Miracles, Exorcisms, ID and the spread of the Gospel (thinking of VJ Torley)

Astronaut Charles Duke became a Christian after he returned to Earth after being the youngest man to ever walk on the moon and after finding himself in a troubled marriage and problems with alcoholism. The Christian faith restored his marriage and brought sobriety into his life, and sometime thereafter he led a prayer meeting where a blind girl recovered her sight. Somewhere in all his life’s saga, he also became a Creationist.

One of the people who posted at TheSkepticalZone, Richard B. Hoppe (RBH), knew of Duke, perhaps even personally since RBH worked on the Apollo program intimately. When I confronted RBH about Duke’s Christianity and Creationism, RBH (normally quick to criticize Christian Creationists) became strangely silent. No one to my knowledge has questioned Charles Duke’s credibility or integrity as far a making up stories to draw attention to himself or make Christian converts. After all, he was a national hero, an air force general, an astronaut, and a successful businessman. Unlike a televangelist, there is little reason for him to make up stories of miracles.

I had the privilege of meeting Charle Duke when he spoke at a College Christian event…

But further to the point regarding miracles, Kim-Kwong Chan is the author of a scholarly work on Protestanism in China (published by Cambridge University Press, 1994). He writes about miracles in China here:

https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/interview-miracles-after-missions

Why is the Chinese church growing so rapidly at this time?

There are three basic reasons.

First, there is an ideological vacuum in China.

Second, Christianity provides people with an intimate social experience: love, caring, concern, and fellowship.
….
Third, there are the miracles. When I travel to the interior of China, the Christian communities all claim they’ve seen and experienced miracles.

What type of miracles?

One typical example: An old Christian woman in one village decided, after her eightieth birthday, to start preaching the gospel. She went to the village where her daughter lived and began to preach there. Some villagers who had been afflicted with various incurable diseases, like cancer, came to this woman. When she prayed for them, many were suddenly healed.

Then two more people came to ask for healing, and she prayed, and they were healed. Then three more families. After this woman left, these villagers decided her God was very good. So they abandoned their idols and decided to believe in this Jesus.

But they didn’t know how to believe. So they sent one person to nearby towns to look for a place where people worshipped Jesus. When they finally found such a church, they told the pastor, “We have 80 people in our village who want to believe in Jesus. But we don’t know how to believe in Jesus.”

After that, a new church was started. I hear such stories all the time in my travels.

How do the local government officials react?

That’s another interesting set of stories I hear. People tell me that if local officials try to harass Christians, many of them get strange diseases.

In one case, I was told that the local communist party boss couldn’t speak any longer because his tongue got stuck out; he couldn’t put his tongue back into his mouth again. After he repented and became a Christian, suddenly his tongue moved, and he could speak again. Afterwards, more people became Christians.

I don’t know if such instances are psychosomatic; I haven’t followed up to confirm each story. But I hear these kind of testimonies in most of the villages I enter.

Also, Dr. Craig Keener, professor of New Testament and history, gave a talk at Paul Nelson’s school, Biola on miracles.

Keener mentions the account of Blaise Pascal’s niece being healed immediately of blindness and Hume’s reaction to the documented incident. Keener raises some interesting philosophical questions regarding Hume’s dismissal of the miracle.

The account of Pascal’s niece is included in Keener’s two-part lecture on miracles, and a few cases of physician-documented cases of healing and dead being raised.

See:
Miracles Part 1
Miracles Part 2

Also, the number one Creationist book in 2018/2019 was about the connection of UFOs to demonic activity. President of Creation Ministries Internation, Gary Bates gives a lecture on his book and movie about UFOs, Demons, and Evolutionism:

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2224727887642640

I found an account in USA today that covered police reports and social workers who dealt with a family that had encounters with demons:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/01/27/family-possessed-seeks-exorcism/4939953/

Christianity is spreading in China, Africa, Iran, and India partly due to miracles and exorcisms.

Now, some skeptics say they want repeatability and then they would believe such as the James Randi challenge (which I posted on here at TSZ):

James Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge, Intelligent Designer’s Elusiveness

And one might question, “why doesn’t God heal everyone.” Or “why is God so hidden, why isn’t he as obvious to our senses as the air we breathe.” Certainly, I’ve thought about those questions myself.

I believe a light switch exists because I can use it to control a light bulb. But if one could work miracles on demand like operating a light switch, and thus believe in miracles, at that point, wouldn’t one be God? Thus if prayer could reliably heal, it wouldn’t be a miracle or act of God, because the miracle would be at our whims, not God’s.

So this leads to a paradox — if miracles are at God’s whim’s not ours, and if miracles are through processes beyond our understanding and control, can we believe in them? It is far easier to believe in things we can control and understand, but could we ever believe in something we can’t control and understand — like God, Intelligent Design, etc.? I guess each individual has his opinion on these matters.

Finally, what about multiple universes, or some other naturalistic mechanism? Suppose I were that blind girl in Duke’s account, or better yet the blind beggar in John chapter 9 whom Jesus healed? If I were that blind beggar and Jesus healed me, would I look for multiverse explanations, or would I follow Jesus the rest of my life and put my faith and trust in Him rather than the multiverse. On a personal level, I would choose Jesus over multiverses.

[I thought of my friend and colleague VJ Torley as I wrote this. I hope he will weigh in.]

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53 thoughts on “Miracles, Exorcisms, ID and the spread of the Gospel (thinking of VJ Torley)

  1. So this leads to a paradox — if miracles are at God’s whim’s not ours, and if miracles are through processes beyond our understanding and control, can we believe in them? It is far easier to believe in things we can control and understand, but could we ever believe in something we can’t control and understand — like God, Intelligent Design, etc.? I guess each individual has his opinion on these matters.

    Explaining mysterious and frightening phenomena as the doings of a benevolent and caring God is taking control of them.

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  2. Hi Sal,

    Thanks very much for your latest post. I’d just like to make a few comments.

    The family that had encounters with demons (the Ammons haunting case, also known as the 200 Demons House or Demon House)

    You cited an article from USA Today (27 January 2014) about the case. In my opinion, the article was far too credulous. You can read another take on the story here, over at Wikipedia. Here’s a brief excerpt:

    Physician Geoffrey Onyeukwu had been skeptical of the entire incident and failed to witness any paranormal incidents. In his medical notes he wrote, “delusions of ghost in home” and “hallucinations”.[5] Ammons’ children had a history of “irregular school attendance” with a complaint filed against Ammons in 2009. In 2012, she blamed her children’s continued irregular attendance on the purported demonic activities.[4]

    According to skeptical investigator Joe Nickell, police chief Charles Austin was “an admitted believer in the supernatural, including ghosts”. Nickell reported that the photo published by the Indianapolis Star and captioned “Photo by Hammond Police” was, according to the Hammond police chief, not an official photo and was not taken by Hammond police authorities. Nickell also interviewed a number of witnesses and concluded that there were a number of non-supernatural explanations for the claimed supernatural events.[4]

    Charles Reed, the landlord, stated he had never experienced any supernatural events at the house. His prior tenants also claimed to never have such experiences. At the time, Ammons was behind on lease and used the claimed paranormal activities to avoid payments. The tenant who moved in after Ammons had not noticed any paranormal events, either. Reed believed the events were a hoax.[4]

    The children were interviewed by psychologists, and several professionals concluded “the children were acting deceptively and in accordance with their mother’s beliefs”. Tracy Wright, a psychologist, noted that the youngest son “acted possessed” whenever he was challenged or was asked “questions that he did not wish to answer”.[4]

    References
    [4] Nickell, Joe (2014-05-31). “The ‘200 Demons’ House: A Skeptical Demonologist’s Report”.

    [5] Kwiatkowski, Marisa (2014-01-27). “Strange events lead Ind. family to resort to exorcism”. USA TODAY.

    That puts a different perspective on things, doesn’t it?

    In my next comment. I’ll discuss Craig Keener’s miracle claims.

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  3. The James Randi challenge. Ho, ho, ho, bollocks…

    Now we are getting into real skeptic nonsense.

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  4. What is the definition of miracle? How do you objectively determine if an event was a miracle and not just good luck?

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  5. vjtorley,

    That puts a different perspective on things, doesn’t it?

    Thank you for responding! I very much wanted to hear the other side of the issue on this particular case. There is so many claims and counter claims, I’ve had a hard time sifting through all the noise. I wasn’t aware of what you just posted. Thank you!

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  6. Corneel: Explaining mysterious and frightening phenomena as the doings of a benevolent and caring God is taking control of them.

    Not in the engineering sense.

    In the engineering sense, we can believe something happens when we can build a machine that does the same thing. There are many examples in World War 2 where one side deduced that the opponent had some capability because they were thinking and working to build something similar.

    For example, in the Battle of Britain when the Nazi Luftwaffe would swarm their airplanes in mass attacks on England, they were disturbed to always see the British Royal Airforce perfectly positioned to intercept them. They didn’t quite understand what was going on. The RAF was using the new top secret invention we now cal RADAR!

    Goering suspected something was going on with those huge antennas along the coast, he had a few bombs dropped on the antennas and then stopped bombing them them after the first day of a 3-month battle because he dismissed their importance. The Germans eventually figured out the technology and built their own radar.

    I’m pretty sure we’re not going to figure out just the right words for a prayer to say to make miracles happen, nor do I think we’ll find a way to make a tornado assemble a 747, nor will we make life (or something of comparable complexity) arise spontaneously in an abiogenesis experiment. At some point, particularly for abiogenesis, some of us believe a miracle that is forever beyond mortal understanding is the best explanation.

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  7. Regarding police chief Austin in the Latoya Ammon case:

    Police Capt. Charles Austin said it was the strangest story he had ever heard.

    Austin, a 36-year veteran of the Gary Police Department, said he initially thought Indianapolis resident Latoya Ammons and her family concocted an elaborate tale of demon possessions and supernatural occurrences as a way to make money. But after several visits to their home and interviews with witnesses, Austin said simply, “I am a believer.”

    In contrast the Wiki article states:

    According to skeptical investigator Joe Nickell, police chief Charles Austin was “an admitted believer in the supernatural, including ghosts”. Nickell reported that the photo published by the Indianapolis Star and captioned “Photo by Hammond Police” was, according to the Hammond police chief, not an official photo and was not taken by Hammond police authorities. Nickell also interviewed a number of witnesses and concluded that there were a number of non-supernatural explanations for the claimed supernatural events.[4]

    I think the Wiki article has a slanted or at least different take on the case than USA today. I saw a video testimony of Austin. This is a tough call. News outlets need a bit of sensationalism to keep and get subscribers.

    There was a supposed DCS report of social workers reported by USA Today:

    According to Washington’s original DCS report— an account corroborated by Walker, the nurse — the 9-year-old had a “weird grin” and walked backward up a wall to the ceiling. He then flipped over Campbell, landing on his feet. He never let go of his grandmother’s hand.

    “He walked up the wall, flipped over her and stood there,” Walker told The Star. “There’s no way he could’ve done that.”

    Walker, who said he previously believed in demons and spirits, thought the boy’s behavior had “some demonic spirit to it” but also was the result of a mental illness.

    For myself, at age 13 or so, I had seen an apparition the night before my Catholic confirmation at St. Anthony’s in Falls Church, Virginia, though I’m now a Protestant. We were singing hymns in church and then someone flipped a light on (or so I thought). I was a bit annoyed since I thought someone was playing with the church lights. I briefly looked up and saw what I thought was florescent light near the cross in the center of the sanctuary. I continued singing, then looked again and realized it wasn’t an electric light but rather a tongue of fire coming out of the right hand of the cross. It then disappeared. I went home and thought I was going to die, I was scared….

    Nothing like that every happened again in my life. There is Charles Bonnet syndrome, where people can see things, but that probably wasn’t the cause. It’s possible some other neurological phenomenon generated the image. On some level, I hope that’s the case.

    For such reasons like Charles Bonnet syndrome or other neurological phenomenon creating visions or whatever, I place more weight on the miracle of abiogenesis as evidence of the supernatural.

    I had been a volunteer at James Madison University (JMU) teaching intelligent design for 12 years informally or talking and listening to students. People already Christian were always friendly to my talks. I talked to 200 to 1000 students over that time, and only one non-Christian that I know of got converted in part because of my talks. That student was the one person I know who claims to have seen a miracle of healing in the name of Jesus. She remained an agnostic for about 3 years after the miracle of healing, but shortly after I spoke to her, and through the witness of her college friends, she became a Christian. I would occasionally see her at the JMU dining hall with her friends, almost always reading out her Bible to others seated at her table.

    I’m fairly convinced my words weren’t the primary reason she seemed so devoted to the Christian faith, but rather how God worked in her life, beginning with a miracle of healing 3 or so years earlier.

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  8. Hi Sal,

    Now, I’d like to address your miracle claims. You cite Craig Keener’s 2011 book, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. Have you read Chris Sandoval’s damning critical review? And what about this mixed review by David Marshall?

    Here’s an excerpt from Sandoval’s critical review:

    Keener (p. 1139 in the Index) makes over forty references to the mighty miracles surrounding the ministry of Indonesian evangelist Mel Tari (b. 1946), one of the leaders of the Indonesian Revival that began in the town of Soe on the island of Timor as discussed below. He brought his message to the United States, getting rich to the tune of 2.7 million dollars by selling his books, making appearances on radio, television, and in person—and becoming vice president of a campground company named All Seasons Resorts. In the process, he bilked Christian missionary Christine Kline of her inheritance of nearly half a million dollars.

    Keener shows questionable judgment in other ways as well, all documented on the Internet. He mentions with total approval the Christian healing ministry of the African prophet Simon Kimbangu (p. 227). The problem is that the Kimbanguist Church maintains that Kimbangu was an incarnation of the Holy Spirit. Keener also endorses the miracles of the East Indian Christian preacher Sadhu Sundar Singh (pp. 280–281). The problem is that Singh dabbled in the heresies of Emanuel Swedenborg, a fact admitted by Keener only in passing in a footnote (p. 876n55). Keener claims the black African preacher William Wadé Harris ca. 1913–15 won over a hundred thousand souls for Christ (pp. 227–228, 846). The problem is that Harris was a polygamist and gave his blessing to the polygamous marriages of his followers…

    Keener uncritically accepts accounts of miracles of biblical proportions in Indonesia in the late 1960s (pp. 287–290). In reality, as we see in his book Indonesia Revival; Focus on Timor, Professor George W. Peters of Dallas Theological Seminary interviewed the relevant eyewitnesses on the scene, and told a different and more modest story. Overall, Peters felt he saw the hand of God at work in the Indonesian Revival. He took for granted that in the midst of the local Christians there had been genuine supernatural healings, exorcisms, visions, prophecies, and spiritual warfare against witches and their diabolical miracles (pp. 58–63). However, he politely chided the unbiblical excesses of some overly zealous believers. Furthermore, he questioned exaggerated claims of nature miracles like Indonesians walking on water and turning water into wine, inasmuch as the alleged witnesses of and participants in these events were contradicting one another and resorting to name-calling. His research demonstrates that Keener’s claims about the Indonesian Revival are misguided and exaggerated…

    Keener has collected many eyewitness accounts of mighty miracles performed by Pentecostal Christians in sub-Saharan Africa in our own time (pp. 309–338). However, other travelers to that part of the world tell a shockingly different story. A simple Google web search turns up many thousands of hits describing the witch hunts in Sub-Saharan Africa conducted by unscrupulous native Pentecostal preachers. These men of God live in palaces while their flocks live in poverty. To generate the income necessary to support their lavish lifestyles, they lure followers into their churches by claiming miraculous powers of healing and performing their notorious witch hunts. By the power of the Holy Spirit, these Christian leaders claim to identify dangerous child witches who fly about at night on broomsticks and avocado skins and who use Satan’s power to sicken and kill people. When parents suspect their children of witchcraft, they pay these preachers exorbitant sums of money to perform exorcisms. Thus pre-teen children are routinely beaten, burned, and tortured in the rituals of exorcism, and then killed or thrown into the streets to fend for themselves (Cimpric, Aleksandra, 2010, Children Accused of Witchcraft: An Anthropological Study of Contemporary Practices in Africa. Unicef. Website Online).

    The closest Keener ever comes to engaging these allegations is to claim that despite some aberrations like a few old ladies burned at the stake as witches, plenty of eyewitnesses both native and western have testified that real witches maim and kill people with real supernatural powers (pp. 802–809): “Nevertheless, despite frequent abuses and exaggerations, some people in many African societies do seek to practice malevolent sorcery as is inevitable in cultures that believe in sorcery” (p. 806). In other words, the abuses are scarcely worth mentioning, and he is totally silent about Pentecostal child abuse in Africa…

    In his zeal to debunk Hume, Keener is inconsistently eclectic. He cites massive eyewitness testimony of impressive miracles attributed to three conflicting religions: the Catholic shrine at Lourdes (pp. 385–387, 675–686), the Pentecostal faith healer Kathryn Kuhlman (pp. 459–468), and the Jansenist tomb of François de Pâris at Saint Médard in Paris in the early eighteenth century (pp. 163–165). However, they all condemn one another to hell, so logically they cannot all be true. Furthermore, each of these religions has cited its own miracles as credentials of God’s favor—yet Jansenism is a dead religion!

    So once Keener lowers his standards of evidence to embrace the miracles of all these different faiths, the results are chaos.

    Do you still regard Keener’s book as persuasive evidence for miracles?

    Finally, I’d like to comment on the situation in China (coming up next).

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  9. Hi Sal,

    Regarding the situation in China today, I note that the report you cite was written in 1996. Much has changed since then. Christianity in China is currently being severely persecuted, and driven underground. You might like to have a look at these articles:

    (1) The Attempted Shutdown of China’s Christians by Nina Shea (National Review, August 10th, 2020).

    In Three-Self Protestant churches in China last Christmas, robed choir members again raised their voices in song, but this time their music was not traditional carols and hymns of praise to God. It was “My Motherland and I” and other anthems of homage to the Chinese Communist Party. In the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (PCA) churches, the Virgin Mary’s pictures are being replaced with portraits of President Xi Jinping, while half of China’s 98 dioceses remain without a bishop nearly two years after the signing of the Sino–Vatican provisional agreement. Subjected to a myriad of new rules, pastors and priests in both denominations are being forced to base their homilies on Xi’s sayings, now part of the CCP constitution. The underground churches, which have existed in a gray zone for two decades, neither legal nor banned as “evil cults” — a classification of over a dozen illegal religions, such as Falun Gong and “Eastern Lightning,” a.k.a. the Church of Almighty God — are being shut by the thousands.

    In a world distracted by pandemic, China’s Communist government is aggressively consolidating dominance over its tens of millions of Christians. This should trouble all China observers, whether Christian or not….

    Now China is doubling down on the sinicization of Christianity. As the coronavirus spread, Beijing took new measures to sharply curb the knowledge and practice of Christianity within its borders and to enlist remaining church institutions in the tasks of party indoctrination and propaganda. In recent years, scholars have argued that, given the rate of growth of Christianity in China, the church there would become the world’s largest church by 2030. That projection needs recalibration.

    During the quarantine, the family church came to life in China. Many reports circulated of parents and their children enthusiastically reading the Bible aloud, lighting candles, and praying together in their homes. Local priests and pastors sent sermons on WeChat and made occasional, quiet home visits. During China’s shutdown, January to April, the government tolerated the livestreaming of services of some, but not all, churches. This is what could be called an “enhanced North Korean model,” where small, closely trusted groups of Christians pray together in secret, with, in China’s case, online church support for as long as they can circumvent China’s Great Firewall, or government Internet censorship. It may be the best hope that Christianity in China has for surviving the Xi era. This will be a shrinking Church with a diminished impact on Chinese culture.

    (2) In China, they’re closing churches, jailing pastors – and even rewriting scripture by Lily Kuo in Chengdu (The Guardian, January 13, 2019).

    “The government has orchestrated a campaign to ‘sinicise’ Christianity, to turn Christianity into a fully domesticated religion that would do the bidding of the party,” said Lian Xi, a professor at Duke University in North Carolina, who focuses on Christianity in modern China.

    Over the past year, local governments have shut hundreds of unofficial congregations or “house churches” that operate outside the government-approved church network, including Early Rain. A statement signed by 500 house church leaders in November says authorities have removed crosses from buildings, forced churches to hang the Chinese flag and sing patriotic songs, and barred minors from attending...

    “The goal of the crackdown is not to eradicate religions,” said Ying Fuk Tsang, director of the Christian Study Centre on Chinese Religion and Culture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “President Xi Jinping is trying to establish a new order on religion, suppressing its blistering development. [The government] aims to regulate the ‘religious market’ as a whole.”…

    “They have come to see the political potential of Christianity as a force for change,” said Lian. “What really makes the government nervous is Christianity’s claim to universal rights and values.”

    One of the goals of a government work plan for “promoting Chinese Christianity” between 2018 and 2022 is “thought reform”. The plan calls for “retranslating and annotating” the Bible, to find commonalities with socialism and establish a “correct understanding” of the text.

    “Ten years ago, we used to be able to say the party was not really interested in what people believed internally,” said [Eva] Pils, [professor of law at King’s College London, focusing on human rights]. “Xi Jinping’s response is much more invasive and it is in some ways returning to Mao-era attempts to control hearts and minds.”

    Bibles, sales of which have always been controlled in China, are no longer available for purchase online, a loophole that had existed for years. In December, Christmas celebrations were banned in several schools and cities across China.

    (3) China’s Christians keep the faith, rattling the country’s leaders by Tsukasa Hadano (Nikkei Asia, September 10, 2019).

    At the Communist Party Congress in 2017, President Xi Jinping stressed that leadership should “persist in advancing the Sinicization of our country’s religions,” indicating his intent to tighten control over religion. He followed through in 2018 with more regulations, including stricter registration requirements for religious organizations and harsher punishments for unauthorized meetings.

    There have also been overtones of harassment. A large sign has been erected next to the Haidian church with a slogan marking the 70th anniversary of the country’s founding. The sign admonishes citizens to “Follow the instructions and guidance of the Party.” In addition, the church is surrounded by a fence and manned by a police officer, who checks the bags of people entering the premises.

    The government is known to come down hard on even state-sanctioned churches if they fail to adhere to party “instructions and guidance,” pulling down crosses and ordering congregations to praise the party. This has driven many Christians to the non-state-sanctioned underground churches.

    On the other hand, the article also contains some very positive news:

    Christianity is on the rise in China, with the growing number of followers making Communist Party leaders nervous that the religion may soon undermine party dogma.

    Officially, there are about 44 million Christians in the country. But according to Freedom House, a U.S. human rights group, this number is closer to 100 million if those belonging to “underground” or “house churches” are included. Of these, about 60 to 80 million are Protestant and 12 million Catholic.

    (4) Prison Sentence for Pastor Shows China Feels Threatened by Spread of Christianity, Experts Say by Amy Gunia (Time, January 2, 2020).

    Chinese authorities have removed crosses and Christian slogans from churches, confiscated church property, ordered some churches to close and questioned some church leaders or members, according to rights group Amnesty International. Hundreds of Protestant house churches have been closed in recent years, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. In late 2018, one of the largest unofficial Protestant churches in China, the Zion church in Beijing, was shuttered…

    It’s not just Christians facing persecution in China, where an estimated 18% of the population is Buddhist and 2% of the population is Muslim. In far northwestern Xinjiang, more than a million Muslim-majority Uighurs and other ethnic minorities have been detained and subjected to “re-education” and evidence of large-scale destruction of mosques has been reported…

    “Over the last few years, we have seen increasing Chinese government persecution of religious believers from many faiths and from all parts of the mainland,” former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who is President Donald Trump’s Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, said on a conference call attended by TIME in early 2019.

    To be fair, the article has some very heartening news as well:

    Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology and the Director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University tells TIME that there are about 116 million Protestant Christians in mainland China in 2020.

    “It is almost certain that by 2030 there will be more Christians in China than any other country in the world,” Yang says. Christians in China are predominantly Protestant, he adds.

    Compare that with an estimated 90 million members in the Communist Party, and government leaders believe they have cause for concern, Willy Lam, adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Center for China Studies says.

    Underground churches are “spreading like wildfire” in rural areas of China, he says.

    Will Christianity continue to grow in China, or will it succumb to the government’s policy of Sinicization? For my part, I honestly don’t know, but I’m rather cautious. The first two articles cited above have a rather pessimistic outlook for the future, while the last two are much more optimistic.

    What I find noteworthy, however, is that none of these reports make any mention of alleged miracles occurring in China. The report you cite about miracles in China dates from 1996. Do you have anything more current? Also, do you have any documented cases?

    I’ll lay down my pen for now. Over to you, Sal.

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  10. So no one will define miracle. What a surprise. It seems to be “any event I don’t understand and believe was caused by the supernatural”.

    ALL SCIENCE SO FAR!

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  11. VJTorley:

    Have you read Chris Sandoval’s damning critical review?

    No, and that’s why I wanted to hear from you!

    I knew you had a favorable view of the miracles of Fatima, so I thought if you had a contrary view of any account of a miracle, your view would hold more weight with me, and I should not reference something as evidence.

    Thank you again for responding.

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  12. Adapa: So no one will define miracle. What a surprise. It seems to be “any event I don’t understand and believe was caused by the supernatural”.

    I’m not sure you need “was caused by the supernatural”.

    The definition “any event I don’t understand and believe” seems to cover all bases.

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  13. Miracle is something inconsistent with accepted laws of physics and chemistry.

    The form of an argument from ignorance:

    I don’t know how a tornado can for a 747 from a junkyard

    The form of an argument by contradiction:

    A tornado passing through a junkyard is not expected to make a 747, therefore if a tornado created a 747 by passing through a junkyard it would be a miracle in the statistical sense

    Abiogenesis is a miracle in the statistical sense.

    At what point is a statistical miracle also a supernatural miracle? There is no formal answer to that, imho, but each person decides, just like the blind beggar healed by in John 9 or that blind girl healed after the prayer of Charles Duke in the name of Jesus.

    The more troubling question, imho, is why God hides himself from easy observation and documentation.

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  14. stcordova: The more troubling question, imho, is why God hides himself from easy observation and documentation.

    Perhaps it is His way of giving a big hint that He doesn’t actually exist.

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  15. Neil Rickert: Perhaps it is His way of giving a big hint that He doesn’t actually exist.

    I think the Hidden God is the major reason for atheism.

    Truly, You are a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Savior!

    Isaiah 45:15

    But if God is really, God revealing himself to some (like the 500 witnesses of Jesus after the Resurrection) and not to others raises its own issues.

    Btw, I thought Lydia McGrew’s advocacy of the 500 witnesses somehow being adequate and convincing evidence of Christ’s resurrection is flawed. It’s not convincing to most, and that is by Design, imho.

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  16. “I saw something”
    “I was ill but I got better”
    “Someone says someone else behaved weird but then stopped”

    Clearly magic is real, and once upon a time THE POWER OF THINKING DESPITE NOT HAVING A BRAIN wished everyone and everything into existence without actually doing anything, or having any materials to make it from, and no limbs with which to manipulate it.

    THE POWER OF THINKING DESPITE NOT HAVING A BRAIN also wants you to believe it exists so that it can save you from what it’s going to do to you if you don’t believe it exists.

    The end.

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  17. stcordova: Btw, I thought Lydia McGrew’s advocacy of the 500 witnesses somehow being adequate and convincing evidence of Christ’s resurrection is flawed. It’s not convincing to most, and that is by Design, imho.

    This evidence(the mere claim that there were 500 witnesses) is intentionally designed not to be convincing. O-kay.

    ROFL

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  18. stcordova: I think the Hidden God is the major reason for atheism.

    Not for me. Rather the opposite: there are far too many Gods throughout history. They are virtually everywhere, and they are all different. A pretty good sign that they are invented by humans.

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  19. Rumraket: This evidence(the mere claim that there were 500 witnesses) is intentionally designed not to be convincing. O-kay.

    ROFL

    God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false

    2 Thess 2:11

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  20. stcordova: Miracle is something inconsistent with accepted laws of physics and chemistry.

    Now we get the subjective weasel word “inconsistent”. Sal will go to any length to make his religious beliefs sound “sciency”.

    Abiogenesis is a miracle in the statistical sense.

    More nonsense from Sal as no one has ever demonstrated any statistics for abiogenesis or shown it was inconsistent with accepted laws of physics and chemistry. It’s more 100% ignorance based personal incredulity as always.

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  21. stcordova:
    Abiogenesis is a miracle in the statistical sense.

    Since almost everything in our universe is unique, I suppose we live surrounded by statistical miracles. What are the odds against Sal being conceived? Consider the number of possible parents, the number of sperm to select from, the incredible unimaginable number of those never conceived at all. And despite odds defying comprehension, mirabile dictu, we have Sal Cordova.

    1+
  22. since almost everything in our universe is unique,

    Uniqueness is not the issue, it’s a configuration that is far from mean expectation.

    There was 1.5 year discussion on this issue here at TSZ:

    https://uncommondescent.com/mathematics/ssdd-a-22-sigma-event-is-consistent-with-the-physics-of-fair-coins/

    The configurations of life are far from chemical expectation such as the homogeneous linkages in DNA arising from a pre-biotic environment. I would suppose the same issue could be raised for homomeric proteins arising without a genome — like say helicase.

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  23. stcordova: Miracle is something inconsistent with accepted laws of physics and chemistry.

    Then what is quantum entanglement?

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  24. stcordova: Uniqueness is not the issue, it’s a configuration that is far from mean expectation.

    And how do you determine the “mean expectation” of everything that happens only once? By coming up with some range of things that you consider sort of similar? Like, all the different forces of gravity, all the different big bangs, all the different…wait, there IS no “mean expectation for anything like these. How about the mean expectation for the origination of a religion? Here we have a good selection – multiple charismatic figures who were born of virgins, sons of gods, rose from the dead, performed miracles, etc. Some of these folks might have existed, more or less. YOUR religion is spang down the center of the mean expectation for such things. Nothing noteworthy there.

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  25. Flint,

    And how do you determine the “mean expectation” of everything that happens only once?

    Could you determine the mean expectation of 4 people getting a straight flush at the poker table? Has this ever happened?

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  26. Flint:

    And how do you determine the “mean expectation” of everything that happens only once?

    You use experimentally determined probability distributions that establish A PRIORI mean expectation for phenomenon.

    Here is an illustration on Expected Values for example:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expected_value

    Apparently some people here at TSZ had problems grasping this since they were arguing 500 fair coins flipping all heads is just as probable as any other configuration. The microstate is a probable as any other configuration but not the MACROSTATE. Violation of expectation is measure of the macrostate properties (like proportion of heads), not microstate properties.

    If someone said they flipped a fair coin 500 times and the set of all flips was 100% heads, that is unique, but it is a violation of expectation — see the wiki article to understand why.

    For similar reasons, qualitatively, a tornado passing through a junkyard will not make 747 or anything of complexity. Expectation is that a tornado passing through a junkyard will leave junk. This argument can be made more rigorous if we analyze the number of well-connected parts in systems…

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  27. Here is a statement of chemical expectation by a respected origin of life researcher:

    The Asphalt Paradox..organic systems, given energy and left to themselves, devolve to give uselessly complex mixtures, “asphalts”. Theory that enumerates small molecule space, as well as Structure Theory in chemistry, can be construed to regard this devolution a necessary consequence of theory. Conversely, the literature reports ..exactly zero confirmed observations where RIRI evolution emerged.. from a devolving chemical system. Further, chemical theories, including the second law of thermodynamics, bonding theory that describes the “space” accessible to sets of atoms, and structure theory requiring that replication systems occupy only tiny fractions of that space, suggest that **it is impossible for any non-living chemical system to escape devolution** to enter into the Darwinian world of the “living”.

    Steven A. Benner, Paradoxes in the Origin of Life

    Benner, as a recourse suggests there are undiscovered laws of physics and chemistry that will resolve the paradox. BUT, one could always appeal to unknown or unobserved entities to solve a problem — in that respect, Benner is little different from one practicing a religious belief.

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  28. stcordova: You use experimentally determined probability distributions that establish A PRIORI mean expectation for phenomenon.

    How do you do that for one time events like the Chicxulub asteroid impact? Or the Mets winning the 1969 World Series?

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  29. stcordova:
    Apparently some people here at TSZ had problems grasping this since they were arguing 500 fair coins flipping all heads is just as probable as any other configuration.

    Hmm. Citation please!

    My understanding is the outcome of 500 simultaneous coin flips must first be agreed as a total of 500 equal chances of heads or tails. Then the chance of an all-heads result is one over the product of 500 unlinked outcomes of 0.5 probabilities I. e.

    1/{2^(500)}

    Which is small but not zero.

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  30. I often link this when Sal starts up with this nonsense:

    https://www.quantamagazine.org/a-new-thermodynamics-theory-of-the-origin-of-life-20140122/

    “You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant,” England said.

    England’s theory is meant to underlie, rather than replace, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, which provides a powerful description of life at the level of genes and populations. “I am certainly not saying that Darwinian ideas are wrong,” he explained. “On the contrary, I am just saying that from the perspective of the physics, you might call Darwinian evolution a special case of a more general phenomenon.”

    A simple notion about energy distribution leads to life.

    Statistical physics of self-replication:
    http://www.englandlab.com/uploads/7/8/0/3/7803054/2013jcpsrep.pdf

    People like Sal find their quotemines and stick with them. Much like BA77 I imagine he has a library of quotes for any occasion and they probably consider that actual work!

    stcordova: Benner, as a recourse suggests there are undiscovered laws of physics and chemistry that will resolve the paradox. BUT, one could always appeal to unknown or unobserved entities to solve a problem — in that respect, Benner is little different from one practicing a religious belief.

    Hey, perhaps what I just linked to is the sort of thing Benner meant? Except unlike religion it’s actually an advance of our knowledge. So your attempt to conflate the two has failed. Your desire to replace the search for knowledge with ignorance fails again.

    1+
  31. OMagain: “You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant,” England said.

    Right, right, no design there.

    If you scare an ostrich long enough, it should be no surprise that it sticks its head in the sand.

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  32. stcordova: But if God is really, God revealing himself to some (like the 500 witnesses of Jesus after the Resurrection) and not to others raises its own issues.

    The biggest being that the 500 witnesses is merely hearsay. Are there 500 separate accounts? No there is one account.

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  33. Alan Fox: Hmm. Citation please!

    My understanding is the outcome of 500 simultaneous coin flips must first be agreed as a total of 500 equal chances of heads or tails. Then the chance of an all-heads result is one over the product of 500 unlinked outcomes of 0.5 probabilities I. e.

    Which is small but not zero.

    For 500 fair coins using this Binomial Distribution Calculator plus a little extra math for formatting:

    https://stattrek.com/online-calculator/binomial.aspx

    for 50% heads, probability is
    1 out of 28

    for 51% heads, probability is
    1 out of 31
    ….
    for 55% heads, probability is
    1 out of 341

    for 60% heads, probability is
    1 out of 647,559

    for 100% heads, probability is
    1 out of 3.3 x 10^150

    EXAMPLE:

    for 50% heads, enter
    Probability of success on a single trial 0.5
    Number of trials 500
    Number of successes (x) 250

    That is to say 50% heads is a MACROSTATE, 51% heads is a MACROSTATE, 52% heads is a MACROSTATE, etc. for the entire set of 500 coins.

    However 100% heads is BOTH a macrostate and a microstate for the entire set of 500 coins. Hence, 100% heads is no more or less and improbable than any other microstate of coins, BUT it is much more improbable than any other MACROSTATE, especially those around the mean expectation of 50% heads.

    The binomial distribution dictates that 50% coins is the mean expectation. Well,the correct term is simply “expectation” or “expected value.”

    That’s what I was objecting to here:
    https://uncommondescent.com/mathematics/ssdd-a-22-sigma-event-is-consistent-with-the-physics-of-fair-coins/

    By way of extension, a tornado passing through a junk yard is not expected to create a 747, nor will it create 100% fair coins if the tornado passed through bank that had lots of fair coins and flipped everything around. There is a problem of coordination. This is extensible to the origin of life…

    Anyway, that was responding to Flints objection how unique events can be (not always) ruled probable or not.

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  34. stcordova: Anyway, that was responding to Flints objection how unique events can be (not always) ruled probable or not.

    Heh. Good old Sal. Still trying to bullshit his way around questions he has no answer for.

    0
  35. stcordova,

    It’s not clear to me what makes something a microstate as opposed to a macrostate. But be that as it may, I find statistics to be interesting and often misleading..

    For instance, I predict that if you did some computer runs of 500 coin tosses , say 100 of them, according to what you are saying , exactly fifty percent heads should be the most prevalent outcome of all possible outcomes. But I don’t think that is what you will see.

    You could extend this test even further, do 501 coin tosses each time. Now you would expect the most common outcome over time to be 250 of either heads or tails and 251 of the other. Furthermore, fifty percent of the time it will be 251 heads and fifty percent of the time it will be 251 tails.

    I will take the bet that if you do this 1000 times, and then saw your results and then did the same thing 1000 times, so you now have 1000 times 1000 samples, you still won’t be right most of the time.

    So in 1000 of those tests the most likely outcome is fifty percent, and just to do it often enough to rule not small variances for small samples, you do the 1000 run test 1000 times, you still won’t win. Even though the odds are supposed to be in your favor. Want to take that bet?

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  36. stcordova: That’s what I was objecting to here:

    Bottom line, the critic at skeptical zone is incorrect. His statement symbolizes the determination to disagree with my reasonable claim that 500 fair coins heads is inconsistent with a random physical outcome.

    H0: The outcome was produced by a fair coin
    H1: OMG, A MIRACLE JUST HAPPENED!

    Creationist math is always a sight to behold. 😆
    Just a wild idea: Perhaps you your null hypothesis is wrong? This logic is extensible to the origin of life as well BTW.

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  37. phoodoo: Right, right, no design there.

    Heads you win, tails you win. Yes, we all know and understand your game. Whatever we discover you’ll label it with ‘design’ and claim victory.

    Thing is you’ve been doing that since humans existed and everybody stopped listening a long time ago. Well, the scientists did anyway. It’s an unproductive avenue. Everything is designed? OK then everything is designed, now what?

    But you should think about your words more. If it’s design that energy plus atoms equals plants then that means neither humans nor the earth are in any way special. And creationism and creationists like you phoodoo think that we are special. So which is it? Are we special or not?

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  38. phoodoo: Want to take that bet?

    ohh look someone is almost stating a hypothesis and then making a prediction.

    ohh, fancy.

    The thing is, phoodoo, that whatever state you find in your simulated coin tosses, that outcome was designed.

    phoodoo: I will take the bet that if you do this 1000 times, and then saw your results and then did the same thing 1000 times, so you now have 1000 times 1000 samples, you still won’t be right most of the time.

    And that’s by design!

    This is easy! Anything that anyone says I can say.’that’s by design’

    phoodoo, you have truly become colwed.

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  39. OMagain,

    phoodoo, you have truly become colwed.

    Were still waiting to see you prove that rocks were not designed 🙂

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  40. colewd: Were [sic] still waiting to see you prove that rocks were not designed

    We’re still waiting to see you prove space aliens didn’t kidnap you and replace your brain with a rancid dog turd.

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  41. colewd: Were still waiting to see you prove that rocks were not designed

    Shit in one hand and wish in the other. See which fills up first.

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  42. Keener mentioned Pascal’s niece. Here is the wiki article on his niece:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marguerite_P%C3%A9rier

    There are what I consider miracles of the anticipatory variety and then those of the interventionist variety. Suppose for example, someone is praying to be rescued from some peril. The moment they say the prayer, something happens. For example, they are stranded somewhere, and the moment they pray a rescue party appears. The rescuer was had been on his way for hours, but the prayer just happened to coincide with his appearance.

    Even supposing Pascal’s niece spontaneously recovered naturally, the thorn touching her eye might have been an important coincidence.

    In the case of Charles Duke, however, that could have been an interventionist miracle.

    But, as mentioned in the OP, assuming miracles of God happen, it would seem He’s taken some effort to conceal there existence some degree.

    In the case of Mademoiselle Perier, it’s hard to establish what really happened because there is a lot of promotional material apparently on both sides.

    The most persuasive miracles, understandably, are ones we witness ourselves.

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  43. From Wiki on John Mack and UFOs:

    John Edward Mack (October 4, 1929 – September 27, 2004) was an American psychiatrist, writer, and professor and the head of the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. In 1977, Mack won the Pulitzer Prize for his book A Prince of Our Disorder on T.E. Lawrence.[1]
    ….
    He was also known as a leading researcher on the psychology of teenage suicide and drug addiction, and he later became a researcher in the psychology of alien abduction experiences.
    ….
    In May 1994, the Dean of Harvard Medical School, Daniel C. Tosteson, appointed a committee of peers to confidentially review Mack’s clinical care and clinical investigation of the people who had shared their alien encounters with him (some of their cases were written of in Mack’s 1994 book Abduction). Angela Hind wrote, “It was the first time in Harvard’s history that a tenured professor was subjected to such an investigation.”[15]

    The committee chairman was Arnold “Budd” Relman, M.D., a Professor of Medicine and of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School who served as editor of The New England Journal of Medicine. According to Daniel P. Sheehan, one of Mack’s attorneys, the committee’s draft report suggested that “To communicate, in any way whatsoever, to a person who has reported a ‘close encounter’ with an extraterrestrial life form that this experience might well have been real … is professionally irresponsible.”[19]

    Upon the public revelation of the existence of the committee (inadvertently revealed during the solicitation of witnesses for Mack’s defense, ten months into the process), questions arose from the academic community (including Harvard Professor of Law Alan Dershowitz) regarding the validity of an investigation of a tenured professor who was not suspected of ethics violations or professional misconduct. Concluding the fourteen-month investigation, Harvard then issued a statement stating that the Dean had “reaffirmed Dr. Mack’s academic freedom to study what he wishes and to state his opinions without impediment,” concluding “Dr. Mack remains a member in good standing of the Harvard Faculty of Medicine.” (Mack was censured in the committee’s report for what they believed were methodological errors, but Dean Tosteson took no action based on the committee’s assessment.) He had received legal help from Roderick MacLeish and Daniel Sheehan[20] (of the Pentagon Papers case),[21] and the support of Laurance Rockefeller, who also funded Mack’s non-profit organization for four consecutive years at $250,000 per year.[22]

    Mack had this to say:

    https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/aliens/johnmack.html

    MACK: When I first encountered this phenomenon, or particularly even before I had actually seen the people themselves, I had very little place in my mind to take this seriously. I, like most of us, were raised to believe that if we were going to discover other intelligence, we’d do it through radio waves or through signals or something of that kind.

    Quote: I came very reluctantly to the conclusion that this was a true mystery

    The idea that we could be reached by some other kind of being, creature, intelligence that could actually enter our world and have physical effects as well as emotional effects, was simply not part of the world view that I had been raised in. So that I came very reluctantly to the conclusion that this was a true mystery. In other words, that I—I did everything I could to rule out other sources, or sexual abuse. Some of these people are abused. But they’re able to tell, distinguish clearly the abduction trauma from other forms of abuse. Some forms of psychosis or people making up stories—I could reject that on the basis that there was no gain in this for the vast majority of these people.

    …. I’ve now worked with over a hundred experiencers intensively. Which involves an initial two-hour or so screening interview before I do anything else. And in case after case after case, I’ve been impressed with the consistency of the story, the sincerity with which people tell their stories, the power of feelings connected with this, the self-doubt—all the appropriate responses that these people have to their experiences.

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  44. https://creation.com/lifting-the-veil-ufo-phenomenon

    Now ‘hooked’, Joe wanted to know more. He visited a local UFO museum, talked with UFO researchers and read up. He was surprised to see a large array of ‘spiritual’ UFO books dealing with events like the Fatima sightings. Christianity is under assault from this area, because many believe that supernatural encounters and miracles in the Bible can be attributed to benevolent aliens being mistaken as angels or even God, and that these aliens may even be mankind’s creators.3

    The FATIMA sightings?

    From the footnote:

    Three shepherd children claimed that on 13 October, 1917, a miraculous event would occur. It is claimed that tens of thousands of people saw the sun ‘dance and spin’. The event was attributed by many to ‘Our Lady of Fatima’—an alleged apparition of the Virgin Mary. Return to text.

    Protestants reject much of theology regarding Mary as Immaculate or some sort of co-redemptrix, etc.

    Calling Mary “queen of heaven” is considered by Protestants to be a pagan viewpoint and even heretical and not of the Christian God.

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  45. Regarding the Protestant viewpoint of Marian theology:

    https://bereanbeacon.org/the-apparitions-of-mary-divine-or-demonic/

    The Apparitions of “Mary” – Divine or Demonic?

    More detailed analyses of the messages of the apparitions of Mary, their demonic origins and their interactions with Popes, are contained the books Quite Contrary and Graven Bread. The reader is encouraged to investigate these issues further. Upon doing so, one finds the Roman Catholic church allied with a demon and its messages of establishing ones own righteousness by self suffering, reparation, and prayer and obedience to one claiming to be Co-Redeemer, co High Priestess, even elevated Throne of God.

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  46. Why does this site tolerate the form of religious fanaticism that scordova represents?

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  47. timothya: Why does this site tolerate the form of religious fanaticism that scordova represents?

    I’d not say tolerate so much as chuckle at.

    stcordova: The most persuasive miracles, understandably, are ones we witness ourselves.

    Is that right Sal?

    Over at UD Kariosfocus personally witnessed a miracle:

    DS, I am not talking about minor errors but grand delusion. As you know I am a witness to a real levitation case but it was not taped, no one there was interested in such and it would probably be a privacy violation. I am talking about people I know. KF

    https://uncommondescent.com/philosophy/atheisms-problem-of-warrant/#comment-679933

    Are you persuaded Sal? If not, how do you expect anybody else to be persuaded by what you are posting?

    If you are not convinced, Sal, on the basis of the same level of evidence as you apparently believe the blind can be healed for (i.e anecdotal) , then why not?

    Why should we believe the blind can be healed by Jesus (presumably) when you won’t believe that KF has personally witnessed levitation.

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  48. In the uncommondescent thread I linked to in my previous comment several personal descriptions of levitation are given. Does anybody find them persuasive?

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  49. OMagain,

    Why should we believe the blind can be healed by Jesus (presumably) when you won’t believe that KF has personally witnessed levitation.

    Why do you think this is a valid comparison?

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