OCR guidelines – miracles

Religious Studies H572: Philosophy of Religion G581



Suggested teaching time: 12 hours

Topic outline:

  1. Introduction/Different definitions of miracle
  2. The concept of miracle and criticisms made by Hume
  3. The biblical concept of miracle and issues this raises about God’s activity in the world
  4. The concept of miracle and criticism made by Wiles
  5. The implications of the concept of miracle for the problem of evil
  6. Whether modern people can be expected to believe in miracles

Suggested teaching and homework activities:

  1. Stimulus: various case studies of miracles as reported in books, newspapers, the internet. Discuss which stories, if true, could be classed as miracles. Students attempt to suggest definitions. – Present the classic definitions of miracles as violation or as having significance. Which is better?
  2. Review some of the cases presented previously – what arguments are there to suggest that the events shouldn’t be believed? – Explore Hume’s arguments against miracles. Write a couple of paragraphs explaining his views. Is he being fair?
  3. Read Joshua 10 where God miraculously intervenes to help Israel defeat the Amorites. What issues are raised? – Students write structured notes on how the Bible presents miracles, and the theological significance of them for Christians.
  4. Follow on from previous activity. Present Wiles’ criticism of miracles. – Is this a more devastating criticism than that of Hume? What responses can be made?
  5. What links are there between miracles and the problem of evil?
  6. Students make notes on one or two religious thinkers who defend miracles. Comment on whether they think the arguments are valid. – Prepare for debate. – Class debate: “It is foolish to believe in miracles in this scientific age.”

Suggested resources:

  1. Bank of case studies possibly presented as a PowerPoint. – Philosophy of Religion for A Level (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate)
  2. Philosophy of Religion for A Level (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate) – Beginner’s Guide to Ideas (Raeper & Smith) – Enquiry concerning human understanding (David Hume) – The text is also reproduced in Philosophy: Basic Readings (Warburton) and in The Question of God (Palmer)
  3. Foundations for the Study of Religion (Libby Ahluwalia)
  4. Philosophy of Religion (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate)
  5. Questions About God (Clarke) – Philosophy of Religion (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate) – ‘The Question of God’ (Palmer)


  1. Use of RF Holland’s story of the boy on the train track may prove helpful as an example of a “miracle” where no natural law is broken but an event is seen as a miracle. – Gareth Moore’s definition of miracle (an event which no one did) or others may be considered.
  2. Consider the response to Hume’s position on natural laws by looking at the ideas of Hick, Davies and/or Swinburne.
  3. Any biblical miracle(s) may be explored. – Students should consider to what extent believers are required to believe in literal miracles.
  4. Swinburne, Pollkinhorne, Pannenburg or CS Lewis may be explored.







Past Questions

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