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What problems are there in defining miracles? (7)

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What problems are there in defining miracles? (7) There are many problems in defining miracles but yet many philosophers have devised their definitions and one of these is Mackie's definition which is as follows: 'A miracle occurs when the world is not left to itself, when something distinct from the natural order as a whole intrudes into it.' Although many of the definitions presented by philosophers are different, most, if not all, include the two facts; that a miracle is an interruption to the process of nature and cannot be explained by natural laws , and also that a miracle is an interruption that bears some deeper, usually religious significance. The first of these points is explained in David Hume's definition which is: 'A miracle may be accurately defined, 'A transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity or by the interposition of some invisible agent.' This definition is probably the most used and reliable of definitions used today by most philosophers. This does, although with another explanation, introduce the concept of a religious character bringing about the miracle. This could be where one of the problems in defining a miracle lies. In order to accept this definition you would need to be a believer of the Deity. The idea of 'some invisible agent' does help resolve this problem but yet some people could still argue that there is no 'person' or 'agent' setting these miracles into action. ...read more.


Most theists would say that God set natural laws to govern our world in order for us to know and learn the result of our actions and these natural laws govern our world to give us a consistent environment. Even with this view it still makes sense to say there are extraordinary circumstances where God can choose to interrupt the workings of his laws. The problem here of stating how reliable an account of a miracle is, is that it is hard to judge if, and which, natural law has been broken. Some people may argue that a natural law has been broken but some would argue that it was just a coincidence. The definition of a natural law can cause problems in trying to establish if an event was in fact a miracle due to the fact that our definition of a natural law means that anything can be classed as a miracle! John Hick defines a natural law as: 'generalisations formulated retrospectively to cover whatever has, in fact, happened' but following this definition and that of a miracle breaking a natural law, Hick argues 'We can declare a priori that there are no miracle.' Due to this definition we should broaden our understanding of the natural law so it would include the idea of a new event. This would mean that there would be no grounds for assuming that this new event broke a natural law due to the fact that the law was based itself on empirical evidence. ...read more.


Also it encourages believer if they are faced with great difficulties, linked with the fact that miracles are God's response to 'special pleading' (Richard Swinburne). The final point here is that miracles breach the epistemic distance between God and man. The final point which supports religious beliefs from miracles are that it shows God's parental love he has for his creatures and due to the nature of this point it is help strongly by Christians. Richard Swinburne wrote: 'If there is a God one might well expect him to make his presence known to man, not merely through the overall pattern of the universe in which he placed them, but by dealing more intimately and personally with them.' Many people state that it is often agued that people with an understanding in miracles are inclined to believe in miracles. Sceptics of this view suggest that their faith should not need miracles to confirm it and there faith should be authenticated. Sceptics also argue that miracles of open to different interpretations and due to this cannot prove the existence of God and also those we may have serious doubts about the reliability of the testimony. On the whole the occurrence of miracles does support a religious belief as they are seen to reinforce the basic ideas about God and the faith. Miricles are seen as an active and important part of the Christian faith and if a person is unsure of their belief in God, experiencing a miracle, or witnessing one would be likely to confirm their belief. Hannah O'Shea-Herriot Year 12 ...read more.

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