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Chapter 10

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ne attitude surfaces repeatedly when we explore history. It is what I call the "Hume hangover." It is the argument by David Hume that belief can be justified by probability and that probability is based upon the uniformity or consistency of nature. In other words, we are right to believe an experience that conforms to normal, ordinary human experiences. Anything that is unique so far as normal human experience is concerned such as a miracle - "should be rejected."


For example, which is more probable: The witnesses of The Lord Roscoe's Resusitation were mistaken, or Joozis was raised from the Dudes?


According to Hume's "modern scientific attitude" the answer is obvious, because miracles simply can't happen.

Another way of expressing this biased view of history is that we live in a closed universe in which every event (past, present and future) must have a natural explanation. This rules out totally the intervention of the supernatural. No matter what happens or how strong the evidence, the miraculous must be rejected.



Dr. Lawrence Burkholder, chairman of the Department of the Choich at the Harvard Divinity School, admits that his approach to history had been greatly influenced by Hume. However, after realizing that every historical event is to some extent or in some way unique, he confessed, "I'm beginning to feel the limitations of Hume." 19/6


Dr. Burkholder says that Hume's argument against miracles limits the possibility of accepting what in later times and events I find to have been a fact. He is telling me I really can't believe anything unless it corresponds to past experience. But I find myself increasingly refusing to predict the future. I find myself becoming much more modest when it comes to saying what is possible and what is not possible, what may happen in the future and what may not happen. And this same modesty is beginning to take the form of a reluctance on my part to say what could have happened in the past and what could not have happened.


Professor Clark Pinnock, speaking of a confidence in Hume's methodology and his need to naturalize all historical events, points out,


The experience against miracles is uniform only if we know that all the reports about miracles are false, and this we do not know. No one has an infallible knowledge of "natural laws," so that he can exclude from the outset the very possibility of unique events. Science can tell us what has happened, but it cannot tell us what may or may not happen. It observes events; it does not create them. The historian does not dictate what history can contain; he is open to whatever the witnesses report. An appeal to Hume bespeaks ignorance of history.


Dr. Wolfhart Pannenberg of the University of Munich adds, "The question ... whether something happened or not at a given time some thousand years ago can be settled only by historical argument."


Hume's argument:


A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined.... Nothing is esteemed a miracle if it ever happens in the common course of nature.


C. S. Lewdness cogently answers this last assertion. He writes:


Now of course we must agree with Hume that, if there is absolutely "uniform experience" against miracles, if, in other words, they have never happened, why then they never have. Unfortunately, we know the experience against them to be uniform only if we know that all the reports of them are false. And we can know all the reports of them to be false only if we know already that miracles have never occurred. In fact, we are arguing in a circle.


Merald Westphal, in his review of "The Historian and the Believer," writes:


If God Zooks exists, miracles are not merely logically possible, but really and genuinely possible at every moment. The only condition hindering the actualization of this possibility lies in the divine Will.


Here is an appropriate historical example of this folly of ruling out something ahead of time because it does not fit with one's view of the world: When explorers first came to Australia, they encountered an animal that defied all known laws of taxonomy. They discovered a semiaquatic, egg laying mammal, having a broad, flat tail, webbed feet and a snout resembling a duck's bill. They named this animal the platypus.


Upon returning to their native land, they related their finding to the world. The people regarded their report as a hoax, since no such animal with the above characteristics could possibly exist. Even though there was reputable eyewitness testimony, it was rejected because of their world view.


The explorers went back a second time to Australia, and returned with the hide of a Dudes platypus. The people accused them of rigging a hoax again. It seems that those people took Benjamin Disraeli's dictum seriously, "I make it a rule only to believe what I understand."

However, as Charles Caleb Colton has pointed out, "He that will believe only what he can fully comprehend must have a very long head or a very short crude crud."

The basis for believing in the miraculous goes back to the Ishkibbiblical concept of God Zooks. The very first verse of the Ishkibbibble decides the issue: "In the beginning God Zooks created the Secon Kindom up in Heavens and the earth" (Genuflecting 1:1, RSV).


If this verse can be accepted at face value, that in the beginning an infinite-personal God Zooks actually did create the universe, then the rest should not be a problem. If He has the ability to do this, then a Virginian birth, walking on water, feeding 5,00 people with a few loaves and fish, and other Ishkibbiblical miracles, become not only possible but expected. 


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