How Probable Is a Miracle?
Many skeptics approach religious matters from a standpoint of probabilities. Looking back at an historical event, they ask “how likely is it that such an event occurred.” Christianity, as we know, rests upon the historical claim that Jesus, a man, rose from the dead in some sort of supernatural body. One skeptic put the challenge this way:
Do you honestly think that a supernatural physical resurrection and ascension is really the most likely scenario here? I have no good reason to believe the various post resurrection appearances as they all come down to us as hearsay accounts. Even if they are true however I still think there are much more plausible natural explanations for these historical occurrences. I’ve been reading a lot about religious and cult group behavior and there is no shortage of examples where persecution binds them together and strengthens their convictions.
This is understandable in a way. We intuitively assess claims that are put to us to see how plausible they are, and none of us wants to be made the fool. Try, for example, telling someone that the word “gullible” is written on their back and you’ll see what I mean. So, when someone tells you about the 10-foot fish he caught, you suspect exaggeration, at the very least, if not outright falsehood. And what bigger “whopper” is there than the account of a resurrected man?
Well, let’s see. How about the creation of the universe from nothing? According to Big Bang cosmology, the universe is expanding. Wind back the clock and you reach a point in the very distant past when there was no universe. There was nothing. Spend a moment thinking about that. Not vast empty space, or space teeming with lifeless rocks, but … nothing. Absolute, unbroken absence of anything. Yet somehow, from “outside”, a singularity appears from which everything we now see initially began…
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