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Medicine and miracles

Published: 9 February 2019 (GMT+10)

Barbara N. from the US wrote in response to the article Gene editing babies? A dangerous, pointless experiment:

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All this monkeying of genes, I believe, is a huge slap in the face to our Heavenly Father, including tampering with genes to help those who are dealing with illness. The ill still need the intervention of the God who knows everything hand knows how to heal and wants to be their healer. The ill need to hear the truth of God’s gift of His healing and understand how to receive it by His powerful Word given to us. Because many have not learned nor heard the promise of supernatural healing, they turn to man’s understanding of science and continue to believe that’s where the answers are. So disturbing to hear of this report and I hope we find it is not substantiated.

, CMI-US, responds:

First, I think it’s important to affirm that God does do miracles—we find them throughout Scripture, and God is certainly able to do anything He wants, including miraculous healings. So, given that we believe that God can do any miracle He wants to do, how should we think about medical intervention?

Anything we do to help our bodies recover from or function under the effects of the Curse is a medical intervention. If we wear glasses to help us cope with near-sightedness, take an aspirin for a headache, or put a band-aid on a cut, we are effectively using natural means instead of relying on a miracle. And that isn’t wrong!

Medical interventions range from superficial, like the examples above, to much more invasive, like internal pacemakers, kidney transplants, and brain surgery. But the principle is the same. Medical interventions that help to alleviate the effects of the Curse are good. We are thankful for doctors and their skills and do not accuse them of trying to subvert the will of God. Their tireless work to bring succor to the suffering is a blessing to humanity. Of course, the ends do not justify any unethical means—just because a kidney transplant can be good because it saves the life of someone in kidney failure does not mean we can murder someone else to harvest his organs for transplantation, for instance.

Perhaps the most invasive intervention of all would be editing the DNA code itself. But using the reasoning we’ve established above, we would judge it by the same standards. Does it help to alleviate the effects of the Curse? If we could erase the gene for cystic fibrosis, for Huntington’s disease, or for sickle cell anemia, that would be good, because those harmful genes were not part of God’s original creation. Of course, we would also have to ask, can it be done ethically? For instance, we can’t kill someone to harvest his organs, we can’t create a bunch of embryos and kill most of them to end up with a few healthy individuals, and we can’t edit the DNA of an embryo because that risks bringing harm to the individual without their consent.

Does this entail a lack of faith in God? Not at all! If God wanted to heal every single person with a genetic illness, it would not be hard for Him to do so, and He could do it at this very moment. But miracles, by definition, are rare, and we shouldn’t presume that God will perform a miracle just because we affirm that He can. While we can pray for a miracle and ask that God would heal people who are suffering with various afflictions, we can also be thankful for the means of medicine that He has given us.

Even in Scripture, we see the reality of miracles and medical intervention coexisting. The apostles were able to perform miracles. Even the shadow (Acts 5:15) of an apostle, or a piece of cloth they had touched (Acts 19:12), could heal someone. But Paul told Timothy to take some wine for his stomach ailment (1 Timothy 5:23) which was a natural treatment. Paul did not tell Timothy to touch the parchment he had written on to receive a miraculous cure. James prescribed prayer and anointing with oil for someone who was ill (James 5:14)—anointing with oil was a common medical intervention in that day. In that one command we see medicine and faith together. In fact, only cults like Christian Science (founded by Mary Baker Eddy, 1821–1910) deny this.

God can act miraculously—any time and in any way He chooses. But we also affirm that God often graciously provides for us by using means that He has built into the creation itself. When God heals through a miracle, a physician’s skill, or the body’s own mechanisms for fighting disease, we are no less dependent on Him for the healing, and no less thankful to Him.

Helpful Resources

From Creation to Salvation
by Lita Cosner
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Readers’ comments

Trisha H.
Certainly, our loving Father in Heaven wants us to use all the gifts he has given to learn and grow and use for the benefit of ourselves, our families and others. It is not a testament of weak faith to enter into the medical field and try to alleviate human suffering, but a testament to the truth of our potential as God's children--after all He is the supreme intelligence and the author and promoter of all compassion and good deeds.
Jon S.
I agree with the reasoning and conclusion, I want to generalize this though. First ask God what you should do, try your best to do good and depend on God to do the rest. In this case, trying our best to do good is using science (while being careful not to kill). Jesus Christ broke bread to feed the multitude because there was a need. Afterwards He commanded to pick up the fragments, why did He command this even though He could do it again? Paul commanded if a man does not work, neither should he eat. On the hand we must not forget God when we are full and the model prayer has us asking for our daily bread. These combine into: "ask God, work for bread, depend on God for this rest, gather the fragments, remember God".
Louis C.
Thanks for this article. I am saddened immensely by the new wave of almost pride some Christians have in not taking medical treatment and then hurting their (chronically) ill brothers and sisters immensely by suggesting that their faith isn't strong enough to be healed. Can you think what effect that kind of attitude can have on a dying person's faith? He is dying, and now you tell him he can't be sure if he really is a child of God! Furthermore, I think it is important to realise that God doesn't do miracles when other (natural) options are available. He has a very specific reason to break the laws of nature. He doesn't just jump to every whim of a "faith healer." He uses miracles to save His people and to glorify Himself, not the "faith healer." If somebody tries to make money or acquire fame through "faith healing," you should be smelling a rat (cf. Acts 8:9ff, 19:11ff).
Graham P.
Great piece! A discussion on the existence of plants that cure ailments and conditions wouldn't be a bad idea either. For example certain plants reduce blood pressure if taken, while others cure insanity (of a some types), I know of one in South America that reverses side physical effects of anti-psychotic drugs ( excessive the growth of the gums in the mouth).....and another that breaks up kidney stones when taken as a tea. Local herbal remedy experts there, usually illiterate old ladies, have literally thousands of these plants in their shops. The thing is, how did people learn of all these plant characteristics in the first place? It appears that God explained it all to Adam when He walked with him in the garden, to Eve as well, of course...:) If not, then how did people discover that the bark of a type of tree X, when made into a tea, stops the gums covering the teeth, or breaks up kidney stones? It's implausible to say they did it by experimentation because many of the plants involved are poisonous. We also have the fact that God created plants with the cures for these maladies even when everything was 'good', presumably as insurance in case we sinned and needed them.
Gail O.
In this article, where does it say in the Bible that Paul told Timothy "not to touch the parchments"?
Lita Cosner
Sorry for the unclear construction. I meant that when Timothy needed a cure for his stomach ailment, Paul told him to take a little wine (a natural treatment). He did not tell Timothy to touch the parchment Paul had written on to receive a supernatural healing.
David S.
I can accept procedures to cure or relieve effect of diseases, but is gene editing to produce designer babies acceptable?
Lita Cosner
As I said in the article, "we can’t edit the DNA of an embryo because that risks bringing harm to the individual without their consent."
Seth B.
We are always to trust God for healing. But God gave man the understanding to use science to discover the medical procedures. Isn't it a slap in God's face to not make use of the abilities he gave us, as long as it is inline with His Word? Especially if it enables us to turn around and give him the glory for those skills/understanding? In addition, as alluded to in the article, all through out the bible God used man or natural processes to accomplish what God wanted to do. I don't see using medicine as any different.

I believe part of the way God directs our path is by opening and closing doors. You can't find out of a door is open / closed until you try to walk through it. If God wants to use a sickness for a special purpose - then one will find medical doors being shut until you reach a point of having to wait and see what God will do. He may allow it to heal up on its own, open a door to a new more effective procedure down the road, miraculously heal us - or call us home.
Lassi P.
Thank you, Lita. This is as much needed an article as any in creation.com. It is obvious that you guys care more about biblical and scientific accuracy than high emotions or some arbitrary undefined faith in supernatural. That makes creation.com one of my favourite web sites. Miracle-centered cults also tend to accuse those whom God does not heal through a special miracle.
Michael B.
I've felt more and more that the Christian community in the US seems to turn to God after man has failed instead of seeking Him first for our healing.
That being said, human intervention to prevent suffering and improve quality of life seems to be a part of what He would also have us be about as we minister to one another from those who are wounded on the road side (physically, spiritually, or emotionally). or those who are naked and hungry. But in all of it He must be put forward and sought first and not as a "well we tried everything else". Though some of the greatest miracles I know of occurred after the person was sent home or hospice to die.
We serve a God Whom we proclaim has and will raise the dead, how much more able is He to heal the living yet in the end my heart will not beat one more or one less than He determined from the beginning and in that knowledge He has given me great peace to live this life.
Your Brother in Christ,
Michael
Cowboy Bob S.
Somehow, the hyper-faith people who believe that we can speak healing and wealth into existence seem to neglect that their false teachers get rich, then get sick and die while the poor stay poor. People put themselves into bondage and refuse to see doctors or get vaccinations to "prove" their faith. (This reminds me of the snake-handling cults that misuse a passage in Mark to "prove" their faith.) Also, at the risk of being accused of arguing from silence, Luke was a physician and nobody told him that his skills were no longer needed.

About 35 years ago, I slipped on the ice and fractured my patella. My first broken body part, first ambulance ride, first surgery, first morphine, and so on. I still get flashbacks today. Back then, I was into the hyperfaith movement, but did not hesitate to let the surgeons work. The doctor said that God is the healer, he is the instrument. Interesting that a few years later, he was in the congregation when I gave a biblical creation science talk at his church.
RONALD M.
This was a short, but helpful article. While we do need to keep an eye on what is happening today and we do need to speak out about the bad, I think it is helpful to put medical technology in time perspective. Now, in 2019, we look back at medical practices of 200 years ago and see them as barbaric and simplistic. Now project your imagination to 200 years into the future (in 2219) and, assuming life as we know it is still functioning, they will then look at many medical practices of 2019 as barbaric and simplistic. Likely DNA work will be seen as just routine and standard stuff, but our grandchildren's grandchildren will be asking medical ethics questions about new practices we do not know of today.
Rupert H.
Thank you for this very good response. One other reference I like is that Paul prayed three times for his affliction to be removed. God’s answer was His grace is sufficient. But God also provided Dr. Luke as a travelling companion. My daughter has stage 4 kidney disease so this article has resonated with my heart. Thanks again.
Elmarie M.
Dear Lita, Thank you for this concise and well-reasoned response. I agree with what you said whole-heartedly. I would just like to comment regarding to your statement, "we can’t create a bunch of embryos and kill most of them to end up with a few healthy individuals." So much misinformation is out there regarding the use of IVF for infertile couples. Using the same standard you applied above and recognizing that artificial reproductive procedures are immoral tools, I would suggest that there is nothing inherently sinful about "creating embryos." You did not state it this way but is implied. We must recognize that no one ever "creates" embryos, as only God is the creator and giver of life regardless of our interventions. Secondly, around 80% of all naturally or artificially fertilized human embryos will not result in a baby. The human race has become quite infertile. Doctors attempt to harvest as many oocytes possible to improve the couple's chances of having at least one or two fertile embryos. As our knowledge and technology have improved dramatically, most doctors now only transfer one embryo at a time while freezing the other/s for later. Sometimes, when mothers are not able to bear more children, they'll donate the embryos to other couples. Does this mean all endocrinologists use these treatments in an ethically and Biblically responsible way, sadly not. But for those couples out there who struggle with the disease of infertility, I would like to say that it is a disease like any other to which all of Lita's reasons for intervention apply.
Lita Cosner
I had in mind a situation like when a couple wants to make sure their baby doesn't inherit a genetic condition, so they create embryos, test them, and only implant the healthy ones.
Seathrún M.
You seem to have omitted one Bible reference - where did Paul say not to touch the parchment he had written on? Good article otherwise!
Lita Cosner
Sorry for the unclear construction. I meant that when Timothy needed a cure for his stomach ailment, Paul told him to take a little wine (a natural treatment). He did not tell Timothy to touch the parchment Paul had written on to receive a supernatural healing.
Nick M.
Whenever I think of this issue, I think of when Satan tempted Jesus to jump off a cliff, telling him that God could send down His angels to protect Him. Jesus then replied, "It is written, 'You shall not put the Lord to a foolish test'". I think that passage is relevant when discussing this topic. On the one hand, yes, God can and does perform miracles that leave doctors confounded. But on the other hand it is quite foolish to say He is obligated to do it at every time, when He created the same doctors that are able to give such wonderful treatment for the illness you are going through! Of course, there are times when the doctors cannot do anything, and so that's when we put our faith in Him to intervene if He chooses. But apart from that, I think it's fitting for every serious, Bible believing Christian to take advantage of the gifts of such wonderfully talented doctors that work so hard, and who God created! (Natural remedies can often be a gift as well, but that's a separate topic)
Philip U.
Well explained. When my wife's tumour was removed it was initially diagnosed as being highly aggressive. A few days later, after further analysis, it was downgraded to being almost harmless. Was that a miracle? I would like to think so, and it certainly felt so at the time, but I am also very wary about the idea of being singled out for special treatment by God. Miracle or no, without the prior extensive medical treatment she might no longer be with us.
We can assume that God will not perform miracles based on our own righteousness, or deservedness. Presumably He performs them when they substantiate the Covenant of Grace, under which creation is entirely subjected. Therefore miracles are not ours to choose.
Dee O.
I think it would be interesting to hear discussion about refusing medical treatment because you want to die and go to heaven because (1) you can't handle the thought of side effects of cancer treatments or (2) you are getting older and don't like the idea of developing dementia like the rest of your family. (3) refusing dialysis because you'd rather die and go to heaven than have the restrictive life style of that treatment
Robert Carter
We actually have a number of articles on such subjects. This is very difficult and must be handled carefully. See our Euthanasia Q&A and Human life Q&A pages for starters.
David B.
I have always been a fan of Creation.com, and devour your articles regularly, mainly because you have a commitment to truth, love for God & His Word, and are thorough in your research.
In this spirit, could you clarify the statement you made on James 5:14, please. ("....anointing with oil was a common medical intervention in that day. In that one command we see medicine and faith together."). I understand the ancient (and not-so-ancient) practice of anointing wounds with oil, but I always thought the practice of anointing the sick with oil when they called for the elders of the church was something different. I have noticed that the elders merely smear a little oil on their forehead as a contact point for faith and God's healing to flow, rather than placing it on any wounds.
Am I splitting hairs here?
Robert Carter
The ancient practice may have involved a lot more 'anointing' than is common practice in some circles today. The word ἀλείφω (aleipho) has the connotation of rubbing oil on the body, which was a common practice in the Greek world, both for cleanliness, healing, and stress relief.
Mark G.
My comment is short.
Brilliant!
I have believed this for years but could not have expressed it better than Lita.
Added to that, I would say that creating designer people (the master race) in an effort to play God or re-creating people (creating an army of Chuck Norris clones) is a departure from ethical science.
Patricia B.
Surely DNA editing is not unethical , you may well alter the body by it, but you will not alter the spirit of the person, and if you are striving to make people taller, slimmer, healthier , more beautiful , more inteliigent is that a bad thing? Will not the spirit of that person be even more grateful that they have been super equipped for this world..and if it goes wrong...well we have the experience of all sorts of things previously, when genes have been altered with drugs , like thalidomide , and although the victims were disabled..did any of them want to die because of it..No ,and why not ? Because they had had no experience of knowing what being able bodied meant . They were born with it grew up with it and learned to live with it, and we learned to assist them in living with it . Do they have a lesser quality of life than us , are they worth less than us ? Definitely not. So in the interests of advancing the human race and having dominion over the created world we should be looking at all ways of removing the curse from our bodies even if we cannot from our souls
Robert Carter
DNA editing is a slippery slope. Modifying adults is one thing. Modifying embryos is entirely different, for they have no choice in the matter and might be harmed in the process. Also, modifying the germline is something the genetics community has resoundingly said "no" to. One reason is because of the risk of falling back into the eugenics philosophy of the prior century, and "beauty" and "intelligence" were definitely something they were focused on. And I take exception to the (unintentional) cavalier attitude towards those who were harmed by thalidomide. You cannot say that none of them died by their own hand due to their difficulties or that all of them learned to live with their deformities. But, I do understand what you are trying to do with the argument. We only need to choose our words more carefully.
Jeannette P.
Thank you, Lita for a very clear and Biblically based response to the question.

2 chronicles 16:12 says that king Asa was wrong because he went to physicians, not the Lord, for his sickness. This seems to suggest that he should have sought the Lord only, or perhaps that he went to pagan witchdoctors. However, a recent experience suggests the true force of this verse.

I take thyroxine for hypothyroidism. It has to be increased slowly in stages until (hopefully) the right level is reached and you feel well. I was afraid that they wouldn’t increase the dose in spite of still having symptoms, because my bloods were now “Within range”. Unlike Asa, I had been praying about it, but at the same time was panicking in case of refusal.

Then it hit me, I was trusting the medication itself INSTEAD of trusting the Lord! In a sense the sin was the same as Asa’s, and I had to repent.

The thyroxine was increased, but I had (hopefully) learned my lesson as well!
Robert Carter
Actually, the greater context explains this more fully. Like so many others, Asa was a flawed king. He was lauded for righteous deeds in his earlier years (2 Chronicles 14:2), and his heart was "wholly true all his days", but he failed to remove the high places (2 Chronicles 15:17). He was also specifically warned not to forsake God, "Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you." (2 Chronicles 15:2). There are actually two places where he did no rely on God, and this changes the inference you have drawn. First, at the beginning of 2 Chronicles 16 he sends money and makes a treaty with the king of Syria to help him in a fight with the king of Israel. He was condemned for this, was angered by this condemnation, and then acted cruelly to some of his people. To make matters worse, he did not turn to God when he got sick. His turning to doctors was not wrong, per se. It was a symptom of his general rebellion against God, which significantly tarnished his reputation in his later years.
Ken C.
This speech on “The Commoditization of Human Beings” by Dr. Theresa Deisher is worth taking the time to listen to. I can provide a link if permitted…

Dr. Deisher states in her speech, “When human beings become commodities, as they have over the past two to three decades with the changing values of Western civilization, we begin to use human beings for purposes other than those purposes for which they are created. We start to use human beings in biomedical research… for instance, we use fresh aborted fetuses on a daily basis in biomedical research. Scientists used embryos and women’s eggs for stem cell research, and from there we move on to exploiting human beings for actual medical therapies. Cell lines that were made from electively aborted human fetuses are commonly used to manufacture vaccines, biologics, and now even cosmetics. While organ transplantation can be done ethically and morally, the huge demand for organ supply has driven organ transplantation and organ harvest really off the cliff, and many practices in these areas have now become quite questionable ethically.”

This amoral perverted manipulation is an accumulation of the ever-increasing belief that we are but a product of a mindless universe. As I’ve previously noted in regards to a statement made by noted evolutionist William Provine, professor of biological sciences from Cornell, in his 1998 Darwin Day Keynote Address entitled, “Evolution: Free will and punishment and meaning in life”, “Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent.””

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