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Are Miracles Possible?

There are some who claim that miracles are not possible. While I do not have space here to address every objection to miracles, I will here address two of the common objections to miracles. After this, I will explain one positive argument that can be offered for miracles. When dealing with objections to miracles, the biggest thing to watch out for is question-begging. Nearly every objection to miracles that I have come across has been, in some way, question-begging. Something begs the question if it assumes what it sets out to prove. That is, the conclusion is assumed ahead of time rather than demonstrated by the argument.

One major objection to the possibility of miracles states that the laws of nature cannot be broken or violated. This objection to miracles fails because the laws of nature are not prescriptive. Rather, they are descriptive. Something is prescriptive if it prescribes how something will act or occur. Something is descriptive if it describes how something usually acts or occurs. That is, the laws of nature as we understand them are merely statements about the way that things normally occur. This does not preclude the possibility of miracles. This claim is also factually incorrect, because we "violate" specific laws of nature all the time. When we launch a rocket into space, we are "violating" the law of gravity, for example. Finally, this objection also becomes question-begging. It is literally an attempt to define miracles out of existence! Since this objection assumes ahead of time that the laws of nature cannot be violated, and appears to assume that a miracle is a violation of the law of nature, it assumes that miracles apriori that miracles are not possible. Yet the very question we are asking ourselves is whether or not miracles are, in fact, possible!

Another common objection to miracles goes something like this: Throughout all of history we see natural law at work, not miracle. Therefore, all of history demonstrates that miracles do not occur. The biggest issue with this objection is that it, too, is question-begging. This objection assumes that miracles have not occurred in history in order to support the claim that miracles do not occur. Furthermore, the claim is faulty. While I do not agree with the premise, let's assume that we have never seen a miracle in history. Does it then follow that miracles have not occurred in history? Not at all. This still leaves open the possibility that miracles have occurred that we have not seen, or that all miracles would occur in the present or in the future. While I do not agree with the premise here, I think this does show that, even at face value, this objection does not undermine the possibility of miracles.

There are positive arguments that can be given in defense of miracles, but the most straight-forward argument is as follows:

I. If God exists, miracles are possible.
II. God exists.
III. Therefore, miracles are possible.

Premise 1 of this argument simply states that if God exists, miracles are not impossible. We are speaking here, of course, the Christian conception of God rather than some pagan deity. The truth of this premise should seems obvious to all of us, but there are some who would disagree with the claim that if God exists, miracles are possible. Some would argue that the existence of God does not necessitate His ability to do miracles. The problem with this argument is that, if God were unable to do miracles, He would have never been able to create the universe, and thus the person making the objection would never exist to make this objection. In other words, the mere existence of the person making this objection is evidence for the truth of this premise!

Premise 2 of this argument is the one that, I believe, more people would object to. The second premise simply states that God exists. I do not have time to go into every objection that has been raised against this premise. The important thing is to realize that we have good reason to believe that God exists. A few of the arguments in favor of God's existence are the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the Contingency Argument, the Moral Argument, the Argument from Evil, the Argument from Reason, the Freethinking Argument, the Teleological Argument, and the argument from the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you are not familiar with these apologetic arguments for the existence of God, then I would recommend that you familiarize yourself with them. You can find more information about them here on this blog, but for a fuller analysis, I would recommend the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology.

Since both of these premises are true, the conclusion follows logically and necessarily. I will close this post with a quote from C.S. Lewis that helps illustrate this point:

"But if we admit God, must we admit Miracle? Indeed, indeed, you have no security against it. That is the bargain. Theology says to you in effect, “Admit God and with Him the risk of a few miracles, and I in return will ratify your faith in uniformity as regards the overwhelming majority of events.” The philosophy which forbids you to make uniformity absolute is also the philosophy which offers you solid ground for believing it to be general, to be almost absolute. The Being who threatens Nature’s claim to omnipotence confirms her in her lawful occasions. Give us this hap’orth of tar and we will save the ship. The alternative is really much worse. Try to make Nature absolute and you find that her uniformity is not even probable. By claiming too much, you get nothing."

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