A Philosopher's Blog

Miracles

Posted in Philosophy, Religion by Michael LaBossiere on September 13, 2009

Some folks point to miracles as proof that God exists. However, I tend to find David Hume‘s view of miracles rather appealing. The gist of his view is that when considering a miracle one should consider what is most likely. What is mostly likely is that people lie (or get things wrong). As such, it generally makes sense to dismiss most claims of miracles as either lies or errors. Of course, it is also wise to remain open minded, just in case real evidence of a miracle were to appear someday.

While most serious miracles seem to be confined to the times covered by the bible and other such works, folks still claim that miracles happen today. Of course, many of these miracles seem rather non-miraculous. For example, the appearance of what looks like the image of the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich hardly seems to be something divine. Of course, some folks claim that there are more substantial miracles, such as that of divine healing. However, these alleged miracles never seem to stand up to serious and objective investigation. People who accept them thus tend to believe on the basis of pure faith rather than on the basis of evidence or reason.

Lest anyone think that I do not like miracles, rest assured that I think it would be great if there were people who could heal illness and injury with a touch, I also think it would be a wonderful thing if divine agents interceded to save us from disaster and death. Sadly, I have yet to see any evidence of this sort of stuff.

Since the bible and other such works tend to be full of all sorts of miracles and supernatural stuff (much of which would seem to be right at home in pre-Christian myths), it makes one wonder why the world of today is so mundane. Apparently, all the supernatural stuff and divine interventions that amazed and awed our ancestors just does not happen today. Or, if it does happen, it happens in ways that defy all confirmation by objective means.

Of course, it might be wondered if the miracles of the bible and other such works ever took place. After all, suppose that God is (as He is claimed to be) all knowing and all powerful. If so, it would seem that He would never need to work miracles. After all, as others have argued, such a God would be quite capable of creating a world that did not require any miracles. This is because a miracle would seem to be a violation of the natural order that is needed as an ad hoc fix to an unexpected problem. However, God’s omniscience means that nothing is unexpected to Him and his omniscient means that He never faces any problems. Hence, He would never seem to need to work miracles: things would just happen as He planned them with no need for a flashy or impromptu miracles.

This sort of view strikes me as the most plausible. After all, that sort of piecemeal intervention is what limited and fallible beings have to rely on and God is said to be neither limited nor fallible. Of course, if God does not work such miracles, then the bible and other books would seem to be rather mistaken and, of course, a lack of miracles would certainly cut into the available evidence for God’s existence. After all, a universe without miracles would seem to look like (one might argue) a universe without God.

Of course, it could be contended that God needs to work miracles to show that He exists. Of course, it would seem that He could do this is ways that are clearer and less melodramatic. But perhaps God likes that sort of showmanship.

Further, if God works miracles to prove His existence, then it seems rather unfair that He stopped providing such clear and dramatic proof so long ago. Would not a good and fair God keep providing this sort of proof so that everyone would have a fair and equal chance to see it?

Perhaps, as some have contended, God works miracles to show His love. Of course, this shows that God has a very limited sort of love. After all, multitudes of people suffer each day, yet do not receive miracles. This, of course, leads into the classic problem of evil, but that goes beyond the scope of this blog.

As another option, perhaps God does not work miracles Himself, but imbues lesser agents with the ability to do so. This raises the question of why God would do that and also raises the question as to why miracles do not occur today.

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