An excerpt from Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts, by Craig S. Keener. From Pneuma Review Fall 2013.
From Part 4, “Proposed Explanations”
Chapter 15, “More Extranormal Cases”
Implications of and Prospects for Medical Documentation
Gardner insists that modern comparative examples can chasten our excessive tendency to skepticism of all ancient accounts. As an example of this approach, he analyzes one report of a missionary doctor in Pakistan where the patient is supposed to have recovered miraculously. Examining it as skeptically as possible based on the lacunae in the information, he concludes that the recovery could have occurred naturally (though not that it was invented). But because the source was a contemporary one, he was then able to obtain all the medical details and to show that the recovery was indeed extranormal (the woman may have “lost more than her total blood volume” in a forty-eight-hour period, with only two pints available to be added). He concludes that whereas “the normal techniques of historical scholarship” would have inclined us to dismiss the story, the availability of medical data in this case demonstrates that something quite unusual did (hence could) happen.71
That some doctors would testify to miracles is not as surprising as one might suppose if one assumed that all intellectuals accepted Hume’s view on miracles. In one 2004 national study of 1,100 physicians, 74 percent responded that they believed “that miracles have occurred in the past,” while almost the same number, 73 percent, affirm that they “can occur today.” The majority of physicians (59 percent) pray for their patients, and roughly 46 percent encourage patients to pray at least partly for God to answer their prayers. What might be the largest surprise in the survey, however, is that 55 percent of physicians claimed to “have seen treatment results in their patients that they would consider miraculous.”72
This excerpt is from Craig S. Keener, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts, 2 volumes, Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2011. Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.
Footnotes appear in the full digital issue of Pneuma Review Fall 2013 and in the book from which this excerpt is derived.