Over the years my conversations with fellow activists that don’t believe in miracles has been an interesting one. In regards to myself and my conversion to Christ in 1974, I have spoken of my experience in this regard as being a miracle. But I do understand those who have not had this encounter to be skeptical of anything about alleged miracles. So this has been the case.
In order to avoid circular arguments they simply asked me to do a miracle. Besides walking on their swimming pool if they own one, I really can’t think of anything. These discussions usually devolve into the burden of proof position for the nonbeliever in question toward me. Nothing more can be said if they can’t see what I was before conversion and after conversion. My conversion happened so long ago that they did not know me before. So there is nothing to compare the before and after to.
Since I cannot bring to the table any burden of proof besides my own life in the before and after conversion context they begin to pontificate in what I consider to be a rather amusing way. If they are literate at all and have taken the time to read the gospels, instead of quoting second hand sources, they will invariably call the so called miracles of Jesus only the placebo effect. Now, I could react and do a fall back and ask them how they know this, but then we are back to the circular argument, since one interpretation is as good as the next. Stalemate. Or so it seems.
What I do instead is a rather creative sort of thing. I state that we should both for discussion sake dispose of any ideas or assumptions of the miracle/no miracle divide and both posit that the activism of Jesus is actually a placebo effect. They always agree to this. OK, so far so good. As we proceed from this position I bring up that this main character in the gospels is pretty impressive to make all these things happen just by people thinking it up in his presence. To which the unbeliever will concede. When epilepsy stops on a dime that ain’t a bad calling card. And that is just for openers.
Next step is a simple question is in regards as to whether for the betterment of the human race is this placebo good. The unbeliever activist concedes that it is good. Is it effective? Another concession. Moving right along. Then I lower the boom: If it’s so effective and you really want to make this present world a better place, then why don’t you practice it? There it is: Why.Don’t.You.Practice.It? That is a fair question.
The unbelieving skeptic activist has just been challenged by a greater skeptical view. What do I mean by that? Simply that I hold suspect those who compliment Jesus’ activism and its effectiveness, but don’t practice it. But you might object and say that they are not followers of Jesus and have no obligation to practice it. That is true. However, there is a caveat to this; if you reject the supernatural and take an anthropological view of the main character of the gospels like Renan and Wrede did, are you not responsible for this knowledge as blueprint for real change?
Not only do I think one is responsible, but the perfect example was Dr. Albert Schweitzer. He is proof positive that the blueprint works even if one is a nonbeliever in miracles. The placebo effect depends on a person’s expectations. When one looks at the list of ailments cured that the so called placebo effect has taken on surrounding the character of Jesus when he arrived in a town or place it is staggering.
I am not in the business of questioning people’s motives, but I really can’t help but be suspect of having such an amazing blueprint and not taking full advantage of it. Maybe they’re avoiding the blueprint and choosing some other way to change this present world by violence, politics, sloganeering , etc. is more their style. Or maybe deep down they fear that if they practice it, the full placebo effect will morph into something different, take them by surprise and turn into the miracle they did not expect, namely this: Conversion.
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