Hume & Miracles: A Complication of Blunders

I have a book titled Infidelity, which in an older context was a synonym for atheism or skepticism. The book was published by the American Tract Society without a date, but it appears to be from the mid-1800’s. It is a compilation of Christian apologetic works on several subjects.

There is a section of response to David Hume’s argument against miracles. In his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section 10, Hume prsented what is arguably the strongest argument against miracles ever written by the mind of man.  Infidelity presents an accurate summary of Hume’s argument, where he says, in essence, that universal human experience shows us that human testimony is much more likely to be incorrect than a miracle happen, therefore universal human experience is that miracles do not happen. 

Infidelity has several responses. The book is an anthology of apologetic writings, but without citation or date. Nevertheless, James Douglass describes Hume’s argument as a “complication of blunders, more numerous, perhaps, than ever were crowded into the same brief space.” The book then includes an article from Thomas Starkie with an able response to Hume. A brief point of Starkie’s is interesting.

Starkie points out that Hume’s argument seems to be saying that human experience shows that we cannot trust human experience. In addition to this circularity, Starkie questions whether inexperience of an event can trump the experience of an event. Hume states that we have never experienced a miracle, and therefore our experience trumps the testimony of those who claim to have experienced one. But is it reasonable to conclude that inexperience proves that the thing is not? 

When we add to this that Hume was adding evidence rather than weighing evidence, we can once again conclude that Mr. Hume is guilty of the sophistry that he abhorred so much.  

However, Christian apologists can also learn from this old book Infidelity. For such claims as calling Hume’s work “a complication of blunders” reminds me that force and bluster do not an argument make, but rather just reflect poorly on the one making such statements. I fear that in this golden age of Christian apologetics, too many of my fellow apologists are not approaching the task with love and humility, concerned with men’s souls, but instead approach it with a battle axe and aggression. Somehow I doubt whether the Lord will bless such efforts. Rather than ringing out the truth, some apologists appear to be adding to the complications of blunders.




About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Skepticism. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Hume & Miracles: A Complication of Blunders

  1. Pingback: What is the Mess We Are in, and How Did We Get Here? | Thomistic Bent

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