The last few years have seen a shelf load of worthy books de-bunking what is called the New Atheism. I’m sure it is a mighty good thing to explain and expound the five proofs of God’s existence, but it seems to miss the point.
I’d rather present the reality of God’s work in the world and show that there is one event which, if it really happened, proves the existence of God.
The bottom line argument is very simple: If God does not exist, then the material world must be a closed system. If there is no God the physical world is self creating and self reliant. If there is no God, then there cannot be interruptions in nature from an extra terrestrial intelligence. The material world works according to the laws of physics, and even if there are mysteries that cannot presently be explained, they will be one day. In fact, if there is no God, then the physical world must work according to the laws of nature and nothing else.
If however, it can be shown that there is a force which interrupts and alters the ordinary working of nature, and if that force operates in an intelligible and rational way, then there must be an intelligent being that religious people have always identified as God. An intelligible and rational interruption in the laws of nature we call a “miracle.” The interruption in the normal operation of the physical world is intelligible and rational if it has a reason and an understandable purpose. An interruption which is purely random or arbitrary would not indicate a super-physical intelligence.
All that to say this: if there are miracles, then there is a God. The problem with many miracles is that they might be attributed to natural causes or to natural causes which we do not yet understand. This is where the Easter miracles comes in. Firstly, if one miracle can be shown to have happened, then the case is proven. One miracle breaks the whole idea that the world is self contained, self creating and self reliant, and that one miracle which atheists most studiously avoid is the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The eighteenth century skeptic David Hume argued that when weighing up the evidence for a miracle one had to consider which was more probable–that a person would lie or a given miracle would take place. So he writes in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding:
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 other words, if someone believes a miracle has taken place he is either lying himself, or been lied to. If the claimed miracle is greater than the possibility of a person being deceived or deceiving, then that claimed miracle must be rejected. Hume’s argument seems watertight because it is based on the assumption that the physical world is watertight. His conclusion rests on his first premise that the physical world is a closed system. What Hume is really saying is that miracles are impossible because miracles are impossible.
But the definition of a miracle is that it is an interruption in what was expected to be a closed system. That’s why it’s a miracle. Continue Reading