Miracles: Impossible or Improbable?

Matthew (writer of the gospel) - upon witnessing the miraculous catch of fish

Matthew – “It’s impossible.” The Chosen Episode. 4 “The Rock On Which it is Built”

In “Evidence is for believers, not mockers” I make the case that miracles, one of the strongest proofs of the truth of the gospels, and a validation of the message and ministry of Jesus, is meant for those who already believe, or are ready to believe. They are not meant for mockers like hardened atheists and agnostics or doubters not really looking for the truth. This is true for a number of reasons which I list in the article, so I won’t repeat them here.  I’ll simply encourage you to read the article for the detailed reasons.

As I watched The Chosen (an excellent series I highly recommend about the life of Jesus starting with the call (the choosing) of the disciples) I noticed that they gave a strong defense for why that thesis is true – that miracles are for believers, not unbelievers and mockers. The difference in the approach between those willing to believe and those unwilling to believe a miracle can be seen in how they answer this question: Was that impossible, or merely improbable?

Impossible or Improbable?

How you deal with the truth of an eyewitnessed miracle – whether you consider it  impossible or merely improbable is a very clear indicator of whether or not you’re willing to believe the truth of the gospel. This is true for a very simple reason: If something is clearly impossible, beyond the realms of the physical laws of nature and science, and yet it happens, what does that point to? It points to something outside of the realm of the physical world that has intervened into the physical. It points to a cause that is outside of the physical world; outside of space, matter and time yet free to interact within the bounds of space, matter and time. Simply put, that which is physically impossible yet nevertheless occurs, must have a non-physical cause. In the miracles of Jesus that non-physical cause is God.[1]

For those who are unwilling to accept God, or the supernatural as a cause of manifestations in the physical world, how are they to deal with such phenomena? Simple. They need merely say the event was not impossible, merely improbable. Thus with a wave of their magic wand for denying the truth, they have taken what is clearly impossible, and thus squarely in the realm of God, and removed it from God’s control. In so doing they place it within the reach of men and natural physical causes. This has been a favored trick for hundreds of years. You hear it all the time in the explanations of Darwinian evolutionists and Big Bang supporters. Have you noticed that when they give odds, the odds, however small are always within the realm of the possible? They never say something is impossible – regardless of the fact that it clearly is impossible. But that’s to be expected. If they say part (or all) of their theory is impossible, that is self-defeating. And though they may be unbelievers – they’re not necessarily stupid. So they avoid self-defeating statements.

In my series on 15 Reasons Why Evolution Never Happened I give reasons why evolution cannot be true. Each one is not an improbability, each one is an impossibility; something that cannot occur by unguided physical processes. But that does not deter people – the educated and uneducated unlike – from believing such fairy tails, does it? Why is that? Because they have convinced themselves, that these are not impossible, they are merely improbable. And once they move them out of the realm of the impossible and into the realm of the improbable, they need  merely to convince themselves that the improbable happened. And such improbable things happened an impossible amount of times. But that too, they reason, is not an impossibility, merely an improbability.

The Miraculous Catch of Fish – Impossible or Improbable?

The Chosen does an excellent job of exploring the question: was the miraculous catch impossible, or merely improbable? It shows the reactions of various people to the same evidence. How to explain such a catch? Was it  merely an improbability? A hoax or deception? Or was it impossible – and thus a miracle?   The Chosen explores these questions and explanations for that event that had many eyewitnesses. You can explore them too in the video below which contains pertinent scenes regarding the question.

By way of introduction let me highlight some key points they make. In their presentation, they support my contention that a person’s view of the existence of a transcendent, supernatural God can be determined by their reaction to a miracle: whether they see it as an impossible event and thus miraculous or merely an improbable event that has some other explanation. Let me outline the facts they present that bring that point in sharp relief:

  • Matthew (the one in the fine white coat with satchel and writing utensils) is a highly intelligent, well-educated but despised tax collector. He (like Thomas) is used to dealing in reality  – real numbers, which represent real things like coins or taxes.
  • While The Chosen sticks very closely to the gospel narratives, they do take liberties to fill in gaps that the gospels do not explain. Thus some of what they present is well-founded conjecture, but conjecture  nonetheless. But the points they make are not based on the conjecture, but on points made in the gospels. The strength of the series is how they weave the gospel truths together to make a smooth narrative that fits the individual events together in an understandable and believable way.
    One of those conjectures: Matthew witnessed the miraculous catch (Luke 5.1-11), and it sent him on a journey of investigation and discovery.
  • Here is the key point: As a tax collector familiar with what people made, and what was possible for them to make in a given time period, Matthew recognized that the catch was impossible.  That sent his fact-based, detail-oriented mind on a quest for the truth: that catch  was impossible. But how could the impossible happen? The impossible is, after all, impossible. Implied: if it was truly impossible, that points to a cause that transcends the physical.
  • Others (nonbelievers) did not believe the catch to be impossible. They decided it was either trickery or merely improbable, not impossible.

With that introduction – I’ll let you view how The Chosen brings these points out as a result of the responses to The Miraculous Catch of Fish (Luke 5.1-11)

Here is the link to episode 4 “The rock on which it is built” (a reference to the call of Simon Peter, which is featured in the episode).
The miraculous catch of fish begins at 37:00
The conversation of Matthew with Zebedee, father of James of John who were also called and went with Jesus begins at 45:10
Matthew’s specific conclusion, “It’s impossible” is at 45:23
Above link not working? Here’s a backup version of Matthew’s conclusion.
(Note: the backup video opens with Matthew’s initial conclusion, then follows
his journey to faith as well as the response of number of others; some who believe,
many who do not. Total time 29.31)

Duane Caldwell | May 27, 2021 | Printer friendly version

1. A cause outside of the physical world is a spiritual cause. While the miracles of Jesus are clearly done by God, scripture predicts the day is coming (and appears to be here now) when Satan would imitate some of those miracles. (Mark 13.22) – I’ll address that in a coming article – likely the next one.

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