A Review of Craig Keener’s "Miracles", Part 3

Chapter Five

This is a long , tedious chapter. In it, Keener repeatedly complains of the unfair bias in academia against the supernatural. He believes that this attitude is primarily due to the influence of Hume, an eighteenth English philosopher, who believed that miracles are a violation of the laws of nature and since the laws of nature are inviolable, miracles are impossible. Keener accuses Hume of asserting a circular argument.

Well guess what? I agree with Keener! Hume’s argument is a circular argument.

I would amend Hume’s theory to say this: The laws of nature appear to be inviolable, but we cannot be 100% certain of that claim. Therefore, violations of the laws of nature (supernatural events) are possible. However, the evidence for the existence of these events is poor. These events rarely (if ever) occur under controlled circumstances under the observation of experts.

Bottom line: the Scientific Method, the current world view of the overwhelming majority of scientists and scholars, cannot be shown to be the one and only true world view. However, so far, it is the most reliable world view, and that is why the majority of academia chooses to continue using this world view. If scientists and medical experts were required to allow for all possible natural and supernatural explanations in their research, and were required to eliminate as possible causes, all possible explanations, including supernatural explanations, the advances in science and medicine would grind to a slow crawl.

Prayer is not very effective, folks. We cannot prove it is completely ineffective as it does seem to provide some (psychological?) benefit to those patients who know that people are praying for them.  But the behavior of believers is telling: How many Christians go to their pastor or a faith healer first for healing, and to their doctor second?? I would bet a very small minority.  Most Christians and other believers go to their doctor first for healing.

The Scientific Method is more reliable than prayer and faith healers. Even Christians (subconsciously at least) believe this.

On pages 160 and 161, Keener makes these statements:

 “Unusual events might even be expected in the right contexts.  …while Jesus’s resurrection makes no sense as a random event, it fits the context of his life and teaching, which it climaxes.  Similarly, Jesus’ earlier miracles would support the resurrection claim, and vice versa, if a reader accepts either.”

But this is Keener’s circular argument:  Jesus’ miracles prove the Resurrection and Jesus’ Resurrection proves his miracles! 

Sorry, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.  If Hume’s circular argument is unacceptable, then so is Keener’s.  I recommend that we disregard both!  We have no proof that Jesus performed any miracles; only that people believed that he did.  We have no proof of a Resurrection other than people believed it had happened based on stories of some first century peasants seeing a walking/talking dead person.  What we need is good evidence of miracles and/or good evidence of a once in history Resurrection!  Since we have no access to physical evidence from the Resurrection (sorry, Catholics, but the Shroud has been proven a fraud), I therefore look forward to evaluating Keener’s evidence for miracles…miracles which he admits in the forward of his book he did not invest the time or money to verify medically.

Keener, page 161:

“In other words, if one presupposes neither theism nor nontheism, one must examine evidence for particular miracle claims inductively to see if a pattern emerges.  And if evidence for some miracles makes them probable, the general a priori improbability previously assigned to miracles decreases accordingly.”

I agree 100%!  So let’s see the evidence!

On page 164, Keener presents a case of a miracle healing which Hume dismissed.  Here it is in brief:

The famous mathematician, Blaise Pascal’s, niece had a “severe, long-term” fistula in her eye that had a terrible odor and had caused “apparent” bone deterioration.  She was healed immediately on March 24, 1656 by touching a holy relic:  a thorn from the crown of thorns worn by Jesus during his crucifixion.

Keener’s writes:  “Her case provided significant medical evidence and was verified by the diocese.  The royal (French) physicians examined Mlle. Perrier, and the Queen Mother (of France) herself was persuaded by their positive verdict of a miracle.  In the next few months, some eighty further miracles followed.

Keener is disgusted that Hume dismissed all the medical evidence for this miracle.

Wow!  Eighty miracles due to touching a thorn from the Holy Crown of Thorns!

But alas, in comparison, the Catholic Church admits that only sixty cures can be documented out of the millions of faithful who have come to Lourdes to be healed over the last 100 or so years!  Wow!  Jesus and his Holy Mother are just not healing people at the rate they used to…or…many or all of the claims from the seventeenth century above were false! 

Which is more likely, friends?

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