It’s not really about supernaturalism, stupid.

Robert Price, the Bible Geek, wrote a very good article on William Lane Craig’s lame attempt to justify the resurrection. I thought this passage on the fundamentalist assertion that we reject the Bible because we’re committed to naturalism was particularly interesting:

Once one sees the circular character of Craig’s enterprise, it begins to make a bit more sense that he would retreat to the old red herring of “naturalistic presuppositions” as a way of doing an end run around the most fundamental postulate of critical historiography. That is, Craig tells us that no one would reject miraculous reports like the resurrection narratives unless already dogmatically committed to Deism or atheism…

So if it would not require a blanket principle to reject the historicity of particular miracle stories, we must ask if it would take a blanket principle to require acceptance of all biblical miracle stories. Clearly it would. And that principle cannot be simple supernaturalism, openness to the possibility of miracles. One can believe God capable of anything without believing that he did everything anybody may say he did. One can believe in the possibility of miracles without believing that every reported miracle must in fact have happened. No, the requisite principle is that of biblical inerrancy, the belief that all biblical narratives are historically accurate simply because they appear in the Bible. After all, it will not greatly upset Craig any more than it upset Warfield to deny the historical accuracy of medieval reports of miracles wrought by the Virgin Mary or by the sacramental wafer, much less stories of miracles wrought by Gautama Buddha or Apollonius of Tyana.

“Supernaturalism” is not at all the issue here. The issue is whether the historian is to abdicate his role as a sifter of evidence by accepting the dogma of inerrancy. Does fire become better fire when doused with water? That is what Craig wants, because he is trying to win souls for Bill Bright.

Nor is “naturalism” the issue when the historian employs the principle of analogy. As F.H. Bradley showed in The Presuppositions of Critical History, no historical inference is possible unless the historian assumes a basic analogy of past experience with present. If we do not grant this, nothing will seem amiss in believing reports that A turned into a werewolf or that B changed lead into gold. “Hey, just because we don’t see it happening today doesn’t prove it never did!” One could as easily accept the historicity of Jack and the Beanstalk on the same basis, as long as one’s sole criterion of historical probability is “anything goes!”

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