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Need to know: defining a concept of a miracle and the different definitions
involved, Hume on miracles, the biblical concept of miracles and what miracles
in the bible tell us about God's activity, Wiles on miracles, implications for the
problem of evil, critically discuss these areas and evaluate strengths and
Whether miracles occur and what their impact is on the goodness of God is
often down to the definition of the term. There are two standard definitions:
-Miracles are violations
-Miracles are events which have religious significance.
The traditional definition of term `miracle' was given by the philosopher David
Hume- he defined them as a "Transgression of a natural law by a particular
volition of the Deity". This is known as the violation definition, it's key claim is
that a miracle is a breaking of a law of nature. Examples of miracles being
violations of the law of nature can be found in many sacred texts such as the
Bible: parting of the red sea, water into wine, the resurrection of Jesus.
What are the problems with defining Miracles as violations of the laws of
-The word `violation' assumes we know what the laws of nature are,
scientifically knowledge is constantly changing. Therefore, we cannot know if
something is really a miracle or just unusual.
Are miracles events with religious significance?
Aquinas supports the definition that miracles have religious significance as he
believes that they have a divine cause. This means that natural events can be
miracles as well, however this presents problems. One problem with this
definition is that events that are quite probably coincidences are not taken into
account. Famous example given by R.F Holland 1932- gives the story of a boy
playing on a railway line. The express train is about to come round the corner
and will not be able to stop in time. Remarkably the train does stop a few
metres short of the boy. It later emerges that the driver had fainted and the
automatic cut off switch had stopped the train. These events are perfectly
natural but the boy's mother sees it as all the events as an act of God. Hence
Holland argues that miracles are not necessarily violations of natural laws but
are any event that a person experiences as having religious significance. Laws
of nature are irrelevant.
Old testament- miracles in the Old Testament are generally acts of God which
support the faithful and punish the wicked or those who oppose God's people.
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The central miracle in the Old Testament is the events surrounding the exodus
from Egypt. The scriptures tell of Moses standing before Pharaoh and asking
for the Israelites to be freed. With each refusal, plagues were sent which only
effected the Egyptians. These cumulate in the death of the first born and the
parting of the red sea.
New Testament- these miracles tend to centre on the person of Jesus. There are
over 30 recorded miracle accounts in the four gospels.…read more