Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"Faith healing" & Christianity

Sadly, a Wisconsin couple was charged with second-degree homicide in the death of their child. It was sad that a child with a treatable condition died and it was sad that the family was confused about healing.

Historically, the Christian church has never publicly endorsed so-called 'faith-healing' in her official documents (the Six Ecumenical Creeds and the Protestant Confessions of Faith). Although prayer is commanded, required and useful it was never understood to be a replacement for legitimate medical means. In fact, the leading scientists of the 1600s were Protestants and vaccines are encouraged by the likes of the Puritan leader Cotton Mather.

Unfortunately, many detractors of Christianity are unaware of these facts. With the American news source interested in what sells instead of what informs, such cases make headline news.

The Bible writes of medicine and physicians in a positive light. The writer of the Gospel of Luke was a physician (Colossians 4:14). In Christ's parable of the Good Samaritan, the one who rescued the hurt man used bandages and not 'faith-healing' (Luke 10:34). Yes, one should pray, but one should also use the means of health, even a "little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities" (Paul, 1 Timothy 5:23).

The Bible also writes of faith and healing. Yet the Christian understanding makes a distinction between the great extraordinary redemptive acts of the Bible-times and the ordinary redemptive salvation of today. During the the time of Christ for example, to have the very Son of God in the midst of His people is to invite miracles. And those miracles have a specific place of testifying the truthfulness of Christ and of the Bible (Acts 2:22). Now that Christ is risen in heaven and the Bible is complete the miracles that attested them are no longer needed.

Today Christians are called to faith in the Person and Work of Christ but not to any accompanying miracle. This is an ordinary time of ordinary means. And God works through ordinary means.

If such is the case, then Christians today should not expect miracles as a matter of course. They should not doubt their possible existence either (note how the news-media uses the word 'miracle' in many medical mysteries). Nor should they seek out leaders with supposed healing abilities. Prophecies have ceased, tongues are gone and so are miracle-workers (1 Corinthians 13:8).

It should be enough to know these historic beliefs in order to put this awful event into perspective: they are a tragic and misguided couple that ought to be pitied and not harassed.

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