Miracles & the Burden of Proving Them or showing them to be very convincing

A miracle is a magical event. For example, if a stone turns into bread then that is a miracle. Religion pretends that miracles are done by God as evidence of his presence and love and are not magic.  But that is a distinction without a real difference.  A witch doing miracles as evidence of her love is still a witch.

The expression burden of proof leads believers to say we want too much evidence or 100% proof.  We do not.  We don't want literal proof and should not want it.  We should want enough.  Hard evidence is not the same as proof but it is better than anything else.  By burden of proof we do not mean strict proof.
We all see that people die and stay dead. For those who disagree to say that Jesus didn’t stay dead, the burden of proof therefore is on them. It is up to them to prove the resurrection of Jesus. They answer that the burden of proof is on those who deny the resurrection to disprove the resurrection! It is not. It can’t be on both sides. If one and one is usually two and somebody says there is an exception then the burden of proof is on that person. Using miracles as signs is fundamentally sectarian and unfair.

Because of the burden of proof they have to prove every miracle of Jesus and every other one they say happened individually.

A miracle is seen as exception. Thus the burden of proof is on the person asserting the exception happened.

It is not a simple matter of showing the resurrection of Jesus happened. Because of the burden of proof they have to prove every miracle of Jesus and every other one they say happened individually. That is because if those stories are tricky or worthy of scepticism so is the resurrection.  Not every miracle of Jesus can be proven believable or proven taken on its own so clearly Jesus violated the rule and didn’t understand it so we can consider his miracles to be superstitious legendary nonsense. To say that a reported miracle by Jesus or anybody else may have happened or was possible is simply to say we should be gullible. Nobody teaches that one must verify miracles to oneself for it is such hard work and there are so many miracles reported. But as impractical as it might be it is still correct.

To assert anything is to assert that its opposite is false.  We get this.  
If you assert that a miracle has happened then the burden of proof is on you no matter who else has proved it to themselves. To say, “I saw the Blessed Virgin in an apparition,” is just as serious as somebody saying, “My friend saw the Blessed Virgin in an apparition.” One is just as outrageous as the other. So the burden of proof is on the first to prove that he really sees the Virgin and separately on the second to prove that he or she is right to hold that the friend saw the Virgin. It is bigotry to believe in a miracle claim made by another without proving it to yourself. It is not enough for the Church to prove it – you have to see the complete evidence and examine it for yourself. You stand alone in considering claims like that. If God wants us to believe in miracles then he must want us to go through all this! It is ridiculous to think that he does. A better belief is that miracles are mistakes or frauds and God had nothing to do with them.

The person who invites us to believe in a miracle and does not give us proof or adequate evidence is cheating us. Christianity tries to raise children as believers. It is cheating.

The person who says they got a revelation from God that the world is to end next week and the person seeing the Blessed Virgin and getting a harmless message to repent from her, demand the same level of evidence. Why?  Doesn’t the first person have a more important message than the second? Yes the content is more serious but that is not the point. The method by which both messages came is equal in that it is supernatural. The two messages equally need to be proved reliable and supernatural because they claim to be supernatural. The point is not the importance of the messages but the medium of the message – that is, how the message was given. The content of the messages can have no importance at all unless the supernatural nature of the message can be proven and the supernatural can be proven reliable. Think of it this way, we can’t listen to the world end message or the other one just because of what it says. The supernatural has to be proven to exist and be reliable before we can heed such a message.

Therefore small miracles need to be treated as scientifically or sceptically as big ones.

Another reason for this is that a small miracle can make two people think they met a resurrected religious personage. If it is an altered memory or an implanted memory that is nothing compared to the personage really appearing.  A small miracle can replicate a big one that way.
If we say it is unlikely for a man to rise from the dead the believers are forced to answer that we don’t know what is unlikely or not. This answer shows the immorality and wickedness of declaring miracles to have happened or possible. Why? If we believe that people can come back from the dead and are in Sweden how do we know that it isn’t possible or unlikely for all the dead in Australia to rise this moment? How do we know that Annie's chemotherapy might not put energy into her that draws her down to Hell forever? Those are the hideous consequences of believing in miracles. Miracles urge people to deny the uniformity of life never mind nature. That alone puts the the burden of proof on the believers. And the burden doesn’t get lighter with “small” miracles. Why? Because if we can’t say the dead are dead because of our respect for miracles then how can we say that people need to study if God miraculously inspires a schoolboy or schoolgirl regarding the correct answer to a small question in an examination paper?

Lessons from Jesus' miracles

If you say x is true then you have to show why it is true. The burden to verify it as plausible or true rests with you. Jesus told the Jews that if they could not believe in him then to believe in the supernatural divine origin of his miracles. Thus he was saying the miracles asked for faith in themselves as acts of God.  This does not fit the doctrine that Jesus alone as the way and truth and life shows us what God is like meaning it is better to spend an hour with him than see a lifetime of miracles.  He's trying to make out the Jews are guilty of bad faith and denying undeniable miracles. 

 If a miracle asks for faith in itself, and some do, then the miracle has to be sure it happens in a way that provides evidence.

Witnesses who are reliable must make up the audience. So whether it is you and/or the miracle the burden rests on, one burden is to show that the miracle event has been relayed by a good source.

Additionally there is a burden to show that the event is a miracle.

Additionally you must show that the miracle has a message that speaks over the message of any miracle claims that may undermine it or its message. And beware that a miracle can seem certain when it is not - or when it is not a miracle at all - and as luck will have it there is no way to know.

The gospels or even Jesus do not even give any of that a thought,  That is telling.
A very heavy burden of proof rests on those who assert that miracles happen. However asserts miracles without being able to personally vouch for their plausibility and authenticity is a cheat.

Further Reading ~
A Christian Faith for Today, W Montgomery Watt, Routledge, London, 2002
Answers to Tough Questions, Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Scripture Press, Bucks, 1980
Apparitions, Healings and Weeping Madonnas, Lisa J Schwebel, Paulist Press, New York, 2004
A Summary of Christian Doctrine, Louis Berkhof, The Banner of Truth Trust, London, 1971
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Veritas, Dublin, 1995
Catholicism and Fundamentalism, Karl Keating, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1988
Enchiridion Symbolorum Et Definitionum, Heinrich Joseph Denzinger, Edited by A Schonmetzer, Barcelona, 1963
Looking for a Miracle, Joe Nickell, Prometheus Books, New York, 1993
Miracles, Rev Ronald A Knox, Catholic Truth Society, London, 1937
Miracles in Dispute, Ernst and Marie-Luise Keller, SCM Press Ltd, London, 1969
Lourdes, Antonio Bernardo, A. Doucet Publications, Lourdes, 1987
Medjugorje, David Baldwin, Catholic Truth Society, London, 2002
Miraculous Divine Healing, Connie W Adams, Guardian of Truth Publications, KY, undated
New Catholic Encyclopaedia, The Catholic University of America and the McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc, Washington, District of Columbia, 1967
Philosophy of Religion for A Level, Anne Jordan, Neil Lockyer and Edwin Tate, Nelson Throne Ltd, Cheltenham, 2004
Raised From the Dead, Father Albert J Hebert SM, TAN, Illinois 1986
Science and the Paranormal, Edited by George O Abell and Barry Singer, Junction Books, London, 1981
The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan, Headline, London, 1997
The Book of Miracles, Stuart Gordon, Headline, London, 1996
The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000
The Encyclopaedia of Unbelief Volume 1, Gordon Stein, Editor, Prometheus Books, New York, 1985
The Hidden Power, Brian Inglis, Jonathan Cape, London, 1986
The Sceptical Occultist, Terry White, Century, London, 1994
The Stigmata and Modern Science, Rev Charles Carty, TAN, Illinois, 1974
Twenty Questions About Medjugorje, Kevin Orlin Johnson, Ph.D. Pangaeus Press, Dallas, 1999
Why People Believe Weird Things, Michael Shermer, Freeman, New York, 1997

The Problem of Competing Claims by Richard Carrier

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