The Definition of a Miracle

Discussion in 'Judaism' started by Ben Masada, Dec 6, 2011.

  1. Ben Masada

    Ben Masada New Member

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    The Definition of a Miracle

    What is a miracle? Any dictionary compares it to a wonder, a supernatural deed, a prodigy. And according to religions, it is an act of God. I don't say, according to Theism, because one can be a theist without having to be a religious person. I don't say either, according to the Bible (Tanach), because it must be taken literally for miracles to be a work of God.

    According to Baruch de Spinoza, to call a miracle an act of God is to bring God down to the level of an intellect still in the process of evolution. Then, a miracle would be synonymous with weakness in God. What seems to be a miracle for today's generation, could be explained in the next as simply a normal thing that happened, as Albert Einstein said in his book "Out of My Later Years" p. 220. "It is the goal of every activity of the intellect to convert a miracle into something which it has grasped."

    How could a miracle be a miracle done by God on earth among men, when, according to Psalm 19:1, the universe, made out of billions of galaxies, and trillions of stars, so harmoniously organized reveals the handiworks of God? If God created the universe and still expands it, or add to it other universes, according to the theory of multi-universes, how could, for instance, the partition of the Red Sea have been a miracle of God?

    Here I owe to atheists a footnote for whom to talk about Creation is tantamount to ignorance. Well, the famous astrophysicist Carl Sagan did the same in his book "Cosmos" p. 20, when he missed to add a footnote to the effect that it was according to religion or to the Bible that, "from Creation to the Flood" the period elapsed was of about 432,000 years or about 100 times longer than the OT chronology. The point here is not about the time but about the expression "from Creation to the Flood." Why would he say such thing without a footnote if the concept of probability was not in his mind that the universe or universes could be the work of a Creator?

    The bottom line to conclude this thread is that if we contemplate the universe as God's handiwork, nothing done on earth among men is a miracle of God.

    Ben
     
  2. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    so, not a discussion thread then?

    one of the things i like most about as a theory of miracles is the sort of "half-life" concept you find in the daily prayers: the "miracles that are with us every day". if you think about it, we only really get through every day as a result of horrible stuff happening *not* to happen:

    - you stepped into the street at exactly the right moment that the lorry driver happened to be concentrating.
    - lightning failed to hit you again.
    - al-qaeda decided not to do their thing during your commute this morning.
    - that asteroid's trajectory hasn't intersected with the earth this time.
    - the volcano failed to erupt.
    - you managed yet again not to get salmonella from those sandwiches.

    i guess what i mean here is that it is frankly amazing any of us last the day. as you can see, many people don't. of course, you could consider this mere chance, but looking at it another way, the fact that the emergent behaviour of the systems that affect our lives fails to bring them to an end is really quite surprising.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  3. Etu Malku

    Etu Malku Mercur├Žn

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    I bet every 'miracle' can be explained without any reference to Divine Intervention!

    In casual usage, "miracle" is seen as any event that is statistically unlikely but beneficial, (such as surviving a natural disaster), or simply a "wonderful" occurrence.
     
  4. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    For you in your setting this may be true, EM. I share the wonder of Blake or Heller (physicist-theologian-priest) or my one year old great nephew. The world itself is a miracle and cannot be explained with physics and chemistry and biology and neuro-sciences alone.
     
  5. IowaGuy

    IowaGuy Hunter-Gatherer

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    To me what's most amazing is that you or I as particular individuals are here in the first place in this point in time. I mean, think of the precise sequence of events that has unfolded over the last 200,000 years of human existence for Bananabrain or IowaGuy to be here today. Just considering the timeline since 200BC, and assuming an average of 25 years between generations, a woman born in 200 B.C. would be the equivalent of my mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother.

    Think of how many times the precise egg was fertilized by the precise sperm in order for you to exist today (and that's just since 200 BC, not 198,000BC, which would instead be 8,000 mother's). For example, had my father not taken my mother on "date night" until the next month, a different egg would have been fertilized and I wouldn't be here today. Had, 10,000 years ago, that bear eaten my ancestor before he procreated, I would not be here today, etc, etc, etc.
     
  6. Ben Masada

    Ben Masada New Member

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    Well, IMO, there is nothing to discuss about. But then again, it's my opinion. Yours could be different. Then, I have no choice but to discuss the issue further. In the following up, you proceed with a gospel about fate, as if we are creatures without freewill. Somehow, whatever happens to us, we must have been on the wrong place at the wrong time. Chance? Maybe.
    Ben
     
  7. Ben Masada

    Ben Masada New Member

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    My point in the thread about miracles is that, according to the definition, it might be a miracle to man but not to God. Since according to religions, a miracle is not of man but of God, there is no miracle. An act of God cannot be a miracle. Otherwise, God will prove to be too weak and not the All-powerful Creator of the universe.
    Ben
     
  8. OAT

    OAT Where is the TAO?

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    It could simply mean that current disciplines have yet to be fully developed or that there are disciplines yet to be discovered. I am therefore on the side that all things can be explained .... eventually, without the need to resort to the concept of miracles. "Miracle" and "Creator God" are simply convenient fillers for gaps in man's knowledge.
     
  9. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Perhaps. But as long as hum,anity and science cling to material monism, my opinion is "not a chance". Long philosophical and metaphysical discussion if anyone cares to go there.
     
  10. Etu Malku

    Etu Malku Mercur├Žn

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    In that case I agree and it makes sense, since god is a figment of our imaginations It can perform anything the mind can imagine! Ok, makes sense now! ;)
     
  11. Dream

    Dream New Member

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    You could consider miracles among men to be a part of that universe expansion, like a natural overflow or run off. It could be expanding into their lives. I once heard someone pondering the imagery of this Psalm #19, and they pointed out to me that the heavens touched the earth at the horizon. That means there could be some contact at the edges where the lights seem almost to be coming from the level of the trees as you look very far out. That could be where your miracles are.
     
  12. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    of course it can, particularly if you rule out such things a priori. however, the typical jewish position on this is that G!D Maintains "plausible deniability" on miracles, both to prevent sloppy thinking and complacency and to encourage responsible behaviour by humans. in fact, there's a famous joke about it:

    God Will Save Me (Joke) | Inspirational Stories, Quotes & Poems

    in fact, you'll find, if you look at the Torah text, that miracles there are worded in such a way as to provide precisely this sort of plausible deniability; before the splitting of the red sea, "a strong east wind blew all night", for example. to our way of thinking, the only bona fide undisputable miracle there has ever been is the Revelation; everything else need not be a miracle. however, that wasn't the point i was originally trying to make.

    yes, that's precisely what i was saying.

    eh? i think you've missed my point. i don't believe in "fate" or "predestination" - at least from a human or physical-world point of view; clearly, we have freewill and responsibility for our actions; the only "fate" or "predestination" operates from G!D's PoV, where time has no meaning so, essentially there's no dimension for either fate, chance or freewill to operate, it's all collapsed into one point; something either is or isn't, viewed from before or after it happens on this dimension, but from G!D's Perspective/s (so to speak) things both are and aren't at the same time; also, from G!D's Perspective/s any *direct action* (which, i would suggest, is the sort of thing a "miracle" must be manifest as) is *and* isn't. the question, then, is whether one can *diagnose* a miracle before or after. i'd say that's where the "plausible deniability" comes in.

    to put it simply, philosophically, from my perspective, miracles cannot be precluded, ruled out or disproved, but neither can they be selectively picked and chosen to suit one's ideas about what a "miracle" happens to be. it is possible that "everything" (including all that stuff about eggs and bears) is a miracle, or it is possible that nothing is. i don't think we can be entirely sure one way or t'other. however, my position that miracles prove very little either way, except for Torah, which i consider unique. certainly, i don't approve of "filler" miracles for stuff with a perfectly reasonable alternative explanation.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  13. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    BB, quite precise and quite powerful, much better than my humble attempt!
     
  14. Ben Masada

    Ben Masada New Member

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    You missed to mention, "according to religious people." Atheists will pay anything to discard the idea of a Creator for the universe, even if they can't explain the very origin of it. They either cannot understand the theory of probability or are determined to hide it from any discussion with a theist. Even if God was only a figment of our imagination, it would be enough to win its place within the concept of probability.
    Ben
     
  15. Ben Masada

    Ben Masada New Member

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    "The heavens touch the earth at the horizon!" Please Dream, not here! The earth is spherical. Even religious people have got used to that idea. So, that could be where whose miracles are? Not mine. I don't believe in miracles.
    Ben
     
  16. Ben Masada

    Ben Masada New Member

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    Yes, you are right; I think I have missed your point. And the problem is that I still can't find it. I do understand that to God, time has no meaning; but, when you say that in God there is no chance for freewill to operate, I am lost, considering that freewill is a Divine attribute, relatively granted to man. I mean, what we have as a gift, in God, it is part of His essence.

    When you mention that miracles prove nothing except for Torah which you consider unique, I am still wandering, because I don't look at your posts as of the literal kind of interpreter of the Scriptures. I do consider the Torah unique, likewise, but not in terms of miracles, as I don't interpret much of the Torah literally. Therefore, to me, miracles have been proved not be acts of God. Philosophically, though, as I agree on this matter with Spinoza and Einstein.
    Ben
     
  17. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Time and attributes limit the Divine, throw them out! Then you get an "eternal point". From the PoV of the point (G!d's) the entire Kosmos (everything material, mental, and spiritual) exists in all possibilities. All clumped together like this "is" and "is not" (like the attributes) have no meaning (from G!d's PoV).

    G!d's "action" outside of this point (in this Kosmos, with it's "is" and "is not"s) cannot be limited... G!d creates all, G!d provides revelation. "Everything else is commentary".

    It would be very difficult for me to get much more specific (I have a hang up with words that refer to my experience of the Divine... they are quite difficult, hence quite lilmited).
     
  18. Ben Masada

    Ben Masada New Member

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    IMO, when you say that attributes have no meaning as God is concerned, you are simply comparing those in us with them in God. They are not the same. In us, a portion is relatively granted us as humans, considering that we are limited by time. In God they are part of His essence. I mean, they are part of what God is; while in us, they are what we have. What one has, can be taken away; what one is, he is no matter what.
    Ben
     
  19. OAT

    OAT Where is the TAO?

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    That sloppy, complacent and irresponsible guy still gets to heaven, so in the end, is there any real purpose of "plausible deniability"? If the guy goes to hell, isn't the so-called "plausible deniability" a form of "entrapment"?
     
  20. Dream

    Dream New Member

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    The earth is an oblate sphere not a regular one. If you want to discuss it we can start a thread.
     

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