Why Do You Doubt Miracles?

Hero and villain,

Before I respond to the specific issues you raise, I wanted to respond to a common thread that runs through your comments: skepticism concerning miracles.

Are you writing off the Bible as a fairy tale simply because it contains stories of miracles? In other words, are you assuming that miracles cannot ever happen under any circumstance, and that any account of a miracle must therefore be false? If so, then why do you believe that way?

In your comments, I can find at least three reasons why you are skeptical of miracles. I am doing my best to represent your ideas, but please correct me if I have misunderstood you!

First, you have trouble with the miracle stories because they are unique. You say, “Have you ever seen a talking snake?…I have never seen anyone split a river. I have never seen a burning bush talking to me.” In other words, you are troubled by the fact that some of the accounts of miracles are foreign to the experience of most human beings throughout history.

It is true that the Bible records events that are historically unique, but that is the point. The uniqueness of these events is what makes them important and what makes them worthy of recording in written form. The Bible does not record all of the normal, everyday, boring things that happened to every human being who has ever lived. Miracles were not happening all of the time or all over the place. Miracles were important, landmark events in biblical history.

This is similar to what we find in any history book. History books do not record every time that George Washington stopped to take a sip of water or adjust his wig. No, only the memorable and significant events are recorded, and the most memorable and significant events of history are all unique. This does not cause us to doubt that the events happened. It is their uniqueness that has made them so memorable.

Second, you have trouble accepting miracle stories because you yourself have never witnessed a miracle. I am in the same boat. I would have to say that I have never personally witnessed a miracle. Does this make me doubt that miracles have happened? Not really. As I said above, it is the uniqueness of miracles that makes them so significant. Furthermore, I have never personally been an eyewitness to any significant event of history, but this does not cause me to doubt any of those historical events.

Third, and perhaps most foundationally, you reject miracle stories because miracles violate the laws of science. There is a sense in which I agree with you. Miracles are by definition events that appear to us to contradict, supersede, or bypass the normal ways that we have observed the world to consistently behave. This is exactly what makes miracles so unique. If the events of the Bible could all be explained by a simple appeal to the laws of science, what would be the point of the Bible?

I would like to put forward four thoughts about miracles and science. First, miracles affirm the laws of science. Miracles are only special if the world generally operates according to a set of predictable laws. The fact that the Bible bothers to record miracles demonstrates that the Bible assumes that the miracles are far outside of the norm. The Bible assumes scientific law. That is why the Bible records miracles.

Second, miracles actually do not “violate” scientific law. Let me explain what I mean by using an example. If I were to drop a book, we would all predict that according to the law of gravity, the book should fall to the floor – all things being equal. In other words, as long as nothing interferes with the book’s fall, the book should fall all the way to the floor. But suppose when I drop the book, someone steps in to catch it. Since someone catches it, the book does not fall to the floor. Has the law of gravity been violated? No, because the law of gravity predicted that the book would fall to the floor only if nothing else interfered. Something else did interfere, so everything happened as the law of gravity predicted.

This is how things work with miracles. The laws of science always operate as long as nothing else interferes. With a miracle something interferes. God steps in and acts. God does not violate the laws of science any more than catching the book violates the law of gravity.

Third, there is a sense in which the laws of science are themselves miraculous. The Bible teaches that God created the universe with all of its “laws.” The Bible actually takes it further. God not only created the laws of the universe, but he also is the one who maintains them (see for instance, Genesis 8:22). The reason the universe is such an orderly, predictable place (scientifically speaking) is because God works tirelessly and vigilantly to keep it that way. From this perspective, miracles are a lot less troubling.

Fourth, without the perspective of God-maintained order, how is anyone able to put such faith in scientific law? The reason I am so confident that gravity will continue to work is that I believe in an orderly God who maintains the law of gravity. How does anyone who doesn’t believe in God have that same confidence? How can anyone believe that the laws of science have always been and will always be? There is no reason to believe that way without God. It is merely wishful thinking or a philosophical assumption.

So, I am very comfortable with both the laws of science and the historicity of biblical miracles. I believe that the existence of the God of the Bible adequately explains both scientific law and miracles. But I am curious, how do you explain your belief in scientific law?

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2 Responses to Why Do You Doubt Miracles?

  1. i'm the hero and the villian says:

    sorry i responded to the wrong post. Its on the older one.

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