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Miracle

Miracle


In order to differentiate between the customary way in which God acts and his special miraculous action, theologians have traditionally distinguished his providentia ordinaria from the providentia extraordinaria, the latter being identified with miracles. Since the dawning of modernity, miracles have been widely understood to be "violations of the laws of nature." But so long as laws of nature are taken to be universal inductive generalizations, the notion of a violation of a law of nature is incoherent, since such statements must take account of everything that happens, so that exceptions to them are impossible. Although this fact led some Enlightenment philosophers to think that miracles can thus be defined out of existence, it ought rather to alert one to the defectiveness of the modern definition. Natural laws have implicit ceteris paribus conditions, so that a law states what is the case under the assumption of certain ideal conditions. If God brings about some event that a law of nature fails to predict or describe, such an event cannot be characterized as a violation of that law, since the law is valid only on the assumption that no supernatural factors come into play.

Miracles, then, are better defined as naturally impossible events, that is to say, events that cannot be produced by the natural causes (i.e., those described by physics) operative at a certain time and place. Whether an event is a miracle is thus relative to a time and place. Of course, some events may be absolutely miraculous in that they are at every time and place beyond the productive capacity of natural causes.


Possibility of miracles

What could conceivably transform an event that is naturally impossible into a real historical event? Clearly, the answer is the personal God of theism. For if a transcendent, personal creator exists, then this God could cause events in the universe that could not be produced by causes within the universe. Given a God who created the universe, who conserves the world in being, and who is capable of acting freely, miracles are evidently possible.

A widespread assumption persists that if historical inquiry is to be feasible, then one must adopt a sort of methodological naturalism as a fundamental historiographical principle. This viewpoint is a restatement of Ernst Troeltsch's principle of analogy, which states that the past does not differ essentially from the present. Though events of the past are, of course, not the same events as those of the present, they must be the same in kind if historical investigation is to be possible. Troeltsch realized that any history written on this principle will be skeptical with regard to the historicity of miracles.

Theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg, however, has persuasively argued that Troeltsch's principle of analogy cannot be legitimately employed to banish from the realm of history all non-analogous events. Properly defined, analogy means that in a situation that is unclear, the facts ought to be understood in terms of known experience; but Troeltsch has elevated the principle to constrict all past events to purely natural events. But that an event bursts all analogies cannot be used to dispute its historicity. Troeltsch's formulation of the principle of analogy destroys genuine historical reasoning, since the historian must be open to the uniqueness of the events of the past and cannot exclude events a priori simply because they do not conform to present experience. When myths, legends, illusions, and the like are dismissed as unhistorical, it is not because they are non-analogous, but because they are analogous to present forms of consciousness having no objective referent. When an event is said to have occurred for which no analogy exists, its reality cannot be automatically dismissed; to do this one would require an analogy to some known form of consciousness lacking an objective referent that would suffice to explain the situation. Pannenberg has thus upended Troeltsch's principle of analogy such that it is not the want of an analogy that shows an event to be unhistorical, but the presence of a positive analogy to known thought forms that shows a purportedly miraculous event to be unhistorical. In this way, the lack of an analogy to present experience says nothing for or against the historicity of an event. Pannenberg's formulation of the principle preserves the analogous nature of the past to the present or to the known, thus making the investigation of history possible, without thereby sacrificing the integrity of the past or distorting it.

Identification of miracles

The question remains whether the identification of any event as a miracle is possible. On the one hand, it might be argued that a convincing demonstration that a purportedly miraculous event has occurred would only succeed in forcing the revision of natural law so as to accommodate the event in question. But a natural law is not abolished because of one exception; the anomaly must occur repeatedly whenever the conditions for it are present. If an event occurs that is anomalous and there are reasons to believe that this event would not occur again under similar circumstances, then the law in question will not be abandoned.

On the other hand, it might be urged that if a purportedly miraculous event were demonstrated to have occurred, one should conclude that the event occurred in accordance with unknown natural laws. What serves to distinguish a genuine miracle from a mere scientific anomaly? Here the religio-historical context of the event becomes crucial. A miracle without a context is inherently ambiguous. But if a purported miracle occurs in a significant religio-historical context, then the chances of its being a genuine miracle are increased. For example, if the miracles occur at a momentous time and do not recur regularly in history, and if the miracles are numerous and various, then the chances of their being the result of some unknown natural causes are reduced. Moreover, some miracles (e.g., the resurrection of Jesus) so exceed what is known of the productive capacity of natural causes that they could only be reasonably attributed to a supernatural cause. Thus, while it is difficult to know in many cases whether a genuine miracle has occurred, that does not imply pessimism with respect to all cases.


See also Divine Action; God; Naturalism; Laws of Nature; Providence; Special Divine Action; Special Providence; Spirituality and Faith Healing;



Bibliography

earman, john. "bayes, hume, and miracles." faith and philosophy 10 (1993): 293310.

freddoso, alfred j. "the necessity of nature." midwest studies in philosophy 11 (1986): 215242.

geivett, r. douglas, and, habermas, gary r. in defense of miracles. downer's grove, ill.: intervarsity press, 1997.

hume, david. "of miracles." in enquiries concerning human understanding and concerning the principles of morals (1777), 3rd edition, ed. l. a. selby-bigge and p. h. midditch. oxford: clarendon press, 1975.

pannenberg, wolfhart. "redemptive event and history." in wolfhart pannenberg, basic questions in theology, 2 vols., trans. g. h. kehm. philadelphia: fortress, 1970.

swinburne, richard. the concept of miracle. new york: macmillan, 1970.

swinburne, richard, ed. miracles: philosophical topics. new york: macmillan, 1989.

troeltsch, ernst. "Über historische und dogmatische methode in der theologie." in gesammelte schriften. tübingen, germany: j. c. b. mohr, 1913.

william lane craig

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Miracle

Miracle. A striking event brought about (usually by God) for a religious purpose, against the usual course of nature; for example, the resurrection or the instantaneous healings recorded in the Christian gospels. The modern mind (post-Hume tends to ask of miracles, did they really happen; and, if so, what do they show? But religiously, miracle stories have also to be evaluated in the contexts in which they are told, in order to discern their meaning for those transmitting them: they are usually regarded as signs of God's power, or as vouching for the authority of a revelation, prophet, or holy person.

Among Jews, belief in miracles rests on the biblical descriptions of the interventions of God, beginning with creation itself. In the Hebrew Bible, such events as the Ten Plagues and the parting of the Red Sea are understood as interventions by God. The medieval Jewish philosophers found it difficult to accept the supernatural element in the biblical understanding of miracles, but this way of thinking has been condemned as ‘Hellenism’ by such thinkers as S. D. Luzzatto.

In Islam the Qurʾān speaks of the ‘signs’ of Allāh (āyāt, singular āyā) as proofs of the divine power: natural phenomena, and extraordinary events. The term used in Islam for ‘miracle’, though not occurring in the Qurʾān, is muʿjiza (that which could not normally be achieved; cf. iʿjāz, from the same root). This is a sign given by Allāh to prove the authenticity and truthfulness of a prophet, in particular Muḥammad. Although the sole ‘miracle’ of Muḥammad is said to be the Qurʾān, yet in the sīra, ḥadīth, and legend many miracles are attributed to him, some of which are reminiscent of New Testament narratives.

In E. religions, miracles are extremely common—so much so that they almost cease to be objects of wonder (Lat., miraculum). They surround the births of teachers or holy people, and are particularly associated with siddha and iddhi powers. Such powers would be expected of a living manifestation of the divine (avatāra), as, e.g., in the contemporary case of Satya Sai Baba. The Sikh Gurūs condemned appeal to miracles, mainly because they saw them as exploitation of the credulous. Nevertheless, many miracles are told of the Gurūs themselves.

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Miracle

443. Miracle

  1. Aarons rod flowering rod proved him to be Gods choice. [O.T.: Numbers 17:8]
  2. Agnes, St. hair grew to cover nakedness. [Christian Hagiog.: Brewster, 7677]
  3. Anthony of Padua , St. believed to have preached effectively to school of fishes. [Christian Legend: Benét, 39]
  4. Cana at wedding feast, Christ turns water into wine. [N.T.: John 2:111]
  5. deus ex machina improbable agent introduced to solve a dilemma. [Western Drama: LLEI, I: 279]
  6. Elais produced olive oil from ground by touch. [Gk. Myth.: Kravitz, 86]
  7. Euphemus Argonaut; could cross water without getting wet. [Gk. Myth.: Kravitz, 95 ]
  8. Geppetto his wish fulfilled when marionette becomes real boy. [Childrens Lit.: Pinocchio ; Am. Cinema: Pinocchio in Disney Films, 3237]
  9. Holy Grail chalice enabled Sir Galahad to heal a cripple. [Br. Lit.: Le Morte dArthur ]
  10. Jesus Christ as son of God, performed countless miracles. [N.T.: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John]
  11. loaves and fishes Jesus multiplies fare for his following. [N.T.: Matthew 14:1521; John 6:514]
  12. Lourdes underground spring revealed to Bernadette Soubirous in visions (1858); major pilgrimage site. [Fr. Hist.: EB, VI: 352; Am. Lit.: Song of Bernadette; Am. Cinema: The Song of Bernadette in Halliwell, 670]
  13. Marah undrinkably bitter waters, sweetened by Moses. [O.T.: Exodus 15:2325]
  14. Miracle on 34th Street Santa Claus comes to New York. [Am. Cinema: Halliwell, 493]
  15. parting of the Pamphylean Sea Alexanders hosts traverse sea in Persian march. [Class. Hist.: Gaster, 238]
  16. parting of the Red Sea divinely aided, Moses parts the waters for an Israelite escape. [O.T.: Exodus 14:1531]
  17. rod of Moses transforms into serpent, then back again. [O.T.: Exodus 4:24]
  18. Tannhäuser as a sign that the Pope should absolve him, the papal scepter suddenly sprouts green leaves. [Ger. Myth.: Brewer Dictionary, 932]

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miracle

miracle, preternatural occurrence that is viewed as the expression of a divine will. Its awe and wonder lie in the fact that the cause is hidden. The idea of the miracle occurs especially with the evolution of those highly developed religions that distinguish between natural law and divine will. Many supernatural or inexplicable events have been called miracles, but in the strict religious sense a miracle refers only to the direct intervention of divine will in the affairs of men. The adherents of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam attribute miracles to the omnipotence of God, the Creator, who alone can change the natural events of the world or can delegate that power to a disciple, such as Moses, Jesus, or Muhammad. In the history of Christianity miracles have played a major role, two of the most important examples of divine intervention being the Resurrection (Mat. 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20; 21) and the Virgin Birth. Miracles in Christianity are also associated with saints' bodies and relics and with shrines. Some saints had in their lifetime great repute for curing the sick by supposed miracles. The Roman Catholic Church requires rigid attestation of miracles before canonization, but does not officially require belief in other than biblical miracles.

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miracle

mir·a·cle / ˈmirikəl/ • n. a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency: the miracle of rising from the grave. ∎  a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences: it was a miracle that more people hadn't been killed or injured | [as adj.] a miracle drug. ∎  an amazing product or achievement, or an outstanding example of something: a machine which was a miracle of design.

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"miracle." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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miracle

miracle a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency. Recorded from Middle English, the word comes via Old French from Latin miraculum ‘object of wonder’, from mirari ‘to wonder’, from mirus ‘wonderful’.
the age of miracles is past proverbial saying; late sixteenth century, often used ironically, or as a comment on failure.
miracle play a dramatization based on events in the life of Jesus or the legends of the saints, popular in the Middle Ages, a mystery play.

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Miracle

Miracle. Nickname of Haydn's Sym. in D major, No.96 in Breitkopf edn., comp. London 1791. So called in error because it used to be said that at its f.p. in London on 11 Mar. 1791 the audience rushed forward at the end to congratulate the composer, thereby escaping injury when a chandelier collapsed on to their vacated seats. Research has est. that this incident occurred during Haydn's 2nd visit to London, at a concert on 2 Feb. 1795 and that the sym. which had been played, and which therefore really deserves the nickname, was Haydn's No.102 in B♭.

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miracle

miracle Event that is contrary to the laws of nature and is assumed to be the result of supernatural or divine intervention. Most religions include a belief in miracles. The mythologies of ancient India, the Middle East, Greece and Rome abound with amazing wonders brought about by the gods, but in both Christianity and Judaism, a human agent is generally involved.

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miracle

miracle marvellous event to be ascribed to supernatural intervention XII; wonderful thing; medieval play based on the life of Christ or the saints XIV. — (O)F. — L. mīrāculum object of wonder, f. mīrārī, -āre wonder, look at, f. mīrus wonderful.
So miraculous XVI. — (O)F. or medL.

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miracle

miraclecackle, crackle, grackle, hackle, jackal, mackle, shackle, tackle •ankle, rankle •Gaskell, mascle, paschal •tabernacle • ramshackle •débâcle, diarchal, matriarchal, monarchal, patriarchal, sparkle •rascal •deckle, freckle, heckle, Jekyll, shekel, speckle •faecal (US fecal), treacle •chicle, fickle, mickle, nickel, pickle, prickle, sickle, strickle, tickle, trickle •besprinkle, crinkle, sprinkle, tinkle, twinkle, winkle, wrinkle •fiscal •laical, Pharisaical •vehicle • stoical • cubicle • radical •medical, paramedical •Druidical, juridical, veridical •syndical •methodical, periodical, rhapsodical, synodical •Talmudical • graphical • pontifical •magical, tragical •strategical •alogical, illogical, logical •dramaturgical, liturgical, metallurgical, surgical •anarchical, hierarchical, monarchical, oligarchical •psychical •angelical, evangelical, helical •umbilical • biblical • encyclical •diabolical, follicle, hyperbolical, symbolical •dynamical, hydrodynamical •academical, agrochemical, alchemical, biochemical, chemical, petrochemical, photochemical, polemical •inimical • rhythmical • seismical •agronomical, anatomical, astronomical, comical, economical, gastronomical, physiognomical •botanical, Brahmanical, mechanical, puritanical, sanicle, tyrannical •ecumenical •geotechnical, pyrotechnical, technical •clinical, cynical, dominical, finical, Jacobinical, pinnacle, rabbinical •canonical, chronicle, conical, ironical •tunicle • pumpernickel • vernicle •apical • epical •atypical, prototypical, stereotypical, typical •misanthropical, semi-tropical, subtropical, topical, tropical •theatrical •chimerical, clerical, hemispherical, hysterical, numerical, spherical •calendrical •asymmetrical, diametrical, geometrical, metrical, symmetrical, trimetrical •electrical • ventricle •empirical, lyrical, miracle, panegyrical, satirical •cylindrical •ahistorical, allegorical, categorical, historical, metaphorical, oratorical, phantasmagorical, rhetorical •auricle • rubrical • curricle •classical, fascicle, neoclassical •farcical • vesicle •indexical, lexical •commonsensical, nonsensical •bicycle, icicle, tricycle •paradoxical • Popsicle • versicle •anagrammatical, apostatical, emblematical, enigmatical, fanatical, grammatical, mathematical, piratical, prelatical, problematical, sabbatical •impractical, practical, syntactical, tactical •canticle •ecclesiastical, fantastical •article, particle •alphabetical, arithmetical, heretical, hypothetical, metathetical, metical, parenthetical, poetical, prophetical, reticle, synthetical, theoretical •dialectical •conventicle, identical •sceptical (US skeptical) • testicle •analytical, apolitical, critical, cryptanalytical, diacritical, eremitical, geopolitical, hypercritical, hypocritical, political, socio-political, subcritical •deistical, egoistical, logistical, mystical, papistical •optical, synoptical •aeronautical, nautical, vortical •cuticle, pharmaceutical, therapeutical •vertical • ethical • mythical • clavicle •periwinkle • lackadaisical •metaphysical, physical, quizzical •whimsical • musical •Carmichael, cervical, cycle, Michael •unicycle • monocycle • motorcycle •cockle, grockle •corncockle • snorkel •bifocal, focal, local, univocal, varifocal, vocal, yokel •archducal, coucal, ducal, pentateuchal •buckle, chuckle, knuckle, muckle, ruckle, suckle, truckle •peduncle, uncle •parbuckle • carbuncle • turnbuckle •pinochle • furuncle • honeysuckle •demoniacal, maniacal, megalomaniacal, paradisiacal, zodiacal •manacle • barnacle • cenacle •binnacle • monocle • epochal •reciprocal •coracle, oracle •spectacle •pentacle, tentacle •receptacle • obstacle • equivocal •circle, encircle •semicircle

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