Saturday, January 05, 2008

Horace Bushnell on Miracles

Horace Bushnell (1802-1876) was an early American biblical scholar who has been called "the father of American liberalism" (Baird, History of NT Research, 2:37). While Bushnell wrote and preached on a wide range of subjects, I found his definition of miracles to be interesting. For him, a miracle is:

a supernatural act, an act, that is, which operates on the chain of cause and effect in nature from without that chain, producing, in the sphere of the senses, some event that moves our wonder, and evinces the presence of more than human power. (cited in Baird, 2:40)

While it is obvious that Bushnell's presuppositions shine through in his definition of the miraculous, I find his explanation much more convincing than the minimalistic efforts that attempt to rationalize away everything supernatural in the Bible. Bushnell is trying to offer a mediating position here between those in Europe (like Baur and Strauss) and those in America (like Hodge). He does so by saying that a miracle is God entering into the cause-and-effect system for outside of it, thus not denying the "otherness" of God nor the need for the miracles to "make sense."

How would you rate Bushnell's definition?

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