Impossibility of Miracles?

One of the criticisms of Christianity is the belief in miracles.  Miracles by definition are impossible.  The laws of nature cannot be broken.  There have even been forms of Christianity that have denied miracles as they are a bit of an embarrassment in a rational world.

I would like to suggest another way to look at miracles.  Rather than a breaking of the laws of nature, they are the right thing happening at the right time in the right way.  Let us look at some examples.  Jesus is reported as healing many people.  But are not people moving from sickness to health all the time through the influence of medicine and surgery?  What doctors do is change the conditions so that the body can heal.  In the same way, Jesus by command was able to change the conditions so that the person would be healed.  What about walking on water?  Given the right the technology, humans could change the conditions to allow someone to do that.  Changes could happen in the bouyancy of the water or the density of the water or the weight of the person.  Laws were not broken, conditions were just changed.  Many of the things that we do today would seem supernatural to the ancients.  It is not natural for a man to walk on the moon, but it is possible to set things in motion to make it happen.  It is not natural to perform a heart transplant but with a donor, surgery and medication, it can happen.  I am not making light of miracles or denying the supernatural aspect.  They are miracles in that Jesus was able to change the conditions  at the right time, in the right way to the right people for the right outcome.  What I am saying is that belief in miracles is not incompatible with reason.

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7 thoughts on “Impossibility of Miracles?”

  1. This is a great way to discuss miracles. Never really heard anyone put it this way. I doesn’t deny the supernatural, nor does it abandon reason. Sounds like the makings of a good book!

  2. This is a false analogy. You’re comparing miracles to things we can easily accept, but they aren’t the same thing at all. You are taking similar ends and extrapolating too much from that. The means are anything but similar and that is precisely what is unbelievable.

    You could do the same thing with astral travel claims. I bet ancient mystics would be awed by our ability to fly quickly around the world and even into space. So should we take astral travel seriously as a possibility? Of course not. Why? Because they aren’t actually analagous, and that’s kind of the whole point of an analogy when used for logical argument.

  3. I guess it depends on what we mean by the means. If you are referring to the difference between a word of Jesus or his spit and that of medicine or surgery, they are quite different. But I would ask: what happened when Jesus said “Be healed”? Did he supernaturally destroy and then in a moment re-create the body? Or did he do the same kind of thing that medicine or surgery do? That is remove something or boost the immune system or whatever? My point is: I am not sure what laws of nature were actually broken when Jesus performed miracles.

  4. Let me first bring ends back a little bit because I don’t mean an end is to be “be healthy.” It could mean the beginning of healing, like “white blood cells start attacking disease.” I think that’s kind of where you were going. So, you could say Jesus is just using our white blood cells, like medicine does.

    Now, what I mean for means is this – What happens between Jesus’ intensional act of healing (whether by thought or reaching his hand toward them or whatever) and the beginning of natural healing (that would be our end)? We are tempted to imagine some invisible waves or something, but who really knows what this “healingness” would be like. That’s the supernatural aspect. Whatever that causal mechanism is of the natural end (blood cells, in this case) is the means. So, it’s not that both can bring about natural processes for healing. It’s about how that actually happens, and that is much different for medicine. That’s why the analogy doesn’t work.

    Regarding breaking laws of nature, I don’t know that it would be necessary. Maybe I just have a problem with the wording, but I would think of a “break” as doing something in violation of natural law (reversing planetary orbits or suspending something in the air without force). But some kind of supernatural healing “wave” doesn’t have to violate – it could simply not be included in the laws. In fact, I think it would have to be non-material, so the laws of nature might not apply.

  5. Are you saying that this is, in fact, what happened when Jesus performed miracles? or merely that it is a possibility? You seem to be acting under naturalistic assumptions of reason, if the universe has a supernatural creator God why can’t He act supernaturally in His own Creation? What is really different about the two scenarios of healing since both involve the supernatural?

  6. I guess what I am doing is questioning what we mean by supernatural. Is supernatural something that is otherwise impossible? Or is supernatural doing something that would not happen naturally? If so, how is that different from how scientists change conditions to make something happen that would not naturally happen (e.g. nuclear reaction)?

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