- The involve doing something that is ‘impossible’;
- The break the laws of nature (have no scientific explanation);
- They are done by God (normally implying that they cannot go against the nature of God – if God is omnibenevolent (all loving) then miracles must be good!)
Examples of things that might be classed as miracles:
Jesus is supposed to have performed many miracles, from healing the sick to bringing himself back to life. One example would be feeding the five thousand. According to the Bible Jesus was preaching in the wilderness and five thousand people had turned up to hear him. When his disciples point out that the people might be hungry Jesus asks a boy with a basket containing five loaves of bread and two fish to share it. According to the Bible Jesus uses this to feed the five thousand people and there are baskets of food left over.
This is a miracle because it breaks the laws of nature; it is simply not possible that five loaves and two fish could do this, especially as there is more left over than there was in the first place. It is also good as hungry people are fed!
There was a famous case in 1995 of a statue of Ganesha (the elephant headed god) drinking milk from a spoon. It became famous as it was shown on television across the world. As stone statues don’t normally drink milk people thought this was a miracle as it broke the laws of nature.
Guru Nanak, who was the founder of the Sikh religion, was once left to look after a herd of buffalo. As his mind was on other things (God) he didn’t notice as they trampled over a farmer’s crop. The farmer complained to Nanak’s father and the two men went to the field to find Nanak. When they got there the field was magically restored. This is a miracle because trampled crops do not normally heal themselves; so it breaks the laws of nature, and it gave the farmer back his crop so it did something good for him.
Many people question these accounts and say that:
- If these things did happen then there must be another explanation. For example, the miracle of the drinking statue involved porous rock (rock that soaks up water) and simply soaked up the milk. This is not a miracle as there is a normal explanation for how it happened. Or;
- These things did not really happen. They are reported from a long long time ago (like in the case of Jesus) or come from societies where education is very poor and people do not understand what they are seeing, like the small town in India where the drinking statue was found.
Significance of Miracles for believers
However, such questions do not often concern believers. To them you must have faith that God can perform these things and any explanations in world terms do not matter. They justify their faith in God, or gods. St. Paul said about the resurrection of Christ: ‘If Christ be not risen, your faith is in vain’ (1 Corinthians 15:17), in other words if this miracle did not happen then there is no point being Christian!