Study of The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

Today we will study . . .

OBJECTION : Since Miracles Contradict Science, They Cannot Be True

These are notes from Lee Strobel’s interview with William Lane Craig, PhD—a theological professor who has written scores of books on apologetics and on miracles.

¨ Lee Strobel, a lawyer—“I have never seen a defendant claiming that the reason his fingerprints ended up on the murder weapon is—somehow, for some inexplicable reason, an act of God occurred, a mysterious, unrepeatable, supernatural event that made his fingerprints suddenly appear somewhere he had never touched. Claiming a miracle would be so blatantly silly that even the most desperate defendant wouldn’t resort to that strategy.”

¨ Nuclear physicist Hugh Siefken—“My faith can be summed up in this one paradox: I believe in science, and I believe in God. I plan to continue testifying to both.”

¨ If miracles are direct violations of natural laws, then how can a reasonable person believe they could ever occur?

¨ When Dr. Craig became a Christian, he did not understand or truly believe the miracles. He realized he did not need all his questions answered to become a Christian. He knew they could be answered in the long run.

¨ Q—Does a person have to suspend their critical judgment in order to believe in something as improbably as miracles?

¨ A—“Only if you believe that God does not exist! Then I would agree—the miraculous would be absurd. But if there is a Creator who designed and brought the universe into being, who sustains its existence moment by moment, who is responsible for the very natural laws that govern the physical world, then certainly its rational to believe that the miraculous is possible.”

¨ Q—How do you define miracles?

¨ A—“In the proper sense, a miracle is an event which is not producible by the natural causes that are operative at the time and place that the event occurs.”

¨ Miracles are not contradictory to science but lie outside of science. There is a real difference. I think a Christian who believe in miracles could agree.

¨ For example, ethics lies outside the province of science. Science does not made ethical decisions. The goal of science is to seek natural explanations.

¨ Natural laws have implicit ceteris paribus—Latin for “all things being equal.” Natural laws assume that no other natural or supernatural factors are interfering with the operation that the law describes.

¨ An example—it’s a law of nature that oxygen and potassium combust when combined. But we have oxygen and potassium in our bodies, and yet we are not busting into flames. Does that mean it’s a miracle and we are violating the laws of nature? No, because the law merely states what happens under idealized conditions, assuming no other factors are interfering. In this case, however, there are other factors interfering with the combustion, and so it doesn’t take place. That is not a violation of the law.

¨ Similarly, if there is a supernatural agent that is working in the natural world, then the idealized conditions described by the law are no longer in effect. The law isn’t violated because the law has this implicit provision that nothing is messing around with the conditions.

¨ There is no contradiction between believing that men generally stay in their graves and that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. In fact, Christians believe both of these. The opposite statement that Jesus rose from the dead is not that all other men remained in their graves; its that Jesus of Nazareth remained in His grave.

¨ Now, I would agree with philosopher David Hume that a natural resurrection of Jesus from the dead, without any sort of divine intervention, is enormously improbable. But that is NOT the hypothesis. The hypothesis is God raised Jesus from the dead. That does not say anything against the laws of nature, which say dead men do not come back to life NATURALLY.

¨ If God really exists, then in what sense is it improbable that He would raise Jesus from the dead? Frankly, I think many skeptics act in a closed minded way.

¨ A miracle without a context is inherently ambiguous. The context of a miracle can help us determine if its from God or not.

¨ With the resurrection, we have a wealth of data concerning the empty tomb, the Resurrection appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in the Resurrection.

¨ For the Resurrection, we know from historical research that there was nowhere near enough time for legend to have developed and wiped out a solid core of historical truth. For example, in 1 Corinthians 15, the reports of Jesus resurrection appearances go back to within the first five years after the event. Consequently, this is fresh data that could have not been the result of legendary development.

¨ If God exists, then it’s reasonable to believe that the miraculous is possible. But, what are some solid reason for believing in a divine Creator and the validity of Christianity?

Reason #1: God makes sense of the universe’s origin

¨ Both philosophically and scientifically, I would argue that the universe and time itself had a beginning at some point in the finite past.

¨ Since something cannot just come out of nothing, there has to be a transcendent cause beyond space and time which brought the universe into being.

¨ First, whatever begins to exist has a cause.

¨ Second, the universe began to exist. And third, therefore, the universe has a cause. The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural.

¨ Dr. Craig—we know this supernatural cause must be an uncaused, changeless, timeless, immaterial being. It must be uncaused because we know there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. It must be timeless and therefore changeless, at least without the universe, because it was the creator of time.

¨ Q—If everything must have a cause, then who or what caused God?

¨ A—Whatever begins to exist must have a cause. In other words, “being” cannot come from “nonbeing.” Since God never began to exist, He doesn’t require a cause. He never came into being.

¨ Atheists used to be very comfortable in maintaining that the universe is eternal and uncaused. But now that modern evidence shows that the universe started with the Big Ban, they no longer hold that position. So they cannot legitimately object when we make the same claim about God—He is eternal and He is uncaused.

Reason #2: God Makes Sense of the Universe’s Complexity

¨ Dr Craig—In the last 35 years, scientists have been stunned to discover that the Big Bang was not some chaotic, primordial event, but rather a highly ordered event that required an enormous amount of information.

¨ In fact, from the very moment of its inception, the universe had to be fine-tuned to an incomprehensible precision for the existence of life like ourselves. And that points in very compelling way toward the existence of an Intelligent Designer.

¨ Scientifically speaking, its fare more probable for a life-prohibiting universe to exist than a life-sustaining one. Life is balanced on a razor’s edge.

¨ Dr. Stephen Hawking calculated that if the rate of the universe’s expansion one second after the Big Bang had been smaller by even one part in a Hundred Thousand million million, the universe would have collapsed into a fireball.

¨ Mind boggling stats:

  • British physicist P.C.W. Davies has concluded the odds against the initial conditions begin suitable for the formation of stars—a necessity for planets and thus life—is one followed by at least a thousand billion billion zeroes.
  • Davies also estimated that if the strength of gravity of or the weak force were changed by only one part in a ten followed by a hundred zeroes, life could never have developed.
  • There are about 50 constants and quantities—for example, the amount of usable energy in the universe, the difference in mass between protons and neutrons, the ratios of the fundamental forces of nature, and the proportion of matter to antimatter—that must be balanced to a mathematical infinitesimal degree for any life to be possible.
  • The precision of the universe is so utterly fantastic, so mathematically breathtaking, that it’s just plain silly to think it could have been an accident.
  • Dr. Patrick Glynn—Harvard educated—former atheist—and prof at George Washington—“Today, the concrete data point strongly in the direction of the God hypothesis. . . Those who wish to oppose it have no testable theory to marshall, only speculations about unseen universes spun from fertile scientific imagination . . .Ironically, the picture of the universe bequeathed to us by the most advanced 20th century science is closer in spirit to the vision presented in the Book of Genesis than anything offered by science since Copernicus.

Reason #3: God Makes Sense of Objective Moral Values

  • If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
  • Objective moral values are valid and binding independently of whether any believes in them or not. For example, to label the Holocaust objectively wrong is to say to it was wrong even though the Nazis thought it was right. And it would still be wrong even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in brainwashing or exterminating everybody who disagreed with them.
  • Now if God does not exist, then moral values are not objective in this way.
  • If there is no God, then moral values are merely the products of socio-biological evolution. Or if there is no God, then morality is just a matter of personal taste, akin to statements like “broccoli tastes good.” It’s a subjective taste.
  • Actions like rape and child abuse are not just behaviors that happen to be socially unacceptable—they are clearly moral abominations. They are objectively wrong. And such things as love, equality, and self-sacrifice really are good in an objective sense. We all know these things deep down.
  • And since these objective moral values cannot exist without God and they are unquestionably do exist, then it follows logically and inescapably that God exists.

Reason #4: God Makes Sense of the Resurrection

  • Miracles themselves also can be part of the cumulative case for God. If Jesus of Nazareth really did come back from the dead, then we have a divine miracle on our hands and, thus, evidence for the existence of God.
  • Jesus’ burial in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb is reported in extremely old information that Paul included in 1 Corinthians. This information can be dated to within five years after Jesus’ death, so it wasn’t legendary. There are no traces of any competing burial story.
  • The second fact is that on the Sunday after the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of women followers. This would be a highly embarrassing detail since the testimony of women was considered so unreliable that they could not testify in Jewish courts. The only reason this would be included is if the gospel writers were faithfully recording what happened.
  • The third fact is that on multiple occasions and various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.
  • The fourth fact is that the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe Jesus was risen from the dead despite their predisposition to the contrary. Some sort of powerful, transformative experience is required to generate the sort of movement earliest Christianity was.
  • Dr. Craig—Personally, I think the very best explanation is the same one provided by the eyewitnesses: that God raised Jesus from the dead.

Reason #5: God Can Immediately Be Experienced

  • Can you prove that the external world exists? No, you cannot prove it but it is appropriately grounded in our experience.
  • In the same way, in the context of an immediate experience of God, its rational to believe in God in a properly basic way. We all have our own personal testimony of salvation.
  • The Christian should do whatever is feasible to find common ground, like logic or empirical facts, to show in a noncircular way whose view is correct.
  • Ultimately, the way a Christian really knows that Christianity is true is through the self-authenticating witness of God’s Spirit. The Holy Spirit whispers to our spirit that we belong to God. That is one of His roles. Other evidence, though still valid, is basically confirmatory.
  • When we have met God, so to speak, face to face, all of the arguments and evidence for His existence—though still perfectly valid—take a secondary role.
  • It is no exaggeration to say that knowing God personally and seeing Him change lives are the greatest miracles of all.
  • Dr. Craig—Based on how God has transformed my life, my attitudes, my relationships, my motivations, my marriage, and my priorities through His very real ongoing presence in my life, I realized at that moment that miracles like manna from heaven, the virgin birth, and the Resurrection—well, in the end, they’re child’s play for a God like that.