Describe and explain the different theistic views concerning miracles

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Describe and explain the different theistic views concerning miracles

There are a wealth of different views regarding miracles even within theist circles. This is largely because the term ‘miracle’ is multifaceted, as it means different things to different people. For example, St Augustine said that a miracle is, “An event we cannot forecast or expect with our present understanding of nature,” whereas Aquinas defines a miracle as, “things which are done by divine agency beyond the order commonly observed in nature.” Swinburne offers an additional definition: “If he (God) has reason to interact with us, he has reason very occasionally to intervene and suspend those natural laws by which our life is controlled.” These competing definitions have a common link: they all agree that miracles must break the laws of nature. This would be an anti-realist view of miracles, which is the most commonly held belief amongst theists. In examining this view of miracles a good place to start is looking more closely at the views of Aquinas.

Aquinas distinguishes 3 types of miracle, all of which have God as the cause. Firstly, there is that which nature can never do, such as the sun and moon staying still. Then there is that which nature can do, but not in that sequence or connection, such as a man blind from birth seeing. Parthenogenesis, for example, is the development of an ovum without any genetic contribution from a male. This has lead Sam Berry, professor of Genetics, University College, London to say that he has no difficulty with the Virgin Birth. Finally, there is that which is usually done by nature, but not in this case, such as an instant healing of someone who otherwise may heal slowly. An event doesn’t necessarily have to be dramatic to be a miracle.
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Moving on, another notable anti-realist scholar is CS Lewis. In his aptly named book Miracles, Lewis carefully defines a miracle as “an interference with nature by supernatural power,” and quickly makes a distinction between two kinds of thinkers: the naturalist who believes that nothing exists except observable nature, and the supernaturalist, who believes that besides nature, there exists something else. The naturalist tends to envision a universe of interlocking things and events that permit no independent action. With this view the universe can account for all circumstances that exist or ever will. As a rule, naturalism excludes the ...

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