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What is a miracle?

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Religious Studies Philosophy What is a miracle? In order to assess the existence and determine the boundaries of miracles, first, it is necessary to ascertain a recognised definition of a miracle and what purpose they serve. The traditional perspective of miracles is that they must have three fundamental characteristics, being that the event termed a 'miracle' breaks the laws of nature, it has purpose and significance and has the potentiality of a religious explication, as agreed widely between many scholars. However, there are many difficulties in defining a miracle in such limited terms. This is due to the fact that, as with many other issues, both philosophers and theologians are divided when bringing about not only the existence of miracles into question, but also a definition of what a miracle really is and whether or not they are simply coincidences. The 16th century Philosopher, David Hume, is one of the most recognised scholars who have questioned the occurrence of miracles. Although he never publicly declared himself an atheist, Hume was extremely sceptical of miracles. In his most appreciated work, 'An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding', Hume disputed that it would always be impossible to tell if a miracle has taken place and that they are the most least likely of things to occur. ...read more.


He wrote in 'The Concept of a Miracle', "If God intervened in the natural order to make a feather land here rather than there, for no deep, ultimate purpose, or to upset a child's box of toys just for spite, these events would not be described as miracles". Therefore, the fact that some miracles seem to be as random and haphazard as those described above raises severe criticisms on the occurrence of miracles and how they are defined. Another problem with this argument is that it depends upon what is classed as significant, as what may prove significant to one person may not be to another. From a contrasting point of view, Holland, author of 'Religion and Understanding'; put forward the belief that a miracle can be deemed as 'a series of coincidences with significance'. Holland uses the story of a mother and her young child crossing an exposed railway track; as they cross, the child gets caught in the track just as a train is coming. The mother prays to God for help and the train fortunately stops before reaching her and her child. ...read more.


Miracles could also be a psychological alternative for those who believe what they want to believe, and by terming an event a miracle, this just acts as an explanation. In conclusion, all that can be said is that there is no definite resolution as to whether miracles occur or not, as when bringing their existence into question, the concept, purpose and interpretation of miracles is almost always unclear. Due to the fact that miracles mean different things to different people, there are many things that can define a miracle. For some people, the birth of a child would be a miracle, whereas others may need a religious significance to determine a specific event a miracle. Therefore, the most that can be said about a miracle is that it's an event which can be interpreted to have some significance, religious or not, that in some way can be the result of God's intervention in the world or in the lives of those who have faith. Joanna Lowe Page 1 Miss Arthur Sources: * Religious Studies, Philip Allan Updates - Sarah K. Tyler and Gordon Reid * http://www.uk.yahoo.com/search3/test/DEFL_1/tss/s/*-http://www.uk.rd.yahoo.com/search/ukie?-p=Miracles/&ei=UTF-8&x=wrt&y=y ...read more.

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