeptics will try to point out some logical contradictions in the nature of God, and this is entirely valid. If there is a logical contradiction in the nature of God, then God does not exist in the way we have conceived Him. If that is what is being done, that is not what this post is about. This post is about the claim that something like the resurrection of Jesus violates logic.

Let’s start by saying what laws of logic are. They are simple. The Law of Identity is A = A. What you are talking about is what you are talking about. Something is itself. The Law of Excluded Middle says that A is either B or non-B but nowhere in between. Something has to fall on the spectrum somewhere as either true or false. The Law of Noncontradiction says that A cannot both B and non-B in the same time and in the same sense. Contradictions can’t be true.

From here, consider a story like Cinderella. This is one that we all know is meant to be a fairy tale and not a historical reality. We can say all we want that the events in Cinderella never happened, but that does not mean that they violate logic. In the story, a fairy godmother turns a pumpkin into a coach and mice into horses.

Has any law of logic been violated? Not a one. What would be a violation is for mice to not be mice while being mice or for them to become horses and not become horses in the same time and in the same sense. It would also be the case that either the mice became horses or they did not.

Even the staunchest atheist can conceive of a story where a pumpkin becomes a coach. It doesn’t mean he thinks it would ever happen, but he can have a suspended disbelief of sorts where he watches the movie with a daughter, for example, and goes with the story as is. What he cannot conceive is a story where Cinderella has two pumpkins and the fairy godmother gives her two more and she has five pumpkins. You can conceive of a world of magic. You cannot conceive of one where 2 + 2 = 5.

So let’s look at the resurrection of Jesus. The event is the resurrection of Jesus and not anything else. It either happened or it didn’t even if it’s the case that we can’t know if it happened or not. There are no contradictions involved. A dead body coming back to life does not violate logic. You could try to argue it violates science or materialism, but not logic.

This is the case with most miracle claims out there. Whether they are true or not is another matter. Now if they violated logic, they could not be true, but in the same sense, just because they do not violate logic does not mean that they are true. Cinderella doesn’t violate logic, but that does not make it true. The truthfulness of the claim will be determined on other grounds, namely historical grounds.

In dialogue with skeptics, remember that logic refers to something very specific. Skeptics will often act like if you are logical you don’t believe in God or miracles or something of that sort. That needs to be backed. That kind of reasoning on their part is not illogical, but it is certainly not rational.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

God On Video Camera?

Would it matter if God showed up today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometimes, we’re asked why is it that God came in a time supposedly when there was no technology like today. Why not show up in a day and age where we have video cameras and everyone has one on their phone as well and we can all see these things happening? This seems like a simple explanation, but it just doesn’t work.

Many of us have seen those commercials on television that is supposed to demonstrate how well a product works. Do we all rush out and buy that product immediately? No. Many of us are skeptical when it comes to advertising. We know that those can be faked.

How about those commercials with people talking about a certain car and this line appears at the bottom of the screen saying “Real people, not actors.” I guess that settles it doesn’t it? Obviously, these were all real people who were being recorded and not people meant to read a script and they all just spontaneously praised the car. Naturally, there’s never anyone that says anything negative.

We can see movies today with realistic special effects as well. Someone who doesn’t know about those could conclude that something in them is real. Many of us can see a horror film and get scared about it because it just seems so realistic.

Yet supposedly, if God showed up today, everyone would just believe that it was Him. If you had video tape of these kinds of events, they would be questioned just as much. Internet atheists would be trying to find every way they can to look at the recording and show that it was faked.

Even if we know something is faked and we don’t know how it was done, we don’t conclude that it was a miracle of some kind. My wife and I used to watch Penn and Teller’s show “Fool Us,” where people would try to trick the famous magicians for a chance to be in their magic act. There were numerous people that did fool Penn and Teller, yet Penn at least I know is still an atheist to this day. It is never thought that someone actually did a miracle.

New Testament scholar Craig Keener has catalogued several miracles in his two-volume work Miracles. Most people who are skeptics will never bother to investigate these miracles since obviously they are not real. Even if they have medical documentation, it doesn’t matter.

If anything, God doing it when He did makes the most sense. After all, this was a day and age where you could not fake something of that sort that easily. Sure, there were some people who did fake acts like that to try to show others as charlatans, but it was a lot more difficult to pull off, especially events in public that involve sudden change in healing.

Today, it would be much easier to fake these kinds of events. Not only that, but it would not convince some of God. If someone doesn’t want to believe, they can find another explanation. In an event where Peter Boghossian interviewed Richard Dawkins, Dawkins said he had become convinced that anything said to be done by God could just as easily be done by aliens.In that way, nothing could convince him of God. At least he’s honest.

As I said also in an earlier post, God doesn’t do this either because He is not a trivia question. He doesn’t show up just to address our curiosity. He seeks people who really seek Him for Him. Be one of those.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Atheist Incredulity and Eyewitness Testimony

How should we handle eyewitness testimony? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Earlier this week I wrote a piece on atheist incredulity. In response, I got asked a question about eyewitness accounts of things like UFOs. Should we believe in those? It’s quite amazing to me that it’s taboo apparently to suggest that skepticism should be held in an unquestioning way.

This isn’t new. Hume had the same skepticism to eyewitness claims of miracles and sought any chance he could to dismiss them. Today, we do have a sort of doublespeak going on in the atheist community. How does that happen?

Go to the Gospels and what are you told often? These Gospels were written decades after the event! It means either the story of the original viewers of the event, otherwise known as the eyewitnesses, were changed, or that the writers never got to speak to any eyewitnesses.

Then, if you go and show that eyewitnesses were involved, well, eyewitness testimony isn’t always reliable. Sometimes you get told that it’s notoriously unreliable. So if the Gospels do not contain eyewitness accounts, we can’t trust them. If they do contain eyewitness accounts, we can’t trust them.

So let’s look at the above topic of UFOs as an example. Should we trust them? In some cases, yes. All a UFO is is an Unidentified Flying Object. Do some people see such objects? Yes. Does that mean an extraterrestrial craft was sighted? No.

Keep in mind also that for those who hold to science, science itself has SETI set up about the question of extraterrestrial intelligence and this is an active question in the scientific community. If we have an active question and we have an eyewitness of an event, should we not at least listen to them?

Note that this is a fine line to walk on. Should eyewitness testimony be believed blindly? No. Should it be dismissed arbitrarily? No.

It’s important to realize that many of us will measure what we see in the world against our own worldview and background. If you are an atheist, you will have a natural tendency to question any claim of a miracle. If you are a theist, you will be skeptical of naturalistic explanations of events you deem to be miraculous.

This is why each of us must rise above our own skepticism. I think atheists, for example, would do a lot better in convincing on evolution if they did not make it be the case that it is to be seen as evolution vs. God. Many theists could be more open to an evolutionary creationism, but if you tell them going the route of what you say is science means abandoning God, they won’t, because God is much more important in their lives.

On the other hand, those of us who are theists could bear to be more skeptical of some miracle claims and many other claims. When we share claims easily as golden proofs that are easily disproven, then we do ourselves a disservice. We should test all the claims we encounter like that.

Note also with eyewitness testimony, I have no problem with taking the character of the person into consideration. Many of us would be skeptical of the words of a stranger. What if it’s a close family member that you know to be trustworthy? Do you just dismiss it?

At this, I want to also answer one other claim about miracles. Would I accept eyewitness testimony for a miracle outside of Christianity? Well, why not? If a miracle happened, then it happened. I can’t give my faith tradition a special exception on the rules of evidence. I think the atheist has more at stake here because if a miracle did happen, well, atheism is in trouble.

Which brings me to a fun little saying of Chesterton on miracles which I will paraphrase. The theist believes in the miracle, rightly or wrongly, because of the evidence. The skeptic disbelieves in the miracle, rightly or wrongly, because he has a dogma against them. Consider a work like Craig Keener’s Miracles. If just one miracle in that book is a bona fide miracle, naturalism has a lot of explaining to do. If everyone of them is fake, theism can still be true and even Christianity. Who has more at stake?

The solution is really simple. Don’t believe blindly, but don’t dismiss blindly either. Try to put aside your own biases every time for the investigation. Follow the evidence where it leads.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Cost Of Miracles

Who has more at stake on the question of miracles? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Years ago, Chesterton said that a theist believes or disbelieves in a miracle, rightly or wrongly, because of the evidence. The skeptic disbelieves in a miracle, rightly or wrongly, because he has a dogma against them. This would come as a shock to many unbelievers. A dogma? That’s the area of religion.

To which, Chesterton would also say there are two kinds of people in the world. Those who are knowingly dogmatic, and those who are unknowingly dogmatic, and the latter kind are always more dogmatic. We see this quite often today. It is the ones who are most shouting about tolerance who prove to be the ones least tolerant and don’t accept any arguments against their dogma.

The interesting question about miracles comes when you watch a miracle account being shared on any public forum on social media or such a place. The atheists are always the ones quick to show up to say why the miracle story is false. As a Christian, I tend to maintain some skepticism about miracles, but if there is good enough evidence, I don’t rule it out.

Who has the most to lose at this? It is not myself as a Christian. If a miracle story outside of the resurrection of Jesus is shown to be false, oh well. The resurrection is still true. If it is a true miracle story, then that is just further evidence for theism, but theism is still true even if the miracle claim is false.

We could go a step further. Let’s suppose all miracle stories are false thus far. Let’s suppose that no miracles have ever been done. Does this rule out theism? Not at all. God could have gone a deistic route and created the world and chose to do nothing with it, or God could somehow be co-eternal with the world and just doesn’t care about it. I don’t think either of those are true for a moment, but they are hypotheticals to accept.

But what if just one of these stories is true? Consider something like Craig Keener’s massive two-volume work Miracles. Is every miracle claim in that book a bona fide miracle? Doubtful. Some are better attested than others. In fact, aside from the resurrection of Jesus, it could be that every miracle story is false in there and Christianity and/or theism are still true.

Now, what of the other end? If even one of them does not have a materialistic or naturalistic explanation for what happened, then atheism is in trouble unless one is found. It simply has to be false. The same could hypothetically be said of evolution for some. As a Christian theist, if macroevolution is true, I lose nothing, but for the atheist, as Plantinga has said, evolution is the only game in town.

Watch next time a miracle claim is presented and see how both sides react. While it couldn’t hurt us to be cautious and not believe every claim that comes along, one side has to have it that their position on the claim is absolutely right. One side depends on only one option being the true one.

It’s not ours.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Christian Delusion Chapter 11

What do I think of Richard Carrier’s case against the resurrection? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Richard Carrier’s chapter is here. Remember readers that when you read Richard Carrier, it’s appropriate to have fitting music playing. I recommend this little tune.

Carrier starts by appealing to Herodotus and some miracles contained in his accounts. The problem is he never states where in Herodotus these miracles occur. I had to do some of my own looking and such to see where he was talking about.

Anyway, he talks about the Temple of Delphi defending itself with animated armaments. If you read this, you would probably think of these glowing weapons rising up as if held by ghosts and swinging at the opponents who were approaching. Not really. Let’s see what book eight has to say.

The other division took guides, and proceeded towards the temple of Delphi, keeping Mount Parnassus on their right hand. They too laid waste such parts of Phocis as they passed through, burning the city of the Panopeans, together with those of the Daulians and of the Aeolidae. This body had been detached from the rest of the army, and made to march in this direction, for the purpose of plundering the Delphian temple and conveying to King Xerxes the riches which were there laid up. For Xerxes, as I am informed, was better acquainted with what there was worthy of note at Delphi, than even with what he had left in his own house; so many of those about him were continually describing the treasures- more especially the offerings made by Croesus the son of Alyattes.

Now when the Delphians heard what danger they were in, great fear fell on them. In their terror they consulted the oracle concerning the holy treasures, and inquired if they should bury them in the ground, or carry them away to some other country. The god, in reply, bade them leave the treasures untouched- “He was able,” he said, “without help to protect his own.” So the Delphians, when they received this answer, began to think about saving themselves. And first of all they sent their women and children across the gulf into Achaea; after which the greater number of them climbed up into the tops of Parnassus, and placed their goods for safety in the Corycian cave; while some effected their escape to Amphissa in Locris. In this way all the Delphians quitted the city, except sixty men, and the Prophet.

When the barbarian assailants drew near and were in sight of the place, the Prophet, who was named Aceratus, beheld, in front of the temple, a portion of the sacred armour, which it was not lawful for any mortal hand to touch, lying upon the ground, removed from the inner shrine where it was wont to hang. Then went he and told the prodigy to the Delphians who had remained behind. Meanwhile the enemy pressed forward briskly, and had reached the shrine of Minerva Pronaia, when they were overtaken by other prodigies still more wonderful than the first. Truly it was marvel enough, when warlike harness was seen lying outside the temple, removed there by no power but its own; what followed, however, exceeded in strangeness all prodigies that had ever before been seen. The barbarians had just reached in their advance the chapel of Minerva Pronaia, when a storm of thunder burst suddenly over their heads- at the same time two crags split off from Mount Parnassus, and rolled down upon them with a loud noise, crushing vast numbers beneath their weight- while from the temple of Minerva there went up the war-cry and the shout of victory.

All these things together struck terror into the barbarians, who forthwith turned and fled. The Delphians, seeing this, came down from their hiding-places, and smote them with a great slaughter, from which such as escaped fled straight into Boeotia. These men, on their return, declared (as I am told) that besides the marvels mentioned above, they witnessed also other supernatural sights. Two armed warriors, they said, of a stature more than human, pursued after their flying ranks, pressing them close and slaying them.

Feel free to read it for yourself here.

It’s not inconceivable also to think of lightning bolts and powerful waves coming at this time as well. This could be interpreted as the temple defending itself. It doesn’t mean that’s what was happening. One could agree with the phenomena without agreeing with the explanation.

What about an olive tree that grew a new shoot?

I will now explain why I have made mention of this circumstance: there is a temple of Erechtheus the Earth-born, as he is called, in this citadel, containing within it an olive-tree and a sea. The tale goes among the Athenians, that they were placed there as witnesses by Neptune and Minerva, when they had their contention about the country. Now this olive-tree had been burnt with the rest of the temple when the barbarians took the place. But when the Athenians, whom the king had commanded to offer sacrifice, went up into the temple for the purpose, they found a fresh shoot, as much as a cubit in length, thrown out from the old trunk. Such at least was the account which these persons gave.

And that’s it. How exactly is one to fact check this kind of thing? Beats me.

I could not find the story of the mare giving birth to a hare in Herodotus, but it is there. Others have referred to it. Apparently, it took place in the Persian camp and was received as a bad omen.

Finally, a whole town saw a resurrection of cooked fish, it took awhile, but I found it.

Then, it is said by the men of the Chersonese, as one of those who guarded them was frying dried fish, a portent occurred as follows,–the dried fish when laid upon the fire began to leap and struggle just as if they were fish newly caught: and the others gathered round and were marvelling at the portent, but Artayctes seeing it called to the man who was frying the fish and said: “Stranger of Athens, be not at all afraid of this portent, seeing that it has not appeared for thee but for me. Protesilaos who dwells at Elaius signifies thereby that though he is dead and his body is dried like those fish, yet he has power given him by the gods to exact vengeance from the man who does him wrong. Now therefore I desire to impose this penalty for him,–that in place of the things which I took from the temple I should pay down a hundred talents to the god, and moreover as ransom for myself and my son I will pay two hundred talents to the Athenians, if my life be spared.” Thus he engaged to do, but he did not prevail upon the commander Xanthippos; for the people of Elaius desiring to take vengeance for Protesilaos asked that he might be put to death, and the inclination of the commander himself tended to the same conclusion. They brought him therefore to that headland to which Xerxes made the passage across, or as some say to the hill which is over the town of Madytos, and there they nailed him to boards and hung him up; and they stoned his son to death before the eyes of Artayctes himself.

So we have some fish placed on a fire and they leap a bit. Nothing indicates that they came back to life. Nothing indicates they were not cooked like normal. This is hardly a resurrection. It’s interesting that Carrier didn’t say where all of these can be found or state what they originally said himself.

Carrier says that if someone was asked about them, they would say these things don’t happen because they don’t happen today. No. I wouldn’t. You don’t need to be a scientist or have modern science to know that horses give birth to horses for instance. It’s amusing to hear him say tree limbs don’t grow back entirely after a single day.

Let us all rejoice people that we have centuries of scientific research. That’s all it took to realize that. Those stupid people back in the time of Herodotus obviously believed that they could.

Or they didn’t and they recorded it because they knew this isn’t what normally happens and would count as a miracle of some sort. It’s really sad that Carrier thinks you need modern science to know this kind of thing. It’s as if you would expect a scientist to run out of a lab in the 1800’s and say, “I have made a brilliant discovery! It takes sex to make babies! The virgin birth (Which I do affirm) must be false!”

Note if I am presented with stories like this, I am skeptical, but I am also open. I do not rule stories out before examining the claims because they disagree with my worldview. I leave that to atheists. Some stories would be harder to check than others. Suppose the story of a hare giving birth to a mare. How do I verify that? Do you show me the mare and the hare? How am I to know that one came from the other? This is hardly on par with the resurrection.

Carrier goes on to tell us that the Gospel of Peter was widely accepted in the second century. Hardly. It was popular largely among one community and that was it. It didn’t last long. Again, no source is given on this.

Carrier looks at Matthew 27:51-54 and asks why no one reported the earthquake or the walking dead. With the earthquake, why should everyone have reported it? We don’t know how big the earthquake was and how far it would have been felt. With the walking dead, we don’t know what really happened. The text is really vague at this point. Were these just spirits? Were these bodies? What happened to them? This would be a small group in Jerusalem most likely and if they disappeared, skeptics would not be able to come and check and would not take the original story any more seriously than Carrier does.

Carrier later talks about hearing all of these claims and wanting to put an end to the pompous rhetoric. (Yes. The irony is dreadfully funny.) Now with all of this research he says and a PhD in ancient history, no one can say he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Well, don’t be too sure of that. For my purposes, I have learned to pretty much fact check Carrier on everything he says.

Carrier tells us that Paul reveals early Christians were hallucinating on a regular basis and outsiders thought they were lunatics. The reference is 1 Cor. 14, but the whole context is about speaking in tongues and saying that if people hear a language they don’t know, they will say they are mad. He leaves out that if they hear the secrets of their own heart poured out in their own language, they will say that God is really among the Christians. Details. Who needs them? He also says the book of Revelation is an acid trip. Real professional scholarship here.

He goes to the 1 Cor. 15 passage about learning the Gospel and says Paul received it from no man but it came through a vision. Strangely, the world of scholarship has not been convinced and more are inclined to think this is the language of oral tradition. When we hear about the vision Paul had, I don’t think it’s the content that was revealed, but that the truth of it was confirmed. It’s up to Carrier to show this is a hallucination if that’s his claim.

When we get to the Gospels, we hear about added parts like the woman caught in adultery and the long ending of Mark. Carrier tells us these were snuck in by dishonest Christians. How is this known? That they are later additions is not really questioned. That the people who did it were dishonest and snuck it in is beyond what we can really establish. It’s possible, but Carrier needs to show it. Perhaps this is just a comment made by dishonest atheists.

Carrier also says we know masses of people hallucinating can believe they’re seeing the same thing. No examples are given. Perhaps he means Marian apparitions. I am suspicious, but Carrier needs to show these are hallucinations. It’s awfully easy to say that if multiple people have a religious experience of some sort then it must be a hallucination. It’s a great way to make sure your position is never challenged.

Carrier also talks about their expectation that the world was about to end soon. Perhaps some did, but as an orthodox Preterist, and there’s plenty on this blog about that, I don’t think this is what’s going on. Again, Carrier gives no references.

Carrier also says that for people being willing to die, if you stood by your story even in death you would gain honor. Perhaps, but why would one want the honor of this group anyway? This is not explained.

Carrier then says he has known enough ‘Liars for Christ’ to make this possible. This is quite amusing. Read any criticism of Richard Carrier by any professional scholar and you will see how Carrier responds. “Liar, didn’t read, didn’t understand.” These are par for the course for Carrier and is why many of us just don’t take him seriously any more. (That whole going polyamorous and embracing mythicism deal didn’t help either.)

About Paul, Carrier appeals to Paul having guilt and said that Paul had grown to despite the Jewish elite he was serving as a nobody under played a part. Evidence of this? None given. It’s just a story made out of thin air, but as we can expect, his atheist audience will believe it entirely.

Carrier then says if Jesus really was a God and wanted to save everyone, He would have appeared to the whole world? Why? He wanted to answer a trivia question? Are we to think Carrier would believe such a story 2,000 years later anyway? Carrier gives a remarkable defense though of how he knows this is true.

“If I were God, I would appear to everyone and prevent any meddling with my book, and since I can’t be cleverer or more concerned for the salvation of the world than God, this must be what he would do, too.” Yes. Remember what Carrier said earlier about people being pompous? Obviously, Carrier is the peak of being clever and knows this is the very best idea and God couldn’t have a better one. If you looked up narcissist in the dictionary, Carrier’s picture should be next to it. It’s hard to imagine someone with more of an ego. Even more than the editor of this volume, John what’s-his-name.

You can stop listening to Yakety Sax now.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Christian Delusion Chapter 3

What do I think of Jason Long’s chapter? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jason Long’s chapter is a very odd chapter to read. Long writes as if every word drips with acidity and animosity towards a faith I took it he once held to. At the same time, it’s loaded with what I call presuppositional atheism.

The chapter is meant to be about how malleable the human mind is. No doubt, it is, but this is something that cuts both ways. The chapter is short on evidence against Christianity and long on diatribe.

At the start, he says that it’s “nothing short of an incomprehensible tragedy that anyone in this age of reason would have to write a book debunking a collection of ridiculous fantasies from an era of rampant superstition.” (p. 65) I really love the whole age of reason. These reasonable atheists must be the ones I see advancing the Jesus myth hypothesis and telling us that boys are really girls and stuff like that. For me, many people today claiming reason are like young teenagers who drive around thinking they’re all that in the family car forgetting their parents own it and provide the gas for it.

He goes on to say that while some ideas from other religions might seem ridiculous to other Christians, most still believe in an omnipotent deity who will torture His underlings if they don’t worship Him. Yes. This is naturally the reigning evangelical view. People like Long seem to have got an education of Christianity when they were eight years old in Sunday School and never grew out of it.

He then tells us that the reasons given for belief are driven not by rational thought and reasoned argumentation, but by psychological factors derived through indoctrination. This is a wonderful way to dismiss everyone, but should we dismiss atheism when it comes from someone in the former Soviet Union due to years of indoctrination in that view? What of Muslims and atheists who become Christians? Are some indoctrinated into Christianity and never think about it? Yep. Same with any worldview.

On 68, Long says we are not comfortable with the notion that we might be wrong. We enjoy being right. We are taught to avoid questioning. I find this interesting since when I encounter atheists, I usually ask them when the last time it was they read an academic work on religion was that disagreed with them. Nine times out of ten I will get no answer indicating they have. Ask me the same question and you’ll get an immediate answer.

Long says that rational skepticism is not as interesting and comforting to people. There’s no doubt some truth to this. However, he then goes on to say that tell people that the book promising them eternal happiness with loved ones when they die is wrong on the talking donkey takes a lot of work. Long seems to have a fixation on a talking donkey throughout this chapter. It is presuppositional atheism.

So what do I mean by this? Let’s assume the whole passage is literal and it means a donkey spoke. If you are an atheist, that would be nonsense because there is no external agent that can do that. However, if someone’s worldview is not like that and they believe in miracles, a talking donkey is not really a problem. It’s a miracle allowed. What you need to show is such miracles are impossible and it has to be beyond “Because atheism is true.” That’s presuppositional atheism if you act that anything that contradicts atheism must be false.

Long also says Christians are not interested in evaluating their beliefs but in comfort. Heck. If I was interested in comfort I would abandon Christianity many times over because sometimes it is extremely uncomfortable. Long tells us if we were genuinely interested in truth, we would analyze our arguments and examine points of skepticism. Done and done. How about internet atheists I meet that don’t do such?

Long also tells us that in Chapter 12, Loftus, whoever he is, will deal with the ideas of Jesus’s false predictions of His return. I anticipate that this chapter will not deal adequately at all with my viewpoint of orthodox Preterism. I also anticipate that Long would have no clue how to respond to such a thing, but that’s only because he’s not really interested in truth.

Long tells us that when we examine Islam, should we ask the Islamic scholar? Why not ask an outsider. In this, he claims that skeptical scholars have no bias whatsoever. This is nonsense. After all, skeptics can have just as much a bias. Look at what Lewontin says in this article.

“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.”

Or Thomas Nagel

“I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”(”The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997)”

No one comes to Jesus neutral because Jesus makes radical claims. So what do we do? We don’t go and assume the skeptics are automatically unbiased. We don’t go and assume that about the Christians either. We read both sides. We see what the best arguments are. We then make a judgment. Why does Long seem to want us to only go to secularists?

Long also asks what good is a Biblical scholar who refuses to consider his point of view may be wrong? I find this interesting because when I read Christian scholarship, they are constantly quoting their opponents and interacting with them. When I read skeptics, they don’t seem to do that. Take Bart Ehrman’s book on Jesus as the Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Throughout the book he never interacts with orthodox Preterism.

Long also quotes William Lane Craig saying that if the testimony of the Holy Spirit conflicts with the evidence, we should go with the testimony. On it’s own, I would disagree with this because I think the idea of the testimony of the Holy Spirit is vague. He also quotes Answers in Genesis saying no evidence can be valid if it conflicts with Scripture. I have a problem with that as well. I am convinced Scripture is not wrong, but if we have a claim, we need to examine it. However, Long says this is the problem with ALL religious apologists regardless of belief. Part-to-whole fallacy is just screaming here.

He also says that apologists will find a resolution to every objection. Indeed. Can the objection be shown to be false? Long says “God wrote it so it must be true—even if it violates common sense and science.” Common sense is a term I always find odd to use. If you need to say it, it’s common sense. If it’s common sense, you don’t need to say it. Common sense more often seems to be “What agrees with my opinion.” As for science, well Long is free to show what he thinks does contradict science.

Long also says the higher your intelligence, the more likely you are to be skeptical. This is quite subjective and the intelligence is usually based on what’s taught in skeptical circles so what a shock that people taught skepticism turn out to be skeptical. Again, none of this gets to the evidence.

Long also says that it is never easy to be honest with yourself about Scripture with a mind-reading God present. Simply thinking God might be wrong is discomforting. If God is monitoring us, this leads to anxiety. Long is apparently pushing his own experience on everyone else. I have no problem with such questions and I think God expects me to examine them. I also don’t hesitate with my emotions with God. If I am upset with Him about something, then I let Him know. He’s a big God. He can take it.

In the end, Long’s chapter is just full of venom towards Christianity that destroys any idea of objectivity. One reads this chapter and just sees a rant. There is a lot of emotion, but very little rational substance.

Kind of like most new atheist books I read.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Born Divine

What do I think of Robert Miller’s book published by Polebridge Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Miller’s book is a book looking at the birth narratives with an emphasis on the virgin birth (Which I do affirm). It reminds me of what I read in Richard Shenk’s book on the topic that the virgin birth is really a shibboleth. If you want to know someone’s ultimate worldview and how they see Jesus, this is one question to ask. Was Jesus born of a virgin? Larry King was once on David Letterman’s show and asked if he could interview one person past or present who would it be. He immediately answered Jesus Christ. When asked what he would ask he said, “I would ask if He was born of a virgin. For me, the answer would explain all of history.”

So it is in Miller’s book. I certainly agree that most people don’t approach the doctrine of the virgin birth apart from all the others. It is more based on other doctrines. I hold to the resurrection, for instance, and with that, the virgin birth naturally follows. The resurrection shows that Jesus’s claims to be the Son of God and fully God and fully man are true and if so, then the account of the virgin birth fits.

Miller does speak often about how a miracle needs to be public, but I think that misses the point of the virgin birth. The virgin birth was not done as a public sign I think just so much as it was done so that Jesus could not be at all an adopted Son of God. He really is a unique human being with both natures fully in Him. I do not agree either with early church theologians who said it was done this way because sex is something fallen and Jesus didn’t need to come about through that.

Sometimes, Miller gives criticisms of the birth narratives that strike me as weak. Consider that there is often a repeated claim that the angel tells Joseph to return the boy to Israel from Egypt because those who were seeking His life are dead. Miller will tell us there were no those. There was only Herod. I don’t find this convincing at all since when Herod says he wants the child dead, I have no reason to think Herod himself went all around Bethlehem looking for boys and murdering them. Those would refer to soldiers of Herod that were sent to do the job.

Miller also speaks some about how Matthew interpreted prophecy. He gives about a paragraph to how Qumran did the same, but this strikes me as highly insufficient. Why is there no interaction with Jewish exegesis at the time? Why not reference the work of Longenecker that has been done on this topic?

By the way, that brings me to another concern I had. Miller’s bibliography is written on just two pages. I see this as the sound of one hand clapping. Why not look and see what someone like Keener or Witherington has to say in response to some claims? Sure, those two could be wrong, but isn’t it best to interact with them?

Consider as an example his look at the slaughter of the infants. Why should we not consider it? Miller tells us the story can’t stand apart from Matthew’s writing. Since the magi and the star are fictions, so is the slaughter. Also, Jesus would have to be born in Bethlehem, which he was most certainly not. Finally, the story fits perfectly with Jesus being the new Moses.

I find this as somewhat circular. If you don’t see the accounts as historical, they are not historical. Miller does look at the accounts of the magi, but I think there is a lot lacking. Who are they? Where did they come from? These are questions that needed more. I find it odd that when the narratives disagree, there is a problem, but when they agree, such as Jesus being born in Bethlehem, there is still a problem. As for Jesus being the new Moses, if you are a believer in God who is working behind the scenes, this really isn’t a problem.

There is something on history and miracles. He quotes N.T. Wright who talks about people who come with a high view of a closed continuum and everything being in the system so there can be no outside interference. Wright rightly says that this is something we cannot know ahead of time and gives the impression of a mouse sitting up on its hind legs and looking down on the elephant.

Miller says that this sounds open-minded, but it is intending to belittle people with the opposite view and make them look foolish. I find this amusing since this is exactly what is often said about those of us who believe in miracles. I also think Wright is correct. This attitude is right there in many scholars who assume that miracles can’t happen.

Miller replies to this saying that if we want to go the route of openmindedness and say Jesus had no human father, you must be open also to Plato, Pythagoras, Augustus, and others. Why yes indeed! As historians, we must be open! Let’s compare the evidence for them to the evidence for Jesus and see who comes out better!

Miller says we don’t believe in those stories because we don’t believe in those gods anymore, but too many Christians will say their God is real so the story is real. The question I have to ask here is why do we not believe in those gods? We don’t believe in them because they were more glorified superhumans. One God is overall a far better explanation and many of us have arguments that lead us to believe that there is one God, such as the Thomistic arguments that I prefer, though we could happily say that demons could take on the guise of any Greek or Roman god.

Miller also says that belief your God is real is religious and not historical. Sure, but my belief is not outside of history as it is my belief that this God acted in history and that cannot be ruled out at the outset. There is an attempt to compare this to the Muslim denial that Jesus died on the cross based on the Qur’an. I would ask in reply to see what non-Muslim scholars will grant is true in the Qur’an and compare that to non-Christian scholars on the New Testament.

One good benefit of Miller’s book that will be fascinating is that he lists several birth narratives in other works about Jesus outside the New Testament, such as infancy Gospels. These were very interesting to read, but at the same time it is quite astounding to realize how many people treated them as historical in church history.

Overall, I am unpersuaded by the counterarguments. I still hold that Jesus was truly born divine based on the evidence of the New Testament. Rest assured all that I still affirm the virgin birth.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Case For Miracles

What do I think of Lee Strobel’s book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Lee Strobel holds a special place in my heart. It was his books that really lit my fire in the area of apologetics. Not only does Strobel present great information, he also does it while introducing you to the best scholars in the field so you know where to go to next for more information. It was through him that I came across scholars like Craig Blomberg, Ravi Zacharias, Peter Kreeft, J.P. Moreland, Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig, Ben Witherington III, etc.

This book is no exception, though in some ways it is quite different. One obvious way is that it does start off with interviewing a skeptic. The interview is with Michael Shermer. While Shermer is a lot nicer and more real than many other skeptics, many of his arguments are really just as weak. As I read through the chapter, I kept thinking that if this is one of the leading faces of skepticism, then we’re in good hands.

Still, I think it’s a good change to have taken place. I would like to see in his books Strobel interviewing both sides. It’s also quite impressive to realize Strobel resisted the urge to be a debater with Shermer and just let him speak.

From there, Strobel goes on to interview other scholars. Big shock that on this topic, the first person on the list is Craig Keener. Keener wrote an epic two-volume work on miracles called Miracles. Anyone skeptical of the reality of miracles should read it. The good news is if you have read it, you will find still new stories in this one. Craig Keener has more miracles and I understand from my interactions with him that he collects them regularly now.

The next interview is with Candy Gunther Brown on prayer studies. Now I will say that these kinds of studies have never really convinced me. There are too many variables that can’t be tested and you’re dealing with a free-will agent. What is much more convincing with prayer are testimonials like the ones Brown talks about where she goes to third world countries and sees people being healed after they are prayed for in the name of Jesus.

Other interviews on topics related are J. Warner Wallace on the resurrection and Michael Strauss on the origins of the universe. Both of these are interesting and to be expected. Both are also highly enjoyable chapters.

Roger Olson was a chapter that was really convicting. The chapter was on being ashamed of the supernatural and while I don’t care for the term supernatural, the point is still there. We often pray for wisdom for doctors in operations instead of for healing. It’s as if we expect God to not do miracles. This really caused me to look at how I approach prayer.

Then there’s the chapter that could be the hardest one to read in the book. This is the chapter about what about when miracles don’t occur. Douglas Groothuis is the person interviewed for that one. His wife Becky had a disease that was killing her memory and brain function bit by bit. Sadly, Becky has since the time of publishing passed away. Groothuis is there to remind us that miracles don’t always occur and how to handle it.

If there was one chapter I would have liked, it would have been one on the philosophy of Hume. Keener touched on that some, but he’s not a philosopher. Perhaps it would have been good to have had someone like John Earman as an interview to talk about it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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