Does God heal today? (healing debate part 2){8B4B875D-57DD-42B3-BC5F-29D9FDD4AA38} I am writing up my thoughts on the Premier Christian Radio debate “does God heal today?” between Michael Shermer and Adrian Holloway. Both men come across really well, are respectful to one another, and it was a real pleasure to listen to.

Michael says of supposed miracles:

“What’s more likely, that the claim of a miracle is the truth, or that the person making the claim is mistaken, or deceptive or self deceived? There are lots of experiences where that turns out to be the case and no experiences of miraculous events, so in all cases the most likely explanation is that it is a hoax.”

He says when miracles seem to happen it’s just a coincidence. You were doing something and your body happened to heal itself and you assume that the healing is connected with what you were doing at the time.  He points out that cancers go into remission sometimes but growing a new limb never happens so if it did it would be a miracle. If God heals cancers and things like that why can’t he heal amputees? “None of the Christian guys in Afghanistan who lose their limbs get new ones. Salamanders can grow them so it can’t be too hard for God to grow them back“.

Adrian asks if Michael thinks there is any benefit to praying for people who are unwell. Adrian knows of friends who got prayed for and got out of wheel chairs. They would be glad that someone prayed for them!  He gives an example:

Edith (Edee) Nun, who was in a wheel chair for many years with multiple scleroses and her condition deteriorated during that time. She couldn’t walk or read properly and her coordination was virtually non existent. She had 24 hour professional care and she couldn’t speak unaided. She was prayed for on a particular day, was totally healed, went in for tests and her doctor, a man called John Crossley, who was her doctor from 1978-1988 and has been her doctor again since, wrote this: Miss Edith Nun had proven and severe MS with extreme weakness in her arms and legs and visual and speech problems. The original diagnosis was made in 1971 and there was no doubt in the opinion of several neurologists that she had the disease. From 1976 onwards there was a slow but steady deterioration in her condition. Her prognoses was poor when I last saw her in 1988 and from her notes it seems that the doctor who was seeing her in 1992 felt that this was still the situation. When I met her again in March 1994, (which was after her healing) I was astonished at her recovery which appears to be full and unexplained.”

From this Adrian simply argues that if people are prayed for and get well “that is a good thing not a bad thing“. Michael is of course not against people getting well and points to lots of other new age medicines and practices that make the same claims. “This crystal or this chant”, etc. “From a scientific perspective you need to test these claims to see if they are statistically significant and rule out things like the placebo effect. This has been done in the case of heart patients (controlled experiments in praying for one group and not for the other etc) and it has been shown that prayer has no statistically significant effect”. He goes on “that’s the only way to really tell. Anecdotes are a sample of one which tell us nothing.”

But can you put God under the microscope? Adrian says you need to distinguish between different religions. “Christianity says Jesus didn’t do many miracles in Nazareth because of people’s lack of faith. So faith is going to be a very big variable in a scientific study.” This is an interesting point. I have often wondered to what extent the scientific method is suited to investigating miracles. How does God react to testing him in this way? What does he think about us cordoning off a group of people and not praying for them while praying for others? Can you “walk by the Spirit” and “do what you see the Father” doing in a double blind trial where everything is fixed and planned in detail?

Michael brings up the amputee thing again. That would not be fuzzy. He reckons recovery from MS could be a bit fuzzy. Did Edith have it in the first place? His experience of healing meetings is that people are emotionally high and so it’s no surprise that they make various excited claims to being healed. He basically says “show me a leg reappearing! That would be something to take seriously“.

One point I would make is that the healing meetings I have been to have been very low key with little or no hype. Sometimes people are prayed for before anyone has preached. Bill Johnson is certainly very laid back. When asked if he is Charismatic, Adrian says he is kind of reluctant to embrace the term because of the associations that come with it, particularly in the States. What is often seen and termed charismatic on Christian TV is a million miles away from what he would be comfortable with. He would rather see himself as a Christian who believes that God heals people today.  Going back to Michael’s earlier statements Adrian says it is an extraordinarily bold claim to say that every recorded case of healing is psychosomatic or placebo or misdiagnoses. In the case of Edith is would be a bold claim to say that the doctors got it wrong.

Michael says why “attribute it to a deity? Why not say I don’t know what happened”?

Adrian would be happy to say that if 100 people were prayed for in the name of Jesus that in a percentage the placebo effect might play a part. “However there are clear cases where someone has zero medical prospects but they recover.” Michael is not happy that any doctors would every say there is zero percent. He presses his view that some things are just unknown anomalies. We just need to say “I don’t know, sometimes things just happen”.

Adrian says there is certainly the possibility of divine intervention, and there are enough claims that seem to be in line with that.  “The assertion of the absolute is very hard to sustain. Saying there will never be any miracles means you have to prove every apparent case is false. How do you do that? You are ruling it out ahead of time.

Michael says that science assumes that everything has a natural explanation. Supernatural explanations are no explanations at all. He reckons the word miracle is a linguistic placeholder for “we don’t know what happened yet“.

Adrian says he tends to back off using the world miracle and would rather talk about things he has seen and experienced, like people getting better or healed when prayed for in the name of Jesus. He says in the Christian world view God hasn’t made it blatantly obvious that he exists although there is evidence. There is something dignifying about us being able to make a choice for God or not. He goes on “when Jesus raised someone form the dead far from everyone believing in him some decided that they had to kill him. Judas saw all the miracles and yet decided to betray Jesus.” It seems we are not as open minded as we might think. Adrian admits “If I was a committed atheist I would find it very hard to dismantle my position and become a Christian.


One thought on “Does God heal today? (healing debate part 2)

  1. Thanks for publishing these. I came across them while searching for the healing story of Abbey Coles and it has been a very refreshing read.

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