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Off Topic: “Faith & Healing: Where’s the Evidence?”


Here’s something I wrote for the Baptist Press about faith healer Todd Bentley. Unlike Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, James Randi, and the skeptical community in general, I don’t throw out all miraculous healings. Indeed, I think they are far more prevalent than we ordinarily imagine. At the same time, we need to guard against wishful thinking.

[A] Prayer is effective and community prayer is more effective still. Sometimes, legitimate men of God can, during a public service, mobilize community prayer in a special way. The problem is, of course, that many try to make a living out of it. That is why there are more bad ones than good ones. [B] On the medical front, I would not place all my bets on traditionally trained doctors for a problem such as this. Alternative medicine is a good bet, provided one steers clear of new-age formulations, which are spiritually problematic and medically untested. On the other hand, there is something to be said for putting things in the body that should be there and taking things out of the body that should not be there. StephenB
It was an open italics tag. I closed it in the first line of #54. Open tags apparently propogate across posts. There might be clues here for the blockquote problem as well. Apologies for inserting such a geeky discussion into the middle of this thread. But at least we are no longer in Italy. Tom MH
Try this. Tom MH
Jesus cured a leper and told him not to tell anyone (Matt 8:4) Jesus cured a deaf person and told him not to tell anyone (Mark 7:36) Jesus raised a girl from the dead and told her parents not to tell anyone (Luke 8:56) There's a pattern here. What Todd Bentley is doing is not healing, it's Priestcraft: "preaching false doctrines...for the sake of riches and honor." (Alma 1:16 (Book of Mormon)) Healings by the power of God do occur. I have personal experience of one, which I do not share publicly. ps why is everything in this thread after 43 being italicized? dacook
The Internet is replete with the breathtaking vulgarity of self-appointed guardians of the faith who are savaging Mr. Bentley, and I will not wish them Godspeed. However in this writing Mr. Dembski appears to characterize the integrity and intent of any number of his fellow believers working at the event - not just my friend Todd - in a manner that suggested he was simply not believing the best about them. I was just appealing for some grace, that's all. dancurant
"To be blunt, anyone who is taking $ for performing miracles, not to mention seeking fame from the endeavour, is not on God’s errand. Both of those aspects are diametrically opposed to the example of the Son’s ministry." Also, it would seem a given that Mr. Dembski did some further research on Bentley and found some interesting unbiblical ideas emanating from this "prophet." Such as his unbiblical idea that he visited with a female angel - angels don't have genders to my knowledge, but all angels mentioned in scripture have male names. I also viewed several YouTube videos of Bentley "healing" people where he kicked them in the ribs and caused pain, and where he talks of one session where he kicked an old woman in the forehead, stating to her that this is the way she was going to be healed. With tactics like that, perhaps it is fortunate for Mr. Dembski that he did not make it to the stage. CannuckianYankee
Dear Dr. Dembski, It is indeed painful to experience a betrayal of spiritual trust. the lesson for the children on hypocracy, greed and deception is a useful one. It need not touch their faith, it is simply important to be aware if the need for wisdom and discernment. I would not give up on either faith healing, nor alternative medicine. Autism is not a genetic defect so far as I know. I do think excessive number of vaccinations is a strong suspect, and if it were me I would keep looking for a natural solution, detox, but perhaps you already have. avocationist
Dancurant wrote: "Or any of many explanations other than the ones you appear to have assumed." Perhaps, as a sheer logical possibility, but not likely. To be blunt, anyone who is taking $ for performing miracles, not to mention seeking fame from the endeavour, is not on God's errand. Both of those aspects are diametrically opposed to the example of the Son's ministry. Eric Anderson
I actually find the story of your visit to the Todd Bentley meeting somewhat cynical. You make judgements that appear to read minds - How do you know it was all about power, money, and prestige? Sometimes at these meetings the leader feels led to focus on certain classes of infirmities - maybe this was the case when you visited and maybe not, but how do you know? Maybe they planned to stay late to pray for others such as your son but were advised late in the evening that they did not have the authorization. Or any of many explanations other than the ones you appear to have assumed. Most of what you observed could have been construed in a more gracious light. I am of course grieved that your son and everyone else's son was not healed, and as a father I can empathize. And I encourage you to choose to continue to push the Lord on this thing. But to be honest and objective means to allow that what you extrapolated from what you observed could not have been much harsher in its characterization of the intent of the people involved. dancurant
Tristan @33 Thanks. I was reading the comments and hoping there was someone here who had actually read and remembered all of what it was C.S. Lewis was trying to say. Important distinction there between "miracles of the old creation" and "miracles of the new creation". Jack Golightly
I greatly appreciated your article Dr. Dembski. I had a daughter with brain cancer. She was barely 2 years old when it was discovered. Within a week of it's being positively diagnosed, she was prononced without hope. They gave her 3 months at most. The neurosurgeons and nurses in the operating room, when they did a biopsy, wept when they saw how far the medulo glastoma had spread in her little head. She lived 6. As a Christian, believing in divine healing, I, like you, could not just give up and watch her be tortured to death by that most heinous ill. I asked many churches to pray. I took her to 'healing meetings'. Several pastors and priests come to my home and pray. Some from hundreds of miles away, without asking a cent and of their own desire. Friends prayed. One church in British Columbia actually fasted for her. But on september 2, 1991, I watched her precious life leave her little beaten body - she was blind, paralysed and her hands twisted up over her wrists. I saw the light go out of her eyes. Before, every morning when she awoke she would sing me Happy Birthday - until she lost her voice. She used to put her own tiny hands on her head and say, "Go away cancer". She was the most servile, loving daughter you could ask for. Quiet and obediant with her beautiful blond hair and simple but subtle sense of wry humour. Yes at 2! Do I still believe in healing? Yes. Do I still believe in a loving God? Yes. Was it hard? Extremely. And often still is 17 years later. It took me 2 months to stop my vehement anger at God, the world, doctors, life... I wanted to die myself the pain was so bad. What helped bring me around out of total frustrated agony was when I asked God to help me. What he showed me was WWI and WWII. He showed me that thousands of good, believing families had sons and daughters, fathers and mothers killed in the most violent ways. Did they not pray too? Were they not in true faith? Could they not claim the same promises as all others who actually did receive healing claimed? Why did they die? I saw how selfish I was. Where were my complaints when other children were dying in hospitals and war fields all around the world? I realised that I understood nothing of God's ways. I realized I understood that only he knew all circumstances and all hearts and all ends. An old Christian woman wrote me after Rachel Ann's death. She said, "God's will holds sway over his promises". The old saints had it right. I then saw, while at some friends dinner, their little 2 year old, fall and hurt her knees on the stairs. Immediately came to mind the standard question, "Why did God allow that?" In that context, suddenly the whole question became foolish to me. Our adult versions of the question are no better. We live in torn and fallen world where death takes us all in the end and suffering is possible because free will exists and rebellion is the norm. I don't understand it all, but now, I don't have to. I still ask questions, but I no longer demand 'logical' answers. I just trust him no matter what. And I have no regrets about it. As Lewis so wisely said, "Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself." – The Problem of Pain Through all this I was discovering the God of Job. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him" Now I am far better equipped to aid counsel and comfort others in situations of deep suffering and disappontment with God. A book that really helped me was Dr. Diane Komp's 'Windows to heaven' - how children see life in death. I heartily recommend it to all suffering parents of suffering children. ---------------- One more thing - I cannot condone some of the above comments calling Bentely a demonic leader etc.. Do those that say such know him personally? I doubt it. 2nd hand information and ignorance of the heart are always dangerous and lead to bad judgment. Bentley's just barely over 30 and has only been involved with Christianity for a relatively short time, thus he may simply be mistaken and misled himself by others on many things. Being mistaken, even sadly mistaken, does not make one demonic or evil. Borne
"What do we tell our children? I'm still working on that one." That every genuine good thing has an evil counterfeit. Christ has an anti-Christ. Real scientists that seek what is true through open inquiry have the pretending propogandist that simply wants power and control. Good men and women in medicine have their quack doctors conjuring up unnecessary medicines and procedures. Some prey on greed, others prey on valid needs and suffering. In fact, the counterfeit strengthens the case that the real exists, rather than calls it into doubt. Counterfeit money only has power because the real exists. Quack medicines only sell because real medicine has the power to help people. False prayer and healing only exists because of the power of real prayer and healing. I attended a healing prayer class full of sincere individuals, led buy a volunteer who earned nothing. The leader was motivated because he believes God healed him from alcoholism by taking him back to a vision of a lineage of alcoholism in Ireland, and then released him from its' grip. I asked him if he thought the vision to actually be real, and I got just the answer I was looking for. He told me he had no idea whether the vision was literally true, or just symbolic, but it worked just the same!! Many in the class experienced healing. In most cases the healings were gradual. It did not make the nightly news, but it sure made a difference in their lives. Healings and miracles are commonplace in the developing world. But our elitists avoid the reality of it, it is much to threatening to deal with. I have spoken to far too many people who have visited overseas to doubt its widespread existence. I am currently reading a book about Smith Wigglesworth, one of the greats in early Pentecostalism (late 1800s, early 1900s) (by Stanley Howard Frodsham). The quantity of healings is staggering, if it be true. Ekstasis
Rick Pearcey editorializes: Dembski Questions Famed Healing Ministry By Rick Pearcey, Monday, July 14, 2008
William A. Dembski of Intelligent Design fame questions the healing ministry of Todd Bentley down in Lakeland, Fla. Such questioning is legitimate, Biblical, humane, and necessary. Humaness, worldview, and discipleship are cut from the single cloth of truth. We await a reply to Demski's question: "Faith and Healing -- Where's the Evidence?" Meanwhile, one way to test the validity of an organization is to examine its methods. Not just the PR methods evidenced on websites with glossy pictures, wondrous bios, and a Herculean list of accomplishments and books, columns, etc., "by" the latest version of "renegade-turned-modern-day-St. Paul." No, sadly, not the methods on display for public view, but the ones kept "in the basement," as it were. That's where, so often, in the dark, the real work is done. In this regard, and in liberating contrast, the Lord's work is meant to be done the Lord's way, across the board, and with application to the nuts and bolts of organizations put forward as "Christian ministries. . . . . "Test everything," says the real Apostle Paul (1 Thess. 5:21). "Testing everything" is key to embracing love and avoiding the cruelty and ugliness of a truncated Christianity and inhumane "ministry." One more thing: If this isn't fixed, it matters little who wins the election. Politics follows culture. Methods matter. It's a warning and a promise."
See full article: Dembski Questions Famed Healing Ministry DLH
Contentment - Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kw37X2snzyY bornagain77
What a poignant, distressing story. One has to admire the sincerity and humility it took to tell this story, and the positive faith it shows. It goes to show that just as charlatans come in the name of science, so also they come in the name of God. And God permits it—perhaps, in part, so as to drive us to seek all the harder the genuine and learn to reject the false. We face falsity everywhere, in politics, in science, in religion. And this is as true in the institutional church as out among the mavericks. It has ever been so. There was a great lesson in this regard in yesterday’s Torah reading which involves Balaam, a supposed spokesman for God. His problem was greed. He couldn’t curse Israel—God put blessings in his mouth. So he reasoned, “If I can seduce Israel to sin then God will curse them.” It reminds me of the aftermath of World War II. The forces of evil did not defeat us militarily, so they seduced us to sin in the Sixties. The prophets and Jesus himself confronted the priests and religionists in their day and very often in a highly critical and confrontational manner. Were the messiah to come to us today I’m sure many a priest and minister and rabbi would cringe. Would they not kill him again? Or have we changed? One is reminded of the atheist’s dream in Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karam. Jesus returned and was imprisoned and a priest came and asked, “You remember when Satan offered you all the kingdoms of the world? Well, when you left we accepted.” And so it says (1John 4:1), “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” It doesn’t say a few. It says many But how do you explain all this to seven year olds? All I can think of is, keep up the good work. And keep the faith! Rude
What do we tell our children? Start with the thing about wolves in sheep's clothing. tribune7
Dr. Dembski, My heart hurts for you. Having grown up in a church and tradition much like Bentley's, I know the show well. I'm sorry that you had to witness it firsthand, though I am sure that you did have a true learning experience. I have personally experienced the healing power of God, not from the touch of a special minister, but from the earnest prayers of my friends and family--all the most normal, yet wonderful, of people. You are in my thoughts and prayers. -Joel thelonliestmonk
As everyone knows, Theresa of Avila was cannonized as a saint by the Catholic Church. It is reported that she was moving her order from one place to another. During the move she and her Sisters had to cross a river, stepping on one rock at a time. Everyone crossed without incident. St. Theresa, however, lost her footing and fell into the river. Frustrated, she asked Our Lord out loud, "Why me?!" Our Lord responded, "This is the way I treat all my friends." To which she responded, "If this is the way you treat your friends, then it is no wonder you have so few." StephenB
The best movie/commentary I ever watched about miracles was "Leap of Faith" with Steve Martin. If anyone ever starts watching it, just realize that the whole movie is just a setup for the last 10 minutes. Dr. Dembski - Just to let you know - I've been in a similar situation, so I'm thinking about you and praying for you and your little one. We lost a child to a genetic condition several years ago, which ravaged him while he was alive. I'll believe with you for a miracle, whether that comes from science, the supernatural, or both. johnnyb
You may, or may not, find this following video helpful Dr. Dembski http://www.godtube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=bb01bb304bea052c63dd bornagain77
I, like Mats @ 35, was also blest to read your account sir, troubling as it was for you and your family. Perhaps, though, as much as we get to the point of being troubled, the closer we come to the heart of God. ???? ?? ?????? ?? YHWH is close to the broken hearted. One of Christ's greatest miracles, the raising of Lazarus, found him troubled in spirit, to the point that "Jesus wept." The times I've been broken the most deeply are the times that I've seen God's personal interest in me most clearly. (Would that I were broken much more often!!) Best wishes. benkeshet
No matter what people say, Bill, I think you have shown great humility and great faith. I usually am skeptical of healers who don't take too much time on God's Word and, as I think you said, don't link the miracles to the Message. Supernatural events happen in all religions, but what is important is the message behind the miracle. But anyway, thanks for posting this, Bill. It was a blessing to me. God bless Mats
ICEpowered.com Todd Bentley is leading the largest demonic movement in North America that I've seen in years. Using a perverted form of Christianity, India religions and New Age beliefs he's been sweeping over Florida, getting thousands of people to be 'empowered by the fire' and donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to his "ministry". What's worse is he's specifically targeting the ICE demographic. He purposely tailors his clothing, wearing black shirt, baggy jeans, tattoos and piercings, he prefers grunge to Gucci. His message is aimed to the youth, appealing to the disenfranchisement we often feel with today's church. This hits close to home in even more ways. Lakeland is the center of Bentley's activities in Florida, an area close to Patrick. In fact, the Church of Patrick's own brother, Michael, is apparently being ensnared by Bentley's enticing words, from the leadership on down to Michael's own friends. Lastly, Bentley's home is in BC, here in Canada. This snake is slithering in my backyard. The enemy is getting more and more prevalent in North America as humanitarian spiritualism and it's ilk is becoming the more prevalent belief of many. Further down the road we'll start to see the demonic activity that we see in other European and African countries come home and the culling of believers happen. Fortunately, some churches and Christians have been catching on. Tons of websites and videos are being posted on the net warning believers and churches not to let this false prophet in. Unfortunately, much of the damage has already been done and we need to pray for God to heal people damaged by this movement of the enemy. Insane and unbelievable as his stories and movement is, there's thousands and thousands of people being mislead by this false prophet. Summary: +) Todd was abducted by 'angels' through a ‘portal pillar of fire’, locked down to a operating table, cut open with a buzz saw and stuffed full of white boxes containing ‘wisdom’ and ‘knowledge’ because God said "He didn't have time to prep a vessel". +) Todd was visited by two 'angels', one named Emma, who is eerily similar to the Japanese principality Emma-O "Lord of the Underworld". The other ‘angel’, not named, said it was bringing the "Winds of Change", this ‘angel’ is said to have relation to William Branham's ministry--a heretic and a false prophet who claimed he was the reincarnated Elijah and denied the Trinity. +) Todd says that God said that "the church already knows about Jesus, but they need to know The Angel", when asked about this Todd said that it's the ‘angel’ bringing the "Winds of Change". +) During Todd's 'empowerment' and 'anointing' of people his voice changes; darkening considerably, hissing, growling - classic demonic possession traits. +) When these people are 'anointed' or they get close to Todd they start to convulse and shake uncontrollably. I've seen people touched by the Holy Spirit for 8 years and I've never seen them act the way they do in the videos. It's very similar to the shaking demons do when Jesus casts them out (Mark 1:21-28 = Luke 4:31-37). People look like they're being smacked around, their faces filled not with peace but a mark of confusion. +) In the later stages of his "ministry" Todd seems to be focusing more on the youth, especially the 'hard to reach' punk/metal/goth youth. He shaves his head, gets arms full of tattoos and constantly wears black. He preaches that "if only I was clean shaved and better looking more people would listen to me" - classic youth entrapment statements. Pray that our youth won’t get sucked in. +) His MySpace (http://www.myspace.com/tdbentley) shows thousands of comments made by thousands of youths, adults and leaders saying that they've "brought the fire" back to their churches and the 'angels' have been empowering the church and it's people. He’s also been targeting many of the youth oriented music bands. Pray that these ‘on the edge’ bands in the Christian metal scene--those who preach where most don’t won’t to go--get sucked in. Pray for Todd, pray for those who believe in him and what he’s teaching. Pray that God will clean up his life and fix him up. Be on the lookout for more articles on this topic. Also see an article on Signs and Miracles: article Cool stuff. Patrick
If I can remember correctly when CS Lewis was drawing the parallel between Miracles of Jesus and what God upholds everyday in nature he had first classified them and was only talking about miracles that did in fact do this. In fact, I have finally managed to find the spot where he talks about it :-) He said the miracles of Jesus could be classified in two ways. The first way gave different classes of miracles such as healing, fertility, perfecting, reversals. The second way cut across the first and was broken into miracles of the "old" creation and the "new" creation. It was miracles of the old creation he saw as "the Divine Man focusing for us what the God of Nature has already done, on a larger scale." The first example he classifies as a miracle of the New Creation (ie not focusing what God already does in nature on a larger scale), was the miracle of walking on water. On an interesting note, he seemed to have placed miracles of "Healing" in the Old Creation section, suggesting that the idea of cancer healing vs genetic changing was well within the scope of the quote. In contrast, things like the resurrection and the class of miracles of "Reversals" fall into the category of the New Creation. However, I am thinking now, while specific miraculous healing might be focusing/reflecting the fact that it is God who heals on a grander scale in nature (and thus be confined to what does actually happen in nature), couldn't there exist restoration of our bodies reminding us that it is God who will finally bring us all into restoration? Tristan
The other day, when we were talking about the Catholic Eucharist, I stumbled upon this YouTube video about a priest with cancer. He seems to have been healed ... but not of his cancer. He also had a problem with his blood platelet level which prevented him from undergoing normal cancer treatment. A "healing minister" from his church (who I which had been interviewed) suggested that the next time the priest said mass, he should pay for healing. So at the consecration of the Precious Blood, the priest asked simply, "Jesus, I need a transfusion of your blood." I wonder if it is significant that he did not ask for a cure of his cancer, but simply for a cure of his blood platelet problem -- so that he could undergo cancer treatment? During his next visit to the hospital, when they analyzed his blood, the doctor came back and said "you have perfect blood!". As nullasalus says:
I think it is a fundamental mistake to say “God did not heal X, medicine did”
Interesting posts all. It got me thinking about the difference between divine creation and divine intervention. In some sense, we can say that all events in life are miraculous because of divine creation. But an event that is outside of the "Natural law" (as someone here stated} is divine intervention. Clearly scripture differentiates between the two. "In the beginning God...." is the real catalyst for all events, creative and intervening. It really clarifies for me when Jesus talks about the faith of a mustard seed and the faith to move mountains. That God created everything implies that God can intervene in anything. I read a recent article in Evolution News and Views over at Discovery.org, arguing for faith as the basis for finding cures for many cancers. The article used St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital as an example. St. Jude's (can anyone remember who the founder was, I can't remember - famous entertainer) - anyway, St. Jude's was started as an answer to fervent prayer. As such, St. Jude's provided a framework for cancer research, which resulted in some breakthroughs. Is this then a miracle, or is it merely the result of scientific research alone? Also, does a nation's lack of or diminishing involvement in prayer lead to economic and social deterioration? Is the miraculous involved in sustaining the social and economic stability of nations? The mind boggles. CannuckianYankee
Actually, I want to amend one thing I said. "In fact, we ourselves are explicitly called on to do God’s work - not by doing miracles, but by helping others, setting up hospitals, searching for cures." I'm not so certain that 'miracles' are things that people don't do. The whole philosophical/theological debate on miracles seems delicate to me, and very often abused by critics. From my perspective, the line between miracle (as in a work of God) and natural efforts of good (trying to heal the sick, feed the hungry, employing science towards these ends, etc) is blurry to say the least. Either way, thanks for the great post, Dr Dembski. nullasalus
It really annoys the living hell out of me during occasional times when people throw a false dilemma into discussions like this. Either something can be naturally explained, so it's not miraculous or... Something seems like so big a miracle there's no way the laws of physics would even allow it. So therefore it didn't happen. Sure sounds like that argument from ignorance we're always accused of committing. Since we're bringing up religion, here's something interesting: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4210369.stm I guess this is what happens when you keep asking questions. Turns out the shroud might not be the medieval fraud people first claimed it was. F2XL
Excellent points, nullasalus. A wealthy society benefiting from a surplus in medical advances and capabilities can certainly be seen as an extension of God's grace. Apollos
I think it is a fundamental mistake to say "God did not heal X, medicine did" or even "God did not heal X, nature taking its course did" - even in instances where the medicine was used and worked, or the natural course was predicted by human knowledge and came to pass. Pigeonholing God's will exclusively into events where we don't know what specific mechanism was at work introduces a false dichotomy between God's will and God's creation. I also think it's a mistake for any person to pray for an out and out no-explanation, law-defying appearance of miracle. Is that what a person with cancer truly wants - and is that the only way God interacts with this world? If they undergo a treatment for cancer and it's successful, can they (heck, should they) turn around and say 'Well, looks like I didn't need God after all'? Is it only God's will when we're confused about mechanism? It reminds me of the old joke about the woman praying during a flood. Her neighbors offer to give her a ride to safety, and she refuses because she's sure God will save her. The flood level rises, and some people in a boat come by and offer to give her a rise to safety. Again she declines, because she's sure God will save her. Finally she's on the roof of her house and a helicopter flies by, offering to lift her to safety. She refuses, confident God will save her. Well, she drowns. And when she sees God she asks Him 'Why didn't you save me?' He responds, "What are you talking about? I sent you a car, a boat, and a helicopter." Humor aside, I think the story introduces an important point. God's will is not exclusively "events for which we have no other natural explanation", and the Judeo-Christian God has never been a God who only relies on such. In fact, we ourselves are explicitly called on to do God's work - not by doing miracles, but by helping others, setting up hospitals, searching for cures. This isn't to say we should rule out appeals to the unknown or unexpected when we're desperate. But we should know what we're asking for, and know how God can respond - and know how, ultimately, our will is and should be submissive to God's, and what that entails. (Just how I see things, mind you. Please don't take this as lecturing to anyone here.) nullasalus
Dr. Dembski, I am sure that you keep up with all of the latest potential treatments for autism. However, in case this one fell through the cracks, here's an interesting link: http://www.glutensolutions.com/autism.htm It seems that some autistic children, and especially those who do not show autism right from birth, are benefited by a gluten and casien free diet. If you haven't already, I'm sure its worth a try. bFast
----Atom: "So CS Lewis fails in that idea. It’s ok, he had lots of other good ideas…no philosopher is 100% correct all the time." Yes, he got that one wrong. Clearly, God alters nature throughout salvation history. Of course, one can deny the historicity of the bible or challenge the eyewitness testimony, but the facts are there for anyone who wants to know about it. Also, anyone can deny the obvious and simply say that the laws of nature are not violated when Christ walks through a wall, or walks on water, or changes water into wine, or multiplies loaves of fish, or restores broken bodies. But those events are miracles and they do defy physical laws. It really surprises me that anyone would try to contest that. I suppose I could extend the list, but I am not sure it would do any good. StephenB
WmAD: What do we tell our children? I'm still working on that one. From my last post, you may notice that I have been asking the same question for quite a long time. For one, "if anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask of God". That will be my prayer for you tonight, Bill. Wisdom to know how to analyze the situation, wisdom to know what to say. I really feel your ache. In my own personal journey, I would also draw on something that CS Lewis said in Miracles. I don't have the direct quote, but was fascinated when he said we did a dis-service to our children when we focus on the prayer of the loaves and fishes, and not the prayer of Gethsemene. Jesus' prayer in the garden was to do God's will. Jesus also worked where the Father was working, and "not on my own". In other words, somehow Jesus knew where God was at work, and did not try to insert himself somewhere else. So, I think God allows the natural law to play out. And, our response should be "God, how do you want me to pray for X". Jesus didn't pray for dead people who stayed dead, or sick people who stayed sick. Thats because he knew that they would be healed. His connection with the Father gave him an a priori understanding of what God was already doing. So, I want to continually ask God: "what do you want me to pray". All the best to you... TomRiddle
I was saddened to hear about the passing of Tony Snow today. He was my favorite radio/news personality. He will be missed. But, it also got me thinking about this whole topic, and whether God actually does heal in our present day. Tony had liver cancer. In 2008, if you have liver cancer, you die. End of story. I was so sad to hear that he had liver cancer last year because I knew in 2006/7, that was a death sentance. Now, in 1950, if you got ovarian cancer, you died. However, in 2008, if you have ovarian cancer, there is a good chance you will survive - in fact, it pretty much follows a normal probability, assuming that you get the correct treatment. What does that mean? Well, it means that cancer gets cured by medicine. Pray all you want in 1950, and if you had ovarian cancer, its a death sentance. Similarly for liver cancer in 2008. But, in 2008, if you have ovarian cancer and pray, you may live. What caused the person to live? Was it the prayer? I have a hard time believing this, given the historical evidence. I've had friends see ovarian cancer go into remission - I'm thrilled about that!!! I want, very dearly, to say that God healed my friend. But, based on the historical evidence, I feel that is inserting God in after the fact. If I jump off a very tall building, I die. The point of this is that God has established natural laws that he does not seem to intervene in. These natural laws are necessary to make us accountable to God. If I put a gun to your head, pulled the trigger, and prayed "please God, let the bullet miss", God would hold me accountable for your death, no matter how much I protested that I prayed that the bullet will miss. I desparately want to see evidence of healing. But, I don't see the evidence. I do see radically changed lives. So, God seems to move in people. I just don't see him breaking in to nature. Now, that being said, I think it is worthwhile to look at people like Abraham, Moses, Joseph, and even Paul. We read a short book of the Bible, and feel like this is happening all the time. But, in reality, Abraham was over 120 years old. And he had what, maybe 3 or 4 miraculous events. Thats around one every 40 years. How about Timothy, James, or Barnabus. I'm not sure they saw too much - at least based on what was recorded. So, I think for us it may be similar - in your whole lifetime, perhaps it would not be surprising that you only experienced one or two truly miraculous events. The rest is just an attempt to faithfully follow God and His principles laid out in the Scripture. TomRiddle
tragicmishap, Thanks for the quote. I still disagree, for all of the OT examples I brought up (are G-d's miracles somehow different now?), as well as StephenB's walking on water example...there are laws of bouyancy that Yeshua violated. Physical Law loses all meaning if it simply means "What is logically possible." Sure, small insects can walk on water; their weight to surface area permits it. Human feet do not. If the normal laws had their course, Yeshua would have sank...as Peter did. So CS Lewis fails in that idea. It's ok, he had lots of other good ideas...no philosopher is 100% correct all the time. Atom
My wife had already had surgeries to remove cancers when they found it had spread to her lymphatic system. After one visit to a local faith healing couple (who also happen to be relatives), the cancer disappeared immediately and she's been clean and clear for 18 years now. A friend of mine had his severely cut, bleeding head faith healed on the spot at a revival in Ft. Worth in such a dramatic fashion that they reported it (although that was about 70 years ago) in the Star Telegram. I've seen many, many miraculous events in my life. William J. Murray
"It is therefore inaccurate to define a miracle as something that breaks the laws of Nature. It doesn't. If I knock out my pipe I alter the position of a great many atoms: in the long run, and to an infinitesimal degree, of all the atoms there are. Nature digests or assimilates this event with perfect ease and harmonises it in a twinkling with all other events. It is one more bit of raw material for the laws to aply to, and they apply. I have simply thrown one event into the general cataract of events and it finds itself at home there and conforms to all other events. If God annihilates or creates or deflects a unit of matter He has created a new situation at that point. Immediately all Nature domiciles this new situation, makes it at home in her realm, adapts all other events to it. It finds itself conforming to the laws. If God creates a miraculous spermatozoon in the body of a virgin, it does not proceed to break any laws. The laws at once take it over. Nature is ready. Pregnancy follows, according to all the normal laws, and nine months later a child is born. We see every day that physical nature is not in the least incommoded by the daily inrush of events from biological nature or from psychological nature. If events ever come from beyond Nature altogether, she will be no more incommoded by them. Be sure she will rush to the point where she is invaded, as the defensive forces rush to a cut in our finger, and there hasten to accomodate the newcomer. The moment it enters her realm it obeys all her laws. Miraculous wine will intoxicate, miraculous conception will lead to pregnancy, inspired books will suffer all the ordinary processes of textual corruption, miraculous bread will be digested. The divine art of miracle is not an art of suspending the pattern to which events conform but of feeding new events into that pattern. It does not violate the law's proviso, 'If A, then B': it says, 'But this time instead of A, A2,' and Nature, speaking through all her laws, replies 'Then B2' and naturalises the immigrant, as she well knows how. She is an accomplished hostess. A miracle is emphatically not an event without cause or without results. Its cause is the activity of God: its results follow according to Natural law." C.S. Lewis, Miracles tragicmishap
Weather suddenly calms. There are animals capable of walking on water. Neither of these things would go against natural law. tragicmishap
Care to relate any stories from personal experience? tragicmishap
----Atom: "Interesting thesis, but axeheads floating, dead bodies being raised, fires not consuming a bush, water drenched sacrifices still catching fire, water turning to blood…I can go on…those are somehow affirming natural processes?" I completely agree. How about getting up from a sleep and calming a storm at will? How about walking on water? It seems that sometimes God chooses to work with nature and at other times he chooses to alter its course. It is the latter case that I would define as a miracle, and it does happen. StephenB
And again, this is not "magic wand" healing and it never depends on one person purported to be a "healer". There is no ceremony where a man supposedly endowed with the gift of healing touches you and you are instantaneously healed. It happens over a long period of time and a lot of prayer from a lot of people. Again, I am just relating what I have seen and heard. tragicmishap
The wife of the worship leader at my parent's church has had cancer for years now. Multiple times she's been told by doctors she had six months to live. I've actually lost count how many times we've heard that from the church newsletter. One story in particular stands out. One time this man and his wife traveled halfway across the country to enroll in an experimental treatment for her cancer. This is the type of experimental treatment where they only accept terminal cases with no other hope for survival. Her doctors had told her this was the only hope for her to survive. They asked the church for prayer as they went, and I have no doubt that the entire church was praying for them before, during and after that trip. When they returned the worship leader had good news and bad news. The bad news was his wife was rejected for the treatment. The good news was the reason. Upon examination, the researchers found no evidence of cancer in her body. Thus she was not eligible for the program. There is no doubt in my mind that God healed her because of the prayers of the church. And this brings up another point about so-called "faith healing". In the instances I have known of miraculous healings, no one involved ever brings up "faith" as an issue. No one ever says, "If you have faith you will absolutely be healed. If you are not healed, that means you don't have enough faith." Prayer, rather than faith, is emphasized. It is a supplication. You ask God for a gift of health that can be granted or denied but the result is never an indictment upon anyone's faith or lack thereof. And I must also emphasize that the instances I have known were never taken to the media and advertised. In fact, no one even thought to do that. It's the kind of thing you kind of smile at and thank God for, but honestly not me nor anyone I have known ever even mentioned, "Hey, we should get a reporter to do a story on this!" It just sounds ridiculous to me even saying that. But bottom line: Bill you asked, "Where's the evidence?" I have seen evidence of God healing people with cancer and other sicknesses of that sort. I have never seen nor heard of God healing a genetic defect. That's the evidence I have seen. tragicmishap
A few have the gift of healing, many more pretend to have it but don't. The only way to test a ministry is to test it. I would have done exactly the same thing under the circumstances. There will be other ministries and other opportunities. StephenB
I believe Lewis was only speaking of Jesus' miracles. He meant to say that Jesus was established as affirming and being Lord over nature and every miracle he did reflected him being in line with God's will rather than against it. Resurrection is something that will happen to everyone, so resurrection is also in line with God's will. As for the rest of your examples, they are OT and I don't think Lewis intended to address them with his argument. But it's been awhile since I read it. I may be missing something. tragicmishap
C.S. Lewis’ argument in his book “Miracles” can be applied here. His thesis was that even when God performed miracles, they were only miracles that reaffirmed the natural laws that God created, rather than went against them.
Interesting thesis, but axeheads floating, dead bodies being raised, fires not consuming a bush, water drenched sacrifices still catching fire, water turning to blood...I can go on...those are somehow affirming natural processes? I think CS overthought that one and came to a false conclusion... Also, being born blind...genetic defect? Atom
Points well taken. Perhaps I can give my two cents on this issue. My father is a Christian doctor and believes in the power of prayer to heal. Unexplained and unexpected cancer remissions are the primary example of this. I do believe that prayer has probably worked in many of these cases, but it's not something that can be proven nor have I ever seen it advertised on the 6 o'clock news. However, I have never heard a story from him or anyone of God healing a genetic defect. I have two possible explanations for this, if I can even venture a guess as to the motivations of Almighty God. 1) At this point in history, God will not allow any miraculous healings to be "claimed" by an individual. If you look at the mileage Jesus got out of miraculous healings, it is easy to see why. God will not allow anyone else to gain even a hint of Jesus' authority or have an even a marginal case at being a reincarnation of Jesus as many have claimed. If a miraculous healing could be proven to have occurred, as would be the case for the sudden disappearance of a genetic defect, somebody somewhere would claim they did it. God cannot allow that. I would go so far as to say that if you hear about a miraculous healing via the media, it is probably bogus for this very reason. Real faith healing is something you hear whispered about in the Christian underground, so to speak, and it never focuses on one individual. In all cases it has been a large group of Christians consistently and fervently praying for a specific person and a specific illness. 2) C.S. Lewis' argument in his book "Miracles" can be applied here. His thesis was that even when God performed miracles, they were only miracles that reaffirmed the natural laws that God created, rather than went against them. Multiplying bread is a natural process. Wheat produces seed from which can be made both bread and more wheat. Fish produce more fish. At the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus only sped up a process that God had already declared "good". In the case of genetic defects, genetic entropy is a natural law which God has insituted as part of the curse after the Fall. To reverse a genetic defect would be to go against a law that God has made. However, cancer can and often does go into remission due to the body's own healing mechanisms. It would not go against God's will to help the body heal. After all cancer is simply mutant cells growing faster than they should. The body has many mechanisms in place to deal with foreign objects within it, such as the immune system and apoptosis. But to suddenly and miraculously change all of the DNA in a body has no correlation in natural law. That could explain why God doesn't heal genetic defects, but does heal cancer. tragicmishap
tragicmishap: (1) I had limited information about Bentley's ministry going into it; (2) Some people I respect urged me to attend; (3) I have little respect for conventionalism (I wouldn't be in ID if I did), and Bentley is certainly unconventional; (4) I see how frequently the media misrepresents me so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt; (5) God, I find, often flouts our sensibilities (was Jesus the type of the Messiah to set well with the Pharisees sensibilities?). So I'm not sure what I expected. Rather I expected it to become clear what I might expect. P.S. Your statement about love being blind is false. Read 1Cor13. It says that love believes all things, which I interpret to mean that love always gives the benefit of the doubt -- the passage also says that love rejoices not in iniquity but in truth. I saw something of the truth of Bentley's ministry once I attended the meeting, a truth I was not able to see until then. William Dembski
It surprises me that someone of Bill's intellectual caliber even entertained the possibility of this being something other than a blatant scam. But I guess love is blind. tragicmishap
tragicmishap, I think Mr. Dembski's points were 1) not to prejudge who God will work through and when, and 2) to let us in on a very real, first-person Todd Bentley experience. I appreciate the service, and would like to say I'm in prayer this very moment for the healing of his child, acknowledging that he must be a real blessing to the family. More on Todd Bentley. Apollos
I mean no disrespect and I have never been in your situation of parenting a child with a disability, but when I read that article my jaw dropped. Again, please forgive me for being insensitive, but did you actually believe that God would have healed your son through Todd Bentley? Do you believe it now? tragicmishap
I saw Tod Bentley some years ago when he was relatively unknown. I believe in healing, too, and have seen some verified cases. However, I can't say that I was impressed with Bentley's ministry, or any of the "big top" healers. Jesus connected his miracles with his message; in essence, they were one and the same. If the message is off, what does that say? I am always suspect when hype takes the place of either the Gospel or of evidence. Alden
And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.II Peter 2:3 It is very sick and sad that there are people who prey upon people's last hope to find healing after every conceivable means has failed. These curs know that when it comes to a loved one most people will pull out the last penny if it means healing can be obtained. It is even shown in the bible: And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any...Luke 8:43 It takes a very low, heartless, unscrupulous monster to take advantage of people the way these fake healers do. Like pluribus says, why don't they ever go into a hospital? I guess those in the hospital don't have enough faith to come out and get healed. That would be the fake healer's reasoning I suppose. I guess the next ante in the pot will be pet healers who go around ridding your pets of fleas and healing feline leukemia and if it don't work you just didn't put enough money in the pot showing your lack of faith. beancan5000
A little off topic here, but I read the linked article that pluripus posted: "Mr. Grassley's five-page letter to Mr. Hinn asks, among other things, for details about a residence at 35 Ritz Cove in Dana Point, Calif." My parents live in Dana Point, only a few blocks from Ritz Cove. One cannot live in Ritz Cove and not be a multi millionaire. Most of the homes are ocean front properties in excess of 4-5 million. CannuckianYankee
Wonderful, and sad, very sad, essay. I believe these charlatans have done more to set back the cause of Christ than just about anything in modern society. These foxes in sheeps clothing are being investigated just now and may they all go to prison. If they are tied into the power of God then they will be out shortly. Furthermore why don't they stop by my hospital and clean it out and shut it down. Why not! http://www.wfaa.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/politics/national/stories/110707dnmetfinances.1e4809a1b.html pluribus
Perhaps, Mr. Dembki, and I mean no disrespect, that God does not intend to heal in all situations. I work among developmentally disabled people - some mentally retarded, some autistic. I sense an expression of God's love when working with these people. While they do not have intellectual gifts, they have a special gift for displaying how God cares for us. Perhaps this is why God places them among us. I was moved by your story. CannuckianYankee
Maybe this has been done to death, but the success of AA is not missed by those in Psychiatry/-ology. I guess we could argue whether the "Higher Power" exists at all, but there is no doubt the AA gets results. Maybe it's a isolated case, but the last three indexes I did were for books on addiction; written by someone credentialed (and teaching) in that field, that held the door WAY open for spirituality in the healing process -- even warning against the materialist tendencies of traditional Psychology, that tended to flatten symptoms into simplistic "chemical" categories. wnelson

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