Here's my response to this week's challenge:
This challenge comes from an atheist who thinks that Christians are committing a logical and hypocritical fallacy by believing Christian miracles and rejecting the miracles of other religions.
They write, “Christians accept, without reservation, the miracles described in the Bible were actual historical events. However, at the same time, they discount the miracle stories of some other religions such as” – and they point to a number of miracles from the Islamic religion, for example Muhammad's night journey to Jerusalem into heaven, or Muhammad splitting the moon, or Muhammad's food and water multiplication, or the spider web protecting Muhammad in the cave. “What should be evident to an objective person is that the evidence for the Christian miracles is no more convincing than the evidence for non-Christian miracles. To selectively believe one religion’s miracles while discounting all the others is an illogical and hypocritical fallacy. It is highly unlikely that all the world's proclaimed miracles are true, still unlikely that the miracles of one religion are true and the others are false, but otherwise it is very likely that they are all false.”
To answer this challenge, I want to first describe why I believe that the miracles described in Scripture, in the Bible, are true. In order to do this, I'm not going to give independent evidence for all the miracles. Instead, I’m going to explain to you how I would go about giving reason and having confidence that the miracles in the Bible are true. In other words, I’m not here to try to give a case for all the miracles.
There are miracle stories like Jonah and the great fish or parting the Red Sea. You might ask, “Well, how could you possibly give evidence for such miracles?” For example, the fish that swallowed Jonah is probably dead, and it was in the ocean, and there’s no way you could have direct evidence of such things. The way I go about trusting that such events happen is I try to show that the Bible itself as a document is the Word of God and is trustworthy. As such, everything that it speaks to would then also be true.
How would I go about proving that the Bible is a reliable historical document from God? I would look at certain characteristics. I would see: does the Bible speak to historical events, persons, places, and things accurately? Does the Bible speak accurately about scientific matters? Does the Bible have characteristics that are indicative of coming from God? For example, does it predict the future? Does it speak to facts of science thousands of years before anybody else knew them? I investigate these things in order to understand and to believe that the Bible is the Word of God. Therefore, all the miracles in Bible would be true by logical deduction. That's how I give evidence and have confidence that the miracle claims in the Bible are true even though I might not be able to give independent evidence for each and every miracle.
Historically speaking, there are some miracles in the Bible that we can attest to more directly. One of them is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is significant because this is fundamental to the entire Christian religion. The way we look at reasons why the resurrection of Jesus Christ is true is an incredibly powerful approach known as the minimal facts argument. It's written about by Gary Habermas and Mike Licona in the book, “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus.” I highly recommend this argument if you are not familiar with it.
They look at some of the known historical facts surrounding the resurrection. These are facts that have a lot of good evidence to believe they're true. All New Testament scholars who studied that period of time, even the skeptical scholars, and even the ones that may not be Christian accept them. Some of them are atheists, and yet they still accept these facts to be true. Then they asked a question: What's the best explanation for those known historical facts? Through the process of elimination, they eliminated a lot of possible naturalistic explanations and were finally left with the resurrection.
Again, I’m just giving you an overview of this, but the point is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a miracle story in the Bible we can investigate through historical facts and consider whether it is true. If the resurrection is true, then this validates the teachings of Jesus Christ, his ministry, and all the claims he makes. If he can predict his death and predict his resurrection and then accomplish both, then this speaks to the credibility of Jesus as an authority. Jesus commends and endorses the trustworthiness of all Scripture, so this is a second reason we would trust the miracle stories in the Bible.
To summarize why I trust the miracle stories of the Bible: It can be argued that the Bible is a reliable historical document that is the Word of God. Therefore, the miracle stories have credibility. Secondly, we have evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, and Jesus said the Bible is true. If we can trust Jesus, then we can also trust the miracle stories that are found in Scripture.
We can evaluate the Qur’an and the alleged miracle stories of Muhammad in the same way that we evaluate whether the miracles in the Bible are true. That is, we would determine whether the Qur’an actually is the word of God like Muslims claim it is. First, it's important to keep in mind that all the information we have about Muhammad comes from purely Islamic sources. We have no third party testimony, information, or books of history about Muhammad. Second, it’s important to recognize that the claim Muslims make about the Qur’an is a much more difficult claim to defend. Christians claim that the Bible is the inspired Word of God meaning we believe that God inspired human beings to write certain things down such that what they wrote down is precisely what God intended for them to write down. This is why we call the Bible the “inspired Word of God.” Muslims don’t believe the Qur’an is the inspired word of God, they believe it's the literal words of God. In other words, there's a divine book in heaven called the Qur’an, which Allah dictated to Muhammad via the angel Gabriel. So, it has no human authorship. It is solely from God.
Source criticism is the study of looking at the source material by which any book was written. We can apply the same criticism to the Qur’an to find out other sources. Was it divinely sourced, or was it sourced from other documents that existed in its day? When scholars look at this, they determine that the Qur’an was haphazardly thrown together in a very rushed manner in order to produce a document shortly after the death of Muhammad. The reason we know this is through source criticism. Certain writings that are in the Qur’an have been pulled from various sources in existence in its day.
For example, we see Jewish folklore, apocryphal Gospels, parts of the Jewish Talmud, and other kinds of human writings incorporated into the Koran and passed off as being authored from Allah. Just one example of this is Genesis 4, which talks about Cain and Abel. There was a Jewish rabbi in the Jewish Talmud who wrote commentary about Genesis 4. The Qur’an takes part of Genesis 4 and the commentary of the Jewish rabbi and puts it into Surah 5 and passes it off as divine writ.
Remember, the Qur’an is supposed to be divinely authored, the literal words of Allah. And yet, we see it copying parts of Genesis 4 almost word-for-word and commentary from a Jewish rabbi. By the way, that Jewish commentary is mistaken in its assessment about what Genesis 4 means, but that's another story.
Keep in mind; it's just human authorship. So again, we are not being hypocritical when we evaluate the Bible’s miracle stories and the Quran’s miracle stories. We are applying the same tests to both of these books and evaluating whether we can trust them to be the words of God. In the case of the Qur’an, we see that this is contrary to what Muslims claim. It's not divinely authored. It's not literal words of God. Rather, it’s borrowed from other sources that were in existence in its time. This is why I reject the Qur’an as being the divine word of God and consequently also reject the miracle claims that it tells. This is why we're not being hypocritical.
I have good reason to trust that the Bible is the reliable word of God, and therefore all the miracle claims that it makes are true as well.