Miracle

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A miracle is an extraordinary, favorable event which apparently defies the laws of nature and science, [1] indicating divine intervention in human affairs.[2] The term is also sometimes used to exaggeratedly describe some unusual event, thing, or accomplishment with no divine intervention.[2]

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."[3]

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. LewisMiracles: 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.[4]

History

There are many cases of miracles recorded in the Bible, some of which are confirmed by other, non-biblical (or religious) books. They were commonly used under the Old Testament to prove the validity of a prophet or the power of God.

Under the New Testament, there were also a number of miracles performed, by Jesus and his disciples. The first miracle by Jesus was at a traditional marriage, as described at John 2:1. He continued to perform miracles (sometimes referred to as "signs and wonders") regularly throughout the three years of his public ministry. Crowds gathered and followed Jesus, seeking to witness of benefit from his miracles, many of which were quite astounding, and some of which were slightly humorous. His disciples also, both during and after Jesus' ministry performed miracles of their own, through the power of God. As the early church grew and progressed, miracles were present for a time, although over time they lessened. By the end of the time recorded in the New Testament books of the Bible, miracles were seemed to be petering out. Church history indicates that they came almost to an end by around 600 A.D.

In recent history, however, there are still occurrences of what seem to be miracles. This is particularly the case in parts of the world which were hearing the gospel for the first time. Even today in remote parts of the world, miracles are sometimes reported. However, for the most part, they seem to have come to an end. They served their purpose to prove God's power and the truth of the message. However, they were (and perhaps are) a means to a different end.


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 (presuming the wheel is not rigged), 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 description 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. In addition:

  • Jesus is historically documented in the Bible as reattaching an ear to a Roman soldier.
  • Many of the lepers that Jesus chose to cure also had missing body parts.
  • If God chose to cure everyone, then no one would ever die, yet God has said that it is appointed for man once to die, and after that the Judgment (Hebrews 9:27).
  • The argument ignores how losing a limb is, in most cases, not life-threatening.
  • The argument also ignores the fact that God has inspired doctors to develop the technology for artificial limbs, technology which has improved from a simple attachment to highly sophisticated limbs which are nearly to the level of real ones.
  • Also, in most instances where the loss of limbs occurs, there is almost no one of faith in proximity willing to attempt to even try and amend the separated limb to the amputee. Therefore, the opportunity for documented cases of this kind to occur is rare, though some such incidents have been reported in foreign countries. Jesus says, For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. (Matthew 17:20).

Studies confirming the efficacy of prayer for Christians

The Christian apologist Gary Habermas wrote: "Double-blind prayer experiments: where people pray for others with terminal illness. Habermas admitted that most such experiments have not worked, but the three that he knows of that have indeed worked were cases of orthodox-Christians praying for the sick."[5]

Miracles approved by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints

The catholic church has approved a select list of miracles which they believe to be genuine. These are listed below.

  • 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.

Atheists and supernatural beliefs

See also: Atheism and miracles and Atheists and supernatural beliefs

Atheism, as defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and other philosophy reference works, is the denial of the existence of God.[6] Beginning in the latter portion of the 20th century and continuing beyond, many agnostics/atheists have argued that the definition of atheism should be defined as a mere lack of belief in God or gods. [7][8] [9] See also: Definition of atheism

Naturalism as a philosophical stance rejects the possibility of supernatural phenomena, describing such phenomena as misunderstood natural phenomena or falsehood. This preconception necessarily precludes the existence of God.

Although all atheists deny the existence of God, a significant portion of atheists do not strictly subscribe to the philosophy of naturalism (see: Atheism and the supernatural).

See also

References

  1. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/miracle
  2. 2.0 2.1 Merriam-Webster's dictionary (2009)
  3. John A. Hardon, S.J., "A Modern Catholic Dictionary" (1999).
  4. C.S. Lewis: Apostle to the Skeptics, Chad Walsh, Macmillian company, 1949, page 34
  5. Christian Apologist: 10 Reasons for the Fall of Atheism by Gary Habermas
  6. Multiple references:
  7. Day, Donn R. (2007). "Atheism - etymology".
  8. Definition of atheism by William Lane Craig
  9. Putting the Atheist on the Defensive by Kenneth R. Samples, Christian Research Institute Journal, Fall 1991, and Winter 1992, page 7.