The best refutation of the famous David Hume argument that biblical miracles violate natural laws, that I have heard, is given by John Lennox.
This is presented as an illustration in an interview entitled “Can science explain everything?” on YouTube, which I will paraphrase here and change into American dollars instead of British pounds.
While vacationing in California, I place in the top drawer of the dresser cabinet in my hotel room $100, and the next day I place another $100 in this same drawer for safe-keeping.
The third day after returning from sight-seeing, I come back and open this dresser drawer and find that $150 is missing.
Dr. Lennox then asks have the laws of nature been broken, or the laws of California?
We would immediately conclude that the laws of California have been broken.
This tells us that the laws of nature and the laws of the state of California are different.
But how are they different?
For starters, my vacation hotel room is not an absolutely closed-system.
Even though I lock the door when I leave, an outside agent can gain entrance into this room (pick the lock, climb through a window, have a master key, etc.), open the top drawer of the dresser, reach-in and take out $150.
The other explanation for the disappearance of the $150, absent human action as the cause, would indeed be a miraculous event that does violate the laws of nature as articulated by Hume.
Of course, paper dollar bills do not by themselves dematerialize into thin-air in a puff of smoke.
But the laws of nature only tell us in this illustration what normally occurs within the strictly material realm.
Nothing in the laws of nature tell us scientifically that these laws produce a closed-system that excludes an outside agent.
An outside agent has the choice to exercise free-will. The laws of nature do not.
The argument that the laws of nature produce an absolutely closed system that bars agency is based upon a philosophical error that attempts to combine apples with oranges.
An intelligent designing God having free-will agency is not in the same category as a law of nature.
Asserting that God does not exist by appealing to the laws of nature is a philosophically fallacious argument.
The free-will agent God of the Bible created and transcends above the laws of nature, and these laws therefore cannot tell us what God can and cannot do in the natural world.
In another interview on the Internet, John Lennox says that he disagrees with almost everything David Hume wrote, except where Hume stated that we cannot seamlessly go from an “is” to an “ought” in our pursuit of understanding the natural world.
There is a logical gap, a discontinuity between an “is” and an “ought.”
For example, it is easy to say as a factual statistic that a professional baseball player on our local team “is” in the hitting slump of having only one base-hit for the last twenty at-bats, but it is something else entirely to say how this same player “ought” to get out of this hitting slump.
Anytime anyone discussing anything, describes the factual “is” of a particular subject, then unnoticeably shifts over into the “ought” of that subject, they have thereby introduced an entirely different discussion.
The status quo of a factually established “is” in the moment is worlds apart from the ideal “ought” of how something might be better now or in the future.
In science, what something “is” can be defined in terms of descriptions such as its physical size, length, speed, location, color, or mass.
What something “is” can also be described by its action, such as the force of gravity, the speed of light, the beneficial characteristics of carbon to enable numerous chemical bonds to form into compounds, or the expansion rate of the universe.
But these “is” descriptions in the natural world fall short of the mark when they attempt to perform the double-duty of telling us also what something “ought” to be.
“Is” on one end of the horizontal spectrum-line won’t always get us all the way across to an obviously apparent “ought” on the other end of the spectrum-line.
This is analogous to the “is” of a stack of lumber and other building materials on a jobsite that cannot make the jump on their own to the “ought” of assembling into a New England Cape Cod architectural style design of a new house…without introducing the highly specified information content that comes from the intelligent agency of a designing architect.
The specificity in the “details” pages of the architectural plans tells the crafts-persons to assemble particular parts of the house under construction this way and not that way, providing exact dimensions for the sizes of building elements and spaces between them to obtain the results the architect intended.
The intelligent designing architect adds the thought-filled, specified information into the housing construction system, that the raw stacks of various materials are incapable of providing.
The key point here is that the creative actions of an intelligent designing agent such as the God of the Bible, proceeds in the direction of the conceptually theoretical “ought” of something in the design phase before it even exists, towards the concrete “is” of that something in a material form, like our physical universe coming into being in a split-second of time at the Big Bang.
This identifies and defines the creative thought-process that inputs new information into a system that goes from the conceptual “ought” to the physically material “is.”
This is going in the opposite direction of the everyday conversation that starts with describing the “is” of the professional baseball player in a hitting slump, but hits a wall when it gets to the “ought” of our opinion of what we think this player should do to get out of this slump.
As humans, we proceed in the normally creative, conceptual direction of ought-to-is all the time.
But this creatively conceptual trajectory requires knowledge, information, and expertise that transcends above what is typically required to merely describe the factual “is” of some particular reality.
A structural engineer stands on one side of a ravine, and contemplates the “ought” of the various steel members, connections, and forces that will build the future “is” of a suspension bridge.
The open ravine is the starting-point, factual “is” that anyone can describe. Adding the information that could produce the suspension bridge requires the structural engineer.
Likewise, a politician contemplates a new piece of legislation to solve a particular, unaddressed problem in society, thereby first identifying the “ought” that can then materialize into the concrete “is” of a beneficial social reform.
A medical doctor in a hospital examines an MRI for a particular patient in order to diagnose the problem, then contemplates the conceptual “ought” of an upcoming surgery to produce the positive outcome of an “is” in a full recovery for this patient.
In these everyday examples common in human experience, the status quo of an existing “is” translates into a conceptual “ought” to be, which then through action becomes again a different and better new “is.”
The easily identifiable, intervening element of dynamic change here is the input of conceptually creative information through intelligent agency.
Going back in history, the how and the why of the “ought” of purposeful, targeted outcomes being removed from research into the workings of the natural world, early in the modern Scientific Revolution is given by Michael J. Behe from his 2019 book Darwin Devolves:
“How did science—the very discipline we use to understand the physical world—get to the bizarre point where some otherwise very smart people use it to deny the existence of mind? Arguably it started innocently enough. At the urging of the philosopher Francis Bacon, a contemporary of Shakespeare, four centuries ago science made a critical decision. It would abandon the old idea of “final causes”—that is, the notion of the purpose of an object—which it had inherited from Aristotle. Whether the true role of, say, a waterfall or a forest is to exhibit the glory of God, supply beauty to the world, or something else couldn’t be decided by an investigation of nature alone. Henceforth science would leave all such questions to philosophy and theology, restricting itself to investigating just the mechanics of nature. What a cow or mountain or star is “for” would trouble science no longer.”
It is easy to see here, that by removing the underlying purpose contained within the “ought” of an object…a waterfall, forest, cow, or mountain…in order to simplify the new scientific method going forward in the late 1500’s to the early 1600’s to more easily identify the factual “is” of a particular phenomenon, carries the danger to morph over time into the exceedingly damaging cultural worldview of a similarly purpose-free human life.
Should we therefore be offended that the methodological materialism of the scientific enterprise is not able to break through the “and God said, Let there be…” of Genesis chapter one?
Massive amounts of conceptually creative information can be downloaded in a split-second of time, as we now know in the use of humanly created digital devices.
In my opinion, mankind cannot morally handle the information content that the God of the Bible uses in creating physically material things.
Taking advantage of the orderliness and intelligibility of the natural world, mankind has created atomic bombs that can destroy the planet several times over.
What would we do with the information of how to create life, or how to alter the force of gravity, or what is light and how to change it. What would mankind do with energy if we understood what it was and how to change its cause-and-effect performance.
Certainly, we could come-up with many beneficial usages for this knowledge, but our imperfect moral nature would also come-up with some destructive usages as well.
The creatively conceptual information that God infers and implies to exist within the instantaneous accounts of creation and in the miracle events, is proprietary information that God wisely has chosen to keep to Himself.
This brings us to a profound question that is at the heart of the science and God debate.
How would we identify the cause of any occurrence in the natural world as being supernaturally miraculous…having only natural tools and methods to work with?
The answer is that after bringing matter, energy, and time into existence at the creation of the universe, God is not hiding the existence of Himself as a Spirit-Being, behind the physically material empiricism of the natural world that He created.
The gap between the natural and the supernatural begins to fade as the organized complexity of the information systems at work in the natural world, unearthed through human scientific investigation, reveals the unmistakable presence of conceptually creative forethought in their designs.
The simple truth in this 21st-century is that modern scientific investigation has revealed the complex, specified, and coherent integration of interrelated parts that are so thoughtfully coordinated everywhere we look in the natural world, that the requirement of the existence of a transcendent Spirit-Being God is now undeniable.
The question itself contains the subtle, built-in assumption that there must be a dichotomy between the recognition of the natural occurrences of matter and energy observably at work, and the unseen actions of a Spirit-Being God which correctly would be described as being super-natural.
This dichotomy dissolves as human beings discover just how complex our world is in terms of information and its specificity, that we know from our own experience requires agency.
Biblical Miracles Have Realities Before and After that are Consistently Materialistic, having Zero-Time Durations In-Between for the Download Input of New Information
One important observation about the miracles in the Bible, is that the two before and after halves of the situation, pre-miracle and post-miracle, start and end with normal, physically material realities.
The one exception is Genesis 1:1, where God creates the universe out of nothing previously physical.
I have never heard anyone discussing the biblical miracles in this way, using a theistic viewpoint while looking through a matter-and-energy universe.
Once God created matter, energy, and time at the Big Bang, why would He use anything else for a starting-point reality plus a different final outcome, when intervening through a miracle in the natural world He created?
In the miracles in the Bible, God simply goes from one material reality to the next material reality within a zero-elapsed time-frame.
This is a better understanding afforded us now through the viewpoint of modern science, highlighted by this question of how would we identify occurrences in the natural world as being either natural or supernatural.
The modern understanding of information tells us that it is both together, and that this seeming dichotomy cannot plausibly exist in reality.
The specificity of design cannot occur in a purely materialistic universe.
Conceptually creative information and agency cannot be divided into the mutually exclusive categories of the material and the non-material.
The Spirit-Being God of the Bible is not hidden behind the empirical, fact-based evidence obtained through the modern scientific method, because the inference to the best explanation at the conceptualization and theorizing level of the scientific enterprise clearly identifies the existence of intelligent designing agency.
I think this will turn out to be much like our discovery by Copernicus in the 1500’s that the sun does not go around the earth, although according to phenomenal observation this is what the sun appears to do.
When viewed within the context of modern science and God, the miracles in the Bible proceed from one physically material reality to another physically material reality, the actual miracle occurring in-between within the duration of zero-elapsed time.
For example, when Jesus turns water into wine at the wedding in Cana, the water is a non-miraculous physical substance, and the wine in the same clay jars is also a non-miraculous substance.
The miracle occurs within the intervening instant of time during the transformation of the water into wine, being an imperceptible transition.
This is not a wildly bizarre event where Jesus calls-up containers of wine to float in through the air from a nearby market, the miracle then being the transport of the wine over some short period of time by a visually supernatural causation.
When Jesus calms the storm while in a boat on the lake with His disciples, the beginning of this miracle has the seas and the winds in the normal, non-miraculous state of being a severe storm, and afterward the waves on the lake disappear and the winds instantly become dead-calm, the before and the after being otherwise normal conditions.
The miracle here again occurs within the duration of time t=0, with materially normal but different conditions existing before and after this miracle.
If we take this same principle and apply it to every divine miracle in the Bible other than Genesis 1:1, we see this insightful realization that biblical miracles go from one normal material reality to another normal material reality.
Whether it is the ten miracles performed through Moses in Egypt to procure the release of the Israelites, or God parting the Red Sea, or Jesus restoring sight to a blind man, the miracles in the Bible never depart from what is normal material reality, except within the instantaneous, zero time-frame of t=0.
That God performs miracles within zero-time durations should not be a surprise.
This goes back to the extent and the reach of the orderliness and intelligibility of the natural world for human scientific investigation.
Aside from our moral imperfection and the design information of creation and of miracles being divinely proprietary, if the God of the Bible did explain everything to us in terms of absolute physics, chemistry, and mathematics, could we even understand it.
But one final question surfaces in this critical issue of the validity of biblical miracles, which in part establishes the divine origin of the Bible.
How do you get a perfect person, being the blemish-free Passover Lamb of God substitutionary sacrifice for sin, all the way to the cross of Calvary, if the miracles in the New Testament gospels performed by Jesus are fantastically supernatural?
If Jesus is flying around the city of Jerusalem thirty feet above the ground like the actress Sally Field in the television series The Flying Nun (1967-70), or using His miraculous access to heavenly means to be able to expel the Roman occupiers out of the land of Israel, how does redemptive salvation by grace through faith in Christ become a reality?
Such a person would never be rejected, condemned, and crucified.
The man with the withered hand has it restored instantly in zero-time as he extends is arm outward as instructed by Jesus (Mt. 12:10-13).
A slow progression over 30 seconds from withered to non-withered hand would have elicited a much stronger reaction from the people observing this miracle in the synagogue.
This would change the magnitude of the barely perceptible transition from one material reality to the next material reality, instead to a fantastically supernatural occurrence over the projected-out 30 seconds duration.
The instantaneous nature of this miracle allows skeptical unbelief to interpret this as some kind of a slight-of-hand magic trick like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, which could not be the case if the transformation occurred slowly right before their eyes.
The old woman bowed-over with arthritis in her back is instantly straightened to uprightness through the spoken words of Jesus (Lk. 13:10-17) within a zero-time duration, the suddenness of the miracle masking and partially softening the fantastic impact it might otherwise have had if the straightening-up of this woman occurred in slow-motion over 30 seconds…giving it a fantastic quality.
This formula of the miraculous in the Bible of a starting normal, physically material reality interrupted by a zero-elapsed time for God to input new creative information in a way totally inaccessible to human analysis or investigation as to causation, followed by a new physically material reality, says something about the brilliance of the God of the Bible that could not plausibly be the invention of human literary imagination or mythology.
Instead of Jesus riding a humble donkey into Jerusalem during Passover week, Jesus could have walked into the city while floating three feet above the ground, with the crowd of people running in front, alongside, and behind Him, shouting “Hosanna.”
If the actions of Jesus Christ during His ministry had even slightly more of the fantastic element of visual impact in the performance of miracles, He would never have made it all the way to the cross.
This recognition of the miraculous actions of the God of the Bible occurring within zero-time durations separating two normally material realities, not only dissolves the dichotomy between the natural and the supernatural, but it reveals a genius that can craft miraculous events that are sandwiched between the physically material realities that He created.
This is how Jesus can be the supernatural Son of God, satisfying all of the ancient Jewish biblical prophecies regarding who He will be and what He will do, while still being able to make it humbly to the rejection of the cross of Calvary for our benefit.
If the scientific materialists had their way, and God wrote across the sky with fiery red letters one day every year starting in the time of Abraham, that He is God and to worship only Him, then the entire concept of redemptive salvation by grace through faith, that enables the program of inhabiting the research vehicle of a fallen yet redeemed moral nature to explore the knowledge of good and evil, and to therein develop a personal relationship with God, would change into the bland and unremarkable acknowledgement of the obvious, like the rising of the sun every morning in the east.
From Pondering Our Creation: Christian Essays on Science and Faith.
 Can science explain everything? An interview with John Lennox. RZIM, Jan. 31, 2019.
 John Lennox: Socrates in the City in Labastide, France, Parts 1 and 2 on Jan. 12 and 23, 2018 on YouTube.
 Michael J. Behe, Darwin Devolves (New York: Harper Collins, 2019), 258-259.