I once met a man who said that God had fixed his vacuum cleaner. He told this story at a men’s retreat I attended at a Catholic church. He didn’t explain what was wrong with the vacuum and he did not suggest any purpose God might have had for performing this miracle. He insisted, however, that given the nature of the malfunction, there was no possible explanation other than divine intervention for the fact that the vacuum began working again.
The thing is that other than believing that God did not share nature’s antipathy towards vacuums, the guy seemed like a perfectly sane and sober person. He was just one of those people who had the propensity to see God’s supernatural hand in every quirk and coincidence in his life. One reason I am skeptical about the miracle stories in the gospels is that I cannot help but think that the first people who told the stories as well as the people who passed them along may not have looked very hard for a natural explanation for whatever it was they had observed.
I am always fascinated by the reasons Christians give for believing in the accuracy of the gospels. One fellow suggested that Luke “comes across as delivering a very careful second hand account of the events in question.” Another said that the New Testament writers “state the miracle of Jesus' Resurrection as an actual historical event and talk about it with the same candidness they do about other events they record.” In The Case for Christ, Craig Blomberg asserted that the gospels are written in a “sober and responsible fashion.”
I cannot help but wonder how the historical or literary criteria were established that enable apologists to distinguish between an account of a first century miracle that is based on careful investigation and eyewitness testimony and an account of a first century miracle that is based on a story that has been told and retold multiple times before reaching the person who writes it down. Wouldn’t you need a sample of verified miracle accounts whose characteristics could be compared with a sample of unverified accounts? On what other basis could you assert that any particular miracle story sounded true?