From the Editor—Friday Reflections

Inner Lies the Problem

Skeptic Hears Inviting Music from a Dead Radio

August 24, 2018

St. Paul asserts in a letter he sent to the Christians living in the capital of the Roman Empire that Greeks, barbarians, Gentiles—the whole human race—are "without excuse" for not honoring God as God and for not giving him thanks.

Why are they without excuse? He says "what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them." How? "Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made."

Physical reality exhibits the marks of design, order, and purpose. If you think admitting design is too much, Paul claims even more: God's eternal power and deity are there to be seen, not just "design" (which could be attributed to non-divine beings).

But today, many do not even acknowledge the existence of anything beyond matter. To keep God at bay, you have to deny the existence of anything you can't measure or touch.

The skeptic Michael Shermer argues that "there is no such thing as the supernatural." But his skepticism was temporarily shaken in 2014. As related in a Salvo article by Regis Nicoll, ("Skeptic Shock," Fall 2018), on Shermer's wedding day, his bride, Jennifer, "was particularly saddened that her late grandfather, the only father figure she had known, wasn't there to give her away."

"Months earlier, Jennifer's belongings had been delivered to Michael's home from Germany, and among them was a precious keepsake: a nearly forty-year-old transistor radio her grandfather had owned. Describing his efforts to revive it, Shermer writes,"

I put in new batteries and opened it up to see if there were any loose connections to solder. I even tried "percussive maintenance," said to work on such devices-smacking it sharply against a hard surface. Silence. We gave up and put it at the back of a desk drawer in our bedroom.

"Just as the wedding was about to proceed, the couple retreated for a few moments to a back area of the house, from which"

we could hear music playing in the bedroom. We don't have a music system there, so we searched for laptops and iPhones and even opened the back door to check if the neighbors were playing music. We followed the sound to the printer on the desk, wondering-absurdly-if this combined printer/scanner/fax machine also included a radio. Nope.

At that moment Jennifer shot me a look I haven't seen since the supernatural thriller The Exorcist startled audiences. "That can't be what I think it is, can it?" she said. She opened the desk drawer and pulled out her grandfather's transistor radio, out of which a romantic love song wafted. We sat in stunned silence for minutes. "My grandfather is here with us," Jennifer said, tearfully. "I'm not alone."

Shermer insists his skepticism remains intact. "Such anecdotes do not constitute scientific evidence that the dead survive or that they can communicate with us via electronic equipment."

But science seeks and studies regularities, formulates laws about predictable and repeatable phenomena. It can't prove miracles, but can, for example, verify the existence of a tumor and its unexpected disappearance after many prayers.

But evidence for miracles comes from human witnesses, just as evidence in a courtroom includes human testimony and physical evidence. Craig Keener's Miracles gives eyewitness testimony in abundance and seriously engages David Hume's skepticism:

The book is all the more valuable because of Keener's thoughtful and bold analysis of the scientific method and the means by which we can test the miraculous. This massively researched study is both learned and provocative." —Philip Jenkins, Pennsylvania State University

Modern skeptics have access, exponentially increased by the internet, to mountains of evidence they could research and verify—if they want to.

Music from a dead radio? How about Lazarus from the dead? Of course, if you are bound and determined to rule out miracles, you will believe, without evidence, that "This can't be what I think it is." There seems to be an inner self that is capable of repressing what your mind, even your conscience is telling you. That's the point: "I didn't want to" will not serve as an excuse—but as evidence.

Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,

James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James

—James M. Kushiner is Executive Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and Executive Director of The Fellowship of St. James.