What is a Miracle?

Sorry to crowd the blogosphere today, but I happened across this brilliant passage while reading Schleiermacher and couldn’t resist the urge to post:

What is a miracle?  What we call miracle is everywhere else called sign, indication.  Our name, which means a wonder, refers purely to the mental condition of the observer.  It is only in so far appropriate that a sign, especially when it is nothing besides, must not be fitted to call attention to itself and to the power in it that gives it significance,  Every finite thing, however, is a sign of the Infinite, and so these various expressions declare the immediate relation of a phenomenon to the Infinite and the Whole.  But does that involve that every event should not have quite as immediate a relation to the finite and to nature?  Miracle is simply the religious name for event.  Every event, even the most natural as usual, becomes a miracle, as soon as the religious view of it can be the dominant.  To me all is miracle.  In your sense the inexplicable and strange alone is miracle, in mine it is no miracle.  The more religious you are, the more miracle you would see everywhere.  All disputing about single events, as to whether or not they are to be called miraculous, gives me a painful impression of the poverty and wretchedness of the religious sense of the combatants.  One party show it by protesting everywhere against miracle, whereby they manifest their wish not to see anything of immediate relationship to the Infinite and to the Deity.  The other party display the same poverty by laying stress on this and that.  A phenomenon for them must be marvellous before they will regard it as a miracle, whereby they simply announce that they are bad observers.

-Friedrich Schleiermacher

On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers (1799)


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