Miracle Challenge

ImageAs Christians, we cite the miracles of Jesus or Moses or the apostles as evidences of the divine commission under which they walked. That is, their teachings and message are validated as being from God by the testimony of the miracles they did. We believe God was in their words, because God was clearly in their actions.

Indeed, Augustine speaks the mind of the church:

I should not be a Christian, but for the miracles.

~ St. Augustine, cited from Blaise Pascal, “Thoughts”

But not so fast. Miracles can only serve as proof if the miracles themselves are on firm footing.

Challenge: provide example, if you can, for a single instance of miracle, as recorded in the Bible, which can be verified through physical evidence.

Perhaps a softer challenge would be more charitable. Since the events in question are in the past, perhaps a more historically-oriented phrasing would be better fitted.

Challenge: provide example, if you can, for a single instance of miracle, as recorded in the Bible, which can be verified by a non-Biblical, contemporary witness to the event.

This softer challenge, even if met, would not really demonstrate all that much. But it matters little in any case. The prospects for either type of verification are rather dim indeed. Nevertheless, we Christians routinely believe that un-verified miracles can be taken as verification that our teachings came from God. But we do not have such support. Instead, we have a circular claim set. It does not withstand even mild scrutiny. In that way, Christian miracles are quite the same as Mormon or Muslim miracles. True to a tee, definitive in meaning, solidly supporting the faith in question, and entirely and consistently unverifiable.

The miracle tales are good stories. We should probably leave them at that and adjust our claims accordingly. I advise a sustained effort to flip the rocks over, to check under the hood. There is simply nothing there.

Comments

  1. Good luck with this

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  2. Sorry I’m so late in reading this. It’s an excellent challenge. As you may already know, the prophecy of Tyre’s destruction, given in Ezekiel 26-28 was a major factor in my deconversion. That was a prophecy that actually could stand as pretty good evidence today, if it were true. After all, Ezekiel didn’t just prophesy that Tyre would be destroyed, but that it would never be rebuilt. Just imagine how powerful that evidence would be if Tyre still didn’t exist? And no doubt there would be some who would try to rebuild it just to spite the prophecy. And if all attempts failed, that would be incredible evidence. But of course, the prophecy never came true, and Tyre still stands today.

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    • Brilliant. An excellent negative case, and one I hadn’t thought of. I see the wailing wall as just such an example too. Would be interesting to make a table summarizing the clearly disconfirmed miracles and prophecies alongside the verifiable ones (blank).

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    • Its sad, because if you really did a little more research you may have discovered the truth. Its that: Ezekiel really was very accurate. It strengthens my faith to know that ancient Tyre is still under water. Read this explanation…

      https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=1790

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      • Nice try. I’ll refer you to Nate’s blog on this one…

        http://findingtruth.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prophecy-part-6-tyre/

        Its OK. We’ll give you another swing.

        But please bear in mind the criteria for a legitimate prophetic fulfillment:

        1. You must demonstrate that the prophecy was given prior to the event. This is quite difficult with biblical texts, many of which are quite dubious in source and date.

        2. You must demonstrate that the prophecy constituted a unique event that doesn’t just follow the normal course of human events. Saying something “bad will happen to you” doesn’t qualify, because sooner or later something bad happens to every culture. It has to be quite specific, and unique.

        3. You have to demonstrate that the event actually happened, exactly as predicted, with specific markers that prove it as a fulfillment beyond normal chance events.

        1, 2, 3… These are the same types of demands we place on any hypothesis evaluation: Prediction, specificity, validation.

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  3. Trends of legend development ? Prof. Bart Ehrman is an idiot. ( horizontal reading and discrepancy)(because of small discrepancies he thinks the gospels were written not by contemporaries but 10’s of years later by other followers) Let me ask ya : which part of Hell is your favorite? Do your horizontal detective work! Amidst the billowing smoke of capricious opinions, there is a most dangerous trend. When you nitpick a true historical record and find small discrepancies should that qualify it as only legend? OR Should that only add to the validity of the story in general because it is evidence that the same true story was witnessed by different perspectives? To invalidate the opinions of Jericho Brisance is like child’s play to anyone who has just a small acquiesce of knowledge, logic and wisdom.

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