9.27.2005

Thoughts On Miraculous Healing

This will undoubtedly be a controversial post with some of my readers, but as I always say to legitimate, healthy and intelligent controversy, "Bring it on!" I apologize in advance if I offend anybody by my presentation of my opinion; my opinion itself, of course, is no more than that and shouldn't offend anybody, whatever it is.

I've had many conversations with my friends who are of the charismatic persuasion about miraculous healing, and we agree on many things but also have some important differences. I have, of course, no scruples about praying for healing. God, being the sovereign, omnipotent God that He is, can do all things within His holy perfect will, and this sometimes includes miraculous healing. Even in the conservative Presbyterian churches I grew up in (and attend now), we pray for miraculous healing that baffles doctors, as well as for God to use the doctors to heal through natural medical means. The main problem that I have with charismatic-type prayers concerning healing is not that they ask for healing, but that they also claim it, usually "in Jesus' Name."

I address this topic here on my blog now because I found a perfect illustration of my point as I was driving home from church on Sunday. I was listening to the CD "Hymns Ancient and Modern" by Passion (a great CD; it comes with my highest recommendation). I was listening to track 5, "Father Let Me Dedicate," sung by Matt Redman, and these lyrics struck me: "Not from sorrow, pain or care / Freedom dare I claim / This alone shall be my prayer: Glorify Thy Name!" Sometimes God's will for us is not to spare us from sorrow or pain. As my mother said to me once: "God's highest purpose for our lives is not to make us happy, but to make us like Christ." And of course, we often experience the most and the deepest growth in our lives as a result of pain and sorrow. It is hardly necessary to state that as finite human beings, we cannot hope or ever presume to understand God's purpose in all of the circumstances He brings into our lives. Thus many of the sicknesses and pains that we experience may indeed be from natural or perhaps demonic causes, and are things which God wishes to display His power in and through by healing us; but others may not, and He may choose to use them in our lives to grow us, and to teach us. And it is not given to us to tell which is which. All that we can do is pray for His will to be done, and that He might be glorified in our lives no matter what happens to us. This is why I cannot in good conscience claim freedom from sorrow or pain or sickness, especially not in Christ's name, because I don't know if He wants to use the sorrow or pain or sickness to teach me (in which case I should not desire to be free from it anyway). All I can pray is: "Lord, if it is Your will, I ask that I might be healed from this; but let Your will be done, not mine, and glorify Yourself in my life."

"Let my glad heart, while it sings / Thee in all proclaim / And whate'er the future brings / Glorify Thy Name / Be glorified in me / Be glorified / Be glorified in me / Be glorified!"

19 comments:

Darth_Harbison said...

That was very interesting . . . as a less-educated fellow Presbyterian, I found it very informative.

I also found it rather helpful in regards to a specific situation . . . not one involving me personally (except as one trying to encourage the one involved), but . . . yeah. It was very cool.

Narisilme said...

AJ, man, do I miss you.
It helped to see this written out. I realized I have much the same view. Perhaps it's the Presbyterian background.
It, also, helped to hear in your words that you do ask for healing--it's not that you believe God is incapable or unwilling to heal.
But how do you respond to the passages (which I certainly need to go back and read) where the disciples told broken people to get up and walk, to be healed "in Jesus' name?"

drjharbison said...

AJ,
Good job in a short space and, from my perspective, not offensive at all.

Robert said...

AJ,
Very well done. I guess what would be more controversial would be discussing the topic of the cessation of the gift of healing.

I believe it is clear even within the time-frame of the New Testament itself that the gift of healing was a temporary gift for that period to establish the testimony of the Apostles.

It is sad to see so many Christians today claim that gift today and what goes on at TBN, Benny Hinn, and the like.

maTT said...

awww.... this is me clapping and saying, "huzzah for intelligent exploration of scripture!" Since we're not able to hang really and jam, it's good to "hear" you here. Welcome, bro

Idhrendur said...

Ah, whereas I (of course) am NOT a cessastionist. Though I would, for once, love to see (or hear) the actual support for the cessasionist view.

Setting that issue aside for the moment (esp since I have witnessed events that would be nothing but miraculous healings), I want to delve back into the issues AJ brought up. And yes, I'm aware we've discussed this before. I'm just hoping I can be more clear in my thoughts this time.

As far as the ending of suffering in general, I definately agree with you AJ. It's our job to persevere (and it's much better to persevere than to have our tribulations prematurely ended). And the scripture makes absolutely clear that God turns what is painful, harmful, and even evil to good.

However, Matthew 12:25-28 highlights an important principle. It of course, particularly pertains to demon possesion. But note how Jesus seperates the kingdom of Satan and the Kingdom of God. And note how types of activites are seperated into their appropriate kingdom. And note how with the issue of casting out the demons, he leaves no room for some people doing it through one kingdom and others doing it through the other kingdom. The act of driving out demons is particular to the Kingdom of God.

Now, here's where it gets extended a bit, and I agree with extending this to general principles. Note Matthew 7:17-18. Not a proof, but this seems to be a general principle of different kingdoms. Therefore, sickness is a work of Satan's kingdom, along with demonization, mental problems, spiritual bondage, etc. God cannot be the source of a sickness or bondage. Satan always is (in the end, I mean, we play our part in bringing these things to pass, and it's not like we each get Satan's personal attention).

Of course, this doesn't establish that God necessarily will heal any disease we pray for. Experience clearly shows that he doesn't (and of course, this is true for sinful behaviour too. Sometimes we will fight a sinful habit for the rest of our earthly lives, and not by any lack of prayer on our part). Shoot, this doesn't even prove God will miraculously heal ANY sickness. What it does do is paint a picture of how things stand. Satan's works vs. God's works. And the awesome way God will twist Satan's works to God's own ends.

Now, note all the times crowds came to Jesus. The gospels continually mention how Jesus took pity on them and healed EVERYONE WHO CAME. That's telling. It gets mroe telling when Jesus says (John 5:19) "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees the Father doing." This means that God the Father (who directs our steps) was all for healing the people.

I've heard it claimed that the point of these healings (and the ones in Acts) was merely a witness to who Christ was. To that, I have two responces. First (regarding cessasionism), do we need that any LESS today? As far as I can tell, we need that witness at least as much. Second, the gospels and Acts often mention healings as asides to whatever else was going. Not object lessons (though often used for teaching), but as ends in themselves.

So God has healed miraculously. And last I checked, God didn't himself change at the resurection of Christ, nor at Pentacost, nor at the death of the last of the apostles. We changed at some of those points, yes. But God healed miraculously before the birth of Christ, after the ascencion of Christ, after Pentacost, and unless you're willing to automatically reject a LOT of claims without examining them, still does today. It's his character.

Now, again I must mention God doesn't ALWAYS heal miraculously. That's pretty obvious. And a BIG topic. And I'm not willing to say it's always because of our own failures either (though those certainly play a big role). But as I've seen pointed out by several great men and women of God, you can expect more healings (or miracles in general) if you ASK for more. Plus, I think our habit of rely on "normal" means for the minor stuff, and only going to prayer when those fail sets us up for dissapointment. We must train in the ways of faith, it doesn't come in a snap. And remember, the prodigal son's older brother had the complaint of never getting anything out his father. But note that he never ASKED.

And again, I mention that I have myself witnessed multiple healing miracles. This isn't disreputable fourth-hand information. This is first hand reliable (well, I hope I'm reliable, otherwise I'm is a bad spot) information. That is something else that must be considered.

Think I wrote enough, or should I go for some more? ;-)

Darth_Harbison said...

If I may respond to Stephen . . . (and probably have my argument ripped to shreds if he responds to me):

Unless I misunderstood what you were saying, it seemed that you made two mistakes:

1) That AJ said that miraculous healing never takes place, and
2) That the war is between God and Satan.

Unless I misread the entry, AJ never said that miraculous healing never takes place, he never even said not to pray for it. He merely said that there are times when God chooses not to do it, and you made it clear that you agree with that statement. It seems that the primary difference in views between you and AJ is simply in the frequency of it happening, not in whether or not it does.

As for the second one, that is probably a bit less important in this specific situation, and may at first appear to be correct. However, I was taught that the war is not, in fact, between God and Satan. God created Satan, and is therefore far greater and more powerful than Satan. God is all-powerful, and this omnipotence is not limited by Satan. If He so desired, God could "snap his fingers," and Satan would go bye-bye.

Who, then, are the two sides of the war? Satan, certainly, remains the primary evil, so we must assume that he remains one side. The other side has to be someone or something (or a group of someones or somethings) opposed to Satan, obviously. If God is not that other side, then the other obvious choice is the church. The war is not between Satan and God, it is between Satan and God's people. A war between creatures, with the creator watching and intervening when necessary.

You mentioned yourself that God often twists Satan's evil works and uses them for good. To me, that is a clear indication that God is far more powerful than Satan, and not concerned with him in the least (as a threat to Him, I mean).

Or maybe I just missed your point entirely. Which I've been known to do.

Idhrendur said...

1. Quite correct, thank you for pointing it out. I guess I laid all that foundation unnecessarily. Though to make it clear, I believe that miraculous healings would happen quite frequently, if we were in the habit of seeking such things (as I understand, that's how it works with Bethel Church in Redding. They ask for a lot, and therefore recieve a lot).

2. Uh...yeah. Uh....hrm. Warning: this may be entirely tangetial (sp?). Okay, so we can agree that in a match of Satan vs. God, as far as power goes, there's no contest. Now, I believe that the war IS between Satan and God. But...God tends to work on Earth through delegation. It's a looong argument (and I'm unwilling to type it out right now). If you want to see it, check out chapter 2 of "Intercessory Prayer," by Dutch Sheets. Also, it all has to do with authority. No support vfor these views wil be given, they will merely be stated...

God created the Earth. Then he created humanity. To humanity, he gave authority and dominion over the Earth. God fully intended to acomplish will on Earth through us. Then Adam fell to sin. This gave all our authority to Satan. Note his words when tempting Jesus...authority was delivered unto him. Jesus won that authority back (one of the many things he did) through his death and resurection. Note his later words on possesing the keys to Heaven and Earth. Those represent authority. He then delegated it back to the church.

So, in the end, a war between God and Satan is waged by the church. Which is kinda like what you said, but different. Because God is more involved than the occasional intervention. He's our commander-in-chief, our armorer, and our strong tower. He's got the plan, and he gives us the tools to do the warring.

And there's a whole new tangent I could take, but I really need to get driving. So I'll wait on that.

Darth_Harbison said...

I probably should not continue this, because I have no doubt that you are far more informed on this subject than I, but I cannot resist.

You said that God fully intended to accomplish will (I assume you meant "His will") through man, but then man fell to sin. Does this mean, then, that something that God had not foreseen happened? That God was not in control of the situation? That he was sitting up in heaven, saw this happening, and went "Oh, crap . . ."?

I only want clarification so that we may continue this debate, which I know is good for me. Because it never hurts to be better prepared to defend one's beliefs.

Cormack McKinney said...

"Do not despise the Lord's discipline."
Yay for good discussions. :)
I agree pretty much with AJ on this... I often find it questionable when us humans "claim" certain things, and speak with authority we should at times suppress (sp?).
I understand what Stephen is saying as well, and I think that alot of it is actually agreed upon.
There's something that I'd like to point out, though, to Stephen. (And it's funny I just wrote a blog on my myspace, a portion of which has a little something to do with this kind of stuff.) You mentioned that Jesus healed all who came to Him. It's important to remember just that - that Jesus healed all who came. One thing that worries me about many charismatic churches is how they sometimes go out 'looking' for people to heal or prophecy over, etc. Jesus never went out looking for people to heal, but instead the people came to Him. If we are emptied completely of ourselves and filled purely with Christ then those who seek will be attracted to us. I believe that God sends people to us, so that (filled with his Holy Spirit) He can use us to accomplish His will. Jesus never searched for people to perform miraculous deeds, but instead He focused on His own mission (which was ultimately the cross) and also healed the people God sent to Him.
Often times people will feel an urge to do something, caused by the Holy Spirit. One of my professors once got an urge to command a bird (that had flown into a church building) to come over to him in the name of Jesus. The bird flew up and clung to his hand and would not let go. God spoke to him through this, but I won't get into that. Later, as he was tellign this story to a class of his, a bird flew into the class. They all stared at him smiling, and he knew what they were thinking of course. But he didn't do anything about it, and the point I'm trying to make is that although we now have authority, there are times when we should use it and times we shouldn't... And I don't think this is any different for healing or driving out demons - I think that there are times God wants us to do things and times He doesn't, and that sometimes people abuse gifts or are maybe even misled by other spirits because they choose to use the Holy Spirit's power from thier own will, and not neccessarily (sp?) because it's God's will. (I know probably both of you may disagree with me on this about "will".) But there's my input. :)

Rae said...

I ask myself, Why did I decide to read all of this at 2am? One thing I noticed that AJ didn't respond to after Stephen's first post: AJ's entire point was to ask for God's will, not to comand your own in the name of Jesus. It is true that we have disernment when we listen to the Holy Spirt and can be in tune to what God is trying to do... yet, are our hearts not wicked and therefore corrupt? Could then our own motives and desires also be corrupt? (even if the ultimate outcome is God's will, it should have the right motive) So we then should ASK for God's will when we feel him speaking through us, not COMMAND our perception of God's will.... I'm not going to touch the "free will" topic (started by the "oh crap..." comment) I am however interested in what Eleanor had to say... I'm so thankful to have a homegroup that I can talk these things over with! (I assume that Chris believes the same of healing and sickness that he does with weather: Weather weather, God weather and Demonic weather... ) BED TIME FOR RAE!!

Rae said...

wow... i claim 2am stupidity... change the "AJ responce" in my comment to "Mark responce" cause for some oddball reason i thought AJ when i read Mark's comments... this is going to be way to confusing ..::sigh::..

weird starwars harbison freaks... ahhh!

Rae said...

or matrix... starwars... ..::sobbing::..

Mike said...

Okay....it's time for me to jump into this. First thing is first, God's will is different than God's plan. In God's will, no one ever suffers, no one is ever sick or in pain. However, because of sin, we now have to deal with those things. God's PLAN is the things He does to bring us back to His will. A will is what you want, a plan is what you do. Almost ironically I've been raised as a Baptist, and I'm going to take the side that we do have the authority to claim God's promises to us (after all, He promised). Jesus told us that if we had faith like the mustard seed, we could move mountains! Peter was able to walk out onto the water. Mark 11:22-26 says, "'Have faith in God,' Jesus answered. 'I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, "Go, throw yourself into the sea," and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.'" Verse 24 is especially telling, "Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have recieved it, and it will be yours." Now the question to ask now would be, why does He sometimes NOT answer our prayers? I cannot answer that question. I am sure there is an element of His plan in it, but even at that, I know that God sometimes gives us things we ask for even if it's not a good idea for us to have them. I think the truest answer is found right in verse 22, "Have faith in God." Many of the people Jesus healed, He told them, "Your faith has made you whole." Remember also Jesus said that if a son asks his Father for a fish, he will not give him a serpent. One final story to remember is that when God was going to destroy the Israelites, Moses prayed and asked God not to destroy them, and He actually changed His mind! (Exodus 32. King James says God repented, NIV says relented, NASB says changed His mind, Amplified says turned, New Living says withdrew, ESV says relented, and so on). He changed His mind because of Moses's faithful prayer. Clearly, according to everything we know of miracles, the lack of them is caused by lack of faith, and lack of sincere prayer. God will move a mountain into the sea, I can walk on water, and He will heal me if I ask Him to, if I only have faith. How do I know? Jesus said so.

Cormack McKinney said...

That was excellent (sp?) Mike. I totally agree with that.
What I was trying to say in my other post is that although we have God-given authority and power, we should not always use it. (We can see the same truth when we look at Christ; although He had authority and power, He did not always use it.)

Idhrendur said...

Wow, AJ, look what you've started!

Okay, I looked over what AJ wrote, and I think I remember the point I was originally heading towards. There seems implicit in AJ's words the assumption that typically, things will go on the normal earthly, and that God occasionally intervenes. I was driving towards the point that Jesus' healing of people reflects that God in geneal wants to heal, and that thing "going on as normal" should be the exception.

Now, as far as his specific point about claiming a healing, I somewhat agree. In general, we should not be so presumptuous. We should ask with the knowledge that God delights in healing, that God is supernatural, and thus will "naturally" act in supernatural ways, etc. But sometimes, God makes it clear to us that he's going to do something (as when a word of knowledge is given at a conference, and someonethere does have that specifc problem (or at times, somewone with that name, that problem, those specific details about their life is sitting in that specific place)), then claiming the healing is a good thing. But we should act in a proportionate way to the amount of knowledge we have of God's specifc will to that situation (and again, I assume his will in general is to heal...through whatever means).

And to tie in some of these things, I want to share the story of my first mirculous healing (that's me being healed, not me involved in someone else's healing). TAG was visiting the Santa Maria Vineyard one Saturday. I had some really nasty cold/flu thingy. I was miserable (but hadn't wanted to miss this time to meet my SM homies). A long-distance "friend" of our youth group, Caleb Friesson came over to say hi to Krisann and I. He saw my state, and prayed over me. Immediately, my fever broke, and the aching in my body was gone. Much later, as someone was speaking, by sinuses were still nasty. I was retreating to the bathroom to wipe, blow, etc my nose every five minutes. Eventually, Chriss Kidd (who I didn't know well at that time) decideed to pray for my sinuses. Withing ten minutes, all that was better. Now, I still had a really nasty sore throat. On the drive back, everyone was praying for it. No change. The next day, after church, we all hung out for lunch. Everyone prayed some more (and then we went into an awesome time of intercession). No change. In fact, there was NO miraculous healing for my throat. It just healed normally over the next few days.

So, yeah, God doesn't always answer prayers of these sort. And there are many many reasons we he doesn't (speculating the reasons in an individual case is usually a waste of time, because we just don't know enough).

As far as seeking people to heal goes, I don't have a problem with that behaviour. I think extrapolating from Jesus' not doing so to is a stretch. Of course, attitude plays a role. If the attitude is, "Let's go and heal some people because we're cool and fired up and powerful in the Spirit," then that's no good. However, if the attitude is "We know there's people out there with neds God can meet, through us," then it's a good thing. Even good things are easily abused.

Diving into the whole "God's will" discussion real quickly, I must confess I have no clue how any of this works theologically. Note Ezekial 22:30-31. There, God's actions (and plan?) are affected what humans have failed to do. Yet then, you've got cases like Jonah, where man's failure does nothing to abort God's plan (and who knows, maybe Veggie Tales was right, and was a necessary step in getting the job done). This is all to say, I have no flippin idea!! I certainly don't expect God is truly surprised by anything (I strongly disagree with Open Theism, for many many reasons, one of them being the verifiable truth of futuristic prophesy), but as far as I understand the scriptures, God will (often?) set into motion things that are completely aborted by human action, then do something else that he could have done in the first place. I have absolutely no grasp on the theology of this, no view of the big picture of God's will nor his plan. I just know that two semi-contridictory truths are remaining true. But that's stuff with God for ya!

One last word: Mark (darth), would you quit putting yourself (and your arguments) down? Both you and AJ have proved yourselves to be very very intelligent, and well versed in matters biblical and theological. So far, you have raised very good points, and served to pull me back to the original point raised, and to get me thinking. Even if a disagree, you have done very good work.

Mike said...

Hmm...in regards to going out seeking to heal people. I think when discussing this, we need to keep in mind exactly what's important and what's not as important. Jesus made it very clear that it is better to lose an eye or a hand or a foot, and enter into heaven, than keep them and perish (eternal death). The first story of someone being healed (at least I think it's the first?) in the Bible after Jesus ascended, was when Peter and John were going to to the temple to pray. Notice they were not going there to find someone to heal, they were going to pray. But when the man asked for alms, they told him that they had no silver or gold, but that they would give him what they did have--Jesus! It goes on to say that he was healed so as to glorify the Lord. As far as healing and miracles go, they are always done for that purpose. Which brings me to another point. Doesn't it stand to reason, that the more we glorify God, the more miracles we will see?

Cormack McKinney said...

I agree with both of you in the last two entries.

Another thing - I'm not an open theist (but as many of you know, one of my professors teaches us about open theism), and in thier defense there is no verifiable truth of futuristic prophecy even for those who are open theists. There are many things God has predestined, and they will come to pass (including prophecies), and even open theists believe that. They just don't think God predestined EVERYTHING. And they believe He chooses to share some of His power with some of us, but that at any time He can still step in and do whatever He wants (after all, He is all-powerful).

PixieRogue said...

I know I am a couple months late with this comment. However, I just now read this post and all of the comments. Whew! That was a lot of text! Good stuff! I commend all who responded. You all had very good arguments and raised very valid points.

As an aftermath...(this post is not in response to anything particular that was previously written. This post is just a statement of what came to my mind as I read AJ's origional post.)

As I read what AJ wrote at the end of this post:

["Lord, if it is Your will, I ask that I might be healed from this; but let Your will be done, not mine, and glorify Yourself in my life."]

I realized something. This is very, very similar to the prayer Jesus prayed shortly before he was slain on the cross.

I believe that God answers EVERY prayer. Yes...EVERY prayer. God is our Heavenly Father. Sometimes earthly parents have to say "No, you may not have another piece of candy. It is already past your bedtime, the sugar will make it hard for you to sleep and you've already brushed your teeth."
Just as earthly parents must tell their children "No" at times, so does our Heavenly Father.

If he had said "yes" to Jesus'prayer before Jesus died on the cross ("Ok, Son, you don't have to die for everyone's sins. I will save you from the undeserved burden you would bear so painfully..." ...none of us would have a chance at an eternal life in Heaven! (Scary thought, no?) Sometimes, God answers prayers with "I'm sorry child, I cannot grant you your request."

Love in Christ,
~Kristy