Friday, September 02, 2005

History & naturalism

On the recommendation of a friend who is a biblical scholar, I'm reading Craig Keener's The Gospel of John: A Commentary as prep for a bible study on the Gospel according to St. John I'm offering in the diocese this fall. In one section, Keener discusses modern skepticism toward miralces in the context of biblical studies, and -- with help from R. T. France -- sums things up nicely:
    "History" in the sense of "what happened" may be distinguished from "history" in the theoretical sense of "what can be explained by natural causes without recourse to supernatural causes." (vol. 1, pp. 265-266; citation is from R. T. France, "The Authenticity of the Sayings of Jesus," pp. 101-143 in History, Criticism, and Faith, edited by Colin Brown, Downers Grove, Ill.: Zondervan, 1989)
Only by way of an a priori presupposition (that miracles are impossible) can one conclude that none of the miracle narratives in Scripture (the NT in particular) are mythical.

Another good quote is from footnote 355 on p. 266:
    One of Hume's arguments against miracles was that most reports stemmed from "ignorant and barbarous nations"; that he neglects to critically evaluate the influence of his own culture in suppressing such phenomena accentuates his ethnocentrism. [Emphasis added; citation omitted]

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