Miracles Essay Philosophy

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What is meant by the term `miracle'? (A01- 8 Marks)
One feature of any religion is the concept of miracles. It is important for philosophers to understand what is meant by
the term miracles because they underpin many world religions. For believers miracles are an example of God
intervening in his creation in special ways especially for the Christian belief and it run's all the way through the Bible.
In the scriptures there are a few examples that confirm to Christians that Jesus was not a mere prophet or spiritual
leader but he was the Son of God. So any challenges regarding the concept of miracles, must be taken on board by
believers for the sake of the accuracy of their Christian belief. An example from the Bible would be the resurrection
of Jesus after his crucifixion. Christianity is a religion which is built and based on this miracle, all over the world,
believers speak of the testimony that three days after Jesus was buried in a tomb; he resurrected and came to life
before ascending into heaven- a miracle. Miracles are personal experiences that cannot be explained by science and
do not have a regular occurrence.
There is no right definition for the term miracle. But many philosophers such as Aquinas, Hume, Swinburne and
Holland, have come up with terms to define it.
One of the oldest definitions of the term miracle comes from Aquinas; his definition comes from "Summa Contra
Gentiles", 1264: he believes an event which is incredible but remains within the ordinary course of nature, for
example being cured of an illness is a miracle. He also believes that an event which is incredible and which goes
against the ordinary course of nature like from being blind to then being able to see and he also believes that an
event which is incredible and which goes against the law of nature, the sun spinning and falling from the sky is also a
miracle. Aquinas believes that if an event falls under any one of these three terms then it can be accounted as a
miracle.
Although Aquinas stated these terms for his time, Hume then came along later and gave more conditions under which
he believes an event can be classed as a miracle. Hume goes further than Aquinas and defines miracle in his book, `An
Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1777)' as "a transgression (break) if a law of nature by a particular volition
of the Deity or by the interposition of some invisible agent". From this quote, you can see two features which Hume
believes are necessary for a definition of a miracle, the first being; a law of nature has to be broken. An example of
this would be a dead person coming back to life. The second feature would be that the event has to be caused by
God or one of God's agents (angels).
Swinburne uses both the definitions stated above and does not believe that the definition of a miracle should stop
there. He argues that something else is very important to consider when deciding if an event is a miracle. Swinburne
has extended his definition by saying that a miracle has to be a transgression of natural law, performed by God or an
agent of God and have religious significance.
An example that Richard Swinburne gives of his definition of a miracle was levitation, the transformation of water into
wine and being cured from polio in a minute. Resurrection from the dead would be classed as a miracle because it has
a timescale, order and lacks generally accepted conditions. Swinburne believes that a miracle has to demonstrate the
existence of God, break natural law and be conducted by God or an agent of God.
And R.F Holland suggested that a miracle is nothing more than an extraordinary coincidence that is seen in a religious
way, a mixture of Aquinas and Swinburne's definition. According to him, "a coincidence can be taken religiously as a
sign and called a miracle" and he uses the example of a small boy who gets stuck on a rail track, while a train is
incoming as the driver has not seen the boy. The train driver faints and falls onto the brake lever, causing the train to
halt, saving the life of the boy. The mother of the boy claims it to be a miracle even after the knowing what happened
with the driver.
These four philosophers have attempted to define the term miracle and have put forward many explanations with
examples to do so.
Deborah Jeyaseelan

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Comment on the view that arguments against miracles are stronger than those arguments in
support of them (A02-22 marks)
David Hume, despite offering Hume's criticism on the topic of miracles has been the strongest argument against
miracles.…read more

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Swinburne also critiqued Hume's second point of relying on other people and their testimony; he said that we should
believe the testimony of others if they are not drug users or known liar through the Principle of Testimony.
Swinburne's principle of testimony is highly convincing, we should people if they are speaking the truth although the
principle of credulity is ignorant of the natural laws we do not yet know and not fully counter opposing Hume's point,
making the argument weak.…read more

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Lourdes, there could be a scientific explanation. Such a sceptic view has led to atheists trying to
investigate other miracles to find more scientific or naturalistic explanations for their existence. For example, sand
banks have been found in the red sea which could explain the `parting' which occurred for Moses and the Israelites.…read more

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