HOW THE EXISTENCE OF GOD EXPLAINS MIRACLES AND RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE – WAS JESUS GOD BY Richard Swinburne
Tesi: esiste un Dio in grado di compiere dei miracoli ed esistono delle ragioni per realizzarli
if there is a God, who, being perfectly good, will love his creatures, one would expect him to interact with us occasionally more directly on a personal basis, rather than merely through the natural orderRead more at location 1588
INTERAZIONE PERSONALE CON DIO
answer our prayers and to meet our needs. He will not, however, intervene in the natural order at all often, for, if he did, we would not be able to predict the consequences of our actionsRead more at location 1589
TROPPI MIRACOLI: CONOSCENZA E RESPONSABILITA’
A miracle is a violation or suspension of natural laws, brought about by God.
background knowledge (our other reasons for general belief about how the world works—e.g. reasons for believing that there is a God, or that there is no God) is rightly a very important factor in assessing what happened on particular occasions
we ourselves might have apparently seen someone levitate (that is, rise in the air, not as a result of strings or magnets or any other known force for which we have checked). Many witnesses, proved totally trustworthy on other occasions where they would have had no reason to lie, might report having observed such a thing. There might even be traces in the form of physical effects which such an event would have caused—
A FAVORE: TESTIMONI AFFIDABILI
But against all this there will still be the background knowledge of what are the laws of nature, in this case the laws of gravity
CONTRO: LEGGE NATURALE
we also had substantial religious background knowledge showing not merely that there is a God but that he had very good reason on this particular occasion to work this particular miracle.
A FAVORE: ESISTE UN DIO ED ESISTONO RAGIONI PER INTERVENIRE
Note that in all such cases what we are doing is to seek the simplest theory of what happened in the past which leads us to account for the data (what I have here called the detailed historical evidence), and which fits in best with our background knowledge, in the way described in Chapter
ALLA RICERCA DEL RESOCONTO PIU’ SEMPLICE
I am, however, inclined to think that we do have enough historical evidence of events occurring contrary to natural laws of a kind which God would have reason to bring out to show that probably some of them (we do not know which) are genuine miracles.
TESI: NELLA STORIA ESISTONO CASI PAPABILI
(See for example, the cure of the Glasgow man from cancer described in D. Hickey and G. Smith, Miracle (1978), or some of the cases discussed in Rex Gardiner, Healing Miracles, (1986).
Or, rather, we have enough detailed historical evidence in some such cases given that we have a certain amount of background evidence to support the claim that there is a God, able and willing to intervene in history.
It is so often said in such cases that we ‘may be mistaken’. New scientific evidence may show that the event as reported was not contrary to natural laws—
CHI DICE: LA SCIENZA CHIARIRA’
Maybe. But the rational enquirer in these matters, as in all matters, must go on the evidence available…
CONTA SOLO QUEL CHE SAPPIAMO ORA
Historians often affirm that, when they are investigating particular claims about past events important to religious traditions—for example, about what Jesus did and what happened to him—they do so without making any religious or anti-religious assumptions. In practice most of them do not live up to such affirmations. Either they heavily discount such biblical claims as that Jesus cured the blind on the grounds that such things do not happen;
STORICI E RELIGIONE: UN ERRORE DIFFUSO
But what needs to be appreciated is that background evidence ought to influence the investigator—as it does in all other areas of enquiry. Not to allow it to do so is irrational.
LA CONOSCENZA DI FONDO DEVE PESARE
The existence of detailed historical evidence for the occurrence of violations of natural laws of a kind which God, if there is a God, would have had reason to bring about is itself evidence for the existence of God.
PROBABILITA’ A POSTERIORI E RAGIONAMENTI CIRCOLARI
Consider, by analogy, a detective investigating a crime and considering the hypothesis that Jones committed the crime. Some of his clues will be evidence for the occurrence of some event, an event which, if it occurred, would provide evidence in its turn for the hypothesis that Jones committed the crime. The former might, for example, be the evidence of witnesses who claim to have seen Jones near the scene of the crime. Even if Jones was near the scene of the crime, that is in its turn on its own fairly weak evidence that he committed the crime. Much more evidence is needed. But because the testimony of witnesses is evidence for Jones having been near the scene of the crime, and Jones having been near the scene is some evidence that he committed it, the testimony of the witnesses is nevertheless some (indirect) evidence for his having committed the crime. Likewise, evidence of witnesses who claim to observe a violation of natural laws is indirect evidence for the existence of God, because the occurrence of such violations would be itself more direct evidence for the existence of God. If the total evidence becomes strong enough, then it will justify asserting that God exists,
One reason which God may have for intervening in history is to inform us of things, to reveal truths to us.
UNA RAGIONE PER IL MIRACOLO: INFORMARE
creatures of limited intelligence… liable to bias… Humans need help—help to see what our obligations are
DIO SI ACCORGE DELLE NOSTRE DEBOLEZZE. ONNISCIENZA E LIBERTA’ DELL’UOMO
The major Western religions all claim that God has intervened in history in order to reveal truths
Jews… Islam… How are we to judge between these competing claims? In two ways. First, by the plausibility on other grounds of what they claim to be the central revealed doctrines.
COME GIUDICARE TRA LE DIVERSE RIVELAZIONI
The point of revelation is to tell things too deep for our unaided reason to discover. What we need also is some guarantee of a different kind that what is claimed to be revealed really comes from God. To take an analogy, non-scientists cannot test for themselves what physicists tell them about the constitution of the atom.
In the case of a purported revelation from God, that guarantee must take the form of a violation of natural laws which culminates and forwards the proclamation of the purported revelation… God’s signature…
The Christian revelation
in my view only one of the world’s major religions can make any serious claim, on the grounds of detailed historical evidence, to be founded on a miracle, and that is the Christian religion.
TESI: LA RIVELAZIONE CRISTIANA E’ LA PIU’ AFFIDABILE
Eastern religions (e.g. Hinduism) sometimes claim divine interventions, but not ones in historical periods for which they can produce many witnesses or writers who have talked to the witnesses.
Judaism claims divine interventions connected especially with Moses and the Exodus from Egypt, our information about them was written down long after the events.
Natural causes may easily account for the East wind which caused the parting of the Red Sea
DUBBI SULLA LETTERA DI CERTI RACCONTI
The Christian religion, by contrast, was founded on the purported miracle of the Resurrection of Jesus. If this event happened in anything like the way the New Testament books record it as the coming to life of a man dead by crucifixion thirty-six hours earlier, it clearly involved the suspension of natural laws, and so, if there is a God, was brought about by him, and so was a miracle.
Here we have a serious historical claim of a great miracle for which there is a substantial evidence… But in doing so it is very important to keep in mind three points… The first point is that it is a mark of rationality to take background knowledge—other evidence about whether there is a God able and willing to intervene in history—into account….
CALCOLO DELLE PROBABILITA’ A PRIORI
The second is that, given that God does have reason to intervene in history, partly in order to reveal truths about himself, evidence for the truth of the Resurrection must include the plausibility
the sort of reason I have in mind may be illustrated very briefly in the case of the Incarnation… A good parent who has to make his child endure hardship for the sake of some greater good will often choose voluntarily to endure such hardship along with the child in order to express solidarity with him and to show him how to live in difficult circumstances. For example, if the child needs to have a plain diet for the sake of his health, the parent may voluntarily share such a diet…
ESEMPIO: PLAUSIBILITA’ DELL’ INCARNAZIONE. LA VICINANZA
Thirdly, the claims of the Christian revelation must be compared with those of other religions. If there is reason (of intrinsic plausibility, or historical evidence for a foundation miracle) to suppose that God has revealed contrary things in the context of another religion, that again is reason to suppose that the Christian revelation is not true, and so that its founding event did not occur… My own view—to repeat—is that none of the great religions can make any serious claim on the basis of particular historical evidence for the truth of their purported revelations, apart from the Christian religion….
CONFRONTO CON ALTRE RELIGIONI
One item of purported revelation common to Western religions (though not taught by all branches of Judaism) is the doctrine of life after death… We humans will live again, and the kind of life we have will depend on how we live in this world… This doctrine seems to me intrinsically plausible—a perfectly good God might be expected in the end to respect our choice as to the sort of person we choose to be and the sort of life we choose to lead….
ALTRO ESEMPIO: PARADISO. DOTTRINA PLAUSIBILE
An omnipotent and perfectly good creator will seek to interact with his creatures
APPARIZIONI E VICINANZA DI UN DIO AMOREVOLE
He has reason, as we have seen, to interact in the public world—occasionally making a difference to it in response to our prayers for particular needs.
We may describe our experiences (perceptions) of things either in terms of what they are of; or—being careful in case we may be mistaken—in terms of what they seem or appear (general words)
Note two very different uses of such verbs as ‘seems’, ‘appears’, and ‘looks’. When I look at a round coin from an angle I may say that ‘it looks round’ or I may say that ‘it looks elliptical’, but I mean very different things by the ‘looks’ in the two cases. By ‘it looks round’ in this context I mean that—on the basis of the way it looks—I am inclined to believe that it is round. By ‘it looks elliptical’ in this context I mean that it looks the way elliptical things normally (that is, when viewed from above) look. The former sense in philosophical terminology is the epistemic sense; the latter sense the comparative sense.
EPISTEMIC E PERCEPTION
An apparent experience (apparent in the epistemic sense) is a real experience
My apparent perception of the desk is a real perception if the desk causes (by reflecting them) light rays to land on my eyes… Now it is evident that, rightly or wrongly, it has seemed (in the epistemic sense) to millions and millions of humans that at any rate once or twice in their lives they have been aware of God and his guidance.
David Hay, Religious Experience Today (1990)… They may be mistaken, but that is the way it has seemed to them. Now it is a basic principle of rationality, which I call the principle of credulity, that we ought to believe that things are as they seem to be… principle of credulity… ought to believe that things are as they seem to be
PRINCIPIO DI CREDULITÀ
Just as you must trust your five ordinary senses, so it is equally rational to trust your religious sense.
An opponent may say that you trust your ordinary senses (e.g. your sense of sight) because they agree with the senses of other people—what… However, it is important to realize that the rational person applies the principle of credulity before he knows what other people experience.
RISPOSTA CLASSICA DI CHI SI OPPONE
Anyway, religious experiences often do coincide with those of so many others
If some people do not have these experiences, that suggests that they are blind to religious realities—just as someone’s inability to see colours
L ATEO COME DALTONICO
So in summary in the case of religious experiences, as in the case of all other experiences, the onus is on the sceptic to give reason for not believing what seems to be the case. The only way to defeat the claims of religious experience will be to show that the strong balance of evidence is that there is no God.
It might be said that only the religious have religious experiences. That is not always so… Only someone who knew what a telephone was could seem to see a telephone…
a famous story of someone who could not recognize an experience of God for what it was until he was told something about God, see the story of the child Samuel in the Temple
collections of descriptions of some modern religious experiences… Alister Hardy
UNA RACCOLTA SERIA DI CASI
I suggest that the overwhelming testimony of so many millions of people to occasional experiences of God must, in the absence of counter-evidence of the kind analysed, be taken as tipping the balance of evidence decisively in favour of the existence of God.
Someone who claims that God has told them to commit rape must be mistaken, because we know on other grounds that rape is wrong and therefore God would not have commanded it.
COME RICONOSCERE UN’ESPERIENZA AUTENTICA
The conclusion of this book is that the existence, orderliness, and fine-tunedness of the world; the existence of conscious humans within it with providential opportunities for moulding themselves, each other, and the world; some historical evidence of miracles in connection with human needs and prayers, particularly in connection with the foundation of Christianity, topped up finally by the apparent experience by millions of his presence, all make it significantly more probable than not that there is a God.