Miracles 2007

Classic definitions 3 parts

Other definitions

Feuerbach – wishful thinking / projection of our desires

RF Holland – coincidence interpreted religiously

Aquinas’ three categories

Hume’s definition – violations of laws of nature (Laws of nature – what are they?) which cannot happen

    Very low probability – but not nil!

    “Which is more likely – that a man rose from the dead or that this testimony is mistaken in some way?” sceptic’s argument.

Hume’s objections

    Witnesses evidence testimony exclusivity barbarism

Swinburne and laws of nature

Wiles – God yes, but doesn’t intervene therefore no miracles. God does not undermine laws he put in motion – world created complete. Wiles miracles should be seen as symbolic, teaching a deeper truth. So no miracles in Bible, not necessary for faith.

Problems of miracles and nature of God – Classic theistic view

Purpose / significance of miracles? Teach about God.

Examples – Nebraska Choir Peter Vardy

 

    God arbitrary?

Pros

Cons

Inductive based on evidence

Also a weak arg – Hume would argue evidence mistaken

 

People of faith expect miracles

If there is a God we should expect him to interact with his creation (Swinburne)

but cannot do so all the time as it would lead to unreliable universe

 
 

Most miracles have prosaic explanations so…

Even if some can be explained away, not all can

 
 

Peter Vardy – a God who intervenes at Lourdes but does not in Ethiopia, needs to be questioned.

Arbitrariness of God

 

Violate inflexible rules

They do not contradict the laws of nature

just the way we see those laws – even Hume didn’t regard cause and effect as necessarily linked.

 

 

Answer two questions

 

1 ‘Innocent suffering is impossible to explain unless there is life after death.’ Discuss. [45]

 

2 To what extent can it be maintained that a literal interpretation of Scripture removes all danger of human error? [45]

 

3 ‘Miracle stories are an obstacle to faith for modern people.’ Discuss. [45]

 

4 Discuss critically the use of symbol as a means of expressing ideas about God. [45]

 

1 ‘Innocent suffering is impossible to explain unless there is life after death.’

Discuss. [45]

The nature of the problem of innocent suffering should be clearly understood and expressed; it might be argued that, if the doctrine of original sin is followed, then innocent suffering is only apparent, although this does not answer questions raised by the suffering of animals. Traditional theodicies could be explained, in which the suffering is argued to have a purpose, enabling the individual to mature and to exercise free will. However, the extent of suffering and its variation from one person to the next might be considered, with the views of those such as Hick who believe that everything will be revealed and put right after death.

 

2 To what extent can it be maintained that a literal interpretation of Scripture removes all danger of human error? [45]

Candidates should discuss the views of those who attempt to interpret Scripture literally, for example creationist arguments. If Scripture is concerned to come directly from God, dictated exactly, then the dangers of the writers having added their own interpretations and angles might be removed; but there is still the need for the reader to make interpretations, especially where some passages are obviously not meant to be taken literally, such as claims that God is a rock. It might be argued that a view which does not take into account the personal preferences of the writers misses a lot of the meaning.

 

3 ‘Miracle stories are an obstacle to faith for modern people.’ Discuss. [45]

Candidates might usefully discuss the thinking of Hume, Bultmann, Maurice Wiles or David Jenkins, in a discussion of whether the concept of miracle is valid for modern people. It might be argued that miracle stories support faith in demonstrating the nature and power of God; or it could be argued that these stories are too incredible and should be ‘demythologised’ in order to enable modern people to have faith without attempting to suspend disbelief.

 

4 Discuss critically the use of symbol as a means of expressing ideas about God. [45]

The problems of religious language in general could be discussed, with acknowledgement of the difficulties of using everyday language to speak about something which is beyond sense experience. The use of symbol in religious language should be illustrated with plenty of examples. Candidates might usefully consider whether there are some symbols which transcend all cultures (for example, perhaps, the symbol of light). The ideas of Jung might be explored.

 

 

Read the first 3 boxes (paragraphs) from this site regarding form criticism and miracle stories: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rsposse/miraclerach.htm

 


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