2002 miracles question essay plan

5. a) Examine what may be meant by the concept of miracle. [7]

b) Describe and consider the impact of Hume’s criticisms of beliefs in miracles. [13]



  • Definition of a miracle, whose definition?
  • What counts as a miracle?
  • Examples
  • Are there any other ways of looking at what a ‘miracle’ might be?
  • (Who says or who wants them to be miracles?)


  • Who was Hume?
  • Hume’s definition and his complaint!
  • What are Hume’s main criticisms?
  • What can you think of to counter each objection? With an example for each if possible.
  • Do his objections hold water?
  • Swinburne’s principles of credulity and testimony.
  • What about proof and probability?
  • Do his objections weaken a believer’s faith?

Things to also include:

What exactly is a law of nature?

Are the laws ‘fixed’?


[from my notes from the course in December 2005!]


Laws of nature are probabilistic rather than deterministic so says modern physics therefore impossible to predict the future despite the laws of nature.

Probability governs quantum physics – – liable to happen not definitely.

Laws of nature describe how things generally go.

Nature is more flexible, organic process.

Miracle is an amazing, extraordinary event with a religious content: revelatory, disclosing something about God’s nature and purpose e.g. the Red Sea, Jesus’ resurrection.

Miracles change people.

Non-believers won’t become channels of divine power.

They are answers to prayer.

They need to be significant.

Evidence good enough?

Hume says no. Probability that witness is mistaken is higher than that a miracle occurred BUT its’ not zero!!

Hume says we should never accept testimony of an improbable event but………


Now look for what quotations to include.


AS RE Revision Quotations: MIRACLES


‘These are written that you may believe’
John 20

‘A coincidence can be taken religiously as a sign and called a miracle.’ RF Holland

‘We ought to believe things are as they seems unless we have good evidence we are mistaken.’ Swinburne

‘A miracle is not so much a breach of the laws of nature, but rather a remarkable or exceptional occurrence which brought an undeniable sense of the presence and power of God.’ Charles Harold Dodd

‘Miracles don’t break natural laws but point out our limited understanding.’ John Hick



‘Transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the deity or by the interposition of some invisible agent.’ Hume

‘Miracles are wish-fulfilment and that God is not an external reality but a projection of our nature or desires.’ Feuerbach

‘Miracle is the word we use to describe any beneficial events that we can’t explain.’ John Hick


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