Christian Apologetics - Lesson 20

Introduction to Miracles

Miracles are a dividing line and central to Christianity.

Ronald Nash
Christian Apologetics
Lesson 20
Watching Now
Introduction to Miracles


Part 1

I.  Introduction

A.  Miracles are a dividing line.

B.  Miracles are central to Christianity.

C.  Overview of Four Chapters

D.  Journal Article

  • Introduction to Apologetics.

  • Apologetics involves finding evidence and presenting arguments to defend the Christian faith.

  • Two prominent worldviews are Christian theism and naturalism.

  • The law of non-contradiction states that A cannot be B and non-B at the same time and in the same sense.

  • Explanations and responses to different worldviews.

  • If God is good and all powerful, then why does evil exist?

  • Discussion about how the existence of evil is consistent with God's character.

  • Your noetic structure, presuppositions and view of epistemology are important elements in the formation of your worldview.

  • Discussion of deductive presuppositionalism vs. inductive presuppositionalism.

  • Objections to inductive presuppositionalism.

  • Arguments for and against evidentialism.

  • Arguments for and against foundationalism.

  • Discussion of natural theology.

  • There are valid, sound and cogent arguments for the existence of God, but no coercive proofs.

  • Discussion of different arguments for God's existence.

  • One version of the cosmological argument for God's existence emphasizes God as first in time, another emphasizes God as first in importance.

  • A possible world is a way the real world could have been. Modal logic, propositions, state of affairs and eternal entities are some of the considerations when discussing a possible world.

  • Something is logically possible if its description does not include a logical contradiction. The existence of the laws of knowledge refute the system of naturalism.

  • Middle knowledge is a form of knowledge attributed to God by Molina.

  • Miracles are a dividing line and central to Christianity.

  • David Hume's rational arguments against miracles and responses to those arguments.

  • Two miracles central to Christianity are the incarnation and resurrection.

  • The question of whether or not Jesus is the only savior touches on pluralism, inclusivism and exclusivism.

  • Pluralism is the view that all religions have salvific value.

  • Inclusivism is the view that even though the work of Christ is the only means of salvation, it does not follow that explicit knowledge of Christ is necessary in order for a person to be saved.

  • Salvation is totally the work of God and all children who die in infancy are elect of God.

  • Discussion from a biblical perspective of God's character and attributes.

  • Open theists believe that God does not have a perfect knowledge of the future.

  • Divine omnipotence and divine omniscience are two attributes of God.

  • When contemplating life after death, remember, Jesus has been there and come back. Will you commit your life to him or reject him?

These lectures were given at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida during the fall of 2001.


Dr. Ronald Nash

Christian Apologetics


Introduction to Miracles

Lesson Transcript


[00:00:01] Let's talk about miracles. You know as well as I do that one of the great dividing lines between biblical Christianity and liberalism is one is one's stance on miracles, You know, is also that I go up to Louisville, Kentucky, quite often, and I teach at the New Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville. And the reason we call it the New Southern Baptist Seminary is we finally got rid of all the liberals up there and I mean it for 20, 25 years. They had faculty at Southern Baptist Seminary who denied miracles all over the place. They denied that Jesus was the only savior. I mean, this was a hotbed of liberalism, and they're gone. All right. They've now gone to Baylor University or some of these other liberal Southern Baptist places. So miracles is a dividing line. If people don't believe in the possibility of miracles. You listen to me. There is no biblical way. No way in the biblical sense of the word that they can ever become a Christian. Because Scripture makes it clear that you cannot be a born again child of God unless you understand and believe that Jesus is the Son of God. And that's the incarnation. That if thou shall confess with I mouth Jesus as Lord, and shall be leaving thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead. Thou shalt be say, okay now. Let us. Let's. Let's just give. Let me give you a quick scan of the four chapters. Say a little bit about each of them, and then we'll focus our attention after this brief scan. Well, I'll say most of my I'll most of the things I'm going to say about David HUME and his famous attack on miracles.


[00:02:17] And I'll show you that even though most anti Christians believe that David HUME refuted. The reasonableness of any believe in miracles. But he didn't. And I'll try to show you why. I'm also. Then spend the next a big chunk of time on chapter 19. And I'll be talking about the two indispensable miracles for the Christian faith, the Incarnation, and the resurrection. And most of that will not be new to you. But I do think I can help give you some some ways of presenting that material to people. And then as time permits, we'll make some other comments. Okay. First of all, just an overview of Chapter 16. David HUME wrote a book. David HUME was a very important Scottish thinker. He died in 1776. Born in 1711. And his name has popped up already in this course. We looked the other day at his criticisms of one version of the cosmological argument. In my book, The Word of God in the Mind of Man, which many of you read in the book. And with respect to the course in the history of philosophy, I point out that David HUME really wasn't an atheist. He certainly was not and could not be a Christian in the biblical sense of the word. But he did believe in God. And he is often credited with having refuted the possibility of miracles. But the truth is he didn't. As I'll come back and explain, I suppose one reason I'm fascinated with David HUME is because the first time I visited Edinburgh, Scotland, and we were there on preaching missions throughout the British Isles. The fellow who was my guide and my music director and he shared the speaking with me on occasion. He he gave me a guided church history tour of Edinburgh.


[00:04:27] It's just a fascinating, magnificent city. Although I guess the crime rate is up quite a bit. But in the course of our journey around Edinburgh, he took me to David Hume's grave. At that time, I hadn't heard of David HUME. I was only 20 year old kid and still hadn't taken my first philosophy course. And it was a fascinating visit because David HUME was buried in a very interesting kind of mausoleum right next to a statue of Abraham Lincoln. So when I years later, took my family to Scotland for the first time. 1977. I guess that's what I'm going to guess 77. I hunted high and low for David Hume's grave. I was in the wrong cemetery. But we finally, you know, I wanted my children to see the grave of David HUME. And they said, Who the heck is David HUME? I said, Well, I'll tell you when we get home. And my daughter said, You've seen one grave. You've seen them all. That was my daughter gets very irritated when I Delaware. She also said, when you've seen one castle, you've seen them all. When you've seen one cathedral, you've seen them all day. Okay, first time I took world lit in college, and that was a course that probably doesn't exist anymore because all of the postmodernists who now teach literature courses say why talk about people like David HUME and Plato? Because they're all dead white European males. Let's read let's read the writings of people that no one has ever heard before. And they do. They do. So you read writings from people who've never published anything, I suppose. But you don't read David HUME. Well, in that particular case, the literature text, you know, gave you snippets from all of the great authors and the snippet from the little excerpt that we read from David HUME was from his essay on human understanding, and it was his essay Against miracles.


[00:06:38] Now, the function of Chapter 16 in our course is this It answers the question Are miracles possible? And there are two grounds upon which various people try to argue that miracles are impossible, and that is that they are scientifically impossible. Well, that's. No, let's that's basically it. I was going to say that they're also philosophically impossible, but whatever philosophers say about the alleged impossibility of miracles, it is all designed to show you that people who recognize that we live in a scientific universe can't accept the possibility of miracles. So that's in chapter 16. There's also some of that. Let's also add Chapter 17 there, because that also deals with the same basic issue. I argue, as you should be prepared to argue that nobody. Has ever offered a successful argument that proves that miracles are impossible, that miracles cannot happen. David HUME didn't do it. Various philosophers making appeals to science, they haven't done it. Okay, Now, in chapter 19, once you establish the fact that miracles are possible because nobody has ever proven their impossibility. Chapter 19 asks, Are miracles actual have any important and relevant and significant miracles really happened? And the two miracles that we deal with in chapter 19 are the incarnation and the resurrection, the two miracles of all of all of the rest, upon which the Christian faith is based. Now the discussions in Chapter 16 and 17 deal with philosophy, even though. The scientific, the scientific possibility or impossibility is the topic. This is philosophy. When you get down here to chapter 19 and the issue are miracles actual. That's a matter of history. So it is one thing to show that miracles are possible. It is another thing to show or to present a case that argues that certain miracles really have happened.


[00:09:04] Okay. Now, chapter 18 is a chapter that we've we've really talked about on and off throughout this course. It's the subject of miracles and worldviews, miracles and worldviews. I said to you the very first day we met or the second time we met, that the reason why some people don't believe that miracles can happen. Is not because they're smarter than anybody else is not because they're better educated than anyone else. It's because their worldview won't allow them to believe in miracles and the dominant world view. That enslaves people. That blinds people to the possibility. And the actuality of miracles is naturalism. And what I give you in chapter 18 is the definitive refutation of naturalism as a worldview. If the reason why people reject miracles is because they're naturalists and we can successfully disprove naturalism. We have kept the possibility of miracles open. And I've already given you that argument on several occasions. In fact, I gave it to you last week or last week in the context of the possible world's language. Now. And this is the only other thing I'm going to say about worldviews and naturalism and so on. The stuff from Chapter 18, you can read that for yourself. I just came across an incredible journal article that you must access. I forgot to bring it yesterday. I forgot to bring it today. But I can give you the the internet home page w w w file on line dot com. Now, Firewall is the title of a humanist philosophy journal. It's it's pretty impressive journal. Yeah, it was last year in the case of one of my Ph.D. seminars in Louisville that I downloaded an article from this magazine, and I distributed it to all of my Ph.D. students to show them.


[00:11:36] That this is the best of humanistic scholarship against theism. And it it was it was a horrible article. I just sat back and let my PhD students shoot it down. I mean, it was so bad, but there's a newish there's a new article that's out in the current issue of Final. Now, let me tell you the meaning of the word final. This is the name of a hero to humanists. But it is not the Jewish Philo who died in 50 A.D. that this journal is named after. It is a fictitious character who appears in one of David Hume's writings. It's called Dialogs Concerning Natural Religion. And Thilo is the name of the imaginary person who is the arch skeptic in in that David HUME article. Now, if you go to that home site and can access the table of contents for the current issue of Thilo, and you then look down the table of contents to the very last issue, I've lost the name of the author and I've lost the title. Try to download it. Here's what you're going to find. There is a professional philosopher. I forget where he teaches. I forget his name. Whose article argues thusly. He is a naturalist. Okay. He's a naturalist. He's opposed to miracles. But he is. Now I've got to find the right word. He is. Frustrated and I think somewhat depressed that humanists have been getting beat up by theists. He says. I'm tired of going to professional philosophical meetings and slipping into sessions and watching us naturalists get our butts kicked. He's referring here to people like planning a. And William Alston and, you know, this whole large group of young Turks that have come out of the Ph.D. program in philosophy at Notre Dame, he's saying every time I hear a debate between a Christian and a naturalist, the Christian wipes out cleans our clock.


[00:14:04] If you read this, this is the impression I got. This is a Christian mohel faking it. Say. This is a Christian mole who's really trying to demoralize naturalists. And one of the one of these days he's going to come out of the closet and say that article was just a fake. But it isn't. He's really a naturalist. But here is what he says. We naturalists have got to go back to the beginning of naturalism and find where the where the track train left the tracks. All of our modern efforts to defend naturalism have failed. So we got to go back to the beginning. And you know who? You know the name of the guy? He suggests they go back to Democritus. Now, this is the this is the naturalist and the outermost Democritus who was alive when Socrates and Plato were alive and whose positions are, I think, refuted pretty effectively in chapter two of life's ultimate questions. So. If you can get a hold of that article and read it and sense the desperation to think that naturalists are ready to throw in the towel and try to go back to 400 B.C. and resurrect the naturalism of Democritus indicates how hopeless things are. Thank you for listening to this lecture. Brought to you by biblical training, dawg. Your prayers and financial support enable us to provide a biblical and theological education that all people around the world can access. Blessings. As you continue to study and live out your faith and as you grow in your relationship with the Lord.