How far does belief in miracles fit in with belief in God? (30)

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  • According to Hume a miracle is an event that breaks the laws of nature or has intervention by a divine or supernatural agent.
  • Definitions of miracles are often very broad due to the lack of certainty they entail and so generally leave them up to interpretation.
  • One person may call a recovery from an illness a miracle whereas another may not as it is down to individual interpretation which cannot be verified as miraculous.
  • Views and beliefs in miracles may only reflect the way that the witness looks at the world and if they see any religious input in an event that leads them to conclude it to be a miracle. 
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  • Aquinas defined miracles as ‘those things done by divine power apart from the order usually followed in things suggesting that God can intervene with his creation.
  • He identified three types of miracle:
    • First, an event done by God which nature could not do which is recognised as the most traditional approach to miracles as they are acts that are not in line our everyday experience.  
    • Secondly, an event done by God which nature could do, but not in the order in which it occurs such as recovering from paralysis or a terminal illness. There is evidence that it is possible for these things to happen but it is a very rare and unexpected and so many attribute it to miracles.
    • Finally Aquinas states that a miracle could be an event which nature could do but without using the principles or forces of nature.
  • Aquinas’ definition of miracles allowed for a range of possible events, which could all be called miracles. Further, he does not limit a miracle to breaking the laws of nature and so recognises Gods intervention.
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  • As an empiricist Hume’s argument for miracles was based on saying not that they do not happen, but that it would be impossible to prove them. He believed that a miracle was an event that breaks the laws of nature done by a supernatural or divine agent – similar to that of Aquinas.
  • According to Hume, nothing that can happen in nature should be called a miracle. Hume crated four arguments against believing in miracles: he stated that they must be witnessed by highly credible, good sensed and well educated people which raises the question of how much education is enough?
  • In addition Hume said that the testimonies usually came from ignorant and barbarous nations as well as people tending to exaggerate and being drawn towards the sensational and drama meaning that there often is a desire to believe.
  • Finally, there are conflicting claims from different religions that cancel each other out making belief in miracles and a belief in god to be difficult to obtain.
  • Hume will never be fully able to fully prove to believers that miracles do not occur, as the definition of a miracle implies divine activity and that is beyond our human rationality. Both sceptics and believers have been known to agree that the miracles must be a very rare event.
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  • Wiles argued that a God that intervenes in the universe in the form of miracles would make God arbitrary. He doesn’t deny miracle as such, but believes that the only miracle was the ct of creation and preserving it.
  • Due to miracles being such a rare occasion it leads us to believe that God is disinterested and only intervenes in the world occasionally. Because of this, Wiles states that miracles present an obstacle to faith rather than it strengthening it.
  • A god that only intervenes on occasion reduced the traditional image of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God as a god that intervenes selectively would not be worthy of worship because of his failure to act on a wider scale. 
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  • Bultmann wanted to make the New Testament relevant in the 20th century through demythologising it. He argued for interpreting the New Testament in existentialist terms regarded as a myths rather than true events and so making it easier to believe.
  • Miracles are often mistaken for myths and so if it is believe that Jesus’ miracles were all myths of the New Testament then it makes it even more difficult to accept modern day miracles to be true.
  • Bultmann included the resurrection and the miraculous stories in his classification of stories that need to be demythologized as he believed that miracles get in the way of what real faith is.
  • Moreover, modern scientific discoveries have explained events that would have seemed like miracles in the past but would have just been unknown actions of science.
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R.F Holland

  • R. F. Holland argues against miracles claiming them to be coincidences that are interpreted in a religious manner. Holland sees miracles less of breaking the laws of nature but rather as coincidences.
  • He recounts an example where a child playing on a railway line when a train is coming, but the driver fails to see the child. The driver faints meaning his hand is taken off the lever and the brake is automatically activated stopping the train right in front of the child. There was no violation of the laws of nature, however a religious person this may see this to have religious significance and claim it to be a miracle.
  • This is more a case of seeing an event as a miracle rather than wanting to prove it to be. There is no intervention of God but the statement of the vent being miraculous relies on the interpretation of person.
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Religious standpoint

  • The Bible is believed to be inspired and the word of God. This includes all the miracle stories contained within it which are a large part of God’s message.
  • There are many miracle stories in the Bible an example being the parting of the red sea. In the Bible it is clear that miracles have happened.
  • To doubt miracles means doubting that the Bible is divinely inspired and so presents another barrier between believing in miracles and believing in God.
  • A miracle is a basic part of the Christian faith and so implies that miracles and God are meant to go hand in hand.
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  • Despite Wiles’ argument of a God that intervenes selectively to perform miracles not being worthy of worship or in line with the traditional view of God and Hume’s general reservations surrounding the possibility of miracles at all I would conclude that belief in God and belief in miracles are two things that do fit together.
  • Miracles play such an important role in the Christian faith and to say that you cannot believe in miracles and believe in God would be redundant.
  • Claiming an event to be miraculous usually comes from a religious stance and interpretation and so leads me to conclude that with belief in miracles comes belief in God.
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