Dinesh D Souza, The Greatness of Christianity: Table of Contents
Cf. Dinesh D’souza, What’s So Great About Christianity, at Amazon
“To smile in advance at all magic, we have to find the world completely intelligible. But this we can only do when we look into it with an extremely shallow gaze that admits of no inkling that we are plunged into a sea of riddles and incomprehensibilities and have no thorough and direct knowledge and understanding either of things or ourselves.” —Arthur Schopenhauer
HAVING ESTABLISHED THE LIMITS OF REASON as confined to the world of experience, we now take up a very controversial question. In a world of scientific and natural laws, are miracles possible? Is it even credible, in the twenty-first century, to believe in a virgin birth and water being changed into wine and resurrection from the dead? Here I will show that such ideas are completely consistent with modern science, and that the most famous argument against miracles— advanced by the philosopher David Hume—can be shown, on the grounds of Hume’s own philosophy, to be invalid.
The issue of miracles is of special importance to Christians, because Christianity is the only major religion in the world that depends on miracles. Other religions, such as Judaism, may report or allow miracles, but only Christianity relies on them. I am thinking specifically of the miracle at the center of the Christian religion. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians 15:14 that without Christ’s resurrection, “our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” But the resurrection is far from the only miracle reported in the New Testa- ment. While the founder of Islam, the prophet Muhammad, never claimed to have performed a single miracle, Christ performed miracles all the time. He walked on water, quieted the storm, fed the multitudes, healed the blind, and even brought Lazarus back from the dead. Only if miracles are possible is Christianity believable.
Richard Dawkins has shrewdly noticed that miracles represent the common ground on which religion and science seem to make rival claims. Biologist Stephen Jay Gould argues in his book Rocks of Ages that science and religion can comfortably coexist as they operate in separate realms: “Science tries to document the factual character of the natural world…. Religion on the other hand operates in the equally important, but utterlydifferent, realm of human purposes, meanings, and values.” Dawkins correctly observes that this distinction doesn’t always work. The reason is that religion too makes claims about nature. The Old Testament reports that Moses parted the Red Sea, and that Jonah lived in the belly of the whale. The New Testament tells of a virgin named Mary who conceived a child, and of a fellow named Jesus who performed innumerable acts that defy human expla- nation.
“Science is based upon verifiable evidence,” Dawkins says. The miracle stories of Christianity, according to Dawkins, are “blatant intrusions into scientific territory. Every one of these miracles amounts to a scientific claim, a violation of the normal running of the natural world:’ Consequently, “any belief in miracles is flatly contradictory not just to the facts of science but also to the spirit of science.” Indeed, in Dawkins’s estimation, miracles are nothing other than “bad science.” As scientific laws cannot be violated, miracles cannot occur. Reasonable people therefore “have to renounce miracles.”
Many liberal Christians are so intimidated by the authority of science that they do their best to banish the miracles. In doing so, they rely on a tradition of biblical scholarship that goes back to David Strauss’s Life of Jesus, first published in 1835. Strauss treated the miracles as myths. How did Jesus feed thousands of people with a few loaves and fishes? Perhaps he had a secret store of food, or people brought their own packed lunches. How did Jesus walk on water? Maybe there was a platform floating just beneath the surface. How did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead? Lazarus might simply have been in a trance. How did Jesus come back from the tomb? He probably didn’t, but the important thing is that his followers believed he did and that belief filled them with joy and hope. These explanations have actually been suggested by theologians. They get rid of miracles by getting rid of Christianity.