On the Treatment of the Supernatural

I just had an article published in the journal Studies in Religion. The name of the article is “On the Treatment of the Supernatural by Zeba Crook.” My article is a response to one that had been previously published in the same journal where Zeba Crook, an associate professor at Carelton University, argued that historians must hold to a strict naturalism in order to remain scholarly. Here is the abstract:

In a recent article, New Testament scholar Zeba Crook argues that in order for the study of Christian Origins to be taken seriously alongside other academic disciplines, a naturalistic philosophy must be adopted. Currently, there is a blend of openness, agnosticism and rejection among New Testament scholars with regard to miracles in the New Testament. This article responds to the concerns about an openness to the supernatural and offers a suggestion on how the study of religion can remain an academic discipline apart from theology and yet still be open to supernatural explanations.


Of course there is some wisdom in Crook’s view. You can’t go and give a supernatural explanation to everything that happens. Sometimes an army defeats another army because they just fought better. No angels needed. But does that mean that there is no place for the supernatural?

I argue that there are some historical events that seem to have no natural explanation. The example I give is that of the resurrection of Jesus. The historical evidence as I see it suggests that Jesus died on the cross and then seemed to be alive a couple of days later speaking to his friends. How does naturalism explain that? If the supernatural is excluded, you are left with the option of questioning the facts on either side of the event. Either Jesus did not die on the cross or he was not alive a couple of days later. But that conclusion is not derived from historical evidence, it is derived from naturalistic philosophy.

I must make clear that I have nothing against Zeba Crook. His article would represent the perspective of many other scholars. It just so happens that it was his article that I read in this journal and it was then that I had the desire to respond.

This is the first article I have had published in this journal and I am thankful for the opportunity to express another perspective.

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