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A skeptic said it is intellectually dishonest for me to believe in miracles in the Bible but not in the Qur'an. Is it?

What are some Biblical basis for not believing in every miracle, or that every miracle is from God?

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    Your mistake is in giving any weight to what a skeptic is telling you about your beliefs. This person is not interested in your best interests. – KorvinStarmast Jan 14 '19 at 18:57
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    @KorvinStarmast you are definitely right. But ignoring their objections indefinitely doesn't seem like an option either. – BalancedTryteOperators Jan 15 '19 at 4:37
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The simplest answer is that our acceptance of a recorded miracle is contingent on whether we think that record is accurate or not.

As a Christian I personally believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, and so I accept that the miracles it describes did actually happen. I do not believe the Quran was inspired by God. There is therefore no inconsistency or dishonesty in accepting the miracles of the Bible and not of the Quran, just as I do not have to accept the claimed miracles of other religions, or even the claimed miracles of Christians that are outside the Bible.

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The magicians of Pharaoh performed miracles, copying Moses' works when Moses was sent to Egypt to deliver Israel.

And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said. Exodus 7:22 [KJV]

Jesus warns that :

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many miracles (δυναμεις) ? Matthew 7:22 [KJV]

But he shall say to them :

I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Matthew 7:23 [KJV]

Paul also says :

though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. I Corinthians 13:2. [KJV]

It is prophesied in the Apocalypse that in the last days that which is termed the second beast and the false prophet works miracles on earth in order to encourage worship towards an entity other than God :

And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. Revelation 13:12,13 [KJV]

So, not every miracle is of God.

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The skeptic's position contains some assumptions:

  • He assumes that the miracles related in both religious texts are utter fiction.
  • He quietly slips in the unwarranted premise that nobody believes either book from honest motives.
  • From these false assumptions he infers that you prefer one set of miracles over the other for reasons having nothing to do with their factual basis (or lack thereof).

Looks to me like this skeptic is the one being intellectually dishonest. The second assumption is particularly egregious.

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Before giving an answer directly two things of note:

  1. It is intellectually dishonest of a die-hard skeptic to pretend that his/her reasons for rejecting Christ and the Bible are intellectual reasons. The real reason is the love of sin, an unwillingness to give it up, and a proud hatred of being reproved.

This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For everyone that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light lest his deeds should be reproved. John 3:19,20.

  1. As regards the Qu'ran, which miracles is the skeptic talking about? Has he read the Qu'ran? I have read it and I don't remember any miracles attributed to Muhammed or his followers. I think he doesn't know what he is talking about. The only miracles referred to in the Qu'ran that I remember are those accounts which draw passages out of either the Bible or the Gnostic writings. All the miracles in the Qu'ran relate to the actual life (Bible), or supposed life (Gnostic writings) of Jesus. The skeptics criticism really boils down to "Why do Christians accept the Gospels in the Bible and reject the Gnostic writings about Jesus, such as the Gospel of Thomas?" Anyone who compares the Gospels in the Bible with the Gnostic "gospels" should be able to see why the Gnostic writings were rejected.

  2. Attack is the best form of defence; so the first response to the such an accusation is to go on the attack and ask the skeptic: "Do you mind being honest with me and yourself? Give me a true answer: if I could prove to you that the Bible is the fully inspired and true word of the living God would you be willing to give up your current lifestyle and follow the Lord Jesus Christ?" If they duck the question with evasive answers then tell them plainly that therein lies their problem, they are not willing to give up sin. Their intellectual smokescreen is just a ploy.

Direct Answers to the question

  1. The Bible claims to be the only word of God. If we believe the Bible then it would be intellectually inconsistent to also believe the Qur'an. It would also be intellectually dishonest to pretend to believe both. You cannot believe the Bible to be God's only book and then also believe another book to be inspired. The Bible will not let anyone do that. (Revelation 22:18,19).

  2. The Bible and the Qur'an completely disagree on fundamentals. They cannot both be from God. Miracles are given to authenticate a book i.e. to show it is from God. Why would God allow true authentcating miracles in a book which is not from Him?

The Bible and the Qu'ran differ: on the death of Christ - Bible- he died on the cross for our sins; Qur'an- someone who looked like Jesus died on the cross, Jesus went straight to heaven without dying (surah 4:157).

The way of salvation B- by grace through faith in Christ as a free gift of God's grace, we cannot earn or deserve mercy, else it isn't mercy; Q- salvation is through our own works. We get what we deserve.

B- Christ took the punishment for our sins, Q- no one else can take your punishment, we must all receive justice from God.

B- love is the greatest commandment, Q- jihad, holy war against those who do not believe in Mohammed, is the greatest commandment (according to the most traditional interpretation of the Qur'an, whereby Surah 9 is the last, and so the most authoritative of the surahs, and according to the Hadith) and "Let those who would exchange their life in this world for the hereafter fight for the cause of Allah; whether they die or conquer we shall richly reward them." (surah 4:74);

B- Jesus is the Son of God, God made flesh; Q- God has no son, Jesus was just a prophet.

B- We can be saved even if we have done the most terrible sins, if afterwards we truly repent and believe; Q- Only smaller sins can be forgiven (Surah 53:32).

B- Divorce is a very serious matter, Q- Even Mohammed himself persuaded a divorce so he could marry the divorced woman;

B-love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her, Q- Disobedient wives are to be beaten "Send them to their beds apart and beat them" (Surah 4:34).

These are just some examples to show the two books are very different, and it cannot be the same God inspiring both books. Seeing as there is only one God, then God cannot be inspiring both of them, and God would not put true miracles in a book which is not from Him.

  1. Even if there were lots of miracles in the Qur'an we still would not be dishonest to doubt them. What is needed first and foremost of a book from God is that its moral standards be very high, and its leader (Christ, Mohammed, etc) have an exemplary life. Christ's life was without sin, Mohammed's life was not exemplary. The moral standards of the Bible are exemplary, the moral standards of the Qur'an are not. It is this combination of very high moral standards and authenticating miracles which together combine to make the Bible believable. The good standards of the people show they are not liars, but honest, true, good, loving, with the best interests of the reader at heart; the miracles show the book and its authors are of God.

An important question of any religion and any religious book is what is the motivation of those who promote it/ preach it? Who does it benefit? and in particular Does it benefit only its own leaders? All false religions promise great freedom to all who follow but mostly only benefit the leaders, it gives them control, power over other people's lives, and money from the followers.

But what did Christ gain for his efforts? Crucifixion. What do his followers often gain for their efforts? Rejection, persecution, and sometimes death at the hands of opposers. The benefits of following Christ are not of this world. The benefits are not so obvious to onlookers, because the benefits are unseen things like a relationship with God, a clear conscience, freedom from guilt, answers to prayer, and an eternity in heaven. The leaders of the Christian community are called to be the servants of all, figuratively to wash the feet of all (John 13:13).

True religion pursues heavenly things, and false religions pursue earthly things - power, influence and wealth.

For further reading on the Gnostic writings and why they were rejected by the early church see "Why 27?" by Brian Edwards (Its about Why are there (only) 27 books in the New Testament).

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Your skeptic friend's opinion is certainly understandable at first glance. It may well be intellectually dishonest to use different criteria to evaluate different miracles. So the question then becomes: is that the case? Are the criteria different? That depends.

First, you have talked about "believing in miracles". This may not be the same as believing in a miracle. In the one case we are asking whether miracles are possible in principle. In the other case we are deciding a particular miracle did or did not happen.

Given that distinction there are a range of logically consistent positions, even when considering only the Biblical miracles. For example, two people might both believe that miracles are possible and yet have a different opinion on the reading of a particular miracle story. Did Joshua command the sun to stand still for a whole day? (see Joshua 10) Some people will read this text as a historical and miraculous event; others will read it as a poetical description, requiring no miraculous element on this occasion. The key here is that the evaluation of a particular miracle story requires us to interpret the story as well as decide on its truthfulness.

Another example is Matthew's account of the saints coming out of the tombs on the day of Jesus' death. In Matthew 27 we read:

When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. (verses 50-53)

I have read of at least these understandings of the passage:

  1. The account is historical and is true.
  2. The account is intended to be historical but can't seriously be treated as historical. (This, even though the person who said this was happy to accept other gospel miracles as true.)
  3. The account is written in apocalyptic language to interpret Jesus' death as the day of the Lord. It was never intended to be read as a historical event.
  4. The account is a legendary addition to the original text of Matthew's gospel.

I am not arguing for or against any of those views. My point here is rather that all of them are logically consistent with "believing in miracles". It's perfectly possible for any of us to believe in God's ability to perform miracles and yet have reasons why we question particular miracles.

When it comes to considering miraculous stories outside the Bible, the same idea applies. In his book "Miracles" C S Lewis talks about assessing individual miracles based on their sense of fitness, on how consistent they are with the big picture of God at work. And he says that we all recognise some miracles as being more or less plausible:

Whatever men may say no one really thinks that the Christian doctrine of the resurrection is exactly on the same level with some pious tittle-tattle about how Mother Egaree Louise miraculously found her second best thimble by the aid of St. Anthony...Even those who think all stories of miracles absurd think some very much more absurd than others; even those who believe them all (if anyone does) think that some require a specially robust faith.

So to take the example of the OP: suppose I study the Christian story and the Muslim story and conclude that Christianity is most in harmony with God's work of salvation. In that case, to hold a stronger view of the reliability of the miracles in that story would be consistent with my confidence in the overall Christian story. In the same way, to reject particular stories in the Quran because I have rejected the big story of the Quran, that too would be consistent.

But it's equally rational to go the other way. The essence of a miracle is that it is a free action of a God who is at liberty to do in a particular setting whatever he chooses. Suppose a Muslim woman prays to Allah for the healing of her sick son, and God in his mercy chooses to answer that prayer. Which of us can say that the sovereign God is out of order in this case? I don't have the detailed knowledge to accurately assess miracle stories in the Quran. But if any of them turned out to be factual miracle stories, that would not put a dent in my Christian world view. It would simply illustrate that God is good, God is merciful, and God is free to act in any way he chooses for the well being of his creation.

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It is possible (though maybe unlikely) he was primarily refer to the "duplicated" miracles, the ones that occur in both the Quran and the Bible, as the Quran many stories from the Bible (and also many from apocraphyl texts, such as the Arabic Infancy Gospel). Examples would be the virgin birth and the red sea and others. So you could say that you believe the ones that the Quran also affirms, as the Quran agrees that Jesus could work miracles (and that Muhammad can't/wouldn't).

That does not mean, however, that we should believe the miracle of the Quran itself, or Jesus breathing into clay birds or speaking as a baby. These last 2 come from the rejected Infancy Gospel of Thomas that Muhammad would have known by the Arabic infancy Gospel.

So asking him what he means by that and which miracles he is referring to would be good. If there is good evidence for the truth of the Quran or of its recorded miracles, then perhaps they can be conceded. The resurrection, on the other hand, is by far the best explanation of the data.

As the others have said, if you believe miracles that have multiple, early, independent attestation of eyewitness testimony, that is different than believing a miracle just because its a miracle.

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