Arguments Against Miracles

We’ve now shown four miracles from the Bible. It’s time to hear from the skeptics why miracles aren’t possible. To do this I warn readers that we must delve into some logic. We won’t do this very often, so bear with me.

The arguments against miracles usually boil down to this objection: Miracles violate natural laws and those laws are absolute and unchangeable. The philosopher David Hume went further and proposed possibly a stronger argument. Here it is, summarized by Norman Geisler, with simplified language:

1. Natural laws describe normal, regular occurrences in the world.
2. A miracle is by definition a rare occurrence.
3. The evidence for the regular is always greater than that for the rare.
4. A wise man always bases his belief on the greater evidence.
5. Therefore, a wise man should never believe in miracles.

To boil this down to plain English, what Hume is saying is that we shouldn’t believe in miracles because they’re rare and don’t happen very often. By his logic if the first four points are true, then we must believe his conclusion in point 5. However Geisler points out that his third premise is false. The evidence for rare events is actually quite large. If we can disprove it, then Hume’s whole argument falls apart.

We only need a single example to disprove premise three, but Geisler gives us four:

1. The origin of the universe. It only happened once.
2. The origin of life on earth only happened once.
3. The origin of new life forms only happened once.
4. In fact the entire history of the world is comprised of rare, unrepeatable events. All of us were born once, yet we have no trouble believing in it.

Chesterton-miraclesSo we do have copious evidence that rare, unrepeatable events occur all the time. But even so, his argument doesn’t look at the evidence for whether a miracle actually occurred or not. If we have eyewitnesses and documentation that prove certain miraculous events actually did occur, then all the philosophy in the world cannot contradict it. They still happened. But according to Hume, we should discount reports of miracles before they happen. And if they did happen, we should not believe in them. This is circular, faulty reasoning.

Next time let’s return to what the Bible records as Jesus heals two demon-possessed men. There we’ll also talk some about miracles and demons.