The “Problem” with Miracles
Using empirical data, some have decided what is and is not possible in this world, and miracles like the ones recorded in the New Testament do not fall into their “possible” category. Since they never have seen anyone rise from the dead or be healed instantaneously of a terminal disease, and since no scientific experiments can be carried out today that would verify the truthfulness of these miracles, then they assume that the miracles reportedly performed by Jesus must have some natural explanations. In an essay titled “Why I Don’t Buy the Resurrection,” Richard Carrier embodied the gist of this argument in the following statement:
No amount of argument can convince me to trust a 2000-year-old second-hand report, over what I see, myself, directly, here and now, with my own eyes. If I observe facts which entail that I will cease to exist when I die, then the Jesus story can never override that observation, being infinitely weaker as a proof. And yet all the evidence before my senses confirms my mortality…. A 2000 year-old second-hand tale from the backwaters of an illiterate and ignorant land can never overpower these facts. I see no one returning to life after their brain has completely died from lack of oxygen. I have had no conversations with spirits of the dead. What I see is quite the opposite of everything this tall tale claims. How can it command more respect than my own two eyes? It cannot (2000).
Although this argument at first may seem plausible, it runs into two insurmountable difficulties. First, there are things that took place in the past that no one alive today has seen or ever will see, yet they must be accepted as fact. The origin of life on this planet provides a good example. Regardless of whether a person believes in evolution or creation, he must admit that some things happened in the past that are not still happening today, or at least that have not been witnessed. To the evolutionists, I pose the question, “Have you ever personally used your five senses to establish that a nonliving thing can give rise to a living thing?” Of course, the evolutionist must admit that he never has seen such happen, in spite of all the origin-of-life experiments in the last fifty years. Does that mean that he does not accept the idea that life came from nonliving matter, just because he never has witnessed it personally? Of course not. Instead, we are asked to look at all the “evidence,” such as the geologic column and the fossil record, that he believes leads to such a conclusion. Yet the hard fact remains, no one alive today has ever seen life come from something nonliving.
Following the same line of reasoning, those who believe in creation freely admit that the creation of life on this planet is something that has not been witnessed by anyone alive today. It was a unique act that happened once, cannot be duplicated by experiment, and cannot be detected currently by the human senses. As with the evolutionist, the creationist asks us to look at the evidence such as the fossil record, the laws of thermodynamics, and the Law of Biogenesis, which he believes leads to the conclusion that life was created some time in the distant past by an intelligent Creator. Yet, before we drift too far from our discussion of a miracle such as the resurrection, let me remind you that this brief paragraph concerning creation and evolution is inserted only to prove one point—everyone must admit that he or she accepts some ideas and notions without having inspected them personally using the five senses.
Second, it is intellectual bigotry to assume that the first century people did not understand the laws of nature enough to differentiate between an actual miracle and other occurrences with natural explanations. We must not fall into the trap of thinking that the first-century onlookers did not know that rising from the dead or being healed of leprosy was unnatural. As C.S. Lewis explained:
But there is one thing often said about our ancestors which we must not say. We must not say “They believed in miracles because they did not know the Laws of Nature.” This is nonsense. When St. Joseph discovered that his bride was pregnant, he “was minded to put her away.” He knew enough about biology for that….When the disciples saw Christ walking on the water they were frightened; they would not have been frightened unless they had known the Laws of Nature and known that this was an exception (1970, p. 26).
The apostle Paul underlined this point in Romans 1:4 when he stated that Jesus Christ was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” The entire point of the resurrection was, and is, that it was not naturally or scientifically repeatable and that it proved his deity. As the blind man healed by Jesus so accurately stated, “Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing” (John 9:32-33).
Lewis, C.S. (1970), God in the Dock, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Carrier, Richard (2000), [On-line], URL: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/resurrection/1b.html.