Twenty Arguments for God – Nine – The Argument from Miracles

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 9:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#9

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

9. The Argument from Miracles

A miracle is an event whose only adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God.
There are numerous well-attested miracles.
Therefore, there are numerous events whose only adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God.
Therefore God exists.
Obviously if you believe that some extraordinary event is a miracle, then you believe in divine agency, and you believe that such agency was at work in this event. But the question is: Was this event a miracle? If miracles exist, then God must exist. But do miracles exist?

Which events do we choose? In the first place, the event must be extraordinary. But there are many extraordinary happenings (e.g., numerous stones dropping from the sky in Texas) that do not qualify as miracles. Why not? First, because they could be caused by something in nature, and second, because the context in which they occur is not religious. They qualify as mere oddities, as “strange happenings”; the sort of thing you might expect to read in Believe It or Not, but never hear about from the pulpit. Therefore the meaning of the event must also be religious to qualify as a miracle.
Suppose that a holy man had stood in the center of Houston and said: “My dear brothers and sisters! You are leading sinful lives! Look at yourselves—drunken! dissolute! God wants you to repent! And as a sign of his displeasure he’s going to shower stones upon you!” Then, moments later—thunk! thunk! thunk!—the stones began to fall. The word “miracle” might very well spring to mind.
Not that we would have to believe in God after witnessing this event. But still, if that man in Texas seemed utterly genuine, and if his accusations hit home, made us think “He’s right,” then it would be very hard to consider what happened a deception or even an extraordinary coincidence.
This means that the setting of a supposed miracle is crucially important. Not just the physical setting, and not just the timing, but the personal setting is vital as well—the character and the message of the person to whom this event is specially tied. Take, for example, four or five miracles from the New Testament. Remove them completely from their context, from the teaching and character of Christ. Would it be wrong to see their religious significance as thereby greatly diminished? After all, to call some happening a miracle is to interpret it religiously. But to interpret it that way demands a context or setting which invites such interpretation. And part of this setting usually, though not always, involves a person whose moral authority is first recognized, and whose religious authority, which the miracle seems to confirm, is then acknowledged.
Abstract discussions of probability usually miss this factor. But setting does play a decisive role. Many years ago, at an otherwise dull convention, a distinguished philosopher explained why he had become a Christian. He said: “I picked up the New Testament with a view to judging it, to weighing its pros and cons. But as I began to read, I realized that I was the one being judged.” Certainly he came to believe in the miracle-stories. But it was the character and teaching of Christ that led him to accept the things recounted there as genuine acts of God.
So there is not really a proof from miracles. If you see some event as a miracle, then the activity of God is seen in this event. There is a movement of the mind from this event to its proper interpretation as miraculous. And what gives impetus to that movement is not just the event by itself, but the many factors surrounding it which invite—or seem to demand—such interpretation.
But miraculous events exist. Indeed, there is massive, reliable testimony to them across many times, places and cultures.
Therefore their cause exists.
And their only adequate cause is God.
Therefore God exists.

There is a big issue with miracle claims, they tend to be anecdotal, poorly evidenced, believed only by those who are motivated to believe them and, most importantly, have alternative non miraculous explanations. That latter part is where the first sentence falls over. I do agree with the first sentence in that if the only explanation is the direct intervention of a god, then it’s a miracle. I challenge the use of the word adequate though, adequate by whose or by what standard? Also, with an incomplete knowledge of nature, it is entirely possible that an event which was previously considered to be a miracle is now successfully described naturally.

After the half hearted definition of miracle in the opening sentence, we get the completely unsupported claim that.

There are numerous well-attested miracles.

Since a miracle requires god, it must surely follow that well-attested miracles mean god is real. Which god though? This is the other problem with miracle claims, not only do you have to get past the issue of proving it’s a miracle, you then have to decide which of the myriad claimed deities is responsible for it. Or if you’re a catholic, which departed soul.

But the question is: Was this event a miracle? If miracles exist, then God must exist. But do miracles exist?

Good questions, important questions. We should check them out.

The next three paragraphs don’t provide any answer so I’ll skip on.

If you see some event as a miracle, then the activity of God is seen in this event.

I agree, but that is a belief position and not the sort of thing anyone should accept as proof.

But miraculous events exist. Indeed, there is massive, reliable testimony to them across many times, places and cultures.

Is reliable testimony better than adequate explanation? I’m not sure, neither sound convincing. Especially without specific references, which are not provided, they never are of course.

I strongly dispute the bold claim that miraculous events exist. There may be unexplained events, but does that make them miracles? I say not. The existence of a god is a very significant and important claim. If this claim is relying on alleged miracles for proof, then the claims need to be robust. Testimony is not a robust method of determining the accuracy of an event. Counterfeit miracle claims exist and many a believer has been fooled into arguing for their veracity. The Christian god is also not the only one credited with doing the miraculous, which creates a very unfortunate problem for the author. Should those other deities be accepted on the claims of those other miracles? We don’t need him to come here and answer, we know he’ll not accept those as proof for those other claimed gods.

Which tells us something very important about how he values miracle claims.

And their only adequate cause is God.
Therefore God exists.

It’s a slam dunk folks, just believe it and it’s true. This argument must surely be the worst one yet! Assert something is true, assert it means your god exists, assert that therefore your god exists! The invisible pink unicorn will be proud, blessed be its shadow.