Argument From Miracles

The argument from miracles, also known as the historical argument. There is a long tradition in Christianity of thinking that various miracles can provide the basis for belief in the existence of God.

One example of this argument is the Christological argument: the claim that historical evidence proves that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and that this can only be explained if God exists. Another is the claim that many of the Qur’an‘s prophecies have been fulfilled and that this too can only be explained if God (Allah) exists.

Defenders of the argument include C. S. LewisG. K. Chesterton and William of Ockham.

Bread Multiplication Altar Carving Jesus Christ

Bread multiplication miracle performed by Jesus Christ in altar carving

The primary, and perhaps the only, argument for the existence of God in the Old and New Testaments and the early church fathers is the argument from miracles. In his first letter to the Corinthians, for example, Paul writes,

First and foremost, I handed on to you the facts which had been imparted to me: that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised to life on the third day, according to the scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas, and afterwards to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred of our brothers at once, most of whom are still alive, although some have died. Then he appeared to James, and afterwards to all the apostles. In the end he appeared even to me. (I Corinthians 15:3-8)

Paul takes this as the “first and foremost” aspect of the gospel he preached in Corinth, the set of facts on which he bases his faith. The Easter message that Christ rose from the dead, Paul holds, is absolutely essential: “if Christ was not raised, then our gospel is null and void, and so is your faith; and we turn out to be lying witnesses for God” (I Corinthians 15:14-15). But Paul assures us that Christ was raised to life; there is the solid testimony of a multitude of eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection. Christian belief rests on firm empirical evidence.

Miracle

Main article: Miracle

A miracle is an event not explicable by natural or scientific laws. Such an event may be attributed to a supernatural being (especially a deity), magic, a miracle worker, a saint, or a religious leader.

Informally, the word miracle is often used to characterise any beneficial event that is statistically unlikely but not contrary to the laws of nature, such as surviving a natural disaster, or simply a “wonderful” occurrence, regardless of likelihood, such as a birth. Other such miracles might be: survival of an illness diagnosed as terminal, escaping a life-threatening situation or ‘beating the odds’. Some coincidences may be seen as miracles.

A true miracle would, by definition, be a non-natural phenomenon, leading many rational and scientific thinkers to dismiss them as physically impossible (that is, requiring violation of established laws of physics within their domain of validity) or impossible to confirm by their nature (because all possible physical mechanisms can never be ruled out). The former position is expressed for instance by Thomas Jefferson and the latter by David Hume. Theologians typically say that, with divine providence, God regularly works through nature yet, as a creator, is free to work without, above, or against it as well.

Quran and Miracles

Main article: Quran and Miracles

Islam considers the Quran to be a holy book, the word of Allah, and a miracle. The text itself is believed to be a miracle on the grounds that the Arabic text would not conform to the standard poetry and prose categories commonly expressed by other forms of written and spoken languages and therefore is attributed to supernatural, esp. divine, agency; esp. an act (e.g. of healing) showing control over nature and used as evidence that the agent is either divine or divinely favoured.

Criticisms

One counter-argument to the argument from miracles is the argument from inconsistent revelations, which states that multiple incompatible miracles are alleged to have occurred which provide evidence for different religions. Not all these can be correct.

Another counter-argument is Occam’s razor, which can be used to argue that God is unnecessary to explain miracles for which natural explanations can be found. In his documentary The Root of All Evil?, British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins utilises this argument when examining the supposed miracles in Lourdes, France. According to Catholic theology, supernatural cures occur in the area, but Dawkins expresses doubts as to their divine nature, saying that all the recorded cures comprise diseases which may have healed by themselves without the need for divine intervention.

Modern theologians rely on the arguments by David Hume, an eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher, who is known today for his skepticism and naturalism. Before making any claims, Hume explains the principle of evidence: the only way that we can assess the credibility of two claims is by weighing evidence. According to Hume, because evidence for miracles consists of a limited set of instances, every instance of normalcy in the real world adds up to evidence that far outweighs the evidence for miracles.

See also

References

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia