What is a Miracle?
> Traditional understanding - divine acts of God that can't be otherwise explained
> Religious experiences with the power to convert + affirm religious belief
>John Hick - ' a break or suspension of a natural law'
> Nigel Warburton- 'some kind of divine intervention'
> M Cook - 'the unexpected and unusual manifestations of the presence and power of God'
> Most scholars agree miracles should have these 3 attributes
- Event must go against regular experience (e.g. walking on water)
- Event must have purpose/significance
- Religious significance
Are Miracles Possible?
- Logically self contradictory - e.g. water flowing upwards would contradict everything we know about gravity + laws of nature etc
- If a person accepts there is a possibility of God, miracles can be possible
- If God is responsible for all natural laws, He is not bound/restricted by them, therefore it is reasonable to believe He may violate them from time to time
# Traditional defence of miracles in Summa Theologica, 'those things...which are done by a divine power'
# Doesn't behave in accordance w/ natural law, brought about by God. 3 categories:
- Events done by God NATURE COULD NEVER DO: God stopping the sun in Joshua 10:13
- Events done by God NATURE COULD DO BUT NOT IN THAT ORDER: Highly unexpected events e.g. exorcisms
- Events done by God DONE WITHOUT NATURAL LAWS: e.g. healing brought about by forgiveness of sins, nature can do these but God does them in a different way
# These give grounds for an interventionalist God, but one who acts on random occasions - for God to intervene all the time would not be miraculous
# Based on the idea God actually breaks natural laws
Response to Aquinas' Theory
> Brian Davies the term 'intervening' implies He is a spectator of struggle + suffering
> Swinburne argues God is like a parent, giving freedom and occasionally intervening
> We may not fully understand all natural laws therefore not know when one is being broken - God could be creating miracles all the time
> What we call natural laws are just frequent events/happenings that have happened often enough to lead to the rational belief they will continue to occur in this way
Swinburne's Interpretation of Miracles
+ 'If there is a God, one might well expect Him to make this presence known to men...by dealing more intimatelyand personally with them'
+ The God of classical theism does this through miracles
+ Violation of natural laws are inexplicable natural processes - the theist can't be blamed for believing God brought about these natural trangsressions
> If God operates natural laws, He may bring about events that don't conform
> Violations of natural laws confirm God's existence
> Using witness testimony, we can ascertain whether or not miracles happened
> Principles of testimony + credulity - based on reliability and acceptance of things as they are unless proven otherwise
> God has reason tocreate miracles as they reveal part of His character and nature
Miracles as Fortuitous Coincidences
> Brain Davies: miracles are 'unexpected and fortuitous events'
> This presents the problem of