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May 25, 2015

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How about just answering the question? God often performs miracles right in our modern times to cure cancer and diabetes and multiple sclerosis and many other diseases. So why does he never seem to cure amputees?

One answer might be that healing an amputee would be obviously miraculous. I mean, everyone can see the limb grew back, even though it was gone yesterday. It's clearly a miracle. Internal diseases like cancer and diabetes, by contrast, are complex and microscopic and just not obvious like an amputated limb.

So the reason God doesn't heal amputees is because that would be too obvious. Right? Am I misundertanding something?

Link to Kinder's books on miracles?

Also, you point out that Christ did miracles in front of people and they didn't believe. He also did miracles in front of people and some DID believe. Sure maybe some people will just say it's sleight of hand (pun intended) and still not believe, but some WILL believe. So that's not really an excuse for doing one type of miracle but not another.

It's not a question of what happened in the time of Jesus. God is still performing medical miracles right now, in our times, right in your hometown. Right?

And it's not that God never heals amputees at all. Maybe he does. But why doesn't God heal amputees as often as cancer or diabetes? I mean, why doesn't God heal one amputee somewhere in America around once a week? I think God heals cancer that often, right?

When an amputee gets past the heartbreak of losing a limb, learns to use their prosthetic, and continues life with their families you're saying he's not healed? Healing doesn't always mean "Reset to original specifications"

If you won't believe because of the words of the Gospel, you won't believe because of a miracle.

John M,

So why does he never seem to cure amputees?

1. I don't know that God never heals amputees. Maybe he has and the case hasn't been documented or the documentation has been preserved for us.

2. Assuming that God has never healed an amputee, I don't know why God has not healed them.

The point of the video is that God's not healing an amputee doesn't logically entail that God does not exist. So if it's a fact that God doesn't heal amputees, it's a fact that has no significance for the atheist.

So the reason God doesn't heal amputees is because that would be too obvious. Right? Am I misundertanding something?

Brett never gave that answer in the video. But suppose we do offer that as a possible explanation. After all, Jesus intentionally spoke in parables so that some wouldn't understand.

But why doesn't God heal amputees as often as cancer or diabetes? I mean, why doesn't God heal one amputee somewhere in America around once a week? I think God heals cancer that often, right?

When you say God heals cancer around once a week, is that pure speculation on your part or do you have some evidence for this?

Suppose we find that God heals persons from pneumonia more than God heals persons from blindness. Further, suppose we don't know why God does that. What is the significance of that? Can you build some argument from that?

Chip,

Sure maybe some people will just say it's sleight of hand (pun intended) and still not believe, but some WILL believe. So that's not really an excuse for doing one type of miracle but not another.

I agree that the common claim about these sorts of events seem highly implausible. For instance, William Lane Craig often asserts that even if God revealed himself personally to everyone we may still be left with the same ratio of Christian to non-Christian. While that's logically possible, it strikes me as extremely implausible. And since Craig cares mainly about plausibility in regard to his arguments for theism, he should also recognize that an extremely implausible suggestion such as this isn't a very good solution to a problem.

Anyway, my own position is that these miracles will not be sufficient to cause *anyone* to become a Christian, because that is itself a type of miracle that must be brought about by God. So your suggestion doesn't present any sort of problem on my view. It's not the case that the miracle of healing an amputee may provide the sufficient condition for some to become a Christian but not others. It may be a means God uses, if he so desires. But the sufficient condition in conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Actually I would WisdomLover. If I witnessed a bona fide miracle and it was indisputably the work of the God of the Bible, I would believe in him.

Francis,

*Indisputably* usually ends up being the weasel word there. As other atheists have said, they would probably believe they are going crazy before they would believe an actual miracle occurred.

Turns out you can dispute virtually anything if you're obstinate enough.

I would agree that amputated members not growing back isn't evidence against the existence of a god. However, I've always found it peculiar that when a person is healed from a disease, religious folks will claim it to be a miracle from god. If the individual is not cured and dies, then that was god's will too. These are not evidences against the supernatural either. However, it's silly talk to say the least because you can have it both ways.

If someone is dying of kidney disease, and all of a sudden grew a new kidney while waiting for a transplant after somebody prayed to Jesus about it, I'd believe. No question.

I'm happy to take the word out. If I witnessed a miracle and it was the work of the God of the Bible, then I would believe in him...and happily.

The choice as I see it is:

I'll believe in miracles when I see one

or

I believe in miracles even though I have never seen one

I take the former and I don't see how that is obstinate and the second is not.

Mike,

I've always found it peculiar that when a person is healed from a disease, religious folks will claim it to be a miracle from god. If the individual is not cured and dies, then that was god's will too.

First, not all religious folk would say that just any outcome is God's will. For instance, some religious folk don't believe that God has any part in what we perceive to be bad things. And if a person's death is perceived to be bad, they would deny that God had any part in that.

Second, I believe that God superintends all things that come to pass. So if a person is healed or dies it is ultimately a matter of God's will. You say that's peculiar, but I don't see why. So what is peculiar about that?

However, it's silly talk to say the least because you can have it both ways.

I'm not sure what you're saying here, but you seem to be saying that if a miracle can count as evidence for the will of God being done then the absence of a miracle should count as evidence for the will of God not being done? But that doesn't make sense to me. Suppose Jones lifts a glass of coke to his mouth. It seems obvious that I can take that behavior as Jones accomplishing a desire to drink coke. Suppose Jones doesn't lift the glass of coke to his mouth. That surely isn't evidence of Jones having a desire to drink coke and his will being thwarted.

But maybe I'm missing your point?

Francis,

I'm happy to take the word out. If I witnessed a miracle and it was the work of the God of the Bible, then I would believe in him...and happily.

The choice as I see it is:

I'll believe in miracles when I see one

or

I believe in miracles even though I have never seen one

I take the former and I don't see how that is obstinate and the second is not.

The point was not the presence of the word itself, but what the word indicated: that in order for you to believe a miracle occurred you would need for it to pass some test of verifiability. Removing the word from your sentence doesn't mean you're suddenly working with a new criteria.

And my point is not that wanting a miracle to have some verifiability or support is evidence of obstinacy on your part. My point was that what constitutes proof or evidence of a miracle will have a subjective aspect to it and you can (and atheists often do) dial your skeptical notch way up if you want to in regards to evidence for miracles or theism.

Maybe I should've clarified this in my statement above, but people have tried to prove the Christian god's existence to me by claiming miracles in their life, or in the lives of others through some sort of healing. My point was that since a Christian can claim things in either direction (healed=god's will; not healed=god's will), then it doesn't really convince me of anything. That's why I said it was silly. Maybe you or some other Christians wouldn't reason that way, but others do.

I understand that in Christian theology god is sovereign over all events in the universe, so I'm not disputing anything from that standpoint. I have no problem, logically speaking, that an all-powerful. all-knowing god could superintend and allow whatever it wants to happen.

Mike,

Thanks for the clarification, but I still don't see the point. It seems to me that a miracle could still count as evidence for God's existence even if miracles don't always occur. For instance, suppose you and I are in a room divided by a curtain. You and I are both on the same end of the room. I tell you there is a man on the other side of the curtain, Jones, but you doubt it. I tell you that if Jones wants to he can provide you evidence of his being there by ringing a bell... but Jones may not want to ring the bell. Wouldn't ringing the bell still count as evidence of his being on the other side of the curtain even if not ringing the bell is still an act of his will?

Janitor: "In order for you to believe a miracle occurred you would need for it to pass some test of verifiability"

Yes. Why is that an unreasonable requirement?

How is it better or more reasonable to believe something is a miracle without it being verified? My skeptical notch is at the same level as it would be for any extraordinary claim. Fairies or ghosts or the lost city of Atlantis. I would find it wonderful and amazing if miracles were true and would be delighted to embrace them.

Can you give me an example of a miracle that you know of that has happened now that you are convinced is a miracle? What criteria have you applied to scrutinising that event that has convinced you that it is an actual miracle?

Francis,

Yes. Why is that an unreasonable requirement?

I never said it was unreasonable. I even said that "my point is not that wanting a miracle to have some verifiability or support is evidence of obstinacy on your part." My point was merely what I stated it to be.

My skeptical notch is at the same level as it would be for any extraordinary claim. Fairies or ghosts or the lost city of Atlantis.

What counts as extraordinary is itself going to be subjective or relative to our background beliefs. Why wouldn't it be an entirely open question (e.g., not extraordinary) whether ghosts exist? Where are you getting the prior probability of their not existing?

In fact this statement of yours suggests to me that you may in fact dial the skeptical notch way up.

Can you give me an example of a miracle that you know of that has happened now that you are convinced is a miracle?

The resurrection of Jesus.

What criteria have you applied to scrutinising that event that has convinced you that it is an actual miracle?

See the works of people like Mike Licona and Gary Habermas.

Anyway, let's not get too far off track. The subject of the OP is whether if God doesn't heal amputees then God doesn't exist. Or I guess more broadly, if a lack of miracles is an evidence against God's existence.

Sure, that's one possibility. But if I hear a bell ring, is it also possible that something else besides Jones doing it?

In the same way, if somebody is cured of cancer, does it have to be a miracle? Perhaps there's a natural explanation we don't yet understand. After all, over the course of human history people have discovered things about the natural order that were previously thought to be miraculous.

My disbelief in Christianity, and other religions too for that matter, has more to do with other issues. This subject isn't one of the deal breakers for me. I have no problem with the idea of a god healing or not healing people.

Mike,

Where you go with my Jones example is irrelevant to the purpose I had in citing it. I can easily amend my example to make it highly unlikely that something else is doing it (e.g., Jones pulls back the curtain)... but what would be irrelevant to the purpose of the analogy which was simply that Jones can give evidence of his existence and this is entirely consistent with his volitionally refraining to do so.

And I agree that any particular miracle claim may not "have to be a miracle" and maybe there is some unknown explanation of the event. But you would also recognize, I assume, that some events may be of such a nature that the best explanation is a miracle (isn't that the point of the amputee claim afterall?). If no event could best be explained by a miracle--that is if you prefer the explanation "unknown natural causes" to any sort of miracle event--then you may not be as open-minded to theism as you suppose.

Based on that clarification, sure, I can accept that.

I am open-minded. I don't rule out miracles. As I said in my first post, a new kidney being miraculously regenerated in a dying individual would stop me in my tracks. But I'm not holding my breath for anything like that to ever happen.

I used to be a Christian. In fact, I used to listen to Greg all the time. If god exists, I would love to be convinced by god. I'm not a happy agnostic. I do want my faith back. But sadly, I don't think that'll ever happen. I've read tons of apologetic books, prayed a billion times, read the Bible till I was blue in the face...and nothing.

I was afraid you were going to say the resurrection and I should have clarified my question. I meant miracles of today, things that are happening now. Do you believe miracles happen in the year 2015? If you do then can you tell me about any and what it was that persuaded you that they are miracles?

The way that I understand the whole God and the amputees thought experiment is that it's a tongue in cheek way of saying that the miracles that are claimed today are always ambiguous. (Here I'm going to transport myself back to the Christian I was a few years ago and include myself in this) We will pray all the time for cancers to be cured, or for depression to lift or for jobs to be found. Things that might have happened anyway or which are out of sight.

We don't pray for limbs to grow back, for people to rise from the dead, for down syndrome babies to be "cured" of their downs (I'm saying that with sensitivity...I don't actually think they need to be cured). Yet we pray in a way that we are saying that if we ask, that God can, and sometimes does, intervene in the natural order of the world and change it for us. Even with all the caveats we put on it (Thy will be done...if it's your will...etc), we're asking God to reach his hand into the situation and miraculously change it for us.

So why do we instinctively know not to pray for things that might actually be classed as miraculous like the aforementioned amputees?

Mike: I very much identify with your last paragraph there. I was a very happy Christian for 40 years and didn't want to not be one. I'm happy as an atheist too but that doesn't mean I bear any animosity towards being a Christian or that I'm resisting it. I'm simply not persuaded that it's true.

I still listen to Greg, I still enjoy the conversation.

Mike,

Being a part of a community is vital. If anyone is thinking about steps they took to try and strengthen their faith in a time of doubt and "participating in and seeking guidance from my local church" doesn't appear on that list then I see a clear oversight. But perhaps you can say that you've done that too and still nothing helped you.

Francis:
I echo your sentiments as well.

Isn't My Forte:
I in-fact spoke with pastors at my church many times. It's a very large, popular church in Riverside, CA. The last pastor I spoke with told me to stop eating meat (because that was apparently causing me to be depressed, and the depression caused my lack of faith). Then he recommended I read books from a 7th day Adventist named Dr. Lorraine Day. Somebody that would probably be considered a heretic in evangelical circles. You can imagine that as confused as I was about god, doctrine, etc., this did not help me.

Actually I would WisdomLover. If I witnessed a bona fide miracle and it was indisputably the work of the God of the Bible, I would believe in him.
And there we have it. You would not believe, Francis, because the cause of any and every event is always disputable.

Or with the term "indisputably left out.

If I witnessed a miracle and it was the work of the God of the Bible, then I would believe in him...and happily.
And how would you know it was the work of the God of the Bible. If you saw Him do it? If you already saw Him, what need of a miracle?

If it was something that only the God of the Bible could do? And what, pray tell, would that be? For any act done by an omnipotent being that is witnessed by a finite being, that finite being could always suppose instead that it was a being of vast but finite power who performed the witnessed act.

As I said in my first post, a new kidney being miraculously regenerated in a dying individual would stop me in my tracks.
Or would you assume this.

Exactly. Wisdom Lover, you have explained my position better than I could. There is no way I could know that something was truly miraculous or that God did it. Which is why I'm sitting in the unpersuaded camp.

Francis,

I was afraid you were going to say the resurrection and I should have clarified my question. I meant miracles of today, things that are happening now.

I figured that's what you were talking about, but felt like being cheeky. I believe that miracles happen today, but I can't tell you of any in particular that would be of evidential value to you. Miracle also aren't my forte. I haven't read Keener's book or any other source on modern miracles nor done any of my own investigations into them.

The way that I understand the whole God and the amputees thought experiment is that it's a tongue in cheek way of saying that the miracles that are claimed today are always ambiguous.

Well if that's the case then they are not of much evidential value to you. But I know persons like Craig Keener think some are not ambiguous. Since I haven't read Keener's work, I can't comment on that.

However my suspicion is, as I said, that most atheists are dialing their skepticism up when it comes to miracles. I also doubt that many atheists have actually done the hard work of examining miracle claims. For instance, most atheists are *very* dismissive of OBEs or NDEs and confidently claim that the evidence is nill. But when you see some of them challenged by people who have studied the evidence, the atheists quickly fall to pieces showing little knowledge of the actual evidence (alleged or not). I have in mind here some interviews by Alex Tsakiris.

We will pray all the time for cancers to be cured, or for depression to lift or for jobs to be found. Things that might have happened anyway or which are out of sight.

In my experience both as a Christian and among Christians, Christians pray for stuff across the board. For instance, today I was driving a lot and I prayed for safety as I drove. I also prayed for over a dozen other little things throughout the day. I've also prayed (and continue to pray) for things that, if God answered them, would clearly be miraculous. Most of my prayers are of the nature that atheists might say are "ambiguous" in their evidential value. But so what? As far as I'm aware, no one is saying these sorts of things are of evidential value to the atheist. It's not as though today I got up and thought "God please let me get home safely so that I can prove to some atheist that you exist!" That wasn't on my radar.

We don't pray for limbs to grow back, for people to rise from the dead, for down syndrome babies to be "cured" of their downs (I'm saying that with sensitivity...I don't actually think they need to be cured).

Maybe some people do pray for those things. I don't know. I haven't personally ever prayed for any of those things. There is no significance to that as far as I can see. There are several factors at play here. For instance, one reason I've never prayed for a person's limb to grow back is because I've never personally known someone who lost a limb and wanted it to grow back. I've never personally known someone with DS and thought they should be healed. And I've never had anyone close to me die and thought it would be better if they were raised from the dead. When I've had relatives die, it's never even occurred to me to ask for God to raise them from the dead.

Another factor that may be at play for some Christians besides myself: given my own worldview of God's guidance of things like natural "laws", having a consistent character, etc. I think we can look at God's actions in history and say things like "God usually behaves in such and such a way..." For instance, if God takes a person's life he usually doesn't give it back. Thus, just as I'm not usually inclined to ask my friend to do something that's out of character, I'm not usually inclined to ask God to do things that are out of character. For a good development of the concepts I have in mind see Vern Poythress' book Chance and the Sovereignty of God.

Anyway, whether Christians pray in a certain way or don't doesn't have much significance for the question of God's existence. Thus, still irrelevant for atheism qua atheism.

So why do we instinctively know not to pray for things that might actually be classed as miraculous like the aforementioned amputees?

Your observation is faulty. At one level, Christians do pray for things that can actually be classed as miraculous. At another level, there may be perfectly benign reasons why Christians might not typically pray in that way (as I mention above).

Wisdom Lover:
That's pretty funny. However, if the day comes where people are able to be "beamed up" to ships in outer space, then I suppose it's not a big stretch of the imagination to believe that medicine will be able to completely heal people.

Mike,

If eating meat really was causing you depression then it does seem like good advice to avoid it. And it makes sense that depression could cause one to struggle in their faith. I don't know anything about Lorraine Day so I can't comment on that.

Francis,

Exactly. Wisdom Lover, you have explained my position better than I could. There is no way I could know that something was truly miraculous or that God did it. Which is why I'm sitting in the unpersuaded camp.

While I agree with WisdomLover that a person can wiggle out of any miraculous event (save for the event of regeneration ;) ) I don't agree (and I'm not sure WL was saying) that one can do this rationally.

In other words, if you prayed "God please make my dog preach me the gospel!" and then your dog preached you the gospel you could of course wiggle out of that by supposing that you had a moment of temporary insanity. But that wouldn't be a very rational explanation.

Francis-

I'd say you are sitting in the unpersuadable (by miracle) camp. Not merely the unpersuaded camp.

That was my point.

It was also my point that the reason to turn to Christ is not any miracle, but because He has the words of eternal life.

Everyone else tells you to do more good works, to live better, to try harder. How is that working out for you?

Or they tell you there is nothing you can do...so that the only interesting question is why not commit suicide today?

Only Christ says that there is nothing you can do, but that He has done it for you. He's rescued you from Sin so that you can live in His holy presence forever.

Either Jesus is the worst kind of deceiver, or He is the only one who can help.

Only He has the words of eternal life.

Mike-

Right. You see then, that the regrown kidney actually wouldn't persuade you, if the words of the gospel don't.

Google her. Her doctrinal positions seem way out-of-step with Christianity as I understand it. Here's a pastor from my church telling me to read books from somebody who believes in soul sleep and that god is not a trinity. I was struggling with doctrine and faith at the same time back then, and this just caused extreme confusion for me.

Eating meat was not causing me depression however. This man's logic was asinine and I left church that day feeling more demoralized than ever.

No, you're wrong. I think we both know that teleportation and instant organ regeneration by a pharmaceutical product are probably not going to happen within our lifetimes. If that were to happen in a dying individual today, without that non-existent technology, I would believe it to be miraculous.

If eating meat really was causing you depression then it does seem like good advice to avoid it. And it makes sense that depression could cause one to struggle in their faith.
That's all true, but I do wonder whether it is true that Mike is just depressed or whether the Pastor was jumping to a conclusion. Obviously, I wouldn't expect Mike to go into all the details of what he talked about with his pastor.

I also think that we have to distinguish the expertise of a practitioner of an art in the practice of her art from her religious views. There are a number of excellent Seventh-Day Adventist physicians. (Though, from what I've read, Lorraine Day is a bit of a quack.)

So I think Mike's confusion over the fact that his pastor passed along the medical advice of a trained medical practitioner is ill-conceived. Whatever else his Pastor may have been doing, I doubt that he was endorsing the details of Lorraine Day's religious views.

Of course, I'm just guessing, Mike may want to correct me on that. Maybe that's precisely why the pastor recommended her book instead of something by Joel Fuhrman or Colin Campbell (who would have given similar dietary advice).

No, you're wrong. I think we both know that teleportation and instant organ regeneration by a pharmaceutical product are probably not going to happen within our lifetimes. If that were to happen in a dying individual today, without that non-existent technology, I would believe it to be miraculous.
Really, why?

McCoy was visiting his past when he handed out that pill. If a kidney were regrown today, why not think an alien or time-traveller did it instead of God.

Yes, I was depressed at the time. Losing your faith is a very depressing thing, especially when you don't want it to happen. For him to suggest that it was because I was eating meat is ludicrous.

Eating meat was not causing me depression however. This man's logic was asinine and I left church that day feeling more demoralized than ever.
That's what I expected. He was jumping to a conclusion.

I mean if you really were depressed for that reason, then of course....but it seems like a huge a stretch to diagnose depression because someone is asking common and typical theological questions.

Yeah, being on the verge of leaving a long held faith can be both frightening and depressing. That's why I would have viewed your pastor's medical opinion as strained to say the least. Typically, I would think that your doubt caused your depression rather than the other way round.

In other words, if you prayed "God please make my dog preach me the gospel!" and then your dog preached you the gospel you could of course wiggle out of that by supposing that you had a moment of temporary insanity. But that wouldn't be a very rational explanation.
I think most people would think of that as a moment of temporary insanity. Not as a genuine miracle.

If the dog were seen by many people to preach the gospel, I think people would assume that this is no ordinary dog, or that some sort of trickery was involved. I doubt that people would view it as answered prayer.

I agree. The doubt did cause it because for most of my life Jesus and the Bible were real to me. Losing that was like losing my whole foundation for living.

As far as the aliens and time-travelers are concerned I suppose, technically, we would have to leave that as a possibility. But for me, it would be more apt to attribute it to a supernatural intervention rather than something related to human concepts of science fiction.

For the record, I have no background knowledge of meat and depression or depression generally (or meat generally for that matter). So I wasn't saying that it's reasonable to think meat would cause depression. I was only making my observation that if x causes depression for a person then avoid x.

I think most people would think of that as a moment of temporary insanity. Not as a genuine miracle. If the dog were seen by many people to preach the gospel, I think people would assume that this is no ordinary dog, or that some sort of trickery was involved. I doubt that people would view it as answered prayer.

I don't think that's reasonable.

Context is important. If I woke up to my dog randomly preaching Chrales Spurgeon one morning I would agree that I might be inclined to chalk that up to insanity (though it's hard to judge our reactions to such events when we are far removed from them). That event has no context. It's out of the blue.

However if I had prayed the night before that I would wake up to my dog preaching Charles Spurgeon then that adds a context that gives the event meaning and makes it fit more in the answered prayer category than the insane category. This is even stronger if there are multiple witnesses and so the event clearly isn't a private bout of insanity.

Think of it this way: atheists often try to play the "just imagine" game with Christians along the lines of "Imagine if a stranger came up to you and said that his mom just levitated. Would you believe that? NO. Then why do you believe Jesus walked on water?"

Because the religious context is completely different. A stranger telling me his mom levitated is an isolated event that has no discernable significance or religious context. Jesus walking on water in the context of his messianic ministry does make sense, and given that context has a plausibility structure that the former lacks. Same thing with a dog talking in answer to a specific prayer. And if you add more context to that--there is some reason to have the dog talk beyond it just being astounding--then the miracle interpretation makes even more sense and the insanity (or something fishy) interpretation becomes even less reasonable.

Let me add this in terms of rational deniability of miracles: It's not enough to point out mere alternative possibilities in order to demonstrate that a miracle can be rationally resisted.

If that's all that is required to rationally withhold belief, then every solipsist is within their rational rights to think we're all robots. Thus, the fact that a miracle *can* be explained as temporary insanity or time travel does not immediately confer the status of rationality onto these alternatives.

The problem with miracles, as proofs of God's existence, is that discernment is inescapable and the discerner will see what he will, not necessarily what is true.

I pity Mike and Francis, having been in the kingdom but having no discernment nor true shepherds to deliver the law and gospel, and administer sacraments with care and skill...as ones called to such an office will do. I fear they are not alone and are infact 2 of millions who need the true gospel preached and didn't get it, instead most likely were offered a social gospel message where the pastor uses a scripture verse to springboard into some psyco-babble feel good pep talk meant to inspire good works. Pure legalism, but wrapped up in grace language to fool the unlearned...the babes suckling on milk who ought by now to be eating meat.

I wonder, what metric does one use to disprove God? One cannot even utter a word without borrowing from Him.

If I suddenly answered this post and told everyone that last year my friend who is an amputee woke up and his arm grew back one night after we put hands on him and prayed, none of the atheists here would believe me. They would also likely try to find a "natural" explanation for what happened if they did. In scripture Jesus heals an amputee. Peter cuts the servant of the high priest's ear off, and Jesus picks up the ear and puts it back on. I'm fairly convinced that even if many atheists saw remarkable events like that, they would attempt to find an explanation other than the fact that God did it.

That being said, when in the Bible the world miracle is used, it does not mean a supernatural event, since the idea of supernatural/natural would come centuries later. It means a "sign". Something incredible that happened.

The Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign to prove he is the Messiah. He told them that no sign would be given except for the sign of Jonah (the death burial and resurrection). If such an earth shattering event is not enough, then nothing ever will be.

Francis I do in fact believe such things happen today. The other day in a skype meeting with some Christian leaders I was speaking with s church planter and he told me that they had been walking around some apartment complexes praying, when they found a woman about to commit suicide and kill her children as well. After a month of visiting and reading scripture with her, she was baptized and became a Christian. She then proceeded to introduce them to her sister, who was slumped over with a hunchback problem. They prayed for her, and her back straightened up and the issue with that is gone now.

Note that this Christian man that was there and told the story is not a charismatic Christian and he was also an even keeled person who helped plant a church around the woman who was about to poison her children and herself. Now, already in your head you are searching for an explanation because you refuse to believe. I can go on and tell you about things that I have witnessed myself but you will refuse to believe. No matter how many examples I bring up, it won't be enough for you.

If the resurrection is not enough, then nothing ever will be.

It's always really difficult to follow these threads once they get past a certain number, especially if you go away for a few hours. I will do my best to engage with some of these.

HTML: Thanks for your replies, I've been enjoying this conversation and I appreciate your humour and your manner (I chuckled at the resurrection comment). I would say that just because I'm an atheist doesn't mean that I am going to follow a set of characteristics or attitudes so I can't and won't ever be speaking for Atheists™ I'm just speaking for myself as an individual. I have always been the kind of person who would want to drill down into things and not take things on face value - I was that way as a Christian (which is what lead to my eventual disbelief in Christianity's claims). I have always been a skeptic and my skeptic dial is pretty high most of the time. I'd say your own skeptic dial is pretty high too when you're looking at the claims of Scientology or Mormonism. As it should be. I changed my whole worldview a few years ago at great personal expense and I would do it again if I felt there was good evidence to do so.

So, when I listen to and read about things like OBE's and NDE's or other claims of the miraculous I do indeed go in as the skeptic I am and if the evidence is not strong enough I'm afraid I will have to withhold belief. I liked what you said about the religious context being important to the miracles, otherwise it would just be a strange anomaly.

What it all comes down to for me is that the world seems to function in pretty much the same way regardless of whether we pray for things or not. There is no discernible difference because we can never know that things wouldn't have just unfolded in that way anyway or that there's any connection really between the fact that someone prayed for certain outcomes and that they did or didn't come to pass. People succumb to cancer, people overcome depression, people find their keys or safely arrive at their destination and those who are believers will say, "Thank God" or "Thank you Allah." It doesn't matter because no matter what your belief system, none of us fare any better or worse in this area. The whole amputee thing is just a way of taking the roof off the claim that Christianity makes that we can pray to Jehovah and this will sometimes (though nobody knows how often) make a difference.

Anyway, whether Christians pray in a certain way or don't doesn't have much significance for the question of God's existence. Thus, still irrelevant for atheism qua atheism.

I'm not trying to make some grand argument for the non existence of God here, I'm just trying to share why I don't believe in him.

Wisdom Lover: I'd say you are sitting in the unpersuadable (by miracle) camp. Not merely the unpersuaded camp

You may be right about that, although I still stand by my assertion that if I saw a miracle I'd believe in it. If there is always the chance that maybe I'm mistaking what I'm seeing or I'm being fooled or it's a coincidence then I'm right back where I started with the futility of praying for anything which is the point of the amputee question. My problems with all this stuff are from when I was still a Christian, they don't bother me now as an atheist. If I had them I can guarantee you there are plenty of your fellow Christians who are also dealing with it not just us big bad atheists.

When I was a Christian I believed in the claims that the Bible made about healing and Jehovah's intercession and the efficacy of petitionary prayer. But the reality was very different from the claims, prayer seemed redundant, life happened arbitrarily to believers and non believers alike. Nobody had anything miraculous happening to them, some recovered but others did not and it didn't look any different inside the church to outside.

Everyone else tells you to do more good works, to live better, to try harder. How is that working out for you? Or they tell you there is nothing you can do...so that the only interesting question is why not commit suicide today? Only Christ says that there is nothing you can do, but that He has done it for you. He's rescued you from Sin so that you can live in His holy presence forever. Either Jesus is the worst kind of deceiver, or He is the only one who can help. Only He has the words of eternal life.

Look I know all this, preached and teached it myself for years, it doesn't mean anything to me now. They're just claims the same as any other religion's. My life is good and I'm very happy, I enjoy being alive and that is why I don't commit suicide. I'm not looking for anything here (other than a stimulating conversation) I don't have any feeling of Sin or any need for rescue from it. I don't think any of it is real so I don't believe in it.

BradB: I pity Mike and Francis, having been in the kingdom but having no discernment nor true shepherds to deliver the law and gospel, and administer sacraments with care and skill...as ones called to such an office will do. I fear they are not alone and are infact 2 of millions who need the true gospel preached and didn't get it, instead most likely were offered a social gospel message where the pastor uses a scripture verse to springboard into some psyco-babble feel good pep talk meant to inspire good works. Pure legalism, but wrapped up in grace language to fool the unlearned...the babes suckling on milk who ought by now to be eating meat.

Please don't. I'm not going to speak for Mike, he's well able to do that for himself, but this is not an accurate description of my life or my experience. Not one word of that applies to me.

JBerr: "Now, already in your head you are searching for an explanation because you refuse to believe. I can go on and tell you about things that I have witnessed myself but you will refuse to believe. No matter how many examples I bring up, it won't be enough for you. If the resurrection is not enough, then nothing ever will be."

Of course your anecdotal examples are not enough. Why should they be? It would be very foolish of me to merely take you at your word, why are you phrasing that as a bad thing? Do you believe every account that someone claims is supernatural that you hear or just the ones that are in line with Christianity? I wouldn't even do that with a lot of non supernatural claims. If a Mormon came to your door and told you a fantastic story of how they had been in a car crash but their underwear had protected them and they came out without a scratch or if a Catholic told you he prayed to St Anthony when he lost his passport and immediately it had appeared on the table in front of them, would you believe without question? If not could you be said to be refusing to believe because you just don't want it to be true?

They're just claims the same as any other religion's.
That's precisely what they aren't. There is one religion of grace. The rest are religions of works.
I enjoy being alive and that is why I don't commit suicide.
I didn't say you don't enjoy your life. I said that the only interesting question is "why not commit suicide right now?" Because your life has no ultimate meaning.

Your answer is that you enjoy your life.

If one didn't enjoy one's life, then, would there be a reason not to commit suicide? Doesn't really matter too much. It ends now, it ends in five years, ten, twenty. I one doesn't enjoy one's life, why prolong the suffering? Who, really, cares?

For that matter, even if, like you, someone were enjoying their life right now, why not commit suicide? You know, quit while they're ahead? The grave is yawning, and things will most likely get worse.

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