There is a widespread conviction that the miracles recorded in the Scriptures are no longer acceptable to an educated person living in the twentieth-century world of jets, TV, and cancer clinics. Even when the “laws of science” are interpreted as statistical averages and not as the invariable workings of nature, miracles may still be regarded as stumbling blocks to Christian faith, rather than as supporting evidence.
The notion that the testimony of sincere and honest witnesses is incapable of establishing the fact of a miracle is in part due to the influence of David Hume, who argued that a miracle can be established by testimony if, and only if, the testimony is of such a kind that its falsehood would be even more miraculous than the fact it seeks to establish.
A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature, and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined [David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, The Open Court Publishing Co., 1945, p 120].
Let us examine Hume’s objection to miracles. Note that his definition of a miracle as “a violation of the laws of nature” rests upon a misleading analogy. For what does the expression “laws of nature” mean? Congress makes laws, legislatures make laws, and “nature makes laws.” An uneasy feeling is aroused. When motorists are caught violating the laws made by the legislature, they are punished. Miracles should also be caught; they are troublemakers. Imagine violating nature’s laws, especially since they have been established by a firm and unalterable experience.
Hume’s definition of a miracle implies a world in which God is ...1
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