Response to Selective Sources 3

Deacon Duncan (DD) continues trying to show that his belief that miracles do not occur is justified after I criticized him for basing his argument on atheist presuppositions (see here and here). He spells out his reasoning in more depth but it is still as unpersuasive as before. Even worse, he continues to make false statements that I have already corrected him on.

His latest post opens with a mischaracterization:

Some believers like to think that ignorance is their ally, that nobody knows everything, so they’re safe (they hope) in assuming that no skeptic can know for sure that miracles do not happen. Somewhere out in the vast body of things people don’t know—i.e. somewhere out in the great expanse of human ignorance—they can surely find a place to hide some undetectable and unverifiable miracle that is still somehow real.

I’ve already pointed out to him that there are documented and verifiable miracle accounts from eyewitnesses. My point (that the NT accounts cannot be dismissed as based on eyewitness accounts on the basis of a lack of miracles in the present) is based on positive evidence, not ignorance.

He then presents the first argument for his position:

The first prerequisite for observing real-life miracles is the absence of any overriding factors making miracles impossible or undesirable. . . . The expected rate of miraculous interventions, therefore, ought to be fairly high. God is actively interested and involved in our day-to-day lives (or so men tell us anyway) and there’s no good reason for Him not to do the things that will save souls and fulfill Biblical prophecies about how He heals the sick and comforts the afflicted and so on. Likewise the extent of these miraculous manifestations ought to be universal, i.e. they should not be limited to remote regions where superstition is high and education is low. This whole show is (allegedly) God’s idea in the first place, and He’s supposed to be the prime driver behind it all, so real-world miracles ought to be fairly common and easy to observe.

Can we arrange these statements into a valid argument? Maybe:

  1. If God exists, he frequently has a desire, that overrides all competing desires, to work an easily-observable miracle (premise).
  2. If God has a desire to work a miracle and this desire overrides all competing desires, then God will work a miracle (premise).
  3. Therefore, if God exists, miracles ought to occur at a fairly high rate and be easy to observe (from 1 and 2).
  4. Miracles do not occur at a fairly high rate or they are not easy to observe (premise).
  5. Therefore, God does not exist (from 3 and 4 and assuming 2 is self-evident).

But the argument is not sound. One can object to 4 on the grounds that miracles do occur at a “fairly high rate” and are easy to observe. But let’s grant that 4 is true for the sake of argument. The first premise is still begging the question. The atheist has not and can not determine that 1 is true. Trying to come at the miracle question from this angle is futile. One must work from the miracle accounts backwards to God. DD senses his argument is weak so provides another one:

But let’s say that . . . God was limited to performing only a very few genuine supernatural miracles. What observations would be possible under those circumstances? Consider the purpose of miracles, as given in the Bible. The whole point of the miracle is to glorify God (and incidentally to edify believers). Obviously, a miracle that happens out where no one will ever know about it is a miracle that won’t glorify Him very much, or edify anyone. It has to be a miracle that people see and report.

First, a miracle that happens to only one person still edifies that one person. Second, I’ve already noted the statistics showing that God’s actions are allegedly observed quite regularly and by numerous people.

He continues to add to this weak argument by stating that if miracles truly occurred Christians would tout only the genuine miracles and not the frauds. But we don’t do this he claims. The only support he offers on this point is to claim that the few accounts I gave earlier are based on hearsay. Those who have read the past couple posts will know that he is lying on this point. Is it too much to ask that atheists at least present the evidence honestly?

Thinking you know God’s mind and basing your arguments on blatant falsehoods is not convincing. I urge readers to study miracle accounts on their own. I’ve already referred to Keener’s Miracles as a starting point. It does not bode well for atheism when its adherents have to resist examining accounts deeply and resort to distorting the evidence.

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