- Begin w. Hume’s definition: “the transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent”.
- Much debate in an attempt to establish a definitive meaning. Despite the efforts of many eminent scholars, most definitions have been of too close a likeness and all are inevitably subjective. Inevitably reflects an individual’s faith/outlook.
- There are innumerable reasons as to why an individual may believe in the possibility of miracles. For theists in particular, miracles can be a way of authenticating one’s idea of God; inexplicable events appearing to be the work of a deity, demonstrating its transcendental power and parental love. Miracles can also be interpreted as God’s response to “special pleading” (Swinburne) in times of adversity, and so in light of this, any miraculous events are likely to greatly affirm one’s faith in God.
- Miraculous events pose 2 challenges to the believer: is the idea of a miracle coherent?/is it ever rational to believe in miracles?
- Lie at the heart of Christian belief (first w. Jesus birth, then w. crucifixion and resurrection, showing that Jesus was the Son of God) and therefore, any challenge raised against the coherence/for the impossibility of miracles may also challenge the integrity of one’s faith.
- 13th century theologian defined miracles as “those things done by divine power apart from the order usually followed in things”. Regarded in modern theology as a traditional definition, which allows God to shape and influence his creation as he wills.
- 3 categories:
• The naturally impossible (stopping the sun – Joshua, 10:13)
• The naturally unlikely, done without the laws of nature (Exorcisms – Mark, 1:31)
• Those things which, although able to be explained by nature or science, have strong religious significance and point towards divine intervention.
- All miracles may be attributed to God; even those things which may be accounted for logically and without complication.
- As the laws of nature are reasonably predictable, it would be fair to regard anything seemingly “impossible” or occurring outside of these laws as a miracle.
- used the examples of turning water into wine without any scientific apparatus or a man being cured of polio in under a minute; claiming that the extraordinary nature of these events lent them to be classed as miracles (the time frame and circumstances under which an event occurs determines whether it may or may not be a miracle)
- For an event to be truly miraculous, it must be of some religious significance. Thus, if God were to “upset a child’s box of toys, just for spite”, it would be misconstrued to consider it a miracle.
TILLICH (MID 1900’S SCHOLAR)
- Adopted a far more orthodox stance on miracles, describing them to be “shaking, astonishing and without contradicting the rational structure of reality”.
- Tillich proposed miracles to be divine acts of God, which defied logical or scientific explanation or accountability.
- Still maintained in secular society, as well as religious organisations.
Tillich proposed miracles to be divine acts of God, which defied logical or scientific explanation or accountability.
- In his writings, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Hume constructs four arguments in opposition of miracles, claiming that a “rational” man would discredit any testimonies or claims that appear to be of a miraculous nature.
1 - Hume suggests that there have never been, in all cases of attested miracles, enough witnesses to resolve a case