Text of Outline: What is a miracle? What is Naturalism? David Hume’s Argument Responses to David Hume ...
What is a miracle? What is Naturalism? David Hume’s Argument Responses to David Hume Evidence Against Naturalism Conclusion
A miracle is a special act of God that interrupts the normal course of events.
More specifically, a miracle is an act of God to confirm the word of God through a messenger of God.
Materialistic naturalism teaches that only physical things exist.
There is no spiritual realm or immaterial realm of existence.
David Hume (1711-1776) Argued: 1) Natural law is by definition a
description of a regular occurrence. 2) A miracle is by definition a rare
occurrence. 3) The evidence for the regular is always
greater than that for the rare. 4) A wise person always bases his or her
belief on the greater evidence. 5) Therefore, a wise person should never
believe in miracles.
Premise 3 is not necessarily true. The evidence for the regular is not
always greater than that for the rare.
The origin of the universe happened only once.
The origin of the first life happened only once.
The origin of new life forms happened only once.
Historians preserve records of many events that only happened once.
Therefore, “the issue is not whether an event is regular or rare—the issue is whether we have good evidence for the event.”—Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (2004), 207.
“This popular idea does not fit particularly well into modern scientific understandings of nature, to the extent that scientists today are less confident of the entire category of ‘natural law’ than they were, say, in the nineteenth century…
“Natural Law”? Continued
…For this reason, it is probably better to think of miracles, not as supernatural violations of natural laws, but as events that contradict the normal workings of nature in such a way as to be virtually beyond belief and to require an acknowledgement that supernatural forces have been at work.”—Bart Ehrman, The New Testament. Fourth Edition (2008), 241.
Hume Uses Circular Reasoning
“Now of course we must agree with Hume that if there is absolutely ‘uniform experience’ against miracles, if in other words they have never happened, why then they never have….
Hume Uses Circular Reasoning …Unfortunately we know the
experience against them to be uniform only if we know that all the reports of them are false. And we can know all the reports to be false only if we know already that miracles have never occurred. In fact, we are arguing in a circle.”—C.S. Lewis, Miracles, 105.
How does Hume know that no miracles have ever occurred anywhere or at any time during humans’ experience?
He cannot know this for certain, so he presupposes it.
If God Exists…
Miracles are possible. The largest miracle has already
occurred: creation out of nothing!
C.S. Lewis Wrote:
“But if we admit God, must we admit Miracle? Indeed, indeed, you have no security against it. That is the bargain.”
It is possible that some humans may have witnessed miracles inthe past.
Evidence Against Naturalism:
Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) indicate that humans continue to exist consciously in some immaterial form after they die.
NDEs challenge the naturalistic assumption that the mind is a mere product of the brain.
Dr. Raymond Moody coined the term "near-death experiences" in his book Life after Life.
Times NDEs Occur
Close to clinical death Clinically dead with no heartbeat (no
EKG readings) Clinically dead with no brain activity (no
Ancient Near Death Experiences
Anthropologist James McClenon reports that ancient NDE accounts share common features with modern NDE accounts.
Anthropologist James McClenon Writes:
“Near-death experience accounts from preliterate cultures reveal the same universal features, suggesting that Paleolithic out-of-body and near-death experiences followed the ‘universal laws’ and had features in common with modern episodes…
…Although culturally shaped features exist within near-death episodes, recurring elements probably contributed to convergence in concepts of heaven and hell in medieval Christian and Buddhist thought…
…Medieval accounts from Europe, China, and Japan are remarkably similar and often include narrative features that do not coincide with the prevailing theologies of their time.” –James McClenon, Wondrous Healing: Shamanism, Human Evolution, and the Origin of Religion, 126-127.
Dialogues of Gregory the Great, (6th Century A.D.):
“…a certain soldier being also brought to the point of death, his soul was in such sort carried out of his body, that he lay void of all sense and feeling, but coming quickly again to himself, he told them that were present, what strange things he had seen. For he said (as many report that know it very well) that he saw a bridge, under which a black and smoky river did run, that had a filthy and intolerable smell:…
…but upon the farther side thereof there were pleasant green meadows full of sweet flowers, in which also there were divers companies of men appareled in white: and such a delicate savor there was, that the fragrant odor thereof did give wonderful content to all them that dwelt and walked in that place…
…Divers particular mansions also there were, all shining with brightness and light, and especially one magnificent and sumptuous house which was a building, the brick whereof seemed to be of gold, but whose it was that he knew not.”
A Vision of Heaven and Hell (9th Century A.D.) A character named Viraz receives a
tour of heaven and hell. The first part of chapter 3 states,
“The soul of Viraz went from his body to the Peak of the Law and the Chinvat Bridge; and after seven days and nights it returned and entered his body again.”
A Vision of Heaven and Hell (9th Century A.D.) Mary Boyce, Professor of Iranian
Studies in the University of London, explains that the Peak of the Law is also known as the Peak of Mount Hara, the location where departed souls are judged.
A Vision of Heaven and Hell (9th Century A.D.) Viraz claims that two spiritual
entities guided him and showed him human souls in heaven and in hell.
These creatures claim they came to show Viraz “ the light and ease and comfort and happiness of heaven” and “the darkness and distress and discomfort and evil. . . in hell.”
A Vision of Heaven and Hell (9th Century A.D.) Viraz continues, “The fourth step I
took up to the light of heaven, which is all bliss. And the souls of the departed came to meet us, and saluted and blessed us.”
Tibetan Buddhist Lingza Chokyi (16th Century A.D.) “The entire earth and ground were
filled with fire, and I felt the pain of my body burning within the blaze of a great thunderous roar. After that there appeared red, white, and yellow paths; it seemed like late evening just before midnight, and great roaring sounds occurred. A reality that wasn’t real…
Tibetan Buddhist Lingza Chokyi (16th Century A.D.) Then, for a brief moment, I felt as
though I arrived inside a sack of butter. Lights of five colors shined above my head, and emanating from [this] radiant halo were many rays of light. At the tips of each light ray were human bodies and many different heads…
Tibetan Buddhist Lingza Chokyi (16th Century A.D.) Their eyes were wide open like the
sun and the moon, and in their hands they carried many different types of weapons. Then there came the resounding roar of a thousand thunderclaps, calling out, ‘Ha! Ha! Hum! Hum! Kill! Kill! Strike! Strike!’ I was filled with inconceivable terror.”
Modern Near Death Experiences Many people who have NDEs
accurately relay information that they typically would not have access to while unconscious, or close to death.
Occurrences in hospital operating rooms.
Observations of people down the hall from operating rooms.
“Near-Death Experiences with Meningococcal Disease” Daniel Shears, M.R.C.P. Sarah Elison, M.Sc. M. Elena Garralda, M.D. Academic Unit of Child and
Adolescent Psychiatry, Imperial College London
Simon Nadel, M.R.C.P. Department of Pediatrics, Imperial
“Near-Death Experiences with Meningococcal Disease”: “We report NDEs during
meningococcal disease in three 16-year-old children, elicited during research interviews that were part of a 9- to 12-month follow-up study of psychiatric sequelae (Shears et al., 2004)….
…NDEs included an out-of-body experiences (a 7-year-old girl claimed to have stood at the end of her bed while unconscious and accurately described the work carried out on her bedded self by medical staff);”
“Near-Death Experiences with Meningococcal Disease,” in Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry. Volume 44(7), July 2005, pp 630-631.
Cardiologist Dr. Michael Sabom Reports: “Mr. O (I-57) was a 60-year-old retired
laborer when I first interviewed him in August 1977. In July 1976, he had suffered a heart attack associated with a cardiac arrest and a combined NDE. The autoscopic portion of this combined NDE was described as follows:…”—Michael Sabom, Recollections of Death: A Medical Investigation (1982), 111.
Cardiologist Dr. Michael Sabom Reports: “I didn’t feel rejected or any remorse or
nothing…And I saw them stick the needle in there almost in the center of the chest but on the left side…They just plunged it in and gave me whatever that fluid was…I could see things very clear, very vivid…They put that needle in me and nothing happened so they started crawling all over me again, beating on my chest, pushing on my chest, banging with their fist on my chest…
Cardiologist Dr. Michael Sabom Reports: …And I remember seeing them down the
hall just as plain as could be. The three of them were standing there-my wife, my oldest son and my oldest daughter and the doctor…There was no way, being out, that I could have seen anybody…I knew damn well they were there…I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know why they were crying…And then I went further…I went to a different world…”—Michael Sabom, Recollections of Death, 111-112.
Pam Reynolds and “Operation Standstill” (August 1991)
Dr. Robert Spetzler, Director of Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona operated to deal with a brain aneurysm
Flattened brainwaves Stop the breathing Stop the heart
Pam’s Condition During Surgery “Her eyes were lubricated to prevent
drying and then taped shut.” Standard EEG electrodes taped to her
—Michael Sabom, Light and Death (1998), 37, 38, 39.
A “Flat” EEG:
“A ‘flat’ EEG denotes nonfunction of the cerebral cortex—the outer shell of the cerebrum. Second, auditory evoked potentials, similar to those elicited by the ear speakers in Pam’s surgery, measure brain-stem viability.”—Michael Sabom, Light and Death, 49.
Pam’s Brain’s Condition:
“But during ‘standstill,’ Pam’s brain was found ‘dead’ by all three clinical tests—her electroencephalogram was silent, her brain-stem response was absent, and no blood flowed through her brain. Interestingly, while in this state, she encountered the ‘deepest’ near-death experience of all Atlanta Study participants.”—Michael Sabom, Light and Death, 49.
“In Pam’s case, this documentation far exceeds any recorded before and provides us with our most complete scientific glimpse yet into the near-death experience.”—Dr. Michael Sabom, Light and Death, 38.
What Pam Saw:
“The saw thing that I hated the sound of looked like an electric toothbrush and it had a dent in it, a groove at the top where the saw appeared to join the handle, but it didn’t…The saw had interchangeable blades, too, but these blades were in what looked like a socket wrench case.”—Michael Sabom, Light and Death, 41.
What Pam Heard:
“Someone said something about my veins and arteries being very small. I believe it was a female voice and that it was Dr. Murray, but I’m not sure.”—Michael Sabom, Light and Death, 42.
Why Don’t We See Biblical Miracles Today?
First, miracles reportedly occurred in small windows of time during ancient times.
There are huge gaps in time throughout the Bible’s history when God does not perform miracles.
There was no new revelation from God during those gaps in time.
Why Don’t We See Biblical Miracles Today?
Miracles served as confirmations for God’s revelations to humanity, according to the Bible.
The Bible, according to the Christian worldview, contains complete revelation from God, so there is no reason for God to perform grand-scale miracles like those in the Bible today.
If God exists, miracles are possible. NDEs challenge Naturalism by
showing there is evidence for some form of an afterlife.
o Researcher P.M.H. Atwater reported 105 out of 700 people described their near-death experiences as being unpleasant.
o Cardiologist Maurice Rawlings recounted dozens of stories of people hearing screams and moans and witnessing violent scenes of gruesome torture at the hands of grotesque animal-human forms.
Dr. Maurice Rawlings
The NDE that Ultimately Led Dr. Rawlings to Jesus Christ
He said, ‘Don’t you understand? I am in hell. Each time you quit I go back to hell! Don’t let me go back to hell!’…After several death episodes he finally asked me, ‘How do I stay out of hell?’ I told him I guessed it was the same principle learned in Sunday school—that I guessed Jesus Christ would be the one whom you would ask to save you.
Near Death Experiences and Christianity
“To Be Absent from the Body…”
“Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”—2 Corinthians 5:8
Christians will be with the Lord when they are not in their groaning physical earthly bodies.
Paul’s Trip to the “Third Heaven”
“I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4)
When Could Paul Have Gone to the “Third Heaven”?
“Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman—I am a better one: with far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, often in death. Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea;” (2 Corinthians 11:23-25)