Definitions of Miracles
1. Something God has done that nature cannot do
EG - The sun going back on itself
2. Something God has done which nature can do but not in this order
EG - Someone seeing after being blind
3. Something God has done without nature which usually requires nature
EG - Curing an illness instantaneously
Aquinas distinguishes between God as a primary and secondary cause.
Primary cause = God acts directly to cause a miracle
Secondary cause = God acts through human agents = 'Double Agency'.
'A transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the deity or by the interposition of some invisible agent'
(A breaking of a law of nature by a particular supreme being or by the intervention of some invisible agent)
'A violation of a law of nature brought about by divine or supernatural intervention'
Laws of nature describe the ways in which the world works when not interfered with. A miracle occurs when something distinct from the natural order as a whole intrudes into it.
'A violation of a law of nature by a God that is a powerful rational being who is not a material object.'
If something breaks the laws of nature then we should not revise our understanding of the laws of nature. This would be 'clumsy and ad hoc'. It should be classed as a miracle as long as it follows to criteria:
1. The timescale should be quicker than normal (EG - recovering from a disease in 60 seconds)
2. There needs to be a deeper significance; a reason for it to happen
We should remember 2 principles according to Swinburne.
1. The principle of Credulity = What you think you have seen has probably happened. This is a principle of rationality.
2. The principle of Testimony = Descriptions of events are usually as people report them. People generally tell the truth.
If a miracle is a break in the laws of nature then we can say a priori that miracles do not happen. The laws of nature are built up on the basis of past experience. If something appears to break these laws then we should extend our current understanding of that law of nature.
Miracles can happen but they are an event that has religious significance which gives us a sense of the presence and activity of God.
A miracle is all down to interpretation. A coincidence can be taken religiously as a sign and called a miracle.
EG - a child being saved from being hit by a train would be a miracle to his mother.
There is one miracle, a single act of God; the world as a whole.
A God who could intervene but chooses not to, is not worthy of worship.
Praying should be seen as a way of helping groups or individuals to connect with God's will. Prayer is the capacity to attain some awareness of that intention.