Posted tagged ‘Miracles’

Sam Harris Podcast Interview of Bart Ehrman – Part 4 – Setting the Bar Exceedingly High

May 26, 2018


I have written three articles summarizing some observations I have from an interview of Bart Ehrman, the agnostic New Testament scholar, by Sam Harris, the atheist, about Christianity. In those articles, I cover Bart Ehrman’s story about losing his faith, the fundamentalism that continues to color the way Ehrman reads the Bible and the dangers of social influence as a substitute for a deep, personal relationship with God.

I covered in the first article the rather ironic claim that Harris makes about approaching a familiar subject from a new angle. When an atheist interviews an agnostic on the subject of Christianity, I don’t know what new angle he is talking about! They both come from the same angle of unbelief.

When Sam Harris asks Ehrman to describe what Ehrman, as “an informed believer” would have said was the strongest argument for Christianity, I had to chuckle. Ehrman replied that the proof of the resurrection would be the strongest argument. With that I agree. As Paul said, if Jesus was not raised from the dead, our preaching and faith is useless, and we are to be pitied.[1]

For the proof, Ehrman states only two facts: the empty tomb, and the followers of Jesus who claimed to see Jesus alive after the resurrection. Ehrman doesn’t expound on these “minimal facts”, other than to note that Paul eludes to a list of people in 1 Corinthians who claimed to see Jesus alive, risen from the dead, including 500 people at one time.

These two facts are certainly on the short list of key factors scholars evaluate in considering the historicity of the resurrection, but they are not the only facts to be considered. Even skeptical scholars, like Ehrman, admit a few more. (See Previewing the Minimal Facts Critique of the Resurrection.)

Before any real discussion of the proof (or what the proof really is), Sam Harris immediately jumps in to refute the resurrection by reference to David Hume. Hume of course is the 18th century philosopher who urged a standard of proof for miracles that, in Sam Harris’s own words, is “a bar that is exceedingly difficult to get over”. By reference to Hume, Harris says that the proof of a miracle has to be so strong that believing in anything other than a miracle would, itself, would require belief in the miraculous.

Of course, I have heard this all before. This is a type of a priori position that discounts and dismisses miraculous claims without really taking a hard look at the evidence. In essence, the position is that miracles can’t happen. They don’t happen. Therefore it didn’t happen. This “exceedingly” high bar that Sam Harris speaks about is arbitrary, but Ehrman glosses over that point by saying that “believers have a different standard of proof”. This is entirely true, but it doesn’t really address the issue.

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Thoughts on Jesus and Miracles

November 20, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 9803991 Copyright: Klanneke

Moderns have issues with miracles, but ancients did not. Many ancient histories reference miracles, and we do not discount them as histories for that fact. The miraculous element of the accounts of Jesus, however, are a basis on which many contemporary thinkers reject the claims of Jesus and claims about Jesus a priori.

Miracles are consistent with and flow from the nature and character of who Jesus claimed to be and who his followers claimed he was. If Jesus was God in the flesh, miracles are to be expected. The apostle John says that Jesus was the Word; he was with God in the beginning; He was God; and all things that were made were made through Jesus, the Word. (John 1:1-3) If the universe was made by and through Jesus, miracles are no big deal, and the resurrection is more than just possible.

This was thrust of the Gospels. The authority of Jesus resonated in his message and was attested by the miracles. Many moderns reject the message largely on the basis of the miracle claims because miracles are not allowed in a naturalistic worldview that dominates academia today. We can’t accurately judge what Jesus said, though, without being willing to suspend that disbelief, even if only to reach some understanding.

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Would I Be Different Than They?

May 11, 2017


Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him…. John 12:37

Imagine being there when Jesus lived to hear Him speak, watch Him interact with people and maybe even perform a miracle – right in front of you! How could you not believe?!

It’s easy to think these things. But, what would it really be like? Though Jesus performed many signs in front of people, still they didn’t believe Him. People still believed what they were disposed to believe. People saw what they expected to see.

Would we be any different?

Some people heard Him speak and saw the miracles and believed. But more people heard Him speak, saw the miracles and did not believe. In the 1st Century, they accused Him of performing black magic. Today, we might accuse Him of performing ordinary magic, planting people in the audience and doing sleight of hand.

He would most certainly rock our notions of right and wrong, proper and improper, sense and insensitivity. He would challenge our sacred ideas about ourselves and our freedoms, our causes and our individual rights.

He would be too politically incorrect for the left. He would be too progressive for the right.

Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Isaiah 53:1-3)


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