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Discovery Magazine 5/1/2010

Are Miracles Scientifically Impossible?

You have probably heard stories about miracles. In fact, if you have ever studied the life of Jesus, you know that He performed many miracles. What is a miracle? A miracle is something that is supernatural. The word “supernatural” means something that is “above” or “beyond” nature. For example, according to the law of gravity, it is impossible for a person to walk on water. When Jesus did that, He performed a miracle.

It is important to know that a miracle is something supernatural. Some people misunderstand miracles, and they call amazing, natural occurrences miracles. For instance, sometimes people are cured of terminal cancer when there is only a very small chance that they will survive. Their body naturally defeats the cancer, and no supernatural miracle occurs. Even though their survival is wonderful, and amazing, it is not a miracle. At other times, some events happen at coincidental times that people call miracles. For instance, a plane may crash in the middle of nowhere, but a medical doctor who can help the survivors may happen to be camping right by the spot where it crashed. Even though it is an amazing coincidence, it is not a miracle, since nothing supernatural happened to bring the doctor to the spot or to stop the plane from crashing. Miracles are limited to events that go beyond natural laws.

Because miracles are supernatural, some scientists say that miracles are impossible in our natural world. They claim that science deals with the material world—those things we can touch, see, taste, hear, and smell. They reason that the Universe is a natural place made up of matter and energy. Since the material world is all that exists, according to these people, there cannot be anything supernatural, or beyond nature. They believe nature is all there is. The problem with this thinking is simply that it is wrong. There is more to the world than matter and energy. God is the eternal Spirit Who created the world. He is not made of matter and energy. Since there is a God, it makes perfect sense that He would sometimes cause miracles to happen in order to communicate with humans to prove to them that He exists and cares about them.

Another idea about miracles is that God created the Universe, but that His activities stopped at Creation. Some people, called deists, believe that God would not “break” the natural laws that He established at Creation. They believe He set the world in motion, and then left it to itself, much like winding up a clock and letting it run. The problem with this idea is that it does not take into account the fact that natural laws do not apply to God, since He is an eternal Spirit. The laws of nature cannot be “broken.” For instance, the First Law of Thermodynamics states that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed in nature. The two words “in nature” must be included for the statement of the law to be worded correctly. Nothing in nature—man, beast, or matter—can break this law. No scientists, regardless of how smart they are, will ever be able to create matter or energy—the law is impossible to break. However, since God is not part of nature, the law does not apply to Him.

To illustrate, think of the Universe as a room. God created the natural laws that apply to everything in the room, and then He closed the door. It is impossible for matter or energy to be created or destroyed in that room. But now suppose that God opens the door and puts another chair in the room or takes a chair out of the room. Did God break the law He established in the room? No, because everything in the room (the Universe) still functions according to the natural laws. But since God is outside of the room, the laws do not apply to Him.

Miracles are only impossible in a world with no God. But since we know that there is a God, we can understand that miracles are possible. In fact, since God is outside of nature, we can see that He has used miracles to communicate with humans, and to show them that the material world is not all that exists. Since real “science” means following the evidence wherever it leads, then all honest, open-minded scientists should conclude that miracles are possible in a world created by a supernatural God. 

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*Please keep in mind that Discovery articles are written for 3rd-6th graders.

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