Miracles and The Uniformity of Nature.

In regard to this post of mine on miracles, Steve Hays refers to James Anderson who argued the secularist has no principled reason for assuming that the future will resemble the past. Here

Steve continues: “The real dilemma is for the unbeliever. In order to exclude the miraculous, he must appeal to an iron-clad regime of natural law. But from a secular standpoint, he is unable to justify natural law, for he is unable to justify induction, which forms the basis of this covering law. The only principled way to ground natural law is by invoking divine creation and providence. But once you make that move, you have a God who is able and willing, under some circumstances, to perform a miracle."

Let me rephrase this argument of his: "Since I cannot prove with certainty that the future will resemble the past, I have no justification for accepting the principle of induction and of natural law which forms my basis for rejecting claims of the miraculous. Therefore I cannot exclude the possibility of miracles. The only way to justify natural law is by God's providence, which also at the same time allows for miracles."

But think on the following for a minute: what kind of justification is needed for anyone to believe something? I believe in the uniformity of nature and that the future will resemble the past because every experience I have ever had justifies this belief. Any experiment or any job I ever performed supported my belief in the uniformity of nature, of induction and in natural law. What else do I need?

Do I need to be certain of that which I believe and/or can justify? I think that's what he asks of me. If I don't need to be certain of what I justify then there's no problem, for I can justify most all of my beliefs. But if I/we must be certain of what I/we justify, then no one has a sufficient justification for believing anything--NO ONE!

What kind of justification is needed to believe your spouse loves you? Do you need some ultimate standard…proof…certainty, and lacking that, you wake up every morning suspicious and view him or her as untrustworthy? What kind of justification do you need that your computer will work when you turn it on in order for you to risk turning it on? What kind of justification do you need that your cell phone will work before you risk turning it on? What kind of justification do you need that your car will work before you risk turning it on and driving it?

When it comes to whether of not I’m absolutely certain the future will resemble the past, I’m not. But I’m not absolutely certain I’m actually even responding to one of my critics, either. Maybe I live in my very own inner world in some coma-like dream state where I am pounding on my computer to answer a critic who doesn't exist. So, what!? No one can be certain, absolutely certain of anything, much less that it can be believed with certainty that the God espoused by my critic exists. And if this God cannot be believed with certainty to exist, then I do not need to be certain about the laws of nature, of induction, and the uniformity of nature either before I act in acordance to those beliefs.

All I said was this: “When it comes to believing in miracles, Christians have a double burden of proof.” “On the one hand, they must show that a particular 'event' was not very likely.” This they must do. It means nothing for the Christian faith if a natural event takes place and is used to show Christianity is true. It must be an event that cannot be explained by natural causes. Actually, I claim something even stronger. It must be an event that requires a supernatural explanation. Anything less doesn’t show much of anything except to the gullible.

Then I said this: “On the other hand, Christians must show that the purported miraculous event happened. And yet, everything they say to establish the first burden of proof takes away the strength of the second burden of proof. That is, the more they argue that an event was miraculous, the less likely such an event occurred. But the more they argue that an event was likely to have occurred, then the less likely that event can be understood as miraculous.”

Neither Hume nor I stated that miracles cannot happen. But for a miracle to take place, as far as my whole experience in this life goes, this is about as likely as that the future will be found out to NOT resemble the past. Sure, what I believe here might prove in the end to be false. But I can only judge the future based on the present (and this goes for the past too; I can only judge the past from the standpoint of the present). To ask me to do otherwise is to ask me to suspend my judgment.

15 comments: