This regularity of this world includes both natural and supernatural events. The regularity of the world also includes interventions of the supernatural. To deny these interventions are to deny the reports, first hand testimonies and accounts that have existed since the dawn of human history.
It does adherents to the historical critical method no good to simply close their eyes and pretend that regularities of the world are only natural and based on naturalistic means. All evidence must be considered and weighed in order to properly evaluate the claims made.
II- Do Miracles Meet The Principle Of Analogy?
The Principle Of Analogy:
Remember the Second principle of Troeltsch?
The Principle of Analogy
This principle states that our understanding of the past must always be rooted in our experience of the present. i.e.: “If it occurs now, it occurred then, if it doesn’t happen now, it didn’t occur then.”As we discovered earlier, the contention of the historical-critical method is that miracles are “absolutely unique” and therefore do not qualify as experiences that can be analogically assessed.
The presupposition is that miracles do not occur in our modern world. However, as a matter of fact, there are many miracles that currently occur, and they are not isolated events. The question is how is it that we can say that we have no way of assessing or analogically understanding miracles of the past if miracles are presently demonstrated?
There are only 2 ways to approach this from the historical-critical method and perspective:
- Write all instances of purported miracles off as delusions, fantasies or myths or
- Credit a natural cause to all instances where there is a supernatural claim.
As you can see, either method is faulted, unevidential, clearly unscientific and does not satisfy or address the essential claim that a miracle has occurred. The true historian will seek alternative methodology, that would be to understand the event in light of analogy.
We observe analogies when things are said to be alike in certain aspects and dissimilar in others. Because the principle of analogy is such a vital part of historical-critical method, it is essential that we consider miracles in this context.
Historical-critical method proponents insist that miracles are supernatural events that are “absolutely unique” therefore do not have or offer value to history or the present existence. It is a false assumption that supernatural events are “absolutely unique”. The identification of “alleged supernatural events” is a strong indication that an actual “event” occurred. The recognition of an event makes the event similar and dissimilar to other events. Therefore, no event that can be realized is “absolutely unique”. The individual’s experience with the event may be similar and dissimilar but an event cannot be discounted simply because of its dissimilarities with what is perceived as the norm.
Additionally, there is no sound reason to believe that anyone experiencing a supernatural event would not be able to analogically grasp the reality of the event. By contrast if an event qualifies as a “unique event” and “meaningless” then one could not (by virtue of that understanding) deny such an event because it would be unreasonable and unintelligible to give a meaningless claim meaning by denying it.
In light of this it becomes easy to understand that miracles intersect our experiences and are similar in certain aspects but are dissimilar to our experience in other aspects. We can understand invisible agents acting as visible agents in many ways. For example, God has revealed himself as “Father” in his word as an analogy to a natural “Father” that protects and serves his family. Based on how he has described himself we can clearly draw analogies between what is seen and unseen even though there are clearly similarities and dissimilarities contained within the analogy itself.
Therefore, with that understanding and same primary basis, miracles clearly meet and satisfy the principle of analogy and by defacto, pass as acceptable “events” even under the historical-critical methodology.
The Resurrection of Jesus:
The arguments against the resurrection of Jesus under the historical-critical method have been further weakened by the advancement of science itself. God resurrected Jesus in history. Aside from the countless testimonies of believers being raised from the dead across the country, today, the medical profession has found all sorts of ways to resuscitate the dead. It is a common occurrence in many hospitals and ICU units across the country that those who are physically dead are brought back to life or resuscitated. This observation alone further provides a point of analogy, and reference both from the past to the present.
Although current medical science does not provide for restoration of life after numerous days (dissimilarity), it certainly medically occurs on occasion (similarity) within certain time constraints. Since that is the case now (currently), it would be incredulous to believe that it could not have occurred in history (past) through analogous supernatural means and intervention.
Current studies have shown this to be a false assumption based on the following criteria:
- There has never been any empirical evidence presented to support or confirm such belief. Studies have shown that orally dominant cultures were not inclined to embellish oral historicity. In fact, current studies have shown that there was in general a higher standard of oral accuracy and methods of reciting community truths and a much higher rate of literacy among individuals than commonly held for many years. See my page on Oral Historicity for further information.
- There appears to have been a higher level of criticism that existed in the ancient world, with a focus of distinguishing facts from myth. Therefore, we have no solid reason to believe that ancient people were less sophisticated in their own methods of criticism.
F.G. Dowing states,
“We have no widespread evidence for any widespread firm belief in “magic” or in any “miracle” which ever term is chosen, in the world where the Christian movement began…The level of belief-or suspension of belief- seems to have been not much different from that we find today for belief in alternative medicines, belief in ley-lines, belief in visitors from outer space, or belief in the free market economy.” F.G. Downing “Magic and skepticism in and around the First Century”, in “Making Sense Of The First Century Christian” (Sheffield Academic Press. 2000) p221
The presuppositional thinking of historical-criticism creates certain “dogmas” without foundational accuracy. Once again, the primary presuppositions that undergird naturalism in this area are highly unevidential and implore an unscientific approach to historical study.
IV- Do Miracles Violate Natural Laws Or Are They An Extension Of Natural Laws?
Remember how Eighteenth Century Scottish Philosopher David Hume defined miracles:
“the transgression of a law of nature by a particular violation of the Diety, or by the interposition of some invisible agents.” “An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding” ed. L.A. Shelby-Bigge(1748;repr.,Oxford:Clarendon, 1902) p.115
To the antisupernaturalist the intervention of God (Diety) into this time/space continuum creates the ultimate argument against the supernatural. If laws are suspended then laws would not be absolute or binding and ultimately would have no relevance. Therefore all existence would be relative.
So the question is asked, are miracles a suspension of natural law or an extension of it?
Since we do not exist in a closed system (one where God cannot enter) miracles therefore, do not violate natural laws. Miracles presuppose 2 things:
- Nature is a self contained system of natural causes
- A miracle is not a contradiction of nature, not because God is limited but because contradictions are meaningless.
Richard L. Purtill in “Defining Miracles” 1997, has stated the following 5 characteristics of miracles:
- They are brought about by the power of God
- They are temporary
- They are an exception to the normal
- They are exceptions to the ordinary course of nature
- They are for the purpose of showing that God acted in history
C.S. Lewis wrote:
“It is therefore inaccurate to define a miracle as something that breaks the laws of nature. It doesn’t…if God creates a miraculous spermatozoon in the body of a virgin, it does not proceed to break any laws. The laws at once take over. Nature is ready. Pregnancy follows, according to all normal laws, and nine months later a child is born….The moment it enters her realm it will obey all he laws” (condensed) C.S. Lewis “Miracles” 1960 p.59
The existence of miracles do not violate natural laws, however neither natural or spiritual laws define, contain or restrict God and his actions through supernatural means among men.
Another of the linchpins of antisupernaturalist philosophy is the view that Western and modern culture is the catalyst of naturalist and antisupernaturalist belief. Remember what Van Harvey said,
“it is impossible to escape from the categories and presuppositions of the intellectual culture of which one is a part” Van Harvey “Historian and The Believer” p.114
Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd in “The Jesus Legend”2007 p56 state the following:
“…while it obviously is true that people are strongly conditioned by the categories and presuppositions of their culture, it strikes us as an exaggeration to claim we are so locked into our cultural presuppositions that we cannot to some degree step outside of them. Were we completely unable to transcend our culturally conditioned categories, we could never critically reflect on these categories, and the writing of history would amount to mere autobiography”
Obviously Van Harvey, Rudolph Bultmann, Robert Funk and a host of others disagree with the sentiments of Eddy and Boyd and most sentient humanity as it pertains to this issue.
In order to assess the validity of Harvey and Bultmann’s statements, we must turn our attention to the culture in which we live. It is here that we find that the metaphysical antisupernaturalist has managed yet again to do the impossible. Here are the current facts on our Western culture.
A 1989 Gallup Poll found the following among Americans ~ 82 % affirmed that they believe that miracles are preformed by the power of God.
A 1995 Time magazine poll found that ~ 69% of Americans believe in miracles
A 1998 Southern Focus Poll found that ~ 83.1% of respondents believe that God answers prayers 33.6% reporting that they had personally experienced “having an illness cured by prayer”
The Western culture decidedly consists of believers in the supernatural. This would make adherents to metaphysical naturalism, anomalies within the culture. Further, according to their extremist beliefs of cultural incommensurability, they would be in turn be “meaningless” to the study of history and humanity. This is an absurd notion to say the least. Therefore, as evidenced, naturalism and the historical-critical method as espoused by Van Harvey and R. Bultmann and the affirmations of others toward this method…are essentially nothing more than rhetoric and nonsense.
What’s more, if Van Harvey’s premise of presuppositionalism is correct every atheist-agnostic-and skeptic (including himself) has, for some reason other than based upon a historical-critical priori method, broken from the culture and have violated natural laws.
As you can see, this is quite a conundrum for the avid metaphysical antisupernaturalist. Further, this spells the death for extreme naturalists looking for any reason to deny Biblical truth and miracles.
VI- Is Metaphysical Antisupernaturalism Scientific?
The metaphysical aspect of the historical-critical method describes what we must and must not find in the world, and therefore is not based on empirical observation of truth but in actuality a manipulation of form reality. In fact the metaphysical claim becomes more of a statement of faith as opposed to a science based on observable empirical evidence.
The unequivocal commitment of historical-critical scholarship to a naturalistic presupposition that rules out the possibility of genuine supernatural occurrences in history at the start is unwarranted and unscientific.
Matthew Radcliffe says this:
“Methodological Naturalism” ultimately amounts to an interpretive background that determines the kind of things one is prepared to admit as possible constituents of reality…[It] places a limit on the range of acceptable phenomena and it can reinterpret and accommodate anything that doesn’t at first seem to fit…[If] held inflexibly, it amounts to dogmatic enforcement of a metaphysical lens through which the world is interpreted” Scientific Naturalism and the Neurology of Religious Experience” Religious Studies 39″ (2003) p341-342.
It is actually a more scientifically comprehensive method to open appeals on a priori basis that includes the supernatural. The entire system of metaphysical naturalism is devoid of any consistent truth and is unscientific because of it’s presuppositional bias against evidence and testimony which are vital and inclusive parts of reconstructing actual historical events.
Empirical science is rooted in the ability to draw general conclusions based on empirical observations. Naturalism undermines science by creating a priori of metaphysical assumptions which are not based on complete empirical data.
VII – What Are The Social Problems Associated With Metaphysical Antisupernaturalism and The Closed Historical-Critical Method?
One of the greatest social problems associated with metaphysical naturalism and antisupernaturalism is that integration of all world views as equally moral and the exaltation of cultural deviance as normal.
Herein is the counterintuitive assessment of naturalism. If there is no supernatural intervention then everyone and everything is equal in value and there is no need to believe any one set of morals as being greater or more noteworthy than others.
Under the naturalist system government and social order are irrelevant choices of humanity and all equally valuable. Under the naturalist view Nazi Germany had as much right to impose its system upon humanity as Marxism and Communism. Freedom and liberty are no greater moral values than slavery. Faithfulness to spouses and family deserves no greater reward or recognition than adultery. Those that are employed deserve no greater benefits than those that do no work or have no gainful employment. Once cannot keep the hand of naturalism and it’s anti-God bias from crawling out of the past no more than one can change a Leopard’s spots.
In conclusion metaphysical naturalism and antisupernaturalism do not deserve to be taught or further engaged as a rational, reliable, scientific, or even a methodologically historic way to interpret history. The dangers of such beliefs go far beyond what I have articulated in this writing. Metaphysical naturalism (antisupernaturalism) does not offer a scientific basis from which actual historical events can be discovered. Therefore the system as taught by the primary proponents are defunct and a proven fallacy.
It is my encouragement that anyone deceived by naturalism and its tenets reassess and reevaluate their position imploring a more sound open historical-critical methodology to the study of history and the Bible. The open critical-historical methodology will better serve true discovery of historicity by evaluating all evidence and therefore reconstructing a more accurate view of history.
Cultural Incommensurability ~ The thought that one cannot break with their culture
Historical-Critical Method ~ The application of scientific method to the study of history which operates on the basis of methodological naturalism. The priori rejection of the supernatural is built into this premise. This system further suggests that historians should be methodologically committed to looking for natural explanations for all historical events.
Metaphysical ~ The belief that the universe is a closed order which does not allow for any intervention which is not based on purely physical means.
Metaphysical Antisupernaturalism ~ The disbelief in either God’s existence or his intervention in the natural order of the universe and the belief that the universe is a closed order which does not allow for any intervention which is not based on purely physical means.
Naturalism ~ The thought that everything in the world and history can be explained by natural means.
Presupposition ~ Something assumed or supposed in advance of investigation or research.
Priori ~ The primary slant, basis or initial focus of any belief system.
Supernaturalism~ The belief that principles or being other than those seen and measured through natural means are active and present in the world