The Unbelievable Podcast, from Premier Christian Radio is often a source of intellectual fun and frolics. The usual format of the show is that some flavour of Christian is in conversation with an Atheist on a particular theme all ably moderated by host Justin Brierly. This week the subject was Miracles with special guest Randal Rouser, special powers, the argument from authority and straw-manning vs John Loftus, special power, the outsider test for faith. I guess if we are giving out the special powers we should assign one to host Justin Brierly. How about the power to be bright enough to attend Oxbridge yet still think that the argument from objective morality has weight. Awesome!
Back to the show. Rauser was arguing that we should be open to the possibility of miracles. He argued that Loftus, by taking the skeptical line was being closed minded. He gave this example of a hypothetical miracle. (Time code 49min 39s)
“Let’s say that Mr Smith can’t pay his rent. He prays, he goes up to his mail box, he need $647 to pay his rent. He opens his mail box, he finds there is $647 there and nobody knew that he needed the money. Can Mr Smith conclude that this was a sign of god’s action answering a prayer? I think certainly so. Is it possible that the money ended up in his mail box by chance? A coincidence? Yeah its possible but the fact that that’s possible doesn’t mean that he can’t concluded that that’s a miracle based on the evidence presented to him. “
Lets set aside the pointlessness of arguing about hypothetical miracles and examine this claim on its face.
First point. I can think of at least one person who knows he needs the money. His landlord. Which seems more likely? His landlord took pity on him but knew he was a proud man who wouldn’t accept charity so slipped the money into his mail box. Or what about the landlord’s daughter? Either of them seem infinitely more probably than a payout from Jesus.
Even if it is a miracle, how exactly would that work? Does Jesus have a bank account? He draws the money out of the ATM and pop it in an envelope marking it fao Mr Smith? Or does he just magic the money into existence? In that case the money is forged currency. Or perhaps Jesus uses his magic powers to compel someone, the Landlord perhaps, to donate the money to Mr Smith, in that case the money is stolen. No scenario makes sense. Unless Jesus has a proper job and has earned the money himself to give away all other scenarios end in either theft or forgery. This, at bottom, is the problem with all miracles. As soon as you start messing with the laws of physics or the laws of causality all bets are off. Miracles, by their very nature, lead to either contradictions or ethical problems or both. As soon as you allow miracles into your world view you have given up on reality. Stop it Randal Rauser. Stop it now.