7. The Supernatural in Medicine

The Doctor Himself and the Human Condition by Martin Lloyd-Jones

Christian doctors are constantly questioned about this matter whether by a patient or a relative or some interested person. Someone is desperately ill and medical science, or art as you may like to call it, has done its utmost; but the patient is getting worse and someone suggests the possibility of ‘faith healing’. So the Christian practitioner is confronted with the problem and forced to make a decision about it.

CURRENT INTEREST IN AMERICA

What really has crystallized the matter as far as I am concerned personally was an experience I had in America two years ago. I was there for about five months. I was asked by certain members of the Faculty of a well-known Theological Seminary, at which they tend to be intellectual and sceptical of anything approaching enthusiasm, what I thought of ‘faith healing’, and, in particular, the activities of a lady by the name of Kathryn Kuhlman. As it happened I had read the book by her, which bears the title I believe in Miracles; but I was interested to know why they were concerned about this subject. The answer I received was that a well-known American preacher had invited Mrs Kathryn Kuhlman to take meetings in his church. As the result of the fact that it was he who had invited the lady, a certain undergraduate had gone with a friend to the meeting. They had arrived in a very critical mood, but they had come away enthusiastic and greatly impressed, and had written home about their impressions. So the problem had arisen for my friends in a very direct manner. There was much discussion going on about the subject and they wished to learn – How did we assess it? What did we make of it?

TWO CHIEF ATTITUDES

I believe I am right in saying that there are two main positions among Christian people with regard to this subject of ‘faith healing’. The first consists of those who are over-impressed by the occurrence of certain phenomena. I put it in that way quite deliberately.

This attitude is manifesting itself in another way in connection with the new charismatic movement. It is also showing itself in unexpected places. The Roman Catholics are becoming involved in this movement, particularly in the United States and in Southern America. A book has been published called Catholic Pentecostalism. This is a book that is going to compel us to think again and to think very urgently about these matters. There is a very dangerous element in all this for the reason that the main thesis seems to be that theology does not matter. What really matters, they say, is that one has had a living experience of the Spirit which manifests itself in particular gifts. So you can more or less believe anything you like as long as you have these manifestations. I put all this under the general heading of ‘capitulation to phenomena’. It is the position in which your theology and your doctrine are more or less to be determined by pheno-mena. Those who take this attitude constitute one big group.

The other group consists of those who tend to reject the whole of this in toto. They feel that the subject really does not merit much discussion, that we have been hearing about it throughout the years, and that the less we have to do with it the better.

REJECTION OF THE CLAIMS

I want to examine these two positions, and we will start with the second. Those who reject the whole claim for these phenomena – miraculous healing, demonology and speaking in tongues, etc. – do so, I find on the whole, for three main reasons. The first is not so much a reason as a statement of fact. They just refuse to consider the subject at all. The entire concept is dismissed as being psychological or something, perhaps, even worse; but generally psychological. This attitude is based on the consideration of the kind of people who are generally involved in this kind of thing.

With regard to the much publicized happenings at Lourdes among the Roman Catholics, they will not consider any possibility of facts at all. Why? Because of the very origin of Lourdes. It arose from the experience of the simple peasant girl, who claimed to have had a vision of the Virgin Mary. There is no need to go any further, they say, there is nothing in it, the whole thing is bogus. Though great claims may be made, they cannot be true. It is impossible by definition and you should just dismiss it on these general grounds.

Then there are others who reject it all on what they would call scientific grounds. They maintain that the laws of nature make such happenings quite impossible, that nature is a closed system and is a matter of cause and effect. Because of this, miracles are impossible.

There is yet a third group which I put under the heading of ‘biblical’. This group consists of those who pay very little attention, if any, to all these claims because they hold dogmatically the view that the miraculous, and all such spiritual manifestations, ended with the apostles, and that, once we were given the completed canon of the New Testament, all such unusual phenomena came to an end. This has been a very common view.

THE APPARENT FACTS

Those are some of the ways in which people have rejected the very possibility of miraculous healing at the present time. As we review them it seems clear that, first of all, we must face the question of facts. It is surely unscientific to reject facts; and it is no part of our business as Christians to do so. There has clearly been a tendency to be ready to do so. Take the case of Kathryn Kuhlman. She has been the minister of a Baptist Church in Pittsburg, I believe, for over twenty years. She is very well known both to ministers in that city and also to medical men, some of whom are elders in famous churches. These are not wild enthusiasts, but balanced, sane men. They do not belong to some strange or wild sect, but are good commonsense Presbyterian elders! Yet these men are prepared to say openly that they can attest the claims that people with organic diseases, in their knowledge, have been cured, and that it is this knowledge that has won them over to support Dr Kathryn Kuhlman’s work. In her second book God can do it again, published in 1969, there are cases of healing which are certified by medical men, whose names, medical qualifications and hospital posts are duly reported. Indeed, in one or two of the cases, the medical men themselves were the subjects of healing.

With regard to these witnesses I frankly am in this position. I cannot say that they are liars, neither can I believe that they are deluded. Everything that one knows about these people, or can discover about them, suggests that they are reliable witnesses, and that they have no reason for reporting these facts, or supporting them, save that they believe them to be facts and that they feel in honour and duty bound to say so.

But, for myself, the thing that has impressed me most throughout the years was a little book that I read a number of years ago by Alexis Carrel, whose name is familiar in connection with the Carrel-Dakin solution, which was used in surgical treatment of cuts and wounds immediately after the first World War. He also wrote a well known book called The Phenomenon of Man. Now Alexis Carrel wrote a little booklet on the subject of miraculous healing in which he gives an account of something that happened in his own experience. He was a Roman Catholic, but not a practising one. However he had become interested in Lourdes and its claims, and had decided to go and to investigate it for himself.

In this booklet he gives an account of how he travelled on the train to Lourdes and how he examined there a case of miliary tuberculosis. It had started as intestinal tuberculosis, but it had now reached this terminal stage. He described the distended abdomen and so on. He examined the patient on the train and felt that the patient was in extremis. He was doubtful whether the patient would even reach Lourdes alive. However, the next day he saw with his own eyes the cure of this person. He saw the distended abdomen gradually subsiding and going down; and he was able to examine the patient subsequently and could find no evidence of any disease whatsoever. He then went to the Medical Bureau which they have at Lourdes, equipped with X-rays and everything that can be desired. So, without coming to any conclusions as to an explanation, he has just stated the facts.

CHANGING ATTITUDES OF SCIENTISTS

But still more interesting, it seems to me, is the extraordinary change that has been taking place in the realm of scientific thinking in these last years. Few things in the world of thought are more interesting and more important than this. I do not pretend to understand it all, but I understand enough to be able to follow the argument. The scientific view of the nineteenth century has been abandoned. The controlling theory was deterministic, mechanistic and static in its outlook. It had originated with Descartes and Isaac Newton. They were the fathers of this view and it was universally adopted. Most of us belonging to the evangelical tradition had virtually accepted it, and believed that this was the only truly scientific attitude.

The fact is that, as the result of the work of Einstein and others. the theory of relativity and the quantum theory and so on, there is today an entirely new approach. Scientists, the best scientists, are now saying that our knowledge of ‘the laws of nature’, so called, is very limited. What we have called ‘laws of nature’ only describe a part of actuality and of the totality of phenomena. As far as they go they are correct, but all they do is to describe certain common patterns. It is not that the scientists are disputing the existence of these patterns or denying that within the realm of these patterns you can still talk of cause and effect; but what they have discovered is that there are other factors outside these patterns which cannot be explained in terms of our established, or recognized, ‘laws of nature’.

The modern idea is that of ‘indeterminacy’. They talk now about ‘probability’, not certainty. There is a new kind of openness. I was reading an article recently in which the writer did not hesitate to introduce the idea that ‘the laws of nature’, as we call them, may actually be changing, that the rate at which light travels is changing, and the rate at which certain other phenomena come to pass is changing. So that, with this new view of science, it is no longer taught so confidently that ‘the laws of nature’ govern events. The new view of energy, and especially electrical energy, is such that you must only talk about ‘probabilities’. There are all sorts of possibilities, and we have no right to be dogmatic and to lay down as a rigid principle that you will always have cause and effect.

This new attitude can be worked out, of course, in many ways. The change is most encouraging because, amongst other things, the holding of the older concept meant that, in the end, there was no purpose in holding any view whatsoever, because even one’s thinking was the result of some predetermined cause leading to an effect. The whole process was mechanistic, and what a man happened to believe was regarded as the result of forces outside his own control. There was no volition and no such thing as action; and ultimately, of course, it led to the exclusion even of God. If nature is a closed system, then there is no need of God, indeed no room for God, and most scientists did not believe in God at all. However, we are concerned about this great change in scientific thinking more as it affects our particular subject.

EXAGGERATION OF BIBLICAL CLAIMS

Then, when you come to the rejection of these facts and phenomena in terms of supposed biblical teaching, I personally have always found myself quite unable to accept the well-known teaching that everything belonging to the realm of the miraculous and the supernatural as manifested in New Testament times came to an end with the apostolic age. There is no statement in the Scripture which says that – none at all. There is no specific or even indirect statement to that effect.

Likewise, I am not satisfied by B. B. Warfield’s answer to those who have claimed that miracles did continue after the apostolic age [1]. It is well known that Tertullian and Augustine both made use of the argument that miracles were happening in their time and age in defence of, and as a part of their apologetic for. the Christian faith, and I have never been satisfied with Warfield’s answer to that. Even among themselves scholars are not agreed that you can dismiss the evidence in that summary manner. Not only that, but as one who has been very interested in the history of the Scottish Covenanters and the early Scottish reformers, I have always been impressed by evidence that comes from those times. There are incidents reported in the life of John Welch, the son-in-law of John Knox, where it seems clear that miracles were performed in certain strange and extreme circumstances. There is the famous Covenanter Alexander Peden. It seems to me to be beyond any dispute that that man had the power of foreknowledge and did prophesy things that subsequently came to pass. The records are authentic and they can be read in the two great volumes of Select Biographies edited for the Woodrow Society that deal with that kind of history.

PERIODICITY IN THE BIBLE

Furthermore, I would suggest that in the Bible itself there is surely discernible a kind of periodicity in the appearance of these supernatural happenings. For instance, there is clearly a periodicity in the Old Testament. These things happened at special given times, and for clear and obvious reasons. The same is seen in a measure in the New Testament; and we are told that the Spirit is the Lord of these matters and dispenses his gifts according to his own will. This is something therefore that can happen at any time when it is the will of God that it should happen. Who are we to determine when this should be?

It seems quite clear that, taking the Christian era in general, there was a profusion in the number of such events at the very beginning which has not continued. As I have said, I am not satisfied that they have never happened since, but, speaking generally, they have tended not to happen. During those great periods of revival which have come periodically in the history of the Church, the phenomena consisted not so much in the working of miracles or healings as in extraordinary power of preaching and extraordinary depth of conviction, and an unusual element of joy and exultation. All that, it seems to me, is within the Lordship of the Spirit. The fact that this has generally been the story in our Christian era is no proof that at any given point there may not be a re-introduction of other kinds of phenomena, and especially as we approach the end of the age. In addition to this, those who have been interested in reading books like, for instance Pastor Hsi of China, will have come across incidents and events which I, at any rate, could not explain except in terms of the supernatural and the miraculous. It seems as if God has granted them in the initial stages of a given work, or when some special attestation of the Truth has been needed.

CHANGING ATTITUDES IN MEDICINE

More positively, I believe there are certain other facts to which we have not given the weight and attention that they deserve. There are certain medical facts, it seems to me, that we have tended to discount. I am referring to the reports of spontaneous cures, and particularly regressions in the case of cancerous growths. I had the pleasure of meeting in Cincinnati a man engaged in medical research. He had been working in Chicago with two others who had collected 244 cases of spontaneous cures of cancer in the medical literature in the United States. He was able to show me one of their articles in which this was reported. I remember how when a number of us were looking into this matter under the auspices of the Christian Medical Fellowship we came across several examples in medical literature of spontaneous cures of cancer. This was the kind of thing that had happened. The patient is diagnosed as having a growth, an abdominal growth, and the surgeon decides to operate. But, the moment he opens up, he finds that the growth is so extensive that there is no question of its removal. Finding that it is so widely disseminated the surgeon decides to sew up immediately. He literally does nothing at all about the growth. However, from that moment sometimes the patient has begun to recover, and after a while there has been no further trace or evidence whatsoever of the disease. Such a case may be rare, but it happens. A number of the cases in America belonged to that group – where a surgeon had just performed a laparotomy and no more. Other cases were those in which patients with an advanced malignant growth, some with secondary deposits, developed an intercurrent illness – a fever, or some infectious disease – and from the time they had this other illness, the cancerous condition began to clear up. These medical men, who had collected the reports of those cases were quite satisfied that there had been such spontaneous cures or regressions in apparently hopeless cases. We surely must re-examine such evidence and find some explanation of it – for example, amongst the remarkable mechanisms of immunology. It should deliver us from an over-dogmatic position.

RECENT VIEWS

There has also been speculation as to the role of immunogens and other physiological and pathological processes. Learned addresses have been delivered on this subject and to me it is very fascinating, because it is all indicative of the fact that people are now realizing that the whole man is involved, and that we must not only consider local manifestations. There are certain other factors. In other words, the tyranny of thinking only in terms of morbid anatomy and pathology is coming to an end.

I have often told a story, which has its amusing element, to illustrate this. I remember, when preaching in a certain place, I happened to notice during the singing of a hymn that a minister in the town, a man I had known for years, was more or less being carried in by two people, and put into a seat which had been reserved for him. He was obviously crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. They brought him to me at the close of the service, and he said he wanted to ask me a question. He had been fortunate at last in getting a bed in the Royal Mineral Hospital at Bath, and he wanted to go there for treatment. But to his utter discomfiture he had received an intimation the day before that he would not be admitted to that bed unless he was vaccinated. He was troubled about being vaccinated. He was afraid that in his frail condition this might kill him, and so on. What was my advice? Should he be vaccinated or not? The answer I gave him was that as he was so fortunate in getting a bed in that famous hospital he should go there at all costs. Then I added as a kind of afterthought, ‘Yes, and in any case you never know what good this vaccination may do you. It may very well clear up your whole condition.’ We left it at that. I did not see this man for some six months, but, when next I did, I saw him walking towards me perfectly well. I remarked, ‘Obviously they have very good treatment in the Royal Mineral Hospital at Bath.’ He replied, ‘I never went there.’ ‘Why,’ I said, ‘What happened to you?’ His reply was, ‘Well, as you said, I had such a violent reaction to the vaccination that it seemed to cure me.’ And it had cured him.

THE BALANCE OF HEALTH AND DISEASE

Here is something, surely, that should make us think, and think seriously about the whole process of health and disease. Is it not clear that the maintenance of health is a very delicate and sensitive mechanism, that it is a matter of balance? There is a mechanism in the human body that preserves this extraordinary balance between health and disease. I remember fifty years ago reading a great book, bearing the title of Infection and Resistance dealing with antibodies, and emphasizing the constant fight between disease and the maintenance of health. This goes on not only in the realm of infection but also more generally in diseases such as those to which I have referred. There are forces that are disease-producing and they are held in check by other forces. It is very probable that all this is controlled mainly by the nervous system. Should we not therefore come to the conclusion that disease may be caused by many factors, any one of which may depress this controlling mechanism and knock it out of action temporarily. It may be a shock, it may be an accident or it may be an infection; it may be one of many other factors. Whichever it is it upsets the mechanism that normally maintains the balance between health and disease and gives the advantage to the disease process.

Are we not entitled also to look at the other side and to say that cures may be the result of very many factors? There are the ordinary means which we use, a variety of drugs, or there may be a direct attack on the infecting organisms. In addition, we have still not altogether abandoned, have we, the building up of resistance? We always knew of that element. In earlier years, we used to send people with tuberculosis to Switzerland and some other centres. What for? Well, to build up the resistance. We had nothing then with which we could attack the bacilli directly, so we concentrated on building up the resistance of the patient. Infection and resistance – that was the balance. And if those treating the condition could push up the resistance, down went the infection, and a balance might be restored. As I say, there are examples and illustrations being accumulated in medical literature which are pointing strongly in this direction. And what about the whole question of ‘the will to live’? I am suggesting that we have tended to be too mechanistic in our outlook upon disease. We have tended to forget the patient, and we have tended to forget the delicate balance of the processes which make for health.

THE UNEXPECTED IN MEDICINE

Let me tell one other story which incidentally reminds me of one of the greatest blunders of my life in a medical sense! I was preaching in a little chapel in the Vale of Glamorgan for the first time in 1928 on a Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon and evening. I was having supper before leaving for home with the old lady with whom I had been put to stay – and she was a real old lady worthy of the name, quite a tyrant in her local community. Suddenly she leaned across the table halfway through the meal and said, ‘Will you do an old woman a favour?’ I said, ‘Yes, if I can I will be glad to do so.’ ‘Then,’ she said, ‘will you come and preach again next year at these meetings?’ ‘All right,’ I said, ‘I will.’ We went on eating. After a while she leaned forward again and she said, ‘Look here, will you do an old woman another favour?’ I said, ‘Well, it depends on what it is.’ ‘Oh, it’s all right,’ she said, ‘you can do it.’ I said, ‘What is it?’ ‘Will you promise to come and preach at these meetings each year as long as we both live?’ She had already told me she was aged seventy-nine, her skin was more like parchment than skin, and I in my cleverness came to the conclusion that there was no risk at all in acceding to her request, so I entered into the contract.

That was in 1928. Whether you believe it or not, I had to go to preach in that place every year until 1939; and were it not for the second World War and her evacuation to mid-Wales because of the nearby aerodrome, I would have had to go on until 1942, when she died. But this is the point of the story. I think that somewhere about 1936 this poor old lady had a terrible attack of bronchitis and bronchopneumonia. There were no antibiotics in those days and the sulphonamide drugs were only just coming in. She was desperately ill. Day and night nurses were in charge. All the relatives had been sent for, and they were all convinced, the medical men included, that she was dying. Early one morning, about 3 o’clock, she suddenly sat up in bed and said, ‘Give me that calendar, that almanac on the wall!’ They all thought, of course, that this was a part of her delirium. However she insisted upon having it, and they gave it to her. She looked at it and turned over the pages back and fore for some time. This was typical delirium of course! Suddenly she said to the nurse and the relatives, ‘He will be here in six weeks.’ She had worked out the date of my annual visit. From that moment she began to get well!

In other words I am trying to show that there are so many factors, which we tend to ignore, which can play upon this delicate mechanism of health and disease. And into this category I would put ‘faith’. I mean faith of any kind. If this view is correct any kind of faith can do it. We must not limit these factors. I have not mentioned the people who seem to have a natural ‘gift of healing’. It is something I do not understand; but it is clear to me that, as many factors can cause disease, so many factors can produce cures. Not only Christian faith, but any kind of faith, faith in ‘charismatic’ personalities, psychological factors, intense emotion, shock, the activity of evil spirits – any one of these factors can do it.

BASIC ATTITUDES AND PRINCIPLES

So I come to my conclusion. We as Christians must believe in miracles not because of all these things to which I have been referring but because we believe the Bible. Our belief in God puts us into a position in which we have no difficulty in accepting the miraculous and in believing that miracles can happen at any moment in the will and sovereignty of God. What I have been trying to say is of apologetic value, but it should never be the basis of our faith. For us to say, ‘Ah yes, I can believe in miracles now because of the new scientific outlook, and because of a new way of looking at health and disease’ is to me almost a contradiction of the Christian faith. We believe in miracles because we believe the Scriptures, but what I have been saying should be of some apologetic help and value to us, and especially in the following way.

We must be very careful that we do not fall into the same error into which the Roman Catholic church fell in the case of Copernicus and Galileo. The leaders of that Church rejected the facts, you remember, because they did not fit into their theory. We must be very careful that we are not caught at the same point, and refuse to recognize facts because our theory regards them as impossible. Indeed I have sometimes had a fear that our dogmatism in these matters is far too similar to that of the Communists and their treatment of Lysenko. We must not ban any findings on purely theoretical or doctrinaire grounds. We must have an open mind and be ready to accept facts and to examine them.
At the same time, I would emphasize that we must still continue to maintain our healthy sceptical and critical attitude to everything that is reported to us. But we must be critical on all sides, not simply on one side. We must have a critical attitude towards the dogmatisms of science, as well as to the often exaggerated claims of certain religious groups. The scientists themselves are doing so today. Everything is so much bigger than men used to think, the possibilities are endless. Man really knows so little. Because we have knowledge in a certain segment we have tended to assume we know all. We do not. ‘Probability,’ remember, is the word now, not ‘determinism’.

But, and to me this is the most important finding of all from the theological standpoint, we must not allow our doctrine to be determined by phenomena. This, it seems to me, is the danger today for many good Christians. As I have said earlier, there are many today who seem to be so fascinated by results that they are prepared to abandon what they have always believed. I trust that I have been able to show that there is no need for that.

THE RULE OF SCRIPTURE

The Bible itself teaches us to take our doctrine from it alone. Jannes and Jambres, you remember, could reproduce a great deal of what Moses and Aaron did. Our Lord warned that there would be people who would come to him and say, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name; and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?’ He does not dispute the claim nor the facts; but he declares that he will say to them ‘I never knew you, depart from me ye that work iniquity.’ All along, the Bible instructs us to ‘prove’, to ‘test’ and to examine the spirits. The Bible itself teaches us that there are many forces and powers that can produce phenomena and results; and some of them are ‘evil spirits’. Well, how do you decide? All I am saying is that phenomena do not decide. We must not capitulate to phenomena; you arrive at your conclusions on other, on biblical, grounds. Miraculous, or supernatural happenings and events, do not necessarily validate a ministry, and certainly must never be allowed to determine our point of view. Our Lord’s warning still holds, ‘There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.’

You may ask me at this point: Well, how do you decide in any particular case?’ It may be extremely difficult. Kathryn Kuhlman is to me one of the most difficult cases of all. She preaches the Lord Jesus Christ and she seems to be correct in her doctrine – that is what makes it difficult. But there are certain other elements in her ministry. I heard her over several days on the radio, while in the USA in 1969. There are many elements in her ministry about which I would be extremely unhappy. There is an obvious powerful psychological element, even an assumed voice, and a very artificial one at that. Then there is a great deal of laughter and of joking in her meetings and she boasts of this. Still more basic is the whole question of the teaching of the Bible with regard to the ministry of women!

A COMMISSION TO HEAL

So you have to come back to certain general principles which are taught in the New Testament – and, indeed, in the Old. One is that you never find biblical miracles announced several days beforehand. It seems quite clear to me in all the cases which are reported in the Scriptures that what happened was that an immediate commission was given to the man, or to the men, who worked the miracles. For instance, take the case of Peter and John and the man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. Likewise Paul with the man at Lystra. The apostles did not know beforehand they were going to work miracles. I believe they were given an immediate commission. They did not experiment, and we are not given any reports of failures in the book of Acts. There is always a kind of certainty, assurance and confidence there. I believe that this was the result of the divine commission that was given to the man concerned. He thus always knew at the time that the particular miracle was going to happen.

One notices, also, that the effect of the working of miracles upon the people was to fill them with a sense of awe, and at times of fear. They would say, ‘We have seen wonderful things today,’ or ascribe the power to God. In some of the popular healing meetings of today, however, there is laughter and jocularity. The leaders even boast of this. I would say that the Bible teaches that any manifestation of the power of God is awe-inspiring, and excludes any spirit of levity, or of lightness in one’s attitude.

THE PRAYER OF FAITH

I must say just one further word as to the meaning of ‘faith’ in the term ‘faith healing’. You remember that in the Epistle of James it is said that ‘the prayer of faith shall save the sick’. Then there is the statement in Mark’s Gospel, ‘And Jesus answering saith unto them, “have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things so ever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”’ We have all known people who have been trying to work themselves up into this ‘faith’. That, I believe, is the fallacy. I believe the ‘faith’ referred to by our Lord and by James as ‘the prayer of faith’, is again a ‘given’ faith. I put it into the same category as the ‘commission’ that was given to the apostles, and others who, in my opinion, have worked miracles since the days of the apostles. Not experimentation, not an announcement on Sunday that there is going to be a healing meeting on Thursday next. They cannot truthfully say that because they do not know. All true divinely wrought miracle is ‘given’; and ‘the prayer of faith’ is given. No one can work it up; he either has it or he does not have such faith. It partly depends upon a man’s general spirituality and his general faith in God, and still more upon God’s sovereign will.

THE BIBLICAL ATTITUDE

I would conclude by saying this. We must continue to use the usual means in the treatment of sickness and disease. God’s customary way of dealing with disease is through these means and methods – through the therapeutic abilities he has given to men and the drugs that he has put in such profusion in nature, and so on. In answer to ‘the prayer of faith’ he may choose to answer apart from ordinary means. But in addition, we must remember that there is another factor which we have been discussing; we must not be surprised at it, indeed we should be alert with respect to it. We are not to be disturbed in our theology, nor to abandon our biblical positions because of any phenomenon. We are to try and to test them all. We are to explain them, if we can, in the various ways we have considered as we are enabled now to do more easily, perhaps, than in earlier years. But we are still to believe that ‘with God, all things are possible’.

God can work miracles today as he has done in the past ages. Perhaps we should expect him to do so as the days are darkening, and the forces of evil seem to be emerging in an unusually aggressive and potent manner. We must not exclude dogmatically, as we have often tended to do, the manifestation and demonstration of the power of God to heal diseases, or to do anything that he wills and chooses to do. The old exhortation of the apostle Paul to the Thessalonians still stands, ‘Quench not the spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.’ We must not be frightened or become uncritically credulous; but equally we must not ‘quench the Spirit’ or be guilty of reducing the power of God to the measure of our understanding.

* An address to the Annual Conference of the Christian Medical Fellowship at Bournemouth, May 1971.

REFERENCE

[1] B. B. Warfield, Miracles: Yesterday and Today, Eardmans, Michigan, 1953. (First published as Counterfeit Miracles, Scribner, 1918.)

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