miracles

Some scattered, quick thoughts about miracles, in passing reflection (all I’ve got time for at the moment) on some recent posts by Damian and Glenn.

  • I, too, am sceptical (US friends, this is the NZ spelling of skeptical) of most miracle reports I hear.  Wait, no, I’m actually sceptical of all miracle reports I hear.  Not because I think ‘miracles just don’t happen’ (naturalism), or ‘miracles just don’t happen any more‘ (cessationalism); but rather because miracles are meant to be pretty amazing things, which don’t happen all the time, and amount to more than looking for your car keys for 30 seconds, then praying and finding them and calling it a ‘miracle’.  ((one wonders: how quickly after praying does the thing have to happen for it to have happened ‘because you/I/we prayed’?))
  • “That’s just hear-say” is just as much a non-reason for something not being a miracle as “But Benny Hinn said so” is for something being one.
  • People disbelieve miracles (in general) of a miracle story (in particular) for two main reasons: impossibility and impropriety.  Not possible or Not proper.  Can’t happen or Surely didn’t happen.  They either rule them out a priori, or they feel that they (in general or in this/that particular case) are ‘unfitting’ invasions/interruptions/etc.
  • ‘Miracles’ by Clive Staples Lewis.  Everyone interested should read it.
  • The very concept of a miracle requires some sense of ‘the way things normally/lawfully/usually/typically happen’, as a miracle is an abnormal/’unlawful’/unusual/non-typical sort of thing.  People don’t say something was a miracle because they don’t know the laws of nature, but because they do.  Without a sense of ‘what normally happens’ (i.e. sex –> fertilisation or stork or something –> baby; or life –> death –> remaining dead), there can be no concept of a miracle (i.e. wow, a virgin is pregnant.  How odd!; or life –> death –> eating breakfast on the beach with friends).
  • Miracles attributed to various kinds/understandings of god/God/gods doesn’t in any way make them (automatically) less/more believable.
  • In an analogous relation to the hopeless task of reading all books that are published, it is impossible to investigate all miracle claims in anywhere near a robust enough way to discredit them all.  Hence the inconvenient situation we have of not having philosophical 100% epistemic certitude regarding whether or not miracles happen.  Having said that, I see no reason to say that someone who genuinely claims that a reasonably verified miracle has happened to them is not justified in claiming 100% certainty?  (or people close to them, for that matter?)
  • There are different kinds of miracles: miracles of ‘timing’ (i.e. an earthquake causing a river-damming landslide just as you approach it); miracles of ‘restoration’ (delayed-decay? – i.e. a death-delaying disappearance of a cancerous tumor); miracles of ‘information’ (i.e. prophetic word of knowledge of future event, etc.); etc.