A Review of Craig Keener’s "Miracles", Part 7




Ok, I have just finished chapter 7.  It is a long chapter but an important one because in this chapter Keener attempts to set the expectations of his readers for the miracle claims that will be presenting in subsequent chapters.  I will open this post with Keener’s conclusion statement for this chapter:

“What the Radical Enlightenment excluded as implausible based on the principle of analogy, much of today’s world can accept on the same principle of analogy.  Hundreds of millions of people worldwide claim to have experienced or witnessed what they believe are miracles.  Eyewitness claims to dramatic recoveries appear in a wide variety of cultures, among Christians often successfully emulating models of healings found in the Gospels and Acts.  Granted, such healings do not occur on every occasion and are fairly unpredictable in their occurrence; yet they seem to appear with special frequency in cultures and circles that welcome them.  Radical Enlightenment antisupernaturalism is far from the majority view in the world and thus henceforth ought to argue rather than presuppose its case.”

Keener’s argument is this:  Hundreds of millions of people all over the earth believe something, therefore it is highly improbable that they are all wrong.

Keener, p. 238:

“For these countries alone (Keener  gives a list of several Asian, African, and Latin American countries), and for Pentecostals and charismatics in these countries alone, the estimated total of people claiming to have “witnessed divine healings” comes out to somewhere around 202, 141, 082, that is, about two hundred million.  Among Pentecostals and charismatics the proportion is 52 percent; given estimates of possibly half a billion Pentecostals and charismatics worldwide, we might be looking at claims of closer to three hundred million among them alone.”

Wow! 

One has to ask the question:  With numbers like that, why would any Christian remain a member of a non-Pentecostal, non-charismatic denomination in which miracle claims are so much lower??  Isn’t Jesus indicating his preference for Pentecostal/charismatic Churches by performing more healings among these Christians?  If I were a Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, or Baptist, I would be moving my church membership to the Pentecostal church down the street after reading this data!

Keener, p. 240:

“As noted above, the greatest concentration of these (miracle) claims is in Africa, Asia, and Latin America rather than in the West, though in chapter 11 I shall note abundant examples from the West as well.  Non-Pentecostal Western Christian workers active in such areas often report dramatic phenomena similar to those reported by Pentecostals.  Worldview is probably one important factor in generating more faith recoveries in many non-Western regions; for example, nearly a decades ago one of my students, a sincere Baptist pastor from India, complained that Americans he prayed for were rarely healed, but almost everyone he prayed for in north India was healed.”

So if the same pastor is praying to the same God, why would Americans be rarely healed but Asian Indians are almost always healed?  Are we really to believe that the answer is that Indians have more faith in the powers of Jesus than do Americans??  Isn’t it more probable that Indians are more superstitious than Americans?  I refuse to believe that the overwhelming majority of American Christians lack faith!

This is a bogus argument!

Keener, p. 241:

This section of chapter seven is entitled, “Limitations in My Approach”.  Here is a quote:

“I lack the means to evaluate all the claims adequately, and do not believe that that (supernatural causation) is the only possible or even the best explanation for a number of the reports I note.”

In essence, Mr. Keener is telling us that he is going to present multiple anecdotal claims of miracles that he has not personally investigated nor has he paid any medical expert to independently examine the evidence of the claims.  He admits that “a number” of the claims he will present could be explained by non-supernatural causes.

I am happy that Mr. Keener has been honest about his lack of research into the reliability of the claims he is going to present to us, but anyone with a college education should see how very sloppy and irresponsible this type of presentation of “evidence” for any belief truly is.

Keener, p. 243:

Keener has a short section on miracle claims in other religions.  He does not attribute these miracle claims to other gods, but to “other supernatural powers”, which is code for, “Satan and his demons”.  Here is the most incredible of these non-Christian miracles:

“Some other NT scholars have rightly pointed out that some utterly paranormal events occur that cannot be attributed to the Christian God.  Thus Eduard Schweizer notes,

[There was an Indian in Zurich some decades ago who had a dagger driven through his heart, a feat that he had demonstrated before in other places.  My colleagues in the medical faculty controlled and x-rayed everything.  There was not the slightest doubt that a miracle had happened ; he should have been dead, but he did not follow suit and remained alive.  The experiment was even repeated after wards.  Yet we did not believe in that man and he did not want to lead us to believe in his god.]”

Wow!  Now here is a miracle claim that if proven true would make me believe in…Lord Krishna…or Satan!  A man drove a dagger into his “heart”, not just his chest, but into his very “heart”!  THEN, the doctors in this Swiss hospital asked the man to repeat this feat, so, he drove the dagger into his “heart”…again!!  And this man had allegedly done this incredible feat before in other places!  If ever there was a miracle, this would be it!

What evidence do we have for this claim?   Here it is:  Mr. Keener comments in the footnotes on the same page that he found this claim hard to believe but that he would give the person making this claim, Mr. Schweizer, the benefit of the doubt that “something like this occurred.”

That is absolutely pathetic, folks!  Absolutely pathetic!

I hope that Keener’s evidence gets better as we proceed in his book.

And remember this, folks: Hundreds of millions of people have sincerely believed a lot of things over the history of mankind…and have been sincerely wrong!

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