Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Ufology and miracles

Fred Butler Pls explain how the hysterical claims of UFO activity in this video http://bit.ly/1g2LvoY  differ frm those regarding modern miracles.

Here we go again. MacArthurites resent being compared to Hume and secular debunkers, yet they keep doing it. Do they live in a bubble?

i) Fred's ufological parallel is a standard tactic which atheists deploy against Biblical miracles like the Resurrection. Imagine an atheist saying "Please explain how hysterical claims of UFO activity differ from those regarding the Resurrection?" If fact, you don't have to imagine it. Atheists do it. 

ii) BTW, notice that Fred refers to modern miracles in general. MacArthurites often say they don't deny modern miracles, just charismatic miracles. 

This is a dilemma for MacArthurites. How do they deal with reported charismatic miracles? One way is to mount a preemptive strike by discrediting testimonial evidence. Comparing it to stories of alleged alien abductees. 

Problem is: testimonial evidence for charismatic miracles isn't essentially different from testimonial evidence for modern miracles generally. So, in order to launch a first strike against modern charismatic miracles, consistent MacArthurites must preemptively discredit testimonial evidence for all modern miracles to thereby discredit the subset of charismatic miracles. But in that case, their claim to believe in modern miracles is disingenuous.

iii) Fred imagines that he can discredit modern miracles without discrediting Biblical miracles by appealing to the presuppositional authority of Scripture. But there are two problems with that move:

a) As I've argued on more than one occasion, the cessationist argument is essentially evidentialist rather than presuppositional. 

b) In addition, take a passage like 1 Cor 15:6: Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

Paul isn't appealing to apostles or prophets in that verse. That's part of his overall argument, but not here. Here, Paul is appealing to the evidentiary value of ordinary, uninspired, fallible observers. But in that event, Fred can't erect a wall between 1 Cor 15:6 type witnesses and ostensible witnesses to modern miracles.   


  1. In his friendly debate with Adrian Warnock, Douglas Wilson shared a story in which he experienced what charismatics would consider an instance of a prophecy, or a word of knowledge (at 20 minutes and 27 seconds into the debate).

    Doing a google search I found a blog by Wilson where he shares it there too (with slightly lesser details). Here's a quote:

    Shall I illustrate? I was once in a counseling session with a woman who was being recruited by a really bad cult. She had been impervious to everything I had shown or told her about that group. I was stumped. But one morning I was reading in 2 Peter, and read the phrase “with eyes full of adultery . . . they seduce the unstable” and I knew that the husband of the couple that was recruiting her was sleeping with her as a recruiting technique. I had no evidence that would hold up in any kind of just courtroom, but I did have enough to ask her about it. When I did, she dissolved into tears. That was it, and she repented. I believe that I knew that because the world is a weird place, and I believe the world is a weird place because Jesus is the Lord of it. So in that sense, sure, He gave me that knowledge, the same indirect way He gave me bacon for breakfast this morning. I thank Him for both. But I would never say “Jesus told me, that’s how I knew” – I would say, after the fact, that I believe the Lord “had led me,” or had “put it in my heart.” I would actively seek to avoid any language that could be construed as a claim to an inside revelatory track. Why? Because I don’t have one. [bold added by me]

    Here's the blog from which it's taken:

    Eleven Theses on Private Spirits by Douglas Wilson

    In the debate Warnock rightly points out that responsible charismatics don't believe that such words of prophecy, or knowledge, or wisdom have the authority of Scripture since Scripture says we know in part and prophesy in part (1 Cor. 13:8).

    Here's my blog on the topic: UFOs and Christianity

    I've collected most of Steve's recent posts on cessationism and continuationism in chronological order at the following blog:

    Steve Hays on Cessationism

    1. On second thought, I think I should have included the beginning of that paragraph from which I got that Wilson quote. So, I'll post it here:

      10. As Calvinists we believe that God is in everything, and behind everything. And so, there is a sense in which a man who has some gift of knowledge (say), one actually verified by the event, could say that God “gave” him that. But because of the rampant confusion surrounding these issues, his description of what happened should be extremely cautious, if he describes it to others at all. Shall I illustrate?.....

      That quote from Wilson is from a blog posted Aug. 19, 2011.

  2. Just to add to what Steve said:

    1. I don't think there's anything to "claims of UFO activity."

    However, as far as what Fred says goes, while maybe the "claims of UFO activity" in the video are "hysterical," not all UFO claims are necessarily "hysterical." There could be reasonable claims for sentient life originating elsewhere in the universe visiting our planet (even if I would totally disagree with such claims or think they're too weak or fundamentally flawed in some way). Take the Drake equation. I think it's highly problematic. But I wouldn't say it's "hysterical."

    Anyway, point being, I'm not sure why Fred appends "hysterical" onto "claims of UFO activity" in relation to a question about how it differs from claims about modern miracles? Is it a Freudian slip? Or (God forbid) is it intentional such that Fred is attempting to poison the well against claims regarding modern miracles?

    2. Also, how are UFO claims and modern miracles at all analogous? How are random sightings or crop circles analogous to documented medical healings for instance?

    3. And as far as we as Christians are concerned, surely we would give more weight to the testimonial evidence of fellow Christians like Alexander Peden and the other Scottish Presbyterian Covenanters, C.S. Lewis, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Rex Gardner, etc. than the testimonial evidence of, say, people dabbling in the occult who had a close encounter of the third kind? Not that the person dabbling in the occult couldn't have accurately reported a bona fide experience they had. But I think their interpretation of their experience is less likely to be credible. Maybe what they thought was an alien from outer space was in fact demonic.

    For one thing, as Lewis famously said, "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." However, the non-Christian let alone occultist wouldn't be able to see so clearly since their minds are still darkened and they're still blinded by the god of this world, as it were.

    But even from a non-Christian's perspective, wouldn't someone like Lloyd-Jones or Gardner or Lewis be more likely to be a credible witness than an average unschooled farmer or housewife (unless we're talking about farming or the many things housewives do)? Not due to innate intelligence since it's certainly possible the farmer or housewife could have far more innate intelligence. Rather due to how they've been able to make use of opportunities in life to better cultivate and foster their innate intelligence and other talents (e.g. education, breadth and depth of reading, clinical experience and judgment).