As noted in last month’s article, I will be detailing important points from each chapter of Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Faith, in subsequent articles. These articles, by nature, are going to be a bit longer, so I’d grab a snack and some coffee or tea and get ready for some mental exercise!
OBJECTION #2: Since Miracles Contradict Science, They Cannot Be True
Lee Strobel continues his search for answers to eight of the most emotional objections to Christianity in his third interview and second chapter of The Case for Faith with William Lane Craig, PH.D. With the knowledge that some scientists agree that a total understanding of the universe is impending thus obliterating a belief in the supernatural, Strobel asks Craig, “How can a modern and rational person still believe in babies being born from virgins, people walking on water, and cadavers emerging alive from tombs?” Craig states that all of our questions don’t have to be answered in order to come to faith. In fact, the virgin birth was a “major stumbling block to [his] becoming a Christian.” He believes that if the evidence shows the existence of God to be true then it is okay to “believe and hope for answers in the long run.” He goes on to say that critical judgment does not have to be suspended to believe in the supernatural if a person does indeed believe in the existence of God. That judgment would naturally be suspended ONLY if a person does not believe in God. Craig reasons, “if there is a Creator who designed and brought the universe into being, who sustains its existence moment by moment, who is responsible for the very natural laws that govern the physical world, then certainly it’s rational to believe that the miraculous is possible.”
Before the interview goes further, Strobel and Craig agree on the definition of ‘miracle’ as: “an event which is not producible by the natural causes that are operative at the time and place that the event occurs.” Craig does not believe that miracles are contradictory to science. He explains that since “the goal of science is to seek natural explanations, miracles lie outside of the scientific realm.” He further explains that “natural laws assume that no other natural or supernatural factors are interfering with the operation that the law describes.” For instance, according to natural law, when oxygen and potassium combine, combustion occurs. He notes that human beings (which contain both oxygen and potassium) are not walking the streets erupting into flames like phoenixes because other factors are interfering. However, this is not a violation of the law. In other words, Craig is arguing that just as our bodies are not in violation of the aforementioned natural law, neither are miracles because the natural law excludes the interference of natural and supernatural factors. In an attempt to fully grasp Craig’s point, Strobel references an explanation of the law of gravity as cited in Christianity and the Nature of Science by J.P. Moreland, acclaimed philosopher. Moreland basically says that if an apple falls from a tree and someone is there to catch it, the law of gravity is not negated; rather, the person catching the apple is merely intervening. Craig concurs, “And that, essentially, is what God does when he causes a miracle to occur.”
Next, the two men tackle the Resurrection and the miraculous acts performed by Jesus during his time on Earth. They also touch upon purported miracles referenced by the Hadith, a book depicting Islamic tradition, as well as from the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith. Regarding the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Craig affirms, “There’s no contradiction between believing that men generally stay in their graves and that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead…The opposite of the statement that Jesus rose from the dead is not that all other men remained in their graves; it’s that Jesus of Nazareth remained in his grave…The hypothesis is God raised Jesus from the dead. That doesn’t say anything against the laws of nature, which say dead men don’t come back to life naturally.” He continues by asserting that “probability theorists say that you must weigh the improbability of the event’s occurring against the probability that the evidence would be just as it is if the event had not taken place…As improbable as the Resurrection might seem to skeptics, this has to be weighted against how improbable it would be to have all of the various historical evidence (the empty tomb, Jesus’ post resurrection appearances, the radical changes in the disciples) for its occurrence if it never actually took place.” Additionally, he notes that most critics today accept that the historical Jesus of Nazareth was a miracle-worker and exorcist. There is an abundance of data that supports the Resurrection of Jesus among his other miraculous feats, some of which are first generation written accounts from eyewitnesses.
The purported miracles recorded in the Hadith come hundreds of years after Muhammad’s life, thus are not even comparable to the Gospels. It is also important to note that Muhammad did not claim any of these “miracles” for himself. In regards to Mormonism, there is no archaeological evidence to substantiate Joseph Smith’s claims regarding the golden plates that were “supposedly taken to heaven and never seen again.”
Next, Strobel asks Craig for “solid reasons for believing in a divine Creator.” Craig answers with 5 reasons: 1. God makes sense of the universe’s origin, 2. God makes sense of the universe’s complexity, 3. God makes sense of objective moral values, 4. God makes sense of the Resurrection, and 5. God can immediately be experienced.
Reason#1: God Makes Sense of the Universe’s Origin:
Craig states that there “has to be a transcendent cause…which brought the universe into being.” He discredits the Big Bang Theory because it purports that nothing came from nothing. Craig summarizes his initial argument with three points: 1. whatever begins to exist has a cause, 2. the universe began to exist, 3. therefore, the universe has a cause. In its most basic explanation, Craig is saying that “being” cannot come from “nonbeing”. He excludes God from this rule, however, explaining that because “God never began to exist, he doesn’t require a cause.” He then explains that proponents of the Big Bang Theory “can’t legitimately object when [he makes the claim that God] is eternal and uncaused.”
Reason #2: God Makes Sense of the Universe’s Complexity:
According to Craig, in the past thirty-five years, scientists have learned that the Big Bang was “a highly ordered event that required an enormous amount of information.” He continues, “scientifically speaking, it’s far more probable for a life-prohibiting universe to exist than a life-sustaining one.” In corroboration, Strobel cites Harvard-educated Patrick Glynn, a former atheist turned Christian: “Ironically, the picture of the universe bequeathed to us by the most advanced twentieth-century science is closer in spirit to the vision presented in the Book of Genesis than anything offered by science since Copernicus.”
Reason #3: God Makes Sense of Objective Moral Values:
Craig argues that without God, objective moral values would not exist. However, one does not have to believe in God in order to live a moral life. If there was no God, moral values would be subject to personal taste. For example, the taste of broccoli is as subjective to one person as whether or not rape is wrong to another. “Without God, there is no absolute right and wrong which imposes itself on our conscience…since these objective moral values cannot exist without God and they unquestionably do exist, then it follows logically and inescapably that God exists.”
Reason #4: God Makes Sense of the Resurrection:
If we believe in God then we can believe in miracles; so too the occurrence of miracles can be used to prove the existence of God. For the sake of his fourth point, Craig agrees “to consider the New Testament to be merely a collection of first century Greek documents that can be subjected to analysis like any other ancient records.” Craig cites four facts about the fate of historical Jesus:
- The information is dated within 5 years of the Resurrection, so it is not legendary in nature. Additionally, there is not a single competing burial story.
- Female followers of Jesus discovered the empty tomb. Typically, women were considered so unreliable that they weren’t even allowed to testify in Jewish courts. The only explanation for women being referenced as the discoverers of the empty tomb is that gospel writers were recording what really happened.
- Different individuals and groups of people saw Jesus alive after his crucifixion. There is multiple, independent corroboration of these appearances.
- The original disciples had an experience that caused them all consistently to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. They were willing to die for this belief.
Reason #5: God Can Immediately Be Experienced:
Philosophers agree that a “properly basic belief” in God is possible solely on having an immediate experience of him. “This is the way people in biblical days knew God.” In the event that someone may argue a “properly basic belief” in the absence of God, Craig quotes Philosopher William Alston: “The Christian should do whatever is feasible to find common ground, like logic or empirical facts, to show in a noncircular way whose view is correct.”
Do you know someone struggling with moral objections to Christianity? Maybe you were that person at one time? Maybe you still are? Let me know your thoughts below! And thanks for reading!
*Stay tuned for objection #3 later this month!