Are Biblical Miracles “Magic”?
by Matt Rawlings
An atheist objected to one of my posts defending the historicity of the resurrection by arguing that any such claim is to argue for a belief in “magic.” Was she right?
Merriam-Webster defines magic as: “a power that allows people (such as witches and wizards) to do impossible things by saying special words or performing special actions; tricks that seem to be impossible and that are done by a performer to entertain people; and special power, influence, or skill.”
Let me state up front that, if we accept this definition, then I both agree and disagree with the young lady who made this statement. If you concede, even for argument’s sake, that God exists then obviously the resurrection is not too great a feat for a being that created the universe. But, that being said, it certainly would take “special power, influence or skill” to accomplish the defeat of death, at least compared to human ability.
The latest clash on social media between believers and this skeptic was partially based on the latter’s misunderstanding of what Christians mean when they use the word “miracle.” Wayne Grudem wrote, “A miracle is a less common kind of God’s activity in which he arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to himself.” Systematic Theology (Zondervan 1996), P. 355. Grudem uses the phrase “less common kind of God’s
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activity” because the Bible is clear that God is always active. In fact, the universe continues to exist by the power of his very thought (Hebrews 1:3). It is a mistake to dismiss the mathematical improbability of creation and its continued existence because of a predetermined commitment to naturalism.
But the young lady who made the objection seems to have been following David Hume’s argument who contended that claims to the miraculous are unreliable because (1) they violate the “laws of nature” and (2) they are typically made by the uneducated. Was Hume right?
Logically, Hume assumed an inviolable law of nature. He did not actually prove his case. In fact, many theoretical physicists reluctantly agree that the “laws of nature” are much more malleable than they would like it to be. For example, is light a wave or a particle? The answer is, “yes.” It appears to be a paradox.
But do only the uneducated claim to witness miracles? Not necessarily even though this objection is really a poor one regardless of who makes the claim. It is a logical fallacy to dismiss the testimony of anyone based on his or her level of education. A person may barely graduate from high school but still be able to accurately describe an event.
Furthermore, a well-educated person can make shocking claims…
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