Philosophy of ReligionPrevious Index Next
The Concept of MiracleThe God of the Bible is portrayed as being:
How can a transcendent God have any dealings with this temporal world?
This did not pose a problem for the Ancient Greeks – e.g. Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover simply did not interact with creation! The Unmoved Mover did things inadvertently by attraction.
The Bible paints a very different picture of God in which there appears to be no problem with a transcendent God working in and through creation.
Miracles feature in both the Old and New Testament.
A miracle may be described as God suspending the laws of nature in order to bring about a certain course of events.
Examples of Miracles in the Bible:
Moses parting the Red Sea – Exodus 14:5-31
The Virgin Birth – Matthew 1:18-25
Three basic areas which need to be addressed:
Cricitisms of Miracles - Maurice WilesMaurice Wiles (1929 - 2005), former Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University and former chairman of the Church of England’s Doctrine Commission, rejects miracles on moral grounds. Wiles proposes that God’s Action in the World is a challenge to those who believe that miracles are acts of God that go against the laws of nature. Wiles argues that the world is a single act of God that encompasses the world as a whole.
“The primary usage for the idea of divine action should be in relation to the world as a whole rather than to particular occurrences within it”
Wiles concludes that miracles do not occur because God does not intervene in events in the world on an individual basis. If miracles did occur then God would undermine the laws of nature and the accepted order of things. Even if this does happen, why would God choose to perform miracles for some and not for others.
Wiles asks why miracles have not taken place at times of great human tragedies. Those who claim that miracles do take place can only give trivial examples in comparison.
Maurice Wiles, God’s Action in the World
Wiles concludes that either God does not intervene in the natural order or He has an arbitrary will that results in His intervention to help the plight of some and ignore the needs of others. If in fact the nature of God is one that may choose to cure an individual of cancer but to ignore the plight of those trapped in the twin towers of New York on 11 September 2001, then Wiles concludes such a God, who acts selectively and not on a wider scale, is not worthy of worship. The concept of a God who arbitrarily intervenes in the universe debases the notion of God itself.
Wiles’ restriction on God also applies to his action in Jesus Christ. It would be wrong to say that miracles cannot happen and then allow the exclusive Christian doctrines of the incarnation and resurrection.