Friday, May 25, 2012

Pre-Enlightenment Skepticism about Miracles

I started Howard Clark Kee's Miracle in the Early Christian World.  In this post, I'll highlight something from page 2:

"Disbelief in miracle and dismissal of it as chicanery or fraud are not modern conceits.  Skepticism about miracle goes back to classical Greece, as Plato's relegation of the Corybantic cures to the realm of psychological alleviation of phobias and anxieties attests."

A commonly-held narrative is that people were gullible and credulous about alleged miracles prior to the Enlightenment, whereas the Enlightenment tended to seek naturalistic explanations.  That narrative may have some truth in it, but things are more complex than that.  For one, as Kee notes, there was skepticism about miracles before the Enlightenment.  Josephus probably was not one who totally bracketed out the supernatural, but he often sought a naturalistic or a rationalistic explanation for miracles in the Bible.  Second, there have been people even after the time of the Enlightenment who believe in miracles.

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