The following discussion of miracles is excerpted from my book Faith Lacking Understanding:
“We often speak loosely of miracles: I call it a miracle that my team made the playoffs or that your old jalopy is still running. However, the formal definition of miracle concerns God’s action in the world and encompasses such biblical events as the Red Sea parting, an ax head that floats in water, and people emerging unscathed from a roaring furnace. What is more, most Christians believe that miracles, though very rare, may yet occur today. Consider for instance, the case of seven year old Victoria Roberts. Back in January 2005 Victoria’s parents received the devastating diagnosis that she had contracted aplastic anemia, a rare and potentially fatal disease. A year and a half later and after more than forty transfusions and emergency medical procedures, she was preparing to go into surgery for a bone marrow transplant–her last hope of survival. Victoria would have to undergo a battery of further tests, chemotherapy, and have two teeth removed, and even then survival was not guaranteed. And then, the day before the scheduled procedure, Victoria’s oncologist called the child’s parents into her office. While they came in expecting the worst, after they sat down the doctor informed them that new tests showed Victoria’s bone marrow had inexplicably returned to normal and she was no longer showing any sign of aplastic anemia. Although the doctor may have viewed the recovery as a medical anomaly, to Victoria’s devoutly Christian parents it was nothing less than a divine answer to prayer. As Victoria’s mother Jacqueline observed, ‘We know that God does miracles and we have had many people praying for us and there is power in prayer.'” Faith Lacking Understanding (Paternoster, 2008), 43-44.
Was Victoria’s remission a miracle? (Remember, I haven’t defined miracle at this point.) Victoria’s parents are certainly justified in believing this. Based on the evidence I too believe this.
Not surprisingly, others will demur. The standard skeptical response is predictable. In my experience skeptics raise two objections to such cases. To begin with there is the ignorance of the natural processes/pathways of the body. Second, there is the presence of other instances of evil (i.e. lack of healing). However, note that these criteria serve as sweeping defeaters. No matter what the evidence for a miracle one can always claim that we do not understand enough about natural processes/pathways. Even a resurrection could be explained away like this. Likewise one can always point to all the people not healed (or resurrected). Isn’t there something wrong when your defeaters cut off in principle the possibility of concluding to the presence of divine action?