Does God still heal the sick?

July 6th, 2015

Yesterday I got an email alert about a comment left on a post that I have to confess I don’t even remember writing. I mean, my name is on it, and after rereading it I have some vague memory of writing something like that, but if that’s not a sign that I’ve been doing this too long, I don’t know what it.

Then again, maybe I don’t remember writing the post because it was about a topic I never write about because, well, it’s not something I’m particularly comfortable talking about: divine healing.

The original post (some of which I’ve repurposed for this post) was a response to this billboard that went up in New Zealand a few years ago.

That billboard still makes me squirm.

I mean, I love Jesus, I believe in God, and if God exists I kind of have to believe that God has least has the ability to heal disease, right? But come on. It’s cancer. Besides, even if God does sometimes heal people from cancer, what about all the other people that die from cancer? Why didn’t God heal them? And if God heals some people from cancer, why doesn’t God ever restore the limbs of people whose arms or legs have been amputated?

Obviously, it doesn’t take rigorous academic training to see the theological quagmire that is divine healing. (Though, it is important to point out that the reality of divine healing, periodic reality of divine healing, or total lack thereof, has no bearing on whether or not God exists.)

For someone like me who prides himself on having a rational faith — or at least as rational a faith as one can have — even talking about divine healing is something I avoid like the plague.

Pun kinda intended.

Personally, I don’t know what makes me more uncomfortable when it comes to divine healing: the theodicy issues it creates or the science that seems to say pretty definitively that divine healing just isn’t possible.


I’m also not ready to completely dismiss God’s ability to miraculously heal the sick.

After all, healing people both spiritually and physically was at the heart of Jesus’ mission.

So, I’m sincerely torn on this issue.

I’ve never been miraculously healed myself or seen anyone miraculously healed with my own eyes, but I’ve heard countless stories — often times from very reputable people — that attest to God’s continued ability to heal the sick. And if God does exist and loves us like we think God does, then surely healing people, at least from time to time, would be something that God would want to do.

But then there’s that part of my brain that says “God doesn’t work that way anymore.” There has to be a rational (whatever that means), scientific/medical explanation for why their stage 4 cancer suddenly went into remission, right?

And maybe there is.

I’m sure there is.

I’m well aware of the fact that people of faith have the tendency to insert God into the vaccum of our inability to explain things we don’t understand and I have no doubt that this is often the case with events we deem to be proof of divine healing. Besides, there are plenty of times when after the pronouncement of divine healing have been made, we (or more accurately, doctors) learn later that there was a less than divine explanation for the healing that occur.

But as people of faith who profess allegiance to a Jesus who made divine healing a central part of his ministry, what do we do with claims like the one on that bilboard?

Do we play the “God doesn’t work that way anymore” card? And if so, why doesn’t God work that way anymore? Has God chosen for some mysterious reason to withhold God’s ability to heal? And if so, why would God do that? And what kind of God would that be who could heal miraculously and has healed miraculously, but doesn’t anymore?

Or were the miraculous healings in the gospels just made up by the gospel writers? Maybe Jesus’ miracles mere metaphors for some spiritual truth? Perhaps, but wouldn’t people who had known the blind, demon possessed, or dead people before the miracles happened called out the gospel writers for making the story up?

Or do we face a situation like Santa Claus did in the movie "Elf"? Maybe Jesus’s divine healing powers, like Santa’s sleigh in Central Park, can’t get off the ground because enough people don’t still believe in him? Honestly, that sounds far more absurd to me than the idea of a pastor healing someone through the laying on of hands.

So, what then do we with our great 21st century, scientifically grounded intellect do with claims of divine healing? It doesn’t seem to me that as people of faith we can simply dismiss them out of hand for to do so we would also have to dismiss the greatest medical miracle of all time: resurrection from the dead.

And without the resurrection, we’re left without a gospel.

So, I’m torn.

think I believe that God still heals the sick. I want to believe that God still heals the sick. So, I wonder if perhaps I suffer a certain kind disease myself and am in need of my own healing. I wonder if I suffer from what John Milbank calls the “false humility” of faith. I wonder if in my need to be accepted and affirmed by an increasingly secular society I cower away from the more “extreme” claims of my faith. I wonder if perhaps I’m ok with God’s grace being radical so long as it fits within my parameters for acceptability. I wonder if maybe I don’t really believe that God is actually capable of all the incredible things I’ve claimed God is capable of because I’m embarrassed, not by what that would look like but by the story I would have to tell my friends.

To be honest, I just don’t know what to make of divine healing.

So, I’m left with a bunch of unanswered questions, and for now that will have to do.

But what I do know is there are countless people out there who have been seriously ill, and whether through divine intervention or more earthly methods, they are well today; that is something worth celebrating.

This article originally appeared on Reprinted with permission.

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