Miracles, laws, theism and otherwise.

Let’s say you want to give an argument against miracles, and you define a miracle as violating the laws of nature. Leave aside the problems with God “violating” nature for a minute (which sounds as impossible as burgling one’s own home or fornicating with his wife), and focus on just the laws of nature. These things are either in our heads or outside them, and if in outside them they either transcend nature or are immanent in it.

If they are in our heads, as mere descriptions or Humean habits, expectations, and guesses about what will happen, then a “miracle” only means something astonishing or very unexpected. An argument against miracles would be an argument against God being able to astonish us, or at least astonish us in a sufficient way. Possible, but it seems a bit strained. 

If the laws transcend nature, they are, well, transcendent realities that remain ever in themselves while at the same time governing all things. They stand outside of time while controlling all within it. It’s hard to tell this apart from a divine action. This seems to commit us to a theism of one kind or another.

If immanent in nature, we might have a possibility of having both atheism and a critique of miracles. But we’re committed to a Aristotelian view of nature, which is notoriously difficult to separate from theism.

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4 Comments

  1. dyingst said,

    August 28, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Reblogged this on A Simple Tool.

  2. Ralph said,

    August 28, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    Laws of nature (or any laws of any science) are constructs of our understanding and limited by that understanding; Therefore, a miracle that defies our laws would demonstrate that we have set forth errant laws.I believe there are physical laws outside our heads regardless of our definition or discovery of them. Would that be transcendent or immanent? And if transcendent, how does that indicate theism?

    Feel free to dismiss this question out of hand – I don’t know the Aristotelian view of nature, and am generally uneducated in theological matters.

    • August 29, 2014 at 7:16 am

      This is an in-our-heads view.

      • August 29, 2014 at 7:26 am

        I should say, to be more accurate, that it is an in-our-heads view that is much like the Humean habits view. But it would depend on part on why you believed there were physical laws such that there could not possibly under any circumstances be any kind of exception to them.


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