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'Miracles are a matter of faith, not fact', discuss.

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Introduction

Carol Bhaskar 'Miracles are a matter of faith, not fact', discuss. Rudolh Bultmann once said ' It is impossible to use the electric light and the wireless and to avail ourselves to modern medical and surgical discoveries and at the same time to believe in the New Testament world of miracles'1. What is it to speak of 'miracles'? how can we define what Bultmann rejects? The traditional perception of a miracle involves three clauses. Firstly, a remarkable 'transgression of a law of nature', which is 'by the particular volition of the Deity or by the interposition of some invisible agent'2. This is to borrow Hume's stipulated definition, but Hume fails state the third clause mentioned. This is a corollary of the presence of 'a deity; that this event has some religious consequence. Swinburne's offered definition perhaps becomes helpful here; a miracle is 'an event of an extraordinary kind, brought about by a god, and of religious significance'3. Bultmann's standpoint is not of the title quotation, but instead moves beyond this, denying the very concept and basis for 'faith' in the light of the modern world, he as an absolute sceptic. Hume was an eighteenth century, Scottish philosopher and also a sceptic who was content with destroying the conception of God and, as subsidiary to this, attacked the notion of Miracles. The emphasis of his argument lies in the premise that miracles violate natural laws, so predictably his argument abides by his definition of a miracle. Hume's central line of reasoning employs a simple premise of logic; that 'a weaker evidence can never destroy a stronger'4. Few would attempt to disagree with this assertion, as rational beings we will 'proportion [our] belief to the evidence'5. Indeed, the more compelling the evidence, the more likely it is to capture my belief. For example, to a person with no knowledge of science the concept of atoms may initially be altogether ridiculous, but if we were to use experiments and explanation to demonstrate the evidence which supports this theory they are likely to be far more convinced. ...read more.

Middle

Swinburne supports this view by suggesting that otherwise we land in a cynical and (as Vardy puts it) 'sceptical bog'9. So Swinburne enters the realm of 'fact', we should have confidence in those who report miracles, and confidence that what they experienced was real, not illusory, that their tales of the supernatural reveal a truth in the concept of a miracle. Hume also tosses the postulation of humankind loving and desiring the supernatural into the basket of his assault. Indeed, our greedy consumption of films, the boom in the video-game industry, our craving for fiction, all scheme to suggest that Hume is correct. However, again we look to the modern world, enthralled with the paranormal perhaps, but satisfied and distanced from it by the revolution of the film industry, television, novels, our dose of 'descriptions of sea and land monsters...strange men, and uncouth manners'10 are satiated. I'm not persuaded by this premise, it is based on little of the experiential evidence which Hume so fervently adulates, and instead is based inadequately on suggestion. Lastly Hume claims that miracles are an irrational belief due to many religions claiming their basis lies as a result of divine intervention. This poses a large problem if separate religions base the truth of their religion on these, since they all have equal claims to truth. However, Christianity, Judaism and Islam would reply that they have never used miracles as a sole basis for faith. Nonetheless, Christianity will still take a blunder from Hume, as this is an inadequate response to the way Hume presents a slightly different argument. He contends that Christian belief is ultimately based on the gospel, ultimately based on a belief that Jesus, The Saviour, descended from heaven to aid the wounded world. In turn, belief in Jesus as this Saviour relies almost entirely on his performance of miracles. Today's Christian's must rely on the testimonies of the Apostles, to establish their belief that Jesus has come, that Jesus has cleared us of our sins, ultimately that God loves us. ...read more.

Conclusion

If we were all permitted to simply alter the meaning of words to suit what we believe should be meant by them, then a simple conversation would become chaos. It is true that the term 'miracle' has become informalised, used colloquially to describe our surprise at unexpected events, and so in this respect perhaps the reforming of the word miracle is not so unjustified. This definition allows a miracle to be a coincidence, but that can only be construed as miraculous from a subjective viewpoint. No experiential evidence can be of service here, instead it is entirely 'a matter of faith' for the faithful in God. The atheist is unlikely to hold a God responsible for opportunistic coincidence, rather that is all the event was, an opportunistic coincidence that can be causally explained within science. These miracles are beyond the realm of fact. Is the title quotation correct? For the theist, a miracle (as a violation of the laws of nature) is a double edged sword. On the one hand to claim acceptance or faith in God's intervention would be a strong consolidation of your belief, a 'sign' from your Lord. Yet for those who do recognise miracles, it may seem more a matter of fact, and unquestionable..... Faith in a miracle establishes unquestionable faith in a God. However, few theists would contend that their faith is based on miracles, nevertheless belief in miracles must be based on faith. Yet simultaneously this will detract from that very same deity, rendering Him morally skewed or falsifying His supposed omnipotence and benevolence. So then how can miracles be ' a matter of faith', if they ultimately devastate this concept? Then the only solution for the religious is a reinterpretation of the term 'miracle', forming it into R.F. Holland and Riley's definition. However, surely this redefinition negates from the entire extraordinariness inherent in the term 'miraculous'. Only theists will understand an event (defiant of science or otherwise) as miraculous, by definition a miracle involves a component of God. The atheist will always seek another explanation, and in this respect miracles are entirely a matter of faith. ...read more.

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