Discussion of the Feasibility of Miracles and the Grounds for Christianity existing without Miracles
Kurt Erler - Philosophical Classics
In the following Discussion, I will point out the facts and ideas that disagree with Hume's ideas. The ideas are the ones on miracles in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding involving Section ten of Miracles. The idea of this is using the circle philosophical argument. If one agrees that Christians believe in the Bible, and that miracles have people understand the Bible as Hume points out, then Christians must believe in miracles. If one takes away any of these things, the statement does not hold. In this case, the removal of the Bible is used. Hume confronts the ideas of religion directly by stating that without the splendor of miracles, Christianity and other beliefs would not stand. He states that miracles are used to make us believe the scriptures. This is not true, since from the starts of Christianity there were not always scriptures. There were pieces of art work done for generations before the texts were written and after that, they still had to be published.
From there, only the rich were well off enough to afford such a book. In fact, the Gospels were written from 20-100 years after Christ died. The Acts were a collection of works made from two hundred to three hundred years after the crucifixion, collected from different accounts. And then there are the letters, which were written approximately four hundred and fifty years after the fact. They were written by St. Paul who was also a soldier for the Roman army and killed hundreds of Christians who believed and followed God, without the scriptures that Hume talks about. From this, if you take away the scriptures, God's church carries on and if you take the people from the church, "God's church" still survives.
The scriptures do not make people believe, they help people understand. For this Hume is correct. He states that miracles help Christians understand what they believe, but the belief and faith are deeper. Miracles and parables helped people believe and understand what was to be our faith, but they are not what faith is about. You can take any miracle, and faith will still exist. Miracles are also becoming more understood. There is thought that as Hume presents, some miracles are in themselves tricks of nature, such as the splitting of the Red Sea. At a time of extreme low tide one can cross and that the Egyptian army sank because of the mud or their heavy armor they were laden with. There are bodies and armor found underneath the Red Sea that is Roman and there exists evidence of this being the cause of it. Hume says that miracles are the defiance or the breaking of the rules of nature. In his explanation, the lifting of a house or mountain is just as big a miracle, as is the lifting of a feather by the wind. As stated, in this Hume is possibly correct, that miracles are phenomena of nature that can, with advances in science, be explained. This is what Hume calls Transgressions of a law of nature. Hume defining non-natural events is led to believe that they are miracles, but all the time miracles, through science, are seen to be possible, so a miracle then is not miracles as much knows, yet the faith is not broken. Hume is also trying to end in his mind, what he thinks is superstition.
He thinks that when we start to think clearly about religion, we will start to lose our belief in it. Again he is using the argument that is stated in the above paragraph. Hume's criticisms are not aimed to tell you that your religious beliefs are false, instead he does not agree with the evidence given to support their convictions. He says the only advantage to holding onto your religious beliefs or being able to support them, is that you could give an unbeliever reason to share your beliefs.
If you think that there is rational evidence for your beliefs, and then you can go out and share them and get others to believe the same. Again, Christianity holds without the miracles, for in the beginning, there were no miracles that were talked about. Here is where a fideism is true. A fideist is someone who is willing to stick to their religious beliefs without having to see proof or miracles, so they just have faith. The advantage is that they are what people would be without miracles and that they are what would carry the church if all the other proofs and miracles didn't occur anymore, for Jesus even said that "Blessed are they who believe without seeing, for the kingdom of God is theirs."
Hume now goes on to say that we can never for certain know that miracles do exist. He says that the closest thing we have to believe in miracles is the transgressions of a law of nature. Our beliefs in nature are the strongest. He says that otherwise, evidence and witnesses can be wrong, and so the evidence found must be compelling enough that its falsehood breaks laws of nature. For these reasons, we will never have enough or strong enough evidence to prove that a miracle occurred.
Again, since we depend on experience, as Hume states, to know or explain what we see and what goes on, how can we know what a miracle is or looks like, such as similar as the example that you have no reason to believe that this world is incomplete and needs work, because you have never seen a completed world.
This turns into his argument of knowing God through experience. Not only can we not know God from experience of miracles, but he again uses the idea that since we have never experienced God, we cannot define him or what he is. This we can use with the argument of mathematics. We have never experienced infinite, a line, a plane or many other mathematical things, but we use them in many equations and in understanding other things. Humans are capable of comprehending things that we do not entirely understand.
Hume's arguments do not hold, because of the strong beliefs and ideas of humans before the knowing of miracles and the like. There is something innate about humans that tell them that something is most likely there. The beginnings of the universe, the creation of life, these things and others just do not appear from nowhere. This is the same thing that makes people know what good and bad are. You cannot believe in God, but something still tells you that killing a baby is wrong and to help someone is right. It is the feeling in the back of your head that does this to you. This is Hume's idea of morality. This is because of how we think one act would affect the world. Therefore, when we see one person doing many good acts, we think of them as a good person. We cannot infer that in another world a deity would change the small problems of this world. Where ever we have beliefs based on experience we can go as far as experience lets us go, but no further.
This is Hume's idea of understanding. Again, if one points out the mathematical explanations, this does not hold. He says we cannot transcend experience, so we have no idea of immortality. We get all idea from experience. Solid beliefs come from observing constant occurrences of something. The only beliefs that will stand up are beliefs that give you strong imperial evidence. Skepticism leads to moderation in views and that is good.
The changing of these views leads us to still show that Hume is wrong in that faith, infinite, and God still exists in human minds, even though we have never experienced him fully. As shown, time did not always have miracles on text to show them the way. We had faith and hope and for many that is still all they have or need.