Posted: Aug 30, 2013 5:51 am
by willhud9
My opponent has posted a thorough review of why miracles are irrational and thus I am under pressure to provide a sufficient rebuttal. However, his argument relies too much on one thing: conflicting viewpoints.

My opponent speaks truly when he says that debating the evidence for miracles is a waste of time, and that squabbling with definitions can bog down the debate, and for that matter I leave it well enough alone as well; however, my opponent than jumps into the fray with the statement, "For miracles to be rationally defensible, there must be a clear purpose to miraculous events, and they have to mesh with the framework within which they (are claimed to) occur." And I fully agree with him. There must be a consistency of miracles for them to be rational. Forget the debate about the evidence for or against which will go nowhere but circles, the main premise is that miracles are consistent and that their consistency is a mark of their rationality.

And yet Byron states that it not only doesn't happen, but it cannot happen. Interesting, but incorrect.

First of all, Christian theology does agree with what miracles are a sign of and that is simply God. In some way, shape or form, the miracle is the sign or wonder which points towards God. It can even be an attribute of God, such as God's power (the stopping of the sun), God's wrath (the toppling of Jericho's wall), God's deliverance (the parting of the red sea), God's love (sending Jesus to die and rise), but it all in some way points towards God. This is unanimous in Christian theology. Now what constitutes as a miracle may be different depending on the theological study, but the main premise of miracles is consistent.

My opponent than goes on to state that "miracles are exceptional," detailing how some Christians live a righteous life and are blessed with supposed miracles, while other Christians are thrown to the wolves and in this regard my opponent seems to not understand Christian theodicy. In the opening verses of the New Testament book of James, the reason of hardships is a miracle in of itself: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." So the adage of count your blessings applies here. James would write in a few more passages that every good, and perfect gift comes from above i.e. God. In many hardships there are silver linings if you look. A person who is diagnosed with terminal cancer, may feel that they've been dealt a short stick, but then realize they have an opportunity to make the most out of their life to do good and therefore bless others. My opponent will make a jest of the "God works in mysterious ways/his ways are not our own" line, but it is very applicable to Christian theology. In many regards, being well off is a trial by God in of itself, a person who has everything of the world, may have little regards for God and the Christian lifestyle, whereas the person with nothing and trials is rich in love and the fruit of the spirit. James even shows disdain for those who are proud in their earthly richness the sanctimonious.

But my opponent dismissed the concept of trials bring perseverance of faith in a flawed view of God does not like suffering in accordance to Christian theology. While it is true that in Christian theology God will ultimately recreate heaven and earth (which does not necessarily mean he will wipe away the old and start over, but more accurately means he will redeem the world and make it so it is like new, bringing Heaven and Earth together [I will deal more in this theology in my final argument post]), James is correct in stating that trials bring perseverance of faith. It means a person trusted God's promises through the trial and became stronger because of it. What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger. In the Old Testament the concept of refining through fire like silver and gold (Zechariah 13:9) is a common theme. The fire is metaphorical of course for those trials and struggles. But through them God can be seen and thus they are miracles of themselves. The person who has faith in God through the trials has seen God and thus again the notion that miracles are a sign of God, in the case of trials and endurance God's faithfulness is seen, is prevalent.

My opponent than goes on to make another faulty theological premise: i.e. God demands perfection, and yet created an imperfect reality. Nowhere in Scripture is perfection a requirement for Christian living. Even the law was not designed to be followed to the letter as it was impossible to follow, but rather it was designed to show Israel that on their own they cannot live up to God's standard. God has that covered with Jesus Christ. Sins have been ransomed and lives are transformed by the power of God, Himself. My first argument post used the testimony of people whose lives have been remade as evidence of a God and here it can also be used for the rationality of miracles. Come just as you are is a prominent theme in the Bible. True, it is not come just as you are and not change your ways, but it still does not demand perfection.

That does not address the fact that God still allows suffering, i.e. he created a world where suffering and evil exist, and that is not a mistake of God's who, in his creation, wanted humankind to learn and make decisions freely that mankind experience a fall of grace. The argument of omniscience is one which is debated on the extent of. Many fundamentalists will catch themselves in a logical loophole when they proclaim God is all knowing in everything, and all powerful in everything, and then realize that is baseless theology. The concept of inherent omniscience that God has limits to what he can and cannot know. If God chooses to know something, he can learn it, but if God desires not to know something (such as the freewill of mankind as is seen in Genesis) than that knowledge is not known to God. So suffering is not a direct result of God's creation or plan, but rather the fault in the fallibility of man's will deviating from that of God. John Calvin would coin this the depravity of man.

So to wrap this train of thought up: God created humans with free will, God chose to not know the future in regards to his creation, nor of man's and woman's ability to choose to disobey. Because of this, mankind disobeyed God, it was not the eating of the tree which was sinful, but rather the disobedience from God's command. Because of this disobedience, mankind would experience a sense of ease in disobeying further commands of God to the point of choosing to ignore the very moral law of God. This caused suffering to enter the world. But God redeems those who have faith in him and so through suffering faith is made stronger.

Theodicy 101.

So going back to my opponent's post, Byron then transitions over into the miracles of the New Testament and he acknowledges the coherency of them, which I would say constitutes as a point towards their rationality. But Byron points out that the miracles were a sign pointing towards an apocalyptic age which never occurred. While true, modern historians do agree for the most part that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher, this by no means gives evidence that Jesus believed the end times were nigh. The followers of Jesus perhaps, and this is evident by the church's behavior well after the death of Christ, and in the styles of the first of the Gospels, Mark, but in the sayings of Jesus, we are confronted with a new eschatology, and no doomsday messages. Jesus did not preach Armageddon, Jesus preached redemption and the love of God. But even if Jesus did, which he didn't, it still would not make Jesus' miracles null and void. John writes clearly in his Gospel. The miracles are all signs which state that Jesus and God are the same.

Byron then goes on to argue that miracles are against nature and therefore the God of order does something out of order. This is also faulty. First of all, a miracle is not exactly, as I explained in my argument post, a breach of nature. If God works on the quantum level than by that very logic due to the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics, than anything can possibly happen in relation to the subatomic. If that can happen then miracles are by and by natural, just highly improbable. But this also dealt with in Christian theology. God is in control of his creation i.e. God is sovereign. In relation to everything, the laws of reality are consistent, the miracle is the event which showcases God's sovereignty over his creation, thus being consistent with the principle of miracles which is to point towards God. So the Christian faith does not have to juggle, as my opponent says, but rather can remain grounded in the fact that God is capable of doing wonders within his creation. It is not playing dice in the slightest.

My opponent than shifts the debate in another direction, again aimed more at the inconsistencies found within various theologies. Again the general theology remains largely untouched by these various discrepancies. For example, Byron mentions the Eucharist and in the Catholic Church the Eucharist is believed to transform in substance. The bread literally becomes the body and the wine the blood. A theology which evolved from a superstition and not really grounded in anything solid. The mentions of the Lord's supper in Scripture does not apply a literal rendition of the apostles eating the bread being the literal body of Christ. Even Paul understood it as a symbolic notion, but the breaking of bread was too Paul sacred for its symbolic nature, not its literalness. And my opponent would be correct in that the church irrationally attributes things to being miracles which cannot be tested. This is a failing of the church; however, and not the rationality of miracles. The miracles that do exist, or the ones that have been done are all testament to whom God is. All of them are consistent among themselves and are every bit as rational in Christian theology.

The power hungry will say anything, and do anything to keep power. But Jesus said in Matthew that the church should beware of wolves dressed as sheep and that we would know a follower of Jesus by their fruit. Paul tells the church to test everything. A person making claims about miracles in order to retain a patriarchal church order, and to put women down needs to be tested on what merits his claims are true. Again a skepticism of those in power, applied to a logic of the consistency of the miracles of God, would show that such a notion is illogical and irrational. Then again just because the people of the religion tend to be irrational does not mean that the faith itself is irrational. This is evidence by their being plenty of rational Christians to counterbalance the amount of irrationality.

Byron concludes with a series of statements saying that miracles are inconsistent, divisive, and illogical in nature, but as I feel I have demonstrated, my opponent could not be further from the truth. Within Christianity, miracles serve one purpose and that is to be a sign towards God, be it directly or some attribute of God's. Miracles are not random supernatural events, but rather improbable events demonstrating God's sovereignty over creation, and again pointing towards God. Miracles are not simply as my opponent says "because I say so" occurrences, but are a set of events which in the context of the event demonstrates who God really is to the witnesses of the miracles. Even the miracles of Jesus, including his resurrection, are all point to God and connect him and Jesus, thus dispelling the notion that it was a build up to some apocalyptic end which never came.

While it is true that many Christians use miracles irrationally in their defense of Christianity, the notion of miracles themselves are not irrational and therefore can be used successfully to demonstrate why the Christian faith can be rationally defended.

Awaiting my opponent's post of rebuttal!