Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Top Ten Neglected Books for Apologists - #4 In Defense of Miracles
When undertaking a defense of the faith, it is inevitable that Christians will cross paths with all kinds of skeptics—those who doubt the veracity of the biblical accounts, those who question religious motivations, and those who even doubt that Jesus of Nazareth ever lived. The most influential skeptic to ever live, though, is in all likelihood David Hume. Hume wasn't a skeptic like some of the Internet atheists we see; he was a skeptic of a broader sort, a philosophical skeptic. However, Hume did vigorously voice his skepticism about religion in his writings and one of his most famous objections is that people have no rational justification to believe that miracles happen. His argument is interesting and thoughtful, which is why it continues to be proposed by today's atheists as one more point in why Christians are being illogical in holding their beliefs.
To answer Hume, Christian philosophers Douglas Geivett and Gary Habermas compiled the excellent In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God's Action in History. Pulling together a collection of essays by top-notch apologists and philosophers, Geivett and Habermas have given Christians a real tool to use when engaging with skeptics on whether miracle accounts should be accepted as evidence. Not satisfied with only answering Hume's argument, the book uses Hume's essay as a springboard to discuss the various objections to miracles and the supernatural that are offered in their many modern permutations. Ronald Nash's article on the self-defeating claims of naturalism is great, as is J.P. Moreland's chapter on miracles and science. Of course, the book also contains entries by Habermas and William Lane Craig on the resurrection and why we can consider it an historical event. I also liked Geivett's own contribution on why belief in miracles is considered reasonable for anyone with that theistic worldview.
The biggest contributors to the book, though, are the non-theists. The authors included Hume's "On Miracles" in its entirety as the first chapter in order to lay the groundwork for what is to come. But, not content to leave it there, they also asked Antony Flew, who was the leading expert on Hume to also contribute a chapter. Thus, we hear both Hume's argument and how it is understood in a modern context by non-theists today. This is important as no one can accuse the book of offering a straw man version of Hume.
While many discussions with online skeptics won't reach the level of sophistication of these articles, it is important that Christian apologists learn Hume's objection and the appropriate refutation of his arguments. Hume continues to be a profound influence on atheists and skeptics. In Defense of Miracles is one book that covers the bases on the reasonableness of the resurrection and belief in a God who gets personally involved in His creation.