Douglas Groothuis

Defending Christian Faith, October 26, 2004




part 2



III.       David Hume’s Objection to Miracles (See Ronald Nash, Faith and Reason, chapter 16)


A.        The in-principle objection to miracles


1.         Laws of nature are regular and certain


2.         Miracles violate laws of nature


3.         Claim of miracle (based on testimony) always less certain than law of nature


4.         Hume did not claim that miracles were metaphysically impossible


B.        Responding to Hume’s objections


1.         One could directly observe a miracle and not be dependent on testimony


2.         Direct testimony may oppose established regularities; otherwise, new discoveries and novelties are ruled out a priori


3.         Miracles not supported only by direct testimony, but by indirect evidence as well (circumstantial evidence)


4.         Hume’s defective view of probability:  distinguish science from history


5.         Miracles and the existence of God.  God’s existence makes miracles possible.  But one may believe in God because of miracles


C.        The objections to particular miracle claims (subsidiary arguments)


1.         Witnesses are never epistemically credible: superstition, overstatement and gossip


a.         Some miracles claims may dismissed on this basis, but not all


b.         Hume makes standards too strict; assumes too much credulity for too many


2.         Miracle claims in several religions cancel each other out and have no evidential value.  See David Clark, “Miracles in the World’s Religions,” in R. Douglas Geivett and Gary R. Habermas, eds. In Defense of Miracles (InterVarsity, 1997), 199-213.


a.         Miracles would establish incompatible and essential claims


b.         Miracles may not have this function


c.         Evidence for miracles is not epistemically equal


d.         Some religions do not allow for the category of miracle


i.          Buddhism


ii.         Nondualistic Hinduism