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Miracles are about faith, not fact Essay

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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. As people cannot agree on a definition, it is difficult to discuss miracles. What one person sees as miraculous may not be so to another.Most definitions agree that a miracle goes against the laws of nature, so it is necessary to explore this point. Hume believes that our experience of the world has shown the laws of nature to be very reliable. For example, if you drop a ball from a height, it will always without fail fall to the ground. Hume describes similar examples in his book5. Therefore is critical of miracles. He thought it was more probable that the miracle is false that the laws of nature unreliable. R.G.Collingwood said that nature depends on something else6. As it is not self sufficient, the thing that it depends on (e.g. God) has the power to change it, hence the occurrence of miracles. C.S.Lewis in his book ‘Miracles’ puts forward a very interesting point. He says that the laws of nature are only those we can perceive with our five senses. There may be laws beyond our senses leaving us unable to understand their occurrence. Our experience of nature simply shows us what regularly happens in nature, not how it can be suspended7. Scientific laws are descriptive so the laws of nature cannot dictate what will happen, just what has happened in the past.It does not matter to the believer that the reliable laws of nature have been broken. They are more concerned with why God needs to interfere. If God’s creation was perfect then He should not need to change it in any way. Only an incompetent workman will produce work that needs to be interfered with. If miracles ‘are about faith’, then why does God need to prove himself? Maurice Wiles claims that an interventionist God whom intervenes by bringing about a few bizarre miracles is not worthy of worship8. He thought that God has an arbitrary will as he helps some and not others. If God can intervene to make Jesus do something as un-useful as walk on water, why does he not stop evil?Augustine’s theodicy helps solve this in that God created humans with free will so it is their fault evil occurs. However, we cannot know all the factors and circumstances of God’s will, so what seems arbitrary to us may seem right to God. If God were timeless and transcendent, then he would be unable to work in the physical world. This suggests that miracles are not factual, as it is unlikely that such a divine being can perform miracles. It is necessary for someone to have faith to believe in such a phenomenon. Jesus did not do miracles to order, he demanded faith, and then miracles follow9. This suggests that you need to have faith before you can experience a miracle.In contradiction to the above point, there have been stories of atheists who experience miracles and become devoted to the religion as a result of the miracle. This does not support the quote from Jesus. Ian McCormack was a man of no faith until he had a near death experience after being stung by five box jellyfish. He claimed to have seen and have spoken to God, he then woke up in a mortuary after being claimed dead. The experience changed his life, as he became a devoted followed of Christ taking his story around Europe. Looking at this evidence, miracles cannot rely totally on faith, however they can lead to it. Here, miracles are not about faith because Ian McCormack had no faith before his experience. However, if they are about fact, then why does God not perform miracles for everyone? In a different section of the Bible, Jesus does say, “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonder, you will never believe”10. This could mean that it is possible to believe after the experience of a miracle, which would explain conversions. It could also be a criticism of the people Jesus is talking to. He thinks that people should not rely on evidence for their faith. Those who base their faith on miracles have misunderstood the nature of Christ and the signs. The miracles come as a result of faith. The extract can be read either way. Miracles do not just happen in Christianity. They occur in all religions, each one claiming that they are due to the divine intervention of their God. Surely not all the possible Gods exist and have the power to intervene in the world. So, if the truth of miracle stories is the basis of all religions then they all have equal claims to the truth. It is well known that all religions are not in agreement, therefore their claims of miracles are in a way cancelled out. Hume said that this point discredits miracles.

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