A few days ago we had a post on Science, Miracles, and Benny Hinn, highlighting portions of Bill Dembski’s new online book The Faces of Miracles. It seems appropriate this time of year to consider miracles. After all, in the Christian world, this month we’re celebrating an event that can only be described as a miracle: the virgin birth of Christ.
So what exactly do we mean by the term “miracle”? In the book, In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God’s Action in History, Richard Purtill provides this definition:
A miracle is an event that is brought about by the power of God that is a temporary exception to the ordinary course of nature for the purpose of showing that God is acting in history.
This definition eliminates the common street use of the term, such as “It was a miracle that Jones caught that pass with no time left to win the game!” The word “miracle” was the title of the 2004 film about the United States hockey team Winter Olympics gold medal. Then there’s that Holiday favorite, Miracle on 34th Street. None of these meet the definition provided by Purtill.
If Purtill is right, then we can reasonably ask, do we live in a cosmos where miracles take place? If so, how do we know when we witness one? The skeptics will deny that there are any such things as miracles, often citing David Hume’s dictum that “a wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.” For Hume, no amount of evidence would convince him that a miracle had taken place.
We could reasonably ask the skeptic “how do you know scientifically that the properties of the cosmos are such that it is a completely closed system of natural cause and effect and that no supernatural being(s), even if such exist, could intervene or cause any change or cause any exception to the course of Nature, even in principle?” This question focuses on science. Philosophy, metaphysics, or theology won’t do in answering it.
So, do we or don’t we live in a cosmos where miracles (as defined by Purtill) can take place? If so, how do we know when we’ve witnessed one. Cordially discuss!