A miracle is defined by Merriam-Webster (2009) as:
- an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs
- an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment
- Christian Science: a divinely natural phenomenon experienced humanly as the fulfillment of spiritual law
The Catholic definition of miracle is a "sensibly perceptible effect, surpassing at least the powers of visible nature, produced by God to witness to some truth or testify to someone's sanctity."
Other definitions include:
- a remarkably good event that has no plausible scientific explanation
- an extremely unlikely occurrence consistent with faith or prayer
- a joyous happening contrary to all reasonable expectation
- "a violation of the laws of nature" (David Hume)
Though the term "miracle" can often be heard from Christians and non-Christians alike, the entire Bible only contains one genuine reference to "miracle" and that was a quote of a non-believer (the Pharaoh) in Exodus 7:9 (RSV): "When Pharaoh says to you, 'Prove yourselves by working a miracle,' then you shall say to Aaron, 'Take your rod and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.'"
Under Christianity and Judaism, God is truth and a miracle is nothing more than a "sign" of the truth. "Miracle" is the non-believer's term for what believers properly describe as a "sign", a term that does appear repeatedly in the Bible. The scholar Chad Walsh echoes C.S. Lewis—Miracles: A Preliminary Study(1947, Macmillan)—when he states that no other religion bases its ideas upon miracles as much as does Christianity. Its foundation is the Incarnation.
Arguments against the Existence of Miracles
Skeptics would say that miracles are simply improbable stuff happening and because there are billions of people on the planet, the odds of finding numerous stories of improbable happenings interpreted as miracles increases. This, however, along with many other atheistic arguments invokes a logical fallacy. The Gambler's Fallacy states that the more one tries something, the more likely an event will happen. In reality, if one spins a roulette wheel, the odds of it landing on one number will always be exactly the same every time.
The fact is in order for a skeptic to dismiss miracles, they must literally accuse thousands upon thousands of people of either lying, or hallucinating. The probability of 100 percent of the witnesses matching this descripition is questionable at best. One example would be the documented miracle at Fatima where thousands of people saw the sun explode and then come back together. Skeptics argue that no one outside the area of the town recorded this but this is using the logical fallacy that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. Also, the probability of thousands of people lying needs to be called into question.
Some skeptics ask why God chooses not to cure amputees but this begins with the false assumption that God has never done this before. The fact is Jesus is historically documented in the Bible as reattaching an ear to a Roman soldier. Also, many of the lepers that Jesus chose to cure also had missing body parts. The amputee argument also ignores how losing a limb is not life threatening. Also, if God chose to cure everyone then no one would ever die and God needs people to die so they can either be placed in Heaven or Hell. Another counter is that the amputee argument ignores the fact that God has inspired doctors to develop the technology for artificial limbs.
List of miracles approved by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
- Stigmata (and other signs) of St. Francis of Assisi
- Prophecies and miraculous apparitions of St. Bernadette
- Apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima on the 13th day of six consecutive months in 1917, starting on 13 May.
- Stigmata, bilocation, levitation and prophecy of St. Pio of Pietrelcina (born Francesco Frocione)
- Blood miracle of St. Januarius (also known as St. Gennaro)
- The Virgin of the tears: 1953, Syracuse (Sicily) - A statue of the Virgin Mary produces real human tears.
- In the midst of a Maelstrom: the Holy Spirit and silence: an essay the quiet miracle
- Essay: How to "get" a church
- John A. Hardon, S.J., "A Modern Catholic Dictionary" (1999).
- C.S. Lewis: Apostle to the Skeptics, Chad Walsh, Macmillian company, 1949, page 34