Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Miracles and Missionaries a redated post

A redated post.

J. D. Walters raises an interesting point in his discussion of miracles. People often say "If God performed miracles back in Bible times, why doesn't he perform them now." J. D. says in fact that there is an

- abundance of modern miracles (I don't know where you get your information, hallq; you need to spend a few years working with missionaries in Africa and China) .

What about modern miracle claims? Should we be so quick to conclude that God isn't performing miracles today? Maybe J. D. can elaborate.

81 comments:

JD Walters said...

I was born into a missionary family with ministry in India and Bangladesh before moving East. My father had a powerful conversion experience on the beaches of Goa, India, in which he encountered Jesus asking him to be his disciple. From then on answered prayers, seemingly miraculous conversions and healings followed us whereever we went. To be sure, they didn't happen every day or even very often, but there were times when the experience was just too powerful to ignore.

Christians in China are heavily persecuted for their faith, but they seem to make up for it with an incredibly tally of reported healings, conversions, miraculous escapes, etc. Many people who experienced God's grace firsthand are still around, serving as Pastors and speakers around the world.

The same applies to Africa. Princeton alumni associated with Princeton Evangelical Fellowship often do missionary work there. Last year we had a couple, the husband an engineer and the wife a trained doctor, describe their experiences with spiritual warfare among the Masai people at a meeting. It was simply astonishing to see these well-educated, calm and collected people describe an exorcism as if it was the most common thing in the world. The exorcism had taken place a year ago, but there was no embellishment, no legendary expansion. They simply told it as it happened. They even showed a good-quality DVD recording of the exorcism, in which a person writhing on the ground in agony can be clearly seen, with people praying over him, until he settles down and becomes coherent again, after the attack. Needless to say the person cured became a Christian, as did the witch doctor who put the death curse on him.

Of course nobody's forced to believe these accounts. People can always find some other explanation for these things. But what's important is that these reports are not by credulous 1st century people whose ears twitch at any new thing. These are Westerners, trained in the world's top universities in engineering, science and medicine, who go to preach the Gospel with signs following.

We should not assume that the conditions of the secular West are the paradigm for how Christians live elsewhere in the world. In many parts of the world where Christianity is now thriving, the day of miracles is certainly not past. Sure, there are likely to be many spurious reports, but no one should say, even on theological grounds, that the miracles stopped with Jesus and the early Church. They are still reported today. The argument that God doesn't perform miracles anymore simply doesn't fly.

Anonymous said...

(NBAA)

JDW: "We should not assume that the conditions of the secular West are the paradigm for how Christians live elsewhere in the world. In many parts of the world where Christianity is now thriving, the day of miracles is certainly not past."

And just why is it that miracles are occurring in the poorest, most downtrodden parts of the world, but they don't seem to be occurring in the West?

Surely the fact that the frequency of miracles (like reports of UFOs, ghosts and witchcraft) varies widely from one Christian culture to another is strong evidence that miracles are social phenomena, not fingerprints of divine intervention.

Anonymous said...

We should be clear about something here.

A person's belief about God determines what data they will consider as evidence of a miracle... NOT vice versa.

So comments like the one directly above are misguided, and irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

I was hoping JD was going to tell us something of personal experience, a specific miracle that was personally witnessed, including details that were seen first hand, rather than second hand stories.

Jason said...

{{A person's belief about God determines what data they will consider as evidence of a miracle... NOT vice versa.}}

True--though in fairness that can cut a lot of different ways.

This is why I never make reference for apologetical purposes to something in my own life that I regard as divine intervention--aside from the fact that the details are (at this time) too private to discuss, I could easily have a much different evaluation of it if my theological beliefs were different than they are. (A long running sequence of freakishly improbable coincidences in regard to my relationship with a particular person of my acquaintence, could still technically be _only_ a long running sequence of freakishly improbable coincidences, for instance. Or maybe aliens are setting things up. Or the fae. Or the Lord and Lady of some Wiccan beliefs. Whatever. {s} There is also the practical problem that the sequence of events, whatever it is, doesn't seem to have reached a conclusion yet, and I'm leery about making claims short of a conclusion to the story, so to speak. Plus I think the witness of the other person involved might be of more importance anyway.)


That being said, I can report miracles at secondhand as much as anyone, I suppose. (I omit thirdhand reports I've heard about from missionary friends of mine.) My old nurse's husband was able to heal warts and things of that sort--a fact well-known in my grandfather's day, who himself was healed in that fashion. Mr. Puckett was also a water 'witch' (actually 'wich'; the linguistic word was different), and 'wiched' out many of the wells in our town, back before people could do it in other ways. My mother was a direct witness to this, in regard to my grandfather's farm. (Incidentally, it turned out that my grandfather had some ability in this himself, as do my mother and I still today, though ours is much weaker.)

Those wouldn't count as religious miracles, per se, of course. But I know of a few of those, too. There is a man in my own day who is known by my family, who we knew was scheduled to go in for surgery on blockage of his carotid artery. My parents were specially concerned for him on this, because we lost my grandfather suffered a stroke induced by such a surgery. The day the surgery was supposed to happen, there the man was in Toot-n-Tell-it (our town's local main restaurant), eating lunch. We were understandably curious about what happened. He said the blockage was completely gone, and the doctor had absolutely no explanation for it. (For context purposes, it's important to understand that this kind of artery blockage happens between the walls of the artery. It isn't like it can wash anywhere, and even if it did it would have "washed" up into his brain causing a massive fatal stroke. Besides the body puts that stuff there to help _repair_ thinning of the artery in the first place. The artery was healthy.)

The man had an explanation for it though: a young woman living next door to him runs a house church, and while he was out mowing the lawn a few days before the surgery, she walked out the door of the house, over to where he was on the mower; put her hand on his neck where the blockage happened to be (not that this was visible); and told him that she had been sent to cure him, and that he would find the blockage gone.

This didn't happen over in China or in Africa, or back in medieval times, or during the early church fathers, or in NT or OT times. It happened here in the US, a few years ago.


I can tell a story even more striking than this, and more directly relevant to our family, because it involved close friends of my parents. Shortly after these friends joined our church, the husband and wife were in a prayer vigil for a young woman about to undergo surgery for a brain tumor. The surgeons had only agreed to the surgery because the cancer was otherwise certainly terminal; their estimate was that the girl probably wouldn't even survive the surgery, much less that the surgery would do any good, but even remote odds are better than zero.

The husband was so concerned for this girl, that he volunteered to die instead if she would be spared. His wife understandably freaked when she learned he had prayed this. And understandably freaked even moreso when the doctors found that the cancer was completely gone as they were prepping for surgery.

The husband suffered a massive coronary shortly afterward. He was okay with this; but his wife begged for her husband to be allowed to remain for a while longer. He pulled through at a miraculous rate, but a couple of years later learned that his heart was slowly deteriorating (instead of quickly). He lived for... maybe five years after this? Something like that. Not much suffering at all, either. The wife moved away not long afterward (couldn't emotionally stand to live in the house they had shared); but their daughter still comes to our church on occasion. (There was some hope between this wife and my mother that I would date the daughter, but she and I never got along very well, and more importantly I was already immensely devoted to another woman elsewhere so I wasn't really looking.)


To give a third example: my brother's mother-in-law had breast cancer shortly after bearing my brother's wife (and her sister, as twins). It went into remission, but came back in recent years, having metastasized into tumors elsewhere. Though very weirdly, the tumors have never been found. Even _with_ chemotherapy, she wasn't expected to last out the year; but she's now in her fourth year of it, no worse off than she originally was. They have to take fluid off her lungs every couple of years or so, and the chemo sometimes wipes out her hair, but otherwise she's about as bad off as someone with a minor cold. The doctors (and her husband is a surgeon himself) are pretty clear that the chemo isn't what is keeping the cancer down; they have no medical explanation. But lots of people have been praying for her. {s} (Perhaps not incidentally, she's very active in the mission field herself, and has gone on trips to Paris and Africa since the cancer first returned.)


I don't give these as evidence of the existence of God, or even of (merely) the supernatural; much less as evidence of Christianity per se. I simply give them as evidence that Christians (among very many other people {s}) do think this kind of thing still goes on today. There are factions who still today take this sort of thing with potential _doctrinal_ seriousness, too: the RCC carefully investigates miracle claims in with an eye toward receiving communication from God (either directly or via saints and angels as intermediaries), the authority of which would be at least partly validated by the legitimacy of the miracle claims.


Which could be turned against us for being overcredulous, maybe. {g} But let's at least keep the criticism constant.

Anonymous said...

"Most stories about miraculous events are probably false: if it comes to that, most stories about natural events are false. Lies, exaggerations, misunderstandings and hearsay make up perhaps more than half of all that is said and written in the world."

C. S. Lewis, Miracles, 104 (ch. 13)

Victor Reppert said...

I brought this up because I was trying to rebut a kind of anti-apologetic that is often used: no miracles today means no miracles then. It's a phrase that Richard Carrier uses in his attack on the Resurrection. And I ask the question JD asks, namely, why are people so sure there are no miracles today? Again, the fact, which the Lewis quote was concerning, that there are plenty of false miracle reports doesn't mean that there aren't some that have some merit to them. Of course, I can turn on TBN and see all sorts of dubious miracle claims.

And if you're going to talk about Lewis, you have to also consider the fact that he claimed a miracle himself, when his wife went into remission for her cancer. In fact the entire issue in A Grief Observed only arises on the assumption that God miraculously healed her.

JD Walters said...

"And just why is it that miracles are occurring in the poorest, most downtrodden parts of the world, but they don't seem to be occurring in the West? "

Two reasons immediately come to mind. One is the widespread level of unbelief in Western societies (remember, this was a limitation on Jesus' own miracle-working power). And remember Isaiah 61:1,

1The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

God is at work among the oppressed and afflicted of this world. It seems that God shows a preference for working his signs where they are most needed in order, not so much to take care of the problem of suffering once and for all, but in order to bring hope and make people responsive to the Gospel.

"I was hoping JD was going to tell us something of personal experience, a specific miracle that was personally witnessed, including details that were seen first hand, rather than second hand stories."

I could, but what difference would that make? According to Hume even eye-witnesses can't be trusted to verify that a miracle has taken place. Same thing for the details. A vividly detailed but false miracle is still a false miracle.

Dave Barrett said...

I have a simple exercise which will allow anyone to fully understand the nature of miracles which only happen around believers and not around skeptics.
Learn a simple magic trick or sleight-of-hand card trick and then perform it in front of two different groups -- one group composed of all people who believe in miracles and the other group consisting of people who are skeptical about miracles. After performing your trick ask the group whether they have just seen something miraculous. If you are any good as a magician you will have just created another miracle which only happen around believers and uneducated, unsophisticated people.

JD Walters said...

DB,

Your 'simple exercise' says more about your own naivete and lack of philosophical and theological sophistication than it does about believers in miracles. If you even browse casually through the theological literature on miracles you will find that there is an emphatic separation of miracles from magic tricks, which latter category does not only include 'stage stunts' but also events which are genuinely perceived to be miraculous but which are still just so much fireworks. True miracles have a theological rationale, an appropriate context and play a part in the dissemination of the Gospel or in moral transformation.

And I find in my experience that so-called 'skeptics' are no less gullible than (some) religious believers. They are just gullible to different people and ideas. Skeptics have their own apologetic literature, which is often of a poor quality, but skeptics lap it up anyway because it reinforces their own so-called 'critical' point of view.

Dave Barrett said...

jd,
I have no doubt that believers in religious miracles claim that the miracles are not stage magic. But you claiming that it is a genuine miracle does not make it so. The fact that so many people can make a living as stage magicians prove that people are not able to tell the difference.

You are revealing your ignorance to the world when you claim to know for sure that any particular event was a genuine miracle and not a trick, mirage or delusion. How could you possibly know for sure?

Bilbo Bloggins said...

Dave Barrett,

A study of the history of and modern arguments within the field of epistemology will reveal that the issue you raise about certainty applies just as much to non-miraculous matters of knowledge and perception.

It also seems that the progress of modern science - based as it is in so many instances on inductive and abductive inferences and tentative hypotheses - makes a *lack* of certainty, and thus, the capacity for self-correction, somewhat of a virtue.

Bilbo

JD Walters said...

"The fact that so many people can make a living as stage magicians prove that people are not able to tell the difference."

No, that's just it. If people really couldn't tell the difference (i.e. they really thought that stage magicians performed miracles, as opposed to putting on a good show), stage magicians would not just make a living, they would be worshipped. Our pantheon of Gods would include people like James Randi or Harry Houdini.

And kindly point out the spot where I personally claimed to always be able to tell a genuine miracle from a trick (Hint: it's not where I said what a true miracle involves; those are general criteria, whether they can always be successfully applied to real-life is another story).

Anonymous said...

Religious people never cease to amuse me. Do you believe that if your good and ask god to heal you he will? What of the devout christians caught in the midst of a Tsunami who were in perfect health, happy and on vacation?

Or my old friend who with his wife raised their daughter to be catholic. 7 years after her birth daddy, mommy and daughter got into a car accident. Mommy died. The father and daughter were barely injured. 3 days later he found his daughter dead in her room. Somehow a 7 year old has managed to stab herself twice. But she left a note in crayon, don't cry no more daddy, i'm going to see mommy.

3 days later the daddy decided to find out where exactly his family had gone. I still miss all of them.

The bible is clearly wrong on many accounts and the way its used today would surely make the fictional baby jesus cry. Clearly the bible can't be wrong... its inspired work of the holy father. Every witness and mormon who's come to my door quotes revalations, "And he will wipe out every tear from their eye and death shall be more, neither shall mourning nor outcry be any more for the former things have passed away." Blah. When you die all of that is true for you... you cant die because your not alive anymore. heh.

Scare tactics... the end is near join us now or suffer forever. Or the classic Accept Jesus and your life will be changed. Yep, my sunday chores wont get done, my wallet will be lighter and appearantly I have to go to door teaching others how god can save them too and quoting from the holy book which is really the equivalent of quoting from Steven King's gunslinger. (Although people might find that more interesting).

And remember what devout unquestioning religious fanatics did for america on 9/11. Im sure their with their 40 virgins now in a life of paradise. Fanatical, unquestioning believe is bad for everyone.

Most religious people today who claim to be catholic or mormon or what have you likely would have followed Zeus during the times of the greek or Basher the thunder god if born during viking times.

It's astounding that despite the historical evidence of billions of people killed, witches hunted and innocent children exorcised til their dead that people still preach this nonsense. Even TODAY with direct evidence of a religious war staring them in the face they refuse to acknowledge that religion is what is evil in this world. Not the mythical satan or followers of another religion or any other boogey men the can conjure.

Anonymous said...

(NBAA)

PB wrote: "A person's belief about God determines what data they will consider as evidence of a miracle... NOT vice versa."

Funnily enough, that was just my point. (I'm not sure where you got the "vice versa" from. Perhaps you were thinking of another post.)

There are more God-believers in poor, downtrodden countries, so they are more open to belief in miracles. What in the West would be shrugged off as coincidence or randomness would elsewhere be regarded as miraculous. So it can all be explained without reference to divine intervention. (But if you want to throw divine intervention into the mix, be my guest.)

JDW wrote: "Two reasons immediately come to mind. One is the widespread level of unbelief in Western societies..."

Are you (like PB) claiming that Westerners' unbelief makes it difficult for them to recognize miracles? If so, see above.

Or are you claiming that God can't or won't perform miracles in societies where unbelief is widespread? In view of God's omnipotence, "can't" seems unlikely.

So my guess is that you are saying He "won't" perform miracles in an environment of unbelief. And the question then remains "Why does God not want to do this?". Surely He wants to convert those hordes of unbelievers? A few well-placed miracles could do just the trick.

JDW wrote: "God is at work among the oppressed and afflicted of this world. It seems that God shows a preference for working his signs where they are most needed in order, not so much to take care of the problem of suffering once and for all, but in order to bring hope and make people responsive to the Gospel."

Try again. God is _not_ at work amongst "the oppressed and afflicted of this world". He is at work amongst the oppressed and afflicted of the _Christian_ world. There are considerably more "oppressed and afflicted" people in the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist worlds than there are in Christendom. And, yes, miracles are rife amongst these people too; they just happen to be Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist miracles.

The last places on Earth where people need to be made "responsive to the Gospel" are the poor and oppressed Christian parts of Africa, Asia and South America. The people here are almost all Christians anyway.

Anonymous said...

*Billions* of people killed because of religion? That's very surprising, given the number of people that have actually lived on this planet. I'd like to see the historical evidence that JD Walters is apparently ignoring that shows literally billions of people have been killed by religion. Find the evidence, anonymous, and you've proved miracles do still happen.

Bilbo Bloggins said...

Anonymous,

You spoke of the abundant "Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist miracles".

If they are so common, would you mind giving me some examples of each?

Bilbo

Anonymous said...

(NBAA)

BB wrote: "You spoke of the abundant "Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist miracles". If they are so common, would you mind giving me some examples of each?"

Do you seriously think that miracles are confined to the Christian world? If so, you need to get out and about more.

For Muslim miracles, see
www.einterface.net/gamini/miracleislam.html

For Hindu miracles, see
www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/1995/12/
15_miracles.shtml

For Buddhist miracles, see
www.einterface.net/gamini/buddhist.html

This is just to whet your appetite. You can find lots more on the web (although most of it is not in English).

Anonymous said...

(NBAA)

PS: I would love to continue with this interesting discussion on miracles, but I'm leaving tomorrow for a two-week vacation in southern India. Any connection with the subject of Hindu miracles is purely coincidental...

JD Walters said...

No one should deny that miracles are reported by other people than Christians, or even (so far as I'm concerned) that they really happen. In the exorcism story I mentioned earlier, Masai witch doctors were able to put a death curse on someone who was miles away, which only stopped short of being lethal because of the prayers of those missionaries.

Those are 'miracles' from what you might call the dark side of the Force. But again I see no reason to assume that some of the other miracles reported are not benign as well. As Jesus himself said in the Gospels about people who were casting out demons in His name, "He who is not against us is for us". I see no problem with the idea that supernatural events happen outside Christianity.

Here's an interesting fact, though: most Muslim conversions to Christianity happen on the basis of a dream that the converts had of seeing 'Isa (Jesus), telling them to follow him.

Jason said...

Anon 1: {{Do you believe that if your good and ask god to heal you he will?}}

I believe He _might_. (And that my being good won't have anything primarily to do with it.)

I also believe I'm going to die someday, along with everyone else I love; and that it could easily be even more messy than the sort of deaths I _did_ actually talk about. (Or the ones you talked about.)


{{Fanatical, unquestioning believe is bad for everyone.}}

The tens of millions of people killed and tortured in the 20th Century by avowedly naturalistic and intensely anti-religious (not to say atheistic) governmental regimes and cultures would probably agree with that, too.



NBAA (and hereafter) adds: {{What in the West would be shrugged off as coincidence or randomness would elsewhere be regarded as miraculous.}}

Even if it _was_ miraculous. You do understand culturally conditioned expectations cut _both_ ways, right?

You can dismiss JDW and PB pointing this out if you like, but then you're only being hypocritical. The principle cancels itself in practical application. If you're going to apply it, apply it fairly both ways. If you don't like someone applying it against scepticism, as a way of devaluing your own evaluations, and think it's unfair for a Christian to write you off that way as being only in knee-jerk reaction to your cultural conditioning--guess what? I agree. {g}


{{Surely He wants to convert those hordes of unbelievers? A few well-placed miracles could do just the trick.}}

Someone in a later thread was complaining about why a story about Jesus debating with Satan might be considered more profound (and therefore plausible) than a story about a demon-possessed vampire. The point to that story, though, was that a policy of converting hordes of unbelievers by sheer exercise of power is the sort of thing Satan would do. (Though come to think of it, that may have been Philostratus' own point at the end of his story for his Imperial patroness, too--in favor of the carpenter who did more for the world and for posterity than the philosopher-sage of his book when all was said that could be said for the latter. {s!})


{{There are considerably more "oppressed and afflicted" people in the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist worlds than there are in Christendom. And, yes, miracles are rife amongst these people too; they just happen to be Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist miracles.}}

Apparently Bilbo didn't know about them; but you may recall _me_ granting this anyway. (And I know some of us, myself included, would say God is at work in those societies, too, even if in disguise as it were. So any real miracles there, to just about any amount, don't surprise or disconcert me. This point is presupposed under the discourse-summary of St. Paul at the Aeropagus in Acts, btw--he's referring very favorably to the founding legend of the forum, concerning a miracle wrought by the _pagan_ Cretan philosopher Epictetus.)


{{The people here are almost all Christians anyway.}}

The people in Africa and Asia are almost all Christians? Wow--hadn't heard _that_ before! Go us! {g}

(Or did you mean Catholic South America? Might be more obvious if you bothered to register or at least give an actual name... {s})

Fwiw, I'm one of those people who don't much like missionaries going into an area and treating the Catholics or Orthodox as though they aren't Christians by _being_ Catholics or Orthodox. That being said, if the RCC or EOx clergy run lax in an area and substitute mere ritual for faith, they have only themselves to blame if someone else comes along and starts doing actual shepherding. (As I'm sure some of the Mormon guests here would also quite ironically agree concerning Baptists, etc. ... {wry g!})

Jason Pratt

Bilbo Bloggins said...

Anonymous: Do you seriously think that miracles are confined to the Christian world? If so, you need to get out and about more.

Bilbo: Not at all. Actually, I think there is just as much of an abundance of non-Christian miracle claims *in* the modern West, which I am very familiar with (more along the lines of NRMs [New Religious Movements] and New Age sects). But, OTOH, I can't say I'm at all familiar with Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim miracles. So I thank you for the resources which I will check out. Plus, I see alot of skeptics throwing out claims like this often *without* it being tied into any reality, so forgive me if I seemed presumptive.

Bilbo

Bilbo Bloggins said...

Ok - after looking at those links, does anyone have any info. on modern Muslim miracles not related to fruits and vegetables?

Bilbo

Bilbo Bloggins said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bilbo Bloggins said...

For those interested, instances of Allah writing his name on everything from breakfast food to stray cats can be found here.

Bilbo

Edward T. Babinski said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Edward T. Babinski said...

JASON: "To give a third example: my brother's mother-in-law had breast cancer...Even _with_ chemotherapy, she wasn't expected to last out the year; but she's now in her fourth year of it, no worse off than she originally was. They have to take fluid off her lungs every couple of years or so, and the chemo sometimes wipes out her hair, but otherwise she's about as bad off as someone with a minor cold. The doctors (and her husband is a surgeon himself) are pretty clear that the chemo isn't what is keeping the cancer down; they have no medical explanation. But lots of people have been praying for her. {s} (Perhaps not incidentally, she's very active in the mission field herself, and has gone on trips to Paris and Africa since the cancer first returned.)"

ED: In general missionaries have died of hosts of diseases, and Francis Galton mentioned a statistical study he did that convinced him that ships containing missionaries sank just as often on average as ships not containing missionaries. The Christian (who later became a missionary) and about whom the Oscar winning movie, "Chariots of Fire" was made, died of a brain tumor while a missionary in China.

Speaking of the specific case you mentioned, I was asked today to google up some information regarding the sister of a friend of my mom's, who has exceeded the doctor's predictions of her near death by close to two months now, and who like the woman you mentioned above, is having the fluid in her pleura drained regularly. The situation of living with cancerous cells in a sort of equilibrium is common enough to be mentioned at John Hopkin's website on breast cancer answers, the following answers being given to three separate women suffering from breast cancer:

"...what you are describing is stage 4 breast cancer-- breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast to the lungs causing pleural effusion. Arimidex is designed to help control this disease that has spread. Your cancer will be considered a chronic condition--- like a diabetic who needs to take insulin, you will need to be taking some form of cancer treatment with the goal that your body live in harmony with the disease. How well you do can't be predicted really but your doctors will keep you informed as to whether they believe the disease is progressing or being suppressed by this treatment. hang in there dear..."

[...]

"There are women who have had stage 4 breast cancer and have lived for more than 20 years with it."

[...]

"I have had breast cancer for 12 years, stem cell transplant Jan 1999, Fluid built-up in lung of 1100 cc. My Oncolgy doctor has started palliative care, with Arimidex."

http://www.hopkinsbreastcenter.org/services/ask_expert/index.asp?cat=19&pagenum=52

Edward T. Babinski said...

My Mother experienced a severe pain in her side nearly 20 years ago, and began being examined by doctors, that led to them suggesting she might have a tumor beneath her scapula. This led to her being examined by one of the world's leading specialists in removing sub-scapular tumors at Sloan-Kettering I believe. The guy had written the book on removing such tumors. My mother tells the story better, but I was there the first time she experienced the pain in her side, and heard her side of the story each time she came back from the doctors and even after surgery. The surgery to remove the tumor went horribly. They simply couldn't find the tumor that they thought they were looking at in the x-ray. And they kept digging around, loosing muscles behind her shoulder. She took the doctor to court for malpractice and won. But the doctor insisted during cross-examination that my mom still had a sub-scapular tumor. The facts came out that my mom simply had TB scar tissue in her lungs from her youth and the scar tissue was in the shape of something that the doctor had seen and recognized many times as a tumor. But the doctor was so sure that what he was seeing in the x-ray was a tumor that he didn't even take a series of side x-rays known as a tomogram, which could have determined that the x-ray was indeed TB scar tissue in her lungs and not a sub-scapular tumor.

Till this day, my mother does not believe in doctors or their prognoses, but would sooner take vitamins and supplements and exercise and stay out of hospitals(which was where she picked up a staph infection that nearly killed her, and the doctors took years before even diagnosing that infection and treating it with the proper antibiotics)!

In other words, doctors don't know everything, and sometimes even the most highly trained doctors can "see" tumors where they don't exist.

Edward T. Babinski said...

ED: I agree with Jason that miracles are ubiquitous (and so are "visions" throughout the world's religions). There are many tales of healings and other miracles in the ancient world. At one prominent place in ancient Greece people wrote down how they were healed and left the testimony at the site where the pagan healers/visionaries were located.

I just read an article in New Scientists this week on the amazing placebo effect (which recalled other articles I'd read in the past concerning some amazing hypnotic effects) that scientists are still studying.

The British scientist Rupert Sheldrake, argues that there are energy fields around living things that can affect other living things.

There was a book I saw about a belief during the middle ages that the touch of a king could heal a person.

I saw a documentary on DVD advertized about a particular cow in India believed to have miraculous healing powers, a cow that people touched and by which they claimed to have been healed.

I have read about the shrine in Lourdes, France which thousands of sick people have visited for decades, and which features a wall of crutches (though the Catholic Church only officially acknowledges 40-60 or so of the many healings claimed). Someone remarked after seeing all of the crutches hung on the wall that "a single artificial limb would have been more to the point."

So I don't know what to think about amazing healings. I have heard about people who maintained a positive attitude, or visualized, who only ate whole juices, or drank healing teas like Jason Winters who had an inoperable tumor in his throat the size of a melon, but he'd gone round the world, or hired others to do so, to collect herbs most known for healing, and had the herbs spoon-fed to him during the time when his doctors told him he had only weeks to live, and his tumor disappeared! Jason Winters was later knighted by the queen and his tea sells in most health food stores round the world. But was it the tea? Or was it the placebo effect? Or a little bit of both?

Norman Cousins wrote a book about his experience with chronic heart disease that the doctors told him would be fatal, and which he claimed to have cured via "laughter therapy!" The book was titled THE HAPPY HEART. Cousins certainly did outlive the doctors predictions! But he mentioned that in his youth he was diagnosed with another dangerous and often fatal, illness, polio, for which he took "the water cure," which scientists totally repudiated, but he completely overcame polio after taking the "water cure!" There was a third incurable illness that Cousins also overcame but which I've forgotten.

So healings are healings. Sometimes tumors do apparently go away, and neither are such cases restricted to evangelical Catholics or other Christians.

Futhermore, getting back to the original missionary questions, it's pretty apparent that the vast majority of Christians as well as missionaries in foreign lands continue to suffer illnesses, diseases and misfortunes like most everyone else round the world of a different religion (or no religion at all). For instance, I read in Christianity Today about four missionaries who arrived by plane in Iraq soon after "mission accomplished," and who simply took a wrong turn down the wrong road and got shot to death hours after leaving the plane. They hadn't had time to missionize, they simply took a wrong turn and happened to look American. That was all it took. I saw on TV a story about a missionary's small air plane being shot down in South America, and he died, after being mistaken for a drug runner's plane. Oral Roberts lost a daughter in a plane crash (and ironically he'd foretold that something horrible would happen to his son's wife if she left his son, but instead his own daughter was killed in a place wreck).

Missionaries don't exactly get lighter insurance policies than the rest of us, since they sometimes take their whole families into territories where illness and disease are common.

Lastly, I read about a famous elevangelist in Texas who was on his way to lead a revival meeting and his plane went down due to a wind shear and he died along with several young singers in his choir.

Later a friend told me about an article he'd read about an airliner in Japan that hit a wind shear and the Japanese passangers prayed fervently to Buddha, and after plummetting hundreds of feet out of control, the plane miraculously (according to the passengers) was able to turn away from hitting the ocean and the pilot regained control, and the plane's passengers all thanked Buddha.

Same with Near Death Experiences, the majority of which are positive, even for people who do not become orthodox Christians. In fact Mormons have a journal devoted to recording and studying the Near Death Experiences of Mormons (some of them saw Lincoln in the afterlife, and guess what, Lincoln converted and became a Mormon after he died), which sometimes are quite detailed and involve a trip to a very Mormon-looking heaven. Betty Eade wrote several books about her Mormon NDE that were on the bestseller lists about ten years or so ago.

Dannion Brinkley also had a bestseller about his NDE, in which he was struck by lightning through a phone line and he was declared dead at the hospital but came back to life soon afterwards. His book is all about his detailed NDE vision of the afterlife. But if wasn't Mormon, more like just a generic spiritual vision. I've heard Dannion speak, and about how obsessesed he grew to create a machine to help others experience the next life so they would not fear it. He like Eade, both declared that death held no fears for them anymore, and Dannion wrote a book afterwards about his work with dying patients. He is convinced and tells others (I asked him) that the experience he had was more real than experiences he's had in this world that we all know and live in. The particulars about building his visionary machine were shown him during his NDE. Dannion's worked with Moody, the author of the bestseller, Life After Life, at Moody's conference center in N.C. Neither Dannion nor Moody are very concerned with Christianity as if it were the one and only truth.

Howard Storm had an NDE too, though it's not known for sure whether he ever died physically. It was a vision while he was ill in a hospital in France. He experienced a hellish place, then a heavenly one where he asked the beings of light who saved him from the hellish place what the best religion was, and they replied, "Whatever one brings you closest to God." Storm was quite ecumencial after that, becoming a minister in a liberal Christian denomination, but lately he seems to have grown to believe Christianity is the only true religion.

There was a Dr. Eby nearly three decades ago who claimed to have had an NDE after falling and cracking his skull open. He wrote a book about it. He says he saw a huge talking Bible in heaven. (Eby was a fundamentalist/pentecostal.) And he also says he was told about some things that would happen in the future. (This was about the same time that David Wilkerson wrote his book, supposedly based on a vision of the future he was granted, titled, THE VISION.) The future visions of both Dr. Eby and Wilkerson have long since been proven incorrect.

I read about the NDE of a Buddhist in Thailand who met a talking turtle god.

I could go on and on about the varieties of beliefs and experiences of other people, both concerning miracles and visions, or lack thereof.

If I knew exactly how they all added up I'd say, but honestly I don't know. The "lessons" to be learned seem a bit confusing. People with specific religious beliefs seem all too eager to assume that events in their lives are linked intimately with whatever happens to them, be it miraculous, ordinary, or painful and non-miraculous. And of course medieval Catholics who claimed to have visions of the next life almost invariably mentioned seeing a Dante-like hell of brimstone and flames. So the culture in which people live may have something to do with the visions they experience.

I have also read that Near Death Experiences usually do NOT involve seeing a religious figure at all, be it Jesus or Buddha or Krishna as a few Christians, or Buddhists or Hindus see respectively. The majority of folks with memorable involved NDEs see either relatives or bright lights.

But enough about miracles. I hope there's just one big one after I die, namely that love never fails and neither does the conscious life of those we love. If not that hope, then I hope that at least those I leave behind can learn to get along better, even though their beliefs differ. (But one hope or fear that doesn't make much ethical sense to me is "eternal damnation.")

Edward T. Babinski said...

Some of the most glorious inspiring miraculous stories repeated by Christian missionaries consist of unsubstantiated rumors.

And believers seem to excell at spreading such rumors.

One was that during the recent Tsunami a large number of Christians went up a hill for Christmas services because they were forbidden by the Muslims in town from worshiping in town, so the waves came and drowned the Muslims, leaving the Christians alive. Snopes.com covered that email rumour:

http://www.snopes.com/religion/tsunami.asp

Another that's been going round since 2000 comes out of Burma about a Buddhist monk who died, was about to have his body burned, had an NDE in which he met Jesus, was converted, and then he was resurrected in front of all the other monks, and led 500 other monks to convert as well. The story is still being spread. But it's been debunked even at the sites of some fellow Christians.

http://www.edwardtbabinski.us/skepticism/resurrected_monk.html

http://www.buddha.sg/htm/general/faq01.htm

The Televangelist Benny Hinn has claimed he resurrected and healed folks. But the evidence remains lacking. Yet he continues to have believers galore who tout him and his religious beliefs.

People who were sick had been pronounced healed and were televised as such. Reporters discovered, in case after case, that no one followed up on them and that none of them had really been healed. This included a half-dozen AIDS patients, several deaf or blind children, a quadriplegic teen and a woman with cancer, who quit her chemotherapy and died two months later. Reporters could not find a single verifiable healing, although in one chilling interview, a woman with multiple sclerosis serenely announced that she had discontinued her medication because she believed, thanks to Hinn, that her healing would arrive at any moment.

Hinn has also claimed--each time on record--that

1) He conducted services in a hospital overseas and healed so many people the place nearly shut down (a reporter checked up on this and the hospital categorically denied it).

2) Someone videotaped him raising a man from the dead in Guyana (this was also refuted and ultimately retracted by a ministry spokesman).

Information drawn from The Many Faces of Benny Hinn (a video and book of the same title that summarizes a host of investigative reports on Benny Hinn), produced by The Door Magazine: http://www.wittenburgdoor.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=HINN_V3&Category_Code

“Even the most credulous, faithful followers of Benny Hinn would be hard-pressed to explain why so many national TV newsmagazines and local stations, from Chicago to Orlando to Dallas to Sydney, Australia, keep uncovering the same damning facts year after year.”

Gregg Hartman www.christianhumor.about.com. See also Matthew Barry, “Adventures in Faith Healing,” Freethought Today, March, 1998 http://www.ffrf.org/fttoday/march98/barry.html

Lastly, Christians have lied for ages about how infidels died. From the lies about Charles Darwin's death bed conversion, to lies about how infidels died "screaming about the flames of hell." The lies spread could fill a book, and one such book exists over at the Secular Web.

Edward T. Babinski said...

MISSIONARIES

some quotations

There are a quarter of a million missionaries in the world today; their annual expenditure is almost equal to the American foreign aid budget. To some, missionaries are heroes, representing the ideal of human endeavor. To others, they are self-righteous zealots who wreak irreparable cultural damage. BBC reporter, Julian Pettifer has filmed a six-part series, Missionaries, in which he forcefully points out that for the past 500 years at least, white Europeans have been invaders and conquerors driven equally by greed and Christian zeal.

VISION network, programming guide, Sept./Oct. 1993
____________________________

Mayan scribes in Central America wrote: “Before the coming of the Spaniards, there was no robbery or violence. The Spanish invasion was the beginning of tribute, the beginning of church dues, the beginning of strife.”

Missionaries fought among themselves. In Japan and China, the Dominicans fought bitterly with the Jesuits. In the Near East, the Franciscans fought with the Capuchins. And in India, the Jesuits fought several wars against the Capuchins. A Seneca Indian chief asked of a Moravian missionary in 1805, “If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it?”

Missionaries often took part in the unscrupulous exploitation of foreign lands. Many became missionaries to get rich quickly and then return to Europe to live off their gains. In Mexico, Dominicans, Augustinians and Jesuits were known to own “the largest flocks of sheep, the finest sugar ingenios, the best kept estates.”

Helen Ellerbe, The Dark Side of Christian History
____________________________

Some early Protestant missionaries liked to aim snide remarks at Buddhism (and received more than a few in return) but generally ignored it until the early 1880s. Professor Thelle suggests that such mutual carping was part of a low-intensity spiritual war being waged between Christianity and Buddhism. Yet, too much can be read into loose statements by missionaries, for it is to be emphasized that many missionaries displayed a similar mordant characteristic in writing about other Christian denominations or, not uncommonly, their own missionary colleagues.

Andrew Hamish Ion, “First Contact: Early Protestant Missionary Views of Japanese Religions, 1859-1883,” Japanese Religions, Vol. 27, No. 2, July 2002
____________________________

I don’t think I was ever a religious addict, except maybe for a year, during high school. I had a “spiritual experience” and was “on fire for God” and took a mission trip to Paraguay. Well the mission trip changed my whole attitude towards Christianity. Here WE were, traveling to a poor, pitiful country to share our WONDERFUL religion, yet, I learned more from them I think than they learned from me. They didn’t need anyone coming in and telling them they were wrong, they were already content with their lives. They lived peacefully in tribes. Who were we to tell them that what we had was better? I loved it so much down there, I really considered marrying the village chief so I wouldn’t have to come home.

“Carol H.” on yahoo’s exitfudyism group (28 July, 2003)
____________________________

When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, “Let us pray.” We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.

Desmond Tutu (South African teacher, clergyman and political activist)
____________________________

I read about an Eskimo hunter who asked the local missionary priest, “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?”

“No,” said the priest, “not if you did not know.”

“Then why,” asked the Eskimo earnestly, “did you tell me?”

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
____________________________

The gods of the Disc have never bothered much about judging the souls of the dead, and so people only go to hell if that’s where they believe, in their deepest heart, that they deserve to go. Which they won’t do if they don’t know about it. This explains why it is so important to shoot missionaries on sight.

Terry Pratchett, Eric
____________________________

Of all the failures of which we have any history or knowledge, the missionary effort is the most conspicuous. The whole question has been decided here, in our own country, and conclusively settled. We have nearly exterminated the Indians, but we have converted few.

There is an old story of a missionary trying to convert an Indian. The Indian made a little circle in the sand and said, “That is what the Indian knows.” Then he made another circle a little larger and said, “That is what missionary knows, but outside there the Indian knows just as much as missionary.” [From Ingersoll’s essay, “Blasphemy”]

Great minds in evangelical seminaries across the country continue to dispute among themselves as to what is to become of the heathen who fortunately died before meeting any missionary from their institutions.

Robert Ingersoll
____________________________

A Christian mother’s first duty is to soil her child’s mind, and she does not neglect it. Her lad grows up to be a missionary, and goes to the innocent savage and to the civilized Japanese, and soils their minds. Whereupon they adopt immodesty, they conceal their bodies, they stop bathing naked together.

The convention miscalled Modesty has no standard, and cannot have one, because it is opposed to nature and reason, and is therefore an artificiality. In India the refined lady covers her face and breasts and leaves her legs naked from the hips down, while the refined European lady covers her legs and exposes her face and her breasts. In lands inhabited by the innocent savage the refined European lady soon gets used to full-grown native stark-nakedness, and ceases to be offended by it. A highly cultivated French count and countess--unrelated to each other--who were marooned in their night clothes, by shipwreck, upon an uninhabited island in the eighteenth century, were soon naked. Also ashamed--for a week. After that their nakedness did not trouble them, and they soon ceased to think about it.

Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth
____________________________

Every day a Christian missionary teaches another Third World child how to read the Bible. But we at “Purity and Modesty World Ministries” send forth missionaries to stop those other missionaries! Because, let’s be honest, once a child has learned to read the Bible what’s to stop them from moving on to “Letters to Penthouse?”

Wes “Duke of Doubt” Anderson
____________________________

People need religion like they need a lift in their shoe. If it makes them feel a little taller and happier about themselves, fine. But if you keep that lift in your shoe all the time, as you walk, jog, play sports, then you can wind up sore, maybe even crippled.

And, PLEEEASE, let’s not send folks to other countries to nail lifts onto the natives’ feet!

George Carlin
____________________________

Hi, we’re from America! We’ve come to decimate your jungle, convert your youth, and make you feel inferior!

Crow, Mystery Science Theater 3000

Edward T. Babinski said...

A few more Muslim and Hindu miracles

MUSLIM

I read in a major U.S. paper about a U.S. fact finder who was in Iraq and who heard stories being spread by Muslims concerning visions of angels and the glowing bodies of martyrs that devout Muslims claimed to have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Simulacra -- Muslim
A tree in the posture of Islamic prayer. Allah's name appears in the Oceans. Allah's name appears in a tomato and in a water melon. The name of Muhammed appears on the side of a fish. See also, "Modern Miracles of Islam" at

http://www.einterface.net/gamini/miracleislam.html

http://www.islamcan.com/miracles/index.shtml

The "Koran Code?" - Hidden Mathematical Message in the Koran?
A Hidden Message? Or Coincidence? Copyright © Dr. Monzur Ahmed, the Muslim Technologist, October 1989
http://www.themodernreligion.com/basic/quran/quran_scatter.htm


HINDU

A world famous Hindu mathematician stunned the entire world of mathematics at a young age with his knowledge and originality--and with his devotion to a particular Hindu goddess:

Ramanujan's Goddess-inspired genius spanned diverse branches of mathematics A Baffling Mind by By Iraja Sivadas

http://www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/2003/10-12/62_Iraja-ramanujan.shtml

Ramanujan, Extraordinary mathematician and devout Hindu
Article about Ramanujan, "Computing the Mathematical Face of God"

http://www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/1990/02/1990-02-04.shtml


NDE

Near Death Experience--Man struck by lightning; Dr. in E.R. signs death certificate; man returns to life & recalls long NDE?
Dannion Brinkley's famous Near Death Experience; prophecies (?); changes he made in his life after the NDE; and friendship with Raymond Moody, author of the book that jumpstarted modern interest in the NDE experience, Life After Life. See also http://www.newsforthesoul.com/dannion/dannion-article.htm
http://www.mikepettigrew.com/afterlife/html/dannion_brinkley.html


REALITY CARNIVAL

http://sprott.physics.wisc.edu/pickover/pc/realitycarnival.html

Edward T. Babinski said...

Did Christ Come to Kenya at a healing rally in 1988?

On 11 June, 1988, a man suddenly appeared before a vast crowd (of approx. 6000) in Nairobi, Kenya, gathered to witness the miracle healings of Kenyan spiritual healer, Mary Akatsa. Instantly recognizing the tall, white-robed figure as “Jesus Christ”, the crowds fell down overcome with emotion. The editor of the Swahili edition of the Kenya Times, Job Mutungi, witnessed the event and wrote the article which we reproduce here.

http://www.mcn.org/1/miracles/Nairobi2.html

Some say the figure wasn't Christ but Maitreya.

While still other say it was another hoax that took in easily led Christians.

JD Walters said...

(Sigh)

Do your ramblings have a point, Ed, other than to publicly affirm once again your agnosticism about such matters? I'm not sure what you're trying to tell us here. That miracle stories are a dime a dozen, that lots of them are pretty outrageous, that missionaries die of diseases as well as cure them? That missionaries are bad for world cultures? All of the above?

I'm aware of all this, and I certainly don't make triumphalistic claims that miracles are exclusive to Christianity, or that I can infallibly tell when a genuine miracle has happened (I have actually explicitly denied both these claims in previous posts). But I do think that belief in miracles is not irrational.

Edward T. Babinski said...

J.D.,
The principle I keep in mind is not that miracles cannot occur. The principle I keep in mind is the fact that even in a cosmos where miracles might occur, that doesn't mean they did occur.

Neither is there any reason to suppose that every miracle as recorded in the Bible's books must have occured. You might even grow to question an increasing number of them, based on learning about the cultures in which they arose.

Does the story of Samson, the Hebrew Hercules, really make perfect sense to you, miracles and all? His strength being in his hair? Killing a thousand armed soldiers with the jawbone of an ass? (Other miraculous stories exist in the Bible of other Hebrew heros who killed 400-900 with things like a single spear or even an ox-goad.) I'll grant the story of Samson is less spectacular than the labors of Hercules, but the Hebrews probably wrote and finished their stories about their creation acount, and singular Persian-like God (even employing and approriating high god metaphors from the Babylonians and Persians), and the Samson saga, etc., at a later stage of ancient Near Eastern story telling. So I would expect the Hebrew stories to be a bit more sophisticated. But the Samson story still does not appear to be something I can simply bow down to and believe as the "holy truth" and nothing but the truth. That goes for that tale of the annunciation of Samson's birth as well, artfuly reused in the story of the annunciation of Jesus's birth by N.T. authors.

So, I don't disbelieve in miracles in toto so much as I question the sectarian beliefs that miraculous tales seem to inspire so readily in sectarian religious believers of all religions.

And if something is allegedly happening miraculously far away in time or space, like the tales that came out of a revival in Indonesia in the 1960s and were published in a Pentecostal book titled, LIKE A MIGHTY WIND, about whole villages walking on water miraculously to escape a flood (a miracle that other Christians later debunked), it is out of range of both yours and my experience, and we are left with tales. (And all sectarian religions have tales.)

The Bible itself adds propriety to the idea that one is more blessed if you believe without even seeing. I tend to doubt the Bible moreso, nor less so, due to its inclusion of such a "blessed" ideal.

If you happen to love miracles (which I am not assuming you do), why not become Catholic? It's loaded with miraculous tales, miraculous bones of saints, dancing suns, visions and messages from Mary, infallible Popes.

Jason said...

Ed: {{In general missionaries have died of hosts of diseases.}}

In general, _all_ missionaries have died, period. I think I even mentioned something of that sort myself somewhere.

When you begin by ignoring my own qualifications (which I made _in respect of scepticism_--along with JD, btw), that tells me pretty much all I need to know about what to expect from the rest of your rambling. (Which, for those following along at home, assuming anyone is, he decided to email me as well. Just in case.)

Try reading with understanding next time: my point absolutely (and explicitly) was _NOT_ to witness to the truth of miracles by personal example. It was merely to witness that Christians still believe miracles happen, over against an entirely spurious claim to the effect that even _we_ think miracles don't happen anymore (or if so they happen 'way over there', not 'here'.)


Since you seem to have either missed that in what I wrote, or else were incapable of reading it (or you just skipped past it because it wouldn't have invited a bunch of reply), I repost what I ended with here:

"I don't give these as evidence of the existence of God, or even of (merely) the supernatural; much less as evidence of Christianity per se. I simply give them as evidence that Christians (among very many other people {s}) do think this kind of thing still goes on today."

Now what part of that did you not understand?

Come to think of it, I also wrote at the beginning of my comment (and in agreement with a sceptical comment!): "I never make reference for apologetical purposes to something in my own life that I regard as divine intervention."

That means I wasn't doing it there, either, just in case you skipped over my concluding statement again because it was too inconvenient for you to keep it in mind.


You ought to know perfectly well anyway that I, of all people, hardly have to appeal to standard 'miracle' claims to believe in supernatural activity; seeing as I think you exercised such activity yourself in composing and sending these comments. (Unless you were just knee-jerk reacting to stimuli in sending it, in which case I have no reason to pay attention to it in the first place.)

Jason

Edward T. Babinski said...

J.D., Jason, Vic,
I don't disbelieve in miracles in toto so much as I question the sectarian beliefs that miraculous tales seem to inspire so readily in sectarian religious believers of all religions.

If you happen to love miracles (which I am not necessarily assuming you do), why not become Catholic? It's loaded with miraculous tales, miraculous bones of saints, dancing suns, visions and messages from Mary, hosts turning to flesh and wine turning to blood, infallible Popes. Not to mention the first famous split between Christians, the Catholic-Orthodox split, and how the Orthodox continue to promulgate their particular miracle of the miraculously lit lamp at the alleged tomb of Jesus each year, and Catholics continue to denigrate it (Miracle of the Orthodox Church: "Holy Fire" Every Easter in Jerusalem)
www.edwardtbabinski.us/religion/holy_fire_jerusalem.html

I have yet to see any evidence that Vic, JAson or J.D. has done much of a study of miracles at all. They share a few Christian sectarian anecdotes and consider the truth of their sectarian faith secure. The truth is wider and more perplexing. I recall reading THE SATAN SELLER years ago, an alleged autobiography about a Satanist priest who converted to Evangelical Christianity, Mike Warnke. There were miracles recounted in that book, I even met the man and heard him speak twice. Later I learned that his stories were unsubstantiated and he was not doing what he claimed to have been doing at the time he said and allegedly did the things he claimed, and that he was known to be a storyteller. Christians at Cornerstone magazine debunked his tall tales. There were other cases of such debunking as well during the "Satanic Panic" era of the 1980s during which Christians were gobbling up books of lies by their fellow Christians. There were even bigger liars than Warnke back then with bestselling books advocting Satanic panic. Having lived through that era (which coincided with the Late Great Planet Earth era as well of Hal Lindsey fame, and the era of The Genesis Flood and "human-dino footprints together" fame) I could not help learning to be wary of lies, folk tales, folk science, and/or the gullibility of many who swallow them and popularize them.

Lastly, the type of philosophical apologist like Lewis who simply sits back and begins his argument in Mere Christianity by stating that everyone has to believe in things based on other's words, seems to me disingenious. You can prove anything and nothing from such a starting point. And his assumptions that the words and acts of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels are all Gospel truth (especially the Gospel of John) is naive. Even the Catholic scholar, Luke Timothy Johnson (no friend of the Jesus Seminar), in his recorded lectures for the Teaching Company on the N.T. mentions some of the many arguments that scholars have pointed out that tend to make one doubt the authenticity of the sayings of Jesus (and of John the Baptist) as recorded in the fourth and last Gospel. (The Teaching Company's tapes are quite enlightening as they feature both the views of agnostics and former Christians like Bart Ehrman, but also the view of Johnson, both of whom acknowledge and present a wide concensus of arguments and questions. Google, "THE TEACHING COMPANY" )

JD Walters said...

"I have yet to see any evidence that Vic, JAson or J.D. has done much of a study of miracles at all. They share a few Christian sectarian anecdotes and consider the truth of their sectarian faith secure."

Now you're just being thick-headed, Ed. Both me and Jason explicitly denied being able to use personal, anecdotal accounts of divine intervention to 'secure' the validity of our faith. And I specifically said that I see no reason why supernatural reports outside Christian circles should not be genuine. And it seems that you are using unsubstantiated anecdotal accounts of miracle frauds in order to prove your point...the very thing you accuse us of doing!

I have actually done some preliminary reading in miracles, although of course it is a vast subject and I've only just begun. See "Miracles and the critical mind" by Colin Brown to get you started on the philosophy of miracles as well as their rejection during certain periods in history. "God and other spirits" by Philip H. Wiebe is also good. But something tells me that you don't think there is any such thing as a 'proper' study of miracles For you it is enough that there are all these fraudulent miracle claims, famous hoaxes and scandals in order to establish to your own satisfaction that even if we live in a world where miracles might happen, we could not possibly know when a genuine miracle occured. That may be a valid position, but it's going to take a lot more than reciting poorly referenced Internet sources and cheap evangelical apologetic tracks about lying ex-Satanist priests to ground your position philosophically. But wait, you don't actually care about philosophy as a tool for dealing with the 'big' questions.

Jason said...

{{I don't disbelieve in miracles in toto so much as I question the sectarian beliefs that miraculous tales seem to inspire so readily in sectarian religious believers of all religions. }}

Funny. What little I read of your cut-n-paste flop as I scanned past it, looked to be entirely aimed at denigrating the concept of miracle reports being even remotely reliable. Maybe I missed the part where you were willing (at least in principle) to believe in some miracles despite the existence of spurious reports. You're welcome to repost that portion if you like, so we can see it more clearly--I readily admit I might have simply missed it, since I stopped paying any real attention at about the place where you started talking about how missionaries tend to die in the field (as if this was supposed to be news to anyone actually connected with missionaries, much less relevant to the actual topic of the thread.)


{{If you happen to love miracles (which I am not necessarily assuming you do), why not become Catholic? It's loaded with miraculous tales}}

The miraculous tales aren't the problem. I have picky technical issues with their doctrines here and there. Which is why I'm not a member of any denomination, btw. (Not that I'm against denominations in principle.) If it comes to that, I have picky technical issues with Victor, too, on occasion, and have said so in public. {g}


{{I have yet to see any evidence that Vic, JAson or J.D. has done much of a study of miracles at all.}}

I have yet to see any evidence that Ed has done much of a study of even the comments he is supposedly replying to on this page. For instance:

{{They share a few Christian sectarian anecdotes and consider the truth of their sectarian faith secure.}}

This is after I have written, twice (and now for a third time): "I don't give these as evidence of the existence of God, or even of (merely) the supernatural; much less as evidence of Christianity per se." I could adduce a number of other quotes from my own comment that indicate I am _not_ hanging "the truth of [my] sectarian faith" on a few Christian sectarian anecdotes I happened to share. Besides which, what in all hell was supposed to be "sectarian" about _those_ anecdotes? In what way were they even presented as being specifically Christian?? I myself pointed out that my first two detailed examples _don't even count as religious miracles per se!_ (And when I tacitly mentioned a particular direct long-running experience of my own at the beginning, I specifically gave multiple other explanations ranging from the secular mundane, to the secular exotic, to an alternate religious explanation. So that was a "sectarian" reference how, again...?)

{{Lastly, the type of philosophical apologist like Lewis who simply sits back and begins his argument in Mere Christianity by stating that everyone has to believe in things based on other's words, seems to me disingenious.}}

(I would ask when Victor and I, of all people, stopped being "philosophical apologists" in apparent contrast to Lewis; but I suppose the answer is just 'whenever that seems most convenient to Ed'.)

So, would that be as disingenuous as someone reporting that Lewis begins his argument in MC by simply sitting back and stating that everyone has to believe in things based on other's words? Because, as someone familiar with Lewis' work would know, he actually begins MC by considering the implications of moral quarrelling. (Nor is what you reported the topic of his preface--actually the first thing he does in the preface is try to defuse sectarian use of his book!) Nothing in the whole first book of MC has anything to do with discussing beliefs of people's reports at all. The _second_ book actually begins with insisting that a Christian can (and by implications should fairly) believe that _other_ religions might be getting something right! (And not simply because they say so.)

If you decide to comment on Lewis on a board filled with Lewis experts, it might behoove you to take out the book and actually look at it first.

{{And his assumptions that the words and acts of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels are all Gospel truth (especially the Gospel of John) is naive.}}

You do realize you're talking about a former outspoken atheist who considered the tales in the Gospels to be lies (bluntly speaking) for many years, right?--and who was willing to consider portions of the OT to be fictional for the rest of his life, including in his key apologetical works. How well does that fit your description of him as simply assuming "Gospel truth" naively? (Hint: about as well as your description of me a minute ago fits what I actually wrote in my comment above. Though admittedly maybe better than your description of how Lewis begins MC. At least he did eventually come to consider the words and deeds of Jesus as reported in the Gospels to be reported sufficiently accurately for our reference use today. Whereas your description of how MC begins is so totally out of bounds it isn't even on the same golf course.)


Seriously, Ed. If you aren't even going to take what people actually say into account, but come up with your own fabrications of what you wish they had said instead to 'comment' on, then I'm going to recommend you be banned next time Victor asks my opinion on it.

Jason

J. Clark said...

Babinski, Everyone dies. ???

John W. Loftus said...

I didn't read through all of these comments, but if you want to say miracles happen today, then would someone please explain why they don't convince people who already believe? Catholic miracles done by a dead saint do not convince Protestants, for instance. And miracles done by Benny Hinn do not convince even most Protestants, much less skeptics.

We'd have to conclude one of two things. Either (1) the Biblical miracles were of the same type as modern miracles except that they were exaggerated in the telling of them like modern pentecostals do today, or (2) the Biblical miracles are not of the same type and actually were more persuasive such that they convinced those who didn't already believe. But if the first conclusion is true it undermines the evidential power of the Bible, but if the second conclusion is true then modern miracles do not confirm anything about whether or not Biblical miracles took place.

John W. Loftus said...

My first sentence should read:

I didn't read through all of these comments, but if you want to say miracles happen today, then would someone please explain why they ONLY convince people who already believe?

stunney said...

Here's one from my native city which occurred in my lifetime:

GLASGOW'S MIRACLE MAN AT 76

Victor Reppert said...

John: Why don't you read the post about Muslim converts (and follow he links) before you make that kind of a statement. Apparently it just isn't true that these present-day miracles convince only those who believe already.

Anonymous said...

James Moreland writes a lot about this in his book Kingdom Triangle. He also claims to have had some strange experiences himself, including feeling a dark presence in two students, and praying for them in class, but only afterward did they confirm that they felt something lift from them (meaning they hadn't said anything about it beforehand to him, he simply felt it). I don't know what to make of these miracle claims.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I forgot to mention they supposedly independently came to him to tell him. Another thing Moreland mentions is being really sick, but having hands placed on him and being totally fine the next day (or something like that) which he claims would never have normally happened.

philip m said...

Biblically, miracles are not a surefire way to produce belief. According to Jesus, the key variable is the people, not the miracles, in believing and repenting.

Personally, I affirm the modern day miracles that involve people I know. I know a few people who were cured of serious illnesses, one a severe case of epilepsy, because of prayer. Another guy I know had a visual encounter with demonic forces.

The most personal example I have comes from my family. In reading the book of Mark, my father was wondering about the frequency of demons in Jesus' day. He wondered if there were demons today. So he prayed for God to send him a demon. Within a few days (I forget the time frame) a friend of his called him to tell him a woman in his small group was demonized. My dad made an appointment with her, during which the demon actually spoke to him and he rebuked it and it left her.

Interestingly, I don't base my faith on these at all, which I believe some other commenters have noted as well.

Victor Reppert said...

I remember why I started the whole discussion way back several months ago. It is because I saw a phrase used in Carrier's anti-apologetics: No miracles now means no miracles then. I was wondering to what extent Carrier could count on Christians to agree with the antecedent of this claim. Even though we all seem reluctant to build a positive apologetic based on modern miracles, at the same time it seems a defense against this type of negative apologetics could be used against this type of anti-apologetics.

philip m said...

Dr. Reppert,

Doesn't look like Christians are going for the bait:

http://www.answeringinfidels.com/answering-skeptics/answering-richard-carrier/do-no-miracles-today-imply-none-in-the-past-a-critique-of-richard-carriers-methodology.html

Sorry, I don't know how to do links.

Michael said...

I worked a miracle once.
I wondered if I should pray for him, and then wondered if Miracles still happened and then recalled all the miracles in the bible and then the passage about love. So i thought to myself, " Well, I love God, and I love my friend here, and i believe God can do anything. So i put my hand on his shoulder and whispered "in Jesus name be healed" and at that exact moment, he was healed! It was pretty cool. I'm still stoked about it.

Matthew said...

I noticed this before, that missionaries have a high tendeny of experiencing miracles.

I wouldn't go as far as saying that all of them are necessarily miraculous (because I wasn't there), but it seems to defeat the "no miracles today"-objection.

Perezoso said...

I like Ms Overall's summary of the "miracles" issue:

Christine Overall says, “If Jesus was the Son of God, I want to know why he was hanging out at a party, making it go better [turning water into wine], when he could have been healing lepers, for example.”She concludes, “a being that engages in events that are trivial, capricious, and biased cannot be a morally perfect God.” She says, “As those who would defend the argument from evil point out, there is a huge amount of evil in the world—psychological and physical suffering, malnutrition, starvation, pandemics, cruelty, torture, poverty, racism, lynching, sexism, child abuse, assault, war, sudden deaths from natural disasters—the list is appalling. . . . Instead of using miracles to feed a small number, to transform water into wine, or to convert a few people, God could very well be performing miracles that have a much larger effect, especially on the lives of the millions of children whose suffering is particularly incomprehensible to anyone with a sense of justice. The question is why a good God would be concerned with details like the need for wine at a wedding, and yet apparently not be concerned with huge tragedies like the holocaust of six million Jews.”

Overalls' a bit intense for the usual sunday schooler, but that's as they say, On the Money

(and old-news to those of us who bothered to read Dostoyevsky back in the day).

Blue Devil Knight said...

It would be really cool if you changed the date format to give mm/dd/yyyy Victor. It would make following the tortured comment threads much more interesting especially in these redated posts.

Yes, I know they are in chronological order.

I'm still waiting to observe a miracle. Hearsay won't cut it for me with something so subject to distortion and confirmation bias. Same with alien abduction stories.

Victor Reppert said...

I fixed the timestamping BDK. I didn't know there was a way to do that until now. Thanks.

Perezoso said...

Note how most of the skeptical points posted on DI are simply disregarded. Overall's points are ON THE MONEY, and really quite irrefutable (though the scope might be widened to all religions, western or eastern, which depend upon miraculous claims). The Best the theist can do is bamboozle-- "G*d works in mysterious ways"--as a few preachers said after the Tsunami of 2004.

Or maybe the believer might term belief in miracles as "properly basic"--about the semantic equivalent of Yogi Berra philosophy--"if ain't broke, don't fix it."

Victor Reppert said...

So this is just another version of the problem of evil. Let's see. If God doesn't perform miracles, then this is reason to suppose He doesn't exist, but if he does perform them, that is reason to suppose he doesn't exist, because he should have performed other miracles than this one. The idea that God might have a good reason for not preventing evil that you don't understand, (and even some that you might understand) is swept aside, of course.

If the stars in the Virgo cluster were to spell out the words "Turn Or Burn, Perezoso This Means You," and you could get other atheists to confirm it, this would still not convince you, because God should have performed other miracles than this one.

Your atheism, I fear, is unfalsifiable. No amount of evidence would convince you of God's existence, even if God were to provide it in abundance.

Perezoso said...

You were the one saying God can always intervene: so He could have intervened to stop nazis invading poland, or stalin or mao but chooses not to, and instead has Mary appear in a grotto, or maybe pull a few supposed miracles in hospitals? Then God's hardly different from the devil.

Imagine a sinister doctor who could have easily saved many patients, but decided not to show up (or in fact administered the wrong cure, etc), and patients died, and yet Dr. and his supporters/friends/nurses say he's not to blame, and really a good guy. Magnify that by a few thousand and maybe you might get Overall's point. Supposed miracles count as evidence against theological claims for omnipotence and monotheism (and in favor of skepticism). It's a moot discussion anyway: since He didn't (or couldn't) miraculously appear at the end of WWII, then it's highly unlikely He's around.


(also--your use of the a-word itself pejorative. I wager any spiritual Beings (however unlikely) would welcome Jefferson and Co--perhaps even Hume and Darwin-- to the realm of the blessed before they welcome the Billy Sundays of the world).

Victor Reppert said...

Well, this is just the argument from evil. You are saying that even if the one in charge of the universe were to demonstrate His existence, there would be evidence that this being was not a good being. Yes, I suppose miracles won't solve the problem of evil. Did anyone think it would?

Why I am using the word atheism in a perjorative way? What are you talking about?

Of course God can intervene. Can he do so without doing more harm than good?

SE said...

The idea that God might have a good reason for not preventing evil that you don't understand, (and even some that you might understand) is swept aside, of course.

Yes, of course, all suffering and evil, even that endured by the most defenseless, must somehow, in some mysterious way, be necessary. Is every last second of suffering by a child dying of cancer necessary? Is there a good reason for it? Remember, we're talking about an omnipotent god to whom nothing is impossible. You are asserting, without argument, that God must allow each instant of suffering and evil for some greater purpose or good and that He must know there is no other way to achieve such good without such suffering because He is omniscient. But this is simply begging the question. Just another theistic "mystery"; how convenient for theism (classical theism with a tri-omni god, that is).

Your atheism, I fear, is unfalsifiable. No amount of evidence would convince you of God's existence, even if God were to provide it in abundance.

There are plenty of examples that would falsify atheism, or cause someone to at least consider that god may be real after all. If amputees were to regrow limbs after being prayed for, I would consider that good evidence for theism.

What, Mr. Reppert, would falsify theism? Is there any occurrence, any scientific discovery, or any statement, that, if proven true, would disprove the existence of God? Be honest. If all the apparently needless suffering that a supposedly all good, all powerful, all knowing god allows hasn't already disproved your god, what would? It is theism that is truly unfalsifiable.

Rob G said...

"Yes, of course, all suffering and evil, even that endured by the most defenseless, must somehow, in some mysterious way, be necessary."

Uh, afraid not. See David Bentley Hart's book "The Doors of the Sea" on this. God in no sense needs evil to fulfill his plan.

Perezoso said...

Of course God can intervene. Can he do so without doing more harm than good?

That's a good one: sort of the Ad Leibniz. G*d could have stopped (or not pencilled in) Stalin and Hitler, concentration camps, Hiroshima, pol pot, plagues, natural disasters, etc. but that would have resulted in an even more brutal and absurd world. WWII was there for a purpose. Ergo, Stalinism was a sign of His Love! Be thankful, bruthrenn.

And yes, that is the unfalsifiable position. Imagine a Death Asteroid's detected in two weeks, headed right for Earth, and no chance of shooting it down. The True Believer would start praying, and probably call it Rapture--a sign of His Love as well. Really, a Death-Roid (like the one that just missed us a few days ago) pretty good evidence that the term "God" refers to a null set (unless you want to claim God = the Devil ).

(The intervention issue slightly different than problem of evil, anyway. This follows from Overall's take on miracles).

Victor Reppert said...

I think we have to think in terms of disconfirmation. And some things do disconfirm theism, and others could disconfirm it. Whether these things disconfirm theism decisively depends upon a person's prior probabilities.

Victor Reppert said...

Human freedom to do wrong is pretty meaningless if God is going to intervene every time we try to do wrong in order to prevent suffering.

Perezoso said...

Human freedom to do wrong is pretty meaningless if God is going to intervene every time we try to do wrong in order to prevent suffering.

AH going through this again: assuming a monotheistic God exists, He's omniscient by definition, knows what his creation will do, or He ain't God. So the putative Freedom's like a test (as Calvin also realized, in his own sinister way): that makes God the robotmaster, controlling the robots He made and programmed to think they are free, moral, etc. Since that is so palpably absurd, it's safe to claim He doesn't exist.

For that matter, a great deal of atrocity happens to people who did not make some immoral/"evil" decisions: not only natural disasters, disease, but say collateral damage in wars (bombing of civilians, etc). Collateral damage not great for those who insist on God's omnipotence, and justice and love.

Believe if you must, but never mistake your belief for rationality.

Victor Reppert said...

Oh please. These issues on the relation between freedom and omnipotence have been extensively discussed. Ever heard of open theism? Whether you think it's adequate or not, you can't defeat it by just making pronouncements.

Perezoso said...

Your usual Ad Auctoritas proves nothing, just as Plantinga's odd "arguments from possibility" prove nothing. The arguments for God have been dealt with, and shown to be at best sort of metaphorical: not merely by the neo-atheist crew, but starting with like Kant. Russell's point on omniscience, and really the absurdity of Calvinism (which I paraphrase above) also quoted and well known.

So you're mistaken if you think some consensus among seminarians proves your case (another problem being a belief in this new, bizarre philosophical school based on "modal realism". A school that WVO Quine, for one, opposed)

Rob G said...

"Your usual Ad Auctoritas proves nothing..."

Apparently Perezoso's appeals to Hume, Kant, Russell, etc., AREN'T Ad Auctoritas statements. What makes them such? Simply his ipse dixit, I guess.

"Believe if you must, but never mistake your belief for rationality"

What's with all the folks like Jaki, Polkinghorne, Polanyi, Florensky, Teilhard, Tristan Englehart, etc. -- those who are trained both in science and in theology/philosophy, and who are/were theists? Are they irrational? Or do they just compartmentalize?

Perezoso said...

People might believe in God, Allah, Boodha, Krishna, Wotan, Hecate, etc.-- whatever Deity they choose--- and also insist the dogma of their particular religion is the correct one. That does not mean that they can justify their particular belief, or prove that their flavor of dogma is El Numero Uno (or correct).

Anyway, quoting Russell is not the same as quoting theologians. For one, he's dealing with reason and logic-- not assuming the dogma to be correct. I don't worship any philosophers; I'm more interested in politics and economics and am contra-metaphysics, even of the Russellian sort, though I think Russell did an admirable job in terms of combatting theocracy (as did Hume at times, over two centuries ago).

Perhaps we can quote Darwin and Lyell and experiments proving the old earth, or examine the data showing the reliability of radiocarbon dating (which DOES falsify dogma, at least as a source of natural history/science).

Rob G said...

"Perhaps we can quote Darwin and Lyell and experiments proving the old earth, or examine the data showing the reliability of radiocarbon dating (which DOES falsify dogma..."

Wrong-o, mon ami. Belief in a young earth is not a dogma in any form of Christianity that I'm aware of.

Perezoso said...

No you're Wrong, Robito B. The dogma was young earth and anti-Darwin, until quite recently. Faced with the facts, some fundies relented, as did a few catholics (it's still is young earth in some places). In effect, the creation story of Genesis and OT was falsified (or rendered metaphorical at any rate), and thus shown to be fallible (as do the supernatural events, according to Hume).

Rob G said...

"No you're Wrong, Robito B. The dogma was young earth and anti-Darwin, until quite recently."

Nope. There was a fairly wide variety of readings of Genesis among the early Church Fathers, and by no means did they all take the creation narrative literalistically. Hence there was never any doctrinal consensus on the issue of origins, therefore no dogma, either back then or more recently.

Blue Devil Knight said...

It would be cool if God performed miracles in labs simultaneously around the country tomorrow at noon.

Too bad he reserves them for missionaries that happen to be in exotic locales with no good video equipment on hand to document the miraces.

If I were God, I know I would want to hide my miracles so that only small groups of missionaries, and others that already believed in me, could see them.

Or I would place them far into the past, well out of reach of the majority of living humans that would like a bit of evidence. Religious texts are always reliable, or at least mine would be anyway, and nobody would have reason to doubt it if they already believed in me.

In other words, if I'm God I'm obviously pretty much happy to stay hidden from modern man. Except the ones that already believe in me and don't require evidence.

unkle e said...

BDK said: "In other words, if I'm God I'm obviously pretty much happy to stay hidden from modern man. Except the ones that already believe in me and don't require evidence."

I wonder what your assumption is as to God's purposes? It seems that many people assume something like God should want to provide every person with demonstrable evidence similar to scientific evidence, so belief is not longer required, because we have knowledge.

I would have thought that was a most unlikely objective. I vaguely recall CS Lewis (yes, him again!) suggesting God was more like a fairytale Prince wooing a poor girl, but doing it incognito so she is not overwhelmed against her will.

Change the objective and you change the premise in the above statement. And then the conclusion must be different. Jesus (reportedly) did miracles in some circumstances, but declined to do the for show. I would think the same might be true about God.

Edward T. Babinski said...

JD and Jason,
I have to be honest, I haven't seen any miracles. And I don't think it's because we no longer live in such age. I simply do not see people popping out of graves after three days, nor seas splitting in two at the raising of a rod, nor food multiplying from a few handfuls to baskets full, nor lepers being healed instantly, nor amputees being healed. (I do know of spontaneous remissions in cancer cases, which is not limited to Evangelical Christians, not by far.)

Reports of the power of prayer related to healing also seem pretty negligible in large studies. And I has also considered stories from Christians whom I consider devout but who could really use a miracle and who trust God for a long time praying ceaselessly along with fellow churchgoers for one. But to no avail. I've also noticed that bad things happen even to the most devout and prayerful people I've known and read about.

And I've studied individual miracle stories as well.

Lastly, Jason is a universalists who doesn't believe I will necesssarily be damned to eternal hellfire for my questions, maybe a finite hell, but I'm unsure what you believe, JD, about the salvation of questioners. As for myself, I cannot fathom being damned for eternity without a second chance. My own questions appear quite proper and honest to me given the sights and sounds, and knowledge and experiences I've had in this life on this fragile lifeboat in space, both as a born again Christian and afterwards.

And frankly, I would like nothing more than to meet a loving eternal Being when I die, preferably a Being that does not pride itself on ordering the slaughter of men, women and children in order to secure that Being's honor.

I continue to reach out at times, especially at night, with every fiber of my being to all that is loving and compassionate, kind and intelligent and wise and happy. And I also continue during the day to read the headlines, various websites, and speak with friends, family, keeping my eyes and ears peeled to stories galore. But please reconsider my first paragraph above.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Recently I read the story of a girl who came back from a missionary trip to one of the countries where the Christians are filled with stories of miracles. She saw none. She left the fold.

Below is part of Sarah's story

The last part of my story involved a mission trip to Africa that we took that summer. I was still very much in doubt, but this trip had been in the works for a year and they convinced me that I could do other things besides religious stuff. It was one of the most awkward things ever. I enjoyed the experience of traveling and I was able to teach English and do some other work but I was constantly surrounded by the most intense Christians that I had ever seen. Christianity in many places of Africa is extremely Pentecostal. They fully believed in tongues and miracles and shouting and being slain in the spirit. I had to sit through more than one all night prayer service. I went to a spirit soaking in which people waited to be filled with the spirit and then began to yell, cry, laugh, fall over, or whatever else struck their fancy when they believed the spirit had come. I just kept seeing it as more and more ridiculous but my roommates really got into it. They all came out of the summer so much more “on fire for God”. Since I was traveling with them everyone expected me to be a Christian too and I went along with it because it was easier than trying to explain the truth and listen to them try to bring me back into the fold. I hated being the wet blanket. For a while I tried to point out the flaws in logic to my roommates but after a while I just felt like I was alienating them and being the killjoy. I think the most poignant part of all the deconversion stories is the loss that you feel when you can’t connect with your old friends and family in the same way. Now I’m back and I have stopped going to church. Ironically the summer of missions, which was supposed to strengthen my faith has only left me more doubtful and confused. Now we are supposed to attend a session with the bible study at the church that helped partially support our trip and talk about what we learned. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to say the truth and alienate all my friends and church family, but I am tired of being hypocritical. I know that once I officially say something, it will drastically change the dynamics of my relationships with many people.

The Story of a Recent Doubter
Posted Wednesday, October 21, 2009by Sarah
http://exchristian.net/testimonies/2009/10/story-of-recent-doubter.html

Jason Pratt said...

Ed: {{But please reconsider my first paragraph above.}}

Hm. Well, let's see. As JD and I both said, repeatedly, sometimes at length:

1.) We are extremely well aware that even events we might consider miracles could be misconstrued as such, and have any of numerous other explanations instead.

2.) We are extremely well aware that everyone eventually dies (whether ever provided with a miracle, ostensible or otherwise, or not), usually in great pain, and often in pain over a protracted period of time.

3.) Similarly, we are extremely well aware that bad things happen to even the most devout people.

4.) I at least was not expecting anyone to believe in God's existence based on the say-so of other people who think (or suspect) they've witnessed miracles; and I doubt JD was either.


I think it's funny that you address your comment to us, with a plea that we "reconsider your first paragraph", when you've persistently shown a near-total disregard for paying attention to what we're actually saying when opposing us; a disregard that continues in that same comment.

I don't believe in the least that people are condemned to even a limited hell for being honestly sceptical. (Many non-universalists would agree with that, too; C. S. Lewis, to give a topically relevant example.) But persistently ignoring what other people are saying so that you can feel comfortable opposing them in some imaginary fashion, is not what the honest sceptics of my acquaintance normally do, when they're being honestly sceptical.

JRP

Daniel Gracely said...

SE states:
Is every last second of suffering by a child dying of cancer necessary? Is there a good reason for it? Remember, we're talking about an omnipotent god to whom nothing is impossible. You are asserting, without argument, that God must allow each instant of suffering and evil for some greater purpose or good and that He must know there is no other way to achieve such good without such suffering because He is omniscient.

Not every Bible-believing Christian believes that terrible things happen from divine purpose, though, granted, probably most do. I think these "most" accept the translation of Romans 8:28, which states that "God works all things together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose." But as one Christian professor (Tim Geddert) has pointed out, the verse in Greek grammatically allows "God", not "all things," to be the subject. Moreover, he points out that "works together" comes from the Greek word synergei, i.e., "to work together synergistically". And so the verse may be read "God works with us in all things, for good, etc." Probably the idea here is what should be the believer's response in the face of evil, and how God can help him with that. I personally think that taking "God" as the grammatical subject gels together with what Paul says, when he states emphatically to the Corinthians that good and evil, Christ and Belial, etc., have no fellowship whatsoever. So then, if such things have no fellowship, they certainly cannot be said to be working synergistically together.

Along these lines, I think the story of Job shows that God never intended Job's suffering. I realize, since this raises the question of why God would allow evil to exist at all, that the discussion here could move toward so-called divine omnipotence, in which God is thought to even have power to dictate human choice and thought. But I personally do not believe that view of God, as the creator of man's thoughts and intents, is biblical.

I realize this barely scratches the surface of your objections, but as a matter of historical curiousity, I thought you might want to know why most Christians (IMO) suppose that all evil somehow manages to add up to good for the believer. I think primarily it is because of this one verse in Romans.

Shackleman said...

In Jesus we find that God Himself endured a horrific and painful and suffering death.

Becoming familiar with, and learning about Luther's Theology of the Cross has really helped me come to a sort of truce with the "Problem of Evil". I'm still learning, but I encourage anyone unfamiliar with it to give it a fair treatment. It could help. To that end, have a read of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Lastly, for those looking for miracles as evidence of God, I'd humbly suggest that your best bet in finding one may not be by *receiving* one for yourself, but by *giving* one to another in need. You can start by volunteering at your local homeless shelter or food pantry.

Mark Taylor said...

Pardon me for posting on something so old...
Some have pointed out that Christians, including missionaries get sick. That should not surprise anyone who has read the New Testiment. The Apostle Paul himself was ill as times: Galatians 4:13-14a, "As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn."

And so were some of his companions: Philippians 2:27, "Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow."

In my experience with skeptics, they seem to have gross misunderstandings about miracles. I think they've all seen too many "faith healers". Problem is, most of them are phony, and the ones who aren't, usually prefer not to be well known. They focus more on preaching the gospel than on the miracles that happen to follow them.

It has been argued that studies have proven that individuals who are prayed for are no more likely to become well. What, do you think the power to heal comes from people praying, or from God? That's like saying we conducted a study to see whether or not so-and-so can jump. They didn't jump, therefore we concluded they can't. When Yeshua Jesus was tempted in the desert, He quoted the Law from the Tenach stating, "Do not put the LORD your God to the test."

If you believe you can test whether or not miracles occur, you're probably missing the point of them to start with.

Honestly, I used to be a skeptic myself. It took a miracle for me to believe, and it wasn't performed by anyone. I was all alone, and God spoke to me. I suppose it similar to the conversion of the Apostle Paul, because at the time, I was very much against Christianity.

Since that time, I've seen coincidents so uncommon, I must attribute them to divine intervention. For example, one night the direction of my life was changed when God spoke to me, and called me to reach out to Jewish people who don't know their Messiah. I was questioning this, but the next morning, my friend shows up at my house uninvited (whom I rarely saw to begin with), provided me a book about how to reach Jewish people (entitled, I Have a Jewish Friend, Do You?), and introduced me to Messianic Judaism for the first time in my life. Coincidence? Well, you could say so. But I find that God ordinarily works in ordinary ways.

I never saw the original comment about aliens in Western culture and not others get addressed. It is true enough that these things go reported, and many times may be proven to have a natural explanation. That is not to say that these reports are never based in reality. After all, if the Bible is true, then the supernatural powers who oppose God are capable of producing such experiences, the same way they produce other miracles. Whatever lie is best for the culture...

When I was in Trinidad, I spoke to a woman who told me a story about when she was possessed by a demon. Some witch doctor came along and cast out her demon using some salt ritual. At some point in her possession, her memory was blocked out, and she only knows stories of what she's been told. When she came back to her senses, she was in a tree, and the witch doctor was standing in a circle of salt chanting something. The Christian interpretation is, of course, that demons are casting out demons for the sake of establishing the believes of those people so they won't listen to the truth. I struggled with that for awhile, thinking to the accusation against Yeshua Jesus by the pharisees, until I realized the Yeshua Jesus was preaching the same God and adherence to the same laws that the pharisees did. In that case, it wouldn't make sense that if that which the pharisees was teaching is true that the demons would try to convince people of it by expressing this power. In the case of the story I heard, that does not hold.

Edward T. Babinski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edward T. Babinski said...

MISSIONARY MIRACLE STORY

"I went on a medical missions trip with my father to Mexico. The goal of our group was to give medical care to the poor people there (for free) and teach them the Gospel (preying on the helpless- I love it!). Well, during my time there, a little girl came to one of our clinics. She had very poor eyesight, perhaps qualifying for legally blind even though she had some sense of vision. Well, a few people in the group, myself included, gathered around and prayed for her and Voila! She was healed! Her eyes cleared up and she could see perfectly!

"Haha. That was the version of the story that my father took to the pulpit, along with a few other people who spread the story. Here's what really happened: we prayed for her. Then, the optometrist who was with us did some eye tests on her. He then gave her a pair of eyeglasses that had a really strong focus and, wouldn't you know it, she could see quite a bit better than she could before. This somewhat regular occurrence turned into a big miracle story. My father even wrote an article about it entitled, "Blind Girl Receives Sight". I couldn't believe that my own father would obscure the truth so blatantly and yet so sincerely. I confronted him about it, but he was completely convinced that it was a great miracle. When I realized that this story, which would eventually be widespread among our local Christian community, was so fake, I called into question all miracle stories."
http://testimonials.exchristian.net/2009/06/im-missionary-kid-and-atheist.html