However, while on the acim twitter simple and clear, this definition encounters difficulties in application. And given that at least one major religion, Christianity, holds as a core tenet that God-made-man, Jesus Christ, performed miracles, these difficulties can call into question a major Christian tenet.
So while these difficulties enter into the realm of the esoteric, we should delve into their intricacies. We will examine three issues:
The noted 16th century philosopher David Hume voted to the negative, i.e. valid testimony can not be offered. For him, such testimony faces an essentially insurmountable hurdle. Hume stated:
“No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle unless it is of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact that it tries to establish.
“For, first, never in all of history has a miracle been attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good sense, education, and learning as to guarantee that they aren’t deluded; of such undoubted integrity as to place them beyond all suspicion of wanting to deceive others; of such credit and reputation in the eyes of mankind as to have much to lose if they were found to have told a falsehood; and at the same time testifying to events-the reported miracle-that occurred in such a public manner and in such a famous part of the world as to make the detection of any falsehood unavoidable. All these conditions must be satisfied if we are to be completely confident of the testimony of men.
In other words, a miracle stands as so momentous and at the same time so unlikely, and mankind so notably fallible and imperfect, that no person could given testimony sufficiently credible. We should more question the testimony than believe the miracle.
Note, however, that is in our world. Mankind’s fallibility pertains to our actual, contingent, messy, version of a world.
Philosophy allows us to consider not just our world, but possible worlds. So could we, in some conceivable world, a world with a better human nature, achieve sufficiently credible testimony? Certainly. Give people more accurate perceptions, higher moral integrity and improved mental memory. Or populate the world with Three Rule Asimov robots. The accuracy of testimony in such conceivable worlds could rise to sufficient integrity.
Now, in Hume’s time, maybe such a world could not be conceived. But today, such a conceived world could become a real world.
Compared to the time of Hume, we possess sophisticated technology. We can record, detail and store recordings and data of all types. We can collect phenomena in multiple media. We can disseminate, cross-check, review, question, and otherwise scrutinize reports and data of any occurrence.
So, if in our time the walls of Jericho have been foretold to come down at the sound of trumpets after seven days of marching, CNN, and Fox, and every news outlet, and a plethora of scientific instruments, and an array of digital recording devices, would stand ready to observe, record and document the event.
I will leave as not discussed a corollary, but unfortunate question. The miracles of God-made-man, of Jesus, did not occur under the scrutiny of modern techniques, but two millennium ago. Does the testimony of that time from ancient Galilee rise to sufficient accuracy to attest to a miracle? We will not discuss that here, but we are left to ponder the question.