Miracles (OCR exam board)


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  • very good, a little basic though. + John Hick's view is either badly worded or wrong.
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  • This slideshow helped me alot with my my relgion and philosphy assignment on miracles. I got an A thanks to the maker of this slide show
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Miracles (OCR exam board)

  1. 1. 1. What is your understanding of a miracle? 2. Write down 5 events you think would be classed as miraculous. 3. Are there different sorts of miracles, if so what are they? 4. What do miracles mean to believers? 5. What do miracles mean to scientists? 6. What philosophical/ religious questions arise from miracles?
  2. 2. Miracle Definitions
  3. 3. Aquinas 1. Events done by God which nature could never do e.g. make the sun go backwards. 2. Events in which God does something which nature can do but not in this order e.g. someone living after death – resurrection of Christ. 3. An event which could happen naturally but God breaks the rules of nature. E.g. someone being instantly cured of a disease which doctors might have been able to cure given time. Aquinas identified three types of miracles:
  4. 4. Hume Hume was an empiricist. He is not saying the miracles are impossible but its impossible to prove them. Traditionally accepted definition: This meant that a miracle occurred whenever God caused a law of nature to be broken. • Transgression: breaks • Volition: wish/ choice/ decision 1. Why was it important for Hume to define a miracle first? 2. Write down three strengths and three weaknesses of this definition. “A transgression of the law of nature by a particular volition of the deity.”
  5. 5. Richard Swinburne • Agrees that natural laws are universal, fixed, observed through empiricism. • Illogical to say law of nature is wrong because of one incident. • However this does not remove the possibility of a miracle • Miracles should not be automatically doubted because it seems to break law of nature. • Rather, miracles are events which seem to have some deeper significance than the events themselves. • E.g. feather 1. Are there any problems with Swinburne's idea? X However people’s perceptions of ‘deeper significance’ alter – subjective.
  6. 6. Miracle
  7. 7. Hume Argument One: Lack of Probability • Probability of miracles actually happening is so low it is irrational and illogical that miracles do occur • Miracles appear to violate the universally accepted laws of nature • Therefore it is more likely that the report of a miracle happening is incorrect e.g. eye witnesses are wrong, rather than the laws of nature have been violated.
  8. 8. Hume’s Maxim This lead to Hume’s Maxim: 1. Evidence that miracles do not happen outweigh evidence that they do. However what happens to Hume’s first argument if you do not believe that miracles break the laws of nature (e.g. Hick or Holland?) Plus isn’t the point of miracles be that they are rare, and unlikely by definition? “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous.”
  9. 9. Principle of Induction (arguing from observation) So Hume is arguing: • Irrational to believe in miracles as they break the laws of nature • Laws of nature e.g. gravity are supported by sense observation • These laws are universally accepted Given ‘the more instances, the more probable the conclusion.’ Hume argues that this is the basis of science = highly rational to believe in the highly probable/ highly irrational to believe in the highly improbable. He argues that a miracle (by his definition) is highly improbable – otherwise not a miracle = not worthy of belief. Therefore: a wise man proportions this belief to the evidence.
  10. 10. Argument Two: Practical Arguments 2. Religious people are the type to believe emotional miracle stories. 1. Never been a miracle witnessed by enough “men” of “unquestioned good sense.” – do not happen to educated people – people have tendencies to exaggerate, gossip and even make stories up.
  11. 11. 4. Miracle testimonies found in all religions cannot all be true – cancel each other out.” 3. Miracle stories are chiefly found among “ignorant and barbarous nations.” – e.g. Biblical stories such as parting of the red sea or Jesus walking on water. “no testimony for any kind of miracle has ever amounted to probability, much less proof.” During the twentieth century not many reports of miracles happening. However not many does not mean not at all! Is the point of miracles not to be rare?
  12. 12. Swinburne against Hume • How do you define when people are educated? • Therefore what counts as ‘ignorant and barbarous?’ • Many people today are undoubtedly educated and yet still claim to experience miracles • Do different religious miracles really cancel each other out? Not about proving one religion right and the other religion as wrong • Therefore wrong of Hume to say no evidence or witness is reliable enough to say miracles happen • Four ways to collect evidence: memories of experience, testimony of person about experience, physical traces, understanding of how modern science claims what is impossible.
  13. 13. Criticisms of Hume • What is a law of nature? • Natural law may not be broken but just an incomplete understanding of the natural law on our part – new scientific discoveries all the time. (world flat, universe expanding) • Some scientists argue that there is a fundamental degree of randomness at the basic level of nature. At the end of the day we do not control it.
  14. 14. R. F. Holland – supporter of miracles! Even events which do not break (transgress) a law of nature can be viewed as miracles. “a coincidence can be taken religiously as a sign and called a miracle.” – train (miracle to one may be a disaster to another – miracles no more than interpretation.)
  15. 15. Two General Views on Miracles Anti – Realist View:- Miracles are not literally ‘caused’ by God. They are symbolic. Reveal something about God to a believer – make sense in religious life of believer. God doesn't literally have to have done a ‘real’ action. Supported by John Hick Realist View: - Miracles actually do have to have happened to be meaningful. Faithful people actually believe God has literally caused a miracle.
  16. 16. God’s miracles Old testament: • Creation • Plagues/ Parting of the red sea • Amorite coalition – hail stones New Testament: • Resurrection • Healing • Walking on water Key words: • Arbitrary: random in his selection of the circumstances in which he intervenes • Partisan: unreasonable
  17. 17. Biblical Miracles Tell story •Main points •Quickly What makes it a miracle? •Use Hume’s definition (does it break law of nature) •Aquinas (which of three stages?) What other explanations? Final Comment •Ockham’s razor •Kierkegaard •John Hick – through man (avoids being partisan) Modern Miracles: Shooting in Arizona? What about Haiti? (Read the newspaper for recent events!) Are these both coincidences or recognition of God: Holland/ John Hick
  18. 18. Wiles Criticisms of Miracles
  19. 19. Maurice Wiles (1923 – 2005) “Even though miracles are rare by nature, it seems strange that nothing prevented Auszwitch or Hiroshima.” Wiles (This is a good link to the problem of evil) • . • Theologian/ philosopher • Argued strongly that miracles are damaging to faith. • Goes against a realist view: view that God directly caused miracles in Bible to happen. • It is contradictory to believe in an all loving (Omni - Benevolent) God who would only intervene occasionally to help people. • Why would God grant all the miracles in the Bible and not help us now. • Such a realist views leads to a partisan view of God
  20. 20. • Wiles argued only miracle = Creation (believes in God). Why only creation? • The problem with miracles is defining what a miracle actually is - subjective • God does not intervene in the world in the way Hume or others argue. • God does not violate the laws of nature. LON are continually changing and revisable. • A miracle is not JUST rare but must have a religious dimension. • Appealed to Christ’s refusal to perform miracles on demand.
  21. 21. Controversial • Wiles argued that biblical stories including the virgin birth are legendary without any claim of historical accuracy. • What would be the problem in arguing the virgin birth is a legend? Or the resurrection of Christ did not happen? • Do you think Wiles would have been very popular amongst the Anglican Doctrine Commission? • But why argue this? • Reason: Some phrases in the Bible read symbolically e.g. “Sitting on the right hand of God” – so why not other accounts as well?
  22. 22. Convincing or not? X Miracles cannot always be explained but are understood by the believer. X God’s actions are beyond our understanding. X Polkinghorne: Maurice Wiles’ view of God’s action in the world does not reflect Christian religious experience.  Rudolf Bultmann agrees that all mythological/ superstitious elements should be taken out of the Bible so the essential truths are revealed.
  23. 23. John Hick: - supporter of miracles • God can be seen to cause miracles indirectly via human agency • God inspires humans to act in a particular way • God can be recognised through different situations • Miracles are ordinary events but are seen as miracles through the eyes of faith. • Polkinghorne agrees that if God works inspires us, God is present in the world not just in Creation. • It also leaves open the possibility that God can intervene.
  24. 24. Paul Tillich Miracles are better seen as signs with religious significance. 1. Miracles are astonishing but do not need to violate a laws of nature 2. Miracles point people to the ‘mystery of being.’ – reveal something about God’s nature 3. Miracles are ‘received as a sign in an ecstatic experience.’ • This argument is supported by Holland. X could just be the product of the mind not proof of God.  Avoids many of Hume’s criticism as no law of nature violated. Miracles are ‘sign events’
  25. 25. Modern Views against miracles Peter Atkins: People seek publicity or are deluded or hallucinate Richard Dawkins: Places such as Lourdes could be explained by the placebo effect
  26. 26. HTTPS://ITHINKTHEREFOREI TEACH.WORDPRESS.COM/ If you would like further information please follow the link below to my blog: