Hi this is something I’ve been thinking about lately so I thought I’d ask. I’ve been reading how faith shouldn’t be based on probability or good fortune, so how would you define a miracle or “providence?” I know I’m not going to get a straight definition here, this isn’t a science, but I’d like to know everyone else’s interpretations. What does that mean to you?
I think of a miracle as a sign that points toward God; something extraordinary (in our perspective) that stands apart from God’s ordinary, day-to-day providence.
Off the top of my head, I would think of a miracle as simply God doing something for us that we’re unable to do – or perhaps, at a speed that we’re unable to accomplish (water into wine, for instance).
I do like Mervin’s statement above about it being “in our perspective.” To me that helps it to stand apart from something that could be viewed objectively like a science.
It is all too easy to simply say: Everything in God’s Universe is a miracle. And I get that point.
But this is not the every day application of the word in English.
The every day application is:
"…something wrought by God that is not otherwise possible by means of natural law or natural processes alone."
I think of a miracle as a sign of God’s power (to heal, provide, protect, rescue) that is recognized by God’s people and vindicates their faith in him.
I think people like to focus on natural/supernatural explanations, but I think miracles are often in the eye of the beholder. So for example, one time a while ago when we were planning to join our mission organization, we needed money to fly our family to a two-week training/orientation session in Florida. We sat down and looked at our finances, and we didn’t have it without cashing in some retirement funds or something. The next day a check arrived in the mail from the U.S. government because Congress passed some measure to compensate soldiers for every month they had been forced to serve over their commitment time during the Iraq war five years before, and my husband had been stop-lossed for six months. The check covered the price of our plane tickets, food, and lodging with $40 to spare. No laws of nature were thwarted in that incident. But I think of it as a miracle, because it was a sign to me that God provides for all our needs and knows what we need before we even ask.
I suppose this is why most dictionaries frequently have more than one valid definition for any particular word.
Some of God’s most famous providential acts make for pretty good miracles!
I only wish that God directed all the actions of Congress in such beneficial ways!!
Thank you for your input everyone. The simplicity of how it’s all about perspective and our faith is a comforting and comprehensive notion.
Yes, Ellie, so much depends on our perspective as to whether we consider a happening as a true miracle–or just the result of chance–or not so extraordinary after all. At 19 in WWII I had a fragment from a rifle grenade smash a hole in my skull that the surgeons who treated me said should certainly have been fatal. The episode was described in a book “Where Miracles Happen”. But even experienced surgeons do not always ‘get it right’, and, wearing my scientific hat, I must consider my survival extremely fortunate, but it does not reach the level of “miraculous”.
On the other hand, some 40 yrs. later I actually took part in an event that was witnessed by three other skeptical scientists, and, since it most definitely defied more than a billion-to-one odds, I maintain that it qualifies as a miracle performed by God. I wrote up an account of this event titled "The Miracle of the Panel Truck" and it appears on one of my past posts. I have not learned how to direct you to it, but I can send it to you and @AndrewF via PM if you wish.
In the spirit of being fair and balanced I thought I would offer the atheist definition for miracle.
Aleo probably describes it best. A miracle is a fortunate and improbable event. Atheists are quite a motley crew, but if I were to try to sum up the majority view among atheists I would describe miracles as the extreme edge of a bell curve. In the middle of the bell curve you have your normal, every day occurrences, such as not winning the lottery or hitting half red and half green lights on your way to work. On the miracle side of the equation you have your very fortunate and improbable events. On the other extreme you have your very unfortunate and improbable events. I think atheists tend to mash all of those things together instead of singling out miracles all by themselves. In a way, the atheist view is perhas a bit more cynical than how theists view the world.
This would count every baby as a miracle (probably where the saying came from). Over a billion to 1 odds. Or does it need to be more improbable than that? It just gets treated as mundane because it happens so frequently.
You tell us, @still_learning.
You only have three buckets to choose from - - which is your favorite intterpretation of The Miraculous?
all those things that defy explanation by natural processes?
all those things that hardly ever happen, or that weren’t expected to happen, even those that are explainable by natural processes?
all those things that, even though they are quite understandable from a scientific perspective, or just so wonderful (the birth of a baby … just like the birth of a race horse, or puppies) that they have to be called Miracles.
Which one is yours, Still-Learning?
I think the takeaway here might be that in either case, a miracle is pretty contextual.
But the only understanding of “the miraculous” that involves understanding Evolution vs. Young Earth Creationism is how it connects to the BioLogos Mission Statements.
I am not sure why I am being confined to 3 buckets.
But a baby is not just wonderful, it is a statistical high improbability, over billion to 1 odds.
I think God can, and does things that are statistically improbable, and He does things that appear to violate our laws and constants.
I think “miracle” is a human term like “trinity” that we use, to attempt to explain things we can’t comprehend/explain. If I had to use one sentence, I would say
God’s work revealed in a tangible form.
@Christy’s check was a tangible way to see God providing. The seas being parted, tangible way to see God’s provisions. Lame walking, ect. It can cover any miracle I can think of.
It doesn’t matter what I see or perceive to happen or not, it doesn’t change that God is good and to Him belong all glory. He can perhaps use these phenomenon to bolster our faith and give us something to tangibly hold onto. The word of God is a miracle, it has survived more historic scrutiny than any other book, it is used to reveal the truths of God to us, and is a tangible thing.
Are you saying that the odds of a baby being born on any given day can be calculated like this?
7 billion people x 365 days divided by 1 billion =
( 2,555 Billion ) divided by 1 Billion = 2,555 babies are born each day?
Is that what you think the odds are of a baby being born?
Obviously, the point of the Three buckets is to to focus our discussion on the most meaningful use of the term Miracle.
I think I was being pretty generous by giving you a 3rd bucket of definitions to play with … and it doesn’t look like you have put it to very good use. Much more than 2,555 babies are born on Earth each day.
I am saying, that there is about ~40 million to 1 billion sperm in a healthy male ejaculate. And I think something like even 25% of those don’t result in a birth. For that 1 sperm, it is statistically improbable that it makes it among the others. So every individual that is born, beats very high odds, over billion to 1.
It happens very often, so it is down played, but you have better chances of getting struck by lightning. Those odds are 1:3000 in a lifetime.
The discussion was not about the odds of a specific union of specific gametes … the discussion is what constitutes a miracle. You introduced a baby’s birth as being a miracle.
If I asked what are the odds that a specific drop of rain, in a thunderstorm, gets into your eye, that could be a very low probability. But if you tilt your face up in a rain storm, what are the odds that you are going to get any rain in your eyes? I think most of us would say about 99.9999%
Since nobody knows which gametes are going to unite … the probability of a birth of a baby is not usually gauged at the microscopic level. It is usually based on whether or not the mother and father are drinking wine or not…(that’s a joke, man)…
I think you are just kidding around here … so I"m going to quit the discussion now. I think you need to start kidding somebody else for a while…
No I didn’t. I introduced that is possibly being where that term came from if one subscribed to the beliefs of miracles being a improbability.
Then I gave a definition of what I think a miracle is to me (as the title says)
I think "God’s work revealed in a tangible form. "