At The Veritas Forum @ Harvard, a presentation was given on the topic “Miracles: Is Belief in the Supernatural Irrational?” Lennox explains how science – while eminently valuable – cannot disprove particular instances of miracles like the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The second objection is this: now that we know the laws of nature, miracles are impossible! But that involves a further fallacy. Suppose I put $1,000 tonight in my hotel room in Cambridge and I put $1,000 in tomorrow night. One plus one equals two: that is $2,000. And on the third day, I opened the drawer and I find $500. Now, what do I say? Do I say, “The laws of arithmetic have been broken” or “The laws of the United States have been broken”?
Well, you obviously got the point. But see how important it is? First of all, it is telling you that law means a different thing in both cases, at each case. Secondly, how do you know the laws of the United States have been broken? It is because you know the law of arithmetic. If you did not know that, you would not know the other. Now, it is not the laws of arithmetic that have been broken, but what they tell you is that somebody has put their hand into the drawer. That is, something has come in from outside this system because it was not a closed system. This is crucial. You see, I believe in the laws of nature. Indeed, God, who is responsible for them, created an orderly universe. Otherwise, as I said before, we would never recognize an exception.
But God is not a prisoner of the laws. They are not like the laws of the United States. God, who set the regularities there, can himself cause an event. What is to stop Him doing that? What Christians are claiming about the resurrection of Jesus is not that he rose by some natural processes. No. They say that he rose because God injected enormous power and energy from outside the system. Now, unless you have evidence that the system is totally, totally closed, you cannot argue against the possibility of miracles. So, now you have to come to the actuality.
Is there evidence anywhere that a miracle of this order has occurred? Of course, as you know, Christianity is based on the claim that Jesus Christ came alive from the dead. How do you get at a thing like that? Of course it is a singularity. Of course it is highly improbable … If you were to take people from Harvard and set them in the graveyards to watch for a month and write in their books whether they saw a resurrection or not, you could scientifically show by statistical methods that resurrections are very improbable in the Harvard area.
But unless you have investigated every grave back to the beginning of the universe, you cannot say they are impossible. Singular events are, by definition, improbable. But the question is this: is there actual evidence that it happened? The claim is it did. What are the facts? There is an empty tomb. How do we know? And then I would have to take you into the specifics of the evidence. And unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, although I would absolutely love to do that, I would have to come back to do it, but at least I have got a little bit of a shot in that direction. I am so glad that you asked me this question – are miracles possible – because I find it all over the world, because it is vastly important to realize that believing in miracles is not knocking science in any sense. It is recognizing the limits of science.
So I decided to read through David Hume in great detail, look at his criteria for evidence and witnesses and then take the resurrection of Jesus and put it under the magnifying glass from the perspective of David Hume. Here is another shameless bit of advertising; I have just produced a book on it, which is called Gunning for God. It deals with that question and I hope that those of you who want to pursue it that far will be able to read it.
Now, my final point is this. Of course science and history are not the only sources of evidence for the existence of God, miracles, and the supernatural. Personal experience is enormously important. It is even important to a professor who is interested in intellectual things, because one of the prime evidences, to me, that these things are real is my personal experience over many years of the living reality of Christ in my life. If he is risen from the dead, of course, it means he is alive and that opens up an enormous possibility of having a relationship with him. So, that too, would be a very important thing to explore.
I started by reminding you of Harvard’s motto, Veritas. But you know, that is not what it used to be. And I was delighted to see it is still on one of your main buildings. Harvard’s motto was – and still is – Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae. Truth for Christ and the Church. I would suggest to you Harvard students and professors that the time has come to revisit the original meaning. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
- Do you agree with John Lennox that science – an empirical method that relies on observation – can only demonstrate whether events are probable or improbable, not whether singular, improbable events have actually happened? Why or why not?
- Lennox suggests that – in the same way math can show that the laws of the United States have been broken by a thief – the laws of nature actually indicate when something miraculous has occurred. If God existed beyond nature, could God inject new power and energy into nature?
- Lennox proposes that we should also give some weight to personal experience. Have you ever personally experienced a miracle? What was it?