Explores a classic “philosophy of religion” paradox regarding the qualities of God. Examines whether a beneficent God would (or could) allow miracles. Argues that the existence of a miracle would prove that God is not all-good, since one miracle would involve ignoring pleas from equally deserving supplicants.
Recently the Catholic Church named Mother Teresa a saint. She met all the Church’s criteria for sainthood, including having performed several miracles. How could anyone find that appalling? Aside from whether she was a good person (there are strong arguments that she was not, but instead denied pain killers to people because she thought “suffering was Christ-like”!), there is an argument that any miracle proves that God is not good!
He was a “born-again Christian” happily driving along the free why on a hot day, when his car suddenly stopped. As a man of faith, he pulled to the side of the road, jumped out of the car, knelt in the dirt on the shoulder, and prayed. Ten minutes later he got back in his car – and it started right up! “A miracle” he proclaimed to his atheist sister, “this is proof that God exists and answers prayers!” His sister asked “How many children died during that ten minutes? How many women were raped? How many people got terminal diagnoses? What was wrong with their prayers, that it was better for God to play auto-mechanic for you than to save them?”
The attributes of God that form the basis of a philosophy of religion paradox are:
If God hates the evil but cannot stop it – He is not all powerful. If God is all powerful but doesn’t interfere, then God is not all-good. One attempt to answer this paradox relies on the argument that we mere mortals cannot understand the Mind of God – that what we see as evil is not really evil. So after we open all the jails (where evil people are punished) we can eliminate all laws, and trust that God will not allow evil!
If we object to eliminating laws and letting criminals run free, then we really don’t believe that God, in His Omniscience, sees evil more clearly as some ultimate good. This paradox led many idealists to Eastern religions, where the concept of Karma seemed to restore virtue – people suffer evil because of past-life decisions and actions! Of course, the concept of punishing and tormenting an infant because of something they must have done in another body, in another time and place, that they cannot remember – also appears evil!
What is a miracle? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a miracle is “An extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency”. So this says a miracle is always good and that it breaks natural and scientific laws. Miracles certainly demonstrate that God is all-powerful – He can suspend the laws of nature and science in order to make someone happy!
But what does a miracle say about God’s goodness? Here, we enter the rabbit’s hole of circular definitions! The Oxford dictionary defines goodness as “The quality of being morally good or virtuous.” And virtuous is “conforming to moral and ethical principles; morally excellent; upright.” Ethical means “pertaining to or dealing with morals or the principles of morality; pertaining to right and wrong in conduct, or 2) being in accordance with the rules or standards for right conduct or practice.”
How can a good God choose who deserves to have the laws of Nature broken? Does that mean that everyone else praying for a miracle is unworthy? Or is God choosing at random, ignoring the value of the person praying? Does such a random choice “conform to rules of right conduct”? Every time God breaks the rules to save one person, He is ignoring millions of innocents who are diligently praying for relief. Saying God performs (or allows) miracles is a claim that God is not good, but instead uses no criteria in selecting who gets the benefits of miracles, that miracles are simply gratuitous and certainly unwarranted. And again, such a random God is no longer all -good.
If God is all-good, there can be no miracles. (Still no explanation for why evil exists, unfortunately!)
Tess Pender is an ordained Interfaith Minister, active in 12-step programs for over thirty years. Her spiritual practice began with Native American Sweat Lodges, and continued with a series of Vision Quests. She led a Teen Spiritual Education Program, and regularly teaches classes on accessing intuition. She practices Earth-Centered Spirituality. She can be reached on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Rev-Tess-Interfaith-Minister-1333335763419...