Why God can’t heal amputees


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.

Comments

  1. coragyps says

    I wonder when the last throwing of a mountain into the sea with just a word was documented, too. I can’t even remember a non-documented occasion.

    • N. Nescio says

      Yeah, isn’t funny how somebody whose faith was strong enough to net them a miracle healing isn’t using it to do anything else the Bible clearly states is possible with even ‘mustard-seed’ sized faith?

      Strange how Timbo’s wife had faith enough to be healed after contemporary medical treatment and years of healing, and yet she isn’t out using that same faith to demonstrate the truth of the Biblical claims. She could be throwing mountains into the sea and drinking poison and converting millions to Christianity by doing so….and yet she’s just another anecdote cited by a half-assed Christian apologist who doesn’t even have a functioning website anymore.

      Odd how every single amputee EVER does have enough faith to be healed, and yet the people with vague and undocumented conditions manage it just fine, and nearly constantly if you believe the apologists.

      • peterwhite says

        Thanks, N. Nescio, you have made me believe in miracles. No amputee in the history of the world has ever had enough faith to be healed; that sound miraculous to me. I’m sure there are many more examples of similar miracles.

      • N. Nescio says

        Ever see an amputee regenerate a limb after asking the Christian deity to heal them?

      • peterwhite says

        Aaargh, my reply was meant to be sarcastic/facetious. After seeing your reply I realize my intention could be misinterpreted.

    • Artor says

      I was wondering that myself. Just what is the faith-density of a mustard seed anyway? How much faith is that? If faith is like energy, the mass of a mustard seed converted to pure energy could do some serious damage to a mountain, but still not get it airborne and subsequently submerged. Is the quantity of faith measured in milli-mustards? I see alot of variety in mustard seed anyway; some are tiny, like poppy seeds, some are larger, several millimeters in diameter. I’d say the mustard seed standard for faith is pretty poor. Big surprise.

  2. Nathan says

    “Why won’t God heal amputees?” is pretty much the same question as “Why aren’t alien abductions ever captured on video?” or “Why are pictures of bigfoot always so blurry?” In other words, why is it that evidence of a disputed phenomenon is weak and convincing only to those who are predisposed to believe? If theists would apply the same test to miracles that they do other paranormal phenomena, they would soon realize this. But cognitive dissonance stands in the way.

  3. sailor1031 says

    “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.”

    Bingo!

  4. RobNYNY1957 says

    My cousin’s foot was reattached after a farm accident. I guess that makes the surgeons at UW-Madison University Hospital better than all of the gods and godesses who have ever existed.

  5. Aliasalpha says

    Faith is like a currency. People go around squandering it by having faith in humanity, the inevitability of the next sunrise, the worth of their money and the like so when the time comes for a genuine god given miracle, they can’t afford it. God exists but isn’t running a charity, he’s got bills to pay like the rest of us.

    There you go, 20 seconds of blathering shite made up as I went along and I think its still more convincing than timbo’s argument

  6. says

    The theists most likely to believe in faith healing often believe in the paranormal as well. If they don’t attribute such things to God they claim they’re the work of Satan and demons to weaken the faithful.

  7. grumpyoldfart says

    If I saw an amputee regrow an arm and then throw a mountain into the sea, I’d just assume I was hallucinating. There’s no miracle that would ever convince me that goddidit.

    Forget about miracles, let the Christians pray for solutions to the Clay Institute’s Millenium Prize Problems. I still wouldn’t believe in god, but at least we’d have something interesting to talk about.

    http://www.claymath.org/millennium/

    And one more thing: If god really does exist and he appeared in front of me right now, I smack his little bottom for being such a naughty boy.

  8. mikespeir says

    Why wouldn’t amputees have enough faith? Why wouldn’t their faith be strong enough? Why does it take more faith to restore a missing limb than it does to dry up the sniffles? For a God who can do anything–anything at all–with only a spoken word, no work would be any more difficult than any other. Even leaving aside the question of why he might require more faith of those suffering most, what does a lack of sufficient faith imply for the sufferer? Wouldn’t it at least be a tacit admission that the “believer” thinks God is either unwilling or unable? Wouldn’t that suggest that the “believer” doesn’t really believe in an all-powerful or all-loving God; that the “believer” acknowledges thereby that God does not, in fact show up in the real world, at least when needed most?

  9. Buffy says

    Normally when I witness something like a “miraculous” healing I attribute it to the doctors who did all the hard work, not to some mythical being.

  10. Hunt says

    It kind of brings home how similar prayer and magic are. If you think about it, prayer is just magic with an intercessory god. In pagan supernaturalism, a magical chant or incantation unlocks some non-natural aspect of the universe, while in theism prayer petitions a middleman god, who then may or may not alter reality. You can see how one evolved from the other.

  11. leaford says

    Duncan,

    I think you’ve misunderstood the argument here. It doesn’t sound to me as if he is saying that amputees lack sufficient faith for god to be able to heal them. I think the argument is that such an obviously visible and undeniable healing would be too strong an evidence for god’s existance and power, and therefore would take away faith in god, replacing it with simple knowledge. Remember, unlike the early church which was able to argue convincingly that there was real evidence for god’s existance and emphasized that faith should be reasoned and not blind, modern christian churches have to compete against scientific evidence, of which there is none for god’s existance, and which leaves less room therefore for reasoned faith, so they have to emphasize the supposed importance and superiority of blind faith, despite all evidence.

    I think your second response, “if lack of faith were the problem, a loving God would do more to increase our faith.” quite handily answers that argument, without being sidetracked with a strawman argument Timbo wasn’t actually making.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      I didn’t post the whole argument due to space constraints, but here’s the next paragraph or so after the bit I quoted:

      I sometimes people struggle in faith in even the simplest things they are praying for. It takes a lot of faith to pray for some of the miracles we do see, how much more faith does it take to pray for an injury so massive? I doubt many people including the amputee today would even pray that prayer. It is my guess that there is a quick resignation to the situation and prayers start to center around adjustment to the situation rather than miraculous limb regeneration. Even if Christians were gathered to pray for such a thing I think it would be an extraordinary group of Christians, and an even more extraordinary amputee who honestly came to the Lord in true faith over that issue. Not because God is unable, but because of just how extraordinary it would be.

      So I think the simple answer to that question is a lack of mountain-moving faith among God’s people today…

      So, in summary, it’s not that God doesn’t have the capacity to heal amputees or that he doesn’t exist, but rather that the faith necessary for such prayer is likely not really exercised both due to the extraordinary circumstances, and because it is most often not the will of the amputee.

      The issue he fails to explore is why God’s people don’t really believe He can cure visible injuries like amputation. But the answer is fairly obvious: deep down, they know they’re only fooling themselves with these fake “cures,” so they don’t dare ask for one that can’t be faked.

  12. Sam C says

    Oh dear, some science is needed here! The fact that God never heals amputees demonstrates conclusively that faith is real and resides in the fingers and toes of the body. Without full faith, God will not heal the amputee.

    And clearly even 90% of full faith is not enough as God will not even cause a single missing digit to regrow.

    That’s scientific deduction folks.

    Right, I’m off to clean the stable where I keep my unicorns. They’re expensive pets, but luckily I have a money tree growing in my stableyard.

  13. Kevin says

    Somewhere on the order of 20 million people have gone to Lourdes seeking healing. Some, in intractable pain, progress on their knees along the hard path to the shrine.

    The Catholic Church recognizes 12 “proved” miracles. 12 out of 20 million.

    The rate of spontaneous remission from stage IV liver cancer is higher than that.

    In fact, looking at the statistics, you’re quite a bit better off not going to Lourdes. Lourdes seems to have a negative impact on the rate of spontaneous remission of serious illness.

    Now, of course, Tim will likely declare that those people don’t have “faith” of the right flavor. They’re Catholics, after all, and Catholics aren’t really Christians.

    • Kevin says

      I looked it up. I was right. Spontaneous remission from liver cancer occurs about 1 in 144,000 cases.

      Moral of the story: If you have liver cancer, do NOT go to Lourdes.

  14. says

    Even if we assume that this gentleman is correct and that the problem is that such a massive and indeed seemingly superhuman amount of faith is required in order to accomplish effects like the regeneration of lost limbs, it seems to me that this prompts a more important question:

    Why would his god set the bar so high, knowing that nobody would be able to meet it?

    To tell people that they could accomplish these amazing miracles if they reach a threshold for faith that he knows to be impossible seems cruel, especially to those who – in his omniscience – he knows desperately need this help and know are earnestly trying to muster this level of faith but will NEVER succeed.

    Knowing that this would so consistently be the case as to be evidently universal, would not a kinder god make use of his omnipotence to lower the bar somewhat and re-work the universe in such a way as to allow these greater rewards for faith to be more obviously attainable? If nothing else, it would seem to me it would encourage greater faith, which seems to be a priority for this god.

    • kagekiri says

      You know, God setting mankind up to fail is par for the course, Biblically.

      God makes man, gives him rules he knows they’ll break (thanks to omnipotence), punishes man anyway, and guilts man for failing the impossible standards. Rinse, repeat.

      He does the “sets impossible rules, acts surprised and hurt when they’re broken despite” act so many times in the Bible (Paul even says God’s laws basically exist to condemn us to death) it’s really hard to see why people think God is “good” in any sense of the word. He’s an utter asshole.

  15. BillG_SD says

    As a young child, I was told my sin and lack of faith was responsible for having type I diabetes. Although this article is amusing, religious concepts like faith are harmful in so many ways.

  16. Friendly says

    it’s not that God doesn’t have the capacity to heal amputees or that he doesn’t exist, but rather that the faith necessary for such prayer is likely not really exercised both due to the extraordinary circumstances, and because it is most often not the will of the amputee.

    Really?

    Got a challenge for you, Timbo.

    Recruit for Group A one thousand of the most faithful Christian “prayer warriors” you can find — people who *really believe* that God will do miracles in response to their prayers.

    Recruit for Group B a hundred amputees who *really believe* that God can replace their missing extremities.

    Have Group A pray for Group B’s extremities to be fully and functionally replaced. Have them pray for this result as long, fervently, and often as possible.

    Send out a major press release when even a single replacement is observed to occur in Group B.

    I predict that such a release will not be forthcoming.

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