Where's the birth certificate

Free and Strong America

Monday, July 19, 2010

Re: Miracles and the Miraculous




miracle: noun
1. an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.

2. such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of god.


miraculous: adjective
1. Of the nature of a miracle; preternatural.

2. So astounding as to suggest a miracle; phenomenal: a miraculous recovery; a miraculous escape.

I think that everyone can agree on these definitions from dictionary.com.

On this blog and on at least one other recently, several questions have been raised about the topic of miracles and if it is possible that they have ever occurred. I suppose that this is only natural being that miracles, by definition, surpass " all known human or natural powers" and thus are "ascribed to a supernatural cause" which could at the very least be reasonably described as an outside, supernatural force or agent working upon something here in our plane of existance. It wouldn't be wise to ascribe every highly unlikely event as a miracle and nobody is suggesting any such thing. Such occurances should be tightly scrutinized to eliminate the possibility of a natural explanation to the occurance of such unlikely and highly improbable events in order to ascertain that what happened could be explained by strictly natural, materialistic processes.

"The real problem of believing in miracles is that it forces us to deal with a supernatural God-a being powerful beyond our wildest dreams who will one day judge us righteously and in holiness. For skeptics, miracles remind them of an intimidating God. As a result, people will go to great lengths to avoid the plainly supernatural elements of the Bible." [1]

The belief in the Christian God and miracles pretty much come part and parcel with one another. The Bible would indicate that God is a decidedly different creature than we humans are so to not expand upon the claimed power of God would not fit His description as found in the foundational document of Judeo-Christian belief. One could ask, if "God had the power to create the world and set all of its natural laws in motion, wouldn't that same God have the ability to perform a miracle-that is, to do something outside of what can be explained by natural laws?"[2] The ability to perform such miracles would be consistent with the claimed abilities of God. If one could create the world, then a floating axe head should be a piece of cake by comparison.

But the Bible isnt the only place where "miracles" are claimed to have happened. I'm not referring to great upsets in sports history or certain elections in which a lowly underdog actually achieves victory against an opponent that was clearly favored to win. One example of this is the so-called Miracle on Ice 1980 US Olympic hockey team's victory over the dominant team of that era from the former USSR (pictured above). Using the term in this way seems to water it down and it loses its meaning. I'm referring to very real events occurring in people's lives that defy a logical explanation and when critically examined with an open mind, little else explains how a particular occurance happened and one might indeed consider it a miracle.


Through no special process of elimination, I have come up with two different examples of what one may consider "miracles" for consideration. These examples were randomly selected in that they recently have come up in my personal life experiences and they are each in some small way representive of the overall catagory of that which can be considered "miracles". One could further delve into the subject should they be so interested. The first example would pertain to what I heard at church yesterday...


While attending the early (traditional) service at First Church West yesterday, Dr Norman Wise remarked upon something that caught my attention given recent discussions regarding miracles. Dr. Wise related to the congregation a peculiar occurance that happened the day before, peculiar in light of the circumstances of it's occurance. The church I attend also has a counseling ministry in which certified Christian counselors help people with their counseling needs. Marital, abuse issues, drug and alcohol, you name it, they do it. Numerous area churches refer their members to this counseling center in the event that a local pastor runs into a level of need that might be a little out of their depth to effectively deal with.


As it turns out, early in the week, last week, there was an important need for funding for both the church and the counseling center. Money was needed right away and Dr. Wise let this be known in very general terms to a couple of people. These few people were involved in fervent prayer for the past week, asking God for assistance in this manner. Then last Saturday, a bit of a suprise came to pass. There were donations made in the amount of $3000 USD each to both the church and the counseling center. Dr. Wise remarked that this was akin to "winning the lottery" insofar as he was concerned because neither ministry is large enough in that donations of this size are anywhere near a commonplace occurance. Furthermore, nobody else in the entire world was aware of the specific dollar amount needed by the church and counseling center except for Dr. Wise. One might try to rationalize the timing and specific amount of said donations, but I will leave it to your own personal consideration and reflection on the matter to sort it out for yourself.



The next example I would like to offer is from an article that I came across last week about a young lady named Rachel Lozano.


"Rachel Lozano didn't die of cancer as the doctors predicted, and she says it's a miracle.

Not a miracle like a last-minute goal or winning the lottery. The real deal: the work of God through the intercession of a saint.

Other Roman Catholics in St. Louis believe, too, and on Friday, the St. Louis Archdiocese officially wrapped up its investigation into the claimed miracle with a prayer service to mark the occasion. Boxes of testimony generated by the investigative tribunal — about 3,000 pages — will be sent to Rome, where the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints will examine the evidence.

Lozano said she doesn't really have to wait. She already knows the answer to how her cancer was cured, and "medicine can't explain it. "There's just a peacefulness inside me," she said, "whether the church declares it a miracle or not."...

Lozano had survived several bouts with cancer, and even underwent a stem cell transplant, but in 2002, doctors found a tumor growing near her heart, lungs and spine.

The news from doctors was all bad: Surgery would kill her. So would the cancer, in weeks or months, depending on which organ the cancer struck first. No one had survived a recurrence of this cancer after a stem cell transplant.


But she lived weeks, months, a year. Scans showed her tumor, which she named Spanky, wasn't growing as expected.


Eventually a surgeon removed the tumor and found it was dead.

"It was pretty astounding," her oncologist told the Post-Dispatch last year.

The Marianists order of Catholic brothers and priests found Lozano's case compelling and presented her story to the archdiocese as a miracle attributable to Chaminade, the order's founder. An archdiocese tribunal investigated, interviewing Lozano, her family, her doctors, and Tobin, among others.

The tribunal doesn't make a judgment, just gathers evidence. But Monsignor John Shamleffer, judicial vicar who served on the tribunal, said God picked up where doctors couldn't succeed.

"I believe in God's ability to do things we can't do," he said. "I have no reason to believe this is not a miracle."


Let me first mention that this is not the appropriate time to discuss the pros and cons of praying for the intersession of saints or for arguing the finer points concerning Marianism in that these topics warrant their own thread and can be discussed at a later time. If one were to do so and try to change the topic, then I could just as easily counter that had Ms. Lozano been Pentecostal instead, that the occurance would still be valid even though there are differing opinions concerning Pentecostalism's adherence to such things as speaking in tongues and Arminianism. It would only obfuscate the discussion.

Suffice it to say that numerous baptised, Trinitarian Christians were involved in praying for this young lady and her recovery certainly fits the definition of the word "miraculous".

I accept that one's worldview can affect how somebody can rationalize such occurances as those cited above. No less a source than Jesus Christ Himself was able to foresee such skepticism when he said...


"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." Luke 16:19-31


[1] Kennedy, D. James; Skeptics Answered, Chapter 3, (1997), Random House
[2] Ibid




23 comments:

Froggie said...

JD,
Perhaps you should join the staff of Benny Hinn or Sid Roth.

JD Curtis said...

I had to google Sid Roth to see he was. I had no idea.

So can I expect more deep, penetrating introspective commentary from you on the subject Frogster? Or with your above comment, are you pretty much at your apexin the matter?

Froggie said...

Yeah, JD, I maxed out with that comment.
When miracles are mentioned I tend to laugh hysterically until I collapse.
There has never been a scientifically documented miracle happen in the history of the universe, even though the yayhoos I mentioned claim that they see them happen every single day. hehe.

This is a subject that has no merit of discussion whatsoever. When you do have testable evidence of a miracle though, please let me know!

JD Curtis said...

There has never been a scientifically documented miracle happen in the history of the universe

Might I suggest that you begin here before making such a broad, sweeping claim?

There's only 3 and a half million of them so take your time.

Froggie said...

Sorry lil buddy. Been there, did that.

I'm with Spinoza, Hume and Kant.

A million anecdotal stories are still just a million anecdotal stories.

Jquip said...

"There has never been a scientifically documented miracle happen in the history of the universe ..."

Statistical outliers are always removed from the data set by responsible statisticians. By definition they do not allow them in their final results whether documented or not. It's durn tricky getting a good SD otherwise.

JD Curtis said...

JQP,

Do you mean that the data is collected in such a manner, right from the outset, that would exclude certain outcomes right off the bat?

Jquip said...

Oddities don't tend to be captured and collected in the first place. When they are, they are stripped from the dataset prior to generating a normal distribution. So if F=mA gets caught once as F=m2A then it'll be thrown out for being too wacky and causing the distribution to skew inappropriately.

Tracy said...

At some point it really does come down to choosing to believe. A person can see before their very eyes the miraculous and still choose not to believe. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit will give us the very faith to be able to believe.

I choose to believe the Bible. A few times in my life I've witnessed miracles.

photogr said...

Call it what you may but I would have to think that some thing or luck intervenes to create a supposed miracle for a given purpose.

As Jesus validated who He was through miracles, so it may be the same in today's times through prayer or divine intervention for a given purpose to validate a divine existence.

ATVLC said...

On the 17th, you said you could show evidence of miracles.
So you heard an organization received a needed donation and you read an article about someone praying to a saint and not dieing of cancer?
I'm underwhelmed.

"The real problem of believing in miracles is that it forces us to deal with a supernatural God-a being powerful beyond our wildest dreams who will one day judge us righteously and in holiness. For skeptics, miracles remind them of an intimidating God. As a result, people will go to great lengths to avoid the plainly supernatural elements of the Bible."

I disagree. If the supernatural and magic did exist it would still not mean that the god of the Bible is real.

The problem with miracles is right there in the definition.
"an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause."

unknown? It's an empty argument from ignorance to argue something is magic because you don't understand it.
ascribed? A miracle is a miracle a person has attributed it to a supernatural cause? If you don't understand lightening it must be Thor, right?

Thanks for the speaking in tongues link! :-)

JD Curtis said...

If the supernatural and magic did exist it would still not mean that the god of the Bible is real

Two things here.

1) The use of the word "magic" seems to intentionally cheapen the occurances such as those described above. Neither instance involved anything so trivial as pulling a rabbit out of a hat or producing a coin from behind someone's ear which are things that are easily explained.

2) It would support the God of the Bible being real. These people werent praying to Odin.

I think Tracy was quite right when she stated "At some point it really does come down to choosing to believe. A person can see before their very eyes the miraculous and still choose not to believe."

Take for example your statement (ATVLC) that "an organization received a needed donation".

This skips right over the facts that,

1) Yes, a donation was needed, however
2) It was received in a very timely manner,
3) It was received after fervent prayer was offered, and
4) Probably most importantly, in the specific dollar amount needed, and
5) Nobody in the world knew what that dollar amount was other than Dr Wise.

You seemed to skim over that in your dismissal. Did you even bother to consider the improbability of all of these factors lining up before rationalizing it as a non-event?

Thanks for the speaking in tongues link!

Which of course was the name of that particular album. Glad that you caught it.

zilch said...

The problem with such anecdotes about miracles is that unexpected things happen by chance, too: unless you have a record of all the times miracles did not happen when they were hoped for, there's no statistical validity. People have a well-known and documented tendency to remember "hits" and forget "misses": how many times was someone prayed for and didn't recover? Unless this is accounted for, as Froggie intimated, the plural of "anecdote" is not "data".

cheers from sunny Vienna, zilch

Arielle said...

I believe in miracles and the miraculous. I believe that the miraculous requires faith. Notice that in many instances when Jesus performed a miracle and healed someone, he would say 'your faith has made you well.'

We're living in faithless times.

JD Curtis said...

Zilch, I might have thought something was perhaps a blessing if it were just a general donation.

But the right dollar amount?

To both ministries?

And nobody knew the specific dollar amount except Dr Wise?

Does that make it all the more intrigueing?

Or do you completely dismiss it as random chance?

And we still havent discussed the lady cured of her cancer.

Thanks for stopping by Arielle! Yes, we are of little faith these days.

Jquip said...

JD: They'll see what they want to and justify it afterwards however they see fit. You well know my own antics on this count.

Zilch: Miracles are statistical outliers by definition; it is the cause, not the condition, that is under discussion. Nor do they need happen when "hoped" for unless you subscribe to some notion of the Divine as a light switch.

As an aside, I love the phrase "the plural of anecdote ain't data." But that is the very definition of statistical collections. Something to keep in mind.

Flute said...

If someone said they had proof of miracles, I'd expect some kind of proof of the supernatural not a natural event that happens to be a statistical outlier... but that's just me.

JD, you've missed an important part of every skeptical person's comment in this thread.

You've called this anecdote "fact" but you don't have any real access to the facts. You went to church and heard someone tell a story.

Flute said...

That sounds a bit blunt.
Maybe the last sentence in my last comment should be "You went to church and heard someone tell a anecdote."

JD Curtis said...

If someone said they had proof of miracles, I'd expect some kind of proof of the supernatural not a natural event

In which the eistance of the supernatural would be a different discussion than the probability that miracles have occured. The two are interrelated though.

You've called this anecdote "fact" but you don't have any real access to the facts. You went to church and heard someone tell a story

It is a fact that I went to church and the above account was told to the congregation. Likewise it is a fact that the events happened in the Diocese of St Louis as reported unless the newpaper account is fictitious.

Insofar as Dr Wise is concerned, he is personally known to me for over 8 years and I doubt the guy would steal a gum ball, never mind lie about something like this.

He made mention of it during last week's service but it was not a main part of his sermon in which he brought up other subjects as well.

Froggie said...

JD,
Crazy coincidences happen every minute of every day.

photogr said...

If you thnk about it, miracles only happen to the ones who experience it. All others will be skeptical that a miracle even happened

JD Curtis said...

Crazy coincidences happen every minute of every day

Of course they do and not all of them are miracles or miraculous as the above definitions would imply as they seem o be of an order of magnitude a bit higher than a "coincidence".

Ross said...

The father of a husband of a work colleague can testify that he was healed of terminal liver cancer after being prayed for, and is still alive today.