Saturday, 21 January 2012

Three attitudes to miracles

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Personal miracles are sometimes common events for praying Christians.

I am talking here of public miracles, miracles of claimed general significance.

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There are three main attitudes.

1. They are all fake - all explicable by error, dishonesty or delusion.

2. They are rare, but some are real - and these are divine. If error, dishonesty and delusion can be ruled-out - using reasonable criteria - then public miracles are divine communications.

3. Of real miracles, most are demonic. Indeed public miracles are assumed to be demonic, except when there are grounds to consider otherwise.

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The third position is, I believe, correct - it is the one I have derived from Eastern Orthodoxy especially Fr Seraphim Rose.

The normal public debate is therefore mistaken and a false dichotomy: I mean the debate between people who believe something is a miracle and that therefore it is from God on one side, and those who disbelieve that this event was a miracle (either specifically this event not a miracle, or often because they believe miracles to be impossible as such).

This is a distinctive aspect of Eastern Orthodox mystical tradition - a lively recognition that supernatural experience is real but usually demonic.

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All other traditions (and individuals) seem, by comparison, dangerously credulous about mystical experience.

It is real, not-uncommon, but usually harmful.

The difficulty about mystical experience is not to have it, but to have it real and benign (ie. divine).

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(Demonic miracles would no doubt be performed in a different way, using different methods, than divine miracles - but the point is that they may be very difficult or impossible for humans to distinguish in terms of their observable effects.)

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My attitude is that miracles happen, I mean real public miracles, but that most of them are demonic in origin and designed to mislead, to harm souls. I would not usually argue the toss over whether something really was or was not a miracle, but assuming it really was a miracle, would argue about whether it was a divine miracle.

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