|Fish, in Istanbul|
When she died her body was dressed in a white gown and carried in a funeral procession through the village, along with her grieving family and friends. She was placed on a funeral pyre to be cremated. Then, just prior to the point of immolation, she sat up. The village people believed that God did a miracle. The woman and many villagers became followers of Jesus. What shall we make of this? It depends on your worldview.
If you are thinking, “There’s no way that woman was actually dead and then came back to life,” then welcome to the worldview of atheistic philosophical naturalism (APN). For APN-ers, it’s not that miracles do not happen; rather, miracles cannot happen, in principle. “Nature” is all there is. There are no “super-natural” realities. In philosophy this is called “philosophical naturalism.” I grew up in this worldview (not from my parents, but from culture) and lived and breathed it for the first twenty-one years of my life.
In America and Europe today we have a clash of worldviews. “Naturalism” says dead people cannot return to life. Including the woman in India. Including Jesus. Easter, on the other hand, is about a “supernatural” event: Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Both sides can agree that Jesus’ tomb was empty. But how it got that way depends on which worldview you embrace.
The apostle Paul knew this. In 1 Corinthians 15:13-14 he writes, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Now Paul did not find Easter preaching and faith useless. Neither do I. Why?
I intellectually abandoned APN years ago, for a number of reasons. Here's one, briefly.
If naturalism is true, then there is no "divine orchestrator" of life and no ultimate "purpose" for anything. One can then doubt that our cognitive faculties have "naturally" developed so as to be reliable when it comes to truth. Because natural selection is only interested in adaptive behavior and not true belief, it is logically self-defeating for a naturalist to claim that their naturalistic worldview is "true." See, for example, philosophers Alvin Plantinga and Victor Reppert if you want to study this further.
Darwin knew this. "With me," he said, "the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or are at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?" (1881 letter of Charles Darwin to William Graham)
More personally, forty-one years ago my naturalistic worldview suffered a setback that led me to write a doctoral dissertation on worldviews and paradigm theories. The watershed moment of my life was when, at age 21, I prayed and asked God to set me free from two years of near-daily drug and alcohol use. From that very moment until now I have been drug-free. Clinical psychiatrist Gerald May, in his brilliant book Addiction and Grace, documents clients who, like myself, are deep in addiction one day and free the next. He admits this does not always happen. But he has seen it happen, and attributes it to the grace of God. It happened to me, and I believe God graciously healed me.
I have kept a journal for the past 35 years that now totals over three thousand pages. It is a personal record of the supernatural activity of God. I have seen people who have illnesses like cancer prayed for and healed, and have the medical records to document it.
A few years ago a marathon runner friend of mine broke his foot, as an x-ray showed. We prayed for him. The next week the x-ray showed there was no break.(For this story see Craig Keener, Miracles, p. 440 ) Two weeks ago a man in my church asked for prayer because medical tests showed a problem in his heart. After receiving prayer, his next visit to the hospital revealed his heart to be perfectly healthy. After years of seeing such things happen, to the frustration of my anti-supernaturalistic paradigm, I have come to believe, not only that God exists, but that God intervenes supernaturally in the world today.
And, I once met a woman who was raised from the dead.
If you believe in a God who made the universe, it is but a short logical step to conclude that this is possible. I find this hopeful. This is Christian Easter faith, which is about meeting a Man who was raised from the dead, and now lives to demonstrate the power of the resurrection in the lives of all who embrace him.
See also Dr. Candy Brown's (Indiana U.) Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Proximal Intercessory Prayer (STEPP) on Auditory and Visual Impairments in Rural Mozambique (Brown, Candy Gunther PhD; Mory, Stephen C. MD; Williams, Rebecca MB BChir, DTM&H; McClymond, Michael J. PhD). Candy is interviewed on this study here.