Some uses/senses of the word ‘miracle’:
- Something happened: Literally anything ‘happening’ – any phenomena as opposed to a non-phenomenological non-existence (existence is action – matter doesn’t just exist, it happens). This can be called miraculous in the sense of ‘everything is a miracle’ or ‘look around – miracles are all around you’. This concept, in my view is rightly held by those with both simple minds and very bright brains. Existence is happening, and it’s a miracle.
- Something happened that was good: Someone (the mayor?? I cannot remember of hand) called the no-death result of the otherwise tragic Christchurch earthquake a ‘miracle’. Of course, I hesitate to mention as the ink is still hot off the press for tomorrow’s newspapers, as is the case with today’s tragic conclusion of the mining incident, someone (comparing with the earthquake) called it ‘the miracle that didn’t happen’. One hears this use of the word often. I don’t deny that some of what are called ‘luck’ events can rightly be called a miracle, but I think it is but one sense of the word.
- Something just happened to happen: These are usually cases where timing or coincidence was involved to make the happening ‘just right’. Meeting a stranger who has exactly what you’re looking for… Having a tax return be exactly the amount needed for that thing… etc. Like the above case, this one also has it’s negative twin – cases where things worked out to be ‘just wrong’. A car-wreck where the driver was killed by a mostly empty tissue box that ‘just happened’ to hit him in exactly the wrong place, etc.
- Something happened that doesn’t happen: Whereas the previous two are cases where the laws of nature are undisturbed, unbroken and/or uninterrupted, this is the sense in which things happen in a way that is utterly distinct from nature’s habitual pattern (though not without some continuity – see below). Cancers simply disappear. Dead people live again. I don’t think this kind of miracle happens, as they say, ‘willy nilly’. I also like C.S. Lewis’ distinction between impossibility and impropriety. The real issue is not if miracles are possible (it is quite literally impossible for anyone to support the claim that they are not), but whether they are ‘fitting’. God could, in principle, make my laptop float in the air at this very moment, but what propriety would such a phenomena have? A bodily healing, however, says something about the body. In the Christian sense, bodily miracles are eschatological – foretastes or ‘first fruits’ of the bodily resurrection.