Miracles and Science
“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” [Matthew 17:20 (NLT)].
Faith does not rely on miracles. When we are seeking spiritual certainty, we are pursuing a natural path within the cosmic order of Divine Reality. However, miracles are not essential to affirm the omnipotence of God or to expand the possibilities of consciousness beyond secular thoughts.
He is not the soul of Nature, nor any part of Nature. He inhabits eternity: He dwells in a high and holy place: heaven is His throne, not his vehicle, earth is his footstool, not his vesture. One day he will dismantle both and make a new heaven and earth. He is not to be identified even with the ‘divine spark’ in man. He is ‘God and not man. [C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p. 1].
The Miraculous in Science
The scientific method seeks verification by inquiry based on empirical and measurable evidence. It relies on systematic observation, measurement and experiments to formulate, test, and modify hypotheses.
Scientists propose explanations of phenomena, and design experiments to test their hypotheses and theories. Their studies must be available for scrutiny by other scientists, who can verify results by attempting to reproduce them.
Quantum physics undermines materialism because it reveals that matter has far less ‘substance’ than we might believe. But another development goes even further by demolishing Newton’s image of matter as inert lumps. This development is the theory of chaos, which has recently gained widespread attention … It has been discovered that so-called nonlinear effects can cause matter to behave in seemingly miraculous ways, such as becoming “self-organizing” and developing patterns and structures spontaneously. [Paul Davies and John Gribbin, The Matter Myth, Ch. 1]
Miracles in the Mind of Man
In 1819, American Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, produced a version of the Gospels titled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Known today as The Jefferson Bible, it remained secret until 1895 when it was discovered at the Smithsonian. In 1904, it was published by Congress.
By extracting verses from the four canonical Gospels, Jefferson produced a narrative of the life of Jesus without references to miracles, angels, prophecy, or resurrection. He did, however, retain several supernatural events and concepts such as the great flood, heaven, hell and the devil, as part of his version of Divine Reality.
Hagiographies focus on the miraculous. They ornament the lives of pious men and women with exceptional powers and gifts from the Divine. Hagiographical accounts of saints and martyrs abound in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism.
Jefferson “deism” was in part provoked by the exaggeration in such accounts. The Jefferson Bible focused on the moral teaching and exemplary life of Jesus, and his narrative confines reality to sensory consciousness.
Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our senses, something seen, heard, touched, smelled or tasted. And our senses are not infallible. If anything extraordinary seems to have happened, we can always say that we have been the victims of an illusion. If we hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural, this is what we always shall say. What we learn from experience depends on the kind of philosophy we bring to experience. [C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p. 1].
Definition of Miracles
At times, nonphysical dimensions of existence intertwine with our physical senses to produce unique sensory awareness alien to our established cognitive processes.
Miracles are unexplained supernatural experiences ascribed to Divine Will. They appear inexplicably to transgress natural or scientific laws, as currently understood by humankind. Often these experiences occur in response to impassioned pleas, dire need, or exceptional devotion on the part of the faithful.
Yet even had We opened to them a gateway to heaven and they had ascended, on and on, up to it, they would surely have said, “It is only our eyes that are spellbound! Nay, we have been bewitched!” [Quran 15:14-15].
Objections to Miracles
Objections to the miraculous are based on a limited spiritual perspective, or on a completely secular worldview. Every religion has a miraculous component, ensconced between credulity and skepticism.
This bipolarity is also reflected in our inner bouts with doubt and belief. We all long for the supernatural to be true. Yes, even the atheist would welcome it — if he could make it his own — to rise above the throng of humanity, to make himself a “superman.”
We feel that our life is incomplete without at least a glimpse of a greater reality. Yet, if the miraculous were always present, would we be able to perceive it without a faith that appreciates it?
You will see miracles happen if you pray expectantly. They won’t happen every time, and they won’t happen the way you think it will happen possibly, but it’s a really difficult life to live where you think God does not break through… [Dallas Willard].
Purpose of Miracles
Miracles do not transform the disbeliever or cure the hypocrite. The miracles of parting the Red Sea and providing manna and quail did not preserve the faith of Moses’ followers in the wilderness. Despite Jesus’ miracles, the predisposed minds of Scribes and Pharisees could not accept the teachings of Jesus.
Miracles do reward the faithful, encourage the seeker, and reinforce of the pious. They momentarily manifest the Divine in physical terms, and through human agency. Then, the Divine quickly disappears from our consciousness, and we return to our skepticism and doubt, in forgetful blindness to what God is continually doing all around us all the time.
A miracle can be:
- the manifestation of Divine approval,
- a seal that indoctrinates,
- vindication of Divine justice,
- confirmation of Divine truth.
- witness to piety of believers,
- shower blessings on the faithful.
I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses … Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did. [1 Corinthians 10:1-6 (NLT)].
Ultimately, we do not know the primary purpose of miracles. If we did, they would be diluted by our understanding of them. They are miracles because they are inexplicable. To know their purpose is partly to explain them.
Furthermore, miracles are never completely free of material causes, however slight and insignificant they may be. Given that God Almighty causes the smallest things to produce very great entities, how can we deny miracles? Human beings, weak enough to be defeated by a microbe, nevertheless are intelligent enough to make computers that can hold knowledge that would fill many libraries. … Indeed, is not every occurrence in the universe, every act of God, really a miracle, the like of which we are unable to make? [Fethullah Gülen].
Miracles represent another critical factor that helps formulate a Divine consciousness. To exclude miracles from the formula for spiritual discovery would, in fact, make our recovery from secular delusions a most difficult task.
Now they swear by God with their most solemn oaths that if a miracle were shown to them, they would indeed believe in it. Say: “Miracles are in the power of God alone.” And for all you know, even if one should be shown to them, they would not believe. [Quran 6:109].