In the comments of a recent post on evidence-based versus faith-based claims, Luke Holzmann (who writes at the Sonlight Blog) had some interesting things to say about miracles, pointing out that “Your assumptions make a huge difference in [how you interpret] those instances.” When I responded with an example about people getting better from colds slightly faster than average, he responded:
I was thinking of the times when, say, a child is flayed by the asphalt in a bike accident, rushed to the hospital where the doctors bandage him up and send him home. That night–while the church is praying for the boy–the lacerated skin drops off him and, upon his return to the doctor’s office a day later, is not recognized for the transformation that befell him. Or, the man who was hit by a car, and fell mutilated to the ground–his leg, for instance, broken in three places… among other things. He was taken to the hospital where doctors were unable to do anything for him, so he is brought to the church for prayer. While being prayed for, his entire body is healed–including the shattered bones–and, as his son-in-law tells it–the only reason he did not jump up to praise God was because he didn’t have a stitch of clothing on under the sheet [smile]. Those kinds of things.
Naturally, I told him that “I would love to see particular well-recorded examples of these more dramatic and improbable healings you mention,” and he clarified:
The two stories I recounted above are based on what I’ve been told by 1. the guy to whom it happened when he was a boy (the bicycle incident), and 2. my pastor, whose wife’s father was the one hit by the car. I completely agree that the “my wife’s sister’s dog’s former-owner’s neighbor heard of a guy who once almost did something crazy” is not all that compelling. Knowing the people for whom it happened, or whose parents it happened to, is a tad bit more compelling to me.
I obviously can’t speak to these particular examples, because I don’t know any more of the details and Luke hasn’t shared any sort of objective record of these events. (After all, wouldn’t/shouldn’t this kind of thing make big international news? Or wouldn’t at least one of these doctors write a case study for a medical journal?) But let’s suppose for a moment that we grant their veracity, and accept that Christian prayer works to directly bring about miraculous healing. What does this say about Christians?
Why isn’t there a Christian wing in hospitals, maybe right next to the ER, where Christians who are wounded get wheeled right over the prayer team for instant healing? Why don’t doctors refer tough cases out to local churches, instead of expensive specialists? I’m assuming, of course, that this healing only works when prayed to Jesus, and it only works when the injured or sick person is a Christian themselves. If it worked in more cases, that’d be even better, but even this alone would have a huge impact on American health care, considering the portion of Americans who are Christians. (To say nothing of the world!) If these people are holding out on us, I’d be outraged! And you should be outraged too. What an immense cruelty they are perpetrating on humanity, having such an incredible ability to heal, but hiding it from the public and refrain from using it in all but the most obscure and poorly-documented situations. Just think of all the people whose quality of life could be vastly improved, if only Christians actually used this ability that they have. So much for Christian love, right?
Of course, there is an alternative, simpler explanation. Maybe faith healing doesn’t really work, after all. So, Luke (and other Christians) — which is it? Are Christians heartless and uncaring toward their fellow humans? Or is your prayer ineffective and pointless?