Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Nature miracles

Graham H. Twelftree, ed.  The Nature Miracles of Jesus: Problems, Perspectives, and Prospects.  Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2017

Craig Keener offers what is the most impressive chapter in the volume.  As he has done in his major two-volume work on miracles and in several subsequent journal articles, Keener offers a representative collection of examples (including some new ones) of well-documented and very credible contemporary parallels to the major categories of the nature miracles in the Gospels:  instantaneous, helpful changes in the weather after public Christian prayer or prophecy, multiplication of food, extraordinary fish catches, water turning into wine, and walking on water.  Other miracles could only happen after certain modern inventions—a life-saving journey in a car filled only with water after it had run out of gas to make it safely to the next village in the central African bush, for example.  

Tim McGrew focuses on the resurrection of Humean arguments in New Testament scholarship in an age when most philosophers have recognized their illegitimacy.  He rehearses the major fallacies in each of them and reminds us that Hume’s critics in the eighteenth and nineteenth century already highlighted these flaws.  More interdisciplinary work is needed so that scholars in one discipline will come to recognize the contributions of the other.  But McGrew also finds Keener’s approach part of a growing body of literature that has documented miracles even in the Western world, even under the scrutiny of hospital doctors.  Ironically, it may turn out that we can accept Hume’s stricture that we must have analogies in our own experience of reported events to be able to accept them because of the mounting contemporary evidence that miracles like those in the Gospels still happen.

It should come as no surprise, in light of my own writings, that I find Keener’s and McGrew’s contributions the most valuable of the collection.  I have personally witnessed inexplicable healings and have had analogies to nature miracles described to me by close friends and family members in contexts that make them virtually impossible to doubt. 

Craig Blomberg

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