My review of Chapter Four:
Keener: “This chapter provides a historical prolegomenon for the next two chapters, which question the dogmatic antisupernaturalism that most of modern academia has inherited from Hume and others. It is in those chapters that I will address in greater detail the antimiraculous approach that developed in the radical Enlightenment.” p. 85
Gary: Radical Enlightenment? Why label the Enlightenment radical? Well, I guess recent scholars have divided the Enlightenment into a mainstream movement and a radical movement. Here is a brief synopsis:
—The two Enlightenments, (Jonathan) Israel suggests, divided on the question of whether reason reigned supreme in human affairs, as the radicals insisted, or whether reason had to be limited by faith and tradition – the view of the mainstream (Enlightenment). The mainstream’s intellectual timidity constrained its critique of old social forms and beliefs. By contrast, the Radical Enlightenment ‘rejected all compromise with the past and sought to sweep away existing structures entirely’. In Israel’s view, what he calls the ‘package of basic values’ that defines modernity – toleration, personal freedom, democracy, racial equality, sexual emancipation and the universal right to knowledge – derives principally from the claims of the Radical Enlightenment.
Keener goes on to discuss the literary genres of the early centuries of the common era. He notes that many authors of the upper echelons of society frowned on supernatural claims in literary works but others did not. Many authors of the upper crust of society mocked the lower classes as being superstitious and gullible.
On page 101, Keener suggests that “…academic intolerance (of supernatural claims) functions as a sort of uncritical “fundamentalism”. Is there not something inconsistent about (in some academic circles) stifling dissent by refusing to give alternative positions a hearing, all the while claiming to uphold academic “objectivity”. “
I would be curious to know if Keener is suggesting that academia give “a hearing” to all supernatural claims in the world…or just his? Imagine if scientists and medical experts were required to investigate every supernatural claim in the world before constructing an hypothesis for the most plausible explanation for an event in our world or a disease! What chaos!
Keener closes the chapter with two statements that I find telling:
“I shall suggest that thinkers like Hume, alongside his hypothetical Indian prince, ought to be wise enough to accept sufficient testimony.”
Is alleged eyewitness testimony alone a valid method of determining truth? If we go back in time a few centuries we would find thousands if not tens of thousands of eyewitness claims of alleged demon possession; cases which doctors today know to be…seizure disorders…readily treatable with medications…not exorcisms! Eyewitness testimony can be wrong, especially if the eye witnesses are poorly educated.
“The Radical Enlightenment perspective on miracles has its own cultural and historical context that is not even the context of current Western scientific discovery.”
Really?? If that is so, why then, Mr. Keener, are you claiming that todays scientists and medical experts, the people doing the “discovery” in western civilization…currently…are biased?