Friday, March 31, 2006

The burden of atheism

Continuing our analysis, John Lotus said:

“The only way people judge whether or not a miracle occurred is whether or not it fits within their control beliefs (i.e., which God he believes in and was taught to believe). One cannot start with the evidence for a miracle to show that the Christian God exists, simply because a person must already believe it’s plausible for the Christian God to exist in the first place (unless it’s a case of accepting what someone says because that person is believable).”

Is this the only way to judge whether a miracle has happened? Take the Resurrection. According to the Resurrection, Jesus was alive, then he died, then he came back to life.

Very well, then. What evidence do you need to show that someone is dead? Extraordinary evidence? Or ordinary evidence?

What evidence do you need to show that someone is alive? Extraordinary evidence? Or ordinary evidence?

That someone who was once dead is alive again is no doubt miraculous, but how does that bear on the nature of the relevant evidence for either proposition?

Now, perhaps Mr. Loftus would borrow a page from Hume and say that this appeal is philosophically naïve. After all, we have no prior experience of dead men returning from the grave.

Even if that were so, it isn’t clear how this observation has any direct bearing on the evidence needed to show that someone was dead, and that someone who once was dead is alive.

But there’s a deeper issue. For remember that Hume was also the dude who put the problem of induction on the map.

And as James Anderson has pointed out, the secularist has no principled reason for assuming that the future will resemble the past.

So the real dilemma is for the unbeliever. In order to exclude the miraculous, he must appeal to an iron-clad regime of natural law.

But from a secular standpoint, he is unable to justify natural law, for he is unable to justify induction, which forms the basis of this covering law.

The only principled way to ground natural law is by invoking divine creation and providence.

But once you make that move, you have a God who is able and willing, under some circumstances, to perform a miracle.

Finally, I’d add that miracles are neither likely nor unlikely. That’s the wrong way to frame the issue.

Miracles are purposeful deeds of a personal agent. The occurrence of a miracle is not like a slot machine, in which certain permutations have a quantifiable rate of occurrence.

Once again, Loftus lacks an elementary grasp of the issues. But what else is new?


  1. since Loftus can't jutsify induction and the uniformity of nature, then every event, on his view, turns out being a miracle!

  2. Miracles are never a matter of likely/unlikely but ordinary/extraordinary. A miracle is when God extraordinarily reveals himself in a manner that is against what we perceive to be the norm. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary providence is not the actor (God is active in both), but the revelation.

  3. Was "John Lotus" deliberate? If so, brilliant. If not -- it's an omen...