What is a miracle?

carried over from this thread, what exactly is a miricle?

Well, what I said over there ought to provide a good start:

In short, the characteristic of a miracle, to a believer, is not in whether it violates some apparent law or is big and flashy, but in whether it adequately shows God’s hand at work in the world. One classic example of such a situation is the two people, one on a rarely travelled road at night with his car broken down and the other who felt an urge to take a ride that took him down that road on that night, and therefore found the first person, stopped and helped him/her. No “miraculous intervention”? Not in the sense of God’s hand coming out of a cloud and cleansing the clogged carburetor or something – but definitely present in the second guy having felt that urge (whether or not the first guy prayed for help is immaterial, but the story often includes that detail).

Work with that as an initial premise, if you will.

I would define it as an event that cannot be explained by scientific means, that also directly implies intervention by a supernatural being.

But so far as I can tell, anything can be explained by scientific means, provided that you’re willing to stretch probability enough to subsume the given event’s characteristics. Even the “hand of God reaching down from the clouds and…” item from the comics could be explained by “Well, there’s this really large extraterrestrial being with arm and hand resembling human on a UFO hidden in the clouds…” Historical events? Absent any presupposition as to a supernatural being, it’s much more likely that they were myth, legend, human misunderstanding, misreportage, or something of the sort than providing evidence for such a being. (You know, it’s fun arguing this side of the debate; we should switch sides more often!! :D)

More seriously, Czarcasm, would your definition work with probability factors read in for “cannot” and “directly implies”? I suspect that if 5,000 people, including John Corrado and gobear, formally state that they saw Jesus gently waft down from the clouds over the Washington Monument and walk up the Mall in Washington, and have videotape showing this, you would be more inclined to believe this as a genuine miracle than to ascribe it to mass hallucination or optical illusion (in the absence of evidence pointing to those causes, of course).

I don’t think “mass hallucination” is a possibility if videotape is available. If only the video tape were available, I would consider optical illusion or special effects as a possiblity. With both a large group of people not of the same religious persuasion as witnesses and the video tape as backup, providing the statements of the witnesses pretty much matched up with the tape without any of the witnesses having seen the tape because that could influence their memories, I would be willing to use the term “possible miracle” on the condition that further investigation was pending. What caused the “miracle” would still be open to debate, however.

My getting a date would certainly qualify :frowning:

Fair enough.

What about the common usage (among Christians) of “natural event with favorable consequences that appears to be attributible to the providential intervention of God” as exemplified by my two guys on a deserted highway at night example?

From the POV of the sincere believer, the idea that God intervened to provide help makes this qualify as a miracle. (I do not ask you to buy into his intervention, just into the fact of their belief that He did.) Would this be acceptable as “a miracle” by your understanding of the term?

I think that is a perfect definition. There was never a greater miracle than my own conversion.

The “fair enough” was in reference to Czarcasm’s distinguo in response to me, not to 3waygeek’s defining his chances of getting a date. (But, brother, Jesus loves you; just ask Him to send you one! Report back on the results, please. ;))

I also think the question needs to be asked (since it is definitely related to what was discussed on the other thread): do some people of faith believe that God interacts in their everyday lives? Do they believe that if they pray for help (even on some less crucial or not-life-or-death thing), that God may help them? Or, that “God was involved” in helping them?

Also, if a person of faith has a problem that was solved through more mundane means, (after they prayed for help on it) does that mean God was not involved in solving the problem, because the solution was not “miraculous” enough?

I was once overcome with an unusual compulsion to put a certain (precise) number of pounds in an envelope in the glove compartment of my car; I didn’t know quite why I was doing it; it felt quite irrational at the time).

The next day, I went out for an improptu drink with a close friend (who was normally fairly financially solvent, but had been taking unpaid leave to care for a sick friend); she happened to mention her worry over her car that had failed it’s MOT test; I enquired whether the essential repairs would be expensive and she said it was going to cost [the exact sum of money that was in the envelope]. When I dropped her home, I handed her the envelope.

Science has a completely adequate explanation for this (coincidence); I prefer my own interpretation. (you have a third option (Mangetout is lying) - believe which of the three you like; it’s no skin off my nose).

I have a far different definition of what a miracle is. I claim no authority for it though. Just one person’s unsubstantiated, and unverifiable testimony. Take is or leave it, as you wish.

A miracle is an event which creates faith in God. It doesn’t need to violate any physical law, or common experience, or reasonable circumstance. The miracle is not that a fish swallowed a shekel and then swam into Peter’s net. There is nothing really outside of natural law in that. But it gave Peter faith in God, and preserved Peter’s need to remain true to the Law, and the teachings of Christ.

Now I realize that this view is totally lacking in scientific validity, or even logical continuity. Miracles don’t prove the existence of God. Doubt is not overcome by circumstance, it is overwhelmed by the infinite love of God.


I will take it with me Tris. Thank you!

Our families experienced many such miracles during our 19 months with Dawson. By all logic (zero percent chance), Dawson should never had developed pineoblastoma.

Thanks for sharing Mangetout. I’m glad you followed His guidance that day. yosemitebabe: yes to all but the last.

Tris, that is an interesting method of looking at it.

That’s a corollary to what Poly said, and I like the syntactical economy. Thanks, Tris.

Why does it need to be asked? From where I sit, the answer to all three of those is, of course, some do (or they claim they do; I suppose it’s possible that all of that some are lying about their inner experience, but I rarely weight that possibility as very likely).

The effects of gravity can be described with high precision, in most non-extreme reference frames, as the geodesic curves of spacetime, or in Newtonian terms.

Events that are correlated with transformations of inner experience can be described (with far less precision) as the living intervention of God, or in terms of probability and such.

I think there’s a parallel in there, even if the geometry of it may be more than a little ad hoc.

The primary thing that bothers me about the some who are “yes” to the questions is, it seems a view that’s a bit too event-focused. I think faith probably should rest on a better foundation than that.

I think there is no such thing as a miracle. According to current legend “God’s power is infinite” so anything He does is normal for God. And, from all we can tell, if we assume that there is a God who established the rules, everything happens according to the rules that He established.


I dunno, I’m not seeing a connection between that and the questions. Sure, if the answer was that no people of faith would answer “yup” to those questions, then that particular spleening in the Pit would be rendered non-sequitor. But I’m pretty certain some do formulate their faith in prayer in that way, because I’ve received pamphlets aiming directly at that formulation, so clearly there’s a market for it. So if that’s against Christian doctrine, it seems against it only in the True Scotsman sense.

Okeedokee, I’ll admit it. I find the idea of “everyday miracles” silly. I don’t understand the need for a God that helps me find my keys.