Sunday, August 02, 2020

Gary Habermas and Mike Licona Answer the Claim that, "There is a Huge Mountain of Probability Against an Event Ever Being an Act of God."

In their helpful book The Case for the Resurrection (pictured), Gary Habermas and Mike Licona address the above claim.  While they address it in the context of Jesus' resurrection from the dead, their answer is helpful in addressing any claim that deals with the miraculous being the least probable explanation.

Their response is as follows:

"The critic says, 'Even before investigating a claimed miracle, we know that there is a huge mountain of probability against it ever being an act of God.'  To say that corpses stay dead much more often then they come back to life is a wild understatement.  In short, the world we inhabit does not make room for the miraculous.  It is simply not that kind of universe.  So even if we cannot explain what happened to Jesus after his crucifixion, this reasoning would insist that there could not have been a resurrection.  The technical name for the issue that is being raised by this sort of objection is antecedent probability.  Even before an investigation, miracles are so improbable because of the evidence against miracles from past experience, that they are considered highly unlikely, if not practically impossible.

This mindset seems to make sense and is a thoughtful approach, but it has serious problems.

First, if the sort of God described in the Christian Scriptures exists, there is no reason to reject the possibility of miracles as the explanation of well-attested events for which no plausible natural explanations exist.

Second, to say that we should deny Jesus' resurrection, no matter how strong the evidence, is to be biased against the possibility that this could be the very case for which we have been looking.1

Third, the entire foundation on which this objection is based is fatally flawed.  We learn about the nature of this world by our experience of reality.  Our knowledge of the world around us is gained by gathering information.  When we cast our net into the sea of experience, certain data turn up.  If we cast our net into a small lake, we won't be sampling much of the ocean's richness.  If we make a worldwide cast, we have a more accurate basis for what exists.

Here is the crunch.  If we cast into our own little lakes, it is not surprising if we do not obtain an accurate sampling of experience.  However, a worldwide cast will reveal many reports of unusual occurrences that might be investigated and determined to be miracles.  Surely most of the supernatural claims would be found to be untrustworthy.  But before making the absolute observation that no miracles have ever happened, someone would have to investigate each report.

It only takes a single justified example to show that there is more to reality than a physical world.  We must examine an impossibly large mountain of data to justify the naturalistic conclusion assumed in this objection.  When data relating to the supernatural are examined, unwanted evidence is cast aside.  This point does not claim that we actually have such evidence.  Rather it is simply a straightforward challenge to naturalistic methods.

Evidence exists that there have been (and perhaps still are) supernatural phenomena.  Although not as well-attested as Jesus' resurrection, to the extend that they can be confirmed, they should significantly change our ideas concerning the natural world.  Consequently, not only would the backdrop for the entire naturalistic objection disappear, but also it would actually turn the subject in the opposite direction.  If other miracles do occur, then the Resurrection is far more plausible."

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Their case for the resurrection is included in the aforementioned book.  Dr. Habermas summarizes their case here.
2. Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona, The Case for the Resurrection, p. 143-146.

Related Posts

Common Objection #32- "The hypothesis 'God rose Jesus from the dead' is miraculous. Therefore, it is the least probable."

Common Objection #5- "Belief in God is Unreasonable or Delusional."

Craig Keener on Miracles

On Miracles and Historiography: Can The Supernatural Ever Be The Best Explanation? by Jonathan McLatchie

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