Question: Let a miracle be defined, not as a violation of the laws of nature, but as “an event that exceeds the productive power of nature.”1 With this definition in mind, have any genuine miracles occurred in history?
Timothy McGrew, “Miracles”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), online. See full quote below.
How academics are defining “miracle”:
• J. L. Mackie ([d. 1981] Philosophy professor at Sydney [atheist]): “What we want to do is to contrast the order of nature with a possible divine or supernatural intervention. The laws of nature, we must say, describe the ways in which the world―including, of course, human beings―works when left to itself, when not interfered with. A miracle occurs when the world is not left to itself, when something distinct from the natural order as a whole intrudes into it.” [The Miracle of Theism (Oxford, 1982), 19-20.] • William Lane Craig (Philosophy professor at Talbot): “Miracles are extraordinary acts of providence which should not be conceived, properly speaking, as violations of the laws of nature, but as the production of events which are beyond the causal powers of the natural entities existing at the relevant time and place.” [“Creation, Providence, and Miracle” in Philosophy of Religion, ed. Davies (Georgetown University Press, 1998), 136.] • Timothy McGrew (Philosophy professor at Western Michigan): “We might therefore try to tighten the definition by saying that a miracle is an event that exceeds the productive power of nature (St. Thomas Aquinas, SCG 3.103; ST 1.110, art. 4), where ‘nature’ is construed broadly enough to include ourselves and any other creatures substantially like ourselves. Variations on this include the idea that a miracle is an event that would have happened only given the intervention of an agent not wholly bound by nature (Larmer 1988: 9) and that a miracle is an event that would have happened only if there were a violation of the causal closure of the physical world.” [“Miracles”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), ed. Zalta, online.] • Stephen Davis (Philosophy professor at Claremont): “let me then defined the term miracle as follows: a miracle is an event E that (1) is brought about by God and (2) is contrary to the prediction of a law of nature that we have compelling reason to believe is true. … Science is not overturned, because the actual laws describe and predict not whatever happens but where were happens in a regular and predictable way.” [Risen Indeed (Eerdmans,1993), 10.] • Mike Licona (New Testament professor at Southern Evangelical): “In summary, I am defining a miracle as …an event in history for which natural explanations are inadequate. I am contending that we may identify a miracle when the event (1) is extremely unlikely to have occurred given the circumstances and/or natural law and (2) occurs in an environment or context charged with religious significance.” [The Resurrection of Jesus (IVP Academic, 2010), 171.]