A friendly critique of Küng’s view vis-à-vis miracles Pt 2 of 2
3d) Whether Küng is correct in the historical doubt he casts upon certain biblical miracle stories is disputable - and readers will know that I actually admire and applaude Küng's openness to the results of biblical criticism. One or two of the examples Küng cites as ‘obviously legendary in character’ seem to presuppose a value judgment precisely according to modernist categories of closed and prescriptive (rather than descriptive) laws of nature. But one should perhaps be more careful in deciding what is legendary or not a priori (cf. Meyer, The Aims of Jesus). Furthermore, to claim that Küng's assertions are not made a priori but rather because of the results of biblical criticisms doesn't convince me.
3e) He uses that old chestnut of an argument: it’s the meaning that counts to the biblical authors, not whether something happened (‘Es geht ja der Bibel bei ihren Wundererzählungen ohnehin nicht primär um das erzählte Geschehen selbst, sondern um die Deutung des Erzählten’, p. 172). Although he sneaks in the word ‘primär’, it is doubtful that the flow of his argument justifies its inclusion. And surely sometimes the meaning of an event, the interpretation of an event, presupposes the occurrence of an event (cf. Jesus’ response to John the Baptist – though the interpretation was ambiguous, the happening of the miracles is presupposed – or the deck of cards has no table to stand on). Thus, to drive too firm a wedge between the event and its interpretation runs the risk of overstatement. Questions concerning the historicity of an event are an inadequate line of analysis, yes, but they are not ‘beside the point’ or irrelevant.
3f) I would suggest that it is one thing to claim as Küng does, and I think rightly, that miracles are not ‘proofs’ of God’s existence, but hints toward his activity in the world. However, it is quite another thing to assert that miracles are metaphors, and not about a ‘lifting of the laws of nature’ (whatever one is to make of such a phrase. It appears as a pejorative in modern scholarship in a way that brings less light than promised). These two issues are perhaps not distinguished firmly enough in Küng's rhetoric. To take a side-step out of the strict rules of academic debate for a moment: Try praying for a dying mum with cancer and tell her that she should not expect any miracle as (a hoped for) real event, but something only faith can seize in interpretation. This is not about proofs of the existence of God, but neither is it about simple metaphor.