Anti-realist views of miracles

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  • Anti-realist miracles
    • Scientific
      • We can have no knowledge of a mind independent world, as phenomena observed by our senses is interpreted by the mind
      • There can be no commitment to anything unobservable -  because unobservable things have no cognitive context - how can we talk meaningfully about unobservable things
    • Miracles
      • We have no knowledge of a transcendent realm - so the idea of miraculous intervention in this world by a transcendent God is not sensible
      • Miracles are 'in the mind' - they are mental states / attitudes to be understood in terms of psychology
      • A miracle is something that lifts the spirit, or transforms a community
      • Informing us about their state of mind NOT a claim about the event itself
      • Reject the concept of miracles as an activity by divine being, whether it be within nature or a violation of its laws
    • Tillich - Miracles as sign events
      • Miracles are sign events that cannot be divorced from their religious context
      • There is no commitment to the idea of God as a being, from a transcendent real, intervenes to bring about a miracle
      • Subjective experience centring on individual experiencing it & their reaction - others might observe the same thing but not see it as a miracle
      • No law of nature is violated
      • It is a symbol within a religious experience
    • RF Holland - Miracles as remarkable coincidences
      • Example - the child who runs his toy onto the railway track, where it get stuck, at the same time a train is coming along the line.
        • The fact that the driver faints, thus causing an emergency stop - seen by mother as miracle, even though she knows there is a natural cause - GOD RESPONDING TO HUMAN NEED
      • Miracles are natural occurrences
      • They are beneficial in nature
      • They have religious significance
    • Hick - Miracles are 'experiencing- as'
      • Miracles are natural events that have religious significance
      • For example - the ten plagues
      • If an event seems to breach a law of nature - it is not because of divine intervention
      • If an event seems inexplicable, that is because our scientific knowledge is limited: there will be a natural explanation
      • Natural laws are simply our retrospective generalisations that encompass human observation & experience
      • Our understanding of that law has not been sufficiently wide, so the understanding of that law just needs expanding so that it takes account of the exception
    • The significance of anti-realist views
      • The importance of miracles is subjective; they are not objectively true
      • Address problems raised for theologians by miracles apparent contradiction with science - preserves intellectual
      • Their significance for Tillich was psychological and personal - sign events that are bound up with the experience of the mystery at the heart of religious experience
      • Holland - miracles natural happenings that are beneficial in nature & had religious significance for the people involved - reinforce faith in God's goodness & love
      • Wiles - Jesus' miracles were not about him breaching natural laws but were stories pointing to God's purposes for the world that were intended to encourage Christians to play their part in overcoming evil and suffering


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