Day Four of the Thirteen Days of Solstice


We're celebrating the 13 days of Solstice rather than the 12 days of Christmas. I'm done writing and editing books, so I'm highlighting them in reverse chronological order, leading up to the 25th of the month. This time The Case against Miracles. [See Tag Below]

After a two year break from producing another anthology (2017-18), due mostly to dating and marrying my wife Sheila. I finally decided to do one again. My decision came from debates on Facebook with Richard Carrier and Matthew Ferguson over the use of Bayes' Theorem in assessing miracles, plus the prodding of Richard Miller (who now posts here at DC). Dr. Miller and I were going to co-edit the book together but it just didn't work out. I thank him for prodding me to do it, and I think the book might have been better if it had worked out.

Inside this book is a major defense of David Hume on miracles, including why he didn't use Bayes' Theorem in doing so. David Corner, who unexpectedly and unforunately died just before the book was published, expertly defended Hume in chapter 1. I defend Hume from his critics in my Introduction, and in chapter 3. The book ends with an Epilogue, letting Hume have the last word. The Appendix is a positive review of Humean scholar William L. Vanderburgh's book, David Hume On Miracles, Evidence, and Probability. I have published that Appendix right here.

Table of Contents

Foreword: On Miracles and Truth by Michael Shermer

Introduction

Part 1 Miracles and the Abject Failure of Christian Apologetics

1| Miracles and the Challenge of Apologetics By David Corner

2| God Would Not Perform Miracles By Matt McCormick

3| Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence By John W. Loftus

4| Properly Investigating Miracle Claims By Darren M. Slade

5| Assessing Keener’s Miracles By Edward T. Babinski

6| The Abject Failure of Christian Apologetics By John W. Loftus

7| Why Do Christians Believe in Miracles? By Valerie Tarico

Part 2 Properly Investigating the Miracle of Biblical Revelation

8| Why the Romans Believed the Gospels By R. G. Price

9| How the New Testament Helped Jesus Fulfill Prophecy By Robert J. Miller

10| The Prophetic Failure of Christ’s Return By Robert Conner

11| Five Inconvenient Truths vs Biblical Revelation By David Madison

Part 3 Properly Investigating Key Biblical Miracles

12| Evolution is a Fact! By Abby Hafer

13| Old Testament Miracle Genres as Folklore and Legend By Randall Heskett

14| Science, Miracles and Noah’s Flood By Clay Farris Naff

15| Jesus Christ: Docetic Demigod By Robert M. Price

16| Miracles of the Christian Magicians By Robert Conner

17| Credulity at Cana? By Evan Fales

18| The Resurrection of Jesus Never Took Place By John W. Loftus

19| Paul’s Christianity By Robert Conner

Epilogue

Appendix: In Defense of David Hume: On Proof and Mathematical Probability, by John W. Loftus

Two Reviews:

This anthology has received some very high praise, including two substantive reviews.

Dr. Gregory Michna, Assistant Professor of History and Political Science, at West Virginia University reviewed it. Michna starts off as a mind reader, saying: "Loftus envisioned the collection as a response to Lee Strobel’s 2018 book, The Case for Miracles." Not so. It's an independent anthology irrespective of Stobel's book.

He praises the book in these words:
The assorted contributors who provided essays for The Case Against Miracles offer a range of arguments—from the philosophical and intellectual to specific historic deconstructions—suggesting that miracles fly in the face of reason and should be met with credulity. They provide a wide survey of issues inherent in miraculous claims that will give any reader much to consider.
But he also said:
The greatest drawback to The Case Against Miracles lies in the publishing process, so this falls most significantly on David McAfee, editor at Hypatia Press...The website for Hypatia Press states that it “was set up in 2017 to publish quality, irreligious and secular works.”[6] If that is the case, then it must be noted that the edited volume would benefit from a substantial typographic revision to ensure that footnotes are properly formatted to one particular style guide (SBL, MLA, or CMS) across chapters, as well as ensure that the text is free of spelling and grammatical errors and that there are no aberrations in paragraph formatting. Numerous instances of these editorial issues litter the text, and the presentation of the volume as a scholarly work suffers as a result.
Luckily, after the book was out for a while I was able to find a good proofreader who worked over the book for a month or more, William Kelly. His suggested edits have been incorporated into the book. I thanked him for doing so and tell my readers of the need to help promote it at every opportunity, right here.

The other review was by the late great Tom Flynn, senior editor of Free Inquiry magazine [June/July 2021, Vol. 41, No, 4]. He wrote:
In 2008, John W. Loftus launched what would become a definitive series of anti-apologetic works. The Case against Miracles is the capstone volume of this astonishing output, and it's an impressive achievement. Any thoughtful Christian whose conviction rests on the evidence of miracles who reads this book with an open mind will be hard pressed not to abandon--or at least profoundly rethink--his or her beliefs. Of course, true believers seldom approach works critical of their faiths with an open mind, which is why The Case against Miracles will probably be of greater value to secular students of religion and especially to those drawn to the challenges of anti-apologetics.
Yet Flynn went on to criticize my book because it was not the last word on miracles, but "Almost the Last Word." For the record, very very few books are the last word on any subject. He went on the say:
For all that The Case aganist Miracles is a definitive work, and a hefty one at more than 560 pages, I can't help wishing it had been just a little longer. I would have welcomed more material on modern-day miracle claims and an article or two on the nuts and bolts of evaluating them.
Wait a minute! I had two chapters on Christian apologist Craig Keener's work in defense of miracles, both ancient and modern. One chapter was written by Dr. Darren Slade on precisely the issue Flynn wanted, the nuts and bolts of evaluating miracles. No better discussion exists. The other chapter was written by Edward Babinski (story below), who critically examined some of the specific miracle claims made by Keener. While Flynn acknowledged these two chapters, he said "a comprehensive volume on miracles might have taken greater notice of the Shroud of Turin...and miracle claims today." He concluded "The Case against Miracles would be an even more towering accomplishment had it extended itself a bit further in this direction."

I never said it was a comprehensive volume! If it's "comprehensive" he wants he should have read all my books. I had already published a definitive chapter on the Shroud of Turin by Joe Nickell, in Christianity in the Light of Science, as well as a chapter by Harriet Hall M.D., on how Christianity can be hazardous to your health if you depend on miracles, in Christianity is Not Great. Besides, I think 560 pages is enough for one book. It's like criticizing a book, not for what it said, but for what it left out, when it's impossible to cover a topic comprehensively.

Matthew Ferguson: He's getting his PhD in Classics as part of the University of California system in SoCal—through an inter-disciplinary program with UCI (Classics), UCR (Ancient History), and UCSD. He used to maintain the blog Celsus. I had asked him to write a chapter on Craig Keener's miracles claims, but his alcoholism got the best of him, and he couldn't finish what he started. I was not happy about this since I could see he was doing a great job on the chapter. So I was forced to find a back-up author and asked Edward Babinski to write about Keener, which he did. I kept looking for someone better to write on Keener and found him at the very last moment. Dr. Darren Slade agreed to do it. He wrote on how to properly evaluate miracle claims in criticism of Keener's work. It was what I was looking for, but I kept Babinski's chapter, even though I thought it was sub-par in a few ways.

When it came to my chapter 18 on the resurrection of Jesus I mentioned the theories that help explain the origins of the belief in Jesus' resurrection. I stressed one theory above all the rest:
One theory has recently been defended by Kris Komarnitsky, author of Doubting Jesus’ Resurrection: What Happened in the Black Box? He has done an excellent job of showing what could have happened in an online post on Mathew Ferguson’s blog titled, The Rationalization Hypothesis: Is a Vision of Jesus Necessary for the Rise of the Resurrection Belief? [46] I find it to be the most detailed defense of this theory, making it worth considering, complete with four real-life examples of it in history. He takes issue with the bereavement visionary hypothesis of the disciples, widely regarded as a plausible naturalistic explanation for the data, and argues instead for what he calls the cognitive-dissonance-induced rationalization hypothesis. The question he discusses is whether bereavement visions produced the belief that Jesus arose from the dead, or whether the resurrection belief came first due to cognitive dissonance reducing rationalizations, favoring the later. Go read it. Now! Forget the swoon theory that Jesus didn’t actually die, the conspiracy theory that the disciples purportedly concocted to perpetrate a hoax, the impersonation theory that someone impersonated Jesus, or the unknown tomb theory where the disciples went to the wrong tomb.
I linked to his essay right here. You can also get it directly as a pdf file. I mention this becase everyone should read and share that essay!

Bayes' Theorem

After my anthology came out I wrote a definitive essay on why Bayes' Theorem is not the right tool in critically assessing miracles. The right tool is Hitchens's Razor. I have further defended what I wrote on Bayes here.

Miracles and the Virgin Birth

After my anthology came out I debated Catholic apologist William Albrecht on the virgin birth. I have come to think the gateway to doubting the gospels can be found by examining the miracle tale of a virgin birthed incarnate god.

--------------

John W. Loftus is a philosopher and counter-apologist credited with 13 critically acclaimed books, which are not very popular judging from the meager sales. At this season I'm retired with a fixed income and would appreciate a one-time solstice gift to help me get by. If my work has benefited you at all, it would encourage me to keep doing what I'm doing for as long as I can. My marriage has suffered because my wife often complains I spend way too much time online. But if I could make a little money doing what I do, she probably wouldn't complain any more, and you would see me writing more.

Please support my work this season by sharing my posts, or by subscribing, donating, or buying my books at Amazon then telling others about them! As an Amazon Associate John earns a small amount of money from purchases made from Amazon. Buying anything through them helps fund my work here, and is greatly appreciated! The ads here don't bring in any money to speak about at all. Since most people use an adblocker I'm thinking of doing away with them. I hope this season of the year brings you cheer, peace, good health, and healthy relationships! Thanks for your support!

0 comments: