If nobody believed in superstition it would be unable to hurt anyone
MIRACLES AND MYSTERY
A Miracle Is?
A miracle is what is not naturally possible. It is a supernatural occurrence. It is paranormal.
Religion uses miracles as evidence for the truth of its claims.
Miracles are events that seem to be against nature or the way natural law usually runs. In other words, they cannot be explained by nature. Examples are the Blessed Virgin Mary appearing to children, the unexplained cure of incurable illness, blood coming out of nowhere on Catholic communion wafers, the sun spinning at Fatima in Portugal in 1917 and most importantly Jesus Christ coming back to life after being dead nearly three days. It is thought that only God can do these things.
Miracles cannot be signs from God when all we can do is assume that they are signs but we cannot use them as the basis of faith. The claim that we can only guess needs proving.
Faith or a Guess?
If a miracle, a statue bleeds or Jane's blindness just vanishes, is reported, the believer who has some honesty can say,
# ONE It is a mystery how it happened so maybe it is supernatural.
# TWO If it is supernatural, should I call it an act of God or an act of magic? Magic means whatever overrides cause and effect - for example, magic can make a stone come alive.
# THREE It is a mystery how it can agree with a loving God if he has done this miracle instead of intervening to save children from burning to death. (Note we are only wondering if it fits a loving God)
# FOUR It is a mystery how it can reveal a loving God if he has done this miracle instead of intervening to save children from burning to death. (Note we are now wondering it not only fits a loving God but reveals his love)
There is too much mystery here. All believers in miracles are therefore doing is guessing they happen. They guess that x, y and z are miracles and that a, b and c are not either because they do not want to believe or are related to a contrary religion.
Most believers will not want to think of these four mysteries or even try to. They are too willing to believe and that is a warning sign. You need enough objectivity from them to take them seriously. But is not in them. If a reported miracle has too many cranks running after it then it is not worth considering as real. With different miracle claims, we have to weed out the ones that attract rubbish lovers for we cannot look at them all.
Don't forget that if God wants people to do that much guessing then that is a mystery too! Its another one!
Too much mystery is a sign that the believers have left the land of the rational.
The mysteries on the scale
So, anyway, if you have to choose one mystery or the other then which should you choose? What mystery is the most important?
The most important mystery is the first one - the first one asks if it might be supernatural. An event cannot reveal anything about what God could be like or is like unless he supernaturally creates the event.
There is no way one can get past the second mystery. Nobody can prove that the supernatural and magic are two different things. Thus when you cannot really make a distinction between a claimed miracle or a claimed magical occurrence all the believer can do is say something above nature happened and leave it at that.
If you want to believe in God, the mystery of how a supernatural claim may fit his love is more important than the mystery of how it reveals his love. It does not reveal his love if it cannot fit. Show how it fits and then how it reveals if it reveals.
What if you are just going to make assumptions about the miracle?
In other words, is it wiser to assume that it could be supernatural or to assume it reveals the love of God?
And if a miracle healing happens
must somehow agree with the idea of a loving God? A God who does a miracle such as curing a paralysed hand and lets children burn to death could have no other option or he could have his priorities wrong.
If you think faith in God is what matters you will choose the mystery that it is supernatural. This would show that you believe that people exist for religion or faith in God - religion and faith then do not exist for people.
If people come first in your view, you will not risk condoning some being letting evil be done to them or doing it to them
We do not understand nature terribly well though we often think we do and we need to understand it and what it can do before we can say that some event is above the power of nature, that it is something that nature cannot do. All you can do is guess that an event is a miracle. You cannot be even reasonably sure. In fact, when you have to guess anyway you would guess that it is natural.
The rational person guesses that event x is natural instead of guessing that it is supernatural.
You cannot know if a miracle is evidence of magic or not. Magic is a bad thing to believe in even if it is only half-believed in as it would be by the person who says a miracle happened and they are only guessing that it may be magic or something else.
We must try to avoid creating mystery where there is no need to. A guess means you are making a mystery. A guess is a mystery.
Religion is mystery
Miracles are evil for they claim to defend religious belief and religion is full of seemingly contradictory and nonsensical doctrines that are called mysteries beyond reason. But you should not believe in a paradox except as a last resort. You could get a revelation from God commanding that babies be killed and say it is a mystery. Don’t be smug and say that will never happen. You are making it possible and religiously motivated killing does happen. To make it possible is as malicious as doing it. You are certainly saying that God should not send down rain on the starving millions in Africa which proves you are a fanatic just because of that one belief.
Who says that when a miracle happened it happened for a sensible reason? God.
But God is strange and full of mystery and we cannot understand fully what he is up to. We might think God made a tyrant sick to soften the tyrant’s heart when the tyrant is a changed man when he recovers. But how do we know the tyrant has changed for holy reasons? He might be just trying to exorcise his guilt or appear superior. So we are none the wiser about what God was up to.
Religion is full of stuff that it says it cannot explain. It calls it truth beyond reason and not against it. The three persons in one God, God allowing us to suffer, the Son of God dying on the cross and the nature of God are examples of such mysteries. Mystery means paradox. It looks like a contradiction and we only have the word of the religion that it is not.
Miracles are mysteries beyond reason as is the purpose for which they were done if they point us to the mystery of God and if they are the work of that God. If it is fine to assume that miracles authenticate mystery then it is fine to assume that miracles prove nothing for they say nothing for they could be a mystery themselves so we cannot presume to know why they happened or who performed them.
The rule that we must not see mysteries where we need none tells us that, if we decide to believe in God, then instead of believing that evil and God are compatible in some way beyond our intelligence we should believe that God is beyond good and evil, amoral, not immoral (unless you hold that a being that refuses to be moral is being immorally amoral) for that eliminates the mystery. Miracles are evil when they call on us to believe because of them for we should check out the reasons against them being signs first and they don’t encourage that. The doctrine that evil is a mystery is more important and foundational than revelation through miracles so this doctrine has to interpret miracles for us and it is a mistake to let miracles interpret it. But the mystery is illicit and so are miracles and so miracles more probably indicate an amoral God if they indicate a God at all.
Risk of enslaving
Miracles are mystery if they are signs for they show that instead of God giving us more light to see what is right without miracles he chooses to do miracles so that we will bend the knee before prophets who will tell us his will. So miracles are saying that you must not think for yourself for you will only lead yourself astray but be obedient to these prophets and agree with what they tell you. In Catholicism, miracles are taken as calls to rules we cannot understand and which nobody accepts such as birth-control being sinful. So miracles tell you to turn away from what you think you know and forget about it. They don’t care if you were right the first time! Miracles and religion empower men.
If religion is man pretending to have the voice of God, then man needs people to imagine miracles in order that he can convince you God must approve of his teachings. If enough people imagine or invent miracles, some of the accounts will seem very plausible indeed. Coincidence will see to it. It is only when you look at it statistically that you see the plausibility vanishes.
Mystery of Evil
Religionists cannot fully explain why evil and suffering happen in a way that makes sense. They take refuge in the insulting cop-out and tedious cliché, “It is a mystery”. If God exists all he wants from us is a choice. And that choice is if we will follow him or want him or not. We therefore do not need to be able to kill or be too bad. If we cannot comprehend the methods of the Lord then would the Lord think we are humble when we assert that he does miracles to give us theological light? Would or could anything be stranger than God raising Christ from the dead and not delivering the world from sorrow and if not sorrow then religious error? Why didn’t he send a pile of angels disguised as men to every area so that everybody who is open to the truth could learn from them? The angels can see the heart so they would know what to say and how to impress the person. Miracles except angels doing that testify only to divine incompetence and stupidity. To applaud miracles is to applaud black magic. And there are several reasons for that estimation and most of them we have met.
The miracles-are-evidence doctrine is leads to bigotry for it is a lie. Catholicism has no right to order people to take out of miracles the meaning she wants. If the miracles claim to be evidence for faith then they are deceptive. The thinking behind miracles is rotten so miracles are rotten.
Further Reading ~
A Christian Faith for Today, W Montgomery Watt, Routledge, London, 2002
Answers to Tough Questions, Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Scripture Press, Bucks, 1980
Apparitions, Healings and Weeping Madonnas, Lisa J Schwebel, Paulist Press, New York, 2004
A Summary of Christian Doctrine, Louis Berkhof, The Banner of Truth Trust, London, 1971
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Veritas, Dublin, 1995
Catholicism and Fundamentalism, Karl Keating, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1988
Enchiridion Symbolorum Et Definitionum, Heinrich Joseph Denzinger, Edited by A Schonmetzer, Barcelona, 1963
Looking for a Miracle, Joe Nickell, Prometheus Books, New York, 1993
Miracles, Rev Ronald A Knox, Catholic Truth Society, London, 1937
Miracles in Dispute, Ernst and Marie-Luise Keller, SCM Press Ltd, London, 1969
Lourdes, Antonio Bernardo, A. Doucet Publications, Lourdes, 1987
Medjugorje, David Baldwin, Catholic Truth Society, London, 2002
Miraculous Divine Healing, Connie W Adams, Guardian of Truth Publications, KY, undated
New Catholic Encyclopaedia, The Catholic University of America and the McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc, Washington, District of Columbia, 1967
Raised From the Dead, Father Albert J Hebert SM, TAN, Illinois 1986
Science and the Paranormal, Edited by George O Abell and Barry Singer, Junction Books, London, 1981
The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan, Headline, London, 1997
The Book of Miracles, Stuart Gordon, Headline, London, 1996
The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000
The Encyclopaedia of Unbelief Volume 1, Gordon Stein, Editor, Prometheus Books, New York, 1985
The Hidden Power, Brian Inglis, Jonathan Cape, London, 1986
The Sceptical Occultist, Terry White, Century, London, 1994
The Stigmata and Modern Science, Rev Charles Carty, TAN, Illinois, 1974
Twenty Questions About Medjugorje, Kevin Orlin Johnson, Ph.D. Pangaeus Press, Dallas, 1999
Why People Believe Weird Things, Michael Shermer, Freeman, New York, 1997
The Problem of Competing Claims by Richard Carrier