A friend pointed me towards these two videos which are intriguing viewing. In the first, an extraordinary experience during the recording of a worship track is recounted. The second video is the actual recording itself. If you want to jump to the action go to 5 minutes in and wait 30 seconds…
What do you think? I certainly think it’s possible (and the evidence off the hard drive recorders from the individual tracks is good) but what would it need to convince us a bit more? Perhaps some more eye-witness accounts from people who were there?
I realise that 'miraculous claims require miraculous evidence' is an atheistic view, but the gullibility of some Christians is astonishing. I've heard people say that we should give people the benefit of the doubt (!) if they claim to have personally raised the dead! The above is about as miraculous as Rods ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rod_(optics)) aside from the fact, that, if Angels were of a mind do do some backing vocals, you'd expect them to pick better songs ;)
Doubtless one response is along the lines of "Ah, so what's your explanation!!?" But you yourself Peter talk of 'evidence'. There is no 'evidence' here of supernatural beings contributing to backing vocals, and the burden of proof is on the one making such claims.
So your explanation for the harmonies is…. ??
Or are you in the business of dismissing things you don't like without any robust argument?
"If you can't explain it, it must be Angels" is not a robust argument. I don't doubt that someone more au fait with the audio equivalent of optical illusions could furnish such an argument, the fact that I can't in no way validates the notion that it must be angels (wouldn't a statistician like yourself say that there are all number of explanations – the people involved are lying, for one – more probably than Divine Intervention?). Even if one thought that the harmonies necessarily arose from divine beings then that would in no way prove they were angels, either. And of course even if I liked the track then that in no way negate my duty to fairly appraise miraculous claims seemingly being made for it. I thought that much of the ideas around 'guardian angels' and the like are extra-biblical, so I certainly don't see any overwhelming reason why Christians should assume that Angels not only intervene in contemporary human affairs but show up to offer some lines on a worship songs!
I don't think at any point I said “If you can’t explain it, it must be Angels”. Far from it – my blog post itself demands more evidence. You don't even seem to want to sift the evidence.
No, I disagree with some of what you cite as compelling evidence,e.g. 'eyewitness accounts from people who were there'. Whereas you take it for granted that the Angel-explanation is a potentially valid one ("I certainly think it's possible). Now it would of course be great if this *was* Angels, but I don't think Christians are supposed to abandon healthy scepticism and expectations of proof in these matters. You'd agree that there's been many,many examples of eyewitness accounts of alleged spiritual phenomena, the majority of which the Christian (believing, of course, that all other religions are false!) would necessarily discount? Protestants don't believe in, say, appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, despite the fact that, on paper, 70,000 eyewitness ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_of_the_Sun )is at least a robust a criteria of 'evidence' as that offered for many more evangelical miracles!
What do I cite as "compelling evidence"? Where do I use the phrase "compelling evidence"?
This is the problem Ryan – you are attacking a straw man built for the purpose of making you feel better.
Firstly, you have no basis for assuming that Angels not appearing in a worship song would make me feel better, let alone that such a motivation is my reason for noting that the evidence is hardly overwhelming!
You did indeed not use the phrase "compelling evidence" . Mea Culpa. However in expecting that you'd *want* "compelling evidence" (in your view) in order to believe something is hardly a slur or a strawman – quite the opposite! The post is entitled "Angels Singing?" and you say that " I certainly think it’s possible (and the evidence off the hard drive recorders from the individual tracks is good) ". So you'd agree that you are according a degree of weight to said evidence that I am not? That's hardly a strawman or slur – it's a difference of opinion. And you do move from asking what would convince us a bit more to suggesting " Perhaps some more eye-witness accounts from people who were there?" I think it's fair to describe evidence that gives one no choice but to believe something as "compelling". I don't think that further eye-witness accounts fall into that category. You at least suggest it as a possibility. So I might very well be wrong about what you regard as compelling evidence – and, if so, I of course apologise for going off half-cocked – but the phrase is not used as a willful straw-man. You surely agree that you think that it's very possible that the harmonies are Angels and , moreover, that you disagree with the idea that 'miraculous claims require miraculous evidence?"
If I were investigating this, I'd make a timeline of the song, and record on it the notes sung by the singer and played by the keyboard and their durations and times, and the notes sung in the harmony, and their durations and times. If there was some relationship (e.g. the harmony note was the same as the singer but delayed 10 seconds, or up a third and delayed 5 seconds) I'd suspect electronics. If there was no relationship, that would be evidence in support of the thesis.
"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?" — Sherlock Holmes.
Thanks for posting this testimony and song, I was very moved by both. Experiences like this are one of the main reasons that I am in the charismatic curch, for all its faults and tolerance of the heresy of the 'prosperity gospel' and 'televangelists'.
Ultimately, Christianity is nothing if it is not supernatural. We believe in a God who is omnipotent, omniscient and eternal. Of course he's also supernatural. And I believe, as Jesus and the scriptures say, that we will continue to perform supernatural miracles as a testimony to the love and power of God.
Now that is all of course a long way in saying that I believe that this particular event was a miracle. We are, after all, viewing one man's report, as other posters have noted. But I do not discount the posibility of a miracle per se, to do so would be to doubt that God is supernatural.
And, I have to say, it is in living in Africa for the past 20 odd years that I have both seen and experienced God's supernatural power through the Holy Spirit. The church in Africa has many areas where it still needs to grow and mature. That is not surprising – it has only been present in most of Africa for the last 150 years. But my experience of Africans, saved or unsaved, is that there is a ready belief in supernatural power, for both good and ill. And IMHO it is in that environment of greater faith in the power of the Holy Spirit that miracles take place.
A few examples:
1. When I was part of the worship team in my charismatic church, there was an occasion when the whole team had an experience of smelling incense that filled the church. On another separate occasion, while I was worshipping, I saw a vision of gold dust being sprinkled over the entire congregation as the Holy Spirit was poured out!
2. During a healing service in the same church a man in a wheel chair was healed and was able to stand up out of his chair, no more than a few metres from where I was standing. His legs were visibly stiff and he stood with difficulty but he stood up and walked around a bit.
3. At one time a woman who was a sangoma (traditional healer) came to the front of the church and committed her life to Christ. Knowing her background and the likelihood of demonic possession, the pastors commenced a lengthy deliverance. At one point, in front of my eyes, she was flung backwards by an unseen force through 5 or 6 rows of chairs (thankfully we have chairs not rews!). She was brought back to the front and after further deliverance was set free!
I am reporting here three events that I have seen with my own eyes. In my view there are only five possible reactions to what I report:
1. I am lying.
2. I am exaggerating.
3. I am deluded.
3. Some unusual combination of physical and psychological events caused what I observed to happen.
4. These were supernatural events that involved (either/or/and) a) God's power at work through the Holy Spirit b) Satan at work through demonic powers.
When I've spoken to people about these events then I've had all 5 reactions, depending on the beliefs of the person concerned. (And sometimes a combination of reactions as people hedge their bets or seek to not offend me!) I am not offended if people think that I'm lying or mad!
But, in Africa at least, these sort of events are not uncommon. Just do a google search on 'Africa miracles healings' and see how many testimonies you get!
"When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don't, they don't". Sir William Temple.
I am convinced it was angels, it was all the supernatural things Philip shared. When God delivered me out of Homosexuality. I heard the chains drop off of me and Jesus rattle the keys and say "YOU ARE MINE".
If you have the faith and believe…anything is possible! Without faith, without belief one cannot accept the miraculous and supernatural work of God!
It is unbelief that doubts.
>>>>I am convinced it was angels, it was all the supernatural things Philip shared. When God delivered me out of Homosexuality. I heard the chains drop off of me and Jesus rattle the keys and say “YOU ARE MINE”.
lol, so you went from lesbianism to hearing voices? Aye, that's a real improvement. Where does one sign on for these miracle (!) cures(!!) ? ;-)
I'm glad you asked. Simply ask Him in your heart to be the Lord of your life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever 'believe' shall not perish, but have everlasting life. Just ask Him Ryan. His death on the cross and ressurection 3 days later is the greatest 'miracle' of all!
Oh, I very much am a Christian, which is why I object to the blasphemous conflation of genuine miracles like those of Our Lord with the money-grabbing antics of snake-oil salesman such as Todd Bentley et all.
Strangely enough, in my local paper this very week is a photograph which a lady took on her mobile phone of a rock formation in Cornwall. On it is something that looks vaguely like a human figure. She says, “We thought it looked like a lady with a lamp who’d been sent to warn ships off the rocks,” but now she wonders whether it might be the Virgin Mary.
Anyone who is inclined to believe that such events as these are miraculous should have a look at Derren Brown's Séance. The human mind's credulity is second only to its powers of storytelling and for trickery. It seems that while Kathryn Kuhlman may have been sincere her helpers were not:
The Catholic Church has officially recognised some 60-odd miracles at Lourdes. The Telegraph reported in 'Where Scientists are looking for God' 1/16/2002 that 'approximately 7000 people have sought to have their case confirmed as a miracle, of which only 68 have been declared a scientifically inexplicable miracle by the Catholic Church'. As Richard Dawkins said to the administrator of the shrine in his documentary 'The God Delusion', first broadcast in January 2006 on Channel 4 in the UK, 'considering the millions of pilgrims visiting the shrine over the decade those 68 have no statistical significance'. What it feels like to be one of those 68 is another matter, but I think miracles are a problem for theism – 'why was this old person cured but not this innocent child with tongue cancer?' and so on; it makes God seem arbitrary – and hands to rationalists an easy jibe "Why does God hate amputees?". It is not only Christianity that claims miracles – there are Indian gurus who work them are a-plenty. It is only in Buddhism that monks are forbidden to indulge in thaumaturgy – and if they do the penalty is disrobing.
Many charlatans have been exposed by the James Randi Foundation http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/1m-challenge….
As far as this miracle goes, if it is one, it's pretty poor chickenfeed, IMHO.
Very well put, Tom. The human capacity for credulity, deception and self-deception is truly amazing, especially when apparently inexplicable phenomena lend support to convictions already held. Anyone who doubts it would do well to study the history of the “physical” phenomena of Spiritualism, such as the materialisation of departed spirits, paranormal slate-writing (where messages supposedly from the spirit world miraculously appear on the inside of locked slates) and “spirit photography” (where the “psychic photographer” takes a photograph of the sitter and when the photograph is developed a visitor from the spirit world is found to be standing behind the sitter, looking over his or her shoulder). Even such brilliant men as Alfred Russel Wallace and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were taken in by this kind of thing.
I’m glad that you mentioned James Randi. His book “The Faith Healers”, although it gets a bit rambling and tedious at times, is most illuminating and well worth the trouble of reading.
It should be: decades (plural)
Tom and William
Thanks for the links, Tom, which I found most interesting. I fully agree with you that there are charlatans and frauds in spiritual healing, as there are in all areas of society, religious or otherwise.
Tom, I totally disagree with your view that religion and rationalism are opposed. But that would require a much longer conversation!
But how does the existence of such frauds rule out the existence of the supernatural and the validity of miracles per se, unless the non-existence of such things has already been pre-supposed?
I don't think William or I said the existence of fraud ruled out that there might be the supernatural, or that it could interact with the natural world. But I do think miracles are problematic for theism. As scientific understanding of how our world functions more and more the less room there is for seeing the interference of God in the natural processes of the universe. I have just come back from Tromsø in Norway inside the Arctic Circle where I witnessed the wonder of the Northern Lights, a truly magnificent and awesome sight. But where our ancestors might have attributed a supernatural meaning we don't need to if we understand even a little of the science that explains them. We can still be awestruck and even fearful of the power of nature and maybe believe in some ultimate force behind it all, but whether that is the Jehovah, Odin or Zeus, or some disinterested Prime-Mover it is impossible to prove or, for that matter, disprove. Saying "the Bible tells me so" may satisfy some people but it does not amount to proof any more than personal experience does. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people saw the sun dance at Fátima in Portugal but no one who was not there did, which suggests it was a localised phenomenon – but how could it be when one half of the globe sees the same sun during the hours of daylight? – or it was an effect of group psychology rather than a miracle, if by that you mean a real suspension of the ordinarily immutable laws of nature by some supernatural intervention. I speak as one who has witnessed a 'miracle' with thousands of other people, the god Vishnu manifesting as a ball of light in the sky high above the temple of Ayyappa in the Sabrimala Hills in Kerala.
Anyway, here is a link to Darren Brown's Séance which I forgot to give:
You might also be interested in seeing Messiah, his thought-provoking and controversial look at belief in America, which for me goes someway towards explaining my experience in Sabrimala:
Would love to hear more of this manifestation of Vishnu.
Peter and Philip
The 'miracle' I witnessed a few years ago took place on the day of Makara Jhyoti the high point of the pilgrimage in mid January around the 14th when it was estimated 1.5 million people were present. The light in the sky shines directly into the doors of the temple which on that night have been left open. It is said to represent the presence of Vishnu; the official temple website says some people think the light is made by the Rshis and Devas performing the ceremony of arthi. (Arthi is a ritual in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor on a brass plate is offered to the deity in a circular fashion.)
Some people there also said they saw Garuda, Vishnu's eagle, flying above but I can't say I did. The temple website give the rules we had to follow
I was there with a friend who was making a post-doctorate study of the cult of Ayyappa. He and I were the only white men there and we were accorded great kindness and respect by the other pilgrims. The army policed the whole thing and at the temple brought us safely to the front of the crowds to view the idol of the god in the temple. We had carried six coconuts on our heads which had to be offered at certain points along the way; the last was filled with ghee and this was poured over the idol by the priest. We began the ascent of the holy mountain with a ritual bath in the river Pampa and then walked barefoot for 6 km up to the golden shrine. We had to spend the night there sleeping on the ground but some kind people gave us and our guide a room – still no beds, we had to sleep on the floor. Everyone wears a black lungi and shirt, or blue or safron. Only post-menopausal women and little girls can join the men. Sick people or the very old can be carried up on a 'dolly'. When we came down there were no buses to take us away so we began to walk the several kilometres to the nearest village when a smart black charabanc drew up and we were pulled aboard. They were pilgrims from Bangalore who fed us with apples and water and then later cooked a meal for all by the roadside before leaving us in the nearby town. For me that hospitality and acceptance was the most wonderful part of the experience. Muslims join Hindus in the pilgrimage and at a mosque in the nearest town the pilgrims cover each other in coloured powder to show the obliteration of difference. A truly inspiring lesson.
Do I really think the miracle was true? I think it was no less true than the liquefaction of the blood of St January that takes place in Naples each year
or the Miracle of the Holy Fire that takes place every Easter in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
– but I am also aware that some people think all these things are faked :-(
Well there were two "miracles" that you reported. The first was, by your own admission, just the sun shining on a reflective statue. The second miracle you didn't witness so once again there is little to go on.
What you did experience though (as I did when I was out there) was the amazing hospitality of the Indian people. And some superb food. We could learn a lot from that.
No Peter, I didn't say that. Read it again! There was a light in the sky over the mountain not a mere reflection – too bright for that by far. You are right about the second part, I didn't see Garuda, more's the pity, or I might have become a Vaishnavite, in case you are worried.
I just wonder if two brown-faced people were walking on a roadside in a remote part of the UK a bus-load of pilgrims on their way to Walsingham or Spring Harvest would stop to pick them up.
Sorry, let me understand you. There was a light in the sky which appeared and shone into the temple? You saw that? Definitely wasn't the sun?
It was after dark, which falls about 6.30 winter and summer at that latitude as you know. For me the whole experience was wonderful, the light was a cherry on the cake, but mostly because of the devotion it inspired in my fellow-pilgrims. There are people in India who doubt the whole thing. I just don't know. But I did see the light.
Wow. What do you think is the explanation?
My colleague – the post-doctoral guy – thought the Indian Army must have arranged it, some kind of low-flying aircraft or balloon. The strange thing is that it happens on cue every year as the astrologers predict. In that respect it is similar to the St January phenomenon and the Greek Holy Fire which also happen on cue. This is quite unlike the miracles at Fátima which I think happened only over a few days and haven't been repeated. I must say the rationalist in me makes me think in all these cases there has to be human intervention (faking, if you like) though there may be some elbow room for the liquefaction event. It needs more thorough scientific investigation that the owners of the files won't permit. But even if disproved these things get a force of their own as Derren Brown explains when one of the Fox sisters came clean and admitted they had faked ectoplasm, table-rapping. It didn't nothing to stop Spiritualism in its tracks. Just look at what happened after carbon 14-dating apparently proved the Shroud of Turin couldn't be 1st century. It is still being venerated by cardinals downwards. For me it says something about the perseverance of faith in a rational world. (Sorry Philip, I think the two have to be opposed.)
Did you see the research that said people of strong faith are healthier than those of weak faith? It seems there is a rider. Stone-cold atheists are just as healthy as strong believers. The worst position seem to be to have weak faith ("I would that thou wert hot or cold. If thou art lukewarm I will vomit thee out of my mouth" – not sure where that comes in the Bible but perhaps some truth in it.) Weak faith is the sort superstitious stuff that makes you fearful perhaps, like avoiding the number 13. Can't give you a URL for the research – I heard it on Reasonable Doubts.
PS in case you thought the Rshis and Devas were in the temple they were not. Rshis are the ancient seers who brought the Vedas and the devas are deities, all of whom are supposed to dwell on the sacred mountain adjacent to the one where the temple is sited.
Thanks for this testimony. A propos your rational explanation, it should in principle be fairly easy to check flights in the area from logbooks, etc.
I've also seen write-ups on the research on faith and health, although unfortunately I haven't saved any references. I find that a bit of googling using turns up such things pretty quickly!
I must admit that my main reaction to your miracle description was to enjoy your description of the sights and sounds of India! You write very well. I have had one consultancy in India in the early '90s in Jaipur which gave me many wonderful experiences! I am currently being considered for a DFID consultancy in New Delhi which I really hope that I get. India is truely wonderful!
My green, new agey brother spent lots of time travelling in India and it has had a strong influence on the direction of his life to date. On his first trip he came back suffering from what turned out to be a tapeworm which proved hard to dislodge. This enabled me to keep saying: 'David loved India. He really got it into his system!' until I had thoroughly worn out the joke :-)
Just one further comment about any possible explanation for the miracle. My friend comes from a family of strong believers in evangelical Christianity – father was an ordained Methodist minister in Africa where he was born. He started questioning his faith in his teens but went on to read Religious Studies and gained a PhD from Cambridge. Now he is the only one in his family who thinks all religions are human constructs, but interesting and important as an anthropological phenomenon. His suggestion of low-flying aircraft or some fakery managed by the Indian Army was tongue-in-cheek…and he said it quietly to me, not the other pilgrims! I honestly don't know about whether the Army would really get involved in that way but I am naturally quite a skeptical person. I don't buy into the extraordinary claims and assertions people make about the inerrancy of the Bible, for example, so I could never be a literalist of any sort. I just don't feel the need for the comfort of that kind of exclusive certainty which, to be honest, I find can sometimes be quite ugly. The certainty of people who have invested everything in the 'truth' of an extreme position, perhaps secretly with a fragile sense of their certainties, often seem the most threatened in the presence of disbelief. For example, atheists in the US military apparently are given a much harder time than even gay people; 'no atheists in foxholes' is actually a load of codswallop.
Thanks for those very kind remarks Philip. I feel I am so clumsy at typing :-(
I certainly wish you all the best in your hopes to get the Delhi posting. It is an amazing place and a wonderful centre to get to other places from, like Ladakh when the heat of the plains gets overwhelming. But I love the south, particularly Kerala so I hope you will get down there. The west, Pondicherry is also wonderful – quite French-feeling still.
I should have said east – doh.
I'm happy to believe this was an angel singing. If I believe in an all-power God, and in angels, and in the sending of those angels to earth at various and sundry times for various and sundry reasons, I have no reason to feel the need to be skeptical. If I believe it CAN be done, then why can't I believe THIS was one of those times?
I thought the song was lovely… I thought the blending of voices was beautiful. And the worship it produced, at least in me, was authentic. Really, that's all that counts. Can what I see and hear bring me to glorify God? If so? My purpose is being completed.
Some of y'all are just too smart for your own good. ;)
Burden of proof, Melanie. "Liberals" are demonised for allegedly invoking new revelation to justify LGBT inclusion, despite that fact that (c.f. using Papal Infallibility for e.g. Assumption of the BVM)they are in the arena of miraculous claims that by definition can't be proven. Compare and contrast with alleged miracles. If I said I saw an Angel would you believe me? You'd be forgiven for saying "of course not" – I am, afterall, just a guy on the internet! Also, you're "too smart for your own good line" is worrying; evangelicals should be concerned at attempts to conflate evangelicalism with the emotive rubbish of the charismatic movement. Is John McCarthur (say) not a real Christian because (to say the least) he doesn't quite see the Hand of the Spirit in Todd Bentley kneeing cancer sufferers in the balls? Saying that an ideology, like the "emerging church" movement, only "works" if you don't think about it is indeed revealing, just not in the way that proponents of said ideologies would like.
"No miracles can attest a revelation. We must judge of its truth by the light which is in us." – FRANK PODMORE, 1897