The virgin birth, the Resurrection, the raising of Lazarus, even the Old Testament miracles, all are freely used for religious propaganda, and they are very effective with an audience of unsophisticates and children.
Richard Dawkins, atheist 1
It is not just a provocative rumor that God has acted in history, but a fact worthy of our intellectual conviction. The miracles of Christianity are not an embarrassment to the Christian worldview. Rather, they are testimony to the compassion of God for human beings benighted by sin and circumstance.
Gary Habermas, Christian 2
I've seen guilty defendants squirm and sweat on the witness stand as they feel the noose of justice slowly tightening around their neck. They try to lie their way out of their predicament. They concoct improbable stories in a futile effort to explain away incriminating evidence. They manufacture transparently false alibis; they cast blame on innocent people; they attempt to discredit police and prosecutors; they rewrite history; they deny and obfuscate and try to hoodwink the judge and jurors.
But there's one tactic I've never seen: a defendant claiming that the reason his fingerprints ended up on the murder weapon is-somehow, for some inexplicable reason, an act of God occurred, a mysterious, unrepeatable, supernatural event that made his fingerprints suddenly appear somewhere he had never touched.
Once a defendant tried a "Twinkie defense" by making the dubious assertion that his elevated sugar levels were somehow responsible for his criminal behavior, but not even the most audacious defendant would try a "miracle defense."
Why? Because nobody would believe him! After all, we're modern and scientific people living in the Third Millennium. We don't subscribe to superstition, sorcery, or direct intervention from some unseen divine source. Claiming a miracle would be so blatantly silly that even the most desperate defendant wouldn't resort to that strategy.
One time I saw Penn and Teller, the comedian-magicians, select a ten-year-old boy named Isaiah from the audience and show him a long strip of polyester, which they proceeded to knot and cut in the middle. Then, with a big flourish, they shook out the cloth and-voila!-it was in one piece again.
"What do you think?" Penn asked little Isaiah. "Was that a miracle or a magic trick?"
Isaiah didn't hesitate. "A magic trick," he replied with confidence.
A mere child, it seems, is smart enough to know that when we can't quite understand what might have caused a mysterious event, there's still undoubtedly a reasonable explanation apart from the miraculous.
I knew from my conversation with agnostic Charles Templeton that he had shed his belief in miracles many years ago. "Our early forefathers sought within the limits of their experience to interpret life's imponderables, usually attributing the inexplicable to the intervention of one or more of their gods, demi-deities, and evil spirits," he wrote. "But surely ... it is time to have done with primitive speculation and superstition and look at life in rational terms." 3
There are scientists who agree, predicting that the march of knowledge will ultimately trample belief in supernatural events. In 1937, German physicist Max Planck said: "Faith in miracles must yield ground, step by step, before the steady and firm advance of the forces of science, and its total defeat is indubitably a mere matter of time."4
Atheist Richard Dawkins, professor of public understanding of science at Oxford University and author of The Selfish Gene, believes that time is rapidly coming. "We're working on ... a complete understanding of the universe and everything that is in it," he said in a television interview.5
That means, viola! as with Penn and Teller's magically restored sash, there would be no need to appeal to the miraculous in order to explain away what previously had been shrouded in mystery.
But can a person be scientifically sophisticated and still believe in the possibility of miracles? "My faith can be summed up in this one paradox: I believe in science, and I believe in God," said nuclear physicist Hugh Siefken. "I plan to continue testifying to both."6
He and many other scientists see no inherent conflict between their profession and their conclusion that a miracle-working God is responsible for creating and sustaining the universe.
Is that a form of professional denial? Can a person write off elves and fairies as being fanciful and yet at the same time embrace manna from heaven, the virgin birth, and the Resurrection as being credible events of history? If miracles are direct violations of natural laws, then how can a reasonable person believe they could ever occur?
I knew that William Lane Craig was a rational man. And I was aware that he has used his considerable intellectual skills to defend the idea that God has-and does-intervene in the world through miraculous acts. I called him and asked whether he'd be willing to let me question him on the topic.
"Sure," he said. "Come on down."
I jotted down a long list of challenges and booked a flight to Atlanta. On the plane, I mused that primitive people probably would have considered jet travel to be a miracle. How else could fifty tons of metal be kept aloft in apparent defiance of the law of gravity? Surely God's invisible hand must be beneath it.
People today know better. They understand aerodynamics and jet propulsion. But has our knowledge of science and technology really rendered all belief in miracles obsolete? Or would Craig be able to provide convincing evidence that a person can be sober-minded and discerning while at the same time maintaining the validity of the miraculous?
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