Monday, April 09, 2007

The problem of miracles and the resurrection of Jesus


Most people who deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ do not actually discuss the evidence for the resurrection. Instead, their objection goes like this: the resurrection is a miracle; science shows that miracles don’t happen, so Jesus could not have risen from the dead. So instead of dealing with the evidence, they simply deny that it is possible, and anybody who believes such things is ignorant or stupid.
The contemporary atheist author, Richard Dawkins, put it this way: “The virgin birth, the Resurrection, the raising of Lazarus, even the Old Testament miracles, all are freely used for religious propaganda, and they are very effective with an audience of unsophisticates and children.” (Richard Dawkins, “Snake Oil and HolyWater.” Available November 19, 1999 on the Internet at www.forbes.com/asap/99/1004/235.htm cited in Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith, p. 57)
How do Christians reply to this claim that miracles contradict science?
1. A person who denies the possibility of miracles is closed-minded, unwilling to consider all possibilities.
2. If an all-powerful Creator God exists, miracles are possible.
3. Miracles do not violate any "laws of nature," they merely interrupt them.
4. Miracles do not contradict science; they are merely outside the field of science.
Read all four explanations in detail by clicking on the first comment below:

1 comment:

Brother Bob said...

Most people who deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ do not actually discuss the evidence for the resurrection. Instead, their objection goes like this: the resurrection is a miracle; science shows that miracles don’t happen, so Jesus could not have risen from the dead. So instead of dealing with the evidence, they simply deny that it is possible, and anybody who believes such things is ignorant or stupid.
The contemporary atheist author, Richard Dawkins, put it this way: “The virgin birth, the Resurrection, the raising of Lazarus, even the Old Testament miracles, all are freely used for religious propaganda, and they are very effective with an audience of unsophisticates and children.” (Richard Dawkins, “Snake Oil and HolyWater.” Available November 19, 1999 on the Internet at www.forbes.com/asap/99/1004/235.htm cited in Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith, p. 57)
How do Christians reply to this claim that miracles contradict science?

A. A person who denies the possibility of miracles is closed-minded.

It is interesting that the very people who deny the possibility of the supernatural are the same people who claim to be open-minded intellectuals. When studying evidence, they insist on considering every possibility, even unlikely ones. But when it comes to miracles, they simply close their minds and say, “Miracles cannot happen.” If you ask them why, about the only answer they can give is that miracles cannot happen because it violates the principle that miracles cannot happen. This is arguing in a circle. That is, they are saying “my mind is already made up, so don’t confuse me with the facts.”
G. K. Chesterton put it this way: “The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them… It is we Christians who accept all actual evidence—it is you rationalists who refuse actual evidence being constrained to do so by your creed.” (G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, p. 301-302.)
If a person does not want to believe in the existence of miracles, at least be honest enough to say, “I don’t want to believe in miracles.” But don’t say “miracles cannot happen.” How do you know if they can happen without checking out the possibility?
But skeptics would reply that they have checked out the possibility. For example, they would say, we have thousands of years of records to show that dead people do not rise from the dead. Thus we have checked it out, and it doesn’t happen. Thus Jesus could not rise from the dead.
That argument is still arguing in circles. It doesn’t deal with what happened to Jesus. It still refuses to examine the evidence. It just says we have never seen a resurrection, so it cannot happen. That’s like an Indian living in the Amazon jungle saying he has never seen an airplane and none of his ancestors have seen an airplane, so men cannot build machines to fly. He refuses to consider the possibility just because it is outside of his experience. Just because you have not experienced a miracle does not make a miracle impossible.

B. If God exists, miracles are possible.

Another reason to believe miracles is because God exists. We will discuss the issue of the existence of God in a later sermon in this series. But for the sake of argument, and since 91% of Americans believe in the existence of God (Mickey Noah, “’He is risen,’ they nevertheless say,” Baptist Press, April 2, 2007), we will assume that we know that God exists.
God is the all-powerful Creator of the universe. And if He is the all-powerful Creator of the universe, then He can do what He pleases with His creation, just as Shakespeare can write a play and then decide to rewrite a scene and change the plot.
Skeptics ask, how can the resurrection be possible when we know that after three days in a tomb, a human body will begin to decay? How can we possibly believe that Jesus’ body did not decay, or that His body decayed and then reversed its decay and was restored to life? It seems too amazing to fathom, until we remember that we are speaking about an act of the all-powerful Creator of life itself. When we keep in mind that we are speaking of the power of the Creator, it is child’s play for Him to resurrect life! This God who placed the earth just the right distance from the sun so that it would not burn up or freeze, who put just the right amount of oxygen in the atmosphere for us to breathe, who gave the earth just the right amount of water and just the right gravity and just the right tilt on its axis and just the right run on that axis to support life— for us to say that the God who brought life into existence from non-life, and who did all of these astounding things to allow life to exist on the earth-- for us to say that this God brought Jesus back to life is to say He did something that was easy for Him to do!
So if God exists (and we know that He does), then miracles are certainly possible, and the resurrection is possible.

C. Miracles do not violate any “laws of nature;” they merely interrupt them.

Others would reply, but a miracle must violate some law of nature, and you cannot violate laws of nature.
To that we answer that a miracle does not violate any laws of nature any more than a school principal violates the schedule of classes by cancelling gym for a special assembly.
If I deposit $100 into my checking account on Monday and deposit $100 into my checking account on Tuesday, the laws of nature say that I should have $200 in my checking account. But if my bank account is robbed, I may only have $10 on Wednesday. Something will be violated, but it would be the laws of the United States, not the laws of arithmetic. (Illustration adapted from C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p. 58.)
Take another example: the law of gravity says that if an apple falls from a tree, it will hit the ground. But if you see the apple falling and you run to catch it, you have not violated the law of nature, you have simply intervened. That’s what
God did by raising Christ from the dead. He did not change the laws of life and death; He simply intervened in the case of Jesus and raised Him from the dead. God does not violate the laws of nature when He does a miracle; He just interrupts them.

D. Miracles do not contradict science; they are merely outside the field of science.

Science has done much to make our life easier and healthier, through discoveries in the fields of technology and medicine. Some people fear that if they believe in miracles, they would have to abandon the scientific method. Not at all! A person can be a scientist and believe in miracles. The scientist who believes in miracles simply admits that some things lie outside of the realm of science. There are many things that lie outside the field of science. For example, ethics lie outside of science. Scientists can do stem-cell research, but science cannot tell us whether it is ethical or not to use the stem cell. That belongs to the field of ethics. Just because ethical issues do not belong to the field of science does not mean that a scientist cannot be ethical. In fact, one would hope that a scientist would also want to be ethical. It’s just that ethics cannot be studied by science. Likewise, science can observe natural causes, but science cannot explain miracles. That does not mean a scientist cannot believe in miracles and still be a scientist. In fact, nuclear physicist Hugh Siefken says, “My faith can be summed up in this one paradox: I believe in science, and I believe in God. I plan to continue testifying to both.” (Dale and Sandy Larsen, Seven Myths about Christianity. Downer’s Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996, p. 86)
An example of scientists who observe miracles happens today more than we realize. I have known physicians who have treated cancer patients, and then one day they examined the patient, and for some unknown reason, the cancer was gone! The patient had a tumor that was growing, a cancer for which science has shown no effective treatment. The diagnosis was terminal. Yet upon a return visit, the tumor was gone. The patient will tell the doctor that their church has been praying for healing, and the doctor has to say, “I cannot explain it.” Does that mean that the doctor gives up his science? Of course not! It just means that he recognizes some things are beyond his control and understanding.
In the same way, we have reliable eyewitness accounts in the New Testament that people actually witnessed Jesus Christ raised from the dead. One of them, the gospel writer Luke, was a scientist and physician who says in his gospel that he carefully researched his information to make sure that it was accurate (Luke 1:3). You don’t have to give up science to believe in the miracle of the resurrection; you just have to admit that the resurrection is beyond the explanation of science.

CONCLUSION: Peter Grant explains faith in Jesus’ resurrection like this.
Let’s say you’re going to the office to see if your boss is in. You see his car in the parking lot. You ask the secretary if he’s in, and she says, “Yes, I just spoke with him.” You see light under his office door. You listen and hear his voice on the telephone. On the basis of this evidence, you have reason to believe that your boss is in his office.
In the same way, you can look at the evidence I have shared with you today, and you have good reason to believe that God is real, miracles can happen, and the eyewitness reports are overwhelming that Jesus really did rise from the dead. But here’s the crux of the matter: If you knock on the door and go in to meet your boss face-to-face, you have a better reason to believe he is in his office. All of the other evidence (the car in the parking lot, the secretary’s testimony, the light under the door, the voice on the phone) are not as important as the fact that you’ve met your boss face-to-face. (Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith, p. 85)
In the same way, the Bible says that God is knocking on the door if your heart. Revelation 3:20 says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will go in and eat with him, and he with me.” When you open the door to Jesus Christ and meet Him, so to speak, face-to-face, all of the other arguments for the resurrection take on less importance than the fact that you know Him personally. And that is what you can do today, right now, if you choose.