Wednesday, August 17, 2011

You Saw Whom Yesterday?

by Kenneth W. Hawthorne
No matter how much integrity a person has, it is not sufficient to prove a miracle claim. It is much more likely that the person claiming he witnessed a miraculous event had an error in judgment, is kidding, or even lying than that a miracle actually occurred. We believe this because, all around us all the time we see natural law taking place without  any interruption at all.

If a man tells me he saw Confederate General Robert E. Lee yesterday I immediately think he is either kidding me, that he is mistaken, or even possibly lying to me. For me to believe that he actually saw Robert E. Lee, in the flesh, the evidence would have to be of such an unequivocal, unimpeachable, convincing nature that I would have no choice but to believe it. No testimony even comes close to rising to that level. Whether it is testimony from a good friend from just yesterday about Robert E. Lee or much less from four anonymous writers from 2000 years ago about a man coming back to life after being dead for about  three days.

The only rational way to evaluate claims that one has no firsthand knowledge of is to apply a rule of evidence that Carl Lofmark explained in What Is The Bible?:
When you lack evidence, the only way to decide whether or not to believe something is to ask: Is it likely? If you tell me a bird flew past my window, I will probably believe you, even though I did not see it myself and I have no evidence. That is because such a thing is likely. I have seen it happen before. It is more likely that a bird flew past my window, than that you are deceiving me. But if you tell me a pig flew past my window, I will not believe you, because my past experience tells me that such things do not happen, and so I presume that what you reported is false. Thus, where there is no evidence we have to rely on our own past experience of the sort of things that really happen (pp. 41-42).

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