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Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

Maranatha Baptist Bible College Maranatha Baptist Seminary

Volume 3, Number 1

SPRING 2013


Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal www.mbbc.edu/TheStudy ISSN 2160-1623

Published semi-annually by Maranatha Baptist Bible College and Seminary 745 W. Main Street Watertown, Wisconsin 53094 920.261.9300 www.mbbc.edu www.mbbc.edu/seminary Marty Marriott, President Larry R. Oats, Editor


Communication and books for review should be addressed to the Editor: seminary@mbbc.edu, or Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal 745 W. Main Street Watertown, WI 53094 The Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal is published two times a year (spring and fall). The Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal is a ministry of Maranatha Baptist Bible College and Seminary. Copyright Š 2013 by Maranatha Baptist Bible College and Seminary. All rights reserved. Materials in this publication may not be reproduced without the permission of the Editor, except for reproduction for classroom use by students or professors.


Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal Volume Three, Number One

INTRODUCTION ____________________________________________ 1 WHEN LEVIATHAN STRIKES: ANSWERING TOUGH QUESTIONS WHEN WE DO NOT KNOW THE ANSWERS ____________________________ 3 Bruce Meyers A CRITIQUE OF DAVID HUME’S ON MIRACLES___________________ 17 Tim Miller HENRY DUNSTER HARVARD’S BAPTIST PRESIDENT_______________ 67 Larry Oats THE SPIRIT AND PRAYER: ROMANS 8:26–27 ____________________ 81 John Herbert, V BOOK REVIEWS __________________________________________ 101


Introduction The purpose of the Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal is to provide for our constituency, and for others who may be interested, articles from a Baptist, dispensational, and conservative theological position. Articles are academic and practical, biblical and theological, focused on the needs of the pastor and church leader, and, above all, faithful to God’s Word. The education of a person in ministry, whether he or she is serving in vocational ministry or as a volunteer, is a continuing process. For that reason, Maranatha publishes the Theological Journal to assist individuals in their ongoing education. Through the Journal, Sunesis, and other venues, Maranatha Baptist Seminary and Maranatha Baptist Bible College seek to assist God’s servants in whatever ways we are able. Our faculty are available to speak in churches and conferences on the topics on which they write, as well as in other areas of their expertise. We trust that you will be blessed and challenged as you read this issue of the Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal. Marty Marriott President Maranatha Baptist Bible College and Seminary Larry R. Oats Editor www.mbbc.edu www.mbbc.edu/seminary www.mbbc.edu/TheStudy


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When Leviathan Strikes: Answering Tough Questions When We Do Not Know the Answers Bruce K. Meyer1 Pamela, a 27 year old college graduate, is facing a hopeful future as a budding graphic artist. The firm for whom she works quickly recognized her talent and has consistently entrusted her with more important accounts. Her creativity and precision in design, her eye for color and composition, and her astute insights into the clients’ needs have made her a favorite for many. Likewise, her personal accomplishments match her professional skills. Her friendliness and joyful spirit endear her to the church’s senior citizens, while her playfulness and child-like enthusiasm capture the affections of boys and girls alike in children’s church. Along with her early successes, she has a new expectation in her life—she is engaged to be married to an equally impressive young man who shares many of the same passions and goals, including a heart for serving. The expectation is “they will live happily ever after.” Just 56 days (and 15 hours) before her wedding, however, tragedy struck. Pamela’s fairy tale dreams turned to a nightmare when a drunk driver “T-boned” her car from the driver’s side. Pamela’s initial life-threatening injuries eventually gave way to paralysis. The grim realities began to register with her and her fiancé as the aftermath of the accident began to fade—Pamela is a quadriplegic! What once were bright hopes, confident expectations, and 1

Dr. Bruce Meyer is Professor of Bible and Biblical Counseling at Maranatha Baptist Bible College and Seminary, Watertown, Wisconsin.


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cheerful challenges, are now painful reminders of unfulfilled dreams. Confusion, chaos, crisis, pain, doubts, and fears are just a few of the renegade intruders that lay siege to her spirit. The physical, emotional, and spiritual pain often floods her soul with deep darkness and maddening hopelessness. Pamela finds herself plagued by these questions: “Why me? Why now? Why this? Why?” Introduction and Context Virtually every crisis has at least one common denominator with all others—the suddenness and ferocity of the crisis can leave the sufferer feeling shocked and overwhelmed. It is the shock of the situation that often creates persistently grievous doubts. For example, when the trauma of the World Trade Center collapse occurred, a witness was left with that nagging question: “Is this really happening?” Once the person recognizes reality, that initial question, however, usually merges into a second question: “Why is this awful event happening?” The former question passes more quickly but is characterized by an almost incessant “shaking of the head” in disbelief. Such a denial in most cases is more a problem of perception than reality. In other words, the person usually knows the truth but is having difficulty absorbing the truth in one short segment of time.2 The latter question, however, is the one that persists long-term, from the moment the crisis activates to an indefinite time in which the person has some understanding of God’s providence in the crisis. Unfortunately, there are some crises for which no answers exist concerning the purpose.3 It is this scenario that a 2

For instance, the disciples had trouble understanding and accepting the Lord’s impending death, even though Jesus plainly prepared them for the loss (Mark 8:31–33; Luke 18:31–34; 24:25). 3

By “the purpose,” this author means the way in which God will use this specific trial to providentially accomplish his plan in


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counselee longing for some answers often presents to the counselor. In Pamela’s case, why would the Lord allow such a terrible tragedy in her life? What does a counselor tell her about God’s providential workings?4 How can she find comfort in all of these questions? The frustration, fury, and futility a person feels in such uncertainty can rapidly poison the individual’s belief system in such circumstances. In these circumstances, the sufferer often has questions about God’s justice,5 power, or love. The book of the life of the individual. Although the purpose may not be clear (and perhaps never will be), the scriptures provide a multiplicity of sufficient purposes God has for allowing suffering, any one of which may be part of the purpose. A sampling of these purposes include: to display God’s glory (John 9:1ff), to fulfill the curse on sin (Rom 8:18–20), to produce holiness in his children (Rom 8:28– 30), and to provide compassion in ministry toward others (2 Cor 1:3–7). Admittedly, all suffering ultimately is traceable to the fall and resulting curse, but individual points of suffering are not necessarily the result of specific sin as evidenced in John 9. 4

Counselors often offer texts like Rom 8:28 hastily. Such an abrupt response with this text usually creates more pain than relief when offered too early in the crisis experience. Initially, the counselee needs reminders of God’s presence. One indicator that a counselee is ready for teaching on God’s providence is the acceptance of God’s plan without knowing the end of the plan. For more on this topic, see Michael Bobick, “The Difference Christ Makes in a Crisis,” The Journal of Biblical Counseling 15 (Winter 2001): 14–19. 5 One of the most difficult theological questions a counselor encounters in such situations relates to the justice of God in suffering and injustice (theodicy). In other words, is it God’s will that a person sins (drunkenness) if he allows that person to strike another driver, either maiming or killing the other? Scriptures do provide answers in at least two examples. Although it is never God’s will for people to sin, he may permit their sin to accomplish his ultimate will. For instance, it was God’s will for his people to go into captivity, and yet he held Assyria and Babylon responsible for attacking Israel and Judah. It was God’s will for Jesus to die


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Job provides a vivid case study that allows readers to personally enter into the suffering and frustration of another. In spite of Job’s efforts to coerce both an explanation and vindication from God, he never responded with specific answers for Job’s questions concerning the purpose of his suffering. God does, however, provide general assessments concerning man’s suffering that will satisfy any who walk with him. A sufferer, therefore, does have answers from God, perhaps just not the one for which he is looking. Tension in the book begins with the prologue (chaps. 1– 2), builds during the debates between Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Job (3:1–31:40),6 and culminates in both Elihu’s responses (chaps. 32–37) and God’s final corrective interviews (chaps. 38–41).7 The abrupt ending to the three as a substitute, but he held Israel responsible for crucifying the Lord (Acts 2:23; 4:25–27). These two examples demonstrate the balance between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. These two axioms must remain in tension with one another. Kidner explains well: “Where we might wish to argue that omnipotence ought to have stamped out evil at its first appearance, God’s chosen way was not to crush it out of hand but to wrestle with it; and to do so in weakness rather than in strength, through men more often than through miracles, and through costly permissions rather than through flat refusals. Putting the matter in our own terms we might say that he is resolved to overcome it in fair combat, not by veto but by hard-won victory.” Derek Kidner, The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job & Ecclesiastes (Downers Grove: IVP, 1985), 59. (Emphasis added) 6

While much of the three friends’ theology was correct, their application to Job was faulty in insisting his plight was due to specific sin when all the evidence was contrary to such a notion. See Kidner, 61, for further discussion. Additionally, Kidner connects the contemporary error of Prosperity Theology with this same faulty application (62). 7

For literary analysis of Job, see Greg Parsons, “Job, Theology of,” in The Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Walter Elwell, ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 415–19 or


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cycles of debate, evident in Bildad’s shorter third speech and the absence of Zophar’s final speech, demonstrates the failure of counsel that endeavors to find human explanations where none exist. The book begins to provide genuine solutions for Job through Elihu’s speech, counsel that ultimately points toward God’s admonitions.8 The tension unwinds as the reader witnesses Job’s repentance from his presumptuous demands to God (42:1–6) and God’s resulting restoration of Job (42:7–17). With Elihu’s counsel (chaps. 32–37), God begins to correct the inaccurate views Job held, namely that Job was just all the while he was having doubts about God’s justice (32:3). Elihu dispels the notion that suffering occurs only as a result of sin. He upholds both God’s justice (34:10–12) and love while pointing Job to an accurate explanation for his suffering. Elihu argues that God, in his sovereignty and grace, uses suffering to draw men to himself (33:19–30).9 Suffering, therefore, becomes a catalyst for drawing men into greater intimacy with God. Sufferers must find God sufficient in their suffering, even when he offers no explanations for their suffering. From all indications Job was not wrong to question God about his suffering, but he certainly was wrong to demand

Lindsay Wilson, “Job, Book of,” in Dictionary of Theological Interpretation of the Bible, Kevin Vanhoozer, ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 384–89. 8 Liberal scholars often debate the effectiveness or accuracy of Elihu’s counsel. To the contrary, God does not correct Elihu’s instruction as he does the other friends (42:7). As useful and accurate as Elihu’s instruction was, his counsel fell short in restoring Job—only an encounter with God would restore him. Job desired such an encounter but also lamented that God seemed so distant (23:3–4, 8). 9

John E. Hartley, The Book of Job, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 430.


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answers from the Sovereign.10 Starting with 38:1, God presents his message to Job in a series of questions, many of which elicit the conclusion from Job that there are events occurring in his life for which he does not have answers.11 God presents himself in this section as the sovereign creator. Like Job, who knew nothing of the battle between God and the accuser,12 modern-day people of faith usually are not privy to God’s plans and often fall prey to the heresy of retribution theology—the belief that all suffering is the result of a particular sin. God’s message to Job in his first interrogation, however, was “If you cannot understand the complexities of creation, how can you question the intricacies of God’s plan for His creation?”13 God advances his instruction to Job with a number of examples from the animal kingdom. In this section God presents himself as the all-wise manager of creation—he alone is Lord. God asks Job to explain the peculiarities of each animal, highlighting Job’s inability to either 10

Hartley, 491, states, “[Job’s] perception has been darkest when he has accused God of acting arbitrarily without regard for justice and when he has assumed that he himself could dispute with God as an equal.” 11

To these questions Job wisely refrains from offering explanations before God (40:3–5). It appears that God’s intent is to help Job comprehend that understanding is not found within his own wisdom, but in relationship to God Himself. In other words, God desires to prevent Job from sinning in arrogant responses to his suffering. 12

The author of Job consistently refers to Satan as hasatan (the article attached to the proper name), a literary device that likely points out the character of Satan (“The Accuser”) rather than just his identity. 13

God frames his questions around “Where were you . . . ?” “Have you . . . ?” “Do you know . . . ?” and “Are you able . . . ?” These questions direct the readers to God’s omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, eternality, and sovereignty.


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understand or manage these wild creatures.14 God ends this section with a question and a challenge (40:1–2). The counsel God offers here indicates to Job and successive believers man’s own weakness in explaining or managing his own life, especially crisis circumstances. Zuck states, “Since Job could not conquer the symbols of chaos, mere animals, he could not possibly assume God’s role and bring order into the moral realm.”15 Job’s response provides the corrective for the counselee who believes his own will should prevail over God’s. If humans are so “small” that they can neither explain nor control the functions of creation, how can those same humans presume to understand or control a crisis without God? Furthermore, God singles out two animals for additional discussion concerning the ferocity of a crisis— behemoth and leviathan. While scholars have presented satisfactory arguments concerning the identification of both of these animals,16 the truth portrayed in these animals is more significant than their exact identification.17 In the ancient world, these animals were emblematic of that which

14

God discusses these animals: lion, 38:39; raven, 38:41; mountain goat and doe, 39:1; wild donkey, 39:5; wild ox, 39:9; ostrich, 39:13; horse, 39:19; hawk and eagle, 39:26. 15

Roy B. Zuck, “A Theology of the Wisdom Books and the Song of Songs,” in A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, Roy Zuck, ed. (Chicago: Moody, 1991), 225. 16 See Hartley, 521–22 and 530 for a scholarly discussion on identification of these animals. 17 Many of these animals’ characteristics argue for the hippopotamus and the crocodile respectively. Those characteristics that do not fit such identifications may be attributed to either the poetic nature of the literature and hyperbole or may be indicative of animals that are now extinct. Since the identification of the animals is of lesser importance for the arguments of the book, this author will refrain from debate concerning them.


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is chaotic, inexplicable, uncontrollable, and threatening.18 Therefore, God’s purpose in recording his conversation with Job is to redirect the sufferer away from trusting his own man-centered explanations and solutions to walking in faith with the sovereign God who understands and controls even the most terrifying of circumstances. His illustration about leviathan provides the point of discussion for this essay, since this creature is the climax to God’s corrective arguments with Job.19 God develops his argument with two key thoughts from his discussion on leviathan: • Like leviathan, crisis circumstances represent unalterable ferocity (41:1–11). Therefore, a person cannot change them. • Like leviathan, crisis circumstances represent overwhelming ferocity (41:12–34). Therefore, a person cannot stand before them. Leviathan, therefore, stands as an example of the futility of man’s attempts to either control or understand his crisis experience, for the only one who can is the sovereign God. Like Leviathan, Crisis Circumstances represent Unalterable Ferocity (41:1–11) In this first section, God interrogates Job rhetorically concerning his inability to subdue leviathan (vv. 1–7). In a series of questions, many containing strong statements of irony, God teaches that leviathan resists capture or control (1–2), resists domestication (3–5), provides no useful commodity (6), and repels human attempts to destroy him (7). 18

Elmer B. Smick, Job, Expositor’s Bible Commentary [CDROM], Zondervan Reference Software 2.6, 1989–98. 19

With each successive cycle of argumentation (nature, animals, behemoth, and leviathan), God crescendos to his climax in leviathan.


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Each of these descriptions advances either the argument that man is limited in his understanding or that man can neither vanquish nor alter his circumstances. The overall message is that these are God’s creations. They are under his control. He is the sovereign. The complementary lesson for Job was that he had no authority in these spheres. He too was a creature made by God to be submissive to his dominion. Job had more in common with leviathan, an angry creature stirring up his world, than he did with God, who effortlessly created and continues to control both Job’s world and the entire cosmos.20

People in crisis often presume that a chaotic crisis has no purpose for them. On the contrary, even if a particular purpose remains enigmatic, God can and will use even the worst of crises to demonstrate his own power and glory (cf. John 9:1ff). The counselor should remind the counselee that any crisis he experiences is an opportunity to display God’s abundant glory and power, just as chaotic leviathan does. A problem often emerges with counselees, however, when they attempt to alter their circumstances through their own efforts. After demonstrating the inability of man in destroying leviathan, God summarizes the dangers in a somewhat humorous explanation in verse 8. The person who reaches out his hand to touch leviathan will never do it again and will never forget the experience. The end result of such a personal confrontation is the realization that any contrived hope the person has is false, particularly when he becomes detached from God’s sovereign presence (v. 9). Furthermore, the absence of understanding concerning the purpose for a crisis does not mean there is no purpose. There are many aspects of God’s creation that man in general does not understand—asking this author about 20

Robert Alden, Job, New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman, 1993), 407.


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nuclear physics, for example, will result in a rather inane stare. The problem is that a crisis becomes such a personalized experience for the counselee; the person reasons that “since this suffering is happening to me, I should know why I am suffering.” Such a response makes two false assumptions. First, the person has an unbiblical view of his own life. He assesses his own authority, existence, and understanding to be supreme. He has elevated his own personal rights above the prerogatives of the sovereign God. Such a distorted assessment leads to the second flaw: the individual has an unbiblical view of God. Where Job was mistaken was in thinking that since there was no revealed purpose in his suffering, God must be capricious and arbitrary in his dealings with mankind. God had an unseen purpose, however, a purpose that he revealed only to the readers of the book. God’s people today benefit from this revelation when they realize that, like Job, the ultimate purpose in their suffering may remain hidden from them indefinitely. Since God is independent of his creation, he is neither obligated to nor dependent upon mankind, except when he chooses to be. God has never obligated himself to man in providing specific revelation concerning every point of suffering. On the contrary, God has only obligated himself to his children in providing himself in the midst of suffering. In other words, God does promise that he will never leave nor forsake, but he has not promised an explanation. He has promised that his grace will be sufficient in suffering (2 Cor 12:9) and that his wisdom and revelation will guide the individual through the trouble (Jas 1:5). Man should recognize that a relationship with the Divine is certainly more comforting than any ultimate explanation. God emphasizes these points in his concluding verses (41:10–11) when he asks Job “who can stand before him” and “to whom does God owe anything?” The point here is that if a person cannot stand against a created animal like leviathan, how can that person stand against God the creator in a challenge of wit and power? Furthermore,


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because God does not owe anything to man, he does not owe the sufferer an explanation either. The sufferer is left to conclude that he merely needs to trust the Almighty, for in doing so he will find real meaning for his suffering in God. Like Leviathan, Crisis Circumstances represent Overwhelming Ferocity (41:12–34) God has now demonstrated to Job that no sufferer can change or destroy leviathan. Leviathan represents unchangeable ferocity. His argument does not end there, however, but persists in demonstrating how fierce leviathan really is. His ferocity is overwhelming, causing any to cower in fear. To prove his point, God describes the physical features of leviathan (vv. 12–24), describing an animal that is so powerfully fierce that he instills nothing but fear in even the mightiest of men (v. 25).21 There is no quality to leviathan that elicits praise for his aesthetic or practical value. Because of leviathan’s ferocity, there is no weapon that affects him (vv. 26–29). His powerful features and actions make him both fearless before man and fearsome to man (vv. 30–34). The implication here is that rather than standing in awe (fear) of leviathan, man should stand in awe of the God who made and sustains him. God’s argument to Job looks like this: • •

There are created systems that are too fierce for man to control. I created them, understand them, and control them.

21 Here scholars translate the Hebrew, elohim, either as [mythical] “gods” or as “mighty” [men]. Most choose the latter since a description of mythical gods does not fit God’s intent to describe the natural world. Furthermore, the ancients often referred to “mighty men” as elohim (cf. Gen 6:2). The author accepts the latter explanation as both contextually and exegetically superior.


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Since I am sovereign over these systems, you can trust me to walk with you when suffering under these systems (42:2).

God’s arguments lead to an important conclusion. Since Job is not able to stand against leviathan, he is likewise not able to stand against a sovereign God. Therefore, since Job cannot contend with God, he must instead trust him. Only an omnipotent and loving God can shelter the person in crisis from both the real danger and his extreme fears, whether externally or internally generated. Alden explains: “As a mortal who could be killed by a crocodile, Job’s only choice was to trust and obey Yahweh.”22 Rather than fighting God, therefore, the person in crisis must submit to God in humble trust and worship, even if he never understands God’s purposes in the trial. Andersen comments, Job has never challenged God to a trial of sheer strength, as a man would who hunted a crocodile. The argument to the superior strength of God is made, not to discourage men from trying to have dealings with God, but to enhance God’s capability of managing the affairs of the universe so that men will trust Him.23

Crisis Answers for Comforting Pamela With all the theology of this text, how does the biblical counselor answer Pamela in a truthful and compassionate way? The biblical mandate for the counselor is not simply to teach her truth, although truth is essential, but to do so in a way that leads her towards biblical growth. Job’s counselors were missing both precise theology and the compassionate care that Job needed. In contrast, however, 22 23

Alden, 400.

Francis Andersen, Job, Tyndale Old Commentaries (Downers Grove: IVP, 1976), 290.

Testament


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God serves as the prototypical caregiver, providing both authoritative counsel and compassionate restorative care. When God is finished instructing Job, he possesses a proper understanding of both God and his suffering (42:1– 6). The goal, therefore, is to lead the counselee into a more intimate relationship with God in the midst of suffering.24 In light of God’s instruction, the counselor is able to present key principles from this text. Know Him First, there are some events in life that are just too complicated for humans to comprehend. Even with today’s technological advancements, there are some problems that evade human understanding. Invisible, but real, battles are occurring at any given time (Eph 6:10–17). Instead of wasting valuable resources on comprehending the incomprehensible, Pamela should focus her attention upon knowing the self-revealing God. Pamela can experience an intimate knowledge of God only as she walks with him in daily fellowship. Trust Him Second, God is the only one who knows the reason this tragedy has happened to Pamela at this time. If the purpose is not readily apparent, then Pamela’s task is to simply trust that God’s purposes are just and loving. God’s providential plan may become evident in time, but even if it does not, God still knows the plan, is working the plan, and will fulfill his purposes in that plan. Although the “secret” purpose (cf. Deut 29:29) may remain elusive, Pamela needs to hear that God is accomplishing purposes through her life that are evident: God is making her holy, he is equipping 24

See John Piper and David Powlison, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer,” The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Spring 2006): 2–8. Also available in John Piper and Justin Taylor, eds., Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2006), 207–17.


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her for ministry towards others, he is displaying his glory through her infirmities, he can use her testimony to touch the hearts of the lost, and he is drawing her to himself for a more intimate relationship. This trust is an active dependence upon God that acknowledges God’s inherent trustworthiness. Such knowledge is based on the character of God rather than repetitious clichés and hollow platitudes. The counselor, therefore, must lovingly and deliberately identify specific ways that Pamela should trust God rather than simply telling her to trust—a truth that she probably already knows. Conclusion The personal crisis Job faced tested his faith in profoundly painful ways. Today’s believers often face personal tests that are equally painful and challenging, although perhaps different in nature. In the midst of painful, chaotic, and confusing circumstances, sufferers often have questions that mere humans cannot answer with their finite knowledge. Sadly, like Job and his friends, wrong theology and “one-size-fits-all” answers often add to the uncertainty and pain. Even in such situations, there is one solution that answers all uncertainty—God. Whenever the person in crisis redirects his attention away from his own man-centered explanations and solutions, turning rather to God in faith, he will find God sufficient in providing comfort, meaning, and solutions in his suffering. Although a crisis may be both unchangeable and overwhelming, the sufferer, like Job, can walk with God and experience God himself. Likewise, sufferers today, like Pamela, need only to walk with him to find genuine meaning, purpose, and even joy in suffering.


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A Critique of David Hume’s On Miracles Tim Miller1 Are miracles possible? Or at least can we ever know if one has graced the pages of history? This is the question David Hume attempts to answer in section ten of his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Hume is anything but humble when he asserts that he has found a refutation for miracles: “I flatter myself, that I have discovered an argument of a like nature, which, if just, will, with the wise and learned, be an everlasting check to all kinds of superstitious delusion, and consequently, will be useful as long as the world endures.”2 He further hopes that his claims will “silence the most arrogant bigotry and superstition, and free us from their impertinent solicitations.”3 Hume is not the only one who has thought highly of his argument. Antony Flew calls Hume’s argument a “formidable force.”4 The sheer amount of writing dedicated 1 Mr. Tim Miller is Assistant Professor of Bible and Apologetics at Maranatha Baptist Bible College and Seminary and a Ph.D. candidate at Westminster Theological Seminary. 2

David Hume, “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,” Harvard Classics, 10.1, http://www.bartleby. com/37/3/. 3 4

Ibid.

Flew does see some problems with the argument and seeks to address those in his introduction to Hume’s work. Nonetheless, Flew believes the basis of Hume’s argument is still powerful and effective in accomplishing what Hume originally set out to prove.


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to Hume’s argument also testifies to its historical importance. In fact, nearly every treatment of the topic, even to this day, uses Hume as a starting point in the discussion.5 Therefore, if miracles will have a biblical defense, the Humean tower must be pulled down. The purpose of this article is to examine Hume’s argument in detail. We will show that Hume actually developed three separate arguments against miracles. Hume’s first argument seeks to show the impossibility of miracles; his second argues against the ability to know whether a miracle has ever occurred; and his final argument claims that miracles, even if possible and knowable, cannot accomplish their purpose of establishing a religious ideology. In order to show the inherent weaknesses in Hume’s arguments, we must start with a brief summary of Hume’s epistemology. Having articulated Hume’s basic beliefs, we will summarize his arguments against miracles. Following this summary, we will examine why Hume’s arguments, even on a naturalistic worldview, fail. The next section will examine Hume’s presuppositions and show that his epistemology is self-defeating and his metaphysic fails to account for reality. Finally, we will examine a biblical, and therefore coherent, view of miracles grounded on the Christian worldview. Hume’s Epistemology Michael Levine says, “Hume’s position on miracles cannot be properly understood apart from his analysis of causation, a posterior reasoning and . . . his analysis of

See Antony Flew, Introduction to On Miracles, by David Hume (LaSalle, Ill: Open Court, 1985). 5

Ronald Nash, Faith and Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith (Grand Rapids: Academic Books, 1988), 226.


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‘impressions’ and ‘ideas.’”6 Too many have come upon this section of the Enquiry without knowledge of the broader epistemology and metaphysic of Hume. Inevitably, Levine claims, the reader misunderstands Hume, and their critique is thereby flawed. Wanting to avoid making Hume’s argument a straw man, we must look at the important aspects of Hume’s philosophy. Atheist, Christian, Deist, Irreligion? One important facet of Hume’s treatment of miracles concerns his metaphysical belief. Ronald Nash believes that Hume, much like Kant, was trying to make room for faith during an epoch of history that was rapidly losing belief in God.7 This led Nash to believe that Hume was at least a deist.8 Though some may say that Nash’s claim is ungrounded, Hume’s writing is anything but clear in this area. There are times it appears that Hume believes in a god. For instance, Hume says, “The whole frame of nature bespeaks an intelligent author; and no rational enquirer can, after serious reflection, suspend his belief a moment with regard to the primary principles of genuine Theism and Religion.”9 Paul Russell has devoted much time and writing to the question of Hume’s religious belief. He concludes that Hume cannot in any sense be called a theist. Russell even claims that calling Hume an agnostic or skeptic is 6

Michael Levine, “Miracles,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2005, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/miracles/ #hum. 7

Ronald Nash, Life’s Ultimate Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 259. 8 9

Ibid., 257.

David Hume, “The Natural History of Religion,” University of Idaho, 1995, Introduction, http://www.class.uidaho.edu/mickelsen/texts/Hume-Nat%20Hist%20Rel.txt.


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inappropriate because “these labels fail to identify properly and highlight the wholly hostile and critical character of Hume’s general attitude towards religious doctrine and dogma.”10 Russell concludes that the most appropriate designation for Hume is irreligious, since it both avoids a dogmatic stance that God does not exist, but at the same time shows that Hume is critical and hostile towards religion.11 William Lane Craig brings the discussion into its historical moorings by noting that the entire discussion surrounding miracles during Hume’s era assumed the existence of God. Therefore, this was a case of theism versus deism, not a case of atheism versus theism.12 Overall, Hume had the attitude of an atheist, the stance of an agnostic, and the historically acceptable position of deist. What is important to note, however, is that whatever the designation, Hume assumed human autonomy. He could entertain the thought of a creator, but not a Sovereign One. There could be a god, but this god could have no authority over Hume. It is for this reason that Hume attacked so vehemently the possibility of the Christian God.13

10

Paul Russell, “Hume on Religion,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2005, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hume-religion/#10. 11

Ibid.

12

William Lane Craig, Apologetics: An Introduction (Chicago: Moody, 1984), 111. 13 Though Hume never mentioned Christian miracles in his essay, nevertheless, it is obvious to any reader that he chose examples based on their similarity to Christian miracles. See Colin Brown, Miracles and the Critical Mind (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 87.


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Hume the Empiricist If one could identify Hume in one word it would be “empiricist.” He believed all knowledge came through sense experience. For Hume some knowledge is a priori, but at the core this knowledge is ultimately non-instructive. True knowledge is merely a reflection of past sense experience. When one thinks of an apple, for example, the only reason one can think of that apple is because of their past experience with an apple. So it is for every memory and piece of knowledge. The implications of this view are evident in the memorable conclusion to Hume’s Enquiry on Human Understanding: When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.14

In sum, if a book is not grounded in the non-instructive a priori truth or in illustrative human experience, it must be pure speculation. Anything not based on human experience, then, is futile and should be burned since it is useless. Hume the Skeptic Van Til notes that Hume, contrary to most other empiricist “had the intellectual honesty to reach the conclusions to which a consistently empirical epistemology leads, namely, skepticism as to science, . . . as to selfhood

14

3.3.

Hume, “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,”


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. . . as to ethics . . . and of course as to religion.”15 So far did Hume allow his empiricism guide that Hume admits, “The intense view of these manifold contradictions and imperfections in human reason has so wrought upon me, and heated my brain, that I am ready to reject all belief and reasoning, and can look upon no opinion even as more probable or likely than another.”16 The only remedy for his metaphysical quandary, he maintains, is to go on with the daily routine—essentially ignoring the mental issue until it no longer bothers the mind. How did Hume’s empiricism lead him to skepticism? His strict empiricism led to a problem: there are some things, even essential things, which experience cannot validate. For instance, cause and effect cannot be directly experienced. Certainly it appears that two things happen in sequence, and they may happen in sequence a million times, but one cannot conclude that the first action causes the other. Thus, cause and effect cannot be known. But how can one continue life without a belief in cause and effect? Hume’s answer was that one must assume cause and effect even though it cannot be known, for the consequences of abandoning this belief are outrageous. Other foundational issues of human life, such as the self and the existence of an external world, are not known by experience but must be assumed if life is to be livable. Why do humans choose to believe in things which cannot be known by experience? Hume attributed this to passion. Nash defines passion as “instinct, habit, and custom.”17 Hume places this subjective element over the

15

Greg L Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1998), 337, fn162. 16

David Hume, “A Treatise of Human Nature,” University of Idaho, I, 4, http://www.class.uidaho.edu/mickelsen/ToC/hume %20treatise%20ToC.htm. 17

Nash, Life’s Ultimate Questions, 256.


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rational element of a human’s thought. He states, “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.”18 In placing such a high view on human passion, Hume abandons objectivity. In Hume’s own words: Thus all probable reasoning is nothing but a species of sensation. ’ Tis not solely in poetry and music, we must follow our taste and sentiment, but likewise in philosophy. When I am convinc’d of any principle, ’tis only an idea, which strikes more strongly upon me. When I give the preference to one set of arguments above another, I do nothing but decide from my feeling concerning the superiority of their influence.19

Hume’s empiricism led him to skepticism. Next we will see another aspect of Hume’s epistemology that strengthens and reaffirms his skepticism. Hume on Analogical Knowledge20 Hume’s view of analogical knowledge plays a large role in his irreligious attitude. Some commentators even find this as a central theme in Hume’s critique of miracles. Thus it is important to understand his unique perspective on analogy. The most important exposition of his view comes in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Hume presents his case in the discussion among fictional characters Demea and Cleanthes. Much like the chapter on miracles, this argument is set forth to show the impossibility of knowing the Biblical God.

18

David Hume, “A Treatise of Human Nature,” 3.8.

19

Ibid., 1.7.

20

For a clear treatment of Hume’s attack on the teleological argument, see Paul N. Tobin, “Rejection of Pascal’s Wager: The Teleological Argument,” Rejection of Pascal’s Wager, 2005, http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/design.html#2.


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Hume’s view of analogical knowledge, as it relates to the topic at hand, can be summarized in two points. First, man can only infer from an effect a cause that has the essential attributes to effect that cause. That is, if an analogy works, it only proves limited things about the cause. For instance, a footprint in the sand only speaks of a foot meeting the sand. One can infer that there was a person present who was walking along the beach, but all that is required of the effect is that a foot was present and was subsequently moved. Anything beyond this assertion is mere hypothesis.21 Hume’s second point is more striking and poignant for the present purpose. He maintains that effects must be similar to their causes. If they are strikingly dissimilar, then how can they serve as an analogy? Hume says, “Now, it is certain, that the liker the effects are which are seen, and the liker the causes which are inferred, the stronger is the argument. Every departure on either side diminishes the probability, and renders the experiment less conclusive.”22 In sum, the more dissimilar the cause and the effect, the less that one can infer from the effect to the cause; i.e. the weaker the analogy between what is seen and not seen. Put to a specific situation, a finite effect can only be analogous to a finite cause. True, there may be an infinite cause, but man can never infer infinitude from a finite effect.23

21

The implication of this point for traditional arguments for God is obvious. Hume states it this way: “Let your gods, therefore, O philosophers, be suited to the present appearances of nature: and presume not to alter these appearances by arbitrary suppositions, in order to suit them to the attributes, which you so fondly ascribe to your deities.” Hume, “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,” 11. 22 23

Hume, “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion,” 5.

Hume states, “By this method of reasoning, you renounce all claim to infinity in any of the attributes of the Deity. For, as


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Hume’s view of analogical knowledge is a key feature of his epistemology. If all of man’s knowledge comes from his experience, then man will structure his belief according to that experience. What man experiences is pure nature. Therefore if something altogether foreign to nature occurs, he has no way of adapting this experience to his knowledge. Since he has never experienced the infinite, man cannot infer from the finite effect to the infinite cause. Hume’s analogical knowledge will play a key role as a presupposition in his arguments against miracles. Hume’s Argument on Miracles Having given a brief overview of Hume’s epistemology, we can turn to his discussion of miracles. His essay divides between two sections. Ironically, the first section is very short but is exceptionally controversial and will require much attention. The second section is much longer, but is fairly straightforward. We will examine each section in turn. Section One Hume begins his essay with the statement that the evidential basis of the Christian religion is comparably less substantial than the evidence gained by his reader’s experience. Two essential points emerge from the very beginning. First, Hume is laying bare his intention in this essay—to invalidate the Christian faith by invalidating miracles. Second, he asserts, as he has through the entirety of Inquiries, that experience is the key to knowledge and truth. How is the truth of Christianity less than the reader’s senses? It is less because it is based on the testimony of apostles. They claim to have had eyewitness accounts, but Hume’s readers are more than a century removed from the apostles, so they must rely not only on their testimony, but also must believe that the teaching of the apostles has been the cause ought only to be proportioned to the effect, and the effect, so far as it falls under our cognizance, is not infinite.” Ibid.


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passed down correctly. Here Hume inserts the principle he will maintain throughout the work; one must believe in the stronger evidence. A central tenet of Hume’s approach is that “A wise man . . . proportions his belief to the evidence.” Evidence, like meats, cheeses, and gold, can be weighed. Hume’s writing portrays a wise man before a scale putting experience and facts on each side and affirming which side is heavier; the greater the difference of weight, the greater the assurance. Hume presents a test case for his readers—human testimony. If a man were to present a fact in the form of a testimony, that testimony must be weighed against the probability that the man is lying. If he is known as a liar or has a financial interest in the testimony, the weight of his testimony decreases in proportion to the doubts of his character. Further, if what the man reports is of an extraordinary nature, then one must weigh against two factors: (1) the probability of deception, and (2) the probability that the man was himself deceived. The next point in Hume’s argument remains somewhat enigmatic. Here are his words: A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined. . . . Nothing is esteemed a miracle, if it ever happen in the common course of nature. . . . it is a miracle, that a dead man should come to life; because that has never been observed, in any age or country. There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation. And as a uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full proof, from the nature of the fact, against the existence of any miracle; nor can such a proof be


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27

destroyed, or the miracle rendered credible, but by an opposite proof, which is superior.24

To any able reader, Hume’s comment here smacks as begging the question. This appears to be Hume’s argument in this paragraph: 1. A miracle is a violation of a law of nature 2. Firm and unalterable experience has established the laws of nature 3. Anything that has been experienced conforms to the laws of nature 4. Nothing has been experienced which does not conform to the laws of nature 5. All experience, since it is uniform, unites as a proof against a miracle All Hume appears to do is define miracles out of existence. But is this really what Hume meant to express? Commentators, unlike Hume’s laws of nature, are not unified. Antony Flew is the leading advocate of a less dogmatic interpretation of this paragraph. He claims that “[Hume] is asking whether and, if so, how—even supposing that a miracle had occurred—we could know, repeat know, that it had.”25 Nash sides with Flew by noting that, according to his own philosophy, Hume recognized that the laws of nature are descriptive and not prescriptive. Thus, “we must conclude—assuming that [Hume’s] system does not contain the grandest example of a contradiction in the history of philosophy—that Hume was not attempting to prove that miracles are impossible.”26

24

Ibid.

25

Flew, Introduction to On Miracles, 4.

26

Nash, Faith & Reason, 227–9. See also Brown, Miracles and the Critical Mind, 81 and C. Stephen Evans, Philosophy of


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Despite the interpretation of Flew, some commentators remain convinced that Hume’s argument is question begging. William Lane Craig puts the matter succinctly, “To say that uniform experience is against miracles is to implicitly assume already that miracles have never occurred. It seems almost embarrassing to refute so sophisticated an objection by such a simple consideration, but this answer nevertheless seems to me to be entirely correct.”27 Robert Larmer, in a recent essay on this very topic, also concluded that Hume intended to exclude miracles at the very outset. According to Larmer, Flew’s essay on Hume in 1961 was a watershed in interpretation. Previous to Flew’s publication there was a consensus between friends and critics that Hume meant to exclude the possibility of miracles. However, after the essay consensus shifted to assume that Hume merely excluded the knowledge of a miracle.28 Larmer provides three reasons to believe Hume assumed at the outset that miracles were not only improbable but also impossible. First, the clearest and most direct reading of Hume’s argument in part one is question begging.29 Had interpreters no other writings of Hume, they would certainly assume Hume was arguing that miracles are impossible. Second, part two of Hume’s essay continually refers back to part one as authoritative and conclusive.30 For instance, when Hume speaks of the Jansenist miracles, he Religion: Thinking about Faith (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 110. 27 Craig, Apologetics, 121. See also John C Polkinghorne, “The Credibility of the Miraculous,” Zygon 37.3 (2002): 571. 28

Robert Larmer, “Interpreting Hume on Miracles,” Religious Studies 45 (2009): 325. 29

Ibid., 327–28.

30

Ibid., 329–31.


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29

does not deny that the Jansenist fails one of the stringent criteria of a witness posited in section two.31 Rather Hume asserts, “What have we to oppose to such a cloud of witnesses, but the absolute impossibility or miraculous nature of the events, which they relate? And this surely, in the eyes of all reasonable people, will alone be regarded as a sufficient refutation.”32 Thus, Hume drops the pretense of section two and falls back to the a priori argument of section one. Third, extra-textual facts seem to indicate that Hume believed he had proven the impossibility of miracles. (1) Hume wrote to George Campbell concerning an argument against miracles he had structured and with which he had shaken a learned Jesuit. Larmer points out that the letter indicated an argument and not a group of arguments as is presented in the treatise.33 (2) The pride exuding from Hume concerning his argument seems to rule out the possibility that he merely thought he had succeeded in showing the impossibility of knowing a miracle. Further, others had written the same arguments as he presented in part two, which leads one to believe Hume’s source of pride was his original contribution—part one of his argument.34 (3) Every critique of Hume during his lifetime assumed Hume was trying to prove that miracles were tout court impossible. Had his argument been seriously

31

In fact, Hume admits they meet many of the requirements of a credible witness: “But what is more extraordinary; many of the miracles were immediately proved upon the spot, before judges of unquestioned integrity, attested by witnesses of credit and distinction, in a learned age, and on the most eminent theatre that is now in the world.” See Hume, “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,” 10.2. 32

Ibid.

33

Larmer, “Interpreting Hume on Miracles,” 335.

34

Ibid., 336.


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misunderstood, it is inexplicable why he never responded to the false interpretation. Hume’s silence on this point, even when responding to a critic, appears to be a tacit acceptance of the critic’s viewpoint.35 Having examined the major views on Hume’s first argument, it appears that there is a way that can take both viewpoints seriously. Richard Purtill hints at it when he maintains that Hume gives both arguments.36 On one hand, he presents an a priori reason to exclude the possibility of miracles. On the other hand, he attempts to show that no amount of proof could lead one to believe a miracle had ever occurred. Purtill does not explain why he adopts this position. But it appears, based on the argumentation above, that Purtill is essentially correct. Hume appears to offer two distinct arguments. The first argument, offered in section one, is his main contribution, and should be understood as an a prior attack on miracles. This was the argument he submitted to Campbell, the one he had skillfully crafted to shake the faith of the Jesuit.37 But recognizing that his argument would not convince everyone, Hume added another layer to his argument. If someone did not accept his a priori argument, then they would have to overcome his a posterior argument.38 35

Ibid.

36

Richard Purtill, “Defining Miracles,” in In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God’s Action in History, ed. R. Douglas Geivett and Gary R. Habermas (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997), 65. 37 38

Larmer, “Interpreting Hume on Miracles,” 335.

Hume’s second argument is described as a back-up plan, but this may not be the most adequate way to put it. Certainly one cannot easily distinguish two arguments in Hume. He seemed to believe that his first argument was sufficient, and he called the reader’s attention back to the a priori argument often. However, there are distinct traces of the second argument throughout the paper. This has been the source of confusion for modern


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31

If the interpretation above is correct, one must handle two separate attacks on miracles from Hume. There is not one humean tower, but two. Ironically, the tower Hume was fondest of is built on the sandy foundation of circularity. One cannot presume that a particular miracle “has never been observed, in any age or country,”39 and then propose that miracles are impossible. Hume, intelligent as he certainly was, fell prey to an elementary logical fallacy. The remainder of this paper, then, will focus on Hume’s second argument. However, reference will be made to the first argument to show that Hume’s worldview denies him the right to posit such an argument. Before we move on to the second section of Hume’s On Miracles, it will be useful to construct Hume’s secondary argument here:40 1. A miracle is by definition a rare occurrence. 2. Natural law is by definition a description of regular occurrence. 3. The evidence for the regular is always greater than that for the rare. 4. Evidences must be weighed. 5. A wise man always bases his belief on the greater evidence. 6. Therefore, a wise man should never believe in a miracle.

interpreters. Hume appears to fluctuate between the two arguments. It appears that he believed both were powerful and had the potential to dispel superstition. 39

Hume, “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,” X, 1. See also, Purtill, “In Defense of Miracles,” 65. 40

Adapted from Norman L Geisler, “Miracles and the Modern Mind,” in In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God’s Action in History, ed. R. Douglas Geivett and Gary R. Habermas (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997), 75.


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Notice that this argument lacks the dogmatism of the last, and also avoids being prima facie a logical fallacy. Section Two Norman Kemp Smith, in agreement with the above interpretation, argues that section two is the strength of Hume’s position: “The strength of [Hume’s] position lies not in the more formal features of the ‘decisive’ and ‘elegant’ argument to which he attaches such weight . . . but in the circumstantial evidence which he adduces as corroborative of it.”41 Rather than merely being a tag along, Hume’s second section provides meat to the bones of his a posterior argument. Hume neatly divides this section into five parts. The first four are arguments concerning the unreliability of witnesses, and the last is a series of illustrations to enhance the arguments provided in the rest of the text. Hume’s first argument sets forth the requirements needed for a witness of miracles to be credible: For first, there is not to be found, in all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good sense, education, and learning, as to secure us against all delusion in themselves; of such undoubted integrity, as to place them beyond all suspicion of any design to deceive others; of such credit and reputation in the eyes of mankind, as to have a great deal to lose in case of their being detected in any falsehood; and at the same time, attesting facts performed in such a public manner and in so celebrated a part of the world, as to render the detection

41

Norman Smith, Introduction to Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, by David Hume (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1947), 49.


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unavoidable: all which circumstances are requisite to give us a full assurance in the testimony of men.42

At least two requirements emerge; the first has to do with the witness, and the second concerns the location of the event witnessed. First, in order to have his testimony accepted, the witness has to be educated, truthful, reputable, and must have something to lose if found deceptive. Second, the witness must testify to facts that were publicly witnessed in a reputable city. Unless every one of these conditions is met, a wise man does not have to accept the testimony. Hume’s second argument concerns the instability of the human mind. Hume claims that humans must base their acceptance of truth on past experiences. Those things closest to past experience are considered more probable than those least like our past experience. Thus, miracles should never be accepted. However, Hume notes that the mind does not always accord with this rule. That is, people act irrationally. Instead of affirming what has been experienced, the human mind tends towards the miraculous. Hume notes, “The passion of surprise and wonder, arising from miracles, being an agreeable emotion, gives a sensible tendency towards the belief of those events, from which it is derived.”43 In other words, humans tend to accept fanciful stories simply because they are fanciful. Even those who do not allow their reason to go astray by believing the absurd, propagate absurd claims anyway in love of the fanciful. Hume concludes this point, “Do not the same passions, and others still stronger, incline the generality of mankind

42

Hume, “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,”

10.2. 43

Ibid.


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to believe and report, with the greatest vehemence and assurance, all religious miracles?”44 The source of miraculous stories is the basis of Hume’s third argument. He maintains that miracles and supernatural manifestations “are always found to originate in “ignorant” and “barbarous” populations.45 These curious stories may be found outside these populations, but only after they originated from such a situation and were passed along to modernized society. These barbarous populations should not be fully faulted; they were ignorant of the laws of science, and they believed nearly every event was miraculous. The enlightened world has been freed of these childish assumptions, and now the world must cast off the miraculous vestiges of that pre-modern world. Hume’s final argument notes the multiplicity of miraculous testimony. Each testimony, in as much as it contradicts the claims of other miracle testimonies, brings disrepute on human testimony as a whole and on the particular stories themselves. So Hume states, “Every miracle, therefore, pretended to have been wrought in any of these religions . . . as its direct scope is to establish the particular system to which it is attributed; so has it the same force . . . to overthrow every other system.”46 If a miracle is proved, then the wise, Hume maintains, have an obligation to weigh the evidences of one miracle against another. Having done so, the learned will recognize that nothing can be learned from the miracles. The testimony of each, as far as it seeks to establish its own religious system, destroys the credibility of every other. Colin Brows described Hume’s fourth point as “the copestone of Hume’s entire argument. At the same time it was kind of a safety-net. For even if miracles could be 44

Ibid.

45

Ibid.

46

Ibid.


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35

proved true, nothing conclusive could be proved from them.”47 In one way, this could be called the third tower of Hume’s attack—his final defense. This is Hume’s third argument. If miracles were deemed possible (contra Hume’s first argument) and were able to be known (contra Hume’s second argument), then the wise would still be unjustified in believing the miracle had any meaning. The fifth part of Hume’s second section is composed of a scattering of proofs for his previously mentioned arguments. A few of the anecdotes should be highlighted here. First, Hume maintains a difference between a miracle and an incredible event. An incredible event can be compared to a great darkness covering the earth for a period of ten days.48 If there are a sufficient number of witnesses from a broad spectrum, it should be accepted that such an extraordinary event occurred. A miracle, on the other hand, can be compared to a resurrection from the dead. Even though there is sufficient witness from a civilized city, testimony of such nature should never be accepted.49 What is the primary distinction between a miracle and an extraordinary event? Hume maintains that an extraordinary experience can be understood via other human experience, but the truly miraculous contradicts human experience. Since this is the case, that which is conformable to human experience can be accepted, but what is contrary to it must be rejected. Second, in this section Hume addresses the issue he knows is at the center of the argument—God. Hume states, “Though the Being to whom the miracle is ascribed, be . . . Almighty, it does not . . . become a whit more probable; since it is impossible for us to know the attributes or 47

Brown, Miracles and the Critical Mind, 87.

48

Hume, “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,”

10.2. 49

Ibid.


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actions of such a Being, otherwise than from the experience which we have of his productions, in the usual course of nature.”50 This statement can only be properly perceived in connection with Hume’s analogical knowledge. Since God, in the Christian tradition, is vastly different than his creation, he cannot be comprehended by his creation. Only faint and naturalized glimmers remain of God in his work. Thus, even if God were to perform a miracle, humans would still only be able to use past experience to judge that miracle. This fact “obliges us to compare the instances of the violation of truth in the testimony of men, with those of the violation of the laws of nature by miracles, in order to judge which of them is most likely and probable.”51 The third anecdote in the fifth section Hume states with tongue in check. In the last paragraph Hume announces that he actually does believe in a singular miracle—the miracle that people believe the Bible even when it “subverts all the principles of his understanding” and “is most contrary to custom and experience.”52 With this smack of irony Hume ends his discourse on miracles. Summary of Hume’s Argument Before turning to a critique of the argument presented above, it may be helpful to provide a summary in the form of an example.53 How would Hume have responded to the testimony of a miracle? We will examine a miracle central to the Christian faith: the miracle of inspiration and preservation of the Scriptures. 50

Ibid.

51

Ibid.

52

Ibid.

53

Corner provides a slightly different example, which was the inspiration for the example used here. See David Corner, “Miracles,” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, February 11, 2009, http://www.iep.utm.edu/miracles/.


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According to Scriptural testimony, the Bible is God breathed (2 Tim 3:16). Every verse is written by inspiration of God. The manner of recording God’s revelation was through human vessels (2 Pet 1:20). These vessels were not vacant, but wrote with their own style what the Spirit guided them to write. Since the Scriptures come from God, they are free of error, not only in spiritual matters, but in every other area as well. Hume would apply all three levels of attack against this miracle. At the first level, if Hume would be honest to his argument in the text, he would merely note that human experience excludes God’s interaction in the way described. The laws of nature, which are established by firm and unalterable experience, has established that nothing outside of the natural realm can interfere with the natural realm. His second argument, which again is his strongest, would maintain that no one could ever justifiably believe in inspiration. Inspiration would have to be weighed against the probability that the Scripture writers were lying when they wrote about inspiration. Since men are known to lie by experience and experience has not established inspiration, then it would be unjustified to conclude the Scriptures are inspired. Inspiration would also have to be weighed against other aspects of man’s experience such as the fact that texts become corrupted over time. When combined, the weight against inspiration is so strong and definitive that a wise man would never be justified in believing it. Hume’s third argument would pit the Bible against every other “inspired” writing. Since many religions claims the miracle of inspiration for their own writings, then nothing can be proved by the assertion. The Koran, Book of Mormon, and the Bible each by their claim to inspiration discredit the claims of the others. In the end, their contrary claims prove that nothing definitive can be said about inspiration.


38

Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal Critique of Hume’s View of Miracles

Undeniably, Hume’s argument in On Miracles has been the champion of the irreligious camp since its publication. The hundreds of publications devoted to his argument are testimony enough to the impact of his writing. His genius is shown clearly in his second argument.54 Despite this, however, I believe that Hume’s argument fails. The purpose of this section, then, is to show why and how it fails. We will begin with an internal critique, which will show how Hume’s arguments are unsuccessful even from the vantage point of other naturalists. The following section—the systemic critique—will examine Hume’s presuppositions and show the foundational reasons Hume’s arguments fail. Internal Critique of Part One Hume’s a priori argument has already been examined and shown to beg the question it is trying to prove. His a posterior argument will be the focus of this section. Here again is Hume’s a posterior argument: 1. A miracle is by definition a rare occurrence. 2. Natural law is by definition a description of regular occurrence. 3. The evidence for the regular is always greater than that for the rare. 4. Evidences must be weighed. 5. A wise man always bases his belief on the greater evidence. 6. Therefore, a wise man should never believe in a miracle.55 54

Again the question of Hume’s intent comes to play. As noted before, however, I believe that the second argument is inherent throughout the essay. The first argument only convinces the convinced. His second argument is the meat of his thought and must be dealt with in like measure. 55

Adapted from Geisler, “In Defense of Miracles,” 75.


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Many commentators have critiqued Hume based on his limited scope of evidence. That is, Hume only allows testimonial evidence in favor of miracles. Ronald Nash is a good example of such a commentator. He notes that there can be residual circumstantial evidence in favor of an event. Residents on vacation during a catastrophe do not have to take the testimony of others concerning the tornado, which devastated their house. The evidence remains scattered throughout the neighborhood. In the same way, many miracles leave remnants physical and immaterial (healed people, changed lives, etc.).56 Further, couldn’t there also be direct experience of a miracle? Hume assumes that miracles can only be testified to and not experienced. As helpful as this critique appears on the surface it does very little to minimize Hume’s argument. First, Hume mentions in the essay that those who spread miracle stories are deceived. Experience, though the guide to knowledge, is not perfect. Therefore, Hume would ask: “Is it more reasonable to believe you have been deceived or that the laws of nature were broken?” Any wise man, Hume would maintain, would proportion his belief to the evidence. Second, Hume’s argument was specifically designed to dispel Christianity. As such, the evidence for miracles came through Scripture, which Hume believed to be mere human testimony. Even if one were to point to the circumstantial evidence for, say, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Hume would claim that those evidences are themselves testimonial because they are embodied in the Scripture. Laying aside the scope of evidence Hume allows, the actual problem in Hume’s argument comes at points 4 and 5 (outlined above). With some clarification, most people would accept Hume’s proposals of point one through three. However, point four, which maintains that evidence must be weighed, is not so obvious. Norman Kemp Smith, a commentator inclined towards Hume’s view, notes that 56

Nash, Faith and Reason, 233–34.


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Hume inappropriately adhered to a Newtonian physic.57 This physic causes two significant problems. First, Hume views all experiences as equally weighted; the only advantage is frequency. Second, he assumes that natural law is prescriptive rather than descriptive. That is, natural law determines what can happen, rather than what happens determines natural law.58 What effect does this have on Hume’s argument? Hume’s Newtonian physic causes many problems if led to its logical end. First, according to this hypothesis science is impossible.59 Any data appearing to conflict with known laws of nature should be tout court disregarded since the weight of evidence is against it. However, finding data that does not comport with known laws is precisely how science progresses. Science seeks to organize and make sense of the world. When something fails to fit into what humans call the laws of nature, then science must adjust to the new information. If science, in this age of enlightenment, assumes that all evidence is equally weighted, as Hume’s weighing analogy seems to require, then science is impossible. Hume’s Newtonian physic causes more problems when it is applied to history. Since testimony to a miracle is a historical question, Hume misapplies his scientific theory. The formulation of scientific laws is properly based on 57

Smith, Religion, 46.

Introduction

to

Dialogues

Concerning

Natural

58

Craig notes that the advent of quantum physics decimated Newtonian physics. When quantum physics appeared, the scientific community realized that humanities’ formulation of natural law is never complete. Craig, Apologetics, 113. 59 It must be noted that Hume’s weighing and his “uniformity of nature” are dependent on one another. Humans can weigh evidences because human nature is uniform. How is nature known to be uniform? It is uniform because humans have weighed the evidence.


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probability and frequency. History, however, cannot be. What is the probability and frequency of a man almost exterminating an entire race? Hitler is erased. What is the probability and frequency of a man conquering the known world before his thirtieth birthday? Alexander the Great is erased.60 The pencil designed for science could continue, until every unique and important event of history is erased.61 Historical claims, it is seen, cannot be based on probability and frequency. Therefore, miracle claims, as a part of history, cannot be weighed based on probability and frequency. Hume’s assumption of Newtonian Physics not only creates problems for the way forward (science) and the past (history), but it also creates problems for today. How could someone live according to a probabilistic mindset? Victor Reppert notes the problem well: “If the theory of probabilistic inference . . . is taken literally, it has the consequence that if the Arizona Republic were to report that I won the lottery, you should disbelieve the report, because my chance of winning the lottery is less than the percentage of erroneous reports by the Republic.”62 To use an example from another field, patients who have been diagnosed with ultra-rare diseases should also disbelieve their doctor, since the chance of the doctor being wrong is greater than the chance of having the disease. Norman Geisler succinctly notes the primary issue: “What Hume seems to overlook is that wise people base 60

Richard Whatley wrote a treatise in 1819 showing how, on Hume’s analysis, one could not believe in the historicity of Napoleon Bonaparte. See Whatley, “Historical Doubts Regarding Napoleon Bonaparte,” Rowan University, http://elvis.rowan.edu /~kilroy/christia /library/doubts-napoleon.html. 61 62

Evans, Philosophy of Religion, 110.

Victor Reppert, “Hume on Miracles, Frequencies, and Prior Probabilities,” Infidels.org, 1998, http://www.infidels.org/library /modern/victor_reppert/miracles.html.


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their belief on facts, not simply on odds. . . . Hume’s argument confuses quantity of evidence with the quality of evidence.”63 Therefore, while it may be true, as proposition 5 of Hume’s argument claims, that wise people base their beliefs on the greater evidence, Hume has missed the point that evidence weighs differently. People do not proportion their beliefs to probability, and any theory based on such an antiquated notion fails to convince. Michael Levine contends that the probability argument inherent within Hume’s thesis can be used to reduce his argument against miracles to absurdity.64 Imagine Hume witnessing the Israelite nation being chased by the Egyptians at the Red Sea. God’s hand works miraculously to open the deep waters and allow the Israelites to pass over on dry ground. Next, the sea collapses in great fury covering the Egyptian army at the same moment the last Israelite exits to the other side. How would Hume respond? It seems illogical to conclude that something natural had happened; yet this is precisely what Hume’s probability argument demands. Levine argues that Hume would have been forced to conclude a genuine miracle had occurred.65 If Levine is right, then Hume’s argument is proved to reduce to absurdity. If Hume were alive, it appears he would not agree with Levine’s assessment. First, Hume would have maintained that the position Levine puts him in would be impossible. Why? Because a miracle has never been seen in “any age or country.”66 When Hume’s a posterior argument cannot answer a question, Hume draws back to his a priori argument. This tactic is elsewhere employed by Hume in 63

Geisler, “In Defense of Miracles,” 79.

64

Levine, “Miracles.”

65

Ibid.

66

Hume, “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,”

10.1.


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43

response to the Jansenist miracles.67 A second reason Hume would argue against Levine’s conclusion stems from the distinction in Hume’s thought between a miracle and an unusual event. Hume would argue that the parting of the sea was a natural event, which has not yet been explained.68 Though it seems incredible that someone would deny a miracle in this instance, the Bible is clear that even a miracle as extravagant as the parting of the sea does not of itself convince the unbeliever. Pharaoh, instead of repenting, hardened his heart in the face of incontrovertible evidence (Exod 9:34). According to Jesus, the brothers of the rich man, in the story of Lazarus, would not believe even if Lazarus were brought back from the dead to deliver the message (Luke 16:19–31). These examples powerfully exhibit the strength of denial one can have in the face of the miraculous. As Levine’s hypothesis has shown, Hume must differentiate between the miraculous and the extremely rare. He attempts to do this in his essay by noting the difference between two extraordinary events. The first is a report of darkness over the earth for ten whole days. If human testimony were “extensive and uniform” concerning the event, then one must look for a reasonable explanation,

67 This was discussed above in section one of the summary of Hume’s argument. 68

James Thornwell recognized that the unregenerate, if consistent, would deny evidence of a Creator. He said, “If [an unbeliever] should be induced to admit [a miracle’s] phenomenal reality, he could easily resort to subterfuges and pretexts to explain them away as he can dispense with intelligence and wisdom in accounting for the arrangement and order of the universe.” See James Henley Thornwell, The Collected Writings of James Henley Thornwell (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), 264.


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and not doubt the event’s authenticity.69 The second extraordinary event he describes is the resurrection of the queen Elizabeth. If testimony were likewise extensive and uniform in England concerning Queen Elizabeth’s death and subsequent resurrection, human testimony must be denied. Why should one deny the latter while allowing the former? Hume states that he would not believe in the resurrection story because “the knavery and folly of men are such common phenomena, I should rather believe the most extraordinary events to arise from their concurrence, than admit of so signal a violation of the laws of nature.”70 But this does not answer the question. How did Hume determine that the first instance was within the laws of nature and the second was outside the bounds of human experience? The answer is given in the context of the first extraordinary event. Hume says, “The decay, corruption, and dissolution of nature, is an event rendered probable by so many analogies, that any phenomenon, which seems to have a tendency towards that catastrophe, comes within the reach of human testimony, if that testimony be very extensive and uniform.”71 The difference between the truly extraordinary and the miraculous, as indicated above, is that the extraordinary can be understood through various analogies to what has already been experienced. Miracles, however, can never be justified because they are not analogous to human experience. Here is a major presupposition of Hume’s argument against miracles. This presupposition will be examined below.

69

Hume, “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,”

X, 2. 70

Ibid.

71

Ibid. Italics mine.


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Internal Critique of Point Two Section two of Hume’s argument does not contribute to Hume’s a priori argument; it merely reinforces Hume’s a posterior argument. If it is unreasonable for someone to believe a miracle has happened because it is more likely that the witness is lying or deceived, then part two exemplifies why human witness is weak. He seeks to show this weakness through his first three arguments. The fourth argument is simply a safety net. Here again are the four arguments: 1. To be accepted, testimony of a miracle must be given by multiple people who are honest, educated, and have something to lose if they are lying. Also, the miracle had to be witnessed in a “celebrated part of the world.” 2. People tend to believe the miraculous simply because it is miraculous. That is, the tendency of men is to accept that which elicits surprise and wonder. 3. Miracles stories come from barbarous peoples and simple times. 4. Even if a miracle were proved, all other miracles would prevent it from establishing the religion it was purported to support. Hume’s first argument in section two weighs the deck against the possibility for testimony to the miraculous. But one could certainly question the parameters Hume mentions. What could be at the back of these requirements? Colin Brown notes “the qualifications [Hume] demands of such witnesses are such as would preclude the testimony of anyone without a Western university education, who lived outside a major cultural center in Western Europe prior to the sixteenth century, and who


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was not a public figure.”72 It appears that Hume’s requirements are a product of a bias towards the modernly educated. He appears to believe that those prior to the enlightenment are incapable of testifying to the truth, or at least their understanding of the truth was so flawed that it cannot be trusted. Nash is right to conclude that Hume’s first argument is actually only a dogmatic assertion, which, taken to its logical end, would make the historian question major portions of known history.73 A second counter to Hume’s first point is that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ was certainly not done in a corner (Acts 26:26). The proximity of Jerusalem to many of the other major centers of human history (Rome, Corinth, etc.) would lead many people to claim that Jerusalem is a “celebrated part of the world.”74 Further, it appears that Paul meets the requirements of Hume as a witness to a miracle. Paul was honest (he did not charge for people to hear his message, and he eventually died for its truth [1 Cor 9:18; 2 Tim 4:6]), educated (had the equivalent of two doctoral degrees [Acts 22:3; Phil 3:5]), and had something to lose (lost his position in Judaism and eventually his life for the truth [Phil 3:4–7; 2 Tim 4:6]). If Paul does not meet the requirements Hume has proposed, then it appears that no historian has ever met them. Hume’s second argument in section two can be admitted to an extent. It may be accurate to say that people love the marvelous. The sci-fi industry has built an empire on tapping into this love in people. But it does not follow that people necessarily believe the marvelous. Hume’s anthropological assertion of the love of the wondrous can be 72

Brown, Miracles and the Critical Mind, 97.

73

Nash, Faith and Reason, 236.

74

M. J Larson, “Three Centuries of Objections to Biblical Miracles,” Bibliotheca Sacra 160.637 (2003): 90–92.


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matched by another anthropological assertion—people tend to be skeptical.75 For instance, the ones who would be most likely to accept the miraculous—the apostles—doubted the greatest miracle Christ performed.76 They did not at first believe that Jesus rose from the dead even though it was reported to them. If the apostles, who had been primed and prepared for a miracle such as the resurrection, doubted the authenticity of human testimony to the resurrection, then skepticism played a larger role in the lives of the original witnesses to the miracles than Hume would allow. Hume’s assertion of human’s love for the miraculous, then, must be balanced by human tendency to skepticism. The third argument of this second section again contains a Western bias. Apparently, all people before the enlightenment were barbarous and could not discern the laws of nature. This fact allowed them to posit such ridiculous and fanciful miracles. If they had only known the laws of nature, it is assumed they would not have believed in and passed along such nonsense. But Hume’s bias is unsubstantiated. True, people in antiquated times did not know the scientific advances that marked Hume’s age. However, it would not be proper for modern readers to dismiss Hume’s writings because he lived in an antiquated age among “barbarous” peoples. What Hume seems to miss is that while those before him were not privileged to his knowledge, they certainly knew that women who were virgins did not have children (Matt 1:23).77 They knew that the sea does not naturally split at the motion of a hand (Exod 14:21).78 Colin Brown notes Hume’s problem well, “It is absurd to demand of a witness that he should share the same world view as oneself or have the same level of 75

Evans, Philosophy of Religion, 114.

76

Larson, “Three Centuries of Objections,” 91.

77

Brown, Miracles and the Critical Mind, 98.

78

Purtill, “In Defense of Miracles,” 63.


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education and culture.”79 The witness to miracles in the Bible may not have had Hume’s education, but that did not prevent them from recognizing the regularity of natural law and the truly miraculous. The final argument in part two of Hume’s On Miracles fails as a safety net. First, Hume assumes that every miracle must objectively support the religion of the speaker. That is, every miracle must substantiate one particular religion against all other religions. But this does not have to follow. A miracle used in support for one god may in fact have been executed by the true God.80 For instance, the actions of God through his apostles were sometimes misunderstood by onlookers as works from another deity (Acts 14:11). The onlookers certainly saw a miracle and would undoubtedly attempt to substantiate their religion through the testimony of the miracle. In the end, however, testimony for that miracle does not work against Christianity—it actually supports it once understood properly. There is a second problem with Hume’s analysis; he seems to believe that if one miracle is accepted, then all miracles have to be accepted. Again, this does not follow. The Christian faith, not to speak of other faiths, has criteria by which a miracle is judged to be genuine. Because one believes miracles are a genuine work of God does not mean they believe all purported miracles are genuine works of God. Further, miracle stories are not supported evenly as Hume assumes. Some have tremendous support, while others are questioned even by adherents to a religious following that is to be substantiated by the claim. In conclusion, the safety net is unsuccessful because it assumes if one miracle is true, then all miracles are true,

79 80

Evans, Philosophy of Religion, 114.

Richard Swinburne, The Concept of Miracle (London: Macmillan, 1970), 60–61.


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and because it assumes that a miracle must objectively signify what is subjectively communicated. Systemic Critique of Hume’s Argument The internal critique above showed the failure of Hume’s arguments. His first argument—that miracles can be tout court rejected—was found to beg the question. His second argument—that no one could ever justifiably believe a miracle had occurred—was found to be fraught with inconsistencies due to Hume’s Newtonian physic. His third argument—that claims of the miraculous, as much as they are given to establish a particular religion, serve to contradict one another and invalidate the power of each— was found to make sweeping generalizations that were unwarranted. The purpose of this next section is to show the more fundamental failures of Hume’s arguments. We will dig into Hume’s thought and show how Hume’s presuppositions do not allow him to critique miracles in the first place. Further, this section will show that Hume is borrowing the Christian framework in order to attack the Christian framework. These two tasks will be accomplished by looking at the failure of Hume’s epistemology and the failure of his metaphysic. The Failure of Hume’s Epistemology Hume’s metaphysic and epistemology complement one another. In Hume’s thought, his epistemology fed his metaphysic, so we will examine them in his order of priority. The essential aspect of Hume’s epistemology is his empiricism. Historically Hume is aligned with the British empiricists (Locke, Berkley, Bacon, and Reid). The common factor between these men was a focus on sense experience. The general rule of the group was that nothing could be accepted as true knowledge that does not come through sense experience. Here then is the major problem with empiricism; it cannot be proved experientially. That is, if


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everything must be based on sense experience, then empiricism itself must be based on sense experience. Empiricism is self-defeating because it cannot be proved by its own system. No one can be a consistent empiricist, since the basis of his or her view is assumed by rather than proved through empiricism. In order to prove empiricism, then, proponents are forced to argue in a circle. They assume the truth of empiricism even as they try to prove its truth. The most damning critique of Hume’s empiricism actually comes from Hume himself. The concluding paragraph to Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding states, When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles,81 what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.82

Unfortunately for Hume, his assumption of empiricism (and naturalism) is neither an analytical truth (true by definition) nor an empirical truth.83 On his own criteria, it seems that Hume has to throw his own writing to the flames, for it is nothing but mere sophistry and illusion.

81

The principles here are explained above when Hume’s epistemology was discussed. See that section for the broader context of Hume’s quote. 82

Hume, “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,”

12.3. 83

Norman L Geisler, ed., “David Hume,” in Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 343.


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The failure of empiricism can be shown from another angle. C.S. Lewis describes the situation well: “Experience . . . cannot prove uniformity, because uniformity has to be assumed before experience proves anything.”84 In order to posit empiricism, Hume has to assume the uniformity of nature, but the uniformity of nature cannot be proved by empiricism. No matter how long someone experiences the world, he cannot be certain that he has discovered the uniformity of nature. Hume testifies to this in the story of the Indian prince. 85 The Indian prince did not believe that water could have the properties of frost. In fact, Hume said the prince was justified in believing that water did not have those properties, since the prince’s experience was limited. In sum, no one ever experiences all that can be experienced. Therefore, uniformity remains an assumption of which empiricism cannot account. A further problem with Hume’s epistemology emerges as a result of his skepticism. Van Til was correct when he noted that Hume had the intellectual integrity to follow empiricism to its logical end—skepticism.86 However, it appears that Hume did not have the intellectual honesty to follow his skepticism to its logical end. Instead of abandoning dogmatic claims, Hume asserted them. For instance, a true skeptic cannot say that miracles are impossible, as Hume’s primary argument claims. It is intellectually dishonest to say on one hand that empiricism inevitably leads to skepticism and then on the other hand to claim that empiricism disallows the miraculous. Hume further abandoned his skeptical stance when he developed the idea of uniform natural law. Hume states,

84

C.S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study (San Francisco: Harper, 2001), 163. 85

Hume, “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,”

10.2. 86

Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, 337. Fn 62.


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“That the sun will not rise to-morrow is no less intelligible a proposition, and implies no more contradiction than the affirmation, that it will rise. We should in vain, therefore, attempt to demonstrate its falsehood.”87 However, if skepticism leads one to believe the sun might not rise, what prevents one from assuming that a person could rise from the dead? Hume can allow the former, but will not allow the latter.88 On his own criteria, it seems that he would attempt in vain to demonstrate the falsehood of a miracle, just as he says it would be in vain to attempt to demonstrate the falsehood of the sun not rising tomorrow. Hume’s skepticism, therefore, eliminates the possibility of him positing either the a priori or a posterior argument.89 Why does Hume assert his dogmatic stance when his epistemology does not appear to allow it? The answer lies in his view of analogical knowledge. Basically, as was noted above, Hume believed that only experiences analogous to our own could be understood. Therefore, miracles are impossible since they are experiences altogether contrary to other human experiences. J. Houston states Hume’s view succinctly: “Miracle reports are to be rejected because they

87

Hume, “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,”

4.1. 88

Hume says, “It is a miracle, that a dead man should come to life; because that has never been observed in any age or country.” Ibid., 10.1. 89

This point shows the circularity of Hume clearly. He would state it is impossible to know whether the sun will rise tomorrow. However, it is impossible that miracles will happen tomorrow. Why? Because a miracle has never been experienced (or is contrary to human experience). A major problem emerges: if miracles are impossible because they have not been experienced (or contrary to human experience), then the sun not rising would have to be impossible since that has never been experienced either. One cannot hold to the validity of empiricism while maintaining a skeptical stance at the same time.


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cannot be accommodated by any experience-based analogical extension of relevant experience, which is the only principle on which reasonable formation of beliefs about the unknown can proceed.”90 Reading Hume’s argument in this way sheds much light and brings a little bit of confusion. It sheds light because it explains Hume’s distinction between extraordinary experiences and genuine miracles. The confusion emerges because Hume’s experience based analogical system does not comport with his a priori argument. According to the experience-based analogical system one would never be able to understand a miraculous event even if miraculous events are possible. Hume apparently makes a jump from knowledge to reality. He assumes that if one cannot know something, then that thing it is not possible. Thus, Hume assumes at the outset that miracles are not possible. In fact, he must if he is to get rid of miracles, for if miracles have happened, then they are analogous to other experiences and are knowable, since the miraculous would be a genuine human experience. Only if miracles were never a part of human experience could they be unknowable. The current author believes this to be a central issue in Hume’s treatment of miracles, but two problems emerge with this hypothesis. First, Hume has to show what is qualitatively different about the Indian prince acknowledging the effects of frost, and the Indian prince acknowledging that the laws of nature can be broken. It appears that if he has experience of either, he can modify his belief structure to comply with the new material. Second, on his assumption of experience-based analogical knowledge Hume would contend that a miracle could never be known. If he is to maintain this, however, he has to assume that a miracle is not possible. For if a miracle were 90

J. Houston, Reported Miracles: A Critique of (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 65.

Hume


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possible and actual, then it would enter into the experience-based analogical knowledge. If it entered this knowledge sphere, then far from not being able to be known, miracles are known. This may explain why Hume was so fond of the a priori argument. His epistemological assumption of analogical knowledge allowed him (after he made the jump from knowledge to possibility) to broaden the circularity of his a priori argument and may have made him believe his argument had legitimacy. One last inconsistency should be pointed out before leaving this topic: Hume’s experience-based analogical system has a central flaw. It does not appear that empiricism can defend Hume’s system. How can one prove empirically that knowledge comes through experiencebased analogy?91 Why, as has been shown, does Hume continually beg the question concerning the possibility of miracles? It appears that he did not want to acknowledge a personal God. James Henry Thornwell acknowledged this truth many years ago when he said, “[Whether miracles are possible] is simply the question concerning the existence of a personal God.”92 John Polkinghorne agrees, “[Hume’s] essential problem is not scientific in character. . . . The real problem is theological.”93 Edward Carnell makes the point more specifically, “If a scientist refuses to consider the possibility of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, when historians show that there is credible evidence for its historicity, we may be assured that the problem of miracles is moral and philosophical rather than scientific, for the scientist is using his laws, not to explain reality, but to

91 92

Levine, “Miracles.”

Thornwell, Thornwell, 263. 93

The

Collected

Writings

of

James

Henley

Polkinghorne, “The Credibility of the Miraculous,” 753.


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explain reality away.”94 Colin Brown summarizes, “Hume’s argument against miracles was intended to be precisely the kind of rearguard action that would defend him from having to come to the point where he would have to acknowledge that a miracle had occurred and see any religious significance in it.”95 Thus it is seen that Hume’s problem is not epistemological after all; it is metaphysical. The Failure of Hume’s Metaphysic Contrary to Hume’s belief, his metaphysic did not stem from his epistemology; his epistemology stemmed from his metaphysic. As an unbeliever the scripture states that Hume sought to suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18). Hume knew God, but did not want to acknowledge God. Thus, his metaphysic of naturalism informed his epistemology of empiricism, not the other way around. Hume’s metaphysic can be called metaphysical naturalism. Richard Purtill arranges the argument for naturalism this way: 1. Metaphysical naturalism is true. 2. If metaphysical naturalism is true, then the laws of nature are inherent tendencies within matter/ energy. 3. Such inherent tendencies do not allow for exceptions. 4. Nothing outside of nature can cause such an exception, since there is nothing outside of nature.96

94

Edward John Carnell, An Introduction to Christian Apologetics: A Philosophic Defense of the Trinitarian-Theistic Faith, 4th ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966), 252. 95

Brown, Miracles and the Critical Mind, 96.

96

Purtill, “In Defense of Miracles,” 69.


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If one asked why Hume assumed metaphysical naturalism is true, he would respond by citing a belief in empiricism. However, empiricism depends on the uniformity of nature which naturalism supplies. Thus, at the very core of Hume’s belief structure, he betrays circularity by assuming metaphysical naturalism.97 Setting this aside, however, it is important to note that Hume’s strict epistemological empiricism is conjoined to his metaphysical naturalism. If the latter is shown to be faulty, the former suffers in a similar manner. The last section showed the faults inherent within empiricism, now this section will show the faults in naturalism. C.S. Lewis, in his work Miracles, sought to show the deficiencies of naturalism. Lewis takes seriously the fourth point of metaphysical naturalism outlined above. Lewis’ point is that everything must be explained in terms of naturalism if naturalism is true. If only one thing does not cohere with the system, then there must be something outside the system. If this is the case, then naturalism fails.98 There are at least three things that are inexplicable in terms of naturalism: reason, morality, and uniformity. Naturalism asserts that nature is all that exists. Reason, then, must be explained by nature, but nature is ultimately non-rational. In addition, Lewis rightly notes that rationality cannot be derived from the non-rational.99 If rationality is grounded in the non-rational, then rationality is merely 97

Ward does an excellent job showing the problem inherent in Hume’s supposition: “[metaphysical naturalism] is a hypothesis . . . which purports to give the best explanation for the way things are. Given its character as an explanatory postulate, it logically cannot be used to rule out any events which seem to cast doubts upon it [i.e. miracles].” See Keith Ward, “Miracles and Testimony,” Religious Studies 21 (1985): 136. 98

Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study, 18.

99

Ibid., 38–39.


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the way things appear, and not the way things are. Lewis stated, All possible knowledge . . . depends on the validity of reasoning. If the feeling of certainty which we express by words, like must be and therefore and since is a real perception of how things outside our own minds really “must” be, well and good. But if this certainty is merely a feeling in our own minds and not a genuine insight into realities beyond them—if it merely represents the way our minds happen to work—then we can have no knowledge. Unless human reasoning is valid no science can be true.100

Ronald Nash brings out the implications of Lewis’ critique: “Unless human reasoning is valid, no arguments by any metaphysical naturalist directed against Christian theism or offered in support of naturalism can be sound.”101 In sum, on their own view of the origin of rationality, the naturalists cannot account for reason. If reason is merely a product of chance, as must be the case in naturalism, then arguments do not comport with reality and are meaningless. If reason should have its true course, as all naturalists demand, naturalists have to abandon naturalism.102 The argument against naturalism as it applies to morality is similar to the argument as it applies to reason. Much like the non-rational cannot give rise to the rational, so the non-moral cannot give rise to the moral. Hume appears to recognize a lack of justification for morality in his philosophy. In a mock conversation, Hume’s friend 100

Ibid., 21.

101

Ronald Nash, “Miracles and Conceptual Systems,” in In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God’s Action in History, ed. R. Douglas Geivett and Gary R Habermas (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997), 125. 102

Ibid., 130.


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states, “All the philosophy . . . in the world, and all the religion, . . . will never be able to carry us beyond the usual course of experience, or give us measures of conduct and behaviour different from those which are furnished by reflections on common life.”103 Hume responds to his friend by noting that many people base their morality on the idea of a Deity. This is not a problem, notes Hume, the real problem is with those who would take that standard away from them: “those, who attempt to disabuse them of such prejudices [belief in moral God], may, for aught I know, be good reasoners, but I cannot allow them to be good citizens and politicians; since they free men from one restraint upon their passions, and make the infringement of the laws of society, in one respect, more easy and secure.”104 Hume seems to recognize, though he never overtly states it, that morality has to have its basis in something other than nature itself. Lewis concludes, “If we are to continue to make moral judgments . . . then we must believe that the conscience of man is not a product of Nature. It can be valid only if it is an offshoot of some absolute moral wisdom . . . which exists ‘on its own’ and is not a product of nonmoral, non-rational Nature.”105 The final unwarranted assumption of naturalism, is essential to Hume’s argument against miracles. Naturalism cannot explain order and uniformity. If at the core nature is governed by chance, then order cannot exist. Again, Lewis poses the problem almost poetically: “Try to make Nature absolute and you find that her uniformity is not even probable.”106 Order is inexplicable if chaos is king. Thus, the very core of Hume’s argument—the uniformity of 103

Hume, “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,”

104

Ibid.

105

Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study, 60.

106

Ibid., 169.

11.


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nature—is made suspect by his metaphysic. Hume recognized that his epistemology did not allow for uniformity,107 now it is seen that his metaphysic denies uniformity. Since Hume cannot, on his own presuppositions, formulate the laws of nature, then he cannot condemn miracles as being contrary to them. In this way, Hume’s argument fails before it even begins. Naturalism as an explanatory hypothesis for ultimate reality is fraught with problems. Three have been shown in this essay. Christian theism is the only alternative that can account for reason, morality, and uniformity. In fact, the strongest argument against Hume’s essay on miracles is that he relies on a Christian theistic framework in order to attack the possibility of the Christian theistic framework. Only if there is a personal God can there be reason, morality, and uniformity. Human rationality and nature’s compliance with it can only be explained by a rational Creator. Morality, which Hume appeared to recognize was lacking in the metaphysic of naturalism, has its basis only in the God of the Scriptures. As for uniformity, Lewis notes, “The [Christian] philosophy which forbids you to make uniformity absolute is also the philosophy which offers you solid grounds for believing it to be general, almost absolute.”108 Hume refused to recognize God. Following his desire, deeply rooted in man, to rebel against the Creator, Hume sought to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. As he attempted to smother the truth, he constructed a matrix of beliefs to give a form of legitimacy to his suppression.109 107

For an exposition of Hume’s treatment of probability and the impossibility of uniformity see, Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, 342, Fn 167. 108 109

Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study, 169.

Hume is a perfect historical snapshot of man suppressing truth in unrighteousness. Hume recognized that his epistemology was bankrupt; it could not lead one to truth. Instead of


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Hume’s problem with miracles was merely a smokescreen for his problem with God, for if you admit miracle, you must admit a personal God. Thornwell said that unbelievers “get quit of miracles only by getting quit of God.”110 Hume refused to understand God and therefore was never able to understand miracles. His complex matrix of fabricated presuppositions allowed him to deny the possibility of miracles. The purpose of this paper has been to untangle the matrix and lay bare the presuppositions. When examined closely, the presuppositions are found wanting. They do not explain reality and cannot even explain the ability of Hume to critique miracles in the first place. In an indirect way Hume’s essay On Miracles, far from destroying the credibility of believing in a personal God, establishes the necessity of a personal God. Van Til liked to say that a child sitting on a father’s lap could only smack the father because he is supporting her. The same holds true for Hume. The only reason he was able to critique the possibility of God and miracles is that God upholds all things—including Hume. Coherent View of Miracles William Lane Craig notes correctly, “Once the nonChristian understands who God is, then the problem of miracles should cease to be a problem for him.”111 Truly, the one who is regenerated and has been renewed in mind (Rom 12:2) does not have a problem with miracles. Richard Bube states how the problem of miracles disappears in the Christian worldview: “When it is realized that the very existence of the world from moment to moment depends on abandoning his irrationality and following the rational truth to its end—the personal God of the Scripture—Hume clung to his irrationality. He would rather lose the meaningfulness of reason than have his reason subject to God. 110

Thornwell, Collected Writings, 264.

111

Craig, Apologetics, 125.


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the creative and sustaining power of God, that no natural law has any power of its own to continue, that no ‘expected’ circumstance has any ability to bring itself into being, we come to the conclusion that God’s activity in a miracle is not qualitatively different from God’s activity in natural phenomena.”112 Miracles, rather than being unnatural, are another reflection of what is natural. The Bible maintains that the back of all reality is the will of God.113 Miracles are simply a less common way that God interacts with his creation. This does not mean, however, that miracles are unnatural. From the human standpoint, miracles do appear unnatural, but whatever God does defines what is natural. This brings up a pressing question; why would God, who arranged his creation in logical operation, impede on that logical operation? C.S. Lewis provides the best answer to the question. Lewis compares God’s creation to a poem.114 Poetry contains many “laws” by which the wise poet will submit his arrangement. When submitted to these “laws,” the poem will have unity, clarity, and forcefulness. However, sometimes an able poet will vary from these “laws.” Elementary poets will critique the able poet for his apostasy from the traditional “law.” Other able poets, however, will recognize that the place in which the poet abandoned the “law” is the central point of the poem. The able poet abandoned the “law” in order to draw attention to the point of interest. When the able poet abandoned the “law,” he did so to bring greater unity to the poem as a whole. C.S. Lewis concluded his analogy this way:

112

Richard H Bube, The Human Quest: A New Look at Science and the Christian Faith (Waco: Word, 1971), 114. 113

Carnell says, “From man’s point of view, the regularity of the universe is called ‘ law,’ but from God’s point of view it is ‘ will.’” Carnell, An Introduction to Christian Apologetics, 251. 114

Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study, 97–98.


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Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal By definition, miracles must of course interrupt the usual course of nature; but if they are real they must, in the very act of so doing, assert all the more the unity and self-consistency of total reality at some deeper level. They will not be like unmetrical lumps of prose breaking the unity of a poem; they will be like that crowning metrical audacity which, though it may be unparalleled nowhere else in the poem, yet, coming just where it does, and effecting just what it effects, is (to those who understand) the supreme revelation of the unity in the poet’s conception.115

Lewis rightly notes that miracles are a supreme revelation of the unity of God’s will only to those who understand. The problem for Hume, and all unbelievers, is that they refuse to understand. If nature is absolute, then miracles are impossible. If God is absolute, miracles are more than possible – they are expected. Miracles are nothing more than God’s intervention in the world in a different way than he normally acts.116 God’s interventions are not arbitrary or random. Rather, they are the focal point of history. Only during the great soteriological epochs of history did God allow his power to be known through the miraculous.117 Hume assumed that if miracles happened in

115

Ibid.

116 Of course much more could be said about a precise definition of miracle. For the present purpose, a miracle can be defined as a work ordained by God which suspends or alters the natural order God has placed on creation. For a fuller definition see Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 355. 117 The scope of this paper does not allow for an examination of whether miracles happen today. The author’s view is that miracles are reserved for certain times in history where God’s power is specifically shown to advance God’s soteriological plan in this world.


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the past, then they should happen today as well. But God expects people to respond in faith to the proclamation of his Word. Thomas was privileged to have experienced the miraculous, but Jesus said to him, “because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Jesus calls all men— including Hume—whether they experience a miracle or not to repent and believe. Hume was given more than enough proof for the existence of both God and miracles that he will not be able to stand in the Day of Judgment. Conclusion Hume sought to produce an argument against miracles that would amount to an “everlasting check to all kinds of superstitious delusion, and consequently, will be useful as long as the world endures.”118 Rather than presenting one argument, Hume presented three, but it has been shown that none of the arguments are convincing even granted a naturalistic worldview. His a priori argument amounts to nothing less than begging the question, his a posterior argument relies on a probabilistic view of reality that is fundamentally flawed, and his final argument is fraught with unproved assumptions. Though the internal critique of Hume’s argument proves its insufficiency, the best critique of Hume’s argument tests the very foundations of Hume’s belief. Every person has presuppositions, which guide their thoughts allowing him to hold certain beliefs and deny others. If a person has the wrong presuppositions, every fact he interprets will be interpreted wrongly. Hume’s presuppositions are epistemological empiricism and metaphysical naturalism. Pure Empiricism was found to be self-defeating, since it cannot be proved by its own hypothesis. Naturalism fails to account for mundane aspects of human reality such 118

10.1.

Hume, “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,”


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as reason, morality, and natural order. Thus, the two foundational presuppositions of Hume’s belief structure are flawed; and if the foundations are flawed, any argument based on that foundation could only be true by a fluke. Colin Brown summarizes Hume’s situation well: To his credit, it has to be said that Hume sought to establish his world view. But once established, nothing was allowed to change it. It acquired a quasi-religious character beyond further verification and falsification, because no fact could be admitted that could conceivable count against it [i.e. miracle]. It has to be said that world views . . . are not disproved by single facts. Their validity and usefulness lie in their capacity to account for the world we live in. . . . in the field of science, when an existing view is so beset by anomalies and qualifications that a change is needed, there occurs . . . a paradigm shift involving the adoption of a new frame of reference.119 Hume’s worldview was beset by anomalies and a change needed to occur. Although Hume recognized this to an extent,120 he was not willing to accept the only paradigm shift that would have given meaning to life, reason, morality, and the uniformity of nature. Instead, Hume chose to sever beliefs from reality, so that he could continue with life in spite of the problems in his presuppositions. In this way, Hume is a prime example of the extent man will go to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. If Hume had abandoned his faulty presuppositions and accepted the presuppositions by which he actually operated, then his problem with miracles would have disappeared. 119 120

Brown, Miracles and the Critical Mind, 100.

Hume’s admission of skepticism, and his despair in light of it, appears to show that Hume recognized there were irreconcilable issues inherent within his worldview.


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Hume had hoped to eliminate the possibility of miracles. He recognized that eliminating miracles effectively eliminated the possibility of a personal God. His argument ultimately failed because his hidden, suppressed presupposition, which allowed him to write the article On Miracles in the first place, was that the personal God of Scripture is real and upholds all things by his mighty hand. He essentially tried to remove the ground he was standing on. He may have thought that he had accomplished his goal, but his article, instead of opposing the possibility of God, added to the unimaginable weight of evidence in favor of the biblical God.


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MBTJ 2/2: 67-80

HENRY DUNSTER: HARVARD’S BAPTIST PRESIDENT Larry R. Oats1 The freedoms enjoyed by Baptists today were obtained at a great price. The cost of conviction has often been costly, as it was in the New World. Henry Dunster was a man of influence whose convictions cost him dearly. The first real president of Harvard, Dunster was initially an Anglican, then a Separatist, and finally a Baptist.2 His influence in his day was tremendous. His influence today should be just as great. Background in England Henry Dunster was born in approximately 1612 at Bury, Lancashire, England. His father, Henry, was a religious man with Puritan sentiments, so the child Henry was raised in a godly environment. Henry was a spiritually perceptive child and “when he was about twelve years old, he became deeply concerned as to his personal 1

Dr. Larry Oats is the Dean of Maranatha Baptist Seminary and Professor of Systematic Theology. 2

There are two biographies of Henry Dunster: Jeremiah Chaplin, Life of Henry Dunster, First President of Harvard College (Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1872) and Samuel Dunster, Henry Dunster and His Descendants (Central Falls, RI: E. L. Freeman & Co., Steam Book and Job Printers, 1876). A recent work focuses on the beginning of Harvard includes some information on Dunster: Arseny James Melnick, America's Oldest Corporation and First CEO: Harvard and Henry Dunster (West Conshohocken, PA: Infinity Publishing, 2008).


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responsibility to God. ‘ The Lord gave me,’ he relates, ‘an attentive eare and heart to understand preachinge. . . . The Lord showed me my sins, and reconciliation by Christ, and this word was more sweet to me than anything else in the world.’”3 He had a strong desire for a good education, but he viewed this as an attempt by the wicked one to keep him from serving Christ: “‘ The greatest thing . . . which separated my soule from God was an inordinate desire of humane learning.’ But he wisely concluded to meet the temptation, and go to the university at Cambridge.”4 Cambridge challenged Dunster’s intellect. It also expanded his religious knowledge. While there he met some of the great scholars of his day, and it would be safe to assume that he had numerous opportunities to discuss their views of Christianity. No known portrait of Dunster exists, but he undoubtedly took for himself the dress and appearance of his contemporaries at Cambridge: Ralph Cudworth, author of The True Intellectual System of the Universe; Henry More, the Platonist; Joseph Mede, a leading commentator on the book of the Revelation; John Pearson, later an Anglican bishop; and John Milton, well known poet and writer.5 Men of this caliber, even in their student days, challenged the intellect, and Dunster excelled in his educational pursuits. William Cathcart says of Dunster, “He was distinguished for his scholarly attainments in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. In his day he was one of the greatest masters of the Oriental languages.”6 Dunster attended Magdalene College at Cambridge University where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1630 and his masters degree in 1634. “He probably took orders 3

Chaplin, 6.

4

Chaplin, 7.

5

Chaplin, 12.

6

William Cathcart, The Baptist Encyclopedia (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881), 350.


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in the Church of England, but his advancement was made impossible by his adoption of Separatist ideas, and he decided to seek a career in the New World.”7 His lack of faithfulness to the Anglican Church put him at odds with its Archbishop, William Laud. Seeking refuge from potential persecution and freedom to exercise his beliefs, Dunster concluded that he needed to cross “the great chasm” and made plans to sail to New England. Dunster informed his fellow ministers of his conviction of the “right of separation from a corrupt church for the purpose of forming, or uniting with, a purer body.”8 A New Beginning Pressure to conform to the Church of England drove many intellectuals to the new world. Henry Dunster was one of many who departed England for the freedom and spiritual life available in the colonies. In 1636 the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in order to properly prepare men for a gospel ministry, had established a college, initially called the “New College.” The school opened its doors in 1637 with Nathaniel Eaton as “Head Master.” In 1639 the college was named for John Harvard (1607–1638), a young minister who, having no children, willed half of his estate and all of his library to the school. This amounted to some four hundred books and between £700 and £850. Visitors to Harvard University today frequently stop by the John Harvard Statue, located in front of University Hall, which was cast in 1884 by Daniel Chester French (sculptor of the Lincoln Memorial) and is known as “The Statue of Three Lies.” The short inscription, “John Harvard, Founder, 1638,” contains those three lies. The seated figure is not really John Harvard, since no authentic pictures of Mr. Harvard existed; John 7

H.C. Vedder, A Short History of the Baptists (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1891), 297. 8

Chaplin, 14.


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Harvard was not the founder of Harvard College; and the College was founded in 1636 and opened in 1637.9 By 1639 Eaton was unsuccessfully defending himself against bitter charges of failing to feed the students properly and of being a tyrant. The school ousted him and the church excommunicated him. Eaton and his wife left for Virginia while the college closed temporarily to recover from its failed beginnings.10 Dunster arrived at Boston toward the end of the summer of 1640, and in the following year he was chosen to be the president of Harvard College. He was just 29 years of age. Dunster was well qualified for the new post of President of Harvard and set about to make the changes necessary to Harvard’s success. Harvard’s website states, “On June 9, 1650, the Great and General Court of Massachusetts approved Harvard President Henry Dunster’s charter of incorporation. The Charter of 1650 established the President and Fellows of Harvard College (a.k.a. the Harvard Corporation), a seven-member board that is the oldest corporation in the Western Hemisphere.”11 Morison, in his history of Harvard University, gives a strong statement of Dunster’s administrative skills: Dunster found Harvard College deserted by students, devoid of buildings, wanting income or endowment, and unprovided with government or statutes. He left it a flourishing university college of the arts, provided with several buildings and a settled though insufficient income, governed under the Charter of 1650 by a body of fellows and officers whose duties were regulated by statute. The Harvard College created under his

9

http://www.news.harvard.edu/guide/to_do/to_do2.html (9/22/2007). 10 11

Beale, “The Rise and Fall of Harvard University,” 90.

http://www.news.harvard.edu/guide/intro/index.html (9/22/2007).


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presidency and largely through his efforts endured in all essential features until the nineteenth century, and in some respects has persisted in the great university of today.12

He laid a secure foundation for the college, often contributing to the needs of the new school from his own meager salary and from the proceeds of America’s first printing press. This printing press belonged to the husband of Dunster’s second wife. She inherited the press when her husband died and brought it with her to Harvard when she married Dunster. Dunster operated the printing press in America from 1640 until his death, turning out some of the first printed works in this country. Dunster, with his friend and assistant, Richard Lyon, had revised the venerable Bay Psalm Book. This revision, the Dunster-Lyon Psalm Book first published in 1650, had become so popular that the churches continued to use it for more than a century after Dunster’s death.13 The purpose of Harvard, under Dunster’s leadership, was not merely to give students academic training. Benedict states, “By the united testimonies of Johnson, Hubbard, and Prince, [Dunster] was a man of profound erudition, and ‘an orthodox preacher of the truths of Christ.’”14An early brochure of Harvard, published in 1643, gave its purpose: “To advance Learning and perpetuate it to Posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate Ministry to the Churches.”15 12

Samuel Morison, The Founding of Harvard (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968), 246.

College

13

David Beale, “The Rise and Fall of Harvard University,” Detroit Baptist Theological Journal 3 (Fall 1998): 92–93. 14

David Benedict, A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America and Other Parts of the World (Boston: Lincoln and Edmonds, 1813), 379. 15

http://www.news.harvard.edu/guide/intro/index.html (9/22/2007).


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Dunster identified the intellectual characteristics of the College:

and

spiritual

1. When any Scholar is able to understand Tully, or such like classical Latin author extempore, and make and speak true Latin in verse and prose, suo ut aiunt Marte; And decline perfectly the paradigms of nouns and verbs in the Greek tongue: Let him then and not before be capable of admission into the College. 2. Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, John 17:3, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him. Prov. 2, 3.16

Batchelder adds the following information: The spiritual life of the undergraduates—the only thing that really mattered in this vale of tears—was pried into, dissected, and stimulated with relentless vigor. The scholars read the Scriptures twice a day; . . . they had to repeat or epitomize the sermons preached on Sunday, and were frequently examined as to their own religious state. . . . Morning prayers were held at an hour that would have made an anchorite blush.17

Henry Dunster became a freeman in 1641; in other words, he received the right to vote, what was then called the “franchise.” The franchise was limited to those who were members of the Congregational Church. When 16

New England’s First Fruits (London: Overton, 1643), a Puritan text; taken from Morison, Founding of Harvard College, Appendix D. 17

Samuel F. Batchelder, Bits of Harvard History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1924), 4.


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Dunster was appointed to the presidency of Harvard, he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. This move required that he join the First Church of Cambridge. “Except in one point he was in full accord with the church, and that difference was not deemed a bar to fellowship. He held to the baptism of infants, but that immersion had the preponderance of proof in its favor.”18 Dunster appears to have held this view in England. He may have developed his conviction on immersion from his personal study of the Scripture or from discussions with Milton, but, nonetheless, Dunster was firm in his belief. This insistence upon the immersion rather than the sprinkling of infants did not stop Rev. Thomas Shepard, pastor of the Cambridge church, from saying, “Mr. Dunster’s administration, speaks of him as ‘a man pious, painful, and fit to teach, and very fit to lay the foundations of the domesticall affairs of the college; whom God hath much honored and blessed.’ ” 19 Dunster was clearly a well received member of the statesponsored Congregational church. Citizenship was not universal in Massachusetts. “A theocratic government had been established in which all rights of citizenship were denied to those who were not members of the churches of the ‘Standing Order.’ ” 20 The Church and State were united; anyone who differed with one could plan on problems from the other. Baptists were often persecuted under the law by the Standing Order. Banishment and whipping were favorite punishments of the State. Infant baptism and separation of Church and State 18

Chaplin, 55.

19

Chaplin, 47–48. There is evidence of baptism by immersion in the Records of the Second Church, Boston, as late as 1781. “The tub of the Old North Engine, then the largest in Boston, was brought into the meeting in order that a child about ten years old might, at the particular request of the mother, be baptized by immersion.” Quoted in Chaplin, 116. 20

Vedder, 296.


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were major differences between the establishment and the Baptist believers. Mosher says, “The Baptist in New England had suffered much from the tyrannical oppressions of the ‘Standing Order’ as it was called, or in other words the Congregational Church, which was established and upheld by the law.”21 The Congregational Church fathers were determined to preserve their own doctrines and practices; any other view was strictly prohibited. “Thus regarded, it was not thought that one called a Baptist had the slightest claim to respect or consideration. Yet the sole offense of these people was that they insisted on the enjoyment of rights, not as prerogatives doled out by reluctant hands, by the order of courts or by leaders of arrogant ecclesiastical bodies, but as a right, divinely given, which to withhold or even to question, was itself a violation of the divine law.”22 Mosher lists a few of the laws passed in the seventeenth century: • • • • •

21

Citizenship was refused to all but Congregationalists in the colony. All other churches were forbidden except the Congregational Church. Banishment was decreed for opposition to infant baptism or leaving an infant baptismal service. For leaving the ‘Standing Order’ a fine was imposed of forty shillings a month until the subject returned. Quakers were to be whipped, imprisoned, and banished from the colony; if they returned a second time an ear was to be cut off; if they returned a third time the second ear was to be removed; the fourth time their tongue was to be bored through with a red hot iron; and the fifth time was to result in death.

Mosher, 140–41.

22 B. F. Riley, Baptists in the Building of the Nation (Kentucky: Baptist Book Concern, 1922), 27.


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These were some of the laws that Baptists had to face, and it was because of the persecution of the Baptists that Dunster would come to join the despised movement. “There is abundant proof that in many thoughtful minds, serious doubts had arisen concerning the Scriptural authority of infant baptism and the right of the secular power to interfere in religious affairs.”23 Dunster was always examining the facts—just as he had done in England. He apparently had had reservations about infant baptism as early as 1641. The persecution of Clarke, Holmes, and Crandall for worshipping the Lord without permission from the authorities disturbed Dunster greatly. Freedom of conscience was at stake in this case, and Dunster knew it. The colony was determined to make the case of the Rhode Islanders (who had freedom of conscience in their colony) an example to the Baptists of Massachusetts. Instead, the court’s example prompted Dunster into careful deliberation. Clarke, Crandall and Holmes received fines from the courts. The fines of Clarke and Crandall were paid by friends; however, Holmes refused to have his fine paid. Holmes “was sentenced to be whipped in Boston in September, 1651, and so barbarously was the sentence executed that for days and weeks he could take no rest but as he lay upon his knees and elbows, not being able to suffer any part of his body to touch the bed whereon he lay.”24 Dunster began to develop a strong sympathy for Baptist thought. “The reaction from this cruel persecution was immediate and strongly marked. Thoughtful minds raised the universal inquiry: ‘What evil have these men done?’”25 Not only did Dunster question the action of the courts, but he came to 23

Thomas Armitage, History of the Baptists (New York: Bryan, Taylor and Company, 1887), 1:698. 24

J. M. Cramp, The Story of the Baptist in All Ages and Countries (Wilmington: James and Webb, 1884), 206. 25

Armitage, 698–99.


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an important position, which he revealed to the colony two years later in 1653. Dunster’s movement toward Baptist theology culminated in his refusal to baptize one of his infant children.26 Dunster knew the consequences, but he was ready to take his stand. Dunster had come to realize that his right to freedom of conscience and the correct form of baptism were at stake; therefore, he presented a series of sermons stating his new position which cost him his job and his status in the community. “After a full examination of the baptismal question, the first president of Harvard, a man of extraordinary learning, became a Baptist.”27 Having become a Baptist, Dunster was to suffer much ridicule from those whom he loved as friends and brothers in Christ. The court that was to indict Dunster was composed of friends and his brother-in-law, Major Simon Willard. Josiah Quincy, the fifteenth president of Harvard relates of Dunster, “Indicted by the grand jury for disturbing the ordinance of infant baptism in Cambridge Church, sentenced to a public admonition, and laid under bonds for good behavior, 26

There is some disagreement as to which child Dunster refused to have baptized. According to Cotton Mather, Dunster refused to have his third child baptized; this child was born in August of 1650. This means his two earlier children (his first wife had five children when he married her and they had no children; after her death he remarried) were baptized as infants. Albert H. Newman, A History of the Baptist Churches in the United States (Philadelphia: American Baptist Historical Society, 1898), 146– 147. Chaplin, however, quotes from a letter which Dunster wrote to friends in England near the close of 1651 still defending infant baptism. Chaplin believes it was Dunster’s fourth child, born in 1653, which was withheld from baptism. Backus agrees: “Mr. Dunster boldly preached against infant baptism, and for believers’ baptism, in the pulpit at Cambridge, in 1653.” Isaac Backus, A History of New England (Boston: Draper, 1777), 2: 418. See Chaplin, 109ff., for a discussion. 27

Cathcart, 350.


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Dunster’s martyrdom was consummated by being compelled to resign his office of president.”28 He was to be punished for his truthful heart. In his defense he stated the following principles which truly would identify him with the Baptist cause: That the subjects of Baptisme were visible pennitent believers, and they only by virtue of any rule, example, or any other light in the New Testament. That there was an action now to be done, which was not according to the institution of Christ. That the exposition as it had been held forth was not the mind of Christ. That the covenant of Abraham is not a ground for Baptisme no not after the institution thereof. That there were such corruptions stealing into the church, which every faithful Christian ought to beare witnes against.29

To finalize his position he declared: “All instituted gospel worship hath some expressed word of scripture. But paedobaptism hath none. [The subjects of baptism are] only penitent believers confessing their sins.”30 Dunster’s cause was clear, and he was forced to leave his home in Cambridge. Tremendous pressure was brought to bear upon this new Baptist. As a Baptist, however, Dunster had an ethical obligation to resign his position. Infant baptism was essential to the covenant theology of the legallyestablished, tax-supported ecclesiastical “Standing Order” of this Puritan colony. Knowing, however, that even his family’s security would soon be in jeopardy

28

Cathcart, 351.

29

Chaplin, 130–31.

30

Chaplin, 122.


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Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal outside the establishment, he felt compelled to enunciate his convictions while he still had a platform. The Court ousted Dunster. . . . Dunster had contributed to the college a hundred acres of land, on which he had built the president’s home with his own hands. . . . Now, with a sick family and winter approaching, he received an order to vacate this home of pleasant memories. Dunster pleaded in behalf of his beloved family, but received little sympathy. Apparently the Overseers were more eager to get the new president installed than to make the old president comfortable; for we find Dunster again addressing the General Court on November 16. It was a moving and pathetic appeal to their humane sentiments. Winter was coming on; he and his young family had no knowledge of the place whither they were destined; their goods and cattle could be moved at that season only with great loss; Mrs. Dunster was ill and the baby too “extreamly sick” for a long journey. Although the General Court of Overseers allowed Dunster to remain in the house until March, they constantly hounded him with new proceedings over his objections to infant baptism. This continued until 1655, long after the family had moved. The Court constantly deprived the Dunster family of peace and quiet. Dunster . . . moved to Scituate, in Plymouth Colony.31

The people of Plymouth Colony were very kind to Mr. Dunster, although his heart and mind were in Cambridge. He continued to proclaim his beliefs in Scituate until he died on February 27, 1659, just five years after his resignation. “In his will he left legacies to the persons who had forced his resignation. He directed that his body be interred in Cambridge, near the school and the people which he had served.”32

31

Beale, 92–93.

32

Beale, 93.


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The Baptist Cause Henry Dunster had served faithfully as the President of Harvard College, and in doing so he had gained a good reputation and position among the leaders of the colony. When Dunster acknowledged the truth concerning baptism to the leadership of Massachusetts Colony, he created a serious problem for the established church. His trial would be part of the planting and watering of serious doubts in the minds of many of the Congregationalist leaders and people. Dunster’s first advance of the Baptist cause was that of undermining the Congregationalists at their very roots. “It was plain that he was guilty of more than a ‘mistake.’ He had committed an unpardonable offence. The ‘hope of the flock’ were in peril, and his continuance in office would encourage the Baptists to still greater audacity.”33 The elders feared what might happen if Dunster continued his role, so he had to be removed from the educational system. Secondly, Henry Dunster caused others in the Congregationalist church to question their form of baptism and their right of freedom of conscience. Thomas Gould is an example of this help to the Baptist cause. Gould read Dunster’s sentiments on baptism and later withheld his own child from baptism. Upon further study, Mr. Gould was led by the Lord to form the First Baptist Church of Boston. Dunster helped formulate the seed for a Baptist church even though he had passed away before it was organized.34 Thirdly, it can be seen that Dunster’s conviction brought confidence to those Baptists who had little hope previously. Dunster’s stand had a profound effect upon Baptists. “It is highly probable that the late severities exercised toward our brethren in this jurisdiction, set many 33

Chaplin, 125.

34

Benedict, 379–80.


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to examining into their principles. . . . But certain it is that the Baptists now began to be more numerous; they were also encouraged to take a bolder stand against the encroachments of their adversaries, their terrible legislative threatenings, and their merciless scourgings notwithstanding.�35 He helped the Baptists of the colonies to take peaceable action against the Standing Order. The Baptist cause was given momentum by Dunster. Dunster helped form the concept of the disunionment of Church and State in the early colonial period of American history. Dunster’s influence carried through to the Revolutionary War and the constitutional stages of the United States. The Constitution of the United States separated Church from State and guaranteed the right of man to live according to his conscience. Freedom today is the fruit of Henry Dunster and many like him in the Baptist cause.

35

Benedict, 380.


MBTJ 3/1: 81-99

The Spirit and Prayer: Romans 8:26–27 John Herbert, V1 The work of the Spirit is a prominent theme in Romans 8. Romans 8:26 and 27 are the final explicit installment in Paul’s discussion of the ministry of the Spirit, and the main focus of these two verses is prayer. “No passage of Scripture provides greater encouragement for prayer. The Spirit comes to the aid of believers baffled by the perplexity of prayer and takes their concerns to God with an intensity far greater than we could ever imagine.”2 Paul’s statement in these two verses is intended to be one of encouragement to believers through their time in this depraved body on earth. The truths of these verses may be mystifying at times, but through careful study one will find that they are indeed encouraging. The work of the Spirit described in these two verses is the second in a string of three truth statements designed to help sustain believers. Because of depravity, believers are not capable of knowing what to pray unless God’s will is explicitly stated. However, in these two verses Paul encourages believers because the Spirit is interceding as only he and the Father understand, and it is through this ministry that intercession is made according to God’s will, on behalf of the believer.

Mr. John Herbert, V, is a student at Maranatha Baptist Seminary. 2 Robert H. Mounce, Romans, The New American Commentary 27 (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1995), 187. 1


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Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal Romans 8:26

Paul begins his statement on prayer and the Holy Spirit with the declaration that the Spirit helps us with our weaknesses. Paul begins with the word ὡσαύτως, which means “(in) the same (way), similarly, likewise.”3 The Spirit helps the believer’s infirmities similarly to something in the preceding context. “Strange as it may seem, the contextual considerations have little or no bearing on the actual interpretation of the verses themselves.”4 Although the actual interpretation may not change, it will change how one views the structure of the chapter, thus affecting the understanding as a whole. One interpretive option is that “likewise” could refer back to “groanings” found in vv. 22 and 23; the creation groans, we groan, and the Spirit groans.5 This is an appealing option that is supported by a number of commentators. There are, however, at least two difficulties with this position. First, both creation and believers are groaning because of depravity in vv. 22 and 23. In v. 26, however, it is the Spirit that is interceding with his groanings; he is not affected by depravity. Second, the phrase “inexpressible groanings” (στεναγµοῖς ἀλαλήτοις) comes at the end of the sentence rather than towards the beginning, making a leap from “likewise” possible but not probable.6

3 W. Arndt, F. W. Danker, W. Bauer, & F. W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 3rd ed., 2000), 1106. 4 Curtis Mitchell, “The Holy Spirit’s Intercessory Ministry,” Bibliotheca Sacra 139.555 (July 1982): 231. 5 James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1–8, Word Biblical Commentary 38 (Dallas: Thomas Nelson, 1988), 476. 6 Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 523.


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A second option is that “likewise” refers to the actions of the Spirit throughout the chapter. The chapter is filled with how the Spirit works in the life of the believer (vv. 2, 11, 13, 14, 16); because it is so pervasive, this line of reasoning is also appealing. The reasoning behind this option is: “The Spirit helps here, here and here . . . and likewise the Spirit helps with our infirmities.” However, once again, there are at least two difficulties with this option. First, this line of reasoning does not fulfill the idea of “likewise” or “in the same manner.” Since “likewise” is a comparative conjunction, it indicates a comparison to something previously mentioned rather than continuing a line of argumentation as other conjunctions such as δέ, (“but”) or καί (“and”) would indicate.7 Both δέ, and καί are used in conjunction with ὡσαύτως in v. 26 to introduce the verse which might indicate a continuation of argument, but with the addition of ὡσαύτως, which is used much less frequently in the New Testament, the comparison idea becomes prominent. This forces the reader to wonder how the Spirit’s help compares with the previous context. In addition, this interpretation would argue that Paul intended the reader to link this statement back to the entire preceding context, but the entire context lacks a good antecedent for comparison.8 It is better to see ὡσαύτως as referring back to its immediately preceding context which has a good antecedent for a point of comparison.9 7

Dan Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 761–762. 8 In actuality it would point back to multiple antecedents for a comparison. The argument would have to be “just as the Spirit previous helped believers so he is now helping them again.” However, this does not indicate the manner or really fulfill the comparative idea of ὡσαύτως. 9 If this view were to be accepted, it would be best to see it in conjunction with another one as the following view does or as Harrison and Hagner do by viewing it as the last ministry of the Spirit directly mentioned in the chapter as well as referring


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A variant of this option is to refer “likewise” back to v. 16 – “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our Spirit, that we are the children of God.”10 “In other words, Paul is saying: ‘Just as the Spirit is at work within our hearts to confirm to us our adoption (8:16), so in the same way also the Spirit is at work within our hearts to bear up our weakness (8:26).’ ”11 Smith argues that the parallel structure between v. 16 and v. 26 supports this view.12 1 Pet 2:13 and 3:1 use a similar word and bridge a large portion of scripture; this example demonstrates that “likewise” in Rom 8:26 could refer all the way back to v. 16.13 The fourth option is to refer “likewise” back to its immediately preceding context, that of hope.14 Believers were saved in the hope that their bodies would be redeemed and that one day they would be released from this depraved state. This hope helps believers as they are waiting patiently for this redemption. “In a similar way,” the Spirit directly back to hope. Everett Harrison and Donald Hagner, Romans–Galatians, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary 11 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 139. 10 Geoffrey Smith, “The Function of ‘likewise’ (ΩΣΑΥΤΩΣ) in Romans 8:26,” Tyndale Bulletin 49:1 (1998), 33–34; and, Gordon D. Fee, God's Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, Mass.: Paternoster, 2001), 576. 11 Smith, “The Function of ‘likewise,’” 33. 12 See Smith, “The Function of ‘likewise,’” for his full argument. 13 Ibid., 33–36. 14 See Moo, The Epistle to the Romans; Murray, The Epistle to the Romans: the English Text with Introduction, Exposition, and Notes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980) 310–11; Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 442; Mounce, Romans, 186; Ellis W. Deibler, A Semantic and Structural Analysis of Romans (Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1998), 193; Marcus Loane, The Hope of Glory: An Exposition of the Eighth Chapter in the Epistle to the Romans (Waco: Word, 1969), 99–100.


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helps believers through intercession while they are waiting for this redemption, because they cannot in depraved bodies always know what to pray. Morris argues against this saying that since “the Spirit is at work in the time of hope, it is better to see the meaning as joining one work of the Spirit to another.”15 However, the Spirit is not mentioned as the one who produces the hope in vv. 24–25. Even if it is the Spirit who produces this hope, it would actually strengthen the argument for this fourth view, especially with regards to “likewise,” to say that the Spirit works in hope (cf. 5:5) to sustain us and “likewise” helps our weakness. The third and fourth views are the two best options. The debate between these views really revolves around this: is it better to place the emphasis on one subject (the Spirit) and two actions (“bears witness with our witness” and “helps our weakness”); or, is it better to place the emphasis on one antecedent (“weakness”) and then two agents of “helping” (“help through hope” and “help through the Spirit”)? The latter is best for three reasons. First, in Smith’s view, the Spirit’s working “in the same way” in hearts between v. 16 and v. 26 is vague. There is no point in saying that the Spirit works in hearts just as the Spirit works in hearts. Second, the previous context indicates that it is the weakness of the depraved state of men that the Spirit is helping in v. 26. Third, vv. 28–30 continue this theme of helping to actually make it three agents of helping. The 28–30 section is a separate sub-unit in the broader section of 18–30, distinct from 26–27, but tied together with a common theme. It could be argued that vv. 28–30 recount another ministry of the Spirit helping in our weakness and thus seeing δέ, as adversative to what has been said in the previous two verses. In this case, the contrast would be 15 Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 326.


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between “we do not know” (v. 26) and “we do know” (v. 28). This interpretation would make v. 28 a subordinating thought to the head phrase of v. 26. The other option is that δέ, could be parallel to verse 26 and therefore just a continuation of thought. This seems to be best.16 The content of these three verses is not speaking about a weakness with which the believer is struggling. Rather these three verses provide another encouraging truth statement that will help the believer through times of suffering. Therefore, vv. 28–30 seem to be a separate unit parallel in thought to vv. 26–27 and tied together by being two statements of truth designed to help believers in this life and especially in times of suffering. That being said, the passage then becomes a discussion of the believers’ state of depravity and multiple ways in which they are helped through that state, namely: hope, the Spirit’s intercession, and knowledge that all things work together for good to believers. For these reasons, it seems best to conclude that the emphasis is on one antecedent (weakness) with three methods of helping or aid. What is the nature of the Spirit’s helping? The word συναντιλαµβάνεται means “to come to the aid of, be of assistance to, help.”17 Both Dunn and Moo observe that this word appears in the Septuagint in the story of Moses receiving help from the 70 elders and in Psalm 89:2, and in the New Testament story of Mary and Martha where Martha would like help preparing.18 Moo thinks the word “connotes ‘joining with to help,’ ‘bearing a burden along with.’ ” 19 As Mitchell indicates, this term does not mean “carry all of the 16 Many commentators translate it this way including Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 527; Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, 314; and Dunn, Romans 1–8, 480. 17 BDAG, 965. 18 Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 523; Dunn, Romans 1–8, 477. 19 Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 523.


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burden,” but as it has been shown indicates assistance or aid.20 “The basic thought is that the Spirit assists in close coordination or in accompaniment with the saints.”21 Thus as Harrison and Hagner put it, “prayer is the work of the Christian and the Spirit who helps.”22 The reason the Spirit assists in coming alongside the believer is because there are times when the believer does not know what to pray. This weakness that the Spirit is helping is the depravity of man23 although some would see this weakness being in prayer since this is what follows.24 However, the previous context which speaks of believers groaning while waiting for the redemption of their bodies would indicate that the weakness believers suffer from is their depravity. The entire previous section develops the curse as a result of sin that is on nature and men, and it is the redemption from this weakness for which believers are hoping (vv. 24–25). A natural result of this weakness is the need for help in prayer, specifically the lack of understanding God’s will because of depravity. Thus prayer would be “one such manifestation” of the weakness.25 This weakness is “the totality of the human condition . . . which the believer is still part of and which comes to expression in prayer inability.”26 Finally, Morris makes a good point that the Spirit does not remove the weakness; “it is still there, and 20

Mitchell, “The Holy Spirit’s Intercessory Ministry,” 232. James E. Roscupp, “The Spirit’s Intercession,” Masters Seminary Journal 10.1 (Spring 1999): 146. 22 Harrison and Hagner, Romans, 140. 23 See e.g. Dunn, Romans 1–8, 477; Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 523; John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, 311; Schreiner, Romans, 442; Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, 326. 24 Mounce, Romans, 186; and Alva J. McClain, Romans: the Gospel of God's Grace (Nashville: BMH, 1989), 167. 25 Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, 326 26 Dunn, Romans 1–8, 477. 21


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we live our whole life in conditions of weakness. What the Spirit does is to help; he gives us the aid we need to see us through.”27 Moo similarly says that instead of telling us to get rid of our weakness in some way, “Paul points us to the Spirit of God, who overcomes this weakness by his own intercession.”28

For we know not what we should pray for as we ought This phrase should be understood as “we do not know what to pray as it is necessary” rather than “we do not know how to pray as it is necessary.” Τί should be taken as “what” for several reasons. First, that the Spirit helps believers through intercession in accordance to the will of God indicates he is interceding in regards to content, not interceding because believers are doing it incorrectly. Second, Jesus taught his disciples how to pray which means there is no excuse for not knowing how to pray. Third, “Paul does not expressly say that the justified do not know ‘how to pray,’ for he does not use the word πως . . . as in v. 32.”29 Both Schreiner and Moo hint that the problem in prayer for believers is that they do not do so “according to the will of God.” The καθὸ δεῖ/ means “as is proper”30 or if τί is taken as “what,” as is assumed here, it could mean “what ideally ought to be the content.”31 Some take καθὸ δεῖ// and make it parallel with κατὰ θεόόν in v. 27.32 In fact, Dunn says, 27

Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, 326. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 524. 29 Rosscup, “The Spirit’s Intercession,” 148. 30 BDAG, 214. 31 Roscupp, “The Spirit’s Intercession,” 149. 32 C.E.B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Vol. 1, International Critical Commentary (New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 421. 28


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“That καθὸ δεῖ here is more or less equivalent to κατὰ θεόόν in v 27 is generally recognized.”33 This may seem like a stretch to some since; although καθό and κατά look similar, they are two different words. Regardless, the parallel thought can be seen even in English: “Even though believers do not know what to pray as they should, the Spirit intercedes for them according to the will of God.” One cannot make the conclusion from this that believers never know what to pray. There are obviously prayers in scripture that can be prayed, there are truths in scripture that can be prayed, and so there are events that occur which can be prayed for according to truth and with confidence that it is God’s desire. On the other hand, there are times where believers do not know God’s will and so they do not know what to pray especially in times of suffering (vv. 18–25). But Paul’s use is more universal than just times of suffering. He is speaking of the time of our weakness, our life under the curse of sin, which prevents us from always knowing the will of the God. It may be that Paul’s mind returns to his own prayer to remove his “thorn in the flesh” which turned out to not be in accordance with God’s will.34 Schreiner says, “The weakness of believers in prayer, therefore, is that they do not have an adequate grasp of what God’s will is when they pray.”35 Moo would concur and argues that although believers should strive to understand God’s will, this verse “does mean that we cannot presume to identify our petitions with the will of God.”36 Therefore, it would seem that as Osborne points out, the prayer of the believer should follow the pattern of Christ’s prayer in the garden of

33 34 35 36

Dunn, Romans 1–8, 477. Roscupp, “The Spirit’s Intercession,” 148. Schreiner, Romans, 443. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 524.


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Gethsemane “nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mark 14:36).37 Mounce thinks that it is “when our lack of faith undermines certainty in prayer, the Spirit himself intercedes on our behalf.”38 His statement is incorrect in two aspects. First, he leaves open the option that the believer’s faith is such that there are times when the Spirit does not need to intercede. If there ever is a time when this is the case, it is probably not because of great faith as it is so much an alignment of prayer with the will of God. Certainly there are times when the believer indeed prays in alignment with God’s will. Nevertheless, if believers are the people of Rom 1:28 who are not capable of “assessing the truth about God and the world he has made”39 with the exception of now being saved with all its benefits including the indwelling of the Spirit, then it would follow that any time that prayer aligns with God’s will would be only through the working of the Spirit. Additionally, a scan of 1 Cor 2 would indicate that the understanding of anything spiritual would result from the work of the Spirit. Secondly, Mounce brings faith into the picture when faith is not even mentioned in the passage. The issue for believers here is not about faith but about knowledge. It has also been said that this difficulty in prayer can arise from the “necessary imperfection of all human language as a vehicle for expressing the subtle spiritual feelings of the heart.”40 However, as nice as this sounds, this statement probably misses the point altogether. The

37 Grant R. Osborne, Romans (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2004), 217. 38 Mounce, Romans, 186. 39 Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 757. 40 R. Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, & D. Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. 1997), Rom 8:26–27.


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difficulty is not in the inability to express prayer; rather the difficulty is not even knowing what to pray.

But the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. The ἀλλά (“but”) is contrastive, making this phrase parallel in thought to the previous one. Although believers do not always know what to pray for, the Spirit is always there to intercede on their behalf. Two interesting parts of this phrase are the use of ὑπερεντυγχάνει and the nature of στεναγµοῖς ἀλαλήτοις. The word ὑπερεντυγχάνει is a hapax legomena and “is not known to occur in any Greek writer before the Christian era.”41 The use of the ἐντυγχάνει without the prefix is found elsewhere in scripture and within this passage it is found in v. 27 and v. 34 speaking of Christ’s intercession for believers. Both of these uses actually have the prefix ὑπέρ following ἐντυγχάνει indicating the intercession is “on behalf of” believers. Because ὑπερεντυγχάνει is not used elsewhere, it could be that the purpose of using this word is to focus on ὑπέρ, placing the emphasis on the idea that this intercession is “on behalf of” the believer. Such determination is speculative since it is a hapax legomena, but Rosscup agrees saying that it “adds to other emphases in the context that encourage believers by God’s forthright action for them.”42 The phrase στεναγµοῖς ἀλαλήτοις is more difficult to determine theologically. It is translated “groanings which cannot be uttered” (KJV), “groanings too deep for words” (ESV), or “wordless groans” (NIV). Two questions arise. Whose groanings are they and what is the nature of them? Some suggest that this speaks of glossolalia either publically or

41 42

Cranfield, On the Epistle to the Romans, 423. Rosscup, “The Spirit’s Intercession,” 153–154.


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privately,43 but if it can be shown that the groanings actually belong to the Spirit, then this theory has no footing. Chrysostom believed that the “Spirit” in this passage actually refers to the one in the church who had the gift of prayer.44 Therefore, this person who was gifted to pray would make intercession for the entire church. He says, “Spirit then is the name that he gives here to the grace of this character, and the soul that receiveth the grace, and intercedeth to God, and groaneth.”45 The difficulty with this view is that the entire chapter discusses the working of the Spirit in the life of the believer and to take this view, one would have to justify a similar process throughout the chapter. Also, there is no precedent to take πνεûµα in this way nor is there a need to do so. Therefore, since πνεûµα speaks of the Holy Spirit, do the στεναγµοῖς ἀλαλήτοις belong to the Holy Spirit or to believers? Because the gift of tongues only belonged to certain people, but since everyone has this ministry of the Spirit, this must mean that glossolalia is not in view here and the Spirit is the one who is groaning, not believers. The question then becomes, what is the nature of these groanings? Are they inexpressible in that they cannot be put into words or just unexpressed in that they just are not put into words? It really could be either option. The only other place a word close to this is used is in 1 Peter 1:8 in reference to “joy unspeakable.” The word ἀνεκλάλητος means “pertaining to what cannot be uttered or expressed—‘what

43

Käsemann, Commentary on Romans, 240–42. Fee, God's Empowering Presence: the Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul, 580. 44 John Chrysostom, “Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans.” 45 Ibid.


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cannot be expressed in words.’ ”46 The term here would not speak of joy that is capable of being spoken, but just is not. Rather this would speak of joy which cannot be expressed in the sense that the description of the joy cannot be put into words, or the joy is so great that words cannot describe it. Also, audible words are not heard from the Spirit and groans would not be considered expressible language. The argument for “inexpressible,” so that it can refer to glossolalia, should not frighten us away from this option being attributed to the Spirit since they are obviously his.47 Against this line of thinking would be the argument that the groans are “unuttered” in which case they would not need to be expressible. Rosscup argues that “the Spirit’s groans are unuttered, because he does not need words to communicate with the Father at the throne.”48 The problem with this is twofold. First, the Spirit would not have groans attributed to him if they are just unuttered, unless the groans were similar to v. 23 where believers “groan within ourselves.” Second, this argument could apply to either option. It could also be said that since the Spirit and the Father do not need words to communicate then the fact that the groanings cannot be expressed in words does not matter. Either way, the groanings, whether metaphorical as in v. 2349 or not, belong to the Spirit, are his unique way of intercession on the behalf of believers and are “a ministry of intercession . . . in a manner imperceptible to us.”50

46

J.P. Louw and E.A. Nida, Vol. 1: Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (2nd ed.) (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 399. 47 This seems to be one of the reasons Moo argues for “unspoken.” The Epistle to the Romans, 524–25. 48 Rosscup, “The Spirit’s Intercession,” 157. 49 Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 526. 50 Ibid.


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Believers are still waiting for the redemption of their bodies and are thus in a depraved state. Hope is one of the sustaining factors through this life. A second factor is the help of the Spirit in prayer overcoming the weakness of the believer since believers are incapable of know exactly what to pray for in some circumstances. However, the Spirit makes intercession in behalf of believers with a language unknown to them but understood by God. Romans 8:27 The γάρ of v. 26b subordinates to 26a which tells us what we do not know. The ἀλλά of v. 26c is contrasting the γάρ with how the Spirit will help believers. The δέ . . . οἶδεν here is a continuation of that contrast with an “and God knows” statement which reflects back to the fact that believers do not know (v. 26). Also, as Harrison and Hagner note, v. 27 helps to clarify v. 26. Although the Spirit is interceding with groans that are inexpressible, God always knows the mind of the Spirit and knows that he intercedes according to the will of God.51 “The one who searches the hearts” is a reference to God the Father. This is rarely if ever disputed, although many commentators do note that Christ is the one who searches the hearts in Revelation 2:23.52 However, Christ’s searching of the hearts is for the purpose of judgment,53 whereas here the focus is on the comfort and hope that comes from the fact that God knows the heart of the believer. That God the Father is the one to whom intercession would be made and

51

Harrison and Hagner, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, 139–140. 52 Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, 329; Moo, Epistle to the Romans, 526. 53 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1–7: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1992), 223–224.


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“is the only one who can be thus described”54 is reason enough to leave this as a reference to God the Father rather than Christ or anyone else. Because καρδίας is plural it is reasonable to assume that this must not be referencing the heart of the Spirit but the heart of believers in whom the Spirit dwells. This is interesting because not only does God search the hearts, but he also knows the mind of the Spirit. God knows the heart of the believer. Martin Lloyd-Jones says of this, “He knows all about our feelings, all about our desires. I know of nothing which gives greater comfort and consolation than this realization.”55 Mitchell argues that the ability to search the human heart validates God’s qualification to search his own Spirit.56 This is the same view of Cranfield who says, “Implicit in its use here is the thought that, since God searches the secrets of men’s hearts, He must a fortiori be supposed to know the unspoken desires of His own Spirit.”57 However, Rosscup says, “Hearts are mentioned because that is where the Spirit indwells (vv. 8, 11), and the innermost central place where he ministers (cf. Eph. 3:16–17).”58 Perhaps Mitchell and Rosscup are both correct. That God has the ability to know the spirit of man would be considered harder than knowing his own Spirit; this qualifies him to know the mind of the Spirit. Also, since the Spirit ministers within believers, God searching the heart not only would give him 54

Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, 329. Cf. Ps 7:9; Prov 17:3; Acts 1:24; and 1 Thes 2:4. 55 D. M. Lloyd-Jones, Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 8:17– 39: The Final Perseverance of the Saints (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 139. 56 Mitchell, “The Holy Spirit’s Intercessory Ministry,” 237– 238. 57 Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary On the Epistle to the Romans, 424. 58 Rosscup, “The Spirit’s Intercession,” 159.


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access to the heart that does not know what to pray but also to the Spirit who is interceding for the believer. To make this an even better situation, the next phrase says that God also knows the mind of the Spirit. It is as if Paul is saying, “God knows your heart but he also knows the mind of the Spirit, so do not worry if you are not sure what to pray.” φρόνηµα is used only in Romans 8 in this way, and it is used with a “focus on strong intention aim, aspiration, striving.”59 Mitchell says, “In short, God perceives the intent of the Spirit’s intercession that is hidden in those unuttered groans.”60 Because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. This ὅτι clause is difficult because it could be translated either causally “because” or epexegetically “that.” Moo argues for causal saying, “God knows what the Spirit intends, and there is perfect harmony between the two, because it is in accordance with God’s will that the Spirit intercedes for the saints.”61 Deibler says that although there are arguments for both, the better argument is for “that” saying “it would hardly be true that God would know the mind of the Spirit only for the reason given (his intercession).”62 Morris, Dunn, and Schreiner agree it does not matter which you choose and the latter two think that it does not change the meaning of the verse that much, if at all.63

59 60 61 62

BDAG, A Greek-English Lexicon, 1066. Mitchell, “The Holy Spirit’s Intercessory Ministry,” 239. Moo, Epistle to the Romans, 527. Deibler, A Semantic and Structural Analysis of Romans,

194. 63 Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, 329, Dunn, Romans 1–8, 480, Schreiner, Romans, 446.


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This last view is correct, to a point, in that most of the interpretation is not going to be affected greatly. However, it does have some impact, and the better of the two seems to be the epexegetical, even though every English translation uses a causal use, for the following reasons. Deibler’s argument (also mentioned in Morris) is a good one, for the intercession of the Spirit would not be the reason that God knows the mind of the Spirit.64 Also, although Moo argues that the fronted position of κατὰ θεόν might indicate “because,”65 it is actually a better argument for “that”; the argument should not be, “God knows that the Spirit intercedes.”66 Rather the fronted κατὰ θεόν indicates that “according to God” is the key especially since intercession for the saints was the topic of discussion in the previous verse. Therefore, the argument should be that “God knows that the intercession is in accordance with his will.” “That” indicates more expressly the content or nature of the mind of the Spirit and therefore his intercession, namely, that it is in accordance with the will of God. Thus, when the Spirit intercedes, he already knows the mind of the Spirit and knows that it is in accordance with his will. “That” points out that the content and nature of the Spirit’s mind and intercession are in accordance with his will. Therefore, even though both express this nature, “that” avoids the dilemma created by “because” and points out the nature of the intercession better. It is appropriate to translate κατὰ θεόν as “according to the will of God” as most translations and commentators do “since, by implication, God’s will is simply an expression of

64

See also William Sanday and Arthur Headlam, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1968), 214. 65 Moo, Epistle to the Romans, 527. 66 Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, 329.


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God, God himself in action.”67 As mentioned above, this is the important portion of the phrase signifying the nature of the intercession. Rosscup says, “due to human weakness, God’s people do not know what the Spirit’s perfect knowledge perceives is best, what is in concord with God’s will.”68 The Spirit is always in agreement with God; to have an intercessor always in agreement with the answerer of the prayers means that the prayer of the Spirit will always be answered and answered according to God’s will. Moo concludes, I take it that Paul is saying, then, that our failure to know God’s will and consequent inability to petition God specifically and assuredly is met by God’s Spirit, who himself expresses to God those intercessory petitions that perfectly match the will of God. When we do not know what to pray for — yes, even when we pray for things that are not best for us — we need not despair, for we can depend on the Spirit’s ministry of perfect intercession “on our behalf.”69 The conclusion here is that believers never know when they pray if it is God’s will, unless it has been specifically revealed as such in scripture. The assurance and joy, though, is that in these times when the believer does not know what to pray, the Spirit will intercede according to God’s will for believers so that they always have an effective intercessor. This is the only text in the NT that describes the Spirit as an intercessor70 and once again the word ἐντυγχάνω is used, except this time the prefix ὑπέρ is found after the verb. 67

Dunn, Romans 1–8, 480. Rosscup, “The Spirit’s Intercession,” 148. 69 Ibid., 526. 70 Ernst Käsemann, Commentary on Romans, tr. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 240. 68


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The Spirit is interceding for believers – the saints. What a comfort to know that both God the Son and God the Spirit are interceding with God the Father on behalf of believers, one while at the Father’s right hand and the other while indwelling the believer. The preposition ὑπέρ is found throughout the following verses. The Spirit “on behalf of us” intercedes (v. 26), the Spirit intercedes “on behalf of” the saints (v. 27), God is “for” us (v. 31), God gave his Son “for us” (v. 32), and Christ intercedes “for us” (v. 34).71 What a great truth for believers to rest in, knowing that they are fighting against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Summary Just as hope (vv. 24–25) and the knowledge that all things work together for good (vv. 28–30) sustain the believer in this life, so this final explicitly stated working of the Spirit in Romans 8 also sustains the believer. The inability to know what to pray when God’s will is not explicitly stated is one of the weaknesses that believers will always have plaguing them, but in this weakness the Spirit comes to their aid. The Spirit’s unique ministry is understood by God even though the Spirit intercedes with inexpressible groanings. This is because since God knows the hearts of believers, he can certainly know his own Spirit’s mind who is also working within the hearts of those believers. The joy for the saint is that even though he may not know what is correct to pray, because he does not know the will of God in a matter, the Spirit is always intercedes according to the will of God for the believer during those times. This ought to change the prayer life of a believer, knowing that all prayers should be submitted to the will of God as in the example of Christ in Gethsemane (Matt 26:36–39), and knowing that the Spirit is interceding according to the will of God in their weakness. 71

Rosscup, “The Spirit’s Intercession,” 161.


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Book Reviews Warren Wiersbe. On Being a Leader for God. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011. 137 pages. Reviewed by David Lingle. Wiersbe is consistently worth reading and this short book is no exception. Wiersbe considers this the sequel and companion to his previous book On Being a Servant of God. Wiersbe maintains that “Christian leaders are people who, by faith, willingly use their character, abilities, authority, and opportunities to serve others and to help them reach their fullest potential, to their benefit, the benefit of the organization, and the glory of God,” p. 16. It is probably safe to say that everyone is a leader in some sphere, and will therefore benefit from a careful reading of this book. The content of the book is organized around this definition of leadership. Wiersbe’s definition is not only biblically grounded but is also informed by his many years of ministry. This is a book of general principles and wisdom about leadership, not a nuts and bolts “how to” kind of a book. If you are in a position of leadership, you will more likely fill in the “how to” details effectively if you get the big picture issues right. Wiersbe on leadership will help you get the big picture issues right. If you have read very many books on leadership, especially those that approach the subject from a thoroughly biblical perspective, you will not likely find much new material here. However, it is presented in Wiersbe’s practical, helpful and readable style. I think it would be good for anyone in a position of leadership (pastor’s, CEOs, teachers, coaches, fathers, deacons, etc.) to read one good book on leadership a year, or at least every other year. This is one of the books I would consider to be worth your time. I am glad I read it. The Lord used it to


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remind me of several important truths I need to work on remembering and practicing. Whatever kind of leadership position you find yourself in, you should have a list of books that you want to read sometime in the near future. Take a book with you everywhere you go so that you can redeem the time waiting for the kids after school, or while your spouse finishes the shopping, while taking the bus or train, waiting in line at the DMV, or whatever. Include this little book by Wiersbe on your list of books to read in the near future.


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Joel R. Beeke & James A. La Belle. Living Zealously. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012. 133 pages. Reviewed by Mark Hanson In a day when immediacy and ease are such commonplace elements of everyday life the long work of deep contemplation often becomes a difficult and much neglected task. While many contemporary voices address the need for deeper introspection, one might ask if the Puritans have anything to share with the modern reader as it relates to a deep examination of internal motivations for and towards God. Living Zealously attempts to answer that very question. Living Zealously strives to help the reader “understand what Christian zeal is, and encourage [the reader] to be consumed with it for the glory of God, His church, and His word” (page 5). This is the second title—the first, Living by God’s Promises, was also co-authored by the same men—in the Deepen Your Christian Life series which focuses on gathering various Puritan writings on somewhat overlooked subjects and combining them in more contemporary language for today’s readers. Dr. Joel Beeke holds a Ph.D. in Reformation and PostReformation Theology and serves as the President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and also pastors the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Rev. James La Belle holds an M.Div. and currently serves as the Pastor of Presbyterian Church of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. With both authors drawing on their formal theological training and the practical experience of pastoring, the tone of the book carries a very pastoral feel that is relevant to anyone church member. Yet, as good pastors are wont to do, they urge the reader towards a deeper understanding through one’s own personal application of Scripture. This is accomplished in 133 pages as the book consists of only six short chapters, roughly twenty pages apiece;


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each with a focused topic relating to zeal: 1) The Nature and Marks…, 2) The Necessity and Motives…, 3) The Regulation…, 4) The Objects…, 5) The Outworking…, and 6) The Means of Christian Zeal. Each chapter has a similar feel as the authors highlight Puritan writings related to the particular emphasis of the chapter and then compare that with Scripture to show that while the topic of zeal is not often the main point of God’s Word it is a common thread that runs through its foundation. With a quick glance at the chapter titles one might be most curious as to what the “Regulation of Christian Zeal” and the “Objects of Christian Zeal” might pertain to. While every chapter lends itself to a deeper understand of Scripture regarding the application of zeal, these two seem to initially place an unusual emphasis on works since most religious groups place a greater importance on “regulating” the “objects” of their service as the key indicator of one’s devotion and ultimately their salvation. Yet it is in these two chapters that the Puritan’s love for God as well as their thorough knowledge of Scripture comes shining through. Proper understanding of the need for the regulation of Christian zeal is captured in a quotation by John Evans (1680–1730). “It is fit to be observed, that we read in scripture of a bad zeal more frequently . . . than of a good one. . . . [This] should make us sensible, how highly necessary it is, that a strict caution and a very careful regulation should attend our zeal” (52). This then is paired with the accounts of David’s census (2 Sam 24:3–4) and Hezekiah’s display of the temple treasures (2 Kings 20:12– 15) where good intentions were in reality examples of poorly regulated zeal demonstrating the need for it to be planned properly. The book does an excellent job of drawing out the heart of the matter of being a zealous Christian as it moves from regulation of zeal to the objects of zeal. This chapter in particular drives home Maranatha’s mission (Eph 1:12) “to be to the praise of his glory” as a quotation by Samuel Ward


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(1577–1640) states that Christian zeal “is a spiritual heat wrought in the heart of man by the Holy Ghost, improving the good affections of love, joy, hope . . . for the best service and furtherance of God’s glory, [together] with . . . his word, his house, his saints, and salvation of souls” (76). The authors very clearly articulate that “zeal has no more ultimate intent than to bring glory to God” (74) which makes God our primary object of zeal in our Christian living. Because the topic is about the nature of our interaction with God, the book is packed with challenges for personal growth in sanctification on nearly every page. One relatively minor critique with the book is the order of the chapters. The topic of the object of zeal covered in chapter four really is the impetus for having any zeal at all, and it could logically be seen to be placed as the first chapter since it serves as the foundation for the rest of the book. In spite of this, the chapters naturally flow from the broader philosophical definitions into the Biblical foundation and then conclude with the practical outworking. For further reflection and study every chapter concludes with ten study questions which would fit well whether used as a personal workbook, a Sunday School class, or small group discussion. Preceding the first chapter is a short biographical section containing information about the puritan authors whose writings are examined in the book. Additionally, a short bibliography contains suggestions for continued reading from both Puritan and contemporary authors on the topic of zeal. Beeke and La Belle aptly glean from the diligent and disciplined effort put forth by the Puritans, clearly demonstrating that their writings are still relevant in helping comprehend Scripture as it relates to living as a zealous Christian today.


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Randy Leedy. Love Not the World: Winning the War against Worldliness. Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 2012. 144 pages. Reviewed by Larry Oats. This work was written specifically to fundamentalists with two goals in mind: to be a “biblical theology of the world and worldliness” (5) and to develop a contemporary application for the reader (7). Part One of the book is “Defining the World.” Leedy begins with an Old Testament definition of “world.” While the term appears frequently in the Old Testament, Leedy notes that “world” generally refers to the created world. Instead of “world,” he suggests that the terms “Gentiles” (or “nations”) and “peoples” are the Old Testament terms for “world” in the sense of the lost, those who are estranged from God. Although acknowledging that the Old Testament does not particularly develop the theme of “worldliness,” it does demonstrate the narrowing of God’s choice of a people for himself to a specific family and then nation. The Old Testament also demonstrates what happens to the nations who oppose God’s righteousness and God’s people, as well as what happens when God’s own people, the nation of Israel, fail to obey. This is particularly evident in the Old Testament as Israel sought frequently to be like the nations around them, both politically and especially religiously. Leedy then moves to a New Testament definition of “world” and “worldliness.” He notes that there are similarities between the testaments: the Gentile nations are still present in the New Testament and still a source of ungodliness; salvation is brought to the nations through the Messiah; God’s people need to bring light to the Gentiles in darkness. There is an expansion in the New Testament, however. The New Testament shifts terms from “nations” to “world.” Israel had a national identity, and “nations” fit well. The church does not have a national identity, so there is no separation from “nations” per se. The freedom of Gentiles to


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join the church without first becoming Jews was difficult for the early Jewish church to understand. While Peter was the first to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, Paul was the missionary whose focus was Gentilic. Leedy examines kosmos (“world”) and aion (“age”), demonstrating the similarities and differences between the two terms, focusing primarily on the moral usages of the terms. Leedy also notes that the world is antagonistic to Christians because of the Satanic foundations to the world. As the “god of this age” he blinds and hardens people to the Gospel. Paul contrasted the “spirit of this world” with the “spirit of God.” There is a dichotomy between the divine nature and the fallen human nature. Leedy then shifts his attention from definitions to discernment (“Discerning the World”). This section is based on four summary facts: 1) the world exists, 2) the world is all around us and, in our fallen flesh, within us, 3) the Father has rescued us from this world, 4) our Father commands us not to imitate the world. The remainder of this section focuses on Ephesians 4:17-5:21, Titus 2-3, 1 Peter 2:11-18, 1 Peter 4:3-5, and Matthew 6. The remainder of the book focuses on the application of biblical principles concerning the “world.” Chapter 4 centers its attention on issues in the culture that are not explicitly addressed in Scripture. Leedy does not deal with specific activities, but focuses on the means of applying biblical principles. Chapter 5 centers its attention on how to develop principles concerning worldliness. How do we transfer the Bible’s teachings directly to our culture? How do we narrow the Bible’s generalities to our culture’s specifics? How do we expand the Bible’s specifics to related issues in our culture? How do we translate the Bible’s specifics to our culture’s specifics? Whether you agree with Leedy’s conclusions or not, grappling with his approach will aid anyone in their struggle with the world and will especially help pastors as they teach their people the necessity of a godly life.

Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal Volume 3.1  

The E-Journal of Maranatha Baptist Bible College and Seminary, addressing theological and practical issues from a biblical viewpoint.

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