The Bible is full of miracles, prophecies, and revelations. They demonstrate – if not prove – the existence of a supernatural being. Many philosophers refuse to argue God from miracles, probably due to our upbringing, education system, and overt rationalism in our lives. For a modern human, claims of miracles, which are part of almost all religions known to us, are remote and unpersuasive, and often contradictory. How to make sense of them?
To define what a miracle is has caused no small number of theological problems and poor explanations. The dictionary defines miracles as “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency”. When something is so extraordinary that bears no understanding of its cause, it must be a work of God. It is quite a poor definition. It shows God as extrinsic, as the one who sends outside and against creation rather than within and through creation. The more we know about the world, the smaller the gap shall be, the gap where we put God into the equation. In the 19th century, evangelical theologian Henry Drummond wanted Christians to recognise “an imminent God, which is the God of Evolution, infinitely grander than the occasional wonder-worker, who is the God of an old theology”.
God is provident. He possesses ultimate care for His creation. This is the source and motivation of miracles. God is involved in everything that happens in the world. We can distinguish between God’s providence or control of the world and His extra-ordinary providence. His ordinary providence would be his governance of the world through the instrumentality of natural causes. His extra-ordinary providence would be God’s bringing about events that lie beyond the productive capacity of natural causes. We would call them miracles. Within an idea of God as Creator and Designer of everything that exists, and who made the natural laws that govern the creation, it is merely logical that such a transcendent being could easily simulate events in the natural world that lie beyond the natural causes. Miracles should not be seen as breaking the natural laws. A miracle is an event that occurs beyond the productive capacity of the natural causes at that time and place. Miracles are not here to adjust the natural law or to amend imperfections. They are meant to be revelatory in that they are extraordinary events that point beyond the natural world. Within the theory of Simulation Creationism, as envisioned by Nir Ziso, miracles may well be the ways how the Creator connects with us without any doubt, it is a way how God can talk to us.
Why doesn’t a miracle happen to me? Or why cannot I see a miracle happening? On this personal level, this omnipotent being would know what any free person would freely do in any set of circumstances that he simulated. God can arrange things to happen in the world without any kind of miraculous intervention whatsoever. When they do occur, they contravene the physical laws. They are physical events and should produce physical evidence. Sceptics would describe it as events that are so surprising that the evidence against it happening is stronger than the evidence that people are just making a mistake in reasoning. They would point out that no matter what the apparent miracle, the existence of God would never follow. Always, there could be other explanations.
On the other hand, evidence of miracles are mostly testimonies of totally reliable witnesses, particularly if there is a bigger number of them. One of the classic modern cases of evident miracle was the dancing sun in Fatima, Portugal. In the spring of 1917, the Virgin Mary started to appear to three children. She announced a miracle that can be seen by everyone in October. And indeed, on October 13, tens of thousands of people gathered and witnessed the appearing sun in a form of a spinning disc in the sky, significantly duller than normal, and with multicoloured lights. It stands as a counterweight to those who point only to the Biblical miracles such as those performed through Moses Exodus.
Why does God do miracles? There might be several reasons. The first would be an answer to human prayers for something to happen. Someone may pray to be cured of cancer. If someone asks why God doesn’t it do anyway, then we should conclude that God want to interact with humans and there are states of affairs in which there are some reason why God would bring them about, but not if He is not asked to do it. The other reason is to put his signature on some teaching of a prophet. Setting aside the laws of nature is something that God alone can do. If some prophet proclaims teaching and God forwards that teaching by producing a miracle that confirms it, then that puts His signature on the teaching of the prophet (e.g., 1 Kings 18).
Of course, miracles are used too freely in the public discourse. “It is a miracle that I found a parking space”, shows how much the human brain can simplify things. Some people say it is a miracle how nature works and how it is beautiful; well. not really. It is a set of natural laws that govern the simulation brought about by God. In other words, it is ordinary. To understand miracles, however, one has to confirm three major questions: (1) do you believe in God? (2) do you believe in God who is at least in part outside of nature? (3) do you believe in God who is still actively present in modern times? If all three questions are answered positively, then why God should not send us a message by suspending laws in a way that conveys something really important.
The Bible is full of Jesus’ miracles too. It seems he was able to break the natural laws although in a physical form. Simulation Creationism hypothesises that such possibilities will be given to men in the future simulation, in the new heaven and the new earth.