One of Mighty Timbo’s lost posts addresses the question of why God does not heal amputees. As with the question of why God doesn’t show up, though, he phrases the issue in such a way as to miss the most important aspects of the question.
The Atheist has likely never been witness to a miraculous healing or work of God, and when evidence is provided to him of one will often seek a scientific explanation. If none can be found it will often be labeled as a “fluke”, rather than a miracle, they then look to the miraculous things God didn’t do to prove he doesn’t exist, which is where this question comes in.
Notice how he tries to make it sound like the atheist’s problem, as though there were something wrong with seeking scientific explanations. But the atheist’s approach isn’t really the problem here. The problem is one of consistency.
It’s not just “likely” that the atheist has never been witness to a miraculous healing, it’s certain. The only “healings” available in the real world (as opposed to in stories) are the types of healings that produce no tangible and measurable change in verifiable reality—healings that consist solely of subjective relief for subjective complaints. Timbo uses his wife’s allegedly “instant” healing as an example, but this, too, is a change in her unmeasurable, subjectively-reported pain, rather than a tangible and measurable change we could verify for ourselves.
You do hear stories about more substantial healings, but that’s just it: such healings only happen in stories. The atheist never sees them, and for that matter Timbo doesn’t either. The only “healings” you can actually see are ones that involve things you can’t actually see. It’s the pattern we would expect with healings that are purely the product of the subject’s imagination, but it’s not at all what we ought to see if God were healing people by magically producing tangible changes in the real world. And yet, as even Timbo himself agrees, God should be capable of such things.
While I haven’t personally been witness to God’s healing of amputees I think he makes it clear that he can, has, and will regenerate limbs. In Mark 3 we read the story of the man with the shriveled hand that Jesus restores to normal, in John 5 Jesus heals a lame man, there are several accounts of Jesus restoring sight to the blind and so on.
So we have two possibilities here: either these healings are the product of God intervening to make tangible changes in the physical world, or they’re all in the subject’s head. (There may be other possibilities as well, but we’ll just compare these two for now.) If God is actually changing physical reality in order to produce healings, then healing of amputees (and shrivelled limbs, and blindness and so on) are just different ways in which physical reality can be altered to produce a healing. As long as God is changing physical reality anyway, we ought to see these kinds of changes as often as we see any other kind.
What we find in the real world, however, are “healings” that happen inside someone’s head—and that’s all. Take away those cases where the body has had enough time and/or medical attention to heal naturally, and the remaining “healings” are unverifiably subjective. We don’t find any tangible, measurable changes accompanying the “miracles.” They’re all in someone’s head.
Thus, the problem isn’t that the atheist is trying to disprove God by appealing to the miracles He doesn’t do. The problem is the inconsistency: what we find in the real world is less consistent with Christianity than it is with atheism. That’s not really a problem, of course. It just means the atheist’s explanation is closer to the truth than Timbo’s is, since it’s more consistent with real-world fact. Timbo, however, has an idea that might just be a good enough excuse to get God off the hook.
I can’t presume to know the mind of God, but my guess is that it’s got something to do with what he told his disciples in Matthew 17:20, that if they had faith as small as a mustard seed they could throw mountains into the sea with just a word. Jesus was telling them just how small their faith really was, and if he was challenging those who were actually with Jesus, how much more of an indictment is that to us? My guess as to why we see so many sicknesses and even injuries healed miraculously, yet we are at least unaware of amputee healings is because it’s a faith issue.
Oy, that’s a pretty poor excuse, actually. First of all, note that he’s just assuming that amputees have no faith, or at least not enough. Oldest excuse in the book. “My magic snake oil is perfectly potent sir. If it didn’t work for you then obviously you must have applied it wrong.” Just blame the victim, and the purveyor of the “cure” loses all accountability. Nice con.
What Timbo is implying here is that the cure doesn’t really come from God at all. It comes from the faith of the believer. If you have a terrible fracture, and the surgeon knits the pieces back together and locks them in place with a steel pin, your ability to walk again is going to depend a lot more on the surgeon’s skill than it does on you having an inhumanly intense degree of faith in your surgeon. Human surgeons aren’t limited by some assumed lack of faith on your part, so why should God be? Again, that’s a pattern that’s more consistent with the atheist’s conclusion than with the Christian’s. Only imaginary gods are limited by the credulity of their believers.
Then too, the people who were allegedly healed didn’t have to perform any superhumanly awesome feats of faith in order to obtain their so-called healings. Timbo’s wife went years without being healed. Is her faith different now than it was then? And if she does now have miraculous healing faith, why not stop by the nearest neonatal intensive care and heal some of those poor babies whose congenital defects are as bad as her injuries were? She can’t. The presence, absence, or degree of faith isn’t the limiting factor; the absence of God is.
But the biggest problem is this: if lack of faith were the problem, a loving God would do more to increase our faith. If you need a hip replacement, you can spend time talking to the surgeon, and get to know them, and find out what their experience is. You have an honest chance to develop some faith in them and their ability to help you. God does not give us that chance. If He can’t even manage to show up and talk to us, why should we have any faith in Him? Are we supposed to naively put our faith in whatever men tell us about Him, in His absence, when other explanations are more consistent with the truth? That’s gullibility, not faith.
Bottom line: Timbo doesn’t have a good answer for this one. The best he can do is to resort, once again, to prejudiced and unjustified blame-shifting that makes amputees not only crippled, but guilty. That’s downright nasty, but that’s what it takes to try and make God sound real.