Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Does God only heal certain types of disorders?

Atheists object that only certain kinds of healing miracles are reported. 

i) In my experience, atheists are rarely conversant with the best literature documenting miracles, so most of them are too uninformed to generalize about the types of healing miracles. 

ii) In addition, case-studies barely scratch the surface. Miracles are vastly underreported. The sample is infinitesimal. 

iii) However, for discussion purposes, let's stipulate that God rarely if ever performs certain kinds of miracles. Is there an explanation for that? Let's consider two related hypothetical examples. 

From what I've read, language acquisition is crucial to cognitive development and social formation. And there's a narrow window of opportunity for that to occur. If a child fails to acquire a language by a certain age, he will suffer severe cognitive impairment. 

And I've read that prior to the development of sign language, people born deaf were liable to cognitive impairment for that very reason. They had a normal brain. But without a linguistic stimulus, their cognitive development was stunted. That's an irreversible and unrepeatable phase in developmental psychology. If you miss out, it can't be fixed.

Suppose God healed a teenager born deaf. A teenager from the 17C. Assuming that his lack of language acquisition left him mentally impaired, restoring his hearing wouldn't restore his mind. 

To take another example, from what I've read, the brain of autistic kids fails to develop certain neural pathways. Suppose God heals the brain of a 17-year-old-autistic. Even though he now has the brain of a normal 17-year-old boy, does that mean he now has the personality of a normal 17-year-old boy? Or did his defective brain fail to process information correctly, so that he's psychologically stunted? Did he miss key steps in his cognitive development?  

If so, do we know what kind of person would pop out at the end of the miraculous healing? If he didn't develop the proper socialization, might he have a personality disorder? Might he turn out to be a psychopath or sociopath? Just restoring his brain doesn't automatically compensate for other deficits. And at that stage, the defective brain might suppress sociopathic behavior. Did the deficient brain structures that filtered out crucial information processing now filter out socially dangerous impulses? If you suddenly remove the screen, what emerges? 

I'm not stating this for a fact. I don't claim to be an expert. My immediate point is that these are considerations which critics of miraculous healing overlook. Physical restoration doesn't entail psychological restoration. Psychological restoration may await heaven. 


  1. I guess they might enquire why God would fail to do certain types of miracles holistically.

    I heard a sermon covering John 9 a few weeks back. It was by one of our junior ministers. He said something that I hadn't drawn together before. That it wasn't just a miracle of restoring eyes or optical nerves. Blind people don't have the developed neural real estate to be able to understand and interpret sight. Where areas of the brain ordinarily reserved for some function (such as sight) aren't used for that purpose, then that brain real estate is encroached on for use by other faculties. I remember reading about this in Jeffrey Schwartz' The Mind and the Brain. Modern people who, medically, have sight (visual data input) restored are totally bewildered and it's overwhelming. They can't make sense of it. The minister gave an anecdote (not sure where he picked it up) and such a man who, though had his eye-related (or optic nerve-related) problem restored, preferred to work with his eyes closed since sight didn't make sense to him. So in the John 9 miracle (although we don't necessarily know what was the cause of the blindness), assuming it was to do with his eyes/optic nerve, then the healing of the man was far more encompassing that that (since the man seemed to function, for all appearances, as though he had not been born blind and had no problem with what he was experiencing).

    That man is a special case - because there is a revealed theological framework around his condition and healing. But the point is that God, if He wants to heal, isn't limited to doing it piecemeal or without restoring every part of the person to the extent afflicted/affected by a certain problem.

    My feeling is that prima facie healing-type miracles are, by nature, gracious and God doesn't owe anyone healing. If God didn't perform certain types of miracles, so what? It's not like He owes it to anyone to provide an explanation and the atheist has no grounds for supposing otherwise.

    1. The question is whether we'd expect God to give someone the equivalent of false memories. *As if* he had the kind of formative experiences he would have had with a normal brain or normal senses growing up. And that would make him a different person.