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Evidence and Miracles

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  • Evidence and Miracles

    Does Hume have a good argument against miracles?



    Can there ever be sufficient evidence for a miracle? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    I saw someone recently post something on Facebook critiquing Hume’s argument against miracles. In a comments section, the part being discussed was the idea that no amount of testimony would be sufficient to establish a miracle and a wise man always goes with the evidence. This is similar to the kind of argument that Ehrman has given against miracles.

    At this, a question must be asked. Is the person really saying that no amount of evidence could ever confirm a miracle? Does this sound ridiculous to you? I wish it was, but unfortunately, a number of atheists have made statements about what they would consider to be sufficient for a miracle.

    In A Manual For Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian has said that if we all went outside one day and saw all the stars align to spell something like “I am YHWH. Believe in me”, that that could be suggestive. He does not rule out that we could be experiencing a mass delusion though.

    Or consider Jerry Coyne:

    “The following (and admittedly contorted) scenario would give me tentative evidence for Christianity. Suppose that a bright light appeared in the heavens, and, supported by winged angels, a being clad in a white robe and sandals descended onto my campus from the sky, accompanied by a pack of apostles bearing the names given in the Bible. Loud heavenly music, with the blaring of trumpets, is heard everywhere. The robed being, who identifies himself as Jesus, repairs to the nearby university hospital and instantly heals many severely afflicted people, including amputees. After a while Jesus and his minions, supported by angels ascend back into the sky with another chorus of music. The heavens swiftly darken, there are flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, and in an instant the sky is clear. If this were all witnessed by others and documented by video, and if the healings were unexplainable but supported by testimony from multiple doctors, and if all the apparitions and events conformed to Christian theology—then I’d have to start thinking seriously about the truth of Christianity.” Faith vs. Fact p. 118-119

    Note the wording here. Coyne would say he has “tentative evidence” and only then would he have to start thinking about the serious truth of Christianity. In both of these cases, none of this would count as sufficient evidence. If this was not sufficient for something, one has to wonder what would be sufficient.

    So what if Hume does say no amount of evidence will ever establish a miracle? Then we have a sort of presuppositional argument going on. It is decided whatever the evidence is, the evidence is insufficient. Now if that is your position, why bother studying something like the historical evidence for Christianity? Why bother listening to a case? Why should a Christian even bother giving a case?

    So then, if no amount of evidence is sufficient, then the evidence really isn’t the problem. If your position will not be changed by evidence, then your position is not really based on evidence. It’s based on a prior commitment.

    And what if evidence can be sufficient?

    Then Hume’s argument fails again. On the one hand, we have an argument that doesn’t work if there can be sufficient evidence. If there can’t be, then we have an argument that has just begged the question. Either way, it doesn’t work.

    Now does this mean a miracle has occurred or Christianity is true or Jesus rose from the dead or God exists? No. Those have to be established on their own. It does mean the position given is insufficient to argue against miracles. Defenders of miracles will have to be ready with the evidence to establish them, but if the skeptic says no amount of evidence will be sufficient, there is no use trying.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters
    (And I affirm the virgin birth)

  • #2
    Some years ago when I was teaching on the Gospel of John, going through John 9, I dealt with the issue, "How Can the Works of God be Made Through Tragedy". One part of my handout had the heading, "God Is Still In The Business of Working Miracles!" One member of the class, a cessationist, disagreed with the topic. The theme was, How Does God Work These Tragedies To His Glory?"

    I gave the illustration of an event that took place in October, 2004 in a wooded area not far from Seattle, Washington. The incident involved something well beyond any probability, but nothing in the sense of supernatural, or anything violating the laws of physics. A skeptic group (I think it was CSICOP) later investigated the incident and concluded that there was no evidence of anything supernatural. Of course not.

    Below is a quote from the Associated Press:

    Teen found alive in wrecked car 8 days after crash
    Associated Press
    Oct. 11, 2004 05:40 PM
    SEATTLE - After eight days, Laura Hatch's family had almost given the 17-year-old up for dead, and sheriff's deputies had all but written her off as a runaway. Then she was found, badly hurt and severely dehydrated, but alive and conscious, in the back seat of a crumpled car, 200 feet down a ravine.

    A volunteer searcher who said she had had several vivid dreams of a wooded area found the wrecked car in the trees Sunday.

    Hatch, who remained hospitalized Monday in serious condition, was last seen at a party on Oct. 2. When she did not show up by the next day, her family filed a missing person's report.

    The initial search was slowed because there had been underage drinking at the party, and the young people who attended would not say where it had been held, sheriff's Sgt. John Urquhart said.

    On Oct. 6, detectives learned the party had been in a neighborhood east of Lake Washington and searched along her likely route home, Urquhart said. But prospects dimmed as the days passed.

    "We had already given her up and let her be dead in our hearts," her mother, Jean Hatch, told KOMO-TV.

    Urquhart noted that in 24 years with the department, he had never known of a person to survive eight days without food or water. He said an investigation into the accident was under way.

    During the search, a statewide bulletin was released and advisories were sent to local police agencies. But Urquhart said family and friends indicated "the most likely scenario was that she was a runaway."

    Hatch's parents organized a volunteer search on Saturday, and that night Sha Nohr, a church member and mother of a friend of Hatch's, said she had dreams of a wooded area and heard the message, "Keep going, keep going."

    On Sunday morning, Nohr and her daughter drove to the area where the crash occurred, praying along the way. "I just thought, 'Let her speak out to us,' " Nohr told The Seattle Times.

    Nohr said something drew her to stop and clamber over a concrete barrier and more than 100 feet down a steep, densely vegetated embankment where she barely managed to discern the wrecked Toyota Camry in some trees.

    She called to her daughter, who flagged down a passing motorist. The man helped Nohr get closer to the car as aid was summoned.

    "I told her that people were looking for her and they loved her," Nohr recalled, "and she said, 'I think I might be late for curfew.' "

    Hatch was being treated at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for dehydration, a blood clot on the brain, and broken bones in her face, hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg-Hanson said.

    "She's a little bit confused. That's really standard course for what she's been through," Gregg-Hanson said. "I think everybody thinks it's an amazing story that she's doing as well as she is."

    A call Monday to the family home in Redmond was answered by one of Hatch's sisters, who declined comment.

    "We were afraid that we weren't going to find her, we weren't going to get her back," Hatch's other sister, Amy, told KING-TV in Seattle. "This is the best thing that could happen because there were a million awful scenarios."
    From the Seattle Times, October 12, 2004:

    Dehydration likely helped teen survive in car
    By Michael Burnham and Ashley Bach
    Seattle Times Eastside bureau

    Dehydration probably saved Laura Hatch's life.

    The 17-year-old Redmond High School junior sat in a crumpled car for up to eight days, while a blood clot formed near her brain and her body ran dry. But the lack of water deprived the clot of the moisture it would have needed to expand, allowing her to survive, her doctor said.

    Mild weather, the shelter created by the car and Hatch's youth also gave her crucial advantages, said Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, the chief of neurosurgery at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where she was taken for treatment after being found off Northeast Union Hill Road on Sunday.

    "She's in pretty miraculous shape considering what she's been through," Ellenbogen said. "She dehydrated herself even to a point beyond what we could do with medicines."

    Her car sailed 150 feet down an embankment on Union Hill Road outside Redmond, and it appears she was stuck there for days before being found, Ellenbogen said. Yet her only other major injuries were broken bones in her face, and she has been alert enough to joke about missing curfew and being grounded by her parents.

    Hatch was still in serious condition at Harborview yesterday, and her injuries remained life-threatening, Ellenbogen said. Doctors hadn't decided whether she will need surgery for the blood clot or broken bones.

    "She shouldn't be alive," said her sister, Amy Hatch. "She's been to hell and back."

    Laura Hatch was found by a family friend who said a God-given vision led her to the girl's car, which was obscured by vegetation and could not be seen from the road. Hatch was discovered unconscious in the back seat, her eyes swollen shut by her injuries.

    She had been missing since the evening of Oct. 2, when she was last seen leaving a party east of Redmond, police said. Over the next week, her family and friends at Creekside Covenant Church organized hundreds of volunteers to search local streets and spread the word.

    Yesterday, neon-yellow signs could still be seen on telephone poles in downtown Redmond, reading, "Laura, Come Home, We (Love) You!"

    "We as her family do feel that (God) is what led her to be found," Amy Hatch said. "We have to believe because it defied logic to everyone —— especially the doctors —— that she was able to survive without water for that length of time."

    King County sheriff's detectives investigated Hatch's disappearance last week, but based on undisclosed evidence, they thought she was a runaway, said sheriff's spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart. They searched along Northeast Novelty Hill Road early last week, because that's near the site of the party she attended, but no other sites.

    They also sent Hatch's description and license-plate number to police agencies across the state. Detectives didn't think any criminal acts were involved in the teen's disappearance, and her status as a possible runaway did nothing to limit possible searches, Urquhart said.

    "Had we any indication that she was at a specific location, we would have looked for her there. ... We did everything we could," Urquhart said.

    Unanswered questions remain about Hatch's disappearance. Police can't confirm how long she was stranded, and evidence at the scene does not help, Urquhart said.

    Hatch remembers nothing about how the car crashed or how she spent her time stranded in the car, Dr. Ellenbogen said.

    She told fire rescuers she climbed in and out of the car at least once, and she had mud on her clothing, said Redmond fire Capt. Rob Torrey. She also believed she was stranded for only one night, Ellenbogen said, an apparent result of her head injuries.

    It did not appear that Hatch had worn a seat belt during the crash, and she probably was thrown into the back of the car, Torrey said.

    At Redmond High School yesterday, officials announced Hatch's rescue on the intercom, just as they had announced her disappearance last week, students said.

    "I'm really glad that she's OK," said Eunice Yoon, a junior who knew Hatch.

    "She's not the kind of person who would run away," she added.

    Randy Phillips, Hatch's pastor, said her rescue was the result of prayer, from the show of strength by her family, the support of the congregation and her discovery by the family friend, Sha Nohr.

    "It's obvious that prayer affected the quality of relationships here —— and it also affected the outcome," Phillips said.

    Union Hill Road, where the crash occurred, is two lanes as it climbs steeply from downtown Redmond and is remarkable for its steep turns and general lack of side rails.

    Ellenbogen said he was amazed at Hatch's condition after such dire circumstances.

    "There's certainly things that not even physicians can explain," he said. "I'll just leave it at that."

    Michael Burnham: 206-464-2243 or
    Seattle Times staff reporter Natalie Singer contributed to this report.
    Copyright 2004 The Seattle Times Company
    From KOMO-TV:

    KOMO : 'Just Keep Going...''Just Keep Going...'
    October 11, 2004
    By Michelle Esteban

    REDMOND - She survived a horrible car crash, a tumble down a 200-foot ravine and no food or water for 8 days.

    If that wasn't enough, 17-year-old Laura Hatch is also alive because of a dream.

    "I thought, 'I have to go look, I can't live with myself if I don't."

    Sha Nohr's search for Laura Hatch, began with a picture. It's Sha's daughter Bethann with Laura.

    The night before her dream, Sha's daughter was upset and feeling helpless -- it had been 8 days since Laura disappeared.

    Sha emailed friends asking them to pray, then went to bed.

    "I just kept having this dream about this one intersection," she said.

    Sha thought it was crazy and chalked the dream up to being tired and worried about her daughter. But the dream came back.

    "The dream was this little rabbit, like the one in Alice in Wonderland and it kept saying, 'keep going, keep going, keep going.' "

    On Sunday morning, Sha knew she had to go looking for Laura. She and her daughter parked above a steep ravine in Redmond. They kept walking and looking, but nothing. She was ready to give up, but her daughter said something she heard in her dream.

    "Just keep going, keep going," Nohr remembers Bethann saying.

    She hadn't told her daughter that part of the dream. So Sha kept going.

    Then, she noticed a patch of trees were sheared off, and went for a closer look.

    "When I walked around the trees there was the car, my heart just started beating, I screamed up Bethann, 'Call 911! This is the car!"

    Laura was alive, the yelling woke her up, she was asleep in the back seat.

    "It was second only to when they brought her off the hill and her mom and dad were with her, that moment was more like that moment your children are born, just breathless, that moment you can't explain," says Nohr.

    The first thing Laura said, was "I'm going to get in trouble, I've missed my curfew." She thought she had been stranded in her car for only one day.

    Monday, Laura's doctor said she's improving, but remains in serious condition. Laura has a blood clot in her head, facial lacerations and broken ribs. She's talking to her family. Her doctor says 8 days without water was a good thing. It's how he says you treat blood clots in the head.
    From the Evangelical Covenant Church:

    Youth Rescued After 8 Days Trapped in Car
    - Evangelical Covenant Church
    REDMOND, WA (October 11, 2004) - A 17-year-old youth from Creekside Covenant Church was listed in serious condition this morning after her miraculous rescue from her damaged automobile, where she had been trapped for more than a week.

    Laura Hatch had been missing since October 2, last seen in Redmond around 11 p.m., according to an Associated Press (AP) report. Police had not conducted an official search, according to Sgt. John Urquhart, spokesperson for the King County Sheriff's Department who was quoted in the Associated Press story.

    The parents had hired a private investigator and a search on Saturday, involving some 200 church volunteers organized by the family, proved unsuccessful. One Creekside member, however, reportedly awakened Sunday morning sensing an urgent need to search for the girl, telling reporters she had vivid dreams during the night of a wooded area with the message, "Keep going, keep going." Sha Nohr and her daughter drove to an area along Northeast Union Hill Road where the crash occurred, praying as they went that they would be led to the correct location. She told the AP that "something drew her to clamber over a concrete barrier and more than 100 feet down a steep, densely vegetated embankment where she barely managed to discern the wrecked car in some trees." A passing motorist was flagged down and help was summoned.

    The young woman was trapped without food or water. The sheriff's deputy said he does not know how she survived. She was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, dehydrated but with no serious injuries, Urquhart reported, and was listed in serious condition Sunday evening. More than 100 friends from Creekside joined in a time of celebration Sunday evening – a service that had originally been scheduled as a prayer vigil on Laura's behalf.

    More information will be posted to this online Evangelical Covenant Church news report at as it becomes available.

    Copyright July 29, 2008
    The Evangelical Covenant Church.
    5101 N Francisco Ave., Chicago IL 60625.
    laura hatch 2.jpglaura hatch 1.jpg

    2002059402.jpg Laura Hatch
    2002060011.jpg Sha Noor
    2002060366.jpg Accident site,
    Last edited by Faber; 11-30-2020, 06:20 PM.


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