Book Review: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist – Ch 8.2

8: MIRACLES: SIGNS OF GOD OR GULLIBILITY? (PART 2)

I stopped in the middle of chapter eight for a long time because I was annoyed and tired. I thought that we were finally getting to Biblical claims, but instead, it was more magic hand-waving tricks. The rest of the chapter can be finished out fairly quickly. The author wants to define for us what is and isn’t a miracle. He says, fairly enough, that for an act of God to be an unmistakable sign from God, it must be distinguished from any other unusual event (p 210). He defines these to be an instantaneous beginning of a powerful act, intelligent design and purpose, and the promotion of good or right behavior (p 211). He does not consider events that can be explained by natural laws to be miraculous. However, he brushes over the issue of Satanic signs. I don’t have the inclination to address the arguments about dualism, but I’ll point out that again the author makes facile points and declares an absolute conclusion. Moreover, he declares that Satan can only produce limited counterfeit miracles that are often associated with immoral behavior. He says that only God can create life, with the example of Pharaoh’s magicians being unable to create life in the form of lice in the third plague, although they were able to imitate the first two. This makes absolutely no sense, because the second plague was frogs, another living creature. So somehow imitating frogs with magic tricks is possible, but lice are impossible to imitate and must be created? I don’t even know where that argument is going.

Moreover, Evangelicals will generally see fit to denounce the kind of miracles that Jesus appeared to accept in Mark 9. Jesus says No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.

Lastly, there are excuses for why we don’t see Biblical miracles today. The author says that miracles were rare and only performed during the times that God was confirming new truth (p 216). But then why talk about miracles at all at this point? In fact, we’re offered with no valid criteria to evaluate whether a miracle happened or not, because there is nothing that we can point to, within the chapter at least, that is both miraculous and witnessed. Even the plagues in the aforementioned examples, if we had any way of confirming that they happened at all, are not clearly miraculous, since anomalies are ruled out from being miraculous. Frogs, lice, boils, hail, darkness, death of children… these are all things that can occur naturally, and predictive powers aren’t addressed in the category of miracles here. Again, these kind of definitions lack meaning without having anything to evaluate. So far, it seems that a miracle is anything that the author labels as a miracle, so that a swarm of lice from an ancient text qualifies, but anything purportedly done in the name of any other god does not.

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