A miracle is an event
that is not explicable by
natural causes alone.
An event caused by God
A violation of the laws of nature
"That which has a divine cause,
not that whose cause a human
person fails to understand."
Miracles are events caused by God, reflected in the
word's meaning - Latin 'miraculum', 'An object of wonder'.
Aquinas believed that everything that exists has a nature.
This nature is a statement about what a thing is able to do
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
Modern day Christians also believe that miracles reveal something about God to people
Are Hume's arguments convincing?
C.D. Broad argues
fixed laws of nature
but there are
exceptions to laws
Hume does not
he might witness
only the reports
Vardy argues there is more evidence
of miracles today than at the time of
Hume, such as those from Lourdes
Religions do not usually require people to believe on the
basis of miracles, which is Hume's premise for investigation
The idea that not enough people of
significant education report miracles is
a problem. What is enough?
Swinburne argues miracles
challenge other religions but
don't cancel each other out
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.
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
Hume was inductionist in his thinking, meaning that he used
a particular set of facts or ideas to form general principles
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
Hume resorts to
accounts of others. His
miracles concern PEP-C
"A wise man proportions his belief according to the evidence"
"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..."
"Ignorant and barbarous nations"
"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."
Karl Popper on Hume
Popper argued that scientific judgements made on
the basis of repeated instances alone is incorrect.
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
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
The miraculous remains a probability
Largely agrees with Hume's
starting definition of
miracles but differs slightly...
2. All natural laws are 'corrigible'
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. Laws of nature are generalisations
The principle of 'Credulity'
Miracles have a deeper religious
significance, for example the purpose of
Jesus' miracles was to bring people to
believe in him
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
1. Memories of our experiences
2. Testimony by others about their
3. Physical traces of the event, such
as medical examination of those who
have been healed
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
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
One must ensure that
different sources of evidence
should be cnosistent
The reliability you place on a particular piece
of evidence should depend on the empirical
reliability of the evidence
Whiles believes that miracles compromise
the goodness of God because it is unfair
for him to help some but not others
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
Wiles argued that God
is the presence behind
the world, performing
the single miracle of
creation. He remains
involvement within it
It is more
conceive of God as
having made the
world as a single
creative act rather
than having to keep
Miracles in the
Bible seem trivial
in their purpose
compared to the
evil that has
happened in the
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
"The deeper the exploration of the practice of prayer, the less helpful does the concept of miracles appear."
The spiritual significance
is more important than
what actually happens
Problems with Wiles' Argument
challenges the notion
that God does not act in
the world today
depends on the
fact that human
rationality can be
applied to God
argument does not
experience of God
in the world
Miracles are a sign
pointing to God
a 'miracle' applies to a set
of coincidental events that
are given religious
significance and continue to
have significance after the
event has occured
This is subjective and
will cary from person
to person therefore
Miracles and the problem of Evil
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?
Wider arguments challenging belief in Miracles
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Miracles attribute God to be immoral. He
favoures the Israelites at the expense of others.
If miracles are no different
to other events (down to
interpretation) then miracles
are nothing more than a
prooduct of a person's brain.
Miracles rarely happen
in the modern world.
Baruch Spinoza argues that
nature "preserves a fixed and
immuable course," consequently
a miracle is "a sheer absurdity".
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.
Wider argument supporting belief in Miracles
If God intervened
through miraculous acts
regularly we would not
learn and come to
understand our world.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
C.S. Lewis argues we are either
naturalists or supernaturalists.
Why do Miracles matter for believers?
Miracles are a sign of God's
continuing activity in the world,
vital for a sustained relationship
between God and his people
Miracles show that prayers
are answered and that God
is loving and good
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
Miracles point to God and reveal something about him
Miracles and science
Atkins argues people seek publicity or
are deluded and hallucinate and so
miracle claims cannot be taken seriously
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
A contingency miracle means a sign pointing to God that is of great religious experience
Tillich stated miracles are not
violating the laws of nature or a magic
trick but sign of religious significance
1. They are astonishing
but don't have to violate
the laws of nature
2. Miracles point people to the
'Mystery of Being'. They reveal
something of God's nature
3. Miracles are "recieied
as a sign event in an