Hi Donagh,
Do you believe in miracles? Shane

Dear Shane,

That is one of the briefest questions I've ever received on this site – brief and to the point.  I won't burden you with a long answer.  My answer is yes, buckets of them. 

Everywhere you look is a miracle, every moment is a new miracle, unrepeatable. 

To say one doesn’t believe in miracles would be to pretend to a full and detailed map of the whole creation.  No one could defend that claim. 

I tend to be very sceptical about visions and apparitions and the like.  No one wants to say that God can't put on a special show, but at the same time, no one has the full picture of human psychology – or of physics, or of any other field.  The presumption should always be that unusual or unexplained occurrences are within the natural order, even if I have no explanation for them at the moment.  What is seen as a miracle today could be a routine matter tomorrow. 

Medical researchers are always testing their drugs against the placebo effect.  But does anyone study the placebo effect itself?  It is not enough to dismiss it as a delusion; it is part of the human make-up, and it has real effects.  What we think, and how we feel, and what we hope: these are not things to be swept aside as having no importance; they have real effects.  To bracket them off is to write ‘Here there be monsters’ - like ancient map-makers who had to write something on parts of the globe they know nothing about.  

It may appear surprising at first that very rationalistic theologies tend to leave a lot of space for miracles.  But while clinging to logic, rationalists exclude a great many things, especially the ‘soft side’ of us – which is where we live most of the time, and which explains so much.  Rationalists need miracles to explain all the things they have excluded. 

For myself, I'm happy to stay with the doctrines of the faith, and to have a sort of benign scepticism about anything else of a religious nature.  I see everything as a miracle, but I step away when I hear people claim that some particular thing is a miracle – because mostly they are suggesting that everything else is not.  The more significance we attach to unusual occurrences, calling them miracles, the more we neglect the real miracles happening every minute around us.  When a hard man gets the courage to leave the door of his heart open, it’s a miracle.  When a miser begins to practise the bounty of God, it’s a miracle.  When a sinner turns into a saint, it’s a miracle. 

Looking for the unusual is like wanting to switch to another TV channel.  Why not stay with the ordinary one?  There are far more miracles happening there than any rationalist could wish for. 

Take care, Shane.


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