...The other day on a message board atheists were trying to argue that miracles are disproved becuase they don't happen at a huge statistical rate. This is a crazy argument becuase if they did they wouldn't be miracles. Miracles are contextually religious (at least in the Judaeo-Christian sense) events that incites some presence of God in such a way that things happen which ordinarily could never happen if nature were left to her own devices. If Miracles happened all the time they wouldn't be miracles hey would be normality. Yet these atheists are convinced that God must heal on demand or he doesn't care about us. So God must act like an automatic force and heal every time someone needs it. They also draw this conclusion because they are trying to evoke the Bayes's theorem and its derivative slogan "ECREP" (extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof). In the original theorem "extraordinary" doesn't mean way-out happenings like Bigfoot and UFO's, it means standing out from the statistical norm. That's why the theorem is applied to accessment of probability for events we normally define as ordinary such as cancer diagnosis. In the world of statistical probably that is extraordinary. In the world of normal thinking it's not.
...My argument was that we can't attach numbers to God's doings and assign them probabilities because we have no way to know God's will in the case of each and every individual. We can't control when and where God decides to heal. So we can't assign a number to the probability of his doing it. Thus we must take it on a case by case basis and measure any particular healing claim on its own merits by comparing to the norm rather than making up an assumption that we think should fit God. So we can't ignore the fact that Charles Ann's lungs seemed to grow back in the night on the basis that God isn't growing back lungs every time we ask him to, but on the basis that lungs never grow back on their own we must assume they had help. The Lungs of Charles Ann were one of two modern miracles that put St. Theresse of Lisieux over the top as a saint. The case happened in 1923. My link the source is no longer good. I know the case is real and the x-ray proof is real becasue had an email form a member of the medical committee who says he has seen the x-rays. Here's the source:
Society for the Little Flower (Website) FAQ (visited 6/3/01)
St. Theresse of Lisieux
this link is no longer good
"Regarding St. Therese, in 1923 the Church approved of two spontaneous cures unexplained by medical treatment. Sister Louise of St. Germain was cured of the stomach ulcers she had between 1913 and 1916. The second cure involved Charles Anne, a 23 year old seminarian who was dying from advanced pulmonary tuberculosis. The night he thought he was dying, Charles prayed to Therese. Afterward, the examining doctor testified, "The destroyed and ravaged lungs had been replaced by new lungs, carrying out their normal functions and about to revive the entire organism. A slight emaciation persists, which will disappear within a few days under a regularly assimilated diet." These two miracles resulted in Therese becoming beatified."
We can't make a measurement of probablity and ay "the odds are this wasn't God." We can't establish odds for what God is going to do. To illustrate this point I was speaking of God in terms of "if he wants to do this or that." So they began to say "you tell us we think of God as the big man in the sky, but you are saying God goes around healing people so that's attributing motivations of human thought o him so you have the big man in the sky.
...To complicate matters further, I spoke of God moving the center of activity in healing from Lourdes to other areas, they took this to mean God is running around the earth asking himself "who am I going to heal today." Like the don't have the imagination t think "O he's dumbing this down for everyone." We hear science types speaking very simplistically about scientific principles all the time and think noting of it. They have to take everything so literally that way it seems a lot stupider. Although perhaps that's my fault for speaking too simplistically. Another problem I find is that the are making the assumption that any sort of conscious will or volition is automatically anthropomorphism. I have reason to believe they were working under that assumption. The upshot of it all was they said I want it both ways, I want God to be both loving father and impersonal force. I never said anything to the effect that I want God to be impersonal. I don't believe that God is an impersonal force. I don't believe that calling God ground of being is making him out to be an impersonal force. There could be several sources of the problem there: (1) that they can't think in higher more abstract terms so it must be a stark choice between black or white, impersonal or personal; (2) They think so much about scinece and they have taught themselves to dis-value the personal; they fear the subjective, they hate free will and wish they were robots (I know this form their arguments about free will or the lack there of) they think the laws of physics are higher than God and I think the laws of phsyics function in their world view for the most part as a kind of counterfeit replacement for God. In their minds the impersonal is more God-like than the personal, although, when they think I'm advocating an impersonal view of God they say "that's not really Christian." So they want to stick Christianity what that they consider to be the "stupid answer." Mostly what they say is "ground of being is not a Christian idea." They are totally wrong about that.
...The notion of ground of being is not only totally compatible with Christianity but it is the basis of the original Christian philosophical view point. It's where Christianity was in it's understanding of God when it was doing the seven ecumenical councils and forging the notions that make up the modern understanding of the Trinity; that was actually the formation of Christianity in its modern sense. The concept of ground of being is not only embraces by Vatican II (1) but it's also embraced by the entire eastern Orthodox chruch.(2)
...The question is are there only two choices? Either dead impersonal force like magnetism or Big man in the sky? These seem to be the choices being forced upon us by these atheists. That seems very short sighted. Tillich himself (the modern Apostle of Being itself in the Protestant world) told us that the league of God as Being self is metaphor. The point is using the metaphor to bridge to what is unknown, or what we can only know through direct personal experience. The idea is not that god is impersonal, it is the God is beyond human concepts of the personal. That seems to be a rather dull conclusion that based upon our one little planet our little experience here on this one dust mote we are going to decide that there just couldn't be any alternatives but those two. Why can't consciousness be on a our level than our own? When I have said that atheists are making God out to be the big man in sky it was not becuase the attribute to him will and volition but because they limit his will and volition to a comic book understanding of those aspects. They assume that he's like a big man, he get's mad, when he says he's a "jealous" God it's a literal sense that he does have the personality hangup of jealousy. this is just an underrating of the divine to attribute to him human frailty. We can distinguish between the frailty and consciousness itself.
...It's true that Tillich disparaged the notion of "personal God" but I think that's because he understood that to mean the kind of mind that indluges in ego conflicts not just any notion of will and volition. After all he does say God is personal itself and that symbols an metaphor participates in the things it symbolizes. That would have to mean that God participates in the personal in order to the be the personal itself. The atheists argued that the basis of quality doesn't participate in the quality. The basis of color is not a color itself. For example water molecules are not wet. That's true but we are not talking about a physical basis such molecular structure we are talking about symbolic natures. Moreover, the basis of color is a process of vision not a thing such as "redness" or "colorness." The basis of reality is real, the basis of being is being itself not some kind of "being molecule" we are not talking about a physical process of nature that's amenable to scientific method. We are talking about an aspect reality that serves as a symbol in our linguistic process of using metaphor to bridge the experienced that is beyond our understanding. I am willing to bet that that guy got that argument form HRG who is always using the analogy of "Yellowness" to argue that becuase there is no such thing as yellowness then there is no such ting as "being." He's just arguing form analogy. "Yellowness" is a misconception about the color yellow before we understood how pigmentation works and people assumed it was an essence. To then assert that is the nature of the case with the concept of being is just the fallacy of arguing form analogy.
(1) Jean-Luc Marion, God without Being. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, Thomas A. Carlson Trans. 1991 (original language publication 1982. xxii.
(2) See Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church Penguin Books; Revised edition (June 1, 1993) this is actually a new edition of a book written in the late 50s or early 60s. my copy came from 1964. See page 65 for the discussion of God as Being itself). He says "God is on the order of being itself."
Ware explains the great schism and how the gulf between east and west continued to grow. He wants to explain the ways in which the east contributed to the gulf. He says that nothing was so radical as the scholastic “revolution” but he lists as the eastern counterpart the Hesychast controversy (pg2). 14th century Byzantium. This involved God’s nature and the method of prayer. To explain the controversy he goes back to history of eastern mystical theology, back to Clement of Alexandria (early third century) and Origen (mid 3d). The Cappadocians, especially Gregory of Nyssa and also Evagrius, a monk in the Egyptian desert (d399) developed the ideas of Clement and Origen. This entire tradition depended upon an apophatic approach, especially as developed by Clement and Gregory. God is beyond our understanding. We cannot speak accurately about God because we can’t understand God and we don’t know if our experiences of God are so very encompassing or just fragmentary. Therefore, the mystics of the Eastern Church use negative language of God rather than positive. That is to say they concern themselves with what God is not, rather than what God is. (63)
“The true knowledge and vision of God consists in this—in seeing that he is invisible, because what we seek lies beyond all knowledge, being wholly separated by the darkness of incomprehensibility.” –Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses, 11, 163 (377A).
The Height of Negative theology is reached in the works of Dionysius the Areopagite. (unknown writer lived in Syria toward the end of the fifth century). Saint Maximus the Confessor (662) compassed a commentary on these writings and assured their place in the Eastern Church.