One of the books that I had been looking forward to reading was Miracles by Craig Keener. My hesitance was that it was a two volume hardback and thought it would take a long time to get through. I was wrong. Much of the book is footnotes and bibliography, and so it doesn’t take near as long as you would think.
Craig Keener is a New Testament scholar and so in some ways, this is not the book you might expect. But it fits very well into his specialization.
Scholars and historians take the Gospels seriously as historical sources (despite what Jesus mythicists claim). But it is common for some scholars to determine the historical kernel by separating it from the miraculous claims. “Since we already know that miracles are impossible, we know those parts can’t be historical.”
Keener places the miraculous claims of the Gospels in their historical and cultural setting. The first readers of these Gospels wouldn’t have discounted the supernatural or have labeled it as unhistorical.
Not only were the ancients open to the supernatural, so are many people today all around the world. The anti-supernatural bias is a western and even then a fairly modern innovation.
Keener takes on the claims of David Hume that miracles are impossible. Many modern skeptics believe that Hume destroyed any rational belief in miracles but that is not so. A number of philosophers have responded and have pointed out the flaws in his arguments. Keener takes a number of chapters to take us through this journey.
The section of the book that many will find most understanding are the modern accounts of miracles. Keener provides a large sample of miracle claims, broken down by regions of the world.
I had a couple of responses to this. I am a skeptic by nature and I found a number of claims less than convincing. But there were a number, that either Keener knew personally or who had medical documentation, that sounded very plausible.
Here is the thing about Keener’s goal, he is not trying to prove that every miracle claim is true. If even one of the many miracles he presents was in fact, an actual supernatural event, he has proven his point. He is showing that if miracles are even a possibility, we shouldn’t be so quick to discount the miracles in the Gospels and Acts.
If there was one thing I wish was in the miracle, it is some theological reflection about why God seems to heal some people and not others. What is the role of miraculous healings? Keener rejects the prosperity doctrine that healing is the right of ever believer, but a sick person reading the exciting accounts of healings could easily wonder if it was because of their lack of faith.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Miracles. Keener is gifted as both a scholar and an author and the books is quite readable. Keener is also a good example of how a Christian can be both a scholar and a devoted follower of Jesus.