Philosophy of Religion
Proofs for the Existence of God
II. The Questions
III. Problems with Miracles
IV. FINAL QUESTIONS:
Many but not all of the religions of the world have as part of their traditions claims of
The Miracles have different forms and play different roles within each religion. The
religions of the West have many things in common that have a bearing on the way in
which they view Miracles. They share in being religions of the Book or sacred text.
They place importance on events which have been reported to have occurred in history.
They rely on the existence of Miracles. The events which are reported to have taken
place in the time of Moses are key to the acceptance of the idea of the One God for the
peoples of Israel and all who follow after them. The events during the times of Jesus, the
Christ, are also the basis for the acceptance of Jesus as being the Son of God by the
followers of Jesus. The spread of Islam is also an event regarded as miraculous and a
proof of the legitimacy of the claims of Mohammed. So, Miracles are important for the
The Miracles have served as the foundation for the historical proof of the existence of
the God of the western religions. The leadership of the religions of the West do not want
miracle taken lightly and do not want false claims of miracles. These religions will often
be the first to investigate claims of miraculous events in order to disprove them! The
concern is that if people come to accept the claim of a miracle and it later turns out to be
disproved, then those who had come to believe in it might come not only to stop
believing in that particular “miracle” that had been disproved but in all other such claims
and thus might come to loose their faith altogether. The fear is that people would think
something similar to this: “If I could be fooled into thinking this recent event was a
miracle, then what about those people long ago who reported experiencing a miracle?
Could it be possible that they too were deceived? Or mistaken?”
II. The Questions
The questions are:
1. What exactly are Miracles ?
2. Do they prove the existence of a supernatural realm?
A deity? God? The supreme Being?
3. What does it take to prove that a miracle has taken place?
4. Could it ever be proven that a miracle had taken place?
III. Problems with Miracles
1. The Problem of Definition
Exactly what constitutes a miracle is a matter for careful consideration , given the
importance of such events , should they be correct and truthful.
A. Unusual or Extraordinary Event
Some consider any unusual event as a miracle or at least an unusual event with a positive
outcome, eg.g. winning Lotto. Negative events with less probability (being hit by
lightning, three separate times) are not considered as miracles. This is a very weak use of
the term “miracle” .
This can not be the basis for a proof for the existence of God because unusual events
occur all the time and have explanations using natural factors.
B. No explanation
Some consider events for which there are no explanations as miracles. It isn’t clear
whether this would mean no explanation at the present time or no explanation possible.
This can not be used as a proof for the existence of God because these events could
receive a completely naturalistic explanation in the future after science has advanced.
It is possible that events could be explained by advanced science. It is even possible that
events that appear “miraculous” because there is no explanation at present could be the
result of aliens with advanced technology causing them to occur here on this planet.
C. The Requirements of a Definition of Miracles
What is needed is a definition that is strong enough so that the events claimed to
be Miracles would establish the existence of a supernatural and very powerful
entitity, i.e. , God.
What is needed is an event that could ONLY be caused by God. This event can have no
other possible explanation! So, what results is the strong definition of Miracles .
Miracles are events which violate the laws of nature itself. This is an event that could
only be caused by the author of those laws. It can not be an event which has no present
naturalistic explanation, for in the future there might be one. It could not be caused by
advanced technology possessed by advanced alien societies.
2. The Problem of Verification
Not all who learn of the reports of such Miracles accept them as conclusive evidence
for the existence of a supernatural reality or spiritual beings. Many have attempted to
give alternative accounts of such experiences that do not involve acceptance of the
existence of any supernatural entities or reality.
Naturalism is an approach to religious experiences and Miracles which explains
them as being the result of natural forces. It accounts for such phenomena in natural
terms without recourse to anything that is beyond the physical realm. In general, all
reality and all experiences can be accounted for (fully explained) in terms of physical
There are different explanations for the origin and nature of religious experiences and
Miracles. What they have in common is the rejection of a supernatural source or object
and the attempt to offer a full explanation in empirically verifiable terms.
3. Examples of Miracles
A. Creation of the Universe
B. Miracles in the time of Moses
i. Burning Bush
ii. Staff into snake
iii. Plague of locusts
iv. Plague of frogs
v. Nile from blue to red
vi. Death of children of the Egyptians
vii. Parting of the “Red” sea
i. virgin birth
ii. wedding feast-water into wine
iii. walking on water
iv. cures of the blind, deaf, lepers
v. multiplication of the loaves and the fishes
vi. raising the dead-Lazarus
D. More recent phenomena
i. statues that bleed
ii. paintings that cry
iii. stones that drink milk
iv. apparitions on walls, floors, windows, bagels!
4. The Arguments
Hume maintains that the preponderance of the evidence will always be hat the laws of
nature are being followed. Any claim that there has been a violation of those laws would
need to be subtantiated (supported) by clear and convincing evidence. Since there is so
much evidence that the laws are not violated , any claim to the contrary would need to
have a good deal of evidence to support it. Hume does not believe that such evidence
exists, has ever existed or could ever exist!!!
Evidence in support of Miracles would need to satisfy the following criteria:
1. sufficient number of witnesses
2. witnesses of good sense and education
3. witnesses of integrity and good reputation
4. public performance of the miracle event
These conditions have not been satisfied.
Hume argues that Miracles do not occur and that there is a logical obstcle to humans
ever proving that events are Miracles .
Swinburne believes that :
1. evidence does exist that Miracles can occur
2. evidence does exist that Miracles can be the result of a deity, of God
The event must be contrary to the laws of nature and with no evidence that it could be
repeated under similar circumstances. The event must be seen as the result of the
intervention or action of a god who is not a material being.
Swinburne concludes that there is no logical impossibility in there being an event that
satisfies his conditions. He does not offer evidence that any such event has ever
occurred. He only argues that Miracles could occur.
Makie argues that there are epistemological reasons why there will be no substantiation
of a claim that Miracles have taken place. That there is no justification to believe in
For there to be a proof of Miracles two conditions need to be satisfied:
1. proof the Miracle event has occurred
2. proof that Miracle event violated the laws of Nature
Makie’s point is this:
That there is so much proof against satisfying condition 2 that if you satisfied condition 1
there would be the claim that the event did not satisfy condition 2. If you had an event
that would clearly satisfy condition 2 you would claim that the event did not satisfy
Swinburne argues that:
1. it is plausible that there is a God- a supreme being
2. it is plausible that God would reveal god’s own existence
3. it is plausible that god would confirm the revelation by Miracles
There is reason (a priori) to believe and expect that God would reveal god’s existence to
humans, that God would want humans to know( in some primitive manner) that god does
exist. Therefore, there is reason to believe that revelation does occur and that it is
confirmed by Miracles and that Miracles that are predictive are primary examples of
the Miracles that would confirm the Revelation.
V. FINAL QUESTIONS:
Are there reasons to think that the reports of Miracles are not reliable?
Can the reports of Miracles be accepted as being true?
Can Miracles ever be verified?
Do claims of Miracles need to be authenticated?
Can reports of Miracles be used as support for a belief in a deity, the supernatural