A Jurisprudential Analysis Of Hume’s ‘In Principal’ Argument Against Miracles -- By: Paul K. Hoffman

Journal: Christian Apologetics Journal
Volume: CAJ 02:1 (Spring 1999)
Article: A Jurisprudential Analysis Of Hume’s ‘In Principal’ Argument Against Miracles
Author: Paul K. Hoffman

A Jurisprudential Analysis Of Hume’s ‘In Principal’ Argument Against Miracles

Paul K. Hoffman


The curious durability and effectiveness of Hume’s argument against miracles has spawned an impressive array of scholarly critiques by theists. Unfortunately these works have often fallen on deaf secular ears. Hume not only seized but somehow cemented the secular mind with his naturalistic skepticism. Contemporary Christian apologists seem to be preaching only to a supernaturalist choir.

Though there are few modern institutions more dominated or more cherished by secularists than our judicial system, it struck me that here the Christian apologist may have a ready forum. If they will not come to our church, perhaps we should go to theirs. And so I have brought the classic critiques of Hume into the modern temple of the courtroom. As a journeyman lawyer I was not surprised to discover the law of the land supports the apologists’ long stated contention that Hume’s argument from “uniform experience” is simply illogical and is therefore irrelevant— so say the Courts of America. It is my hope that the preaching of this truth may be heard by a heretofore disinterested congregation. He who has ears hear, let him hear what the Courts say about Hume.

Hume’s Philosophical Argument Fails

David Hume has contended that no reasonable man can or should believe in miracles; they are incredible by definition and simply not to be believed.1 His formal argument against miracles is two pronged: miracles are (a) incredible in principal and (b) incredible in fact.2 His ‘in principal’ argument is essentially a claim that the evidence against any given miracle will always outweigh the evidence in its favor. The argument may be summarized as follows:

A. Knowledge and beliefs are founded upon experience. The more common or uniform our experience, the more certain our belief and knowledge.

B. Natural laws are established by firm and unalterable uniform experience. Hence one can have no greater knowledge or belief than that which affirms a natural law; the “proof” we have for natural laws is the greatest possible of all possible proofs.

C. A miracle is a violation of natural law.

D. The evidence favoring the inviolate character of natural laws is always greater than the evidence of any particular miracle.

E. The wise man always proportions his belief relative to the evidence.

F. Therefore, a wise man can never believe in any miracl...

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