““”Studies In Theology” And Hume’s “Essay On Miracles” -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 071:281 (Jan 1914)
Article: ““”Studies In Theology” And Hume’s “Essay On Miracles”
Author: Anonymous


““”Studies In Theology” And Hume’s “Essay On Miracles”1

Hon. F. J. Lamb

A book by A. C. McGiffert, Professor of Church History in the Union Theological Seminary, New York, is before the public.2 It is advertised as one of a series of twelve volumes already published or in preparation. The announced aim or purpose of this Library of twelve volumes, called “Studies in Theology,” is “to bring all the resources of modern learning to the interpretation of the Scriptures, and to place within the reach of all who are interested the broad conclusions of men of distinction in the world of Christian scholarship on the great problems of Faith and Destiny.” Organizing these twelve volumes into a Library for teaching in Theology is evidence that justifies the conclusion that distinct teaching of any important doctrine of Christian Theology in any book of the series is the doctrine of the Library as an organic whole. An opposite conclusion would make the Library self-destructive — a house divided against itself.

Our attention has been specially called to the teaching of Professor McGiffert’s book on the subject of Scripture Miracles. It is found at page 221, and is based on the hostile “Essay on Miracles “by the skeptic David Hume :—

“Critics of Hume are quite right in saying that it is not necessarily impossible to prove a miracle, that is, they are right if a miracle be understood simply as an otherwise unheard-of event inexplicable in the light of our present knowledge. But Hume was really concerned primarily to destroy the apologetic value of miracles [i.e., in our unlatinized vernacular, to destroy the testimony of God given to men through the Scripture miracles], and for that purpose his argument was valid, and has never been successfully refuted. That it cannot be historically proved that any particular event was wrought by a supernatural power with the purpose of testifying to a person’s divine commission, is a commonplace among historians to-day. For such proof assumes a complete knowledge of all possible natural forces which may have operated to produce the event, a knowledge of which no one now thinks of pretending. While Hume’s essay then tended to throw discredit upon all reports of wonderful and unusual events, it did not show them to be unprovable, but it did destroy the apologetic value which had been ascribed to them. Against the apologetic position of the day Hume’s argument was really final. Miracles had been regarded, not simply as a proof, but the supreme proof of Christianity. This they could no longer be where his essay was understood....

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