In the book “I don’t have enough Faith to be an Atheist”, authors Geisler and Turek bring up an argument from Benedict Spinoza. The form of his argument is as follows.
- Miracles are violations of natural laws.
- Natural laws are immutable.
- It is impossible to violate immutable laws.
- Therefore, miracles are impossible.
As in any syllogism like this, the people in the conversation need to look at three things. First, we would need to make sure that we have defined our terms and that there is no equivocation here. Next, we need to look at if the premises are true, logically and empirically. Last, we need to make sure that the conclusions logically flow from premises.
Is this argument logically valid in its current form? If the premises are true, then the conclusion does logically follow. Let’s look at the words, make sure that we understand all of our terms and that we are using them consistently throughout. In premise one, it states that miracles are violations of natural laws. This is just one of many definitions that Christians and the Bible use. The definition is clearly making a distinction between nature and other “things”, presumably supernatural things. But, why do we need to make this distinction? If God exists and He is the cause of all things, there is no reasonable explanation for why God is not interacting with His creation at all times. In the words of Peter Kreeft, “If he banged out the Big Bang, he can certainly bang out little bangs.”
The first premise is not, in a theistic worldview, one which I would agree with. Therefore it would call into question whether or not it is true. If it is possibly false, then the rest of the premises are also false, making the conclusion false.
But let’s grant the definition of miracle as a violation of natural laws for the sake of the discussion. The second and third premises are question begging and circular. Premise two defines natural laws as laws that are immutable, or unchanging over time, then they are impossible. This is just defining the conclusion into being true and this isn’t reasonable. The only way that someone could make the statement, “natural laws are immutable”, is if they were to have tested all laws, at all times, at all places in the universe or they would have to be omniscient. Only God can possess that quality. I would then just refer them back to the fact that there is no reason to assume that if God does exist He could not violate the laws that He set up.
Once we have dismantled the argument that says: miracles are impossible, it leaves the option that miracles can happen. The miracle, like the resurrection of Jesus, is open for discussion or at least makes the resurrection possible. The question then becomes: do we have good reason to support the resurrection? We know of it because of the testimony of the early eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. According to scholars like Richard Bachman, in his book, “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”, and Gary Habermas, the answer would be, yes. We do have good reason to trust their testimony. This, in turn, makes the miracle of the resurrection not only probable, but reasonable and likely given the facts.
In any apologetic conversation, I make sure that I am not creating a straw-man and then knocking it down. The most effective way to not commit the straw-man fallacy is to start with asking a series of questions, which allows the other person to lay out their view and for me to ask questions until I fully understand their view. I am making the assumption, the argument I have laid out is the one the other person could agree with. Often times, people don’t know how to put their view into a logical form. When I am teaching or mentoring, I try to do my best to help, so it is easier to have the conversation. It allows us to build off of something, work through the words, the truth of each premise, and the logical flow.