c) 2012' name='copyright'/>Michael DeShane Hinton: WHY ARE SOME HEALED?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


To answer that question we must understand the basic principles of theodicy.  Theodicy is the theory of suffering or more precisely, the justification of God, who purports to be good and all-powerful, yet allows so much suffering in the world.

First, God is good but he cannot do what is contrary to his own nature, nor can he do what is contrary to his previous acts or word.  So, God is self-constrained by his goodness to do only certain things, not all things or anything that we might want or imagine.

Second, the most important thing that God cannot do is violate human free will.  He is known to bless those that choose good and curse those that do evil.  But he does not force us to do either one or the other.  We are each ultimately morally accountable for the actions that we take.

Therefore, pain exists in the world for the simple fact of God’s having cursed the evil that men do.

Why then do people suffer that either do no harm or have quit doing bad things?

That is where the doctrine of original sin comes in to explain the human condition.

Original sin tells us that all mankind shares a common fault, malady, and weakness.  And it comes right at the intersection of our desire for healing and the judgment of God upon our bodies.

Let me explain.

In the Garden of Eden God told Adam not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die.”  He ate and God cursed him, according to his word.

The nature of the curse is such that the whole of creation, including our physical bodies, was “subjected to futility” and has been kept in “bondage to decay” since the fall (Romans 8:20-21).

So, God’s dilemma in granting healing is how it meshes with his previous act of passing the sentence of death upon our bodies.  If God continually healed us or healed everyone, if human suffering was cured in an instant, then how would his judgment of death upon sinful flesh be executed?

Yet, God does heal some.  In his goodness he suffered with us in the body of his Son.  God does not delight in the death of any man, sympathizes with our weaknesses, and offers to remove curses in the name of Jesus, even mitigating the curse of original sin.  To wit, Christians are redeemed and so not subject to the full effects of the fall or God’s judgment against sin, provided that we have forsaken that lifestyle.

A key passage in this analysis is Romans 8:9-11, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

Notice that it is our “mortal bodies,” bodies made mortal (subject to death) by the judgment of God, that receives life by the indwelling Spirit to counter-act, so to speak, the natural effects of the fall.  It is and should be the ordinary, everyday experience that God’s redeemed people receive healings just as we see Jesus perform in the Gospels and the apostolic men do in the Book of Acts.

Does that mean God works against himself in healing those that he previously cursed?

Absolutely not!  We are all subject to death.  “It is appointed for man once to die and after that the judgment.”  So, we must all die in the sense of being separated from this physical body, which is condemned.  But we do not need to suffer needlessly nor is there a set time-frame for when a man should die.  Both time and degrees of suffering are relative terms.  So, Christians do and should experience improvements in health and longevity because of our prayers.  But to die in the Faith is our ultimate healing because then we are free of this earthly tent with all its physical challenges.

How then are healings distributed?  The short answer is as the Spirit wills (1 Corinthians 12:11 ESV).

Here is a longer answer.  The suffering that mankind endures is randomly distributed.  There is no favoritism on God’s part.  But the same cannot be said of healings.  They seem to follow a pattern.

In the broadest possible terms the miraculous manifestations of God seem to accompany his mighty acts in salvation history, clustering around the Exodus, which is the basis of the Old Testament and Judaism, and then the Christ Event, when God sent his Son to redeem the whole of humanity.  As Jesus said, “If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20).  His healing miracles were a testimony to his divinity; they were signs, to convince the people to turn to God.  That evidence continued into the apostolic times and early Church history, the scholars tell us, for nearly 400 years, which is why the Western world was transformed so profoundly.

Then the miraculous gifts seemed to fade.  Why?

Though there have always been miracles in and through the Church, we largely traded supernatural power for political power and became an institution involved with official state religion.  This happened in both Catholic and Protestant countries.  Against that institutional model of ministry the renewal of gifts, and healing and deliverance ministries, seemed to track with movement conservatism rather than institutional forms of the faith.  Therefore, the rebirth of spiritual gifts in the last decades was called the Charismatic Movement.  Our task today is to keep the movement going, while allowing God to mature it, that is, to give it a better theological basis, more effective protocols, and, yes, institutional legitimacy.

Two parts of improving the movement, on the level of the parish and our individual experience, are a commitment to live in righteousness and to find our own personal roles in serving the kingdom purposes of God.  Healing in all its forms is means of grace in spiritual formation, for instance.  As we improve ourselves by spiritual disciplines and contribute to his Cause, God will pour out his Spirit in greater measure and with greater manifestations “and the Earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.”

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