A Review of Craig Keener’s "Miracles", Part 4

Chapter Six:

“…if a scientist or anyone else dismisses the possibility of supernatural reality, she is offering a metaphysical view and pontificating on metaphysics no less than anyone who simply assumes the contrary.”   —Keener, p. 180

I agree.  The metaphysical is another realm of reality.  So why, Mr. Keener, are you trying so hard to prove its empirical reality using empirical evidence (eyewitness testimony)???

Keener, p. 186:

“History as history might not pass judgment on whether or not an occurrence (such as the Resurrection) was a miracle (a theological judgment involving philosophic questions about God’s existence and activity), but it can seek to address whether or not an event literally happened.  If an event happened and some evidence for that event remains, it can be subject to historical investigation.”

So we are back to empiricism?

Keener, p. 187:

The standard epistemic method of science (demanding replicability) does not work in history; the best that one could do is exclude a class of events that lack analogy, but one may exclude miracles on these grounds only on the circular assumption that they (miracles) have never happened.

Ok.  Let’s use this logic for another extra-ordinary claim; a claim for which we have numerous alleged eyewitnesses, although admittedly, not as many as for miracle claims:

The standard epistemic method of science (demanding replicability) does not work in history; the best that one could do is exclude a class of events that lack analogy, but one may exclude alien abductions on these grounds only on the circular argument that alien abductions have never happened.

Sounds rather silly, doesn’t it?

Keener, p. 188-189:

“To argue that a supernaturally caused event can have no analogies, one must presuppose that no other supernaturally caused events have occurred, and this constitutes a circular argument.  Still more important, at least from the standpoint of what appear to be miracles, this appeal to analogy and experience today is more apt to cut the other way than when it was formulated, since supernatural claims belong to the widespread experience of much of humanity today.”

Mr. Keener is once again arguing for a metaphysical construct using empirical evidence as its proof, immediately following page after page of lambasting the followers of Hume for doing the very same thing!  Mr. Keener would be much more consistent if he would appeal to his readers’ faith, a metaphysical concept, to believe in miracles, and not empirical evidence.

Some readers may complain of my use of the alien abduction analogy by saying that the number of “eyewitnesses” to alleged alien abductions is quite small compared to the number of eyewitnesses for alleged miracles, which Keener numbers in the hundreds of millions.  However, this is an appeal to another faulty logical argument:  argumentum populum, specifically “the bandwagon” argument…

Bandwagon“: the fallacy of attempting to prove a conclusion on the grounds that all or most people think or believe it is true.  Just because “hundreds of millions” of people all over the world believe something is true, does not mean that it is.

Here is Keener again pleading the case for the “bandwagon” argument:  “Should we not grant greater credence to the word of a thousand eyewitnesses (even if that were all there were) than to the insistence of a hundred thousand nonwitness (scholarly) colleagues merely stating unproved assumptions?” p. 200

So much for giving a high degree of respect to scholars and scholarship, as my Theology Web Christian apologist friend, Nick, insists that I should do.

Can you imagine the suggestion by any scholar that we should pay more heed to the uneducated masses regarding their “eyewitness testimony” that evil spirits cause illnesses and disease, rather than heed the opinion of medical experts who state that the cause of these maladies are microbes and cell mutations?

To end the review of this chapter, I quote Keener, p. 205:

“Hundreds of millions of persons alive today state that they have witnessed or experienced miraculous healings.  One might disagree with all these claims, but one cannot simply arbitrarily exclude all the claimants from the modern world.  While numbers are lower in some regions, such as many parts of Europe, they are higher in some other regions, such as most of Africa and Latin America.”

Why would claims of miracles be lower in Europe and higher in Africa and Latin America?  Isn’t that odd? Keener (and Nick) do not claim that the gods of other religions have the power to perform miracles.  They both claim that God (the Christian God) may perform miracles even for people who are not Christian, due to his benevolent nature.  But if (the Christian) God is not responsible for the “miracle”, then it was due to the other supernatural power in the world:  Satan.

But let’s examine that claim.

If God is performing miracles for people who worship Allah and Lord Krishna, why would he withhold miracles for agnostic Europeans?  Which is worse:  to not be sure if any God exists or to worship someone other than the Trinitarian God?  I don’t know the answer to that question, but…

And why would Satan perform miracles in Africa among the Muslims, but not in Europe among the agnostics?

It’s very confusing, isn’t it?

Isn’t it possible, dear friends, that the reason that there are fewer (much fewer, I would bet) miracle claims in Europe compared to Africa and Latin America is because Europeans are on average much more educated and much less superstitious??

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