David Hume when he wrote that you need more than hearsay to verify miracles attracted the ire of the Christians.  Accusations ranged from, "He is just dismissing miracles full stop without considering them" to, "He gives us no reason to believe anything at all."  In fact he made it clear he read the Bible and how it expects us to accept its claims when we cannot even talk to the witnesses.  He saw that with something as big as a miracle you need better evidence than what there is.  Every story has a problem with people being prone to errors and to lying.  At least nature puts a check on that.  You can believe a person who says that a burst pipe flooded their house but not the person who says a spaceship fired a jet of water into it.  This is utterly reasonable.

Christians agree. They just want to find a way to get us to accept the ancient accounts of Jesus appearing as risen to his disciples among other things.  They want their cake and to eat it.

Hume wrote that a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature. 

The Christians paraphrase that as, "He is claiming that a miracle is impossible by definition for it's a violation of nature. He defines miracles so as to make them look stupid. It is a straw man approach. Reading between the lines he knows that evidence for nonsense is not evidence at all so he is saying there is no such thing as evidence for miracles for they are nonsense. That is the bottom line.  He is guilty of arguing that miracles don't happen when in fact he is just assuming they are impossible so they don't happen.  Hume knows only God the lawmaker can make laws of nature.  So it makes sense that God who makes the law might unmake it at times."


If Hume just meant miracles were stupid and impossible then why not just write, "Miracles are a violation of nature and don't happen.  It is simple"?  Why write and write and write?

Believers and Hume are united in one thing. They insist that only if you believe in a universe that stands on its own, a world with natural laws inherent in it, can you believe in miracles.  Believers then would say that God set up the universe to run itself like that. Hume might say there is no God to do that but the closed system idea remains true.

He does not say miracles are impossible but that believing in them makes no sense for they are too unlikely.  Sometimes something is not literally impossible but so unlikely you may as well call it impossible.  Does God existing make a miracle more likely?  He has the power to go into nature and overrule it for he sets it up in the first place.  Joan can have knife to stab her man with.  Yet she may be as unlikely to stab him as she would be if she had no knife at all.  So God does nothing to indicate that miracles are likely. You would need to assume God intends to do miracles but what use is that?  You may as well toss a coin and assume the other way.  You cannot tell any being what intention it has.  That wouldn't be remotely respectful.

What if you can accept miracles happen in theory but not in practice?  How would that work? It would mean that you must not act on your belief in them.  You might accept that the whole world is a dream like many mystics do but you cannot live that way.  You do not act on your theory that God might tie a healing miracle to taking a medicine so that the medicine does not cure though science says it does.  Believers theorise but do not act on their theories.  They simply pick out what miracles to act on simply because it is their culture.  We should go an extra step and never act on miracle faith.

 Hume is not saying that a violation of the laws of nature is impossible. He is not saying laws of nature are iron laws with no exceptions. He is talking from how we experience the laws as fixed whether they really are or not. As far as we are concerned, we see the laws as unchanging for we do not observe exceptions. So it is reasonable to assume that a report that a dog had kittens is false even if it can happen for it is too unlikely. He is basing his case against the believability of miracles on how unlikely to us they are not on his definition of a miracle. All he means by a law of nature being fixed is that we have never observed an exception not that it really is without an exception.

Anyway, if he uses the wrong definition then his argument is still valid.

What of the following thoughts?

"If there is no God, a violation might happen. If there is a God a violation cannot happen. Why? God alone originates all things and all events. It is contradictory to say a God has arranged how things will be and then has to fight those laws to make even a brief change."

Against that you have, "The reality is that if there is no supernatural at all, a violation still cannot happen. A new law appearing or coming into action that makes it all different is not a violation of the laws that already exist. It is not a violation for every event is just different laws, some stronger than others, at work. If the temperature is huge then spilling water on the floor will be impossible for it will evaporate before it hits the floor. So the heat is a bigger thing than the water making it to the floor. Laws working against each other is not a violation for each law is about working against other laws."

So we see that God or not there is no reason to hold that miracle violations of nature happen.  Plus if a violation happens who says it is a miracle?   It may resemble what we would expect of the supernatural and not be magical or mystical at all.

God has to set up laws - nature will work this way and not that way. To do a miracle, he is said not to break his own laws but to make an exception to them. The exception will have to prove the rule so the miracle must be done for extremely good reasons. One reason will be to provide really good evidence for the existence of a miraculous God. You would need to have an explanation for the exception. No such explanations for miracles are even attempted. Christian say that you cannot know God's reasons. But if he wants us to believe in miracles he has to tell us - period.

Evidence can point to nonsense or seem to. But what you do in that case is just dismiss the nonsense and admit the evidence is there. There is nothing wrong with that and we all do it. Hume did not say there was no evidence for a miracle but only that there was problems with that evidence not being enough and pointing to an absurdity. Christians take the same approach with most miracle claims.

Speak of natural ways for ways is broader than laws which gives the wrong impression. 

Each natural law is not really a law but is a concise way of speaking of countless natural regularities. You are summing up countless processes as one law. It is a figure of speech. That is why a claimed or true miracle would force us to say that we were wrong about some regularity or how it engages with other ones. It calls for a revision of science for assuming it is supernatural is of no practical use.


When religion accuses Hume of saying, "There is no evidence for any miracle for a miracle is a violation of nature and not possible" it is saying he is using circular reasoning. It is a lie pretending you are arguing when you have already made up your mind without arguing.

Yet religion itself argues, "Miracles can happen even if they do not. Miracles can happen for they are exceptions to natural law. Natural law is not that fixed. Miracles show us that it is more fluid than we think and God can work a miraculous wonder."

This isn't even coherent.  If nature can lose its way then the result may look like a miracle but is not a miracle.  And if nature has to stand back to let God work then it must be its own boss.

Anyway they assume nature lets miracles happen because miracles happen. That is a circle.

As for evidence for a miracle, you never get evidence that it happened but that something did.  It is as easy to argue that some unknown natural anomaly, miraculous illusions, miraculous hallucinations etc were behind the Jesus appearances after he died than that he really rose.   Sorry it is easier to argue.  It could even be a mixture of all that.

So if both believers and Hume, for the sake of argument, are assuming and we have to make a choice then who do we go with? Perhaps it does not matter which means that religion should not matter and should not be acting as if it does. It is safer to deny that nature changes even if it does for it is more important to believe nature never changes than that a statue can walk or a man can rise from the dead. So be in the Hume camp.
Religion says that a miracle is not a violation of an iron law. It says God set up the laws of nature but intended to make exceptions. There is no violation in the sense that God had to arrest natural law and make it change. He is in control. He would not be God and atheism would be true if he isn't. If God had to set up his laws and then break them then that is bad planning. He would not be all-knowing or all-powerful. He would not be a real God but an idol.

So religion denies there is a violation. It assumes there is no violation.

If it is saying that Hume talks nonsense because he has defined a miracle wrong, we must remember that Hume based his argument not on a miracle being a violation but on it being improbable. Hume called it a violation for it tries to look like one. What else would you be expected to think if somebody told you that their statue of a leprechaun tells them where to look for gold?
If Hume is assuming a violation then religion is doing far more assuming by assuming it is not! It is against how the event looks.

Hume is criticised for allegedly assuming miracles are too improbable to be believed. But they assume that miracles are not violations of nature as in God having to overpower nature as if he is weak. It is an uncharitable double-standard! If they can make their assumptions why can't Hume make his?

If miracles are violations then they refute God - an incompetent being is not much of a God. It is for Christian philosophers to decide that if miracles are violations and happen so this puts us in the spurious fetid arms of man not God.  

Does God having no role make nature behaving in a miracle way more improbable or less? If such wonders are improbable because there is a God then they are far more improbable than Hume envisaged. Believers in God should scorn them more then sceptics should!


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