When examining any part of the Gospel it is easy to perceive that miracles play a major part of Jesus’ teaching and show the true authority of god. In this essay I will show whether or not miracles illustrate that god can do the logically impossible. In Vardys puzzle of God four definitions of miracles are outlined. David Hume believes a miracle is a transgression of the laws of nature brought about by God. The miracles in the New Testament all seem to fit this definition. God / Jesus acted and breached the normal understanding of natural law. Jesus’ power to walk on water showed his mastery over the physical elements.
In all four of the Gospels Jesus carry’s out extraordinary tasks but can they be explained by science? The healing miracles such as casting out evil spirits and the curing of the ten lepers could possibly be accounted as people of that time did not have much knowledge of illness but Jesus may have had a better understanding of mental illness and other dieses. Jesus may have had extensive fishing knowledge, or it may have just been a coincidence that the catching of the fish took place. Such events as the calming of the storm could have been achieved by having the skill of forecasting the weather.
Many of the miracles are within the definition that these actions remain within the nature making it easier for sceptics to find scientific answers. However there are miracles that are harder to come to conclusions about and many choose to see that they show the true power of God, through Jesus showing the logically impossible to be done. An example of this would be the event the feeding of the 5000 (Mark 6:30) where astonishingly Jesus feeds 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish with enough scraps left over to fill 12 baskets. Many people see this event in different ways.
There are those who see it as a symbol of the word of God feeding the first Christians. Others have said that we may question the numbers and see it points to the first community. Many agree that it was an event to change people for the better. Although some Christians would go further and believe it means more than these definitions. It is obviously clear of the possibility of logic to feed such a crowd with only 7 items possibly proving that the writers wished to show that Jesus can do the impossible through the power of God. Another case in which it seems to show that god can do the logically impossible is the raising of the dead.
The raising of Lazarus in the gospel of john is an example of this. In this event a man who has been dead for a number of days and has been in the tomb for this number of days is raised from the dead by Jesus. This is obviously logically impossible. Yet it is possible that the man was only unconscious however this solution fails to see the significance of this from the writer. The writer of this event uses it as a sign that the kingdom of God is breaking through into the world through the life of Jesus. The reason of including this miracle is to show that Jesus is the logos and the son of God.
Although the synoptic writers do not use miracles to show that God can do the logically impossible, their purpose is different. The concept that everything is possible for God is central to the purpose and writing of the Gospel. The issue in the entire miracle accounts mentioned is not that they are just of religious significance but that they go beyond this. Noticeably the writers of the Gospel see these events as having religious significance, but in outlining them they wish to go further than this. It seems that they are implicating that the God who does these actions can and has.
Most Christians would reject Moore’s belief that God is an agent who can bring about a miracle. Swinburne does not consider the above miracles to miracles at all and that god can do the logically impossible is unacceptable. For Swinburne, we are justified in taking an event as an infringement of natural law if it is inconsistent with our whole understanding. The miracle of turning the water into wine is a prime example of what Swinburne sees as a miracle and he considers that we should not have to revise our understanding of the natural laws based on one event.
In difference John hick claims that miracles do not go against natural laws because we are unaware what these actual laws are. The fact they are rare does not mean that they are not part of natural law. Hick believes that miracles are events that evoke a ‘vivid awareness of God’. Whilst the New Testament miracles concentrate our debate of what constitutes a miracle? The philosophical issues focus on the dispute concerning the definitions about the nature of God. The standard outline of the problem of a belief in miracles is outlined by Hume.
Hume argues that miracles are not impossible but it is impossible to prove them. He considers that the laws of nature continue to happen and we have millions of examples of this, millions of people do not return from the dead to life. Any miracle would have to out weigh all this evidence. Bringing us onto the next point that there is insufficient evidence, and what evidence there is, is questionable. Hume believed there was a tendency for those who witnessed an event to suspend reason and support the claim. Classifying what it is to do the logically impossible is challenging.
While we can state that we may not be able to make the dead rise or feed thousands with only a few items it may not mean the same for God. It is possible that what is impossible for humans is not impossible for god. We would be required to accept the idea that God is the creator of earth and is able to do this which seem illogical to us. Kant sees this to be nonsense. He believes that everything is logical and within reason. Believers of Kant would reject the idea that God could ever act in terms of miracles.
Wiles (God’s action in the world), believes that God acted in one way at creation and considers that “there are no good grounds of speaking of particular divine actions with respect to particular phenomena”. Wiles believes that an interfering God debases the idea of God and is not worth worshiping. He criticises the uncertainty of such acts, and so denies God the freedom to act in the world. Vardy (puzzle of God) suggest that it all depends on how we might see the concept of God. He gives attention to the issues of the omnipotence of God and the omniscience of God.
The predicament is that if we limit God through logic we limit the possible actions that God can do and the ability that God can do anything within the world. If we accept no limits then we justifiable ask questions about the purpose of evil and suffering and the role of God to hear prayers. Basically the debate returns to the discussion surrounding the very nature of God. For those who define God in such a way, the miracles of the New Testament may suggest that God can do the logically impossible. For them the power is within their definition that God can do such actions.
For others the weakness lies in the rationality and logic of the definition. They consider it to be nonsense that God can do things that are in complete opposition to his very nature and in talking about such possibilities at all. This essay may have outlined the strengths and weakness of both positions yet the purpose of the gospels are not to make arguments on the nature of God. Vardy points out in his discussion on realism and anti- realism, that for the believers such issues do not affect there beliefs in God, as the God whom they believe did raise people from the dead also raised Jesus from the dead.