I am currently reading the second volume of conservative Christian apologist Craig Keener’s work, “Miracles”. Keener spends the entire fourteenth chapter of his book complaining about the bias of science, medicine, and academia against the supernatural, specifically, their bias against divine miracle healings. He asserts that supernatural medical recoveries (healings), multiply attested (witnessed by multiple witnesses) by persons who have otherwise honest reputations, should be accepted as reliable evidence and therefore believed by the public and by professionals in all fields. After all, if this principle works for our legal system and courts, why shouldn’t it work for this situation?
I see a problem. Humanity already has very strong historical evidence that eyewitness testimony is a miserable predictor of the validity of supernatural claims. What am I referring to? Answer: Christianity’s long, ruthless campaign against women whom they perceive to be practicing witchcraft.
Some estimates are that Christians executed tens of thousands of women beginning in the early Middle Ages to the present for the crime of Witchcraft. How many western Christians living today believe that any of these women really were witches with magical powers to turn children into toads and to cast evil spells on their godly Christian neighbors. I would bet that most modern, western Christians would doubt that any of these women were witches or possessed these magical powers. Yet, the overwhelming majority of these women were convicted of the crime of witchcraft and were then drowned or burned at the stake based on the eyewitness testimony of their honest, upstanding Christian neighbors.
Think about that: Tens of thousands of women executed for a crime they did not commit based on the eyewitness testimony of thousands of otherwise honest, upstanding Christians…no different than the thousands of eyewitness testimonies that fill the pages of Keener’s book, this time in support of miracle healings. So thousands of eyewitness testimonies can be wrong!
Therefore, eyewitness testimony, from biased witnesses, regarding emotionally-charged supernatural claims has NOT proven to be a historically reliable indicator of what is true and what is false. We must demand a higher standard of evidence for these very extraordinary claims.