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

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Tue Apr 21 2009 - 08:21:47 EDT

John -

You say that you agree with me, "that we can't accept all accounts of
miracles as historical just because the Bible says so." I understand that
we're substantially in accord there but should note that there are very few
cases in which the Bible itself makes a point of saying "this was an
historical event" or "this really happened."
I Cor.15:1-8 is one case in which scripture effectively does do that -
significantly, with the resurrection appearances (as well as death and
burial). But most of the miracle stories are simply told, and we have to
decide whether they're to be understood as accounts of real historical
events. Of course that decision should not be made arbitrarily. We have to
study the nature of the biblical text and context and the external
historical evidence, and in some cases we may just have to say we don't
know. But it's more subtle than "The Bible says this really happened, so do
you agree that it did or not?"


----- Original Message -----
From: <>
To: "George Murphy" <>
Cc: <>; <>
Sent: Monday, April 20, 2009 11:19 PM
Subject: RE: Re: [asa] Dowd, Miracles, and ID-TE/ASA-List Relations

This an excellent and objective question that has been long overdue in
asking. As a recent YEC to PC/ID to TE convert I have struggled with the
same question and have observed the same that the TE position on this is a
little squishy.

I agree with George that we can't accept all accounts of miracles as
historical just because the Bible says so but I don't think we can divorce
Christianity from the miraculous either. Exactly where the boundary is
between historical or not I suspect we will never know.

The way I personally deal with this is more practical and less academic. I
liken it to angel sightings. A wise pastor once said that he believes every
angel sighting story he hears. Why? Because you can't no for sure they are
not real and he chooses to give the God the benefit of the doubt in each
case, even in spite of impressionable and over zealous new converts that see
the miraculous in even the routine. This is excluding the ones that are
obviously inconsistent with the rest of Christian doctrine like accounts of
the angel Moroni, etc. The point is although you may have your doubts, there
is no point in trying to rob a believer of his or her perceived or reported
experience if you don't know for sure that it was not genuine.

Another example would be faith healings. Do I believe every testimony after
a Benny Hinn meeting? No. But do I believe that some of them could have been
genuine healings even in spite of what I personally feel about Benny Hinn or
any other faith healer? Absolutely. Is there any point in me trying to
dissect which ones were and were not genuine? No and I don't try to. If a
believer tells me they saw an angel or received a faith healing, even if I
am skeptical I see no point in trying to rebut that if there is no obvious
reason to.

As for the minimalist set of miracles I think a more fundamental question is
really being asked, and that is whether God is supernatural or not. The
difference is God can manifest Himself supernaturally in the lives of
believers without it being a miracle per se. Are the gifts of the Holy
Spirit and believers operating in them miracles? Like pastors preaching and
teachers teaching with a particularly strong annointing? Maybe so but not
necessarily. But the supernatural is the hallmark of Christianity and I
still hold to that even after abandoning a strict literalist view of the
Bible. I think that is the minimum that must be held to to be a Christian.

Although I do choose to believe in a virgin birth, regular manifestations of
miracles in the life of Jesus, and the resurrection, and I am fairly
confident that these are emperically safe positions as I do not see any way
for them to ever be disproven, I would still believe in a supernatural God
and my faith would remain intact even in the face of contrary evidence. For
instance in a Da Vinci code scenario where we might have to concede large
parts of the historical gospel as having been embellishments including
possibly even some cornerstone miracles , I don't think that would change
the fact that God was and still is a supernatural God today. Worst case is I
think it would straighten out the record of what God originally intended to
communicate to the church and where that record has been distorted like the
pseudogene evidences of CD is doing today.



George Murphy wrote:
> 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.
> Shalom George
> ----- Original Message -----
> From:
> Cameron
> Wybrow
> To:
> 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
> 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?
> Cameron.

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Received on Tue Apr 21 08:22:32 2009

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