The Christian View of miracles
Two of my friends, John Loftus at Debunking Christianity and Mike D at A-Unicornist, currently have discussions going on about miracles. Both sites have a back forth discussion going on between Christians who believe in miracles and skeptics who do not believe in miracles or, at least, do not agree with how Christians frame the miracle question.
You will have to read several posts to find the relevant discussions. Some of the discussion is pretty straight forward and some of it is philosophical arm wrestling.
As readers likely know, I am not a big fan of philosophy. Perhaps, the real issue is not such much that I am not a fan of philosophy as much as I am not a fan of endless discussions, debates, and arguments philosophy tends to perpetuate.
My view of miracles is rather straight forward.
What is a miracle? For the Christian, a miracle is an event or action that can not be explained using natural means. These unexplainable events or actions are the work of the Christian God.
My definition of a miracle is very different from the Christian. I readily admit that there are events or actions that happen that can not be explained. All of us have had things happen in our lives that are unexplainable. Where the Christian and I differ is to whom or to what we ascribe the miracle to.
The Christian sees God behind the miracles and I don’t. Just because there is no explanation for an event or action doesn’t mean the Christian God did it. All it means is that there is no explanation.
When Christians continue to press the claim that their God is a miracle-worker, skeptics rightly ask for proof. Where is the proof that a miracle took place and the Christian God was the agency behind the miracle?
Anecdotal stories are not proof. Personal testimonies are not proof.
At the end of the day, believing the Christian God works miracles requires faith. Christians are going to believe God did it regardless of what the evidence suggests. This will always be a problem when discussing miracles with Christians. They will ALWAYS appeal to faith. (and we should not expect them to do otherwise)
Many times, according to Christians, a miracle by God is preceded by prayer. It should be quite easy to test whether or not praying for someone causes the Christian God to work a miracle.
Let’s find a Christian with medically verifiable pancreatic cancer. Let’s invite pastors to pray for the person. Let’s invite any and all Christians to pray for them. Let’s do this for a week, a month, or even a year. And then let’s take a look at the Christian’s cancer. Surely, with all this praying the cancer should be gone.
This exercise can be expanded to included thousands of people with medically verifiable pancreatic cancer and thousands of pastors and every-day praying Christians.
What are the odds that any of the people with cancer will be cured?
They will ultimately die because that is what happens with people who have the kind of cancer they have.
Christians will claim a miracle happened if the person lived longer than expected, had less pain than expected, etc. Of course none of these things are verifiable. We will just have to take their word for it. (or not)
If all else fails, Christians will trot out the worn-out line that states, God always answers prayer:
- Sometimes he says yes
- Sometimes he says no
- Sometimes he says not now
I readily admit that unexplainable things happen. However, I simply can not see the connection between the unexplainable and the Christian God.
The gospels are filled with miracles. The miracle of miracles? Jesus being resurrected from the dead.
As a skeptic and an atheist, I do not think Jesus or anyone else resurrected from the dead. When people die they stay that way. (and yes I am aware of near-death experiences. Such things can now be explained neurologically)
I have conducted a fair number of funerals over the years and have attended even more. Not one person has ever had a Jesus or Lazarus resurrection from the dead. Every person is exactly where we left them, in the ground or scattered across the ground.
Again, any claim that people who were dead and came back to life requires faith, a faith I do not have.