Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Köstenberger reviews How God Became Jesus

The sheep hear his voice

10 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers” (Jn 10:1-5).
i) This is a much-loved passage of Scripture. Recently I saw a poster for a lost dog that made me aware of a distinction which commentators usually overlook. The distinction between hearing and naming. 
The poster had a picture of their dog. It said their dog "responds to the name…," then gave three variations on the same name or nickname. I assume the theory behind this is that if a stranger sees their dog roaming around, and he calls to it by name, it will come to him because it recognizes its name. 
That's an example of humans projecting human aptitudes on animals. It may flatter them to think their dog knows its own name. After all, they named it! 
But I think that overestimates canine intelligence. For that matter, we don't even know if dogs distinguish consonants and vowels the way we do. 
When people walk their dogs I sometimes notice then talking to their dogs, as if their dogs understand English. As if a dog is a child. 
Now, admittedly, I can't get inside the mind of a dog, and even if I could, I couldn't report back to you what a dog thinks like, since if I was thinking like a dog, I'd lack the cognitive ability to articulate my thoughts.
However, I'm guessing that when a dog responds to someone calling to it, what the dog recognizes is not the sound of a name, but the sound of a voice. It recognizes a familiar voice. The voice of its master or a family member. A unique timbre. A stranger can call a dog by name, but I doubt the dog will come to him for that reason. 
By the same token, dogs are very sensitive to the owner's tone of voice. A friendly tone. An angry tone. That's what they respond to. Not words, but tone and timbre. 
Of course, there are gregarious dogs who rush over to anyone they see. But that's a different principle.
ii) Naming is significant to the person who designates the dog. Hearing is significant to the dog. Naming has significance to the dog owner. It's a way the owner relates to his pet. He attaches personal significance to his dog by naming it. It's his dog, which is why he has the right to name it. It belongs to him. The name means nothing to the dog. 
However, the dog is familiar with his master's voice. He associates that voice with his master. That voice is significant to the dog. 
iii) I don't think sheep are terribly bright animals. And they're generally dumber than dogs. They are certainly dumber than sheep dogs (e.g. a collie or shetland shepherd). A sheep dog has to be smarter than the sheep to herd a flock of sheep. 
So the naming/hearing dichotomy applies to sheep as well as dogs.
Sometimes two or more flocks of sheep intermingle. Shepherds can separate them because his sheep know his voice. 
iv) I doubt shepherds name every sheep in their flock. It's been estimated that on average, a Palestinian shepherd had a flock of about 100 sheep. That would be a lot of names to keep track of. Fathers of large families sometimes find it hard to remember the names of all their kids! And they don't have a 100 kids. 
So this is probably a contrast between the average shepherd, who may name a few standouts, and the Good Shepherd, who really does know each sheep by name.
v) It's not just that Christ knows his sheep by name: he names them. Christian sheep have different first names, but the same last name (Rev 2:17; 3:12). Our surname is God's name. We are his adopted sons. 
In Scripture, naming is significant. When God names someone, that's an indication of possession, character, and/or future destiny. 
The elect are significant to God ever before God is significant to the elect. He loved us before we loved him. 
vi) Parents name their children. They often give a lot of thought to the name. Before the child is born, they may choose a boy's name and a girl's name, they wait to see which applies.
Babies aren't responsive to names, but they're responsive to their mother's voice. 
Unlike sheep, a child's name becomes significant to the child. He resents it if people forget his name, mispronounce his name, or make fun of his name.
vii) Sometimes this comes full circle. If the parent becomes senile, the parent will forget his (or her) child's name. The parent will forget his own name.
However, I suspect a parent who's becoming senile forgets a child's name before he forgets a child's voice. Until he becomes completely senile, he will continue to recognize the sound of his child's voice even after he's forgotten his child's name. 
Hearing his child's voice will comfort him. He won't feel so alone.
viii) Even though he's forgotten his own name, his child remembers. If a senile parent is hospitalized, he's surrounded by strangers. He could easily be lost.
His only real protection is having someone with the same last name who visits him regularly. If a grown child visits the parent every day, or camps out in the hospital room until he's discharged, the staff have to be more attentive. Whether or not they care about the patient, their actions are being monitored by someone who does. Someone who shares the same surname. 
That's a name they need to respect. There are legal liabilities if they don't. 
The Good Shepherd protects his sheep even when, or especially when, his sheep may be oblivious to danger, or defenseless in the face of danger. 

Apostolic miracles

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it (Jn 14:12-14).
i) Here are some elements of the cessationist argument:
a) They typically take Paul's discussion (1 Cor 12) of the spiritual gifts as their framework. Individuals who have a gift of healing, gift of xenoglossy, gift of prophecy. What ceases in cessationism is miraculously gifted individuals. 
b) They typically argue that if someone has a miraculous gift, then he can exercise that gift at his own discretion. Once God endows an individual with a miraculous gift, it operates autonomously. God has delegated that ability to the gifted individual. For instance, a healer is able to heal whoever he is willing to heal. (From what I've read, that's the position of Fred Butler and Sam Waldron.) 
c) They regard these gifts as essentially apostolic miracles. Their primary function is to authenticate the divine mission of the apostles. Hence, they cease with the apostles or their immediate disciples. That's the cut-off. It may be transmitted from an apostle to his disciple, but it's not transmitted from disciple to disciple. 
d) Some cessationists deny that answered prayer, however extraordinary, is ever miraculous. At most, an extraordinary answer to prayer is merely providential. (For instance, I've read things to indicate that's the position of Phil Johnson and Mike Riccardi.) 
Other cessationists might concede that answered prayer is sometimes miraculous, but it's not a "gift" of working miracles. (For instance, I've read things to indicate that's the position of Lyndon Unger and possibly John MacArthur.) 
ii) Cessationists of my acquaintance (e.g. Sam Waldron, Fred Butler, Matt Waymeyer) restrict the promise of Jn 14:12-14 to the Apostolate. Let's grant that narrow referent for the sake of argument.
iii) In v12, "greater works" denote miracles. That's admitted by cessationists. For instance:
Jesus was referring to miraculous works in John 14:12 when He spoke of “the works that I do.” This is clear not only from the immediate context of John 14 (see verses 10-11) but also from the greater context of John’s Gospel in which the miraculous works of Jesus gave evidence of His identity (see 5:36; 10:25; 20:30-31). And what miraculous works was Jesus referring to? He doesn’t name them, but the Gospel of John—which records only a fraction of the signs and wonders Jesus performed (21:25)—provides several examples:
  • Jesus changed water into wine (2:1-11).
  • Jesus healed a boy who was about to die (4:46-54).
  • Jesus healed a man who had been crippled and unable to walk for 38 years (5:1-9).
  • Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish (6:1-14).
  • Jesus walked on water (6:16-21).
  • Jesus healed a man born blind (9:1-41).
  • Jesus resurrected a man who had been dead for four days (11:1-45).

iv) But notice the relationship between v12 and vv13-14. Even though, according to cessationism, these are apostolic miracles, this does not involve an autonomous ability to work miracles. Rather, these are miraculous answers to prayer. Performing these miracles is conditioned on asking God to make it happen. It's not a blank check, where an apostle can simply fill in the desired amount, then cash it. Rather, it happens at God's discretion, not the apostle's. They can't just perform a miracle at will. Rather, God must will the miracle by honoring their prayer. 
Jn 14:12-14 is not about spiritual gift to work miracles, but a promise regarding God's willingness to perform a miracle upon request.  
That's a very different paradigm than the standard cessationist paradigm. Yet this is the programmatic statement of how the apostles perform miracles (assuming we restrict the promise to the Apostolate). 
v) By implication, this means that if miraculous answers to prayer occur in postapostolic times, that's a continuation of the promise in Jn 14:12-14. It doesn't terminate with the apostolic age. It's not confined to the Apostolate. 
It's arbitrary to cast the cessationist/noncessationist debate exclusively in terms of the continuation or noncontinuation of "gifts" or gifted individuals. That's not the only operative framework in the NT. That overlooks Jn 14:12-14. 
vi) Interpreters struggle with the unqualified language of vv13-14. Is that really meant to be unexceptional? Is that a command performance? Does God do miracles on demand?
Since this passage occurs in the Johannine corpus, there's probably an unstated caveat that's made explicit in 1 Jn 5:14: And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

The Bart Ehrman defense

Apologist and annihilationist Glenn Peoples chimed in:

Glenn4/22/2014 7:58 PM 
Initially the author was talking about inerrancy. But then came this: "Denying the inspiration of Scripture can have far-reaching theological consequences." 
For some people, believing in inerrancy is the same as believing in inspiration. And this definitely, absolutely will create more Bart Ehrmans. Because now, as soon as they start to doubt inerrancy, they will think that perhaps the Bible isn't even inspired. 
An unintentional insight from the author perhaps, but an important one!

i) For purposes of this discussion, inerrancy and inspiration are interchangeable. That's because of how the issue was framed. The argument goes like this: "Even if we conclude that Scripture is not inerrant, Christianity is still true. That's because, even if the NT is just a historical document, like other uninspired ancient histories, an uninspired historical document can still be sufficiently accurate to vouch for the Resurrection."

That's the argument under review. Whether that's a viable fallback position. 

Notice that I'm simply responding to Peters et al. on their own terms. At this point I'm not saying if I personally think inerrancy and inspiration are interchangeable. 

ii) However, since Glenn brings it up, I'm happy to state my own position. Yes, inspiration does entail inerrancy. It's a cause/effect relation. 


iii) I'm also struck by what seems to be the growing popularity of the Bart Ehrman defense by ostensively Christian apologists. Making the reaction of a hypothetical Bart Ehrman the new standard of Christian orthodox. The principle is: Don't classify as a Christian essential anything that would make more Bart Ehrmans. 

I'm curious as to how far they take that standard. Don't insist that the Exodus really happened. That will create more Bart Ehrmans. Don't insist Adam and Eve were real people. That will create more Bart Ehrmans. Don't insist sex outside of marriage is sinful. That will create more Bart Ehrmans.

Is the standard of Christian orthodoxy how individuals react to Bible teaching? Is what we ought to be believe relative to what we are prepared to believe? 

If people threaten to reject Christianity because we insist on some "offensive" Bible teaching, are we supposed to capitulate? 

iv) Now, there's a sense in which we shouldn't impede Christian faith by making gratuitous demands. But the Bart Ehrman defense is boundless. 

v) Let's take a bad example of how to formulate inerrancy. In his attempt to harmonize the timing of Peter's denial (i.e. synchronize Peter's denial with cockcrow), Harold Lindsell resolved the perceived tension in variant synoptic accounts by multiplication: Peter denied Christ six times!

Now, that's a misapplication of inerrancy. It reflects a ham-fisted understanding of inerrancy.

Suppose a young Bart Ehrman, reading Lindsell's harmonization, exclaimed: "Well, if that's what inerrancy implies, then I reject the inerrancy of Scripture!" 

Who's primarily to blame? Erhman is to blame.  The proper response to Lindsell's harmonization is to say "Lindsell meant well, but the man has limitations."

Nominal Christians who lose their faith for bad reasons are responsible for their folly. 

vi) Let's examine Glenn's worse case scenario: "And this definitely, absolutely will create more Bart Ehrmans. Because now, as soon as they start to doubt inerrancy, they will think that perhaps the Bible isn't even inspired."

To begin with, so what? Should we deny the link between inerrancy and inspiration just because that has unfortunate consequences for doubters? If, as a matter of fact, inspiration implies inerrancy, then why shouldn't they take their denial to the logical conclusion? 

vii) What's the proper response to doubting inerrancy? Consider two possible responses:

a) The Bible seems to be in error. Therefore, the Bible is in error. Inerrancy is false. 

b) The Bible seems to be in error. Therefore, I'm in error. Inerrancy is true, but my interpretation is false, or my understanding of truth and error needs to be refined.

If we doubt the Bible, we should doubt ourselves. 

Aquinas, “existence”, and the failure to observe the Creator-creature distinction

Van Til, in his Introduction to Warfield's “Inspiration and Authority of the Bible”, notes that Roman Catholicism does not “start with the Creator-creature distinction as basic to all their interpretation of doctrine. They started with the idea of being as such and introduced the distinction of Creator and creature as a secondary something” (p. 49).

Protestants, from the earliest days of the Reformation, understood a “categorical distinction” between God and all of the rest of creation: the “Creator-creature distinction”. On the other hand, while God is Creator within the Roman Catholic system, God is not “above and beyond”, in a totally other category. He shares a trait, and that trait is “existence”.

In other words, the first category in Roman Catholicism is to start with “existence”: God has “existence”, and he passes this characteristic along to every other created thing. Down below and in subsequent entries I’ll begin to show how that cashes out in the Roman Catholic understanding of the universe.

This is not something that “damns them all to hell”. But this kind of difference at the starting point does lead to the kind of confusion in which Roman dogmas and Protestant doctrines cannot be reconciled after 500 years of differences.

There is also a caution that goes along with all of this.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"God and the gay Christian"

Physicalism and abortion

A stock argument for abortion is that the "fetus" is cognitively undeveloped compared to a child or adult. Indeed, this argument is increasingly extended to infants, to justify "afterbirth abortion."

This argument generally presupposes physicalism. Personhood is tied to brain development. 

Therefore, the mother has rights which the fetus does not. Indeed, the fetus has no rights.

But there's a catch. Physicalism is inconsistent with consciousness. Many secular philosopher admit this. It's the hard problem of consciousness. 

Some secular philosophers simply accept the dilemma. They think physicalism is true and consciousness is real. They despair of resolving the problem. 

However, some philosophers relieve the dilemma by reaffirming physicalism, but rejecting consciousness:

For them, there is no dilemma. Many secular philosophers reject eliminative materialism because they think consciousness is undeniable and elimitative materialism is self-contradictory.

Given their presuppositions, both sides are half-right. It's true that consciousness is undeniable. To deny consciousness is absurd and incoherent.

However, that's because eliminative materialism is a reductio ad absurdum of physicalism. Given physicalism, that's a logical consequence of physicalism. Valid, but absurd. Taking a false premise to a logical extreme. Physicalism commits them to that conclusion, even if its self-refuting. 

The only proper way to relieve the dilemma is to reject the other horn of the dilemma: physicalism. 

But this also poses a dilemma for defending abortion on the grounds of physicalism. Because it proves too much.

It's true that according to physicalism, the fetus is not a person. Problem is, according to physicalism, the mother is not a person either. Just as the fetus lacks consciousness, so does the mother. That's consistent physicalism. 

If rights are indexed to personhood or consciousness, then not only does the fetus have no rights, the mother has no rights. 

If no one has rights, then raw power is the broker. And in that scenario, men dominate. Women have power to the degree that men defer to women. 

Abortion and organ donors

Peter Singer is arguably the most influential secular bioethicist of his generation. He's a proponent of abortion and infanticide, as well as euthanizing the mentally and physically disabled. And he's the father of the modern animal-rights movement.

One of his arguments is to draw invidious comparisons between the cognitive development of a one-year-old chimp and a one-year-old child. Since humans take longer to mature than chimpanzees, there's a sense in which a one-year-old chimp is more mature, more developed, than its human counterpart. Of course, that's not a fair comparison. You should compare a one-year-old chimp with what would be the equivalent for a child. 

But in any event, many people who support abortion appreciate Singer's arguments. However, there's a catch.

He's a utilitarian. The common good trumps individual rights. In principle, a utilitarian will support involuntary organ harvesting. At present, the human body has the following reusable organs: kidneys, heart, liver, pancreas, intestines, lungs, skin, bones, and corneas. 

There are patients in desperate need of organ transplants. There are more patients than donated organs to go around.

But in principle, one healthy donor could supply several desperate patients. Of course, if you remove one or more vital organs from a healthy donor, he won't survive. 

In utilitarianism, it would be justifiable, perhaps even obligatory, to kill a heathy patient to save several ailing patients. The common good trumps consent. 

And this is more than just hypothetical. To the extent that society abandons Christian ethics, anything goes. It becomes a question of what you can persuade judges or lawmakers to accept. The rules are whatever rules we make. 

I doubt those who sign onto Singer because they like what he says about abortion would like to be on the receiving end of his value system when they are strapped to a table to donate vital organs (or corneas) against their will. They may not think that's a realistic danger, but if they have their way, that's the future. 

History and miracles

This is a sequel to two previous posts:

I'm going to respond to some statements by Nick Peters, both in response to me and other commenters:

Also, in my apologetics endeavors, I am very careful with when I deal with Bible contradictions. I will normally address some for other Christians, but too often many atheists have this idea that "If I find one contradiction in the Bible, I can throw the whole thing out." That's a terrible way of doing history and would require we pretty much scrap all of ancient history. I ask that they just at the start treat the Bible like any other document. Of course, I hope that they would come to see its divine inspiration and Inerrancy, but I am fine with them starting where they are.Yet I do not deny for a moment that resurrection is the more important belief. If Inerrancy is false, well I have to change my view of Scripture, but not my view of who Jesus is or if Christianity is true. If the resurrection is false, my entire worldview is changed. We're not saying to reject Inerrancy. Not at all. We're saying it's not essential and the way you can know what Jesus did can also be done just by historical research. You can treat the Bible like any other historical document and still come to the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead.If someone wants to come to Jesus and says "I'm convinced Jesus is the God-man who died and rose again, but I'm not sold that Jonah was in the belly of a big fish for the time he was" I'm not going to tell them to wait. They need to come now.
This conflates several issues that need to be distinguished:
i) We need to distinguish between defensive apologetics, and offensive apologetics or personal evangelism. 
In reference to offensive apologetics or personal evangelism, you can't make a direct appeal to the authority of Scripture since the unbeliever rejects the authority of Scripture. For the unbeliever, that's not a given. So the Christian apologist must reason for the authority of Scripture in that context. That's a conclusion rather than a starting-point.
ii) But in defensive apologetics, the Christian apologist can and should take the inspiration of Scripture for granted, since defensive apologetics isn't confined to common ground with the unbeliever, but what Christians believe. 
iii) In principle, a Christian apologist can ask or challenge the unbeliever to grant the inspiration of Scripture for the sake of argument, and explore the consequences of that postulate. 
iv) On a related note, it's necessary to distinguish between apologetic strategy or apologetic method, on the one hand, and Christian theology, on the other hand. 
Even if we think, as a matter of apologetic method or strategy, that we should bracket inspiration and simply treat the Bible like any other historical document, even if we think the inspiration of Scripture is inessential as an apologetic presupposition, it hardly follows that inspiration is essential from the standpoint of Christian theology.
v) Apropos (iv), it is essential to Biblical theism that God is a God who speaks as well as acts. A God who communicates to and through humans. Divine inspiration/revelation is no less important to the Biblical worldview than the Resurrection. Both involve core notions of God's activity in the world.
Likewise, inspiration/inerrancy is arguably indispensable to the distinction between true and false prophecy. And that's a key distinction in Biblical theology.  
A religion in which God raises Christ from the dead, but God doesn't communicate to and through humans (e.g. prophets, apostles) is not the Judeo-Christian faith. 
vi) There are "progressive Christians" who distinguish between inspiration and inerrancy. They hold some diluted view of inspiration which allows for errors in Scripture. Be that as it may, bracketing inspiration in toto, to simply treat the Bible as a historical document, whatever its merits as an apologetic method or strategy, is wholly inadequate unless we can reintroduce inspiration/revelation into Christian theology at a later stage of the apologetic argument.
vii) Merely treating the Bible as a historical document is deceptively simple. For Bible history isn't just a matter of historical events, but miraculous events. In that regard, unbelievers raise one of two objections:
a) Some unbelievers insist that methodological naturalism is essential historiography. Therefore, as a matter of principle, they preemptively discount the record of Scripture when it reports a miracle. 
b) Some unbelievers allow for historical evidence for miracles in theory. However, they maintain that the prior probability of a miracles is so vanishingly small that historical testimony for miracles can never surmount the overwhelming presumption to the contrary. A naturalistic explanation, however improbable, is always more probable than a supernaturalistic explanation. 
Therefore, simply approaching the Bible as a historical document isn't nearly as straightforward as it sounds. That's instantly complicated by these objections. So a Christian apologist who takes that tack will be immediately plunged into a debate over methodological naturalism and/or the probability of miracles. 
viii) Nick hasn't explained how he gets from the Bible as a generally reliable historical source to the Bible as inerrant/inspired.
ix) There are traditional ways of arguing for Scripture that don't just treat the Bible as a historical document. Take the classic argument from prophecy. To be sure, that has its own complications. The apologist must establish the priority and fulfillment of the prophecy. 
But that's an argument that which the Bible as divinely inspired right from the outset–without, however, begging the question. For the apologist proceeds to make a case for prophetic corroboration. 
x) The question of apologetic method/strategy is also distinct from the question of whether Christians need a fallback position, short of inerrancy and short of apostasy, to soften the landing in case they either lose faith in the inerrancy of Scripture or were never convinced in the first place. Even if we agree with that, it's a separate issue from apologetic method/strategy.
xi) Apropos (i), the threat that if I find one mistake in Scripture I will chuck the Christian faith, assumes that there's a viable alternative to the Christian worldview. Many apostates make fairly minimal adjustments to their worldview after they defect from the faith. That's because they are philosophically superficial. They continue to take many things for granted which naturalism is unable to justify. 
Rather than lowering the bar of Christian theology, we should raise the bar of atheism. There are atheists who are more candid and probing about the radically skeptical consequences of atheism (e.g. Hume, Quine, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Dennett, Rosenberg, Benatar, Paul & Patricia Churchland). It would be better to point out that if you jump ship (i.e. Christianity), there's no lifeboat waiting for you to conduct you to safe harbor. Rather, you're diving into the shark-infested waters of nihilism. Conversely, we can turn that into a presuppositional argument for Biblical theism. 
xii) If an unbeliever says he can't take Jonah's fish miracle seriously, instead of giving him a pass, we should question him on why. Does he object to that miracle because he objects to miracles in general, or is there something about that miracle in particular which he finds incredible? If so, what?
xiii) There's the specter of lowballing the unbeliever in Nick's apologetic strategy. Instead of leveling with the unbeliever about what the Christian faith commits him to, we try to get him hooked, then reveal the hidden surcharges after the fact. Is that really preferable to being upfront about the whole package deal? Otherwise, we're guilty of false advertising. 

Should Evangelicals Embrace Historical Criticism?

In Defense of the Bible

Reviewing Paul & the Faithfulness of God

The Curious Case of Cardinal Cajetan

Monday, April 21, 2014

Anscombe on Hume

In her essay on "Hume on Miracles," Elizabeth Anscombe offers a compact critique of Hume's celebrated attack on miracles:

A strong reason for the fame of the Essay, I should judge, is the literary skill, which is greater in the Enquiry than in the Treatise. Literary skill is independent of the soundness in argument or truthfulness in reporting. One of the most agreeable passages in Hume's chapter, for example, is that in which reports an account by Cardinal de Retz of an alleged miracle in Saragossa. 
But if one looks up the passage one has to conclude that Hume was probably relying on his memory to report it, and his memory cooked it up a bit in the interests of his argument. E.g. you would think from Hume's passage that de Retz had questioned the townspeople, whereas all he reports is what the Dean and cantors (elevated by Hume into the greater dignity of canons) told him. The comic effect, from the point of view of pious credulity, of a story of being cured by lamp oil, is taken away by making it "holy oil"; the Cardinal's own caution in committing himself as to whether the people, whom he saw at a day's journey away covering the roads on the way to Saragossa, really were going there to celebrate this miracle–which suggests that he wasn't sure it was not a leg pull on him–is transmuted into his having found that the whole company in town, by their zealous devotion, were thorough believers in the miracle. 
The accusations against Hume's arguments by his critics, which seem sound enough, can be listed quite briefly: 
1. Hume doges about between different definitions of a miracle as (a) anything contrary to the uniform course of experience, or (ii) a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity or by the interposition of some invisible agent. 
2. The first definition is question begging, as may be seen from his remark: "It is a miracle, that a dead man should come to life; because that has never been observed in any age or country." 
3. Indeed Hume carries the first definition to an extreme point of absurdity: "There must therefore be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation." This is self-defeating, as the alleged miraculous event, having possibly happened, would be enough to call its miraculous character in question–since if it had happened, there would not be uniform experience against it; and hence its miraculous character could not be adduced as an argument against it having happened. 
4. Hume's aim is to procure (what has indeed been procured) that the miraculous character of an event shall be sufficient reason to reject the story of its having occurred without investigation of any evidence. This is a strange termination of an argument which starts with the thesis that a wise man proportions his belief to the evidence. 
5. Hume misdescribes the role of testimony in human knowledge. "The reason," he says," "why we place any credit in witnesses and historians, is not derived from any connexion, which we perceive a priori, between testimony and reality, but because we are accustomed to find a conformity between them. But when the fact attested is such a one as has seldom fallen under our observation, here is a context of two opposite experiences." 
Well, I have not merely not often, but never, experienced an earthquake; yet there is no conflict, no principle of experience which in this case gives me a "degree of assurance against the fact" that witnesses to earthquakes endeavor to establish. 
6. On the point of consistency with his own philosophy, there cold hardly be a defense. Hume is so clear that no amount of uniformity of experience can possibly be a rational ground, or evidence, let alone proof, that the like must happen in a similar case, that it really looks as if his tongue were in his cheek when he says that the occurrence of a miracle is disproved just by the fact of its being a violation of the laws of nature; that it is ruled out as an impossible event. In the very next chapter but one he repeats his constant position that, reasoning a priori, we must grant that anything may produce anything. "The falling of a pebble may, for aught we know, extinguish the sun." and yet in his chapter we get him saying "The raising of a house or ship into the air is a visible miracle. The raising of a feather, when the wind wants ever so little of force requisite for that purpose, is as real a miracle, though not so sensible with regard to us" In short for purposes of this chapter he is adopting the mechanistic determinism–the picture of nature bound fast in fate by inviolable laws–which belong not to Hume's conceptions but to those of his century–the effect of Newtonian science (?). His own view is: 
That there is nothing in any object, considered in itself, which can afford us a reason for drawing a conclusion beyond it; and That even after the observation of a frequent or constant conjunction of objects, we have no reason to draw any inference concerning any object beyond those of which we have had experience; I say, let men be once fully convinced of these two principles, and this will throw them so loose from all common systems, that they will make no difficulty of receiving any, which may appear the most extraordinary. 
The essay is brilliant propaganda…The argument for Hume's account of causality, that this is just the avoidable way we do think, is as silly if addressed to believers in miracles as the proof of God from universal consent addressed to atheists. 
G. E. M. Anscome, Faith in a Hard Ground (Imprint Academic 2008), chap. 4.

Blomberg on modern miracles

Keener has also compiled a catalog of some of the most verified miracles throughout Christian history, indicating the strict criteria that they must meet, so that he has probably eliminated many genuine miracles from consideration in so doing.  
My own experience is more limited than some, but my family and I have had firsthand, personal exposure to or involvement with several experiences for which science has no explanation but that fit Christian faith hand in glove. My aunt who passed away at the age of 88 in 1993 had a multiply-fractured ankle poorly reset in her thirties and experienced so much pain that by her late sixties she was on constant, heavy medication. One evening just before midnight, following the instructions of a preacher on a television show she as watching, she prayed for healing for her ankle and went to bed. The next morning the pain was gone, and she lived another twenty years without its recurrence and without ever taking another pain pill for that particular problem. 
As an elder in a local church, I regularly participated in prayers for healing in which we anointed people with oil according to the instructions in Jas 5:13-18. On two occasions, patients with previously diagnosed cancerous tumors went to their doctors shortly afterward, and the medical experts could find no trace of any tumors ever having existed. 
My wife, during her nurse's training at a teaching hospital one evening, watched a team of emergency personnel rush into a room in which she was trying unsucessessfully to make an elderly heart patient comfortable. The head nurse commended by wife for having come to get her, even though she had left her patient unattended in so doing, and confirmed that the patient was indeed having a heart attack. My wife replied that she had never left the room. Later the two women searched the floor, asking everyone they could if anyone resembling my wife had been on the wing, and the answer was uniformly negative. Given that she had fiery red, curly hair, there could not have been many such individuals, and even if such a look-alike had been on the floor, she would have had no reason to tell the head nurse that the patient my wife was attending in that room had suffered a heart attack.
A few years ago before my mother moved out of the house she had lived in for over fit years and into a retirement community, she was starting to go out her back door and walk to the alley behind her garage one cold winter's day, to put out garbage for the trash collector. Unlike any experience she had ever had in her life, and although she was entirely alone in her house, she heard an audible voice telling her, "Take your cane." Startled, but assuming it was God, she grabbed her cane. Just before closing the backdoor behind her, she heard the voice again say, "Now take your cell phone." Again, nothing like this had ever happened to her before, nor has it happened since. As she was walking on the sidewalk through the backyard, she realized that there was a think layer of ice she hadn't seen from the house, and the cane became quite important to keep her from falling. After emptying the trash, she realized that she was poised precariously between larger sections of snow and ice, so that she didn't want to try to navigate the walk even with the cane. So she used her phone to call for help and was able to get back to the house with assistance. My mother acknowledged that she would have been quite frightened otherwise,  having recently had knee surgery, if she had tried to get back on her own, and she felt sure there was a good chance she would have fallen. 
Once a friend and former student contacted me, told me she had dreamed that I had a particular affliction, and accurately described a recently injury I had experienced.  
I could add even more astonishing examples, but I have not sought their permission to tell their stories. Several, I know, would not want attention drawn to themselves.  
Craig Blomberg, Can We Still Believe the Bible? (Brazos Press 2014), chap. 6. 

Dog-eat-dog world

There are lots of dystopian movies and TV shows. And current subgenre is the zombie flick. But many dystopian movies and TV shows don't feature zombies. Examples include Gibson's Max Max series, Jericho, The Book of Eli, and Revolution.
Some dystopian films have a political agenda. During the Cold War, you had movies promoting unilateral nuclear disarmament (On the Beach; The Day After). Others have an environmentalist agenda (Soylent Green; The Day After Tomorrow). 
In these films, with the destruction of civil authority, human society reverts to barbarity. You have roving rape gangs. Cannibals. Brutal, dictatorial city-states. 
Some survivalists promote the gold standard, on the theory that in the event of gov't collapse, gold will become the fallback currency. But in a post-apocalyptic scenario, many things will be far more valuable than gold, viz. guns, bullets, batteries, gasoline, medicine, flashlights, lighters, pocket knives, chainsaws, solar chargers, drinking water, canned goods, women of childbearing age.
One question we might ask is what are some of the more realistic causes of a post-apocalyptic world? Likewise, what would be the greatest threats in a post-apocalyptic world? 
One looming concern is whether, in the not-so-distant future, pandemics will return because the overuse of antibiotics (and antivirals) led to resistant strains. A post-antibiotic world which reverts to a pre-antibiotic world. Antibiotics are also essential in surgery to stave off infection. 
Another possibility is that when scientists clone fossilized organic matter, that will accidentally release an ancient pathogen for which modern-day humans have no resistance.

Like theories about how the vastly outnumbered Conquistadors were able defeat Mesoamerican warrior cultures. Was it due to their exposure to European diseases? 
Suppose most of the human race was wiped out by one of these pandemics, leaving scattered survivors. What would pose the greatest threat to survivors? In movies and TV shows, it's usually desperate fellow humans. 
But here's a neglected threat: dogs. Of course, a percentage of dogs would starve to death because they can't escape the house or fenced yard after their owners die. But other dogs would be on the loose. Without owners, they'd form packs and revert to their wolfish instincts. Big dogs would eat little dogs (as well as cats). Tough dogs would kill sweet dogs. Bad news for Golden Retrievers. 
You'd end up with roving packs of pit bulls, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Malinois, Tosas, Presas, Rottweilers, Irish Wolfhounds, &c. And humans would be on the menu. 
Handguns and rifles might be inadequate, since you might be unable to get off enough shots to drop a vicious dog pack. You'd need a submachine gun. 

Raining on Bart Ehrman’s Easter parade

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The temptation of Christ

The high Calvinist doctrine of God's sovereignty including evil as part of God's plan, purpose, and determining power blatantly contradicts Scripture passages…[God] never tempts anyone (James 1:13). To be sure, Calvinists have clever but unconvincing explanations of these and numerous other passages of Scripture. R. Olson, Against Calvinism, 98-99. 

Let's compare Jas 1:13 to another passage:

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Mt 4:1). 
In this passage, Satan is the actual tempter. Yet his role is instrumental. Jesus is led by the Spirit of God in order to undergo temptation. So, indirectly, God is behind the temptation, as a part of his "plan and purpose." 

The historicity of Jonah

Donald J. Wiseman and T. Desmond Alexander both wrote good articles on Jonah, which are currently available for free.

Go here:

Click on 1979 and 1985 respectively.

Scroll down and download their articles.

The Messiah of Mott Street

Edward G. Robinson was a popular character actor who played a number of memorable roles. He was a Jewish emigre from Romania. Years ago I read his autobiography. It was a bit of a let-down. Oftentimes, an actor's real life is less interesting than his fictional onscreen lives. 

During the Prohibition era, Robinson became famous playing gangsters. Most notably Little Caesar. He later had a role in the film noire classic Double Indemnity. He had great role in the Bogie and Becall classic, Key Largo, and another great role as the wily gambler in The Cincinnate Kid, which had a wonderful ensemble cast, including Karl Malden, Steve McQueen, and Joan Blondell. Sci-fi buffs remember him from his swan song performance in Soylent Green.  

As a kid, I remember watching him in the little remembered made-for-TV film The Old Man Who Cried Wolf, in which he played an aging shop-keeper who witnessed the murder of his best friend. He reports it to the police, but they dismiss him as a crazy old man. His son has the same reaction. Everyone assumes it's the paranoid delusions of a old man who's losing his mind. 

Unfortunately, many of the elderly are treated like patients in a mental ward. No one takes them seriously. He conducts his own investigation, which makes himself a target. When he, too, is murdered, his son belatedly realizes that his dad was not imagining things. 

I also remember him from a classic episode of Night Gallery: "The Messiah of Mott Street". He plays a dying Jew (Abraham Goldman). He's not ready to die because he's caring for his 9-year-old grandson. He's behind on the rent and a social worker is threatening to take his grandson away.

But he's an observant Jew, and he's pinning his hopes on the Messiah coming to his aid. Of course, the adults dismiss this as wishful thinking. Possibly delirium, due to his deteriorating condition. But his grandson believes him. It's Christmas Eve, and his grandson goes outside, searching for the Messiah on the snowy streets and sidewalks. Inside, a spectral figure overshadows Goldman. Is it the angel of death? 

Goldman is miraculously healed, and a check arrives in the mail. The Messiah did come after all, but the adults didn't recognize him, except for Goldman and his grandson. 

This presumably plays on the traditional motif that only the faithful, or children, have eyes to perceive the ways of God. 

The story combines Christian themes (Christmas) with Jewish themes (the Messiah). It's a touching drama, in a sentimental way. And it's anchored by Robinson's performance. 

Rod Serling wrote the teleplay. Like Robinson, Serling was nominally Jewish. 

This is how we'd like stories to end, but in real life they rarely end that way. Some Jews have given up waiting for the Messiah. They lost hope. Ironically, they are waiting for a Messiah who never comes because he already came. They are too late for his first advent, but too early for his second advent. Like missing connections at the airport because you expect your passenger to arrive on the wrong flight. He came and went before you arrived. 

This Easter, and every Easter, we celebrate the Messiah who did come, and who is coming again. Coming for his people. And he can come again because he's a living Messiah. The Risen Son of God Incarnate. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Monsters On Maple Street

Let's spend a little more time on the parallel between MacArthurites and secular debunkers. As I've documented in the past, MacArthurites resort identical arguments. I'll give back-to-back examples at the end of this post. Unfortunately, the MacArthurites are matching the atheists move for move.
Before discussing that, let's back up a step. In my experience, MacArthurites are so transfixed by errors and abuses in the charismatic movement that that fills their view screen. They are oblivious to the danger which they themselves are fostering in their overreaction to the charismatic movement.  
Their attitude reminds me of the classic Twilight Zone episode ("The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street") in which alien invaders successfully deflect attention from the real threat by making neighbors turn on each other in a self-destructive witch hunt. 
Secular debunkers deploy these arguments to discredit miracles in general. MacArthurites ape the same arguments to discredit postapostolic charismatic miracles in particular. The obvious problem is arbitrarily restricting the force of their arguments to all and only postapostolic charismatic miracles. They act as if their arguments, like smart bombs, will only target just those reported miracles which happen to conflict with cessationism, why allowing biblical miracles, and the subset of postapostolic miracles consistent with cessationism, to escape unscathed. 
Unfortunately, MacArthurites are conditioning Christians who've imbibed their brand of cessationism to commit apostasy if they ever encounter atheists who use the very same arguments to discredit biblical miracles. Imagine teenagers who attend Grace Community Church (or students to attend the Master's College or Master's Seminary). Teenagers (or students) who've dutifully mastered the objections to modern charismatic miracles offered by MacArthurites like Fred Butler, Ed Dingess, Lyndon Unger, et al. 
Imagine, when surfing the web, they are suddenly exposed to atheists who use the identical arguments to discredit biblical miracles? Not only have MacArthurites left them defenseless against this line of attack, MacArthurites have predisposed them to lose their faith on contact the moment they encounter direct, parallel arguments against the miracles of Scripture. The proverbial accident waiting to happen. Instant apostates: just add water. 
MacArthurites are giving atheists a huge opening to begin picking off Christians. Of course, that's not their intention. But when they are warned, they angrily denounce the warning. Obviously, MacArthurites aren't equipping Christians on how to field this challenge, for they don't even acknowledge the problem they've nurtured. The MacArthurite is safe so long as he remains in his freeze-dried condition, sealed in a waterproof container. 
Mind you, MacArthurites who turn to someone like Mennoknight for intellectual leadership are going to be pretty impervious to arguments one way or the other. Keener's two-volume monograph on miracles is no match for Unger's muppet show. Who wants to slog through Keener when you can watch Unger don a propeller-cap and make animal balloons. Adult preschool for readers who've been held back 12 grades. 
My concern is for smart young MacArthurites whose one-sided indoctrination leaves them vulnerable. It's a lot easier to protect something from breakage than to wait until it breaks, then try to fix it. That's often too late. The damage is irreparable. If you wait until kids raised on MacArthurite cessation lose their faith when they discover atheistic counterparts, you waited too long. 
Now, perhaps a MacArthurite would respond by saying, "Well, the same arguments don't apply to Biblical miracles because Biblical testimony is special." Indeed, I've read MacArthurites who do respond in that vein. Problem is, that reflects a failure on their part to understand cessationism, even though that's their own position. 
In cessationism, the Bible doesn't start out special. That's the conclusion of a multi-staged argument. In cessationism, the Bible is in the same initial position as the Koran, the Book of Mormon, Swedenborg's Arcana Cœlestia, &c. In cessationism, Isaiah starts out in the same position as Oral Roberts. 
At this preliminary stage of the cessationist case, the Bible is simply one of several rival revelatory claimants. Out of the starting gate, it has no lead over the competition
In the cessationist argument, what makes the Bible special is the argument from miracles. Apostles and prophets preform miracles which validate their divine commission. "Sign-gifts."
However, there's a complication. The source of this information comes from the Bible itself. The Bible attributes miracles to OT prophets and NT apostles. But unless the Bible is special, it is viciously circular to cite reported miracles in Scripture to furnish miraculous confirmation for the reporters. At this preliminary stage of the cessationist argument, we have yet to establish that Biblical testimony is special.  
At this preliminary stage, the argument from miracles must, in turn, fall back on the general reliability of testimonial evidence. But unfortunately, the cessationist must impugn the general reliability of testimonial evidence to discredit any and all reported miracles which conflict with cessationism. They have to say testimonial evidence is only trustworthy when it just so happens to coincide with reported miracles consistent with cessationism. Whenever it bears witness to miracles inconsistent with cessationism, it suddenly becomes totally unreliable. MacArthurites need to explain how their procedure isn't an egregious case of special pleading. 
MacArthurites attack charismatics for compromising the sufficiency of Scripture, and some charismatics are guilty, but MacArthurites are so mesmerized by the dangers of the charismatic movement that they can't take their eyes off that long enough to reflect on the internal tensions in their own position. In cessationism, Scripture is insufficient. In cessationism, Scripture does not stand on its own. Rather, Scripture occupies the second floor, which rests on the first floor of miraculous attestation, which rests on the foundation of testimonial evidence. 
i) Now, there are alternative ways of defending Scripture. In principle, you could mount a presuppositional argument for Scripture. However, the presuppositional authority of Scripture is inconsistent with cessationism. Although a presuppositional argument could incorporate some of the same elements (e.g. argument from miracles, testimonial evidence), they will be rearranged. For instance, the argument from miracles lacks the foundational role in presuppositionalism that it occupies in cessationism. 
An argument for the presuppositional authority of Scripture would discuss how biblical creation and providence are necessary to underwrite memory and sense knowledge, as well as the possibility of miracles. It begins with Biblical theism, as a precondition for testimony and miracles. God is the metaphysical starting-point, but at the level of epistemology, one can reason from miracles to God.
a) The order of being: God>miracles
b) The order of knowing: miracles>God 
ii) In principle, you could also appeal to postapostolic Christian miracles to furnish collaborative evidence. But that poses a dilemma for cessationism, since it must reject the general reliability of testimony (see above). 
Let's now sample some parallel arguments by atheists and MacArthurites:
Atheists on ETs
These are just some of the reasons why we cannot trust extraordinary reports from that time without excellent evidence, which we do not have in the case of the physical resurrection of Jesus. What about alien bodies recovered from a crashed flying saucer in Roswell, New Mexico? Many people sincerely believe that legend today, yet this is the modern age, with ample evidence against it in print that is easily accessible to anyone, and this legend began only thirty years after the event.
In Matthew, the women “suddenly” see Jesus. He says the disciples will see him in Galilee, and it does not sound as if he will be walking. In Luke, he disappears before the eyes of the disciples he met on the road to Emmaus. In John, he appears out of nowhere in a house whose doors have been shut against the Jews.
All of this is suggestive of hallucinations. There is one other point that should be made, which comes from Robert Sheaffer, who has writ- ten many magazine articles and one book on UFO reports. He has also written a book on the origins of Christianity called The Making of the Messiah. It gets off track in relying heavily on anti-Christian polemic from the second century and later (does Sheaffer imagine such works can be treated as contemporary debunkings?), but his comments on the similarity between UFO reports and the resurrection appearances are worth listening to. 
C. Hallquist, UFOs, Ghosts, and a Rising God: Debunking the Resurrection of Jesus, 109.

MacArthurites on ETs
Fred Butler @Fred_Butler1hPls explain how the hysterical claims of UFO activity in this video  differ frm those regarding modern miracles. 
I had twittered out a link to a documentary trailer on UFOs in which wide-eyed enthusiasts passionately testify to the overwhelming evidence that extraterrestrial vehicles dominate our skies. How can thousands of eye-witnesses be wrong? Well, of course they can’t be; the evidence is just too powerful. 
I merely noted that the eye-witnesses to UFO activity are just as confident and absolute certain that UFOs exist (because they saw them) as Pentecostal/charismatics are certain modern day miracles happen (because they saw them). Watch that video. Switch the word “UFO” with “miracle” or “healing” and the testimonies are so similar it’s uncanny.
Atheists on amputees
So what should happen if we pray to God to restore amputated limbs? Clearly, if God is real, limbs should regenerate through prayer. In reality, they do not. 
Why not? Because God is imaginary. Notice that there is zero ambiguity in this situation. There is only one way for a limb to regenerate through prayer: God must exist and God must answer prayers. What we find is that whenever we create a unambiguous situation like this and look at the results of prayer, prayer never works. God never "answers prayers" if there is no possibility of coincidence
MacArthurites on amputees
When people were healed, it was an undeniable, extraordinary work of the Spirit healing an individual (Acts 4:16). Something the “Amazing” Randi could not deny. Think Iraqi war veterans getting their limbs back completely whole or the late Christopher Reeves having his spinal cord injury reversed.
It is nice to hear about a person having her hip pain taken away and his flu-like symptoms disappearing, but those miraculous healings, even if they are occasionally supernatural healings (and I am not saying they aren’t) are no where near the kind of supernatural healings recorded in the Bible. I want to see people with the gift of healing going into burn wards, veteran’s hospitals with soldiers who have lost limbs, and hospitals that specialize with spinal cord injuries.
[ Ed Dingess] Name one that is biblical. To claim that false healings and miracles and gibberish are the works of the Holy Spirit is a dangerous practice. That is MacArthur's point. Produce one person that has been healed of congenial blindness, one amputee who's limb has grown back, one legitimate resurrection...just one. Show me someone who speaks in the tongues Luke describes in Acts 2...just one. 

Atheists on cancer

Also, he [God] could say, "Folks, I'm going to do you a favor: make you immune to cancer," where from that day on no cancers are observed in anyone. It would put the oncologists out of business, but it would please everyone else, but more importantly: it would provide excellent evidence that God exists.
Someone tells us that God loves us as a father loves his children. We are reassured. But then we see a child dying of inoperable cancer of the throat. His earthly father is driven frantic in his efforts to help, but his Heavenly Father reveals no obvious sign of concern. Some qualification is made -- God's love is "not a merely human love" or it is "an inscrutable love," perhaps -- and we realise that such sufferings are quite compatible with the truth of the assertion that "God loves us as a father (but, of course, ...)." We are reassured again. But then perhaps we ask: what is this assurance of God's (appropriately qualified) love worth, what is this apparent guarantee really a guarantee against? Just what would have to happen not merely (morally and wrongly) to tempt but also (logically and rightly) to entitle us to say "God does not love us" or even "God does not exist"? I therefore put to the succeeding symposiasts the simple central questions, "What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of the love of, or of the existence of, God?"

MacArthurites on cancer

All of that to say, if contiuationists are correct that signs and wonders are a part of the normal Christian experience and they are happening with regularity among God’s people, then there should be gifted individuals who should do extraordinary signs and wonders with their laying on of hands.  Their ministry should be public — I would suggest a children’s cancer hospital or special ministries department at a local church.  And their ministry should be witnessed by believers and unbelievers alike and those signs and wonders should be both undeniable and verifiable.
Continuationists would easily smash the cessationist position if any one of the thousands of people who claim to have the spiritual gift of healing would simply clean out a cancer ward on camera with verification by medical staff (and Jesus did this repeatedly – Matthew 4:24, 8:16; Luke 4:40), but the fact that nobody ever tries to attempt this is suggestive.

Atheists on biased sources

We have many of Caesar's enemies, including Cicero, a contemporary of the event, reporting the crossing of the Rubicon, whereas we have no hostile or even neutral records of the resurrection until over a hundred years after the event, which is fifty years after the Christians' own claims had been widely spread around.

MacArthurites on biased sources

I would even add, verified by unbelievers who knew the person before he or she was healed and now know of the person’s healing.
Atheists on secondhand testimony

[Lessing] Miracles, which I see with my own eyes, and which I have the opportunity to verify for myself, are one thing; miracles, of which I know only from history that others say they have seen them and verified them, are another. 
I live in the eighteenth century, in which miracles no longer happen.
The problem is that reports of fulfilled prophecies are not fulfilled prophecies; that reports of miracles are not miracles. 

MacArthurites on secondhand testimony

I too have read many accounts of modern miracles. I find them to be mostly hearsay and apocryphal.
[Ed Dingess] You will reply that you personally don't know of any faith healers to whom we can turn for healing. Have you ever witnessed an indisputable, certified genuine miracle? One for which there were no natural explanations?

Atheists on Third-World testimony

[Hume] It forms a strong presumption against all supernatural and miraculous relations, that they are observed chiefly to abound among ignorant and barbarous nations; or if a civilized people has ever given admission to any of them, that people will be found to have received them from ignorant and barbarous ancestors, who transmitted them with that inviolable sanction and authority, which always attend received opinions. When we peruse the first histories of all nations, we are apt to imagine ourselves transported into some new world; where the whole frame of nature is disjointed, and every element performs its operations in a different manner, from what it does at present. Battles, revolutions, pestilence, famine and death, are never the effect of those natural causes, which we experience. Prodigies, omens, oracles, judgements, quite obscure the few natural events, that are intermingled with them. But as the former grow thinner every page, in proportion as we advance nearer the enlightened ages, we soon learn, that there is nothing mysterious or supernatural in the case, but that all proceeds from the usual propensity of mankind towards the marvellous, and that, though this inclination may at intervals receive a check from sense and learning, it can never be thoroughly extirpated from human nature.    It is strange, a judicious reader is apt to say, upon the perusal of these wonderful historians, that such prodigious events never happen in our days.   The advantages are so great, of starting an imposture among an ignorant people, that, even though the delusion should be too gross to impose on the generality of them (which, though seldom, is sometimes the case) it has a much better chance for succeeding in remote countries, than if the first scene had been laid in a city renowned for arts and knowledge. The most ignorant and barbarous of these barbarians carry the report abroad. None of their countrymen have a large correspondence, or sufficient credit and authority to contradict and beat down the delusion. 

MacArthurites on Third-World testimony

Dan Phillips ‏@BibChr 21h 
EVERY time someone challenges this, the story starts, "I knew/heard about someone who was in the Philippines/Mexico/Uganda once, and..." 
Fred Butler
Oh sure, some third world kid somewhere dipped in the river and was healed of her cholera, so you can't deny the continuation of the gifts.
Hays’ argument is really an argument from silence. What I mean by that is that Hays’ argument appeals to claims of miracles far, far away, in a distant land in order to defend his position.