Monday, January 13, 2014

Dealing with physical ailment

"Dealing with Physical Ailment" by William Lane Craig.


  1. Craig gives 5 great recommendations that every Christian should agree with. Even Calvinists, since he emphasizes God's sovereignty.

    I would give a 6th recommendation. Keep praying for healing. God may still miraculously heal someone after years of *seemingly* unanswered prayers for healing. Or the prayer may be answered through natural means (e.g. through doctors, surgery, medicine, nutrition, exercise, therapy etc.; which is in keeping with Craig's #5).

    Maybe God never intends to heal someone of a particular sickness in this life, but he can't know that apart from a revelation from God. Just because God has decreed that someone not be healed in his past doesn't mean that God hasn't decreed to heal him in the future. Apart from revelation, one can't know God's future will of decree for himself.

    Also, don't stop praying for either natural or supernatural healing (or a combination of both). Some people stop praying for supernatural healing because it might not be God's will. But that person usually already believes that IN SOME SENSE it's not God's will for him to be sick. Otherwise, he wouldn't be going to the doctor or taking medicine. Since if he was convinced that God didn't want him well in some sense, then he should stop going to the doctor or taking medicine. Going to the doctor would be opposing God's will that you be sick. But deep in our hearts we know that sickness is an unnatural condition. God may have decreed and purposed someone to be sick to some degree, but we're expected to live according to (and strive for) His revealed will which is health.

    It's like the issue of sanctification. God has decreed that none of us will be fully sanctified while here on earth. The flip side of that truth is that God has decreed that we will continue to sin in this world. Do those facts give us permission not to strive for holiness? Obviously not. We're commanded and expected to strive for holiness despite those facts. Similarly, God's will of decree might be sickness, but His general revealed will is health. Something for which we're to strive for (1 Thess. 5:23). Through prayer (James 5:14-16) and other natural means like doctors if possible (Matt. 9:12//Mark 2:17//Luke 5:31). Luke apparently remained a doctor after his conversion (Col. 4:14).

    I think the above even applies to genetic and congenital problems as well. Even missing organs and limbs due to amputation. But I wouldn't criticize someone having difficulty praying for healing of those types of issues since they are more likely (statistically speaking, by God's usual providential activity) not to be healed. The fact that the issue is congenital or genetic might be an indication that God intends the person to have the condition for life. But that's not an infallible indication. God can nevertheless still heal them. In these cases, it's not that God would be displeased if a person did not pray for healing. Rather, God would be more pleased if the person did pray for healing (and continued praying), even if he knows it is statistically unlikely for God to heal such problems. Ideally, I think all sickness, disease, infirmity, deformity, weakness, lack of development, injury, pain, disorders (etc.) should be prayed for since with God nothing is impossible. In fact, with God all things are possible (Matt. 19:26; Mark 10:27; 14:36; Luke 1:37; 18:27 cf. Matt. 17:20; Mark 9:23).

    If anyone is interested, I've got some resources on divine healing at one of my blogs HERE. Especially this blog post HERE.

  2. I agree these are good points from Craig. I would add Romans 8 to the mix. Specifically, God is working in and through all things for the good of His people. Suffering and tribulation in this (fallen) world is a means by which God conforms us into the image of Christ (Philippians 3:10, Rom 5:3ff, 1 Pet 4:12-16).

    Certainly we can and should pray for healing and relief (cf. Paul and his thorn 2 Cor 12:9-10), but as those who recognize that God is supremely sovereign, we should acknowledge that God is with us in our suffering, His strength is perfected in our weakness, and He is ultimately working for our good and His glory, whether we are healed in this life or not.

    1. Amen!

      When it comes to Paul's thorn, I think there are good reasons to think it wasn't a physical sickness but rather a messenger (literally an "angel" [i.e. a demon]) that stirred up persecution in his life and ministry (cf. chapter 14 of Christ the Healer by F.F. Bosworth).

      But even assuming Paul's thorn was a physical sickness, I think it's instructive that he didn't stop praying for deliverance until he received a revelation that it wasn't God's purpose to do so for the sake of Paul's greater good, the greater advancement of God's Kingdom, and God's greater glory. So, if some people are cessationists, and don't believe in modern revelations, it would seem to make sense for those people to conclude that they should never give up praying for healing. Especially if they agree with me that God's general will is health and healing (Ps. 103:3; James 5:14-16; Mark 1:41; Matt. 14:14, Heb. 13:8; 3 John 1:2; Exo. 15:26; 23:25-26; Mal. 4:2; Isa. 58:8). There are other Calvinists who have come to similar views I have like Sam Storms, Wayne Grudem, Andrew Murray, Vincent Cheung, Johanes Lilik Susanto (et al.).

    2. I should also include A.J. Gordon in that list.

      According to Scott M. Gibson's book A.J. Gordon: American Premillennialist

      "Gordon's adoption of premillennialism, embrace of revivalism, practice of healing, and espousal of the second work of the Holy Spirit are not doctrines of strict Calvinism. Yet, he did not turn from the teaching of total depravity and unconditional election. But, like many New England preachers who preceded him, Gordon demonstrated a willingness to accommodate outside influences. He was an heir to the alliance between Calvinism and the revivalism of the late 1700s and the 1800s. In his acceptance of the validity of experience, he simply reclothed the old Calvinist teachings in a new rhetoric of sentiment. Another possible factor for the moderation of Gordon's traditional Calvinism was that many Baptists had been appreciably affected by the influence of democratic thought. Yet, Gordon was a Calvinist in that he remained in the mainstream of historic Baptist thought and practice. However, his Calvinism was certainly not mainstream, but moderate." [page 78].