AS Religious Studies Miracles

AS Level Miracles topic for AQA 



'A violation of natural law'

'An event of religious significance'

Biblical Examples;

Raising of Lazarus (John 11:17-44) - Siblings Mary, Martha & Lazarus, good friends of Jesus. Lazarus died, Jesus went to his tomb and raised him from the dead.

Jesus heals paralysed man (Luke 5:17-26) - Man was carried to Jesus by his friends, Jesus said 'your sins are forgiven', the man was able to get up and walk away.

Jesus walking on water (Mark 6: 45-52)

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Different belief 

Thomas Aquinas - Those things which must properly be called miraculous which are done by divine power apart from the order generally followed in things

Deism - God created world then left. An external spectator. God choosing to act in a world which he had previously not been present.

Brian Davies - If God is an all powerful creating God who is in charge of everythin that happens in the Universe, He should not need to intervene.

Cosmological Argument - God is in the unmoved mover, the uncaused cause, responsible for all movement and change.

Teleological Argument - The way the world is ordered cannot just be by chance. 

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If God is all loving, why does he save some people and not others?

Mel Thompson - 'If one person survives a car crash that kills a hundred others, why should it be deemed a miracle, performed by God, when (if God is all powerful) the other hundred deaths are actually willed by him?'

Peter Vardy - 'A God who intervenes at Lourdes to cure an old man of cancer but does not act to save starving millions in Ethiopia..needs, at the least, to face some hard questioning.'

Maurice Wiles - 'A God who saves someone from cancer, but ignores those trapped in the twin towers on 9/11 is a God not worthy of worship.'

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David Hume

A miracle is a transgression of a law of nature. It is unacceptable to base religious belief on miracles.

1.Insufficient Evidence - Laws of nature, likely to be true as have been observed so many times, but cannot be proven. Miracles are very unlikely events. Never enough people to see a miracle to prove it.

2.Human Testimony - Religious people want a mriacle to happen, so convince themself it has, affirms their faith. Often reported from 'ignorant and barbarous nations'.

3.Different religions - All religions report miracles. Not all religions can be right, they conflict. If one is right, the others must be false.

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Laws of Nature

Descriptive, not perscriptive - laws of nature, tells us what has happened in the past, and allow us to make predictions. E.g. the sun rises every morning, so we can predict it will rise tomorrow.

'Violation' of laws is not possible.

John Hick - Natural law boundaries are so vast, we don't know what they extend to. Natural law cannot be broken, because we do not know the limits. Miracles should enhance natural laws, not be evidence of breaking them.

Swineburne - Natural laws just give an idea of what should happen.

Ockham's Razor                                                                                                         When there's lots of possible explanations, you should always pick the simplest explanation. Believing an event that violates natural law is not a miracle, easiest explanation is that it'll eventually be explained by science.

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Natural Laws may be more complicated than we think.

Quasi-violations of natural law - imagine a natural law which we have evidence to believe is a sound law, and which is absolutely true. Next, Swinburne asks us to think of an event which goes against this natural law. He states that it is far too complicated to start thinking about all the possible exceptions to this natural law and all the possible reasons it might be wrong and could be violated. So much evidence for natural law, and so many other theories depend on it. We should believe natural law is true, and that the event is a quasi-violation.

Principale of Testimony                                                                                              If there's no reason to doubt a persons account of seeing a miracle then we should belive them.

Principale of Credulity - If there's no reason to disbelieve, we should accept events we see happening.

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Religiously Significant Miracles

1. SIGNS - They point to a belief in God. Jesus tells blind man to rub mud in his eyes and then he can see again, this leads to a belief in Jesus (John 9: 1-12)

2.STIGMATA - Wounds resembling Jesus's from when he was on the cross, usually Roman Catholics. Sign from God, Jesus is real, we should believe in him.

3.AMAZING COINCIDENCES - R F Holland, a miracle doesn't have to break a law of nature. E.g. The child playing on the railway tracks, a train is coming, but as the train is approaching the driver has an unrelated heart attack, and slumps forward, pressing the emergency stop. No natural laws are broken. The mother may interpret this as being a religious miracle. An event which displays extraordinary timing and is consistent with laws of nature can be called a miracle. It's down to the individual.

4.NATURAL EVENTS - Normal things can be considered miraculous. E.g. a couple trying to have a baby for 10 years, suddenly concieve naturally. Again, down to the indivual.

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