Michael J. Kruger (Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA) has continued the positive reviewing of Craig Keener 1248 page, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts, previously addressed on this blog. Like those who have gone before him, Kruger likes the bit on Hume, scepticism and ethnocentrism:
This is a most fascinating section of the book and stunningly rich in detail and documentation. Keener offers accounts from all over the world, but focuses mainly on the “majority world,” including Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Not only does this survey effectively refute Hume’s appeal to the uniformity of human experience against miracles, but it also effectively challenges traditional Western assumptions about religion in the developing world. Anti-supernaturalists will often dismiss miracle claims from these parts of the world due to the fact that they view the inhabitants as primitive, uneducated, and, to some extent, gullible. But Keener points out that such an approach is blatantly “ethnocentric” and “derogatory” (p. 222). Thus, the academic elite in America and Europe find themselves in an ironic dilemma. While they are often quick to critique others for being ethnocentric, they find themselves guilty of these very charges when they reject the miracle claims of the non-Western world on the basis of its so-called “primitive” culture.
I’m starting to wonder if the following is true: evangelical biblical scholars are the new bleeding heart liberal elite. Note language like ‘“majority world,” including Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean’, ‘effectively challenges traditional Western assumptions about religion in the developing world’, ‘Anti-supernaturalists will often dismiss miracle claims from these parts of the world due to the fact that they view the inhabitants as primitive, uneducated, and, to some extent, gullible’, ‘Keener points out that such an approach is blatantly “ethnocentric” and “derogatory”’ etc etc. But I think the final two sentences in particular – those about ‘the academic elite in America and Europe’ – are worth developing further. I had a think if I knew a couple of liberal academic elites with a presence in America and thought of Craig Keener and Michael Licona who (especially Licona) may have found themselves in an ‘ironic dilemma’. They had this to say in an interview which I repeat:
CK: He (Hume) dismisses other cultures, calling them ignorant and barbarous nations. Ultimately, when he speaks of uniform human experience, it comes down to his own circle’s experience…
ML: I guess the thing I’m trying to say with the Allison thing [Dale Allison having some sort of visionary experiences] when Hume says these really only happen with barbarous people, here we think of third world people running around naked down in the Amazon or, in, y’know, it’s not just barbarians [very brief nervous laugh] or the uneducated who are claiming that there are miracles that are happening in the world, there are very highly educated people like yourself [CK: yes] who can testify to miracles…I can tell you of an experience I had…
ML: …these are modern day examples, they’re intelligent people. I mean, you’ve got your PhD from Duke. They’re from intelligent people who are aware of these things. So how [can] Hume assume that his experience was comprehensive enough to rule out other people’s claims of experience? …
ML: You had mentioned earlier that Hume dismissed other cultures as being ignorant and barbarous; why was he so strong against [inaudible]?
CK: [Sigh] Keep in mind…I’m about to quote something that Hume said. If this sounds offensive to you, it really sounds offensive to me. My wife is from Congo in Africa. I don’t take kindly to language like this. But anyway
ML: You’re definitely white?
ML: She’s definitely black?
CK: Yes. Hume says, quote, “I am apt to suspect the negroes and in general all of the other species of men, for there are four or five different kinds to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was a civilised nation of any other complexion than white.” He also said that none of the slaves, out of all the slaves, none of them ever achieved learning…Hume’s arguments in favour of slavery and his arguments in favour of racism made it harder for the abolitionists; they had to contend against him. And he cast a long shadow, there were a lot of people who appealed to Hume’s prestige in support of racism as well, so when he dismisses the views of other nations as those of ignorant and barbarous peoples, that comes out of a very ethnocentric perspective and that should simply be, not permitted today, that should simply be dismissed today from any credibility.
ML: …What happens if we take into account the testimonies from other countries? So, Hume, because he was a racist, was unwilling to do that. You had to be white. You had to be Caucasian, in order for your testimony even to count…What happens today if we take into account testimonies from other cultures?
CK: [talks about how many non-Western Christians and ‘hundreds of millions of claims’ about miracles etc]…Hume’s appeal to uniform human experience at this point is simply irrational, it’s simply not uniform.