Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/391

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MIRACLE


341


MIRACLE


natural, ami what is not natural does not happen. On belief in the uniformity of nature is based the profoiuid conviction of the organic unity of the uni- verse, a characteristic trait of nineteenth-century thought. It has dominated a certain school of lit- erature, and, with George Eliot, Hall Caine, and Thomas Hardy, the natural agencies of heredity, environment, and necessary law rule the world of human life. It is the basic principle in modern treatises on sociology. Its chief exponent is science- ljhiIoso|ihy, a continuation of the Deism of the eigh- teenth century without the idea of God, and the view herein presented, of an evolving universe working out its own destiny under the rigid sway of inherent natural laws, finds but a thin disguise in the Panthe- istic conception, so prevalent among non-Catholic the- ologians, of an immanent God, who is the active ground of the world-development according to natural law — i. e.. Monism of mind or will. This belief is the gulf between the old and the modern school of theol- ogy, according to Delitzsch (" Deep Gulf between the Old and the Modern Theology", 1S90; Principal Fair- bairn, " Stuilies in the Philos. of Hist, and Religion"). Max .Miiller finds the kernel of the modern conception of the world in the idea that " there is a law and order in everything, and that an unbroken chain of causes and effects holds the whole universe together" (" An- throp. Relig. ", pref., p. 10). Throughout the uni- verse there is a mechanism of nature and of human life, presenting a necessary chain, or sequence, of cause and effect, which is not, and cannot be, broken by an interference from without, as is assumed in the case of a miracle. This view is the ground of modern objections to Christianity, the source of modern scepticism, and the reason for a prevailing disposition among Christian thinkers to deny miracles a place in Christian evidences, and to base the proof for Chris- tianity on internal evidences alone.

Criticism. (1) This view ultimately rests upon the assumption that the material universe alone exists. It is refuted: (a) by proving that in man there is a spiritual soul totally distinct from organic and inor- ganic existence, and that this soul reveals an intel- lectual and moral order totally distinct from the physical order; (b) by inferring the existence of God from the phenomena of the intellectual, the moral, and the physical order. (2) This view is also based on an erroneous meaning of the term nature. Kant made a ilistinction between the noumenon and the plirnnwrniin of a thing; he denied that we can know the nnmiK nnii. i. e., the thing in itself; all we know is the iihriniiiii'ii'iii, i. e., the appearance of the thing. This distinction has profoundly influenced modern thought. As a Transcendental Idealist, Kant denied that we know the real phenomenon; to him only the ideal appearance is the object of the mind. Thus knowledge is a succession of ideal appearances, and a miracle would be an interruption of that succession. Others, i. e., the Sense-School (Hume, Mill, Bain, Spencer, and others), teach that, while we cannot know the substance or essences of things, we can and do grasp the real phenomena. To them the world is a phenomenal world and is a pure coexistence and suc- cession of phenomena; the antecedent determines the consequent. In this view a miracle would be an un- explained break in the (so-called) invariable law of sequence, on which law llill based his Logic. Now we reply that the real meaning of the word nature in- cludes both the phenomenon and the noumenon. We have the idea of substance with an objective content. In reality the progress of science consists in the obser- vation of, and experimentation upon, things with a view to find out their properties or potencies, which in turn enable us to know the physical essences of the various substances. (3) Through the erroneous con- ception of nature, the principle of causality is con- founded with the law of the uniformity of nature.


But they are absolutely different things. The former is a primary conviction which has its source in our in- ner consciousness. The latter is an induction based upon a long and careful observation of facts: it is not a self-evident truth, nor is it a universal and necessary principle, as Mill himself has shown (Logic, IV, xxi). In fact uniformity of nature is the result of the princi- ple of causation.

(4) The main contention, that the uniformity of nature rules miracles out of consideration, because they would imply a break in the uniformity and a violation of natural law, is not true. The laws of nature are the observed modes or processes in which natural forces act. These forces are the properties or poten- cies of the essences of natural things. Our experience of causation is not the experience of a mere sequence but of a sequence due to the necessary operation of essences viewed as principles or sources of action. Now essences are necessarily what they are and un- changeable; therefore their properties, or potencies, or forces, under given circumstances, act in the same way. On this, Scholastic philosophy bases the truth that nature is uniform in its action, yet holds that constancy of succession is not an absolute law, for the succession is only constant so long as the nou- menal relations remain the same. Thus Scholastic philosophy, in defending miracles, accepts the uni- versal reign of law in this sense, and its teaching is in absolute accord with the methods actually pursued by modern science in scientific investigations. Hence it teaches the order of nature and the reign of law, and openly declares that, if there were no order, there would be no miracle. It is significant that the Bible appeals constantly to the reign of law in nature, while it attests the actual occurrence of miracles. Now human will, in acting on material forces, interferes with the regular sequences, but does not paralyze the natural forces or destroy their innate tendency to act in a imiform manner. Thus a boy, by throwing a stone into the air, does not disarrange the order of nature or do away with the law of gravity. A new force only is brought in and counteracts the tendencies of the natural forces, just as the natural forces interact and counteract among themselves, as is shown in the well-known truths of the parallelogram of forces and the distinction between kinetic and potential energy. The analogy from man's act to God's act is complete as far as concerns a break in the uniformity of nature or a violation of its laws. The extent of the power ex- erted does not affect the point at issue. Hence physical nature is presented as a system of physical causes pro- ducing tmiform results, and yet permits the interposi- tion of personal agency without affecting its stability.

(5) The truth of this position is so manifest that Mill admits Hume's argument against miracles to be valid only on the supposition that God does not exist, for, he says, " a miracle is a new effect supposed to be produced by the introduction of a new cause ... of the adequacy of that cause, if present, there can be no doubt" (Logic, III,xxv). Hence, admitting the exist- ence of Gotl, Hume's "uniform .sequence" docs not hold as an objection to miracles. Huxley also denies that physicists withhold belief in miracles because miracles are in violation of natural laws, and he rejects the whole of this line of argument ("Some Controverted questions", 209; "Life of Hume", 1.32), and holds that a miracle is a question of evidence pure and simple. Hence the objection to miracles on the ground of their antecedent improbability has been abandoned . " The Biblical World" (Oct., 1908) .says "The old rigid .sys- tem of ' Laws of Nature ' is being broken up by modern science. There are many events which scientists recognize to be inexplicable by any known law. But this inability to furnish a scientific explanation is no reason for denying the existence of any event, if it is adequately attested. Thas the old o priori argument against miracles is gon&r"- Thas in modern thought