We haven’t made use of our time machine in Jesus’s case. So I ask you, is it possible that if we go far enough into the future, physicists will have figured out, maybe using the successor of string theory, or whatever, how ordinary H2O can transform into a suite of chemicals far too complicated to write out here? And could some new version of field theory show how a man may keep afloat on a storm-tossed sea?
I say maybe, a firm maybe. It cannot be no. Why’s that? Since we’re assuming the events happened, they had to have happened somehow. These were physical events. The water did become wine. Jesus didn’t sink. It follows that because they happened, they were possible, and that we just don’t know how they were possible. Given the way the universe (or multi-verse or whatever) is constructed, they were not impossible. To say something is impossible is to say that you have deduced—100% certainty, here, with no chance of error—that given some set of premises the event could never happen. We do not have these premises, therefore the events are possible; therefore, we might somebody discover the premises which show how they were possible (how they happened).
So even if you don’t accept arguendo the events happened and doubt them to any extent short of completely, it still is true that they were not impossible, that they might have happened. Even if we doubt their historical veracity, it’s still possible that someday we might figure out how events like these can happen. Assuming we do (figure them out), do the events, at that point, cease being miraculous?
Little Jimmy’s abrupt healing doesn’t feel especially miraculous if only because there are lots of stories of people coming back from the brink of death. We don’t know if prayer, and therefore intercession, was present in these cases, but it probably wasn’t always.
How often do we hear of enormous jugs of water turning to wine? Or of men walking on water? Or of other strange events? Not nearly as frequently—which is not to say, never; just ask Charles Fort.
We’re risking overlooking the second aspect of the miraculous, the intercession, the correlation (I use this word in its plain English sense) or juxtaposition of the curious event with the supplication. There was the water, there was a directive by Jesus, and then there was wine. So that even if we knew how this feat was accomplished (some form of nuclear transformation) we still have to contend with the evidence that the event was asked for (by and of God).
Did God cause the event to happen? That is, did God step into the normally operating secondary causes (God must be the primary or first cause of everything; see this) and invoke whatever causal mechanisms are necessary for the event?
Unless you have a direct conversation with God in which He tells you He did the deed, the only evidence you have for this question is the prayer and the deed. Excepting these rare cases (I’m assuming readers share no direct heavenly communication about the miracles under discussion), there is no way to know with certainty either way if an event is miraculous except by faith.
From this it follows there is no proof that the event is not miraculous other than belief unadulterated by evidence. Actually, it’s worse than that. Claiming the event mundane means rejecting the positive evidence, no matter how scant, of the conjunction of the prayer and the event. Rejecting miracles is thus terribly dogmatic and, given that it involves rejecting empirical evidence, unscientific.
But then the prayer-event conjunction alone is not proof of the miraculous. You need additional premises that apply to the this event to deduce that. Faith is thus necessary for belief in the miracle’s ultimate cause, just like it is for the skeptic. The conjunction is more shocking (to all) without the understanding how physically the event happened, but whether we know the physics is not proof either way.
Now in any claimed miracle there exists all kinds of corroborating or disclamatory evidence—the particulars of the situation, motivation of the participants and witnesses, and such forth—which render the claim more or less probable, but unless there is incontrovertible proof of fraud or direction revelation, faith is still required. That is why Jimmy’s mom, and the committee who studied the event, believes; it is also why the skeptics who can be brought to think about the case disbelieve.
I wonder how disappointing this answer is.
Note: Books and books are written on this topic, so there is no chance of being complete in 1,400 words. I only want to demonstrate the necessity of faith.