In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God's Action in History

Article excerpt

In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God's Action in History. Edited by Douglas R. Geivett and Gary R. Habermas. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997, 330 pp., $17.99 paper.

This book represents the quality of apologetic material we have learned to expect from Geivett and Habermas. They have assembled an astute group of philosophers and theologians to address current philosophical and theological issues surrounding the subject of miracles. This book is perhaps the most important evangelical contribution to the study of miracles since the 1984 publication of Colin Brown's Miracles and the Critical Mind.

The book is divided into four major parts. Part 1 ("The Case against Miracles") introduces the problem of miracles with essays from two scholars antagonistic to the case of miracles. Chapter 1 is the widely known essay "Of Miracles" by David Hume (d. 1776). In chapter 2, renowned atheistic philosopher Antony Flew critiques and expands Hume's agenda through his philosophical naturalism. Geivett and Habermas are to be commended for allowing Hume and Flew to speak for themselves for the position against the possibility of miracles.

Part 2, chapter 3 ("The Possibility of Miracles") begins with an essay by Richard L. Purtill on "Defining Miracles." Purtill defines a miracle as "an event in which God temporarily makes an exception to the natural order of things, to show that God is acting." Purtill carefully articulates and defends each part of this definition while at the same time responding to Hume and Flew.

In chapter 4 ("Miracles & The Modern Mind") Norman Geisler provides an excellent summary and critique of the arguments of Hume and Flew, including both "hard" and "soft" interpretations of Hume's argument against miracles. Geisler astutely demonstrates how Hume confuses quantity of evidence with quality of evidence for miracles.

Francis J. Beckwith considers the value of historical evidence for the occurrence of miracles (chapter 5). He refutes historical relativism and the question-begging arguments of Troeltsch and Flew which assume a worldview opposed to the possibility of miracles.

Winfried Corduan explores the theological side of miracles in chapter 6 ("Recognizing a Miracle"). Corduan's contribution is unique in that he presents the difficulties of miracle claims for both the believer and unbeliever. He provides helpful theological observations and distinctions between "acts of God" and "miracles." His distinction between "constellation miracles" (those events which are miraculous by virtue of their timing) and "violation miracles" (those events which apparently violate a natural law) is especially noteworthy.

The theistic context for miracles is addressed in part 3. In "Miracles & Conceptual Systems" (chapter 7), Ronald Nash provides a helpful analysis of worldview issues related to miracles. Nash develops both C. S. Lewis and Richard Taylor's arguments against naturalism. He also investigates the psychology behind beliefs in theism or naturalism, arguing that it is most reasonable to believe in theism, hence affirming the reality of miracles.

In chapter 8 ("Science, Miracles, Agency Theory & The God-of-the-Gaps") J. P. Moreland examines the relationship between science and miracles. Moreland submits that recognition of miraculous events may be a part of scientific practice by accepting a libertarian model of agency. Moreland insists that God freely acts in the world; therefore, it is reasonable for the scientist to explain these "gaps" as events directly caused by God. They need not be simply eliminated by methodological naturalism.

David Beck's chapter on "God's Existence" concisely articulates three traditional arguments for the existence of God (cosmological, teleological, and moral) with the purpose of supporting the possibility of miracles. …