Apologetics - Lecture 3 - Miracles

Apologetics Study

Session Notes

Miracles

Apologetics – Session 3

 

What is a miracle? How would we define a miracle?

  • “an event that involves the direct and powerful action of God, transcending the ordinary laws of nature and defying common expectations of behavior.” (gotquestions.org)
    • Natural Law
    • Transcending the ordinary laws of nature

 

Why are we talking about defending miracles?

  • If we are using a Classical Apologetics Method, we will follow the two-step method by first arguing for God’s Existence and then moving on to the defense of a miracle, typically the resurrection of Jesus.
  • When using a Presuppositional Apologetics Method, providing a defense for the rationality of miracles is a way to undermine a naturalistic presupposition.
    • Naturalism – Naturalism is a system of belief that all things have a natural cause. This system excludes supernatural explanations for anything that occurs in the universe.
    • Someone with a Naturalistic presupposition presupposes that nothing supernatural can occur and, thus, discounts the Bible and its claims as irrational.
      • David Hume – 1700s Enlightenment Philosopher

Analyze the following quotation from David Hume. What is his main argument? What are some of his presuppositions that are causing him arrive at his conclusions? What critique(s) do you have of his argument?

“A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined. Why is it more than probable, that all men must die; that lead cannot, of itself, remain suspended in the air; that fire consumes wood, and is extinguished by water; unless it be, that these events are found agreeable to the laws of nature, and there is required a violation of these laws, or in other words, a miracle to prevent them? Nothing is esteemed a miracle, if it ever happen in the common course of nature. It is no miracle that a man, seemingly in good health, should die on a sudden: because such a kind of death, though more unusual than any other, has yet been frequently observed to happen. But it is a miracle, that a dead man should come to life; because that has never been observed in any age or country. There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation....

The plain consequence is (and it is a general maxim worthy of our attention), 'That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish....' When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.

In the foregoing reasoning we have supposed, that the testimony, upon which a miracle is founded, may possibly amount to an entire proof, and that the falsehood of that testimony would be a real prodigy: But it is easy to shew, that we have been a great deal too liberal in our concession, and that there never was a miraculous event established on so full an evidence.

From David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, L. A. Selby Bigge, ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1902), pp. 114-16.

We want to argue that it is, indeed, rational to believe that miracles have occurred and that such miracles have a supernatural agent as the cause of the miracle.

 

Argument for Miracles (Another argument for the existence of God) [1]

  1. There are kinds of possible circumstances and events the best explanations for which invoke supernatural agency.
  2. Some circumstances and events of those kinds have actually occurred.
  3. Therefore, there is a supernatural agent.

 

  1. There are kinds of possible circumstances and events the best explanations for which invoke supernatural agency.
    1. 1 Corinthians 15:3-17
      1. Eyewitness testimony.
      2. The eyewitnesses of the miracle died for their belief that Jesus resurrected from the dead.
    2. A higher frequency of miracles lends credibility to the legitimacy of the miracles.
    3. Thus, it is rational to believe that there are events for which supernatural agency is the most probable explanation, aka. Miracles occur and a supernatural being causes them.
  2. Some circumstances and events of those kinds have actually occurred.
    1. Many stories of supernatural healing that have been verified by medical professionals have occurred.
    2. Scripture is reliable in its record of miracles.
  3. Therefore, there is a supernatural agent.
    1. Depending on how you argue this, you may not actually establish that the supernatural agent is the Christian God.

 

Hard Question: What about miracles from other religions? Doesn’t this apologetic potentially validate other “gods”? 

 

Lady Fatima - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9QO9Wxo8Ek

 

These quotations are pulled directly from www.fatima.org

"The Angel demonstrated to the children the fervent, attentive, and composed manner in which we should all pray, and the reverence we should show toward God in prayer. He also explained to them the great importance of praying and making sacrifices in reparation for the offenses committed against God. He told them: 'Make of everything you can a sacrifice and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication, for the conversion of sinners.' In his third and final apparition to the children, the Angel gave them Holy Communion, and demonstrated the proper way to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist: all three children knelt to receive Communion; Lucy was given the Sacred Host on the tongue and the Angel shared the Blood of the Chalice between Francisco and Jacinta.

"Our Lady stressed the importance of praying the Rosary in each of Her apparitions, asking the children to pray the Rosary every day for peace. Another principal part of the Message of Fatima is devotion to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, which is terribly outraged and offended by the sins of humanity, and we are lovingly urged to console Her by making reparation. She showed Her Heart, surrounded by piercing thorns (which represented the sins against Her Immaculate Heart), to the children, who understood that their sacrifices could help to console Her.

"The children also saw that God is terribly offended by the sins of humanity, and that He desires each of us and all mankind to abandon sin and make reparation for their crimes through prayer and sacrifice. Our Lady sadly pleaded: 'Do not offend the Lord our God any more, for He is already too much offended!'

"The children were also told to pray and sacrifice themselves for sinners, in order to save them from hell. The children were briefly shown a vision of hell, after which Our Lady told them: 'You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.'

"Our Lady indicated to us the specific root of all the troubles in the world, the one that causes world wars and such terrible suffering: sin. She then gave a solution, first to individual people, then to the Church’s leaders.God asks each one of us to stop offending Him. We must pray, especially the Rosary. By this frequent prayer of the Rosary, we will get the graces we need to overcome sin. God wants us to have devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and to work to spread this devotion throughout the world. Our Lady said, 'My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.' If we wish to go to God, we have a sure way to Him through true devotion to the Immaculate Heart of His Mother.

"In order to move ever closer to Her, and therefore to Her Son, Our Lady stressed the importance of praying at least five decades of the Rosary daily. She asked us to wear the Brown Scapular. And we must make sacrifices, especially the sacrifice of doing our daily duty, in reparation for the sins committed against Our Lord and Our Lady. She also stressed the necessity of prayers and sacrifices to save poor sinners from hell. The Message of Fatima, to individual souls, is summarized in these things."

 

The reality of Satanic Miracles

  • We might answer the individual questioning concerning the miracles of other religions (like the Lady of Fatima, for example) by talking about the reality that Satan can perform miracles.
    • 2 Corinthians 11:14 – Appear as angel of light
    • Exodus 7:8-11 – Magi of Egypt repeat some of the 10 plagues
    • 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10, Matthew 24:24 – Antichrist will perform miracles in order to deceive
  • Thus, we must test the spirits as John exhorts in 1 Jn 4:1-3:
    • If we apply John’s principle to the apparition of Mary (message of Fatima), what does the overall message tell us about Jesus and the gospel message?

 

Ultimately, using this apologetic of defending miracles serves to get us to the point in the conversation where Scripture will likely become the next topic.

  • Why believe in this God?
  • Who is this God?
    • Miracles reveal God’s character.
  • The greatest miracle that we definitely want to employ in our apologetic conversations is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This miracle gets us into a gospel conversation because believing in the resurrection of Jesus is rational and it is believing in Christ’s resurrection that is a crucial component of saving faith.

 

[1]Daniel Bonevac. The Argument from Miracles (2009), 3.