Newman on Miracles

Written by Adam Buick. Published for The Skeptic online on 22nd September 2010.

When the Pope visits Britain this year he will “beatify” Cardinal Newman who died in 1890. Beatification, which requires one miracle, is a step towards “canonisation” (becoming a “saint”) which requires two.

John Henry Newman was born in 1801 and became an Anglican clergyman in 1825, but in 1845 he converted to Roman Catholicism and eventually rose to become a Cardinal. He wrote two essays on miracles, one in 1826 (when he was still a Protestant), the other in 1843 (when he was well on the way to becoming a Roman Catholic). The full text of both can be found at

The first essay expressed the orthodox Anglican/Protestant view on miracles: that the only true miracles are those described in the Bible (and that they are to be accepted as really having happened only because the Bible is the revealed word of God). This position implies that all miracles claimed outside the Bible and any since the first century of the Christian era - as by pagans, the Catholic Church and the Koran - are not miracles and that natural, non-miraculous explanations for them can be found.

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