Are you Skeptical of the Bible Because it Reports Miracles?

In a previous blog I defended the rationality of believing in the possibility of miracles if God exists –miracles are no less ridiculous than implications of some science-related theories that are more speculative than the God hypothesis.

In this brief blog, I consider the claim that the Bible shouldn’t be believed because it reports miracles. Since miracles are viewed as being impossible this undermines the credibility of the Bible – we’re told it’s just an ancient book written to superstitious people. But consider how some skeptics demand that God performs miracles to make Himself known. For example, I was in public debate last year in which my opponent said she would only believe in God if He revealed Himself in a miraculous way. But if skeptics would only believe in God if they witnessed miracles then it would be illogical for them to dismiss the Bible because it reports miracles. There is a tension between these viewpoints.

This appeal for God to work miracles to reveal His existence to a given person is inconsistent with the purpose for miracles within the Bible. Miracles are not generally intended as a way for God to make His existence known but rather are used to validate new revelation. It is striking that miracle claims are quite clustered in distinct time periods within Biblical history that correspond to those times where there was significant new revelation. (e.g. Moses, the prophets such as Elijah, Jesus and the apostles). The miracles were intended to provide evidence to the people of that time that these messengers were sent from God – most miracles were not intended to provide evidence to the modern reader.

A notable exception is the resurrection of Jesus. In Matthew 16:4, Jesus says “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” We’re actually rebuked for asking for sign miralces – but one will be given. Elsewhere Jesus reveals that Jonah was a type (symbol or foreshadowing) of how He would be raised from the dead 3 days later. A strong case can be made that Jesus’ resurrection is the best explanation for a number of historically accepted events.

If you’re a skeptic I understand how you wouldn’t see most miraculous accounts in the Bible as evidential for today but I don’t understand why you would reject the Bible out of hand simply because it reports miracles. I’d encourage you to check out the evidence for the resurrection and evidence from Biblical prophecies – which I think were intended to provide evidence to future readers.

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8 replies
  1. Jerome Danner says:

    Amen! Unfortunately, many of our “skeptic” brothers want to hold on to the idea that miracles are not possible as long as they haven’t found some scientific answer to some “hypothesis” of miracles.

    Reply
  2. Toby says:

    Given that what we call the universe is referred to as natural then how can anything that happens within the universe ever be considered supernatural? If an event occurs within the universe wouldn’t that mean that it is natural by default and thus able to be studied, measured, and quantified? Good thing for the bible that it was written so long ago and completely free from worry about any kind of verification.

    Given what I wrote above I don’t think I’d find anything odd occurring in front of me supernaturally miraculous. I think everyone’s first instinct should be to assume there’s a natural explanation before leaping to the assumption of the supernatural. It would be an awfully lot like me going back in time 5,000 years and taking a polaroid of someone. they’d think I’m a god or devil or powerful wizard.

    What would be convincing is if a god came down and wandered around amongst us. He seemed to have no problem doing it thousands of years ago. He shows up or talks to everyone back then apparently. And without violating anyone’s free will. These days he is, as Al Pacino as the devil says, ‘An absentee landlord.’

    Reply
    • Jerome Danner says:

      Toby,

      I think you make some valid points for any theist to think about. Things that happen in the universe that are outside the realm of normal are not all available to be studied, measured, and quantifiable. For example, four or more people are riding in a car that flips and gets into an accident. Most of the folks that are in the car did not have their seat belts on, except the driver who was wearing theirs. But the driver is the one that dies, and everyone else lives through the crash. Sure we can guess and get to some answers of why the driver died (ex. their head bounced off the window at a certain angle and snapped, but it would be hard to recreate the scenario to see why the others lived when they were not wearing their seat belts and were in the same flipped and destroyed car. I am not trying to say that this automatically makes miracles real, but this “coincidence” could not be “lab tested” to get to the truth. Also, your statement about the Bible not worrying about being verified is not true. Now, obviously, the literal Book has nothing to worry about anyway, but there are and have been archaeologists that have made findings to actual places listed in the Bible. Even the Dead Sea Scrolls were and are considered a major finding for the validation of the Scriptures. Also, there are New Testament scholars, from Dr. Bart Erhman to Dr. N.T. Wright and scores of others, who study the Bible to verify its truths.

      I think that because of your presupposition to naturalism, even if a “miracle” took place in front of you, I doubt you would change your beliefs about some “supernatural possibilities.”

      You said what would be convincing is if God would come down and walk around like He did in the Scriptures. The interesting thing is when He is said to have done that back then, mankind still did not believe Him. The New Testament Scriptures and writers like Josephus (who was a Jewish historian and was not a Christian) wrote about Jesus speaking and performing miraculous acts, but guess what, people still did not believe Him. So, I do not see Him as being some sort of “absentee landlord” who must follow what I want Him to do for Him to exist. Man wants God to be what he wants Him to be because they do not accept Him for Who He is and what He does.

      Thanks for your comment though. It got me thinking.

      Reply
  3. K Sean Proudler says:

    Can a God perform miracles?

    A miracle seems to be a miracle because the entire truth of what is taking place is not being revealed to those who witness it. Only the outcome of this act is being witnessed, thus not the cause. Thus a half truth, is what is being presented. One is then expected to trust the miracle performer who only presents half truths. This seems odd !

    Reply
    • Allen Hainline says:

      Most skeptics want God to leave evidence of having intervened – this is all that a miracle really is. There is no deception – God is simply doing something that is not humanly possible nor possible by known naturalistic processes.

      Reply
  4. Organist says:

    Mr. Allen Hainline, what miracles has your deity performed for you? Examples would be nice not matter how small, i.e., parking spots, store discounts.

    Reply
  5. Mark says:

    The greatest miracle recorded in the Bible is in the first verse: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1). After creation ex nihilo, everything else (talking snakes and donkeys, water into wine, resurrections, etc.) is just gravy.

    Reply

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