Letter: A Biblical perspective on medical miracles

Last week, Simultaneously Just and Sinner Bible Study tabled alongside The Collegiate Commons and several Christian organizations at IUPUI for an annual apologetics event known as Room 4 Doubt. This year, Dr. Josh Brown and Dr. Candy Brown, professors at IU Bloomington, discussed medical miracles. Because some of what they said seemed to stand in contradiction to Scripture, I felt it necessary to examine their case against the Bible on this important issue.

Editor’s Note: Letters to the editor do not necessarily represent the opinion of The Collegiate Commons, its editorial staff, or contributors. While normally letters are limited to 250 words, we decided to make an exception to encourage discussion on faith-based issues on campus. Any student is welcome to write another letter in response to this one or the event itself and send it to thecollegiatecommons@gmail.com with your name, major and school year, and a similar exception will be granted.

Dr. Brown freely admitted that a large portion of the stories you hear about healing are false. Many of these false healings can be attributed to manipulative tactics which twist the power of the Holy Spirit. However, some of what Dr. Brown did and endorsed seemed to fall into this category.

Dr. Candy Brown, professor of religious studies at IU Bloomington (left) and Dr. Josh Brown, professor of neuroscience at IU Bloomington (right).

At the end of the presentation, Dr. Brown asked if there was anyone feeling left kidney pain. A young man reluctantly came forward saying he had been in a car accident and was having pain in his side. Dr. Brown “prayed,” essentially commanding God to heal this man. He then asked the man in front of approximately one hundred other students if the pain was better. Reluctantly, the man admitted that the pain was slightly better. Dr. Brown further pressed the issue, “praying” two more times, repeatedly asking this man, in front of the crowd, if the pain was all gone until the man finally agreed that the pain was approximately ninety percent gone.

If this truly was a miraculous healing, why was this man so unwilling to admit the pain was gone and why did Dr. Brown feel the need to press him in front of a large crowd? This was a manipulative tactic and not representative of the biblical teaching of the healing work of the Holy Spirit.

I do not deny that God sometimes brings miraculous healing. I saw this firsthand when my younger brother was diagnosed with a rare cancerous brain tumor.

However, this healing work of the Spirit is not something we can command at will. This type of attitude toward the work of the Spirit is similar to the attitude of Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8. Simon sought to buy from the disciples the power of the Spirit. Peter rebuked him strongly, saying his heart was not right before God (Acts 8:18-23).

The spiritual gifts of God are not a commodity.

Is suffering for our benefit?

Throughout the presentation, Dr. Brown spoke of his experience with a brain tumor that he suffered from for many years before it resolved on its own after much prayer. This is what sparked his interest in studying medical miracles. When asked if he considered this experience a blessing in his life, Dr. Brown admitted that although some good had come from it, he did not. His wife, Dr. Candy Brown, went further to say that they saw this trial as an attack from Satan which God did not want to happen.

This claim that Satan has the power to act against the will of God is a direct affront to the sovereignty of God. The Bible is clear: God is in control, and He allows difficulty to come into our life for our sanctification.

The book of Job is a perfect example of this. Satan had to come to God to get power over Job. (Job 1:6-12). Throughout the book, it is evident that the trials of Job, while inflicted by Satan, were from God. When God responds to Job in chapters 38-41, He is declaring Who is in control. Additionally, the Lord rebukes Job for his self-righteousness and implying that God was unrighteous for allowing this trial.

SJS Bible Study tabling at the Room 4 Doubt event (Not Pictured: Caleb Manring)

God is completely sovereign over Satan. He does not simply use what Satan does for good after the fact.

During these trials, we may not see them as a blessing. However, as the Holy Spirit works in us, sometimes bringing miraculous healing, we come to recognize God’s sovereign control and see how the Lord uses our suffering for good.

When asked, most Christians would say that seeing God work in them through these experiences is something they would not give up even if the pain and suffering could have been removed from their life. The trials that God sends His people are a blessing and we are to “count [them] all joy” (James 1:2-3, 2 Corinthians 4:17). Attributing trials solely to Satan deprives the Holy Spirit of the glory He deserves for working in us through them.

In addition to misrepresenting the true work of the Spirit, Dr. Brown’s presentation and “healing work” fostered an unbiblical view of prayer. True prayer is a sincere presentation of our praise and requests to God. It is not a formulaic repetition that demands God heal someone. Dr. Brown spoke of persistence in prayer being useful for healing.

However, biblical persistence does not mean vain repetitions (Mathew 6:7) of demands. It is the sincere pleading of a believer, trusting God’s will whatever the outcome (Mathew 6:10, Luke 22:42). The “healing” work that Dr. Brown endorses, demonstrates an attitude that is not submissive to the will of God.

Far from being commands to God, our prayers are humble requests for His mercy. It is not wrong to boldly come to God and request healing. It is not wrong to repeatedly come to God to ask for healing. In fact, these are things that God desires (Hebrews 4:16, Luke 18:1-8, Romans 12:12, Ephesians 6:18).

However, it is wrong to presume on God’s mercy and put Him to the test.

We do have promises that God will answer our prayers and that whatever we ask in Jesus’ name will be done (John 14:13-14). Asking in Jesus’ name means that we ask in faith in accordance with His will, not that we simply tack His name on the end of our prayer.

In teaching His disciples to pray, Christ taught them first to pray that the Lord’s will would be done and then to bring their requests to God (Mathew 6:9-13). So it ought to be with our prayers for miracles.

Do miracles happen? Absolutely, but we do not have the power to command them when and where we want. They are solely the work of the Holy Spirit.

Often, they are answers to the persistent, sincere prayers of God’s people offered in faith. This is what God promises (James 5:14-16) and this is how we should pray for them.

Praise God for the blessings He sends through the work of His Spirit!

Caleb Manring is a junior majoring in biomedical engineering, and is writing on behalf of Simultaneously Just and Sinner Bible Study.

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