Thursday, March 08, 2012

Craig Keener's Huffington Post article on Miracles

One of the most erudite New Testament scholars around is Craig Keener. Keener is also incredibly prolific. And he's not simply putting out pithy little books! Consider the following:
All of these works are marked by incredibly exhaustive research.

Frankly, in my mind, there is no scholar who can hold a candle to Keener's vast knowledge of primary sources. His knowledge of Jewish and Greco-Roman literature--I mean his ability to access important material in even the most obscure passages--is incomparable.

But Keener also writes shorter books and pieces aimed at popular audiences--including a recent article I overlooked. In connection with the publication of his set on miracles, Keener has a fantastic piece, "Are Miracles Real?" on the Huffington Post. I missed it when it came out last month, but I highly recommend it!

After discussing a plethora of documented reports of miraculous healings around the world, he writes:
What are we to make of such claims? At the very least, they testify that many people around the world today are experiencing cures in a context of deep religious faith. Numerous medical studies have shown that faith and faith communities provide a coping resource that often facilitates better health outcomes. A number of these global reports, however, exceed even our best current expectations for what "faith" can produce. In September 2010, Southern Medical Journal published an article showing that some people in Mozambique, tested before and after prayer, experienced significant recovery of hearing or eyesight. The Medical Bureau at Lourdes has long examined evidence for extraordinary recoveries.

Most stunning to me on a personal level were sincere eyewitness claims from people that I or my wife have long known and trusted, including everything from cures of blindness to restoration from apparent death. Sometimes the witnesses include doctors. . . Many of these reports come from highly educated professionals.

That reports of extraordinary experiences are widespread is undeniable, but observers explain these experiences in various ways. Some reports stem from fraud or misdiagnosis, but vast numbers of cases cannot be explained this way. Some explanations may overlap; for example, most religious believers would allow that God can work through psychological causes. Some would not define such cures as miracles, however. The influential 18th-century philosopher David Hume, for example, defined miracles as "violations" of nature. Yet, this often-disputed definition cannot cover even many of the biblical miracles (for example, the Bible says that God used a strong wind to part the sea). Others define miracles simply as extraordinary divine action.

However miracles are defined, Hume's argument against them, which provides the traditional basis for skepticism about them, is now problematic. Hume questioned the possibility of having adequate testimony to affirm miracles, since virtually uniform human experience ruled them out. Today, however, when hundreds of millions of people from diverse cultures claim to have experienced miracles, it seems hardly courteous to presuppose a "uniform" human experience on the subject. If any of these experiences constituted a genuine miracle, Hume's argument against miracles, which in some circles has hardened into an uncontested consensus, would fail. Whatever one thinks about miracles, the long-held argument against them needs to be rethought.
Read the whole thing here. Also, check out his website for more commentary on information on his work.

1 comment:

Nick said...

Hume's motto (or argument) is pseudoscience, since, according to science, nothing can be 100% credible and supernatural acts are inexplicable events.

If Humes' motto was science, than science would just be superstition (since nothing in science is 100% credible) and superstitious beliefs and practices would take the place of science (ex: ancient Babylonian science).