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Miracles are about faith, not fact. Discuss.

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Introduction

Miracles are about faith, not fact. Discuss. Before discussion on the issue of miracles can begin, we must look at the nature of the statement and what it means. Miracles have baffled philosophers and ordinary people alike for years. The words 'are about faith' brings about the question as to whether faith is necessary to experience a miracle or if is possible to experience a miracle and then have faith. This issue will be explored in more depth later. If miracles are not about fact, then this suggests that they are the opposite-fiction. There is much speculation on whether miracles can occur, mostly explored by Hume, but does evidence matter to a believer? The term 'faith' indicates that it is a commitment which acknowledges that it involves risk. Christians are taught "Do not put the Lord your God to the test"1, therefore they should not need evidence of God's work. This can be described as 'blind faith'. A problem with discussing miracles is that it is difficult to find a single explanation to adequately fit the word. Many definitions have been offered. The Christian definition is "A marvel, an extraordinary event which seems to go against what is known of the laws of nature" 2. Of course, this event, from a Christian perspective, is brought about by God. Christians believe all miracles, whether it be the ones in the Bible or the more scarce modern day miracles are the work of their single God. Coincidence does not play an extensive part in it. This view is opposed by Richard Dawkins. He believes a miracle is 'a tremendous stroke of luck'. He described them in more depth in his book3. It is easier to see some modern day miracles as coincidence than those in the Bible because they are less dramatic and in most cases experienced by fewer people. A helpful definition is offered by Hume: "A transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the deity or by interposition of some visible agent"4. ...read more.

Middle

This leaves them vulnerable to believing exaggerated stories of miracles are true. He thought religious people are especially susceptible to this. In way, they look out for miraculous happenings in the hope that there actually is a God to look after them. So people with faith interpret miracles differently to include some divine action and encourage others to believe. Stories of miracles come from 'ignorant and barbarous nations', from people who have something to gain by reporting a miracle. Hume would most probably disregard the resurrection because although many people saw the risen Christ, the person who reported the miracle wanted to promote Christianity. The people who Jesus appeared to would be labelled as ignorant by Hume as they are not well educated and are blinded by faith. Hume has evoked much criticism for the vagueness of his works. He says there have never been enough witnesses for a miracle to be valid but he does not specify exactly how many would be sufficient. He also fails to establish how much a person has to be educated for him to be a reliable source. Religious believers would say it does not matter how educated a person is, God does not choose who experiences a miracle by the content of their mind. St Teresa had a three-fold test for religious experience. If an event was to be claimed a miracle, it must conform to church teaching, result in increased charity and humility, and meet with the approval of a religious leader or the scriptures. It would be interesting to see whether Hume would accept this. It is unfair to state that people who follow a religion are less able to distinguish between true and false in certain situations. Hume does not explain why non-believers experience miracles. They cannot be exaggerating to promote a 'holy cause' if they believe in no God. Jesus did not use miracles to make people believe hence the reason he refused to perform them on command. ...read more.

Conclusion

Regardless of the facts against miracles, praying for them gives people strength and hope. When believers talk about miracles, they do not use language in a cognitive way. They do not spend copious amounts of time striving to prove that miracles happen. The non-cognitive nature of which they use religious language is to serve a function. Miracles are not about whether they are factually true, but centre around the function they serve as part of their faith community. If one was to say that miracles are factually true, you are using language cognitively. The logical positivists have a problem here because of the Verification Principle. Miracles cannot be verified or falsified therefore are meaningless. This is the same for all kinds of religious language as none of it is either analytic or synthetic. Hick came up with the idea of Eschatological Verification. He thought that you cannot test whether miracles are to do with a divine being in this life. We will find out if there is a God that intervenes in the world when we die. However, this does not bring us any closer to knowing if miracles are factual now. Wittgenstein said that only those with faith could understand miracles and their purpose. This is because non-believers play a different language game and cannot grasp the rules of the religion game. Looking at the evidence, there seems to be no concrete evidence that miracles are factual occurrences. Whether miracles are to do with an all-loving God or some other agent, without their faith, miracles would be meaningless to religious believers. Some people may find it exciting not knowing what is going to happen next, when the next miracle will occur. It is terribly unjust and insulting to say that everything Christians have believed in for thousands of years is fiction. The matter of miracles as factual occasions is irrelevant as they are about the faith of the individual, not about 'ignorant and barbarous' people who try to take the meaning away from them. ...read more.

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