More shooting from the hip, but it seems to produce interesting results (at least for me) and this is only a blog after all.
The last time I discussed Hume on miracles with other real philosophers the majority of the group seemed to think his argument was pretty hopeless. I think that view goes something like this:
Hume says it's irrational to believe in miracles because, by (his) definition, a miracle violates a law of nature. But Hume of all people shouldn't be saying that it's rational to believe that laws of nature are never violated! The evidence for each alleged miracle is some kind of testimony, the evidence against, he says, is universal experience. But experience does not tell us that what usually happens must always happen, nor even that it probably always happens. So the evidence against is very weak, perhaps even non-existent.
The Bible says that the Red Sea parted. Evidence for this being true: the Bible says it happened. Evidence against: seas don't part. But, according to Hume, it is not rational to believe that seas don't part. It is only rational to believe that observed seas don't part (and not because they are observed). Or even: observed seas with the possible exception of the Red Sea on one occasion don't part. But that tells us nothing about what the Red Sea did when none of us was there to observe it. Hume has blundered!
I don't think that's right. For one thing, if a miracle is a violation of a law of nature and there are no laws of nature, then there cannot be any miracles. If there are laws of nature but it is not rational to believe in them, then it is also not rational to believe in miracles thus defined. No laws of nature violated without laws of nature. This might be cheating, but it isn't a blunder.
Secondly, although Hume does not believe it is rational to believe in laws of nature he does think it is normal, natural, and pretty much inevitable (for human beings, at least). So we can take laws of nature as given. Once we do this miracles are possible after all. But is it ever wise to believe in any given miracle? That is his question. We have some evidence in favor of each alleged miracle, namely the allegation or claim that it happened. Against this we have not so much evidence that it didn't as a kind of posit or presupposition that it could not have happened. Can it be wise to reject this dictate of human-nature-plus-experience? Hume thinks not.
As he sees it we cannot help but think inductively, so belief in the violation of a natural law is almost impossible. If it is possible, it comes at a price. Wittgenstein asks whether we would still stay in the saddle no matter how much the facts bucked (his love of Westerns showing through?) and Hume's concern is with something like staying in the saddle, holding on to our natural common sense. If miracle stories are facts then they are bucking facts, and it cannot (he thinks) be wise to let them unseat us.
It seems to me that Christians might agree with this. Some of them accept that their beliefs are not prudent or strictly rational. Kierkegaard and Chesterton, for instance, are more passionate than that. Hume is presumably teasing when he talks of faith in miracles as a miracle, but believers might say that this is exactly what it is.