The famous 18th century philosopher, David Hume, stated that miracles are a violation of natural laws. Our unalterable experience has established these laws. Therefore because miracles are outside our experience they are impossible. But is that actually true?
This is a continuation of my series of posts on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In response to Hume and Ehrman, I will make two quick points (these points are covered more thoroughly in the videos):
First, Christianity is not making the claim that Jesus was raised from the dead by natural means. We’re claiming that God raised Jesus from the dead, and since we believe God both created and exists outside natural laws, He has the means to do it.
Paul makes stakes everything on this argument:
15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. (1 Cor.15:15 *)
Second, Hume’s and Ehrman’s argument assumes a worldview where the only reality is what we can experience within the limits of natural law. This is not only a myopic worldview, it’s circular reasoning that essentially goes like this:
- I don’t believe in the resurrection (or miracles) because it violates natural laws.
- Miracles, by definition, are the least probable thing that can happen.
- Therefore, the resurrection of Jesus did not happen (or highly improbable).
This actually does not address the evidence. As the author of the first video below says:
“This just a priori excludes any theory, however likely it is, that disagrees with your preconceived notions about how reality should work…. These sweeping dismissals, whether from Hume or Ehrman are nothing but circular reasoning and dismissing any type of evidence that challenges their already determined worldview.” (starts @ 4:53)
But the Christian claim is not that a resurrection is a natural phenomenon or even likely. We’re saying quite the opposite, that not only did God supernaturally raise Jesus from the dead, but it was a unique event. We believe there are only two distinct resurrections in human history (possibly three if you take Rev.20:11-15 into account): Christ’s resurrection and a future resurrection of the saints before the end of this age:
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. (1 Cor.15:20-24 *)
So neither the improbable argument nor the violation of natural law argument refutes the Christian claim for Jesus’ resurrection.
Another important point in the second video is made by Amy Orr-Ewing that this recent resurgence of Hume’s argument by the new atheists is ironically not sustainable by his own standard of analysis and empirical verification:
“It’s fascinating this is coming back because, actually, what philosophers coming after Hume discovered is that Hume’s idea itself collapses; it’s neither true by definition nor is it empirically verifiable.” (starts @5:12)
Here are the two short video clips that go into further detail on this subject. The first video is from InspiringPhilosophy’s series titled, “The Resurrection of Jesus.” In this video, the author looks at both Hume’s and Ehrman’s “nature” argument against miracles.
This second clip is from Godnewevidence’s series titled, “After Life.” In this video, the question is answered by experts, “Does science make it impossible that Jesus rose from the dead” and other common arguments against the resurrection. Well worth the watch.
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