Sunday, 20 May 2012

Bible Miracles: Fact or Fiction?

     A common viewpoint with which a number of modern critics approach the Bible is the following: "Seeing that the pages of the Bible are filled with incredible miracle stories, none of which can be replicated or observed today, and supernaturalism is beyond our current experience, the books of the Bible appear to be imaginative creations produced by biased persons with ideological agendas rather than by credible witnesses and historians."
     But surely critics of the Bible do not view themselves as unbiased persons without an agenda! Anyone who is convinced and passionate about anything is necessarily biased to some degree. If biblical writers sincerely believed the message they transmitted, does their "biased agenda" automatically render them incapable of honesty and factual reporting? John Drane has aptly observed:

But the idea that only ‘unbiassed’ people can ever tell the truth belongs to a way of understanding reality that no longer stands up to critical scrutiny. The philosophical notion developed through the European Enlightenment, that merely by the exercise of human reason it is possible to step outside our own experience of life and judge things in some kind of ‘objective’ way entirely detached from our own perspective, is now seen to have been just wishful thinking on the part of self-opinionated white Westerners who wished to justify their own ideas over against what they regarded as the ‘irrational’ understandings of people of other times and places. (Introducing the New Testament [Rev.] 221-22)     Miracles by their very definition are out of the ordinary. When the universe is conceptualized through the restrictive lenses of scientific method and philosophical naturalism, viewed as a closed system operating according to inflexible laws that are totally predictable and never vary, any deviation from what is expected is regarded as impossible. However, no scientist is in the position to deny that miracles occurred in the past, as these unique happenings are outside the range of scientific investigation. It is one thing to assert that supernatural manifestations as depicted in scripture are not witnessed today, but to dismiss even the possibility that they could have ever taken place involves unprovable (unscientific) speculation. Science has its limitations. It does not encompass all reality and is not the infallible key that accounts for every conceivable anomaly.               
     The historical method is also somewhat restricted. The historian’s role is simply to repeat the facts of history without attempting to provide creative explanations. The biblical record is a matter of historical evidence. Unlike myths, legends, and fairy tales, Bible miracles are reported in the context of real historical events, in a simple, straightforward, and unembellished manner, typically occurring in the presence of multiple (sometimes hundreds and even thousands of) witnesses. If biblical authors are proven to be trustworthy in other areas (e.g. geography, historical data, etc.), then their testimony deserves serious consideration and should not be rejected outright.
     When one is predisposed from the start to deny the possibility of exceptional phenomena that defy the natural world as we currently know it, then the entire Bible, with its description of miraculous events, will be like the proverbial baby thrown out with the bath water. On the other hand, if one is open to the prospect that God is real and that Jesus is in fact who he professed to be, extraordinary workings are not beyond what is to be expected. Thus Bible miracles are not surprising at all. One’s assessment of supernaturalism in the biblical record is inextricably linked to his/her assessment of the plausibility of God.
--Kevin L. Moore

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