A commenter in a previous post on the subject of faith and reason made the following observation:
The most Christian apologetics can accomplish is to show faith in Divine revelation to be a reasonable proposition. I would say the challenges presented by various content in the Holy Scriptures are significant. As you pointed out, “we evaluate scriptures claiming to be revelation with the tools of archeology, linguistics, textual analysis for internal consistency and external verification, to validate, in some measure, the veracity of such claims.” This is all very good, but what of the more difficult propositions hidden in the texts: creation stories, Noah’s Ark, the parting of the Red Sea, a talking ass, sword wielding angelic messengers, chariots of fire swooping in to carry men to heaven, floating ax heads, the regeneration of limbs, a virgin birth, or Lazarus raised from the dead?
The subject raised here is a challenging one, and a common point put forward in any discussion about faith and reason: what about the miracles spoken about in Scripture? The events such as those mentioned above lie entirely outside the realm of our experience, and it appears utterly reasonable and rational to dismiss them as fabrications, myth, or at best allegorical tales intended for moral teaching. The belief in miracles by people of religious faith is perhaps the area most incomprehensible to the skeptic. Such events are logically and physically impossible, reside outside the laws of nature and science, and therefore no rational, intelligent person could or should believe such unadulterated nonsense. Even those of religious conviction often struggle with this aspect of their faith. Some will simply dodge the issue: “The Bible says it, I believe it.” End of discussion — and not terribly satisfying for those seeking more rational evidence for faith than mere assent to the truth of revelation alone.
For most who reject the possibility of miracles, their impossibility arises less from evidence found lacking — for they rarely objectively evaluate the evidence — than from the presuppositions fundamental to their view of the world. If the universe is purely material, randomly engendered and devoid of any possibility of divine existence, then miracles must, by necessity, be either mythical in origin or have other, naturalistic explanations. For those who believe in some sort of divine entity or power — especially one which is impersonal or abstract — the intimate intervention of a personal, supernatural Being into the natural world in any demonstrable way is inconceivable. Even for those who may believe in a personal God, the idea that the divine would intervene demonstrably in ways contravening the laws of nature and their daily experience of the world seems highly implausible and impossibly remote.
Yet the problem of miracles is central to the integrity of faith. If in fact miracles cannot occur, if in fact they are naught but myths and morality tales, then faith itself must be without substance or certainty, and becomes nothing more than a comfortable belief system without basis in reality, history, or objective truth. The problem of miracles must be met head-on if we are to have a faith grounded in reason rather than diaphanous desire.
It is not imperative that every miracle held by faith be provable — indeed, were such a thing possible, it would destroy the very essence of faith, for we do not believe in what we see, but rather in that which is unseen. Once the premise that the divine can intervene, and indeed has intervened in tangible ways superseding the dictates of logic and the constraints of the material universe, however, the largest hurdle to accepting their possibility has been bridged. Reason demands that faith be reasonable: that the injection of the divine and transcendent into the temporal and material ought not lie purely within the realm of the easily-deceptive determinations born of mere thought or mental theorems. If God has stepped into history, we should expect to see His footprints.
Christianity at its very heart is about just such an injection of the timeless into time, of the transcendent into the material. The ripples of this event radiate throughout history, with implications unspeakably vast and ever-widening. At the vortex of this widening gyre lies a miracle: the God-man come to earth, unjustly executed, and subsequently raised from the dead. That a man should claim to be God is hardly unique; that a man be unjustly tortured and killed, and esteemed thereafter as a martyr, is no rare event. That a man should make such claims, and meet such an end, and rise thenceforth from the grave, recasts preposterous claims as profound certainty and transforms his death into something transcendent and immensely powerful. If this event is but myth, Christianity becomes nothing more than platitudes and powerless moralizing; if true, no event in time is more significant, no aspect of life untouched by its enormity and seriousness.
If belief in this miracle be reasonable, if we may trace these long-traveled waves of faith back to their source, and in the inspection of their origins find evidence substantial and compelling, then the world becomes a vastly different place from that seen through a myopic focus on superficial pseudo-reality and all-too-comfortable denial of the divine.
By their very nature as supernatural phenomena, one cannot “prove” a miracle as one might prove a math theorem. Nor will mere facts or historical evidence of themselves be sufficient to document with unquestioned certainty those things upon which so much rests — for the human mind often proves stubbornly intransigent when new conclusions run counter to cherished beliefs or worldview conviction. Were such a point-by-point approach fail-safe, there would be no Holocaust deniers nor 9/11 conspirators.
If God exists, if He intrudes in human history in ways unexplainable by mere reason and material experience, then such a manifestation has profound implications for all who encounter it. For a God who intervenes thus in time stands face-to-face thereby with each of us, wherever we may stand. We may thereby hate Him or bow down to Him, but we can no longer live comfortably in delusional denial about such a reality.
It is my hope over the following posts to lay out such evidence in some detail. I break no new ground here; this evidence has been garnered and sifted many times over, by many other far more qualified to present it than I. But it seems apropos to present it again in some measure at this time, in an age increasingly skeptical and cynical, in a culture dismissive of truth and obsessed with the glorious glitter of vacuous beauty, of knowledge without wisdom, at the pinnacle of civilization yet ignorant of its stories and the substance of its soul.