Miracle definition

A miracle is an extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency.

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Hume - critic

  • Hume defines Miracles as:  ‘A transgression of a law of nature brought about by a particular violation of a Deity’.
  • Believes it's impossible to prove them – he is an empiricist (bases knowledge on experience).
  • Nothing that can happen in nature should be called a miracle
  • Occurrence of miracles must be very rare event - skeptics + believers
  • 5 arguments:
    • conflicting claims that cancel each other out. Hick’s response would be that all religions lead to one God though
    • testimonies usually came from ignorant and barbarous nations
    • People tend to exaggerate and are drawn towards the sensational and drama. The often have a desire to believe
    • Insufficient witnesses – must be witnessed by a highly credible, good sense, well-educated person. How much education is ‘enough’?
    • Not enough evidence of miracles to outweigh our general experience. Rationality requires that belief is proportionate to evidence. ‘A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence
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Wiles - critic

  • Against a God that would act in the world and is good, but won't prevent the holocaust of WW2. This raises q's about his omnipotence and goodness - PROB OF EVIL
  • Idea of God acting in special or particular cases in response to prayers = rejected. God actions leads to q's about God being biased.  
  • God either performs partisan (favours some but not all) and arbitrary (based on random choice) miracles, in which case he is not worthy of miracles, or he does intervene at all. 
  • Leaves view that G-d = disinterested + only intervenes in world occassioanlly
  • G-d who intervines selectively wouldn't be worthy of worship because of his failure to act on wider scale
  • If miracles violate laws of nature then they would have to occur infrequently to avoid laws of nature becoming meaningless
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Vardy - critic

  • Miracles show God to take sides and be immoral: why does God not intervene to stop big disasters but seems to save a small choir group in Nebraska?
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Holland - critic

  • Miracles = interpretations as imagine if a child was playing of a railway and got stuck when a train was coming and the train miraculously stops, his mother would call this a miracle but in actual fact the train driver collapsed onto the dead man's handle.
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Swinburne - sits on the fence

  • If God = all loving he would want to interact with his creation and may do so through miracles
  • Humans have created these laws, this means that miracles could be thought of as being natural - 'Perhaps God can suspend natural laws on occasions'
  • Quantum Laws prove that the universe is probabilistic - miracles do not violate laws
  • Miracles, in their very nature, have to be occasional - if they were regular life would be confusing + would not consider them amazing
  • The Principle of Testimony: In the absent of special consideration = reasonable to believe that experiences of others = probably as they report them. In other words you should believe other people
  • The Principle of Credulity: If it seems that X = present, then probably x = present. In short what one seems to perceive = probably the case (It is a principle of rationality). He puts the onus on the sceptic to disprove religious experience otherwise it should be taken at face value.
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C.S. Lewis - Supporter

  • Stated that we're either naturalists or super naturalists [believe in God] and if we're super naturalists, we can accept the possibility of miracles
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Aquinas - Supporter

  • Definition of miracles = as ‘those things done by divine power apart from the order usually followed in things’. This view suggests that God can do what he wants with his creation.
  • Miracle = act of G-d which = beneficial to recpient which may break natural law but doesn't have to 
  • Identified 3 types of miracle
    • Events done by God that nature could never do; e.g. stopping the sun in the sky as in Joshua 10, or at Fatima in Portugal, when the sun moved in the sky.
    • Events done by God that nature can do, only God does not use the laws of nature; e.g. healing someone by forgiving them their sins.
    • Events done by God that nature could do, but not in that order; e.g. bringing someone back to life (Lazarus), or healing someone of blindness (Blind Bartimaeus).
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Tillich - supporter

  • Miracles = signs from G-d  (rel sig) - should reveal something about him to people 
  • Miracles have to violate laws of nature to be out of ordinary, not G-d violating laws of nature. Must go against laws of nature to be a miracle
  • Miracles have to reveal something about God's nature -  focuses more on the consequences and effects it has on the person. Means - natural events may be perceived as miracle + have rel dig for person witnessing events 
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Polkinghorne - supporter

  • Consequences may change if God begins to deal with humans in a new way
  • Laws of nature don't change yet consequences may
  • Science cannot completely disprove it's occurrence
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