Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Instant healing

Joshua Elsom@JoshElsom 19h @Fred_Butler but you'd certainly be satisfied with any healing right, from a high fever (Mark 1:29—31) to a resurrection as evidence? 
Fred Butler@Fred_Butler 11h @JoshElsom A high fever healed instantly (104 to 98.6) in a sec. by a healer. Sure. I don't believe anyone has be resurrected by a healer.

There are several problems with Fred's response:

i) The text doesn't say Peter's mother-in-law was running a fever of 104º. And it does't say her temperature dropped back to normal in one second. All it says is:

30 Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

Suppose she was running a fever of 102º? Suppose it took five minutes for her temperature to drop back to normal. Would that still be a miracle by Fred's lights?

ii) Now, in Fred's defense, he might say that he's just introducing some common sense caveats. A fever can range along a continuum, from a slightly elevated temperature to a life-threatening temperature. Likewise, the rate at which a fever drops can range along a continuum, from rapid to slow. And a rapidly dropping high fever is more impressive, more "miraculous," than a slowing dropping low fever. No doubt going from 104º is one second is more impressive, more "miraculous," than going from 100º is 30 minutes. 

And I don't object to that. If I were evaluating a faith-healer, I think those are reasonable considerations.

iii) If, however, Fred is going to take that approach, then he needs to drop the pose of holding modern faith-healers to the standard of "NT quality miracles." For Fred isn't really using NT miracles as his litmus test.

a) For one thing, I've never even seen him volunteer this example. That had to be shoved in his face. Fred is very finicky about just what NT miracles furnish the standard of comparison. Several NT miracles aren't "NT quality miracles" for purposes of testing charismatic miracles.

b) In addition, even when he is confronted with this example, it doesn't set the bar. To the contrary, he takes that case, then ratchets it up several more notches by adding some demanding qualifications which have no counterpart in the text. 

iv) One final observation. Is instant restoration necessarily restorative? Suppose a boy is playing on a frozen pond. He falls through the ice. By the time he's wheeled into the ER, he has a temperature of 56.7º. 
Suppose the ER has equipment that can raise his temperature from 56.7º to 98.6º in one second. Would that be sound medical practice? Would that restore him or kill him? Which is better for him–raising his temperature instantly or gradually? I'm not a medical professional, but doesn't the body need time to adjust? 
Perhaps that consideration is inapplicable to a miraculous healing. Maybe, maybe not. My immediate point is to question the facile assumption that instantaneous healing is necessity superior to something more gradual.  


  1. I commented on another of Steve's posts:

    ".........[E]ven Jesus had to pray for one blind man twice (Mark 8:22-26). That's a case of progressive healing. Also, the 10 lepers were healed "on their way" to the priests. That's another case of "delayed" healing. Depending on the translation, some passages in the Gospels seem to imply that some of the people Jesus healed weren't healed immediately because they "began to amend" or were healed "in the same hour" (e.g. Matt. 8:13 ASV; Matt. 9:22 ASV; [Matt. 15:28 ASV]; John 4:52-53 ASV, (see translations like the ASV, NKJV, NET). James appeals to Elijah's prayer for rain as an example of fervent prayer in the context of prayer for healing. When we look at Elijah's prayer for rain, he repeatedly prayed and persisted in praying until there was evidence of an answer. Seven times Elijah tells one of his servants to go and check the sky to see if it looks like it's going to rain (1 Kings 18:42-44). Evidently, James is saying that sometimes praying for healing might require persistence. Jesus also taught persistence in prayer in many places (e.g. Matt. 7:7-8ff; Luke 11:5-10ff; 18:1-8)...."

    Also, apparently it took 3 days for Hezekiah to get well after Isaiah pronounced that God would heal him and give him 15 additional more years of life. In addition to pronouncing God would heal him, Isaiah gave directions to have a poultice made of figs to be placed on the boil. It took Naaman having to dip 7 times for him to be healed of leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-14).

    1. Mark and Matthew aren't in complete agreement as to the details of the fig tree Jesus cursed. Harmonizing it, either the fig tree didn't show any immediate signs of death but eventually in the (next?) morning it had withered from the roots. Or (more likely IMO) the tree immediately showed signs of withering, but it didn't wither fully from the roots till a new (next?) morning (compare Mark 11:12-25 & Matt. 21:18-22). Jesus took that opportunity to teach about faith similar to how He did in the in the case of the child demoniac (Matt 17:14ff.//Mark 9:14ff). If the effect of Jesus' cursing a fig tree didn't fully manifest immediately and instantaneously, then why would healing always do so when Christian believers pray for healing? Especially in light of the fact that Jesus' teaching on faith and miracles is consistent whether 1. in regard to a miraculous healing (as in the case of the child demoniac) or 2. a miraculous sign (as in the case of the cursing of the fig tree)?

      It took time for Epaphroditus to get well. Yet, Paul attributed the healing to God's mercy on Epaphroditus and on himself (i.e. Paul); and apparently in response to prayer (Phil. 2:27).

    2. A collection of links to Steve's recent blogs on cessationism and the charismata:

    3. It took an east wind blowing ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT for the plague of the locusts to arrive (Exo. 10:13). It took an east wind ALL NIGHT for the sea to divide so that the Israelites could walk on dry land (Exo. 14:21). Apparently, God sometimes takes time in performing His miracles.

      Abraham and/or Sarah may have been barren (either singularly or collectively) during their normal child begetting ages. Whatever the case, by the time God promised Abraham and Sarah a child, Sarah was past the normal child bearing age and Abraham's body was, in his own opinion, as good as dead (Rom. 4:19). Yet it took 25 years for God's promise that Abraham and Sarah would have a child to come to pass. You could almost say it took God 25 years to heal Abraham and Sarah so that they could have a child. Now, that's an example of a delayed healing.

      The angel of the Lord told Zechariah that his prayer had been answered for him and Elizabeth to have a child (Luke 1:13) even though they were already advanced in years (Luke 1:7). Either Zechariah (and probably Elizabeth along with him) 1. persisted in prayer for them to have a child even into their old age, or 2. in their youth they prayed for a child until it seemed it was too late and then stopped praying. But notice that it took time for God to eventually answer their prayers. Sometimes the delay to answered prayer is completely in God's hand, and other times it's due to secondary causes that delay it (e.g. demonic opposition cf. Dan. 10:13). For Calvinists, God is also sovereign over secondary causes such that whatever delays caused by them still fall out so that the answer arrives in God's perfect timing.

    4. Elsewhere I wrote:

      "One of the demoniacs in the area of the Gerasenes was healed progressively since it says in Mark 5 that the demons were pleading with Jesus not to torment them AFTER Jesus had begun to command the demons to come out. Apparently, Jesus didn't heal the man instantly (Mark 5:6-10). It took time to cast out the demons, even if only 5 minutes (which would be about the time it would take for the conversation recorded to have taken place). One blind man's healing was delayed because he had to wash off the mud Jesus placed on his eyes (made with Jesus' spittle) at the pool of Siloam (John 9). The blind man had to walk to the pool......Regarding Zarephath's widow, Elijah had to stretch himself on the child three times before the child was resurrected (1 Kings 17). Regarding the Shunammite woman's son, Elisha walked in the house "to and fro" and then eventually went up and stretched himself on the child. The child didn't open his eyes until after he sneezed seven times (2 King 4). Walking to and fro suggests to me that Elisha was praying. Similar to how Elijah prayed:

      And he said to her, "Give me your son." And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed. And he cried to the LORD, "O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?........."

      That was Elijah's prayer. Elisha told Gehazi to lay his (Elisha's) staff on the dead child. When Gehazi did, "there was no sound or response. So he [Gehazi] returned to meet him [Elisha] and told him, 'The lad has not awakened.' " (2 Kings 4:31).

      Was Elisha a false miracle worker because his first attempt to resurrect the child failed????

      If one read the account, Elisha had to stretch himself over the child TWICE before the child was fully resurrected and recovered. The first time he stretched himself over the child the child got warm, but didn't wake up. CLEARLY this was a PROGRESSIVE resurrection and healing SINCE IT TOOK A MINIMUM OF THREE (3!!!!) ATTEMPTS to restore the child to normal.

    5. typo correction: "If one read the account" -----> "If one readS the account"

      Attempt 1: Gehazi laying Elisha's staff on the child's face at Elisha's prophetic command and instruction. No apparent effect.
      Attempt 2. Elisha stretches himself over the child. Child gets warm, but doesn't wake up.
      Attempt 3. Elisha again stretches himself over the child. Child sneezes seven times and then opens his eyes.

      It's a clear case of progressive healing.

    6. Elisha only stretched himself two times over the dead child before the child was eventually resurrected. Elisha probably did it in imitation of his mentor Elijah who stretched himself over a dead child three time (1 Kings 17:21). So, the resurrection Elijah performed was also progressive and/or delayed. BTW, Paul may have been following Elijah's example too when he picked up Eutychus and "embraced" him in order to resurrect him [ESV has, "taking him in his arms"; NASB has, "embracing him"; NET has, "put his arms around him"; NKJV has "embracing him"].

      Speaking of imitation, apparently Peter also imitated the Lord when he put everyone outside of the room where Tabitha's body was in order to pray for her resurrection (compare Acts 9:36 with Mark 5:40; Matt. 9:25; Luke 8:51). The Lord only allowed Peter, John, James and the girl's parents in with Him. Both the Lord and Peter probably did it in order not to make a scene, or be flashy or to impress others. Also, in order to facilitate mental and spiritual concentration/focus when praying.

  2. Good post!

    I'm not a medical professional either. But I am a med student so hopefully I have some relevant knowledge. For what it's worth, I agree with the section criticizing the assumption that instantaneous healing is necessarily superior to gradual healing.

    A core temperature of 56.7ºF (13.7ºC) would be severe hypothermia. Indeed, 56.7ºF would place someone in mortal danger. In context, anything less than 86°F (30°C) would be considered severe hypothermia. Hypothermia basically results when the environment's temperature is so low that physical mechanisms which normally generate heat (like shivering) cannot maintain core temperature, which on average is 98.6ºF (37ºC).

    Given severe hypothermia, an overly aggressive strategy like attempting to rapidly raise the boy's core temperature could be detrimental to the boy. It could risk worsening his condition or possibly even kill him.

    For example, say a medical professional starts making the boy use his peripheral muscles like by moving his arms or legs rapidly and repeatedly in an attempt to quickly raise his temperature. This would risk promoting core temperature "afterdrop" which is where core temperature actually falls and continues to fall rather than rise. Not to mention children are generally more prone to afterdrop than adults.

    In addition is the risk of rescue collapse, which is cardiac arrest triggered by attempted interventions (e.g. moving the person suffering from severe hypothermia) and afterdrop.

    More obviously, heat packs and heating pads can help raise temperature. However, such direct heating methods can cause burns, which is why heated forced air is generally preferred. But heated forced air rewarming alone (i.e. absent active internal rewarming methods in tandem), or several other methods providing external heat, applied to a boy suffering from severe hypothermia would risk core temperature afterdrop as well.

    Another example. Take a standard treatment like IV medications. In severe hypothermia, IV medications are generally withheld. Or if IV medications are administered, they are usually administered with increased intervals between doses. If IV medications were administered without such intervals, say if they were administered continuously and as rapidly as possible, the IV medications would quite likely cause cumulative toxicity in the boy, to say the least.

    There's much more to say. I can write more later if need be.