Miracles – answer these questions

(Please note the answers are on this page. Simply highlight the text and the answers should stand out)


How is a miracle defined?

Must break the laws of nature

Must have a purpose and significance

Must have the possiblilty of interpretation religiously (ie done by God)


Give a theist philosopher’s definition.

Mackie: ‘a miracle occurs when … something distinct from the natural order intrudes into it.’ Or

Aquinas: ‘those things… which are done by divine power apart from the order generally followed in things.’


How did Hume define a miracle?

‘a transgression of a law of nature by the particular volition of the deity.’


Why might people believe in them? As many different reasons as you can think of.

  • Wishful thinking
  • Hope

  • Gives an explanation
  • Gives evidence that there is a God


Why are miracles important to the faith community?

Prove God’s existence / proves He cares / give hope (of the ultimate type!)


How did Aquinas categorise them? Give an example of each type.

  • Events, god, nature could never do e.g. stopping the sun, bringing Lazarus back to life
  • Events, god, nature could do but not in that order e.g., plagues, healing of the leper
  • Events, god, nature could do but not using natural laws e.g. healing the paralysed man by forgiving him his sins


What is the problem with natural laws?

They may not be as fixed as some suggest.


List some general problems with believing in miracles.

  • Arbitrariness and unpredictability
  • Unverifiable
  • Unrepeatable
  • Don’t happen when you want them
  • Don’t happen nowadays
  • Idea of interventionist God goes against epistemic distance.
  • Morally dubious


What does Hick suggest about natural laws?

We may not know them fully, yet!


How does Swinburne modify the idea of miracles breaking the laws of nature?

The laws of nature are reasonably predictable therefore if an event which at least seems improbable occurs it is fair to call it a miracle.


In his opinion what is it that makes an event a miracle?

The way and timescale in which it occurs.


What is the purpose of a miracle?

To reveal the nature of God.


What did Peter Vardy say about miracles?

‘A god who intervenes at Lourdes to cure an old man of cancer but does not act to save starving millions in Ethiopia …needs to face some hard questioning.’


What did RF Holland say about miracles?

‘an extraordinary coincidence which can be seen in a religious way.’


What word does St John’s gospel use instead of miracle?



Summarise what Bultmann meant by his objection to miracles?

Essentially belief in miracles and such is incompatible with the modern world of science.


What were Hume’s objections to miracles? (in your own words!)

  • Insufficient witnesses
  • Testimony is unreliable at best because it comes from religious people
  • Mostly occur in uncivilised (ie unmodern) societies.
  • Miracles occur in all religions cannot all be true therefore none are


What counter criticisms have been made against Hume’s objections?

  • How many is sufficient?
  • People usually tell the truth…
  • Still occurring in the West!
  • Are they mutually incompatible? Only if they actually conflict.


How can the principle of Ockham’s Razor be applied here?

If the simplest explanation is the most philosophically viable then if all other explanations have been considered then maybe the idea that it is a miracle is the simplest answer.


How can Swinburne’s principle of Credulity be applied here?    

We should accept what people say if what they say is normally the truth. ‘We ought to believe things are as they seem.’


Who said ‘If there is a God one might well expect him to make his presence known to man…’

Richard Swinburne


Evaluate the overall claim that miracles can never be ultimately proven to occur or have occurred.