Questions of Miracle

Questions of Miracle

EDITED BY ROBERT A. LARMER
Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 184
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt800hd
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  • Book Info
    Questions of Miracle
    Book Description:

    Questions of Miracle will be a valuable reference book and teaching tool for scholars and students of theology, religious studies, and philosophy.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6605-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface Miracles: A Continuing Debate
    (pp. ix-2)
    ROBERT LARMER
  4. 1 The Logic of Probabilities in Hume’s Argument against Miracles
    (pp. 3-25)
    FRED WILSON

    The position is often stated that Hume’s discussion of miracles is inconsistent with his views on the logical or ontological status of laws of nature and with his more general scepticism. Broad, for one, has so argued.¹ Hume’s views on induction are assumed to go something like this. Any attempt to demonstrate knowledge of matters of fact presupposes causal reasoning, but causal reasoning is based not on any perception of necessary connections but on an unreasoned expectation that because events have been constantly conjoined in the past, they will be constantly conjoined in the future. The fact that our past...

  5. 2 David Hume and the Miraculous
    (pp. 26-39)
    ROBERT LARMER

    In his discussion of the logic of probabilities in Hume’s argument against miracles (this volume, chap, 1), Fred Wilson attempts to refute the view that Hume’s discussion of miracles is inconsistent with his earlier discussions of induction and causality. Wilson finds it difficult to entertain this claim seriously, “since it is unlikely that a philosopher as careful as Hume would have failed to recognize the inconsistency if it existed,” and he argues that it rests upon a caricature of Hume’s views on causal reasoning. He feels that once Hume’s discussion of miracles is placed in the context of the overall...

  6. 3 Miracles and the Laws of Nature
    (pp. 40-49)
    ROBERT LARMER

    In discussing the relation between miracles and the laws of nature, it is essential to make clear the meaning of the terms “miracle” and “law of nature,” since both terms may be used in several different ways. I wish to begin, therefore, by briefly indicating how I use these terms. I shall then be in a position to discuss the relation between these particular concepts of miracles and the laws of nature.

    I use the term “miracler” to designate an objective event that is specially caused by God: it is an event that nature would not have produced had not...

  7. 4 Against Miracles
    (pp. 50-53)
    JOHN COLLIER

    Robert Larmer argues (this volume, chap. 3) that even if all physical events are subject to deterministic natural laws, miracles can occur. He concludes that the Humean argument that belief in miracles cannot be rationally justified - because belief that a miracle has occurred must inevitably conflict with belief in the laws of nature - is fallacious, since the occurrence of miracles need not violate the laws of nature.

    There are two problems with Larmer’s argument. The first, which I will deal with only briefly, concerns Larmer’s conclusion. Natural laws conceived (as Larmer does) as explanatory principles rather than observational...

  8. 5 Against “Against Miracles”
    (pp. 54-59)
    ROBERT LARMER

    In chapter 4 John Collier attempts to refute the claim I made in chapter 3 that miracles can conceivably occur in a world that behaves completely in accordance with the laws of nature. I wish, briefly, to give my reasons for thinking he fails.

    His first objection seems to be that I have misunderstood Hume’s argument. I find this criticism puzzling, since I do not mention Hume until the last paragraph of chapter 3 and then only to say that “since Hume, a major objection to the claim that there could be a rationally justified belief in the occurrence of...

  9. 6 Miracles and Conservation Laws
    (pp. 60-68)
    NEIL W. MacGILL

    In his bookWater into Wine?,Robert Larmer argues that miracles, even defined as involving changes in the normal course of events in the universe caused by transcendent agents, do not, or at least do not necessarily, involve events that violate the true laws of nature.¹

    In making this claim, he points out the distinction that is often drawn in the explanation of a particular event between the relevant laws of nature and the statement of the initial conditions, of the “actual stuff of nature,” as he puts it, that must be true if the laws are to apply to...

  10. 7 Miracles and Conservation Laws: A Reply to MacGill
    (pp. 69-75)
    ROBERT LARMER

    My purpose in this chapter is to reply to Professor MacGill’s criticisms of my views on miracles (this volume, chap. 6). I shall begin by discussing what I take to be his central objection and then move on to consider his subsidiary objections.

    He is quite right to point out that my argument that a miracle need not be conceived as violating any of the laws of nature depends upon drawing a distinction between the laws of nature and the stuff of nature, the behaviour of which the laws describe. As I argued in chapter 3 of this book, we...

  11. 8 Miracles and Criteria
    (pp. 76-82)
    ROBERT LARMER

    Commentators sometimes object that although the concept of miracle may be logically coherent,¹ and although there may be extraordinary occurrences that one might be tempted to call “miracles,” one must never actually do so, since this would impose arbitrary limits on what is scientifically explicable. Guy Robinson, in developing this objection, writes:

    notice what would happen to the scientist if he allowed himself to employ the concept of an irregularity in nature or of a miracle in relation to his work. He would be finished as a scientist ... To do this would be simply to resign, to opt out,...

  12. 9 Miracles and Naturalistic Explanations
    (pp. 83-87)
    DAVID BASINGER

    In chapter 8, Robert Larmer attacks the contention that “it is always more rational to believe that an event could be explained naturalistically, if only we had the requisite scientific knowledge, than to believe that a miracle has occurred.” It is perfectly justifiable, he acknowledges, to seek initially for a naturalistic explanation for a physical event. And it is logically possible that some revision of scientific law might enable us some day to offer a naturalistic explanation for any given event that cannot presently be explained naturalistically. But it is also logically possible, he continues, that no revision would enable...

  13. 10 Miracles and Naturalistic Explanations: A Rejoinder
    (pp. 88-92)
    ROBERT LARMER

    In the last chapter, David Basinger takes issue with a claim I advanced in chapter 8, where I attacked the view that it is always more rational to believe that an event could be explained naturalistically, if only we had the requisite scientific knowledge, than to believe that a miracle has occurred. In its place I advanced the counterclaim that only a dogmatic and uncritical assumption that nature is in fact an isolated system can explain the insistence of some thinkers that, no matter what the event and no matter what the context in which it occurs, it is always...

  14. 11 Miracles as Evidence for Theism
    (pp. 93-95)
    DAVID BASINGER

    In our ongoing dialogue in this volume, Robert Larmer and I have been discussing whether the undisputed occurrence of certain conceivable events would require all honest, thoughtful individuals to acknowledge that God has supernaturally intervened in earthly affairs. The test case in question is that of a healer of exemplary character with a remarkable ability to cure any type of disease or injury. As Larmer sees it, to hold out for a totally naturalistic explanation in this case would be uncritical, dogmatic, and question-begging. The most rational response would be to acknowledge God’s interventive activity.

    I initially pointed out in...

  15. 12 Miracles, Evidence, and Theism: A Further Apologia
    (pp. 96-100)
    ROBERT LARMER

    David Basinger’s argument in chapter 11 reveals that we have made some progress in our ongoing discussion of miracles and their relation to the laws of nature and theistic belief. I hope the present chapter will either resolve or further narrow our disagreement.

    I do not wish to nitpick, but it is important to note that Basinger’s characterization of our discussion is not entirely accurate. He suggests that we “have been discussing whether the undisputed occurrence of certain conceivable events would require all honest, thoughtful individuals to acknowledge that God has supernaturally intervened in earthly affairs.”But my original discussion (chapter...

  16. 13 Authenticating Biblical Reports of Miracles
    (pp. 101-120)
    PHILLIP WIEBE

    The historical authenticity of the biblical reports of miracles has often been advanced by experts and lay apologists alike on the ground that the Bible has been shown to be correct on matters that admit of external support, such as the support coming from independent historical documentation and archaeological discoveries. The reports of miraculous incidents have been viewed as gaining substantial credence from the fact that the biblical writers have been found to be accurate in their reports of ordinary historical events. These are not the only grounds, of course, on which the authenticity of such reports has been defended,...

  17. 14 Miracles and Testimony: A Reply to Wiebe
    (pp. 121-131)
    ROBERT LARMER

    In chapter 13, Phillip Wiebe attacks the argument that the biblical reports of miracles gain substantial credence from the fact that the biblical writers have been found to be accurate in their reports of ordinary historical events. His method is to demonstrate, both by informal arguments from analogy and formal arguments based on confirmation theory, that accurate propositions concerning ordinary events in no way imply or render plausible the accuracy of statements concerning extraordinary events. I am not persuaded, however, that he has done justice to the argument he is attacking.

    First, even without diagnosing precisely where it goes wrong,...

  18. 15 Miracles as Evidence Against the Existence of God
    (pp. 132-139)
    CHRISTINE OVERALL

    Most recent discussions of the concept of miracle have concentrated mainly on the relationship between miracles and scientific laws.¹ As a result, I believe, there has been far too little attention paid to the alleged evidential connections between the existence of miracles and the existence of God.

    One reason, presumably, that some philosophers and theologians have traditionally been interested in miracles is that it is assumed that their existence would be evidence - probably conclusive evidence - for the existence of God.² (And here, by “God,” I mean the God of Christianity; in John Hick’s definition, “the infinite, eternal, uncreated,...

  19. 16 Miracles and the Existence of God: A Reply
    (pp. 140-146)
    ROBERT LARMER

    In chapter 15, Christine Overall suggests that “there has been far too little attention paid to the alleged evidential connections between the existence of miracles and the existence of God.” She goes on to develop the startling thesis that any event we might be prepared to call a miracle would be evidenceagainstthe existence of God. Rejecting the view that to call an event a miracle is, by definition, to say that God exists, she goes on to urge that if the theist believes that the regularity and harmony of the universe constitute evidence for God’s existence, he can...

  20. Contributors
    (pp. 147-148)
  21. Index
    (pp. 149-151)