Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Miracles, visible and hidden

We would expect God intervene a lot in our world to prevent misery. But there are at least three things that could give God reason limit his interventions:

  1. The value of our trusting in him without being overwhelmed by the obviousness of his interventions.
  2. The danger that we would end up counting on miracles, which would undermine our motivations for helping others.
  3. The intrinsic value of the world proceeding according to its natural course.

Notice, however, that considerations (1) and (2) only apply to evident miracles, though (3) applies to all. Thus while God always has general reasons to refrain from miracles, those reasons are stronger when the miracles would be evident. Thus if the reasons God has against evident miracles--namely reasons (1), (2) and (3)--are sometimes overcome, we would expect the reason God has against non-evident miracles--namely reason (3) alone--to be overcome as well. (This is not a conclusive argument, because there are also special benefits to evident miracles, namely that God's message spreads.) Hence if there are evident miracles, we would expect that there would likely be hidden miracles as well. I am imagining here cases like this. Francis has early, undetectable cancer. But God has things for Francis to do, plus God doesn't want Francis to suffer, and so he miraculously stops the cancer before anybody knows about it. (Transsubstantiation is also an invisible miracle, but I am not counting it as hidden, since God has made it known that it occurs.)

Given (1)-(3), we could imagine God doing something like this in response to the misery of the world. First, he draws a rough limit nv on how many visible miracles can happen without seriously endangering (1), (2) and (3). That number might be relatively small. Second, he draws a rough limit nh on how many hidden miracles can happen without seriously endangering (3). That number is likely to be much larger. So now we have two questions very relevant to the problem of evil:

  1. Do we have reason to think there are fewer than about nv visible miracles?
  2. Do we have reason to think there are fewer than about nh hidden miracles?
There is significant evidence of visible miracles. Not in great numbers, but it is plausible that if the number was significantly higher, then (1) and/or (2) would be endangered. So the answer to (4) is negative. And I think the answer to (5) may be negative as well. For of course we don't know how many hidden miracles there are! We can't do controlled experiments to see how many people and animals develop cancer in the absence of God. Of course, this isn't an answer to the problem of evil. But it's a step in that direction.

(Some people wouldn't count hidden miracles as "miracles", because miracles must be wondrous--they must speak of God and his ways. That's just a terminological point as far as this post is concerned.)


Mark Rogers said...

Number 3. Seems to indicate that there is a rough total value to all miracles which we hope and believe that God affords us maximally. nv and nh seem to represent a fixed ratio between the two types of miracles as represented by your questions 4 and 5. However as God becomes more hidden the ratio between nv and nh could change such that there could be more occurrences of the nv type, fewer of the nh type and 1. and 2. would not be negatively impacted as the bulk of the people would not be persuaded that a miracle had occurred.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

There is another danger in miracles. That people follow the Lord because of the miracles He does, rather than because of Who He is. Should you experience a miracle, one of your greatest pitfalls that can result is pride. Another pitfall is misreading the miracle as confirming you stance instead of seeing it is a call to repentance.