Miracles

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info.gif Miracle: "An event brought about by a special act of God. There is much disagreement about the definition beyond this minimum. Some thinkers argue that a miracle must involve an exception to the laws of nature or (perhaps alternatively) involve some event that exceeds the natural powers or capacities of natural things. Others insist that a miracle is recognizable primarily by its revelatory power as a sign that shows something about God or God's purposes and that such events do not have to be scientifically inexplicable. Since David Hume's famous attack on miracles, the possibility of miracles and the kind of evidence needed for belief in miracles has been subject to debate. Traditional 'apologetics viewed miracles as important confirmation or certification that a prophet or apostle was genuinely sent by God."

Evans, C. (2002) Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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    Beckwith, Francis J.

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    Hume's Evidential/Testimonial Epistemology, Probability, and Miracles

    "In this paper I will critically analyze the first part of David Hume's argument against miracles, which has been traditionally referred to as the in-principle argument. However, unlike most critiques of Hume's argument, I will (1) present a view of evidential epistemology and probability that will take into consideration Hume's accurate observation that miracles are highly improbable events while (2) arguing that one can be within one's epistemic rights in believing that a miracle has occured."
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    Corduan, Winfried

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    Miracles: Liability and Asset

    "Many religions other than Christianity also claim miracles, and they also use them to support their own truth. For purposes of this study, we are specifically interested in evidence for biblical miracles. Evidence for Buddhist miracles would not necessarily pull the rug out from under us, but it would certainly clutter our argument if we had to live with the fact that they were all valid...[W]e will consider two questions: (1) do miracles happen? and (2) how can we recognize a miracle?"
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    Craig, William L.

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    The Problem Of Miracles:A Historical And Philosophical Perspective

    "[T]he lesson to be learned from the classical debate over miracles, a lesson that has been reinforced by contemporary scientific and philosophical thought, is that the presupposition of the impossibility of miracles should, contrary to the assumption of nineteenth and for the most part twentieth century biblical criticism, play no role in determining the historicity of any event."
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    Craig, William L.

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    Creation, Providence, and Miracle

    "In treating divine action in the world, we must distinguish between creation, providence, and miracle. Creation has typically been taken to involve God's originating the world (creatio originans) and His sustaining the world in being (creatio continuans). A careful analysis of these two notions serves to differentiate creation from conservation. Providence is God's control of the world, either through secondary causes (providentia ordinaria) or supernaturally (providentia extraordinaria). A doctrine of divine middle knowledge supplies the key to understanding God's providence over the world mediated through secondary causes. Miracles are extraordinary acts of providence which should not be conceived, properly speaking, as violations of the laws of nature, but as the production of events which are beyond the causal powers of the natural entities existing at the relevant time and place."
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    DePoe, John M.

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    Vindicating a Bayesian Approach to Confirming Miracles

    "This paper defends a Bayesian approach to conirming a miracle against Jordan Howard Sobel’s recent novel interpretation of Hume’s criticisms. In his book, Logic and Theism, Sobel offers an intriguing and original way to apply Hume’s criticisms against the possibility of having suficient evidence to conirm a miracle. The key idea behind Sobel’s approach is to employ ininitesimal probabilities to neutralize the cumulative effects of positive evidence for any miracle. This paper aims to undermine Sobel’s use of ininitesimal probabilities to block a Bayesian approach to conirming a miracle."
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    DePoe, John M.

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    How to Confirm a Miracle

    "The evidentialist approach to theism relies on evidence to confirm (or disconfirm) the central tenets of theism. Although the methodology involved in measuring confirmation is commonly associated with scientific theories, the machinations of confirmation theory can be applied to propositions of almost any sort, including religious claims. In this paper, I intend to explain one way to apply confirmation theory to a special class of religious propositions— propositions about the veracity of miraculous events."
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    Geisler, Norman L.

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    Miracles and Modern Scientific Thought

    "Since the 'Enlightenment' it is widely accepted that the belief in miracles and a commitment to modern scientific methodology are incompatible. This study will examine the arguments of important anti-supernatural thinkers from Spinoza to the present with a view to finding any common threads. Next, we will analyze the nature of miracles in the light of scientific methodology to see if they are irresolvably incompatible. Finally, we will see if a way can be found to retain the integrity of science without denying the credibility of the supernatural."
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    Gillingham, Richard

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    Hume’s Argument Against the Miraculous and Theistic Rationality

    "It has been the argument of this paper that based on the presumption that the wise man is not a witness to a miracle-event then he is justified in disbelieving its historicity, irrespective of whether it has occurred or not. However, if he is a witness to the event and does not have reason to doubt his senses then, if he deems the probability sufficient enough, he is justified in believing the occurrence of an extraordinary event and may be justified in believing this to be a miracle. Consequently Hume’s argument that it is irrational to profess a Christian faith on the basis of his argument is erroneous. A person may be epistemically justified in believing a system of religion to be true provided s/he grants that it could be defeated and it is internally coherent."
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    Howard-Snyder, Daniel

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    On Hume's Philosophical Case Against Miracles

    "Everyone discerns in Hume’s writings the claim that there is good reason to believe that miracles claims are not credible, reason that is at least good enough to counterbalance or outweigh the strongest testimony for a miracle. Many discern a different claim, however, namely that miracles are absolutely impossible, impossible no matter what. It is this latter claim, and the argument for it, that I will assess first."
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    Hájek, Alan

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    Are Miracles Chimerical?

    "Hume's notorious essay 'Of Miracles' is as cheeky as it is problematic. A centerpiece in his ongoing attack on theism, it has outraged many, and perplexed still more; it has thus been both denounced with missionary zeal, and scrutinized in countless scholarly works. In this paper, I will scrutinize it further. I will challenge two readings of it, by noted Hume scholars, which I regard as uncharitable, offering in their place my own reading. I will also clear it of a prevalent charge. Along the way, however, and especially in the final section, I will level some further charges against it."
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    Magee, Jake

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    Is It Irrational to Believe the Testimony of the Miraculous?: A Critique of David Hume

    "David Hume argues that it is never rational to believe in the testimony of a miraculous event (Earman 141). He believes that this conclusion follows from a principle he holds to be true: the prior improbability of an event, if great, defeats the probability that the witness of the event is telling the truth. Put in general terms, testimony is always subservient to induction. As applied to miracles, since the probability of a miracle happening is by definition astronomical, we should never believe the report of someone who testifies of it. I endeavor to show that Hume's project has failed because the principle upon which his argument rests is flawed. In particular, there are contexts in which the improbability of an event happening, though great, is defeated by the reports of witnesses."
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    Otte, Richard

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    Mackie's Treatment of Miracles

    "A recent discussion of Hume's argument concerning the rationality of accepting a belief that a miracle has occured is given by J.L. Mackie in The Miracle of Theism...Any version of Hume's argument depends on one's conception of miracles and laws of nature; I will argue that Mackie commits a simple logical error and that given his conception of laws of nature and miracles there is no reason to reject rational belief in miracles."
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    Reppert, Victor

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    Miracles and the Case for Theism

    "I wish to examine the question of whether miracles can play a significant part in a case for theism. Although some Christian apologists claim that the evidence for certain miracles is sufficient to prove to all reasonable persons that God exists, I think J.L. Mackie is right in arguing that this claim is mistaken. But I will also argue that Mackie is mistaken in contending that miracles cannot form part of a case for theism. If there is evidence that certain events deviate from the ordinary course of nature, and if affirming the existence of God would render that evidence more comprehensible than otherwise, then it must be admitted that evidence that these events have occurred is evidence that God exists"
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    Reppert, Victor

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    Hume on Miracles, Frequencies, and Prior Probabilities

    "In recent years, several attempts have been made to bring considerations based on Bayes' theorem to bear on Hume's essay...Some Bayesians have attempted to defend a view that says that prior probabilities can and must be based on the frequency with which event-types occur in experience. This model of prior probabilities, I contend, is implicit within Hume's argument against miracles. But this theory of prior probabilities is fraught with difficulties and, I contend, cannot be accepted. Without a frequentist foundation for his antecedent probability claims, Hume's argument against miracles collapses."
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    Swinburne, Richard

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    For the Possibility of Miracles

    "In this article I wish to investigate whether there could be strong historical evidence for the occurrence of miracles, and contrary to much writing which has derived from Hume's celebrated chapter 'Of Miracles,' I shall argue that there could be...[T]here are no logical difficulties in supposing that there could be strong historical evidence for the occurrence of miracles. Whether there is such evidence is, of course, another matter."
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    Taylor, James E.

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    Miracles and Historical Investigation

    "Could we ever have adequate reason to believe that a particular miracle claim or report is true? The case for the rationality of a general belief in the possibility and probability of miracles is philosophical and theological, whereas a case for any particular miracle will need to be historical and to proceed on a case by case basis. Such a case will need to be constructed by means of a careful examination of each narrative in which it is reported that a miracle has occurred. But some critical historians have argued that it is not possible or legitimate to argue on historical grounds that a specific miracle report is true.1 The purpose of this paper is to discuss some reasons why they think so, and to suggest ways that Christians can reply."