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Rationality of Theism 11: Theism, Miracles, and the Modern Mind


This looks like one of the weaker chapters. Some reasonable points are in here. We should not decide naturalism or theism are true and then rule out or in favor of miracles occurring. We should look at the evidence for/against miracles, and allow that to weigh for/against our worldviews.

One problem Beckwith seems to run into is the use of prior probabilities in judging miracle claims. Beckwith respond’s to Martin’s point that scientific progress in the last two centuries make it very unlikely that supernaturalism will provide successful examples of miracles. Beckwith’s response doesn’t appear to answer what I interpret Martin’s claim to be: that naturalistic explanations have succeeded, many alleged miracles have been shown to be non-supernatural, and the rest we are not in a position to evaluate. Therefore, our “scientific progress” makes it more likely that, when we are in a position to closely evaluate miracles, they will turn out to have natural explanations, and the ones we cannot solve, we simply lack the ability to look into.

Beckwith misses the points, saying that the progress of science still leaves it unlikely that the resurrection or the turning of water into wine will be explained through natural processes. But Martin’s argument (as I interpret it) is not acknowledging that these events occurred. They are pointing out that historically, such miraculous stories have been very unreliable, and that alternative naturalistic explanations exist, and have been historically much more successful.

Kindle Notes:

a vast amount of what any of us knows is based on the testimony of others. There is no special reason why we should not trust the testimony of others when it comes to experiences of God (4872).

Note: Religious plurality as a defeater?

we define what theists generally mean by the miraculous: a divine intervention that occurs contrary to the regular course of nature within a significant historical– religious context (5638).

it is not clear why Martin believes that “scientific progress over the last two centuries” makes it more difficult for the defender of miracles to rule out the possibility that there will be future naturalistic explanations for miracles. For the nature of scientific progress over the past 200 years seems to point in the opposite direction. No particular theory, discovery, invention, etc., developed over the past 200 years casts doubt upon, or calls into question, the miraculous nature of any of the primary miracle-claims of the Christian tradition if the accounts of them are accepted as historically accurate (5724).

Note: Big if. Also, history of science may provide good inductive evidence for naturalism.

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