Saturday, October 12, 2013
Steve Hays on Miracles: Exploding The Tactics and Underpinnings Of A Most Fallacious Argument
For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. (1 Thess. 2:13)
Before I comment further, I want to point out the different arguments, accusations, and tactics that Steve Hays has used to defend the theoretical idea that miracle workers are still among us working miracles as God directs them. First, Hays has accused those of us in the “MacArthur” camp of using the very same skepticism employed by David Hume. I have pointed out that there is a world of difference between the biblical command to test the spirits, to pay careful attention to yourselves, to our teaching, and the skepticism of David Hume. Hays’ argument is more than a little silly. It is confusing why he would draw such a silly comparison. Few people would deny that John MacArthur has done tremendous good for the kingdom and the Church. His loyalty to Scripture has been steadfast. His credibility and character should garner only the highest respect even when we disagree with him. Hays doesn’t seem to operate with those kind of values. More about that latter.
Hays’ second argument was to accuse MacArthur folks of being guilty of circular reasoning. We believe in the Bible because of miracles and we believe in miracles because they are in Scripture, or so goes Hays’ portrayal of our approach. Perhaps this is wishful thinking on Hays’ part. Framed this way, it is not difficult to see the problem with the argument. But Hays is wrong in how he frames our argument, and I think he should have known better. Most MacArthur folks are presuppositional in their approach. No one came along, told us the Bible is the Word of God, and then performed miracles to authenticate their statement. Moreover, I don’t know of anyone who reads the Bible, sees its miraculous claims, and concludes, well then, it must be true because it claims to have miracles in it. Again, this is an absolutely absurd and ridiculous argument and it is a little less than charitable for Hays to paint us in this light. Then again, is there any indication that Steve Hays cares, really, truly cares about the people he disagrees with? If we are to go on his actions, how he deliberately misrepresents their positions to make his argument look superior and that he does this with the highest degree of consistently, one would have no choice but to doubt that he really does care about the person behind the opposing argument.
Hays continues by accusing me of using the same methods an atheist uses to argue against God. What Hays refuses to acknowledge, even though he knows it is true, is that my presuppositions are fundamentally different from the atheist and therefore, my conclusions are radically different. The truth is that human reasoning will use similar methods along the way. Those of us who are presuppositional in our thinking know this. But we also know that the fundamental different is in the fundamentals. That is to say, our real disagreement rests in our radically opposing presuppositions, our basic commitments about reality, knowledge, and ethics. Hays know this as well.
What Hays has repeatedly attempted to do is poison the well. He began by attempting to associate us with Hume. Then he attempted to frame up our argument in the most absurd manner, accusing us of circular reasoning. He then placed us in the Evidentialist camp. Finally, he claims that we employ atheistic tactics. All of this kind of argumentation is not really offering counter points to the claims that we make for our position. It is a tactic to smear, to discredit, even to slander, and to distract others from the real problem of his own argument. What is that problem, you ask? The real problem for Hays’ argument is that he can offer no tangible evidence that miracle-workers exist today. Therefore, he keeps the argument theoretical. He desperately needs to reject the empirical argument that asserts that we lack any good and credible evidence showing that miracle-workers actually are active today. He would prefer that we be forced to prove there are no miracle-workers. That is a fallacious approach even if it is a clever tactic. We cannot prove there are no unicorns in the universe. We could spend lots of energy attempting to prove it, but such an endeavor would be fruitless. We could travel to country A, and examine everyone there and find no miracle-worker. We could then move to country B and find the same, only to have Hays retort that the miracle-worker was in B when you examined A, and A when you examined B. If Hays is going to argue that miracle-workers are present today, then he needs to produce one. If he cannot produce one and no one else can produce one, why should we believe him? What evidence can he offer, other than empirical evidence, to prove his point?
Hays will retort that he can offer Scripture as sufficient evidence or the historical method. No he cannot! There is nothing in Scripture that affirms that miracle-workers will be present in the Church until the return of Christ. But, he may say, there is nothing in Scripture that says they will not be present either. However, that does not qualify as proof that they are present. It only gets him to the state of possibility. Is that what Hays is really arguing? Is Hays spending all this intellectual energy to argue that it is possible that miracle-workers exist today. Okay, I will play Hays’ game. I do think it is possible that miracle-workers could exist today. But I also think, based on that same methodology that it is possible the universe could contain unicorns. But I also think that possibility is infinitesimally small. And the only reason I think it is possible is not because of the claims of these charlatans. It is because I think it is possible that I could be wrong in my view about the purpose for miracles in the NT era. The construction of my theological system is by inference from one exegetical examination to another and then to historical phenomena. I think my position is exceptionally strong. But because I am finite, fallible, and sinful, my knowledge is imperfect. Revelation is not as clear on the subject as it is on other subjects, like the resurrection for example. Therefore, I have to leave open the possibility that I could be mistaken.
The final argument Hays makes is that MacArthur accuses the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement of being purveyors of a false gospel. Hays then says that MacArthur himself might have been guilty of this very thing…20 years ago. This is an utterly ridiculous objection and seems to be more of an attempt out of desperation, and a desire to smear and slander John than it is to get at genuine truth. MacArthur was corrected in his error; he recognized it by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit and repented, uh, 20 years ago. Yet Hays thinks it is relevant to the discussion. Does Hays care that a brother was caught up in a sin 20 years ago, was confronted, repented, and as a result has grown in Christ since that time? Who among us can claim that we were born again with a perfect and mature understanding of the gospel? Apparently, Hays does not care that MacArthur is a human being, a sinner saved by grace! What Hays seems to be more interested in than anything is winning this argument. And that is Hays’ signature. It is his burning passion. He must win, at all costs. I have experienced it personally with him. MacArthur has experienced it. James White has experienced it. Fred Butler has experienced it. Dan Phillips and Frank Turk have experienced it. Others on the internet have experienced it. It seems to me that Hays has no regard for the biblical mandate NOT to slander others. He plows ahead thinking that slander is permitted when it is committed against people with whom he disagrees. This is a very bad reflection on Christianity, on Christian unity, on love. But it seems to be common practice over at Triablogue. What’s more, any attempt to point it out this ungodly practice is only met with additional slander. Moreover, it is one of the topics that Hays absolutely refuses to debate. Apparently, Hays thinks himself above such nonsense. Any discussion at all about godly behavior is met with derision and anyone attempting to raise the issue is attacked as a self-righteous hypocrite just for bringing it up.
The reason I point this out is because I believe it has everything to do with Hays’ participation in this particular discussion. Some guys just like the argument. They love the debate. They really aren’t interested in the word of God working in hearts to sanctify people by the truth it imparts. They just like the rush of winning an argument. Not so long ago, Chris Pinto was caught up in a well-known controversy. He engaged in what many called slanderous behavior. I compared several blogs with Triablogue on the subject because I was curious about my suspicions. Every other blogger was concerned about the sinful behavior involved and spoke to the need for repentance, for obedience, for proper treatment among brothers and for reconciliation. This was not the case with Triablogue. They were more interested in the poor form of Pinto’s argument. That is where they spent their time. What is more important? The form of one’s argument, or the fact that they are in sin? When we care about one another, we are more interested in their sanctification than we are in the fact that their argumentation is a little off.
The reason we care about this topic has nothing to do with winning the argument or carrying the day. We do not live in the world of ideas and possibilities, which is where it seems to me, Hays loves to spend his time. We see the real effects of the theology behind the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement. We hear people claiming to speak for God. We see people claiming to be faith-healers and miracle-workers. We observe what they do with Scripture and how that impacts their followers. We see the confusion these charlatans bring into the body of Christ simply because they are so visible in our culture. We recognize the harm they do to the gospel, to the character of our Lord, to the reputation of the Church, to their followers and we raise our voice in hopes that we can reach some who will benefit from what we have to say. We stand for the truth of Scripture because we care. We care about our Lord, about the Church, about the gospel, about those who are being duped by these wolves. We acre about the kind of message the world hears from the visible Church.
There are less than 100 incidents of miracles recorded in the Old Testament. For 400 years there was none. And then all of the sudden, Christ appeared via a miracle. And during a very short window of time, there were miracles once again. In the NT we have less than 50 incidents. Now an incident could include numerous miracles at that time. There has never been a time in history when miracles were as commonplace as most in the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement claim. Think about this, we have less than 100 miracles recorded over a 4,000 year period. That is less than one miracle every 40 years. In the NT we cover a period of around 40 years. In this case we see incidents of miracles dramatically increase to more than one per year. Now, keep in mind that many of these miracles in the Old and New Testament were squeezed together in blocks. The plagues, the wanderings of the Israelites, Elijah, Elisha, etc. In addition, most of the NT incidents were performed by Christ Himself over a 3 ½ year span. One needs to examine the significance of these blocks of miracles to see what else was going on in redemptive history in order to understand and appreciate the miracles.
Today, the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement makes claims that miracles and healings occur like they have never occurred at any other time in history to include redemptive history. If we multiply the number of claimers by the number of crusades, we end up with claims of tens, no hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of miracles every year. That is staggering. One would think that in our age, with our technology, if these miracles were legitimate, and if there were authentic miracle-workers active today, not only would we know it and be able to prove it, I submit that no one would be to hide it even if they wanted to. But for some bizarre and strange reason, these miracle workers who can heal the worst of human diseases with their great power from God remain unable to provide solid proof that they can do these things. They have the power to heal the sick and raise the dead, just not the power to be able to prove they can do these things. How strangely fascinating is that?