Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Michael Brown on healing

What was my conclusion after these years of intensive study and prayer? I concluded that healing was God’s ideal will for His obedient children, and that rather than praying, “Lord, if it be Your will to heal,” we should pray with the expectation that it was His will, sometimes even rebuking the sickness at its root.

Since then, have I seen other precious believers die of cancer? Yes, tragically, including some people very close to me, after years of prayer and fasting for their healing.

Have I prayed for blind eyes that were not opened and deaf ears that were not unstopped? Quite a few times, I’m sorry to say.

Yet I still believe the testimony of Scripture, since my theology is based on the Word rather than on personal experience. And when I have experienced miraculous healing in my own life – including from Hepatitis C, apparently contracted when I was a drug user from 1969-1971 but not manifest until the mid-1990’s, after which I was healed – I have been thankful for divine confirmation of the Word.

It sounds pious and faithful to say that when push comes to shove, his theology is based on Scripture rather than experience, but the obvious problem with his dichotomy is that, as he interprets Scripture, Scripture predicts for a particular kind of experience. He thinks Scripture obligates us to expect miraculous answers to prayer. So he can't neatly dichotomize Scripture from experience if, by his own lights, Scripture itself fosters the expectation that we should experience a particular kind of answer when we pray. 

Brown has created a situation in which his interpretation of Scripture is unfalsifiable. If you exercise expectant faith, and the prayer is answered, that confirms your charismatic interpretation–but if you exercise expectant faith and the prayer goes unanswered, somehow that's still consistent with your charismatic interpretation. 

Fact is, even mundane prayer is risky in the sense that when you pray you leave yourself wide open for disappointment. Prayer puts you in a vulnerable position. And if you exercise expectant faith, that aggravates the opportunities for disappointment. How many times can you exercise expectant faith before you lose faith in prayer, because your expectations are so often disappointed? How many times can you get burned before you need a skin graft? To be frank, miraculous intervention is unpredictable and unreliable. That's something you can pray for and hope for, and it's something you ought to pray for, but it's not something you can bank on. More often than not, God does not intercede in tangible, miraculous ways. You queue yourself up for disillusionment and make apostasy more likely if you constantly psyche yourself up for something that rarely if every happens to you. There's nothing impious about striking a balance. Some professing Christians need to lower their expectations before they crash and burn. In reality, it often seems like you're on your own in life. Ordinary providence is the norm. Better get used to it. 

1 comment:

  1. I can hardly believe that Brown says that he doesn't find anywhere in Scripture that sickness is or can be used by God to purify us. Not only is there Paul's thorn in the flesh, which Brown dismisses, but there are *numerous* verses that say *in general* that God uses suffering to purify. James 1:2ff, 2 Cor. 12:10, Romans 5:3, and others. Why in the world would Brown insist that such verses must name sickness specifically? Surely sickness and painful death from illness are paradigm cases of suffering! It's unlike Brown in general to insist on interpreting Scripture so woodenly so that it "doesn't count" if it gives a general principle instead of naming the one, specific thing he's talking about. He seems blinded by his charismatic ideology here.