Philosophy - Miracles


  • Created by: Charlotte
  • Created on: 27-05-08 14:02

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

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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

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Thomas Aquinas

# 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

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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

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Swinburne's Interpretation of Miracles

+ 'If there is a God, one might well expect Him to make this presence known to 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

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Miracles as Fortuitous Coincidences

> Brain Davies: miracles are 'unexpected and fortuitous events'

> This presents the problem of

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