Yeah, about that “healing”…

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I caught this cute little posting on my Facebook news feed a Sunday or two ago:

This is only one of a few that my friend posted while recovering from a cold, but in all of them she talked about how sick she was feeling and proclaimed that she had been healed through her faith. Not “I’m praying for healing,” not “I hope I will be healed,” but “I am healed.” Present tense, not future tense.

I’m posting this because I think it’s a vivid illustration of a common difference between theist and nontheist approaches to reality. My Christian friend here is using a sort of Law of Attraction-style understanding of what makes something real: if she states her claim often enough, and with enough confidence, it’s as good as true in her mind. On the other hand, I find it totally bizarre to wrap oneself in a blanket, dig into a bowl of chicken noodle soup, and shout to the world, “I’be beed heawed!” through a stuffy nose. The evidence is totally inconsistent with the claim, so (in my view at least) the claim must be wrong.

Oh, and to any faith-healing types out there — next time I ask for a bit more evidence to back up your story about your friend’s cousin’s neighbor who was “really healed” through prayer, well … this is part of the reason why.

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  1. Yeah, I’m not so big on the “name it and claim it” model either. But, then again, I may be too timid in my faith and unwilling to claim something as true even if it might be. I guess I want to find the balance that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego proclaimed: God can save us, but even if He doesn’t…

    I’ve been meaning to write this up on my personal blog, and never got around to it–been working on my finishing up creating my film course instead [smile]–but you got me thinking about it again. So, here it is: My good friend Michael and his wife Jenn have a young son who–about a month ago–was scheduled to have surgery because his skull had fused before it was supposed to have, creating problems and pressure for his growing brain. But, when they went in for the surgery, the doctors said that they didn’t need to preform it… his skull was no longer fused.

    What happened?

    I don’t know. From what I’ve been told, the doctors don’t either. What I do know is that the family, friends, and–yes–even I, were all praying for this little boy. We prayed that the doctors would have wisdom and we prayed that God would bring healing. …so, God can heal, but even if He doesn’t…

    Is it a miracle, documented as such in a medical journal? Can you read about it in the paper? No… because it’s kinda nothing, too small, insignificant… except to Jenn, who was rather stressed about having her son go through surgery. What struck me was how nonchalant everyone was about it afterward. The boy, mysteriously, no longer needs surgery… cool. Next?

    Do we misuse the word “healing”? Do we miss it when it happens because it’s so… meh?

    Thought I’d share since the topic came up again. I don’t really have any insights. But I did write a novel of a comment [smile]. Sorry about that. Easier to ramble than edit.


  2. These are the Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen Christians who make a caraciture of Christianity.

    DISCLAIMER: It’s not that I’m saying God can’t, won’t, wouldn’t, didn’t heal your friend from her cold.

    But the fact is that it’s a bit like taking Excedrine for a headache then praying that it goes away.

    God could very well miraculously heal someone. But I don’t think God acts in frivolity. In otherwords, if God were to intervine in someones sickness it would be for the purpose of bring glory to himself. Making someone’s sniffles go away only brings discredit on Himself and Christianity if done to someone like this. It likens God to a packet of Theraflu.

    I think some Christians want God to personally interact with them so bad that any coincidental event is attributed to divine intervention. The truth of it is, in my opinion, that God doesn’t interact as much as people think and most happenings are coincidences.

  3. I like the cartoon where the patient is thanking gawd for healing him and the doctor says oh you think gawds is doing this? ten you don’t need this and unplugs the IV. I’m a FIRM believer that ADULTS that believe this BS should NEVER see any kind of medical person and pray; but they wont cuz they REALLY DO NOT believe. If it really worked then real medicine would never have been invented and everyone would now be xtian.
    LUKE..I’m happy the kid is doing OK. But no miracle, when doctors do exams they use the best evidence they can to get to a solution but all indirect evidence is IFFy at best. Until they cut, look and see what it really going on, it is really just guessing.

  4. L.Long,

    That’s certainly a possibility. But it wasn’t just a little IFFy… the kid was scheduled for head surgery. It was a pretty big deal. But, yes, it’s possible it’s all a coincidence as well. But just as it’s irresponsible to credit everything to a divine intervention, it’s similarly incorrect to pass off everything inexplicable that happens as coincidence.

    As for the idea that people of faith should never see doctors, there are groups like that… but Christianity encourages us to partner with God. Our bodies are such that they can repair themselves, but we can also help them along. We can both care for the invalid and pray that he or she will recover while seeking medical attention that will aid in that. Christian thought is much larger than a simple “have faith/don’t act.” Our world, our bodies, our minds all fit into the context of a God who cares for us and lets us do our own thing and encourages us to follow Him. So it makes perfect sense that we would seek a holistic view of the world that properly balances God’s interaction with the tools He’s given us. In fact, Scripture is clear that faith without works is dead. So you really can’t have faith if you don’t also do something…


  5. Luke:

    Your example of cranial fusing is a typical God-of-the-gaps exercise. All it takes is a medical condition that is almost completely invisible or mistakenly diagnosed, and a recovery that is not completely understood (human biology is extremely complex, and clearly all possibilities have not been eliminated in your example).

    I do, however, applaud you for your timidity, because I think it’s perfectly justified: If God heals people at all, he does so in an extremely timid fashion, in such a way that the door is always left wide open to natural explanation.

    This is a great puzzle. If God wants to demonstrate his healing powers, why does he go for such doubtful cases? Why doesn’t he just do something spectacular like heal an amputee, or resurrect one of the bodies in the local morgue?

  6. NFQ:

    It’s hard to imagine someone being so completely taken in by their belief system that they hold such obvious contradictions in their minds, but your example demonstrates that it’s possible. We really are a very gullible species!

  7. … and how does your friend know it would have turned into something worse, anyway? And if it *was* going to turn into something worse, why didn’t God make her completely better instead of just making her less sick? All these questions!

  8. Jojo the Hun

     /  July 13, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    Maybe there is a balance to things, such that it is easier to heal the doubtful cases than the clear cut ones. If faith healing does occur I would expect something like that to be true. Also, that instances in which the healed person intends on making a public proclamation are less likely to occur than those in which the person is quiet and humble about it. With me it comes down to just the one question, “how does your friend know it would have turned into something worse”, and I don’t see any reason that she would.

  9. Aristarchus

     /  July 13, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    Nothing is “easy” or “hard” for an omnipotent being. It’s all trivial. Also, why is it less likely to occur because the person is likely to make a public declaration? God is worried about getting caught? Why not just use is omnipotence to make them not make a public declaration? And why would he want to avoid that anyway? God sends people who don’t believe in him to Hell, so going out of his way to hide evidence of his existence seems sort of cruel….

  10. Carl de Malmanche

     /  July 15, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    That’s not really the Law of Attraction system. The law of attraction is more like Homeopathy or use of non connected system (eg an amulet of chicken soup).

    The process in what you’ve described is a religious one, not a magical one. Thus it’s faith based, not belief control. In the religious mindset you’re looking at things like “Revealed Truths” – where God or Faith is considered transcendent to mere facts or observable phenomenon. The “Healed by Jesus” becomes simply a statement of Truth(tm), there is no rational argument; as by the laws of Revealed Truth (eg Scripture) the Revelation is considered to outweigh any observation.

    On the other hand, The pysch of the human animal is evolved to believe and adapt to higher forms of authority. Likewise the nervous system, (living as it does within the bone of Plato’s Cave) knows only that information which it’s filters can interpret.

    If they belief it strong enough, it becomes the virtual wetware truth until something is strong enough to break down the walls (“””physical laws “” of their internal universe) and the mind is willing to adapt to new information. Most humans are conditioned against such mental adaption. ESPECIALLY in religious circles. (due to the control desired by the leaders of the different movements).

    So either she *is* healed… or dies. I suppose the choices is hers or Gods (personally I like the choices to be influenced by my information, and god said this is true. I believe. 🙂 )

  11. Thanking God for something as a veiled way of asking for it strikes me as rather passive-aggressive…

  12. Carl de Malmanche

     /  July 22, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    Delphi, from casual observation and anecdotal evidence, much of religion is “all about” the passive aggression.

    Very much about people who don’t want to take responsibility or admit they don’t know stuff if a huge universe. So they “borrow” authority, they invent what they can’t discover and protect that brand in order to hold that authority – because at the end of the day “It’s not their fault”, it’s their gods’ fault or the universes fault…. and that’s where the beauty of human perception comes in “If a God [to blame] did not exist, Humanity would have to create one [to blame]”

  13. Carl de Malmanche

     /  July 22, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    drat no edit function. apologies. my bad 🙂

    And at the day for those in the religious queues. It’s the herd instinct of needing someone to look down on in the pecking order. As long as you’re not The Bottom of your pecking order, You’re Safe. (or if you’re a Bottom, then you have someone to care for you (a Top, boss, parent, policeman, politician, God)

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