Stealing Jesus

Stealing Jesus

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Above Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

The resurrection story has several theories that you might hear from those who don’t embrace the Christian view. One of the more common ones is the stolen body theory. When you consider the possibilities of who would have stolen his body, it falls into three categories: the Romans, the Jewish authorities, and the disciples. 

The Romans

After the crucifixion, Pilate ordered that Jesus’ tomb be guarded so someone would not steal the body and claim he came back to life. He did this because the chief priests and Pharisees were worried someone would steal his body. They had recalled that Jesus said He would rise again after three days, they shared their concern with Pilate. “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. Matthew 27:65 

So the question is, what motive would the Romans have for stealing the body? Indeed, they did not want any more trouble with the Jews than they already had. Besides, after the resurrection claim, the disciples began to preach the Good News boldly and without fear. Obviously, this angered many Jews. The Romans were in charge of keeping peace in Palestine, and had the Romans been the ones to steal the body, they certainly could have produced it. The evidence of the body would have shut up the claims of the disciples.((Story, Dan. The Christian Combat Manual. Chattanooga: AMG, 2007. Print.)) The problem was, the Romans could not produce a body.  

The Jews

What would motivate the Jewish leaders into stealing the body of Jesus? They were the ones who approached Pilate with concerns about someone stealing the body. The Jews were the ones who ensured the tomb was secure with a posted guard. Matthew 27:62-66 The Jewish leaders did not want anyone, least of all the disciples, making claims that Jesus had risen from the dead after three days.  

After the resurrection, many Jews became Christians, and if the chief priests and Pharisees had stolen the body, possibly so the disciples could not steal it first and claim He rose, they would have produced it to end the foolishness of this new cult. 

In Acts 4:1-3, Peter and John were arrested because they claimed Jesus had been resurrected. The elders and chief priests were amazed at how bold yet uneducated Peter and John were but were unable to persuade them to stop announcing the resurrection of Christ. Acts 4:13 

David Limbaugh, author of Jesus On Trial wrote concerning the stolen body theory, “Also, Matthew 28:11-15 relates that the Jews proposed an alternative theory for the empty tomb (“tell the people the disciples stole the body”), which proves they didn’t dispute that it was, in fact, empty.”1

If the body remained in the tomb, then the Jewish leaders would have simply had the Roman guards roll the stone and deliver the body of Jesus as decisive proof that He was still dead. If there was a body, history has not recorded any debate or dispute over the identification of Jesus’ body. Quite the contrary, the discussion revolved around the disappearance of the body, not its identification. 

The Disciples

Many have claimed and still do, that the disciples stole the body to gain power, influence, and celebrity status. Limbaugh wrote, “The disciples had nothing to gain by staging some elaborate hoax in order to start a new religion; in fact, they all faced ridicule, hardship, persecution, and many suffered martyrs’ deaths.”((Limbaugh, David. “Truth, Miracles, and the Resurrection of Christ.” Jesus On Trial, Regnery Publishing, 2014, p.282)) So for some reason, the disciples stole the body of their Lord so they could be beaten, abused, insulted, stoned, beheaded, and crucified.

There have been claims that Romans blamed the disciples, but how would they know? How would he know who took the body if the guard was sleeping? How could the disciples have gotten past him if he was not sleeping? The penalty for either would have been death for the Roman guard. 

We have accounts of Christian martyrs who have died for their faith in Christ over the centuries, but in recent years, we have had evidence of others dying for their faith. For example, the Taliban and the suicide bombers have made headline news hundreds of times since the 911 attacks. They obviously believe and are willing to die for their belief. But there is a significant difference between dying for what you believe to be true, and dying for what you know to be true. 

The disciples knew they did not steal the body and also knew no one else had a reason to. They experienced firsthand evidence in seeing, talking to, and touching their resurrected Lord. Mary Magdalene saw, heard, and touched Christ. John 20:10-18. In Luke 24:36-49 and John 20:19-23, other disciples saw, heard, and touched Christ. In John 20:24-31, eleven apostles saw, heard, and touched Christ.((Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway 2004, Print.)) These close followers knew their Lord and were willing to die for him. Not for what they believed to be true, but for what they knew to be true. 

William Lane Craig wrote, “One of the most remarkable facts about the early Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection was that it flourished in the very city where Jesus had been publicly crucified. So long as the people of Jerusalem thought that Jesus’ body was in the tomb, few would have been prepared to believe such nonsense as that Jesus had been raised from the dead.”2 

The burden of proof was on the Romans and the Jewish leaders, and apparently, no one could produce a body because He had risen. Craig continued, “The disciples could not have believed in Jesus’ resurrection if His corpse still lay in the tomb. It would have been wholly un-Jewish, not to say stupid, to believe that a man was raised from the dead when his body was known to be still in the grave.”2 Even if the disciples had boldly professed the resurrection out of ‘blind-faith’ once someone produced the body, this new religion would have died right then and there.  

Finally, in his book, Know What You Believe, Paul Little points out that people will die for many things they believe to be true. I have already pointed out the 911 attacks and the belief of those terrorists but flip the coin. How many people do you know that will die for something they ‘know’ is false?((Little, Paul. Know What You Believe. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2003. Print.))

The Roman and Jews could not produce the body, but the disciples would have wanted to, if doing so would have saved them from beatings, stonings, and crucifixions. 

Have you talked about the resurrection with your children beyond Easter eggs, ham, and family gatherings? Or the church activities that go beyond children making little paper tombs that represent the empty tomb? How much more impactful would it be if you sat down with your young children and gave them something beyond what seems to be the annual Easter bedtime story and shared the evidence of the resurrection with them?

Since birth, today’s teens and young adults have been saturated with market media. They recognize, but may not be able to articulate, the world’s sales pitch to purchase everything from cereal to shoes. Religion, specifically Christianity, markets ideas as much as Ford selling the F150 and General Mills selling Lucky Charms. So if you don’t want the Christian ideas to end up in the ‘junk mail’ folder or being ‘unfriended,’ you better give them reasons for the sale beyond what is typically offered. 

Jedd Medefind, president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, wrote, “We must make truth touchable. The Good News must be as tangible as the wood of a cross. Without a visible expression, words like transformation, grace, and radical discipleship will be quickly dismissed as just another hyperbolic sales pitch.”3

The apostles were not adverse to giving reasons or evidence for their faith. 1John 1:1-2 With some guidance, our children can move beyond the Walmart end caps full of colorful eggs and white bunnies to explain why they celebrate what we recognize as the truth of the resurrection to their unchurched or unbelieving peers at school. Go beyond the Easter egg hunt and give them reasons for believing. 

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Stealing Jesus by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. Limbaugh, David. “Truth, Miracles, and the Resurrection of Christ.” Jesus On Trial, Regnery Publishing, 2014, p.282 []
  2. Craig, William L. On Guard. Colorado Springs: David C Cook Publishing, 2010. Print [] []
  3. Kinnaman, David. You Lost Me – Why Young Christians are Leaving Church. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011. Print. []
A Whale of a Story

A Whale of a Story

Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

 

In 1861 a ship, The Star of the East, was chasing down an enormous Sperm whale near the Falklands Islands. The crew managed to harpoon the whale, and after several minutes it surfaced, and they moved in for the kill. However, one boat moved too close, and the massive tail, broader than the longboats giving chase, rose out of the water and came down, smashing one of the longboats. The harpooner on that boat, James Bartley, was thrown into the air and then plunged into the freezing ocean waters, harpoon still in hand. Disoriented, stunned, and numb from the icy waters, Bartley struggled to return to the surface. It was several moments before he realized he was still gripping the heavy harpoon, which hindered his efforts. Ropes, debris, foam, and freezing swirling waters also hampered his struggles to reach the surface. Later he concluded he was swimming just a few meters underwater and suddenly realized he was swimming toward the open and gaping mouth of the whale. Moments later, he was swallowed alive. 

Minutes later, everyone was retrieved from the water and pulled into the remaining longboats. More harpoons sailed into the side and back of this massive beast sealing its fate, but the crew could not find their mate, James Bartley, and assumed he had drowned. The Star of the East moved alongside the whale and they began the process of striping the whale down to the bone. The crew worked quickly because sharks were always a concern, and silently because they were mourning the loss of their friend. As they began gutting the corpse, they heard screaming from within the whale. The crew, superstitious and suddenly fearful, stopped working. However, the captain, a harsh man who was not prone to superstitions, demanded they continue working! Moments later, James Bartley, screaming and gasping like a newborn, clawed his way out of his grave. That was, and has been, the only known documented and witnessed claim of a human being swallowed by a whale. 

Bartley was half-mad from the terror and bleached white by the stomach acids. The Star of the East returned to England with the entire crew. Recovering, Bartley received fame as the second Jonah, but he never went whaling again. His case caused a sensation with the English medical community, not to mention the Christians who rallied around this event, which justified the story of Jonah and the whale. 

This account was published in the New York Times in 1896 and also in the Yarmouth Mercury that same year. Bartley was a living miracle. His experience, which most of the crew witnessed on The Star of the East, was shared on multiple continents.1 Yet, this story, like so many others Christians want to believe, was wholly fabricated. There is no record of the Star of the East sailing in the late 19th century. Furthermore, whaling did not begin near the Falkland Islands until the early 1900s. Neither are there any medical documents that record any such accident in the whaling industry.1 Nevertheless, this tale was published in the New York Times, and the story spread from there. Questionable new reporting started a long time ago. 

So here is the problem. Christians throughout the centuries have sought to justify the story of Jonah and the whale as an actual occurrence. Could it be a real event? Of course, but that is not the point. 

Not long ago, I was talking about apologetics with Kelly, a friend of mine. She told me about a book titled, ‘How (NOT) to Read the Bible’ by Dan Kimball. She heard about it because her church was doing a series based on the teachings in the book. I ended up listening to the series, which was excellent, attending a Q & A, and purchasing the book. Dan Kimball points out four broad ideas we need to consider when reading the Bible. 

  1. The Bible is a library, not a book.
  2. The Bible is written for us, but not to us.
  3. Never read a Bible verse
  4. All of the Bible points to Jesus

The Bible comprises 66 books written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, with roughly 40 authors spanning about 1500 years. In it, you will find history, poetry, songs, parables, letters, eyewitness accounts, prophetic literature, and law written on stone, parchment, and scrolls by shepherds, farmers, warriors, tent-makers, physicians, kings, teachers, and priests2

Many bible scholars over the years have recognized how Jonah’s actions parallel both the younger and older brother in the parable of the prodigal sons. If you have not read it, you should now. In the first part of the book, Jonah runs from God. Luke 15:11-24. Just as the younger of the two sons ran from his father, taking his inheritance. Then when Jonah finally obeys God’s directions and goes to Nineveh and the Ninevens repent, Jonah acts like the older brother. He is angry at God for forgiving the repentant sinners just as the older brother was angry at his father for forgiving the younger son. Luke 15:25-32 ((Smethurst, Matt. “Tim Keller on a Fishy Story” The Gospel Coalition Oct. 3, 2018, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/tim-keller-fishy-story/))

Those who read scripture and interpret it literally are missing out on so much more that was intended for the readers. For example, in John 10:7, Jesus refers to Himself as a gate or door. Is He a gate or a door? Of course not. Psalm 91:4 talks about God covering us with His feathers. Does God actually have feathers? No. In John 6:35, Jesus said He was the bread of life. In Isaiah 64, we are called clay. In Deuteronomy 32, God is a rock. Metaphors and other literary devices are used throughout the Bible. It is essential to keep in mind who the author was, who he was writing to, and his intent in the lines when reading scripture. 

British evangelist G. Campbell Morgan once said, “Men have been looking so hard at the great fish that they have failed to see the great God.”

In his book, When God Goes to Starbucks, Paul Copan writes about the hyperbolic language used and the claims of miracles in scripture. “While we should certainly be careful about being gullible rather than believe just any sensational claim…plenty of well-informed believers today hold to the possibility of the miraculous. Yet even in Jesus’ day, his disciples, especially Thomas, refused to believe initial reports that Jesus was raised.”3

Was there really a man named Jonah who was swallowed by a whale and spit out three days later? I don’t know and don’t care. I don’t have a horse in that race. But what I will point out to someone who mocks the Bible because of Jonah’s account, and other stories like it, are entirely missing the intent and wisdom of the story that the author intended. 

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A Whale of a Story by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.christianapologetics.blog.

Sources:

  1. Veale, Graham. “Whales, Tall Tales, and Miracles.” New Atheism A Survival Guide, Christian Focus, 2013, pgs 76-77 [] []
  2. Kimball, Dan. “The Bible was not Written to Us” How Not To Read The Bible, Zondervan, 2020, pgs 28-30 []
  3. Copan, Paul. “Only Gullible People Believe in Miracles” When God Goes To Starbucks – A Guide to Everyday Apologetics. Baker Books 2008, pg 61 []

Drop Test Your Faith

Reading Time: 6 minutes

 If you follow technology at all you have probably heard of or come across cnet.com, a site that not only explores the latest technological gadgets we can purchase but offer reviews for just about every tech item you can think of. They recently drop tested the new Galaxy 9 to see how well it would hold up.

For boys, this comes quite naturally. We were, (most of us still are) always trying to see what would happen if we burn something, smash something, or shoot something with an arrow or a .45. We blow things up quite naturally just to see what would happen. How many of you reading this remember smashing your toy cars with a hammer? How about getting a new pocket knife and seeing what it could do on your plastic toy soldiers, G.I. Joes, or your sister’s barbies? It’s a boy thing, sorry ladies.

I remember buying balsa wood airplanes and carefully taping firecrackers on the wings then giving them some test flights to make sure it would get airborne. After I was satisfied with the test flights I then lit the firecrackers and launched it into the air. Of course, all your buddies are over to watch the airshow; destruction was always a draw to the neighboorhood boys.

I realized over time that we were much more encouraging of our friends to blow up their toys than our own, but it was worth it if you had several neighborhood supporters over to watch the spectacle. The only thing better than watching your friends blow up their toys was if somehow your buddy was injured in the mayhem. Hooray when that would happen! You had a story to tell in school the next day! More than likely your buddy would have a large bandage or a sling of honor to show off.

Totally worth it as long as the moms would not get involved. Whenever they got wind of our schemes the atmosphere would totally change. If it was someone’s dad who found out, that usually resulted in improved preparation and refined wreckage.

When I was done recalling some of the debris and destruction of my youth, I began to think about Christians drop testing their faith. How many of us wrestle with tough questions?

So many of us surround ourselves with like-minded believers, this is only natural. Sure we may be friendly with our co-workers, but do most Christians have conversations about God with non-believers? Even more important, do you have conversations with your children about your faith? Grandchildren? How would you define faith with your child? Is it blind? Does it require a leap?

Do we train our youth so they will be ready for what they will hear in high school and college? Will the first time they hear views counter to Christianity be at home, in church, at their youth group, or in class sitting in front of an atheist professor? What would they say when surrounded by peers who tell them women have the right to do what they want with their own body and abortion should remain legal? How about science has disproven God’s existence and evolution shows we don’t need a creator? Or miracles don’t really take place, they are all 2nd hand stories that promote preachers and fill the pockets of pastors. I can promise you this, they will hear those and a host more.

Thucydides was a Greek historian and general. He wrote about the Peloponnesian War, “…But of the acts themselves done in the war, I thought not fit to write all that I heard from all authors nor such as I myself did but think to be true, but only those whereat I was myself present and those of which with all diligence I had made particular inquiry.”1

Now compare what Thucydides wrote to what Luke wrote in his introduction to Acts. “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” Luke 1:1-4

See the similarity? Many dismiss the Gospel accounts of miracles as made up, 2nd hand, lacking eyewitnesses, and myth.

Let me encourage you on this last point. Miracles do place and we can say so with certainty.

As we go through life we often we find ourselves in need of a miracle. Sometimes the miracle we want is the healing of a child, a friend, or a spouse. Sometimes it is a miracle in a broken marriage relationship or a loved one who has walked away from their faith. Yet, no matter what we do, or how much we pray, nothing seems to happen, and none of what is going on makes any sense.

I know many of you can relate. I can. I am in need of a miracle in my life and despite what ‘seems’ to be God’s lack of interest in my situation and my families circumstance, I believe that God is intensely interested. Miracles do take place, and He can do a miracle in my life. But, and this is key, no matter what takes place, still choose to love Him and seek His good and perfect will for your life.

Do you need a miracle? Duane Miller needed a miracle in his life. In 1990 he was the pastor of a Texas church and caught a flu virus which ruined his vocal cords and the damage was beyond repair. Miller wrote, “Over the next three years I was seen by over 63 specialists and their teams (totaling over 200 doctors) as they tried to diagnose and treat me.”2 Over time he had to resign his position because he was unable to speak. Miller’s voice sounded like a serious case of laryngitis and despite his passion to teach God’s word, it was taken from him.

His family moved back to Houston and his wife became the primary income earner. He did what he could to support his family, but with a voice so weak his options were limited.

After a time he reluctantly agreed to teach a small group bible study for Houston’s First Baptist Church. He and others had reservations about his voice because it was hard to hear him, but one supporter was adamant for him to teach so he agreed and the miracle began. His voice was recorded and posted up on YouTube.

It is 4 minutes and 48 seconds long. Set aside your theology about healing for a moment and listen to his voice, whether you agree with what he is teaching or not. You are listening to a miracle.

Some of you may have heard of Eric Liddell and his story that became a household conversation in the movie, ‘Chariots of Fire’. What the movie did not share was he became a missionary in China and ended up dying in a Japanese internment camp. He died in that camp as he passionately sought God moving in his life. What many don’t know is 63 years later his family found out Liddell was part of a prisoner exchange deal between Great Britain and Japan, but Eric gave up his spot for a pregnant woman. Was that a miracle or was that God using someone to bring a miracle in someone’s life? Both I think.

Jonathan Morrow wrote concerning miracles, “When we talk about miracles, we need to remember that God can either work with created nature or go beyond its natural capacities to accomplish his purposes. It is our knowledge of science that allows us to know what something’s natural capacities are and what it would not normally be capable of.”3

When we read the final page and close a book, the story is over. But it is essential, (and have to remind myself of this over and over) that our current circumstances are not the final chapter in our lives. It may not turn out like you envisioned, but seek Him throughout it all, and you may find some prayers were answered that you had not even thought of.

 

Sources:
1. Crane, Gregory R. Hobbes, Thomas, Ed. “Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War.” Perseus Digital Library. Perseus.tufts.edu. nd. 
2. Miller, Duane. “The Miracle Moment.” Millertheology, Millertheology.wordpress.com, 20 January 2013
Crossroads Church Media. “Duane Miller Video.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 7 June, 2011, Web. 25 March, 2018.
3. Morrow, Jonathan. “Is The Bible Unscientific?” Questioning The Bible. 11 Major Challenges to the Bible’s Authority. Moody Publishers, 2014, pg 137.

 

 

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Drop Test Your Faith by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

47 Questions Christian’s can’t answer

Reading Time: 7 minutes

This is a continuation of the 50 supposed questions Christians could not answer. You can find the full list here.

4. Why did the little old lady that God healed one Sunday need her walker to get around again next Sunday? Was she only temporarily worthy of a healing?

Assumptions:
*Healings we do see are faked
*God can’t really heal anyone
*God does not exist

My initial reaction was to ask, “Exactly what little old lady are you talking about? What church was this. Give me a date, time, witnesses to back up what your implying.”

Unfortunately, those kinds of faked healings do take place, and aside from putting money in the pocket of some dishonest people,  they do nothing to give credence to miraculous healings that do occur. Understandably, those who are skeptical of miraculous healings ask for specific documentation that would ‘prove’ the healing actually occurred. They want x-rays that show the broken bone or cancerous tumor. They want proof that the x-ray they are viewing is of the person who was healed, and want to see the evidence that shows the ailment just prior to the healing. Frankly, I am no different.

Skeptics want eyewitness testimony from the nurses and physicians, and documentation from the x-ray technician and the radiologist that confirm what took place. Who can blame them for asking? The lame can walk, the blind can see, those stories are a dime a dozen and rarely have any documentation to back them up. Couple that with the infrequent times they do provide any documentation, more often than not, its creditably comes into question, so who can blame them for doubting?

Even as a believers in miraculous healings, when we hear of one, we want to see proof with our own eyes. And if we become convinced, only those who know us well will believe us. This has become an unmistakable necessity for twenty and thirty somethings, due in part to the Internet.

Electronic Arts or EA Games had a motto for years: “Challenge Everything”. A generation of teens grew up seeing and hearing that slogan whenever they started to play Battle Field, or any one of a dozen other EA titles that sold millions, despite the fact that they were voted the worst company in America in 2012, just beating out Bank of America. 1 I am not a fan of EA games, but I have spent many hours playing some of their titles with friends online.

With messages like that pixilized into the brains of a generation, coupled with photo shopped images covering Facebook, the YouTube phenomena with illusionary and deceptive video graphics, (here is a great example), it should not be surprising we have a generation of skeptics who doubt everything. Or worse, believe everything they see on the Internet. I would imagine thousands of gallons of water were cleaned up in kitchens as unsuspecting teens tried over and over to do the above water trick.

Whether or not healings actually do take place is not only a debate between Christians and atheists, but a debate between Christians themselves. Much like the young earth vs. old earth in-house debate, Christians find themselves divided over the topic of cessationism, which is the view that miraculous gifts ended when the apostles passed away. Most cessationists believe that God can still act in miraculous ways, and does at times, but individuals are no longer used, or are able to perform miracles. 2

We live in a universe where miracles are not only possible, but actual. Norman Geisler pointed out that, “Indeed, the greatest miracle of all – creation of the universe out of nothing – has already occurred.” 3 So raising someone from the dead is small fries compared to creating the universe out of nothing. When you raise someone from the dead, at least you have a dead body to start with, but something from nothing, that is a real trick.

On July 22nd, 2013, the Bishop of Pavita made official the 69th miracle had taken place at Lourdes. Lourdes is a town in Southern France where, in the 1950’s, the Virgin Mary was supposedly seen by a peasant girl multiple times. Since then, this small town of about 15, 000, is host to over five million visitors every year.

Many visit with the hopes of being healed from just about every ailment you can think of. The Catholic Church has investigated over 7000 cases of healings, with most taking over 20 years to investigate. Dr. Alessandro de Franciscis, head of the medical branch, stated in the final meeting with more than 100 physicians and nurses, they finally approved Danila Castelli’s cure as being miraculous. He said ,“This lady was judged, indeed certified cured in a way unexplained by current medical scientific knowledge.” 4

Some may point out, and rightfully so, that the illustration of the Catholic church might not be the best source for an example of healing. Yes, I get that, but one only need to do a little research to see the great lengths the church goes to verify the healings at Lourdes. It would be fair to say they already challenged everything prior to claiming that a healing took place. Now I am not saying the waters themselves have healing power, or it has to do with the location, or even the appearances of the Virgin Mary, but I am saying I believe healings have taken place. Healings that can’t be explained by the natural world.

Every day unexplained events of healing take place, and most do not go beyond family or close friends. My own daughter Sarah, when she was an infant, had a period of months where she was sickly. Coughs, colds, and croup. She began to look sickly, was not sleeping well, and lost all of her baby fat. We took her to the doctor more than once, but she never improved.

I remember once he prescribed albuterol, which we gave her. A short time later she literally began running from one wall to the next, totally wired. Sure enough her cough went away, but she was acting as if we gave her crack. For hours, she just ran around the room unable to control herself. I called the doctor, and had a brief conversation I will never forget. Without going into the details, we never went back to him.

At the end of our rope, we had an elder from church come pray over Sarah. Larry Briney, the same dear gentleman who married Gloria and I. After a brief conversation and a simple prayer, he left. That night Sarah slept for hours, and so did Gloria and I. She quickly improved and has not had any lengthy illness since then.

I have no other explanation for her healing, nor do I offer one. Skeptics can claim it was a matter of coincidence, but after several months of illness, I find it a bit of a stretch to claim it was simply coincidental with the prayer of Larry Briney. It could not have been the albuterol because it is not an antibiotic. It is used to open airways for a few hours to aid breathing. After the prayer, she was healed of what ever ailment she had.

Craig Keener wrote a book titled Miracles. He wrote it to fill a void in biblical academia which was lacking work on the subject of contemporary miracles. It is over flowing with accounts of miraculous healings in third world countries, and in the western world. One account of hundreds he offers was from a Carl Cocherell. In 2006, while working on his car he broke his ankle. X-rays confirmed the break and he was ordered, due to the severity of the break, to stay over night in the hospital by the orthopedist and he would need months of therapy.

During the night, he said the Lord told him it was not broken. The next day Carl had more x-rays, which were requested by his family physician. After the x-rays, his physician’s office called him in, and his physician told Carl there was no break, showing him the x-rays. In fact, there was not even a sign of a break. Carl offered the first x-rays, which were confirmed to be a broken ankle, but Carl was healed. 5

James Spiegel, author of The Making of an Atheist, has an interesting take on the atheist world view. He pointed out that the popular position of scientists being objective in their research and having a Spock-like view, who just report the information, facts, and statistics, without any bias or preconceived notions, is far from the truth.

Muslims, Christians, atheists, and scientists all hold onto views of the world that are reinforced by family, friends, and culture. Shifting out of a strongly held view that often influences our daily lives, can be likened to the duck/rabbit illustration of the ‘gestalt switch’.

rabbitduckHe wrote, “Notice that while you can see the figure as a duck or a rabbit, you cannot see it simultaneously as both. A wholesale conversion of perspective is necessary to shift from one to the other.” 6 Christian’s are not above having a bias toward their world view, but too many have a faith that is easily swayed.

Often Christians have been raised by well meaning parents who have gone to great lengths to ‘isolate’ their children from secular world views. I would recommend, as Greg Koukl has put it, to ‘inoculate’ your children. Provide them with evidence for their faith so that when they arrive in high school or college, the views from teachers and professors will not come as a shock. Rather, their faith, having been inoculated with reasons, grounded in facts, supported by science, will not be shaken loose. That is what apologetics can do for our youth. Challenges about miracles, about belief in God, will not trigger a gestalt switch in faith.

Why did the little old lady that God healed one Sunday need her walker to get around again next Sunday? I have no idea, but what does this generic question have to do with the miracles at Lourdes? Or with my own personal experiences, and experiences others share with us? With the unparalleled academic work by Keener? The miraculous accounts we hear about on a daily basis are far too many to be accredited with coincidence and greed.

Sources:

1. Morran, Chris. “The Voters Have Spoken: EA Is Your Worst Company In America For 2012” The Consumerist. consumerist.com, 4 April. 2012. Web. 7 June. 2014.
2. “Is cessationism biblical? What is a cessationist?” Got Questions. gotquestions.org, 2014. Web.
3. Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004. Print.
4. “Lourdes shrine officially records 69th miracle. Catholic News Agency. Catholicnewsagency.com. 22 July, 2013. Web. 6 July, 2014.
5. Keener, Craig S. Miracles. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011. Print.
6. Spiegel, James. The Making of an Atheist. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2010. Print.

 

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47 Questions Christian’s can’t answer by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

49 Questions Christian’s can’t answer

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My last post, titled 50 Questions Christian’s Can’t Answer, removed one from the list. The full list of questions by an atheist can be found here if you are interested, but this post will focus on the 2nd question he posted.

2. Why won’t God heal amputees?

Several assumptions can be made by that statement and I will touch on each one below.

*God has never healed an amputee.
*If he is a loving God, he would heal everyone.
*Future healing does not count for our earthly suffering.
*God does not exist.

This question already presupposes that God has not healed any amputees. Once again, the burden of proof lies with the one making the claim, and the claim is that there has never been a single case of an amputee growing back an arm or leg.

I would ask to see the pile of documentation that covers all the centuries since the birth of Christ, (or even prior if you like), in all the locations of the world. It should be obvious that kind of detailed, complete, and verifiable documentation would be impossible. It would have required interviewing everyone who has lived since the birth of Christ, with their testimony recorded and stored for later research. Claims like this require omniscience, or all knowing.

I am not saying there has been such a case of healing; it could very well be there never has been a case of an amputee growing back a body part. Yet to make the claim that an amputee has never been healed, the evidence must be verifiable, and without the required documentation, that claim is unsupported.

Let me give you an example as to why this kind of claim is so difficult to prove. For example, if I made the claim, “There is not a single North American Grizzly bear to be found in Washington State”, I would have to provide verifiable evidence showing every county, canyon, and creek was searched. Every cave, underneath every overhang, the top of every mountain, and every few feet of every forested area. Washington State is 71,303 square miles, so that is a lot of area to search. It would be quite a chore, even if you were looking for an elephant, or hippo, or even an Airbus-380, (the largest passenger aircraft ever made).

gbearmapOn the other hand, if I was to make the claim that you can find the Grizzly Bear in Washington State, I would only have to find one, and only one. Once I found a Grizzly, my search would be over. One of the first places I would look would be just south of Vancouver, where some Grizzly Bears have been found and tagged in the North West tip of Washington State.

My point being, proving something never took place can be an impossible task, and the claim that God has not healed an amputee is one of those tasks. I do not make that point to belittle the question; I think it is important to be able to respond thoughtfully, and to other questions like it.

Another way to consider such a question would be to ask them if they are really asking why God does not do big, public, headline, CNN, ABC, news miracles that everyone can see and can be verified. This would be a more honest question. If they admit that is the question, you can reply, “Absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence.” For example, if you toss me a ball, and I do not to catch it, it does not necessarily follow I am incapable of catching the ball. This is a logical fallacy called non-sequitur which is Latin for “it does not follow”.

I can remember when my children were very young, I would sit them in my lap near the wood stove on a winter’s day. I would hold their hand out toward the stove repeating the word “hot.” I would move their tiny hand closer to the wood stove, till they began to feel the heat, finally they began to pull away because the temperature became uncomfortable. They would always look at me with concern and questioning, but they would understand after that, if they touched or came near to the wood stove it would burn them. There was a consequence for their behavior, should they decide to touch the wood stove.

All children grow up learning about consequences, but if a parent intervenes too often, you end up with a spoiled brat, who may expect everything to go their way. Over the years, I have had many parents come in on behalf of their son or daughter asking me for some ‘extra credit’ their child could do to improve their grades. I politely explain I rarely do extra credit, and it would be better if they just did the work assigned. I also explain to parents, (and this often comes as a surprise because the child did not share it with their parents), that students can redo all work, (except tests and quizzes) for 100%. Of course, very few students take the initiative and redo any work turned back to them. Usually they toss it and the parents never see it. Those students who do keep their work and show the parents, (who wants to show their parents a D or F), are usually the students already earning good grades and don’t need the extra credit.

If God healed all diseases, accidents, and halted all misbehavior that caused harm in our world, we would become emotionally, physically, spiritually corrupt. To liken us to a spoiled child that has no consequence for poor choices would be a vast understatement.

As believers, what Paul says in Romans 8:18 certainly has meaning to us, but to an unbeliever, their focus is on the moment, not the eternal. The suffering in this life is all there is.

In 2011, Craig Keener published a two volume set titled, “Miracles-The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts.” J.P. Moreland said they are the best text available on documented miracles in the name of Jesus throughout church history to present day.

The Skeptic David Hume wrote, “There is not to be found, in all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good sense, education, and learning , as to secure us against all delusion…” 1

Yet Miracles, by Keener, has hundreds of documented accounts of healings. Just one example is the story of a young woman who suffered from debilitating migraines for years due to a condition known as vertical heterophoria. Her eyes were unable to focus on an object simultaneously and therefore her brain could not process the uneven images. After prayer during a meeting, she was healed and her vision was restored to 20/20. She had numerous specialists and provided the documentation of her prescriptions in 2009. One doctor concluded the healing of this kind of condition makes more sense coming from an action of God than some mere coincidence. 2

On a deeply personal level, my question would be, “Why not heal my daughter of scoliosis?” I know her back hurts at times. I know she had a hard time breathing. I know she can’t participate in many of the sports she wants to because running would only compound the curve. I know she is self conscious about how she looks, which is made even worse as she is entering in the Jr. High age where the girls, in particular, begin to compare themselves with others and make value judgments on themselves.

Am I to be satisfied with the knowledge that her healing will only come after death when we rise up in perfect bodies? 1 Corinthians 15:50, Philippians 3:21.

Is there a purpose for her suffering? As mild as this may be when compared to others with much greater trials, it is a burden for her. What possible benefit could come from this? Any parent who has a child that suffers understands what I am talking about. You would do anything to relive their pain or discomfort, and you struggle with the thought of how can this be good, or if it is worth it. Gratefully, and without hesitation, you would take their trial upon yourself. And those who have lost a child deal with this on a whole different level.

Over the centuries, this parent/child theme serves as a reminder to us regarding the level on which God loves us, but in recent months I have discovered something at a deeper level that I would not have encountered had she been free of scoliosis.

For months, as I drove to and from work, I was free to pray through tears, and plead for a miraculous healing. Often making silent promises to Him if He would heal her, and then some moments I could imagine her back being healed and would weep with joy as I soaked in this possibility.
Knowing He could do it if He determined brought about a deep satisfaction, but something else was nagging me which went against everything I know a loving father should be. For weeks, I could not even think about it without having to stifle sobs. Then as I began to understand what I was feeling, I was better able to process it, but I was still unable to verbalize it. I wanted to talk to my wife about it, but I knew I would not be able to get the words out.

It was not until my pastor and some elders at our church a few months ago prayed for her healing after a service that I had a break through. It was when Anthony prayed for her. His prayer were my unspoken words. Simply put, the healing was secondary, but God’s glory in this came first. Choking, with tears on my face, I explained to him his prayer has been my feelings for weeks.

Since then, I have been able to express this to my wife and others. Her healing is my desire, but I have a greater desire, and that is for God to be glorified in this.

Never in my wildest dreams could I possibility imagine I would actually desire to glorify God over the healing of one of my children. That glory to God would trump my child’s healing. I have heard, and read stories of this before, but honestly, I just brushed them off because I could not comprehend that someone could actually place Jesus in a position before their children. Words are cheap. I chalked it up to ‘those’ super Christians who were being spiritually dishonest or were just out to make a dollar as their books and story sold millions to unsuspecting and unwise Christians. Yes, my skepticism is peeking out.

Could it be that no amputee has never been healed because there is no God and all other ‘accounts’ have some natural, albeit rare explanation?

In a perfect world, without suffering, hatred, selfishness, we would not be in a position to really understand why God does not heal. And sometimes the answer will not come in this time, but only after we have risen with Christ.

Malcolm Gladwell explores the effects of adversity in his book, David and Goliath. Almost 1/3 of our Presidents lost their fathers at a young age, so the question is raised, does this kind of adversity create giants among mere humans? Stories from Joni Eareckson Tada, and Nick Vujicic serve as an inspiration to all of us. If you have not heard of Nick, take a moment and watch this brief video on the Oprah show where he shares his Christian faith and is thankful for the life that he has. I am not an Oprah fan by any means, but this is worth watching.

I don’t know if God has ever healed an amputee and He is under no obligation to heal. What purpose there may be in our suffering, and how it furthers His kingdom, at times can be beyond our grasp. Paul said our suffering in this world can’t compare to what we can look forward to.

Ted Dekker wrote in Hacker-The Outlaw Chronicles, “We’re far more than just physical beings having a spiritual experience. We’re spiritual beings having a temporary physical experience.” 3 Miracles cannot be explained by the physical world. Miracles exist. Therefore a Miracle Maker must exist.

Sources:

1. David Hume (1 January 2004). An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Digireads.com Publishing. pp. 66–. ISBN 978-1-59625-548-7.
2. Keener, Craig S. Miracles. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011. Print.
3. Dekker, Ted. Hacker. Tennessee:Worthy Media Inc., 2014. Print.

 

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49 Questions Christian’s can’t answer by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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