Argument from scriptural miracles

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The argument from biblical miracles states (more or less) that because a holy book states that people witnessed miracles, people actually did witness miracles. This is often associated with a holy figure such as Jesus or Gautama Buddha and is interpreted as evidence of their divine character. It is a form of argument from miracle testimony.

David Hume criticised belief in miracles based on testimony in his essay Of Miracles because it is far more likely that the supporting testimony is incorrect.

"The miracles of Jesus and of the Bible writers are God's stamp of approval on their teaching. This witness testifies that there is a God who possesses supernatural power. And since the Bible writers did miracles, they must have been guided by God's power. Likewise the fact that Jesus did miracles confirms the truthfulness of His claims that He was the Son of God.[1]"

Contents

Examples

The Bible

Jesus is said to have performed many miracles, including walking on water, raising from the dead (both others and himself) and healing the sick by touch.

Qur'an

There are relatively few claims of Muhammad performing miracles.

Buddhism

Gautama Buddha is recorded as performing many miracles.

Counter arguments

Assuming the Bible is accurate

Main Article: Argument from scripture

This argument assumes the Bible is true, which is questionable since it is full of false statements, contradictions and written long after the events by non-eye witnesses.

Redundant argument

  1. If the Bible is assumed to be true, the Bible confirms that God exists (e.g. Genesis 1:1) and the argument is not required.
  2. If the Bible is not assumed to be true, the argument is based on an unsupported premise.

Accepting unreliable testimony from confirmation bias

Main Article: Outsider test

There is no other evidence of the miracles apart from the holy book that a man walking on water, or feeding 5000 with five loaves and two fishes, or turning water into wine. We are left solely with testimonial attestation of these events.

Imagine taking a number of tribesmen from New Guinea and subjecting them to a magic show. Afterward, it would be possible to collect as many testimonies as desired to the "fact" that, for example, the magician was beheaded by a guillotine, but was re-integrated and completely unharmed several minutes later. These testimonies are contemporary (indeed, as contemporary as is possible) and mutually corroborative, Moreover, these witnesses could be questioned to any degree. What would be our reaction? Would we take these testimonies as evidence and conclude, based only on them, that the magician really did have his head cut off and survive? Or would our incredulity at the likelihood of the event override the testimonies and lead us consider other alternatives (the tribesmen were fooled, they aren't remembering correctly, they're lying, etc.).

Would adding centuries of possible embellishment and distortion make the testimonies more, or less, credible?

The reason we reject their testimony is that we have prior experience that these things do not usually occur. We base our beliefs depending on the weight of the evidence, considering that such things might occur outside our experience and the possibility that the "miracle" witnesses were mistaken. This standard of evidence for miracles was suggested by John Locke and in David Hume's essay Of Miracles.

The primary reason such miracle testimony is accepted is that the believers' incredulity are overridden by their a priori assumption that their god, or Jesus, is all-powerful; the testimonies are worthless without it. This will shift the discussion in that direction.

References

  1. Gospel Way, Testimony #5: Miracles [1]
  2. Miracles of the Qur'an
  3. Islam and Miracles

See also

External links


v · d Arguments for the existence of god
Anthropic arguments   Anthropic principle · Natural-law argument
Arguments for belief   Pascal's Wager · Argument from faith · Just hit your knees
Christological arguments   Argument from scriptural miracles · Would someone die for a lie? · Liar, Lunatic or Lord
Cosmological arguments   Argument from aesthetic experience · Argument from contingency · Cosmological argument · Fine-tuning argument · Kalam · Leibniz cosmological argument · Principle of sufficient reason · Unmoved mover · Why is there something rather than nothing?
Majority arguments   Argument from admired religious scientists
Moral arguments   Argument from justice · Divine command theory
Ontological argument   Argument from degree · Argument from desire · Argument from the origin of the idea of God
Dogmatic arguments   Argument from divine sense · Argument from uniqueness
Teleological arguments   Argument from design · Banana argument · 747 Junkyard argument · Laminin argument · Argument from natural disasters
Testimonial arguments   Argument from observed miracles · Argument from personal experience · Consciousness argument for the existence of God · Emotional pleas
Transcendental arguments   God created numbers · Argument from the meaning of life
Scriptural arguments   Scriptural inerrancy · Scriptural scientific foreknowledge · Scriptural codes
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