Saturday, 15 December 2007

Does anyone believe in miracles?

So, a few years ago, the people at the Gilbert Deya Ministry were all over the news, because they'd been stealing babies from poor couples in Africa and giving them to rich Westerners. There's an interesting debate to be had about whether or not their should be a legitimate market in babies (I tend towards yes, but it's tricky), but that's not what I want to go into here. The interesting thing about the Gilbert Deya Ministries story is that they claimed their babies were "miracle babies" - that they had been sent by God, and hence there could be no abduction charges and no crime. Of course, the court thought this was very silly, as does everyone else I've ever talked to about it, but I suppose the real question is, why is it any sillier than any other miracle story?

People are willing to believe that some bloke 2000 years ago died and then came back to life a few days later - just for a week or so. They're willing to believe that the bread and wine they eat in Church somehow turns itself into his body and blood. They're willing to believe that for some utterly obscure reason God chooses to send his most important prophecies via some peasant children in the middle of Portugal. They're willing to believe that the Sun danced in the sky, or that statues actually cry milk. So why aren't they willing to believe that God really does create babies and give them to the childless couples who go to the Gilbert Deya Ministry looking for help.

One obvious reason is that there is a perfectly valid rational explanation for where the children came from, so invoking a miracle is not necessary. Apart from the fact that this isn't all that convincing - there are usually some pretty valid rational explanations for anything that gets classified as a "miracle" - I think the best response is - so what? If God really does perform miracles, why should he restrict himself to only doing things that are outside rational explanation? Why shouldn't he just create babies out of thin air in Kenya, which bear no resemblance to the parents they were created for, and rather a strong resemblance to people who've recently had their children kidnapped? After all, he works in mysterious ways.

More importantly, if you *do* believe in miracles, at all, in any way, how do you start
to argue with people like the Gilbert Deya Ministry? They say "it's a miracle". You say "No it's not". They say "Prove it", and I have no idea how you can ever repond. If some things *are* miracles, how is it ever possible to prove that anything isn't?

1 comment:

A Visitor said...

The Noesis Journal of the Mega Society got into heap of trouble after one of their issue( #181) was published. Here's a hilarious clip that I took out from Robert Dick's essay within that issue:

Some Miracles Explained

Robert Dick

Jesus’ miracles of healing were often ways to let sinners repent without revealing their sins. His first miracle, turning water into his host’s best wine at a wedding feast, was from deducing that his host had disguised that wine as water. Note what he did not do then: he did not expose his host to condemnation for his deception.

Once he had a reputation as a miracle worker, Jesus could then perform miracles of healing to free malingerers from their deceptions, without revealing those deceptions. Evidence:

There was no reliable art of diagnosis in Jesus’ time.
Even though he appeared to heal many bodies, Jesus said that healing souls was more important than healing bodies.

Often those he healed told him in advance that he could heal them.
Often Jesus told those he healed that their sins (such as malingering) were forgiven. Why? Because they repented.

Jesus said that there is great joy in heaven over sinners who repent.
Those he healed were sometimes ungrateful later. Why? Because then they had to earn their living in spite of being weakened by idleness.

Jesus implied that the righteous, but previously idle, could have great charisma when seeking employment, like the lilies of the field.

The secret to Jesus surviving his crucifixion is this: He got Roman soldiers to arrange it. After all, who would know more about secretly surviving crucifixions than men who had carried out thousands of them? The key to understanding this was supplied by Hyam Maccoby, who showed in his book Revolution in Judaea that the Romans arrested Jesus at the fall festival of Sukkot, half a year before they crucified him, at Passover. Thus he had time to plot with sympathetic Roman soldiers, such as the centurion who financed a synagogue and whose servant Jesus healed. Note that the centurion who supervised his crucifixion openly called Jesus the Son of God at that time. And what would be more fitting, according to the cruel Pontius Pilate, than making sympathizers execute Jesus?