From the comments to the post I Believe In One Fewer God than You Do:
What I find very strange is that if someone told you a snake or ass talked you wouldn't believe it just because someone told you they did. But you believe it and everything in the Bible because it's in there. You would be skeptical of every single claim in the Bible if someone came running up to you and said an old lady turned into a pillar of salt, or that lifting up the hands of Moses caused a military victory. You wouldn't even believe it if someone else came up to you and confirmed it. You would want to see for yourself, wouldn't you? Or are you truly a gullible person? But here you are two millenia removed and all you have is a text that says these things happened. Where are your critical skills here? Be consistent. Be as skeptical about these claims as you are claims today. Test these claims as an outsider. If you conclude Christianity is false, then seen what you believe, like I have. But I cannot be asked to believe these things actually took place without good evidence.
I have seen this argument at many times and in many different ways. I think the first place I saw it was when I was cruising around the Internet Infidels site and some former pastor who had fallen to the dark side made this argument (his name was Dan Barker, if memory serves). He argued that one of the things that led him away from faith was that talking snakes and asses are described in the Bible and we wouldn't believe them today, so why do we believe them merely because they are part of some old religious manuscript?
This argument has some appeal. It is the appeal to reject as untrue those things that are incredulous; that we all know can't be true from our personal experiences. After all, I reject many things out of hand simply because they are too incredible to be true. And certainly, some of the things that are described in the Bible are things that I would find difficult if not impossible to believe today. Hence, if someone who owns a farm were to tell me that their donkey spoke to them, I readily admit that I would first question that person's sanity.
The account of Balaam's ass is one of the most challenging in the entire Bible for both the Bible-believing Christian and the skeptic. After all, how can we take a book seriously when it contains stories of talking donkeys? Doesn't this show that the Bible is, as noted by infamous defense attorney and anti-Christian Clarence Darrow, a fable not to be trusted as true? The story points out the bifurcation in approaches to the Biblical text which can often lead to widely divergent views of its veracity. If one starts with some of the difficult stories like the account of Balaam's ass, one is likely to conclude that the entire Bible is nonsense because of the appeal of the argument that "we all know that donkeys can't talk".
However, there is another account in the Bible that, in my view, is even more unbelievable than the talking Donkey in Numbers 22. That is the account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion.
Now, if someone were to tell me that my Uncle Joey had miraculously risen from the dead, I would find that very difficult to believe for a couple of reasons. First, I don't have and have never had an Uncle Joey. But more importantly, I would find the idea that someone had risen from the dead to be extremely unlikely because "we all know that people don't rise from the dead", right?
Yet, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central claim of Christianity. Why do I believe that this singularly unlikely event happened when "we all know that people don't rise from the dead"? I mean, if I wouldn't believe that Uncle Joey rose from the dead, then why would I believe that a man who lived 2,000 years ago rose from the dead? Further, if I accepted the Carl Sagan approach to reality that the universe is all there is, all there was, and all there ever will be, then it's doubtful that any evidence would ever convince me that any person rose from the dead.
But with all due respect to people who approach the Bible this way, that is a very foolish approach to the text. It's like reading a description of Einstein's Theory of Relativity and saying "so in the same period of time one person ages 10 times more than another? That's impossible, because we all know that people don't age at different rates" and rejecting the Theory of Relativity on that basis. The Bible isn't a book in a vacuum. It is a book whose veracity is evidenced by several factors.
If one starts with the arguments and evidence for God's existence, reviews the evidence that Jesus really did rise from the dead, examines the evidence that the accounts of Jesus life, teaching and ministry in the Bible are both trustworthy and faithfully preserved, and understands that God can intervene in the world, the accounts that would otherwise be unbelievable outside of context began to reveal themselves as true regardless of how difficult it would be to believe them in other circumstances. Even today, I wouldn't believe that Uncle Joey rose from the dead because I do know that people don't willy-nilly rise from the dead. But knowing that God exists and can intervene, I would recognize that such a thing, while rare, is possible. To happen would require a miracle and miracles can only be performed for the glory of and at the instigation of God. The resurrection of Jesus had the correct purpose and that purpose is both foretold and consistent with the accounts faithfully recorded in the books of the Old Testament. Moreover, Jesus rose again by the power of God.
Add to that the fact that the people who tell the account appear very trustworthy. They had nothing to gain from lying about the resurrection, and had everything to lose. After all, in the thinking of the Jews of First Century Palestine, claiming that someone was God when they weren't was risking imprisonment, life, and almost certainly your eternal soul. Doesn't the veracity of someone come into play when you are told an account? If a friend who you trusted very deeply told you that something incredible had happened to them would you dismiss it out of hand? If not, why would you dismiss the accounts of these men out of hand without first exploring further to see if there exists further reason and evidence to support their otherwise incredible claims?
The evidence and reasoning that supports the claims of Jesus' resurrection makes the claims which would otherwise be incredible carry a sense of trustworthiness that would be missing from a claim that my Uncle Joey had somehow miraculously and pointlessly risen from the dead where no movement of God was involved.
What about other Old Testament accounts, like the account of Balaam's ass? Of course, if someone were to tell me that an ass spoke to them my first reaction would be to think they were daft. But the talking ass in Numbers 22 is not some purposeless talking ass like in fairy tales where houses and trees talk. Verse 28 opens, "And the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey . . . ." Balaam's ass was moved to talk by the power of God as a lesson to Balaam. Shortly thereafter, God, through an angel, revealed Himself to Balaam. In context, the story takes on an aura of believability that it lacks in a vacuum.
Would I expect an ass to talk to me? No. Do I expect to see people rise from the dead? No. But simply because such things don't happen under ordinary circumstances does not mean that they cannot happen when God intervenes for His purposes. Is such intervention common? No. Should I readily accept every report of a miracle as being true? No. But being uncommon and worthy of investigation before belief does not mean that I should dismiss the claims out of hand.
Context is key. Once a person sees that there is strong reason to believe that God is real and can act in nature, then the only question is whether he did act in these particular ways -- regardless of how unbelievable the events would be if God didn't exist or didn't act.