Monday, July 5

Miracles, deism, and the existence of God

A friend of mine was asked on a social media site:
How do miracles and other experiences that are beyond reason fit int this? How can deists "reason" that a supreme being created the Universe when there is no reason or proof that a supreme being even exists?
His response:
Although I would not absolutely rule out miracles, I would have to say that, after decades of paying (and praying) very close attention to purported miracles in churches that I went to and participated in, I gradually found it almost impossible to believe that a true miracle actually occurred in any of the situations to which I was party or witness. So while I wouldn’t theoretically rule them out, I would say that experience has taught me (and only after much resistance on my part) to hold in suspicion any purported supernatural cause. I say this in regard to things such as purported miracles of divine healings, supernatural revelations etc. but do reserve a stronger possibility of genuine miracles when it comes to personal prayer—i.e. I have had many experiences in prayer that seemed at the time to convey some sort of supernatural or preternatural knowledge. However, having the little knowledge I do about the nature of probability, I am somewhat inclined to attribute these personal prayer experiences to [chance] rather than to some supernatural agency.

In general I have found a natural approach to questions to yield far more fruit than a supernatural. Indeed I think this is the fundamental shift in the modern from the medieval era. While the later was quick to seek for supernatural causes behind things, the former seeks for natural causation. To cite a couple of simplistic examples:

-when seeking to know about the origins of the universe, I would consult the known scientific data rather than the book of Genesis.

-when seeking to understand some psychological malady, I would seek the advice of a psychiatrist over that of an exorcist.

I certainly wouldn’t dogmatically limit my horizon to the purely natural world—indeed I hope there is a supernatural cause behind and end to all things. But it just seems that A. The Universe operates mostly (if not entirely) under natural laws and B. All purported supernatural agencies (the Bible, the Church, a miracle worker etc) when closely examined are found wanting.

As to how a deist can argue for the existence of God, I suspect most would appeal to the same sorts of arguments made by other theists (i.e. Christians, Jews, and Pantheists etc.)—namely, from causality, morality, beauty, religious experience & teleology etc. However, at least for myself, I would state all of these things more as probable indicators or reasons for hoping rather than as proofs of God’s existence. In other words, while I hold to the hope that God exists, of eternal life and happiness for all etc. I don’t personally have the sort of knowledge to state my hope as a firm conviction beyond the ability to doubt.

In short I would disagree with the statement that there is “no reason” to believe a supreme being exists (for I can think of many reasons to believe) but would agree that there is “no proof”—if by proof, one means to prove beyond reasonable doubt.

While such a view of things will probably result in the loss of some (perhaps of most) dogma, I see no compelling reason why it should necessitate the loss of faith, hope and love and do hope this note finds you abounding in all three!

No comments:

Post a Comment