Re: [asa] Dowd, Miracles, and ID-TE/ASA-List Relations

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Mon Apr 20 2009 - 22:33:28 EDT

A quick and brief response. I believe that some of the miracle stories of the Bible, both OT & NT (a higher proportion of the latter) are accounts of real historical events. That would include, in particular, the Exodus and the Resurrection of Jesus. (Speaking of the latter as "a" miracle story is somewhat inaccurate - it includes 2 types of accounts, appearances and the empty tomb. I think there's an historical core to both.)

OTOH I don't think that all the miracle stories of the Bible are historical narratives. & if someone asks why we shouldn't believe them today if Luther did, the blunt answer has to be that we've learned some things about the natural of biblical texts since the 16th century.

Discussion of the possible "how" of miracles is by no means a diversion. Far too many discussions of miracles fail to deal adequately, or at all, with the question of what a miracle is. The basic meaning of the word is some phenomenon that excites wonder, amazement, &c. (It comes from the Latin mirari, to wonder.) That in itself says nothing about the "mechanism" of the phenomenon - and in particular, about the idea that it is something beyond the capacity of creatures. Possible explanations of miracles range from amazing copincidences through "natural" phenomena so rare that science can't get an observational handle on them to lacunae in the laws of physics required by Goedel's theorem. I discussed miracles in general in The Cosmos in the Light of the Cross, pp.88-91, and the resurrection on pp.189-192.

It is wrong to deny deny miracles on principle, but a hankering for miracles is dangerous in another way. Mk.8:12 is germane here.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Cameron Wybrow
  Sent: Monday, April 20, 2009 8:30 PM
  Subject: [asa] Dowd, Miracles, and ID-TE/ASA-List Relations

  Regarding Dowd, assuming Bernie's characterization of him is correct, I would not rush out to the store to buy his books. But in his post, Bernie makes a remark which has application to ID-TE relations.


  Bernie suggests that it would be un-Christian not to believe in the Resurrection. I assume that Bernie means a real, historical, physical resurrection. This raises the more general question of whether there is some minimum core of miraculous events that one must accept in order to be a Christian.


  I have no rigid view on this, but I have noticed that it tends to be a sore point, not only between YECs and TEs, but also between some ID people and TEs, and between some ID people and the ASA list generally. So I think it's worth exploring.

  It's my perception, from watching some of the back-and-forth in recent months, and in some of the archived ASA discussions, that the topic of miracles keeps coming up, but that the level of specificity in the discussion of Biblical miracles is usually quite low, and that the relationship between TE and historical miracles is generally left quite nebulous.


  There seem to be various reasons for this. One of them is that some posters here prefer to turn the conversation away from the facticity of, and toward the possible theoretical explanation of, purported miracles, so that the discussion tends to become: "If a virgin birth occurred, it might be accounted for in naturalistic terms by means of a genetic anomaly such as ..."; "If the Red Sea parted, it might be explicable naturalistically by a quantum-statistical freak"; etc. Rarely do people (though I know Ted Davis is an exception, and I believe there are one or two others) say clear things like: "I believe that Jesus rose physically from the dead, and that the Red Sea actually parted in 1290 B.C." And in the rare cases where someone just bluntly asserts the historical fact of a miracle, it is rarely any miracle other than the Resurrection. It is almost as if some here think that the Resurrection is the only "required miracle" of the Christian faith.


  Would I be misconstruing the "sense of the list" in saying that a large plurality, if not a majority, of the people who post regularly here, are (a) very doubtful about the historical nature of most Old Testament miracles; (b) doubtful about the historical basis of a considerable number of New Testament miracles?


  I don't want to be misunderstood here. I am not condemning anyone for not believing in any particular miraculous event; nor am I passing theological judgement on which miracles must be believed by Christians. Nor am I denying that some Biblical stories may cry out for a non-literal interpretation. Rather, I'm making a point that may help certain ASA list-members to understand where some very intelligent conservative Christian proponents of ID are coming from.


  It's my perception (which is subject to correction) that the majority of proponents of ID are Protestant Christians, and that the majority of those are fairly conservative (not necessarily fundamentalist) Protestants. As such, they tend to take Biblical miracles literally, on the whole. This does not mean that a literal reading of certain passages, like the stopping of the sun (i.e., of the earth's rotation), are insisted upon; it does not mean that a 6,000-year-old earth is insisted upon; it does not rule out the possibility of literary amplification in, say, the Flood story; it does not rule out mythical elements in the Garden story; nor does it mean that poetic passages (about, say, God stitching someone together in the womb) need to be understood literally. But it does mean, for most Christian ID proponents, that the core events of "salvation history" were meant literally. Thus, for such people, God literally parted the waters of the Red Sea and spoke the Ten Commandments in audible form; Elijah literally did all his miracles; the Biblical prophets did predict some details of events which took place after their deaths; Jesus literally walked on the water (not on a freak sheet of ice that forms under rare conditions on the Sea of Galilee, as some have proposed); Jesus literally fed five thousand people with seven items of food; Jesus healed all the people he is said to have healed (in some cases instantly); Jesus cursed the fig tree and it withered; not only Jesus but Lazarus rose literally from the dead - not from a coma or deathlike state, but from the unambiguously dead.


  Now if it's true that many of the regular posters here have serious doubts about quite a few of the aforementioned miracles, then it should not be a mystery to TEs and others here why certain ID-Christians have accused people here of being "liberals", of being sell-outs to the Enlightenment, of being willing to re-write Christian theology to avoid being ridiculed by higher critics or evolutionary biologists or what have you. Again, in saying this I am not making theological judgements, but describing what I see as the genuine motivation of some Christian ID critics of the views that have been expressed here.


  So here is the tough question, which may require some soul-searching: have a number of people here, on more than one occasion, given Christian ID proponents good reason to generalize about TE or the ASA list in this way? Have a number of people here been vague or evasive when the question of miracles is brought up? Has there been too much deflection of the issue to discussions -- in the subjunctive mood -- of quantum theory and chaos theory and Hebrew symbolism and many other things, discussions which give the strong impression that the participants don't really want to say which miracles, if any at all, were actual events?


  For most ID Christians, I think there would be a good deal less hostility toward TE and toward this list if the contributors here, especially but not only those who endorse TE, would give a ringing endorsement of the facticity of a large number of Old and New Testament miracles, and to actually name a few examples beyond the Resurrection. In that way, they would make ID Christians more confident that the difference between ID and TE is not over the factual trustworthiness of the Bible, but solely over the metaphysical or theological explanation for the miraculous events. This would certainly generate some good will. As long as this is not done, as long as many people on this list continue to be nebulous, vague, evasive, theoretical, etc. about the occurrence of major miracles in the Biblical "salvation history", the atmosphere of distrust between ID and TE/ASA-list Christians is likely to endure.


  Again, I judge no one. If someone here says that the whole Bible, from Genesis through Revelation, is "just symbolic", I am not going to start a fight about it. But I do think it would be better for ID-TE communication if, whenever miracles were discussed on this list, everyone were much franker, more direct, and more detailed. I'm not suggesting that everyone submit a list of miracles that they do and don't believe in. But I am stressing that this is a sore point, and that (to be blunt) TE/ASA-list nebulousness has made it a sore point. If everyone here believes unhesitatingly in all the miracles that Martin Luther, John Calvin and St. Augustine believed in (and from what Ted has told us, that Robert Boyle probably believed in), then why on earth wouldn't they just say so, in order to silence Christian ID critics? What is the difficulty?


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Received on Mon Apr 20 22:35:57 2009

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