Miracles

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A2 Philosophy Miracles

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Miracles
  1. A miracle is an event that is not explicable by natural causes alone.
    1. An event caused by God
      1. A violation of the laws of nature
      2. Thomas Aquinas
        1. "That which has a divine cause, not that whose cause a human person fails to understand."
          1. Miracles are events caused by God, reflected in the word's meaning - Latin 'miraculum', 'An object of wonder'.
            1. Aquinas believed that everything that exists has a nature. This nature is a statement about what a thing is able to do
              1. When Aquinas talks about a miracle having a divine cause he means that the event in question is not a normal part of the nature of things
              2. Modern day Christians also believe that miracles reveal something about God to people
              3. Hume
                1. Are Hume's arguments convincing?
                  1. C.D. Broad argues Hume assumes fixed laws of nature but there are exceptions to laws
                    1. Hume does not address miracles he might witness only the reports
                      1. Vardy argues there is more evidence of miracles today than at the time of Hume, such as those from Lourdes
                        1. Religions do not usually require people to believe on the basis of miracles, which is Hume's premise for investigation
                          1. The idea that not enough people of significant education report miracles is a problem. What is enough?
                            1. Swinburne argues miracles challenge other religions but don't cancel each other out
                            2. Hume rejects all reports of miracles which act as a basis for faith. He dos deal with miracles if belief in God has been established on non-miraculous grounds.
                              1. His conception of the world was that the laws of nature are uniform and constant, the assumption being they have, are and will continue to be the same
                                1. Hume was inductionist in his thinking, meaning that he used a particular set of facts or ideas to form general principles
                                  1. This means we establish cause and effect based on our experiences of the world. This leads to predictions of what will happen in the future e.g. water boils at 100 degrees
                                    1. Hume resorts to testimonies and accounts of others. His arguments against miracles concern PEP-C
                                      1. Probability

                                        Annotations:

                                        • "A wise man proportions his belief according to the evidence"
                                        1. Education

                                          Annotations:

                                          • "There is not to be found in all history any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good sense, education and learning, as to secure us against all delusion in themselves..."
                                          1. Psychology

                                            Annotations:

                                            • "Ignorant and barbarous nations"
                                            1. Contradiction

                                              Annotations:

                                              • "A religionist may be an enthusiast, and imagine he sees what has no reality: He may know his narrative to be false, and yet persevere in it, with the best intentions in the world, for the sake of promoting so holy a cause."
                                          2. Karl Popper on Hume
                                            1. Popper argued that scientific judgements made on the basis of repeated instances alone is incorrect.
                                              1. Our intent and curiosity leads us to hypothesis about what may prove or falsify a theory about something. Just because something has a high probability of happening shouldn't count solely in favour of a theory
                                                1. For science to be informative, it must be highly improbable rather than highly probable. If declare something to be true on the basis of high probability, you deny the possibility of the exception to the rule
                                                  1. The miraculous remains a probability
                                                  2. Swinburne
                                                    1. Largely agrees with Hume's starting definition of miracles but differs slightly...
                                                      1. 2. All natural laws are 'corrigible'

                                                        Annotations:

                                                        • Meaning a law of nature is the best description of how the world works that we currently have, but new discoveries may mean that a law of nature has to be modified or changed.
                                                        1. 1. Laws of nature are generalisations
                                                        2. The principle of 'Credulity'
                                                          1. Miracles have a deeper religious significance, for example the purpose of Jesus' miracles was to bring people to believe in him
                                                            1. Proof of the miraculous is valid from educated believers and that there are ways of collecting evidence that would enable one to decide whether a miracle had or had not happened, he identifies hour examples of historical evidence
                                                              1. 1. Memories of our experiences
                                                                1. 2. Testimony by others about their experiences
                                                                  1. 3. Physical traces of the event, such as medical examination of those who have been healed
                                                                    1. 4. Understanding of modern science and what is thought to be physically impossible or most improbable e.g. and AIDS victim claiming to be cured when the belief if AIDS currently cannot be cured
                                                                      1. Having assessed the evidence following a miraculous claim, if it is swaying in favour of a miracle happening, then we can reasonably support the miracle's claim
                                                                        1. One must ensure that different sources of evidence should be cnosistent
                                                                          1. The reliability you place on a particular piece of evidence should depend on the empirical reliability of the evidence
                                                                    2. Maurice Wiles
                                                                      1. Whiles believes that miracles compromise the goodness of God because it is unfair for him to help some but not others
                                                                        1. God wants to provide us with the opportunity to grow and develop so does not intervene with miracles. Growth and development are through free act and thought
                                                                        2. Wiles argued that God is the presence behind the world, performing the single miracle of creation. He remains separate from involvement within it
                                                                          1. It is more productive to conceive of God as having made the world as a single creative act rather than having to keep making changes over time
                                                                          2. Miracles in the Bible seem trivial in their purpose compared to the evil that has happened in the world
                                                                            1. Miracles are not essential for the truth of Christian faith, due to their elusive nature. It is prayer not miracles that lies at the heart of the Christian experience

                                                                              Annotations:

                                                                              • "The deeper the exploration of the practice of prayer, the less helpful does the concept of miracles appear."
                                                                              1. The spiritual significance is more important than what actually happens
                                                                            2. Problems with Wiles' Argument
                                                                              1. Christian tradition challenges the notion that God does not act in the world today
                                                                                1. Wiles' argument depends on the fact that human rationality can be applied to God
                                                                                  1. Polkinghorne argues Wile's argument does not reflect the Christian experience of God in the world
                                                                                  2. R.F. Holland
                                                                                    1. Miracles are a sign pointing to God
                                                                                      1. a 'miracle' applies to a set of coincidental events that are given religious significance and continue to have significance after the event has occured
                                                                                        1. This is subjective and will cary from person to person therefore
                                                                                        2. Miracles and the problem of Evil
                                                                                          1. Defining God as all=powerful would make miracles possible in the world. A world includes fairness and justice for all. But if God performs miracles is he not being selective to some and unfair to others?
                                                                                          2. Wider arguments challenging belief in Miracles
                                                                                            1. If God is good and powerful, why does he not intervene to eliminate evil and suffering. If God has the power to intervene in nature why does he not prevent natural disasters in which the innocent suffer?
                                                                                              1. If God is willing to perform miracles to stop suffering he is moral, but if he helps some through miracles and not others then he is arguably immoral.
                                                                                                1. Christine Overall argues miracles are inconsistent with the character of an all-good being as God would not wish to mislead humanity in their persuit of knowledge.
                                                                                                  1. Miracles raise the question of whether God is in time (temporal) or outside of it (wholly simple). If he is the God of Boethius he cannot do anything directly. Furthermore miracles suggestthe universe is flawed.
                                                                                                    1. Belief in miracles can be a further form of suffering. People visit Lourds every year hoping to be cured: miracle stories can create false hope. To counter one could say this simple tests faith in God, but if suffering was a test why would we need miracles in the first place?
                                                                                                      1. Miracles attribute God to be immoral. He favoures the Israelites at the expense of others.
                                                                                                        1. If miracles are no different to other events (down to interpretation) then miracles are nothing more than a prooduct of a person's brain.
                                                                                                          1. Miracles rarely happen in the modern world.
                                                                                                            1. Baruch Spinoza argues that nature "preserves a fixed and immuable course," consequently a miracle is "a sheer absurdity".

                                                                                                              Annotations:

                                                                                                              • 1. The will of God is identical with the laws of nature. 2. A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature. 3. Necessarily, God's will is inviolable, therefore... 4. Miracles cannot happen.
                                                                                                            2. Wider argument supporting belief in Miracles
                                                                                                              1. If God intervened through miraculous acts regularly we would not learn and come to understand our world.
                                                                                                                1. Rudolph Bultmann argues that the stories of miracles are myths but communicate the eternal reality of the universe - that god is the creator and continues to work in it.
                                                                                                                  1. Peter Vardy argues that in order for human beings to meaningfully exercise free will there must be bad results to bad actions. We could not exercise moral resposibility if God prevented every bad thing. Miracles need to be hidden and unexpected.
                                                                                                                    1. Miracles are a way of God revealing His power. Some people argue we should not question the workings of God because he knows the future in a way that humans cannot.
                                                                                                                      1. Christians argue that records of God acting in the world reflect a pre0scientific age in which God is seen to act directly through nature. Myths communicate the values or beliefs of a community, and are not necessarily factualy correct.
                                                                                                                        1. Tim Keller argues you cannot at any one time say that science only tests natural causes and in another conclude that this means no supernatural causes exist.
                                                                                                                          1. C.S. Lewis argues we are either naturalists or supernaturalists.
                                                                                                                          2. Why do Miracles matter for believers?
                                                                                                                            1. Miracles are a sign of God's continuing activity in the world, vital for a sustained relationship between God and his people
                                                                                                                              1. Miracles show that prayers are answered and that God is loving and good
                                                                                                                                1. The Resurrection can be interpreted as a violation of the laws of nature or a sign event pointing towards the power of God. The Resurrection is a foundational for the Christian faith and a major basis for believing
                                                                                                                                  1. Miracles point to God and reveal something about him
                                                                                                                                  2. Miracles and science
                                                                                                                                    1. Atkins argues people seek publicity or are deluded and hallucinate and so miracle claims cannot be taken seriously
                                                                                                                                      1. Polkinghorne argues that science can tell us that a given event is against normal expectations, it cannot completely disprove its happening. It may be perfectly possible for God to act in the world in a new and unexpected way when circumstances change
                                                                                                                                      2. Paul Tillich
                                                                                                                                        1. A contingency miracle means a sign pointing to God that is of great religious experience
                                                                                                                                          1. Tillich stated miracles are not violating the laws of nature or a magic trick but sign of religious significance
                                                                                                                                            1. He identifies three basic characteristics of miracles
                                                                                                                                              1. 1. They are astonishing but don't have to violate the laws of nature
                                                                                                                                                1. 2. Miracles point people to the 'Mystery of Being'. They reveal something of God's nature
                                                                                                                                                  1. 3. Miracles are "recieied as a sign event in an ecstatic experience"
                                                                                                                                                  2. Miracles are revelatrory
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