CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

"He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations." Ps. 72:5.

(Photo: Mr. and Mrs. Layman)

A few years ago I blogged about the book Inferno, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Here, I review Escape from Hell, the 2009 sequel. Spoilers from both novels are discussed.

Written in 1976, Inferno is an updated version of Dante’s Inferno. Instead of Dante traveling through hell, however, we have an agnostic science fiction writer – Allen Carpenter -- who dies ignobly while drunk at a party. He ends up in the first circle of hell and – guided by “Benny” – travels deeper and deeper into the inferno, becoming exposed to more and more of its horrors. Carpenter struggles mightily to rationalize all that he sees and refuses to seriously consider that he is in hell. His own explanations become so bizarre that he is finally forced to accept his station. Benny, however, claims to know the way out and the two travel through all the circles of hell, pondering the nature of sin, punishment, and judgment. At the end, Benny indeed escapes -- the way out is to suffer all the circles of hell and accept guilt for each sin -- but Carpenter feels undeserving and decides to continue Benny's mission and help others find their way out.

Inferno is a fantastic read and grapples seriously with modernism, sin, judgment, and the nature of humanity. It struck an excellent balance between such ponderings and genuinely interesting action sequences and suspense. The theology is quite Catholic, with an interesting mixture of conservative and liberal Catholicism.

In Escape from Hell, Allen Carpenter is back, taking up Benny's mission of telling others about how to escape from hell. He travels top to bottom again, gathering various friends along the way and running into some old friends, such as Billy. While it was interesting to see what had happened to some of these earlier characters, none play very important parts or undergo much development in this book.

Part of the problem is that this sequel retreads much the same ground. Carpenter spends much time lamenting the punishment and hell and asking how God could let this happen and how could this be just. I thought we had gone through all this in Inferno? And if anything Carpenter seems to have regressed and lost many of the lessons he had learned before. No novel about hell could be complete without grappling with these issues, of course, but they are approached with less gravity than before.

The lack of a serious theodicy (is hell really a part of theodicy?) is all the more telling because there is nothing else important going on. In the first novel, one of the most interesting features was Carpenter's coming to terms with the existence of the supernatural, much less hell. In Inferno I could sympathize with his initial reluctance to accept the reality of his situation and thought Niven and Pournelle were at their most masterful when discussing issues of rationalism and faith. There are blushes of this as Carpenter and crew encounter figures such as Carl Sagan who seem to resist the idea as well, but they all too quickly seem to accept their new reality.

The one pleasant surprise was the character of Aimee Semple McPherson. I assumed she would be another of the authors' convenient punching bags to be used as social commentary when they introduce her in hell, riding up on her motorcycle, shouting, "God loves you!" As it turns out, she chose to go to Hell when she learned there were stills souls to be saved there. Indeed, she seems more successful at saving souls and leading people out of hell than either Benny or Carpenter. A novel focusing on her exploits would have been worth reading!

Finally, although there is a chase scene or two the suspense and action is far behind what was offered by Inferno. The writing style is fine, but it offers little exciting or interesting to draw the reader in. A number of reviewers on Amazon wondered why the authors thought a sequel was even warranted because there was so little left to explore. Whether warranted or not, whereas Inferno is a worthy read, Escape From Hell is an unworthy successor.

I took my two oldest boys to the Memorial Service at L.A. National Cemetery. The ceremony was the most meaningful Memorial Day I have ever celebrated.

I recently finished reading, God Is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith Is Changing the World, by John Micklethwait, Adrian Wooldridge. One of the authors is a Catholic and the other an atheist. Micklethwait is editor-in-chief of The Economist and Wooldridge is head of that periodical’s Washington desk.

The book is a study of the relationship between modernity and religion. According to the authors, there are two main models for the future of this relationship -- which takes on added importance given the modernizing of India, China, S. America and parts of Africa. One is American the other is European. In the European one, modernity has crushed religion. Europe is highly and aggressively secularized. Religion may be tolerated as a very private affair, but is viewed with suspicion, its demise anticipated, and has no place in the broader culture (and especially not in politics). In America, on the other hand, religion and modernity not only co-exist, they are interrelated, bestowing benefits on each other. Religion remains a vital force in American culture, including in the political arena, though Americans have a more formal separation of church and state than Europe.

Western academics have assumed that the European model was the future and that as the rest of the world modernized, they would become as radically secular as Europe. America, it was believed, was an aberration and was likely just lagging behind the Euro phenomenon. The authors reject this conclusion and believe that the American model is likely to be the prevailing model.

The authors spend much time evaluating the role of religion in the United States, obviously focusing on Christianity. The ebb and flow of Christianity in the United States is examined from the nation's beginning to the present. Although fundamentalists clashed with modernist in the early 20th century, evangelicals have actually grown to embrace much of modernity and now boast higher educational achievements and greater cultural clout. Additionally, conservative Protestants have come to ally with intellectual Catholics and “neoconservatives” to resurrect their influence in American society. Conservative denominations have increased while liberal Protestant ones have declined. Catholics have held steady numbers in the U.S. but this is mostly a result of immigration. All told, church attendance is higher now than at most points in American history and the number of atheists has stayed about the same. More to the book’s point, Christians have become much more sophisticated in their use of the tools of modernity -- business modeling, communications, education -- and have employed those tools to flourish.

The authors attribute much of this success to the American founder’s solution to the “religion problem,” by separating formally church and state and allowing religions to compete with each other but without excluding religious sentiment and expression from the public square. The result is competition and a religion that empowers its practitioners. The authors also note that in the U.S. churches provide billions of dollars in social services that in Europe are viewed as the exclusive domain of the state.

In Europe, churches have been identified with the power of the monarch and other oppressive forces and accordingly were viewed with suspicion and hostility when revolutions displaced such authorities. Europeans also are much more likely to identify religion with the cause of strife and war given the history of religious wars on that continent. A history with which the U.S. has nothing to compare. Indeed, in the U.S., religions not only has placed a vital role in the delivery of social services but has also been identified with noble goals, such as the Abolitionist Movement and the Civil Rights Movement.

Christianity has lost most of its influence in Europe and church attendance rates are abysmal, especially in Western Europe. Christianity appears to be making a come back in some former Warsaw Pact nations such as Poland and even Russia. But Christianity is not the only religious player in Europe. Not anymore. The authors explore the issue of Islam in Europe and evaluate how the influx of Muslim immigrants is forcing European countries to reevaluate their assumptions about religion and popular culture. This part of the book is informative, but not as in depth as the discussion of religion in the United States.

The authors also explore the development of Christianity in the rest of the world to see whether the European or America models seem to be prevailing. Their conclusion is that the American model -- with rising religiosity and rising modernism -- is the more common model. Even in places like China and South Korea, Christianity has surged among middle-class educated citizens. In South America and Africa, Pentecostalism has surged and has gained greatly in cultural and political influence. Much of this is attributed to the export of the American model, especially the mix of religion and modernity, using sophisticated methods to organize themselves and communicate their message to others. This has caused defections of lukewarm Catholics but has also motivated increased sophistication and competition by Catholic churches in the same regions. This increased competition is, to the authors, more affirmation of the American model’s ability to prosper religion in an age of modernity.

Islam is also examined, with some signs of using the tools of modernity to advance the message, including the use of the internet and other communications media. However, there is little sign that Islam has or will soon develop the tolerance and openness to competition that has been the hallmark of Christian success. I think this is likely true, but think the authors may underestimate the advantage Muslims have in birth rate growth and perhaps Islam’s ability to maintain fervor even when sanctioned by the state. Islam, for example, lacks the hierarchy the Catholic Church had as an established religion. Thus, even in states that officially endorse Islam and discriminate against other religions or sects, Islam may be more able maintain the fervor of its members than Christianity in similar conditions. Time will tell.

All told, the book is a remarkable examination of religion in the modern world. It is some ways similar to Philip Jenkins’s The Next Christendom, but broader in focus. Christianity is the main focus, with substantial time devoted to Islam, including how they are interacting in places like Nigeria. But space is also devoted to developments in Hinduism and Buddhism and their reactions to modernity.

Although the authors conclude that the American model is on the march, it warns against hastily concluding that the European model is dead. It will still exert influence and Europe is not experiencing wide-spread religious revival nor appears likely to in the near future. Nevertheless, Islamic birth rates will increase Islam’s influence in many European nations and this will likely cause increased fervor among lukewarm Christians. The authors warn about potential religious conflict between Islam and Christianity in Europe but more so in Africa. Although the threat is candidly acknowledged, the author’s correctly note that secularized conflict reached tremendously high levels in the 20th century and that the threat of religious conflicts does not appear close to reaching such levels. The authors also point out the role religion can play in helping alleviate tensions and in reducing violence levels. Interesting examples from Nigeria, Northern Ireland, and elsewhere are examined.

I highly recommend this book. In addition to helpfully examining the big picture, God is Back is full of anecdotes and witty observations that never fall to the level of condescension. A few comments seem under informed and some sections seemed a forced fit, but these are minor drawbacks of a highly informative and well written book.

I could not pass this up. By Charlotte Allen of the LA Times.

Atheists: No God, no reason, just whining
Superstar atheists are motivated by anger -- and boohoo victimhood.

It is worth a read.

The so-called problem of divine hiddenness has apparently gained currency among skeptics as not only an interesting question, but an affirmative argument for atheism. The argument goes something like this (as Michael Murry describes John Schellenberg's forumlation in Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason):

1. If there is a God, he is perfectly loving.
2. If a perfectly loving God exists, then no one could be a reasonable atheist.
3. But there are people who are reasonable atheists.
4. Thus, no perfectly loving God exists.
5. Thus, there is no God.

There are, of course, variations of the argument and more detailed explanations of each point. You will often hear, for example, Nos. 2 and 3 are phrased in terms of "inculpable disbelief" or "reasonable unbelief," the idea being that there are people who reasonably or justifiably conclude there is no God based on the evidence, or lack of evidence, available to them. The argument does not deny the existence of reasonable belief, but contends that the mere existence of any reasonable unbelief disproves the existence of God. The focus is usually on God's desire to have a relationship with all of those creatures who are capable of having such a relationship and that a lack of belief in God is a barrier to such a relationship. If God really loved people, He would give enough evidence to each of His creations capable of relating to Him to ensure such a relationship.

I have not found this argument persuasive, much less compelling. There are too many unknowns and too many questionable value judgments to be made. The reality is, however, that this argument describes what can be very troubling for some Christians going through a "crisis of faith" and are desperate to combat the doubts and emotions that beset them. They fear losing their faith and want some sign, some irrefutable argument, something more so that they can retain their belief. This post, therefore, opens a discussion of divine hiddenness and will likely be followed -- as time permits -- by additional, related posts.

One of the first questions that arises from divine hiddenness is what does it mean to be "perfectly loving"? And does it distort the analysis to focus on one attribute of God? Would it not be more accurate to describe God as "perfectly loving, perfectly righteous, and perfectly just"? To note also that he is a "jealous God" and is, to be blunt, judgmental as well as forgiving? My parents, for example, were quite loving but also disciplined me. Ah, you might say, but they disciplined out of love. Yes, that is true. But the use of the one word (love) and exclusion of others (justice, righteous) does paint a different picture does it not? And while my parents disciplined me out of love, it was not divorced from a sense of justice. A father who is, for example, also a police officer and finds that his son has stolen something from a local store has a duty to turn him in not only to "teach him a lesson for his own good" but also because he is charged with enforcement of the laws and owes a duty to the store owner and the public at large. So, could it be that all this argument proves is that a God that fits our preconceived and limited notions of what it means to be "perfectly loving" does not exist? Very possibly.

How about Nos. 2 and 3? Is it true that God would not allow any reasonable nonbelief? Is reasonable nonbelief even possible? There are scriptures that suggest perhaps not. After all, according to the Psalmist, "The heavens declare the glory of God." Ps. 19:1. The first chapter of Romans also suggests that God has revealed Himself to humanity but has faced rejection. Vs. 18-23. Perhaps it is to take these verses too far to glean from them the conclusion that there is no reasonable unbelief (or at least no nonculpable disbelief, which may not be the same thing). But what if the biblical evidence is clear that reasonable unbelief or nonculpable disbelief does not exist? The issue then becomes, what role does Biblical revelation have in the analysis? The skeptic may claim to know that there is reasonable or nonculpable disbelief, but must the Christian concede the point? The Bible instructs that the human heart is deceitful. Christians value human reason but also value revelation, understanding that human reason can be flawed or corrupted by our own nature.

Further, the Christian may have good reason to trust the Bible on this account due to their own experiences. Even apart from the Bible, a person may have good philosophical, experiential, or scientific reasons to believe that God had made His presence obvious to all who are open to His existence. Belief in God is widespread. Over 90% of Americans believe in God for example. Even in Russia, belief in God has climbed back up to over 80% despite years of official indoctrination of atheism. This raises the question again of what constitutes "reasonable" or "inculpable" unbelief. There seem to be a number of ways that unbelief could exist in otherwise reasonable people but not be reasonable itself:

First, I might culpably fail to gather grounds for theistic belief. The possibilities here are legion. I might fail to look for evidence, or bias the evidence I consider. I might ignore or suppress an inner prompting to believe, neglect spiritual disciplines, want theism to be false for various reasons, and so on. Second, I might culpably fail to assess my grounds properly. Perhaps I culpably fail to appraise my epistemic standards, or I culpably hold theses unfriendly to theism (e.g., meaning verificationism or radical constructivism).

Daniel Howard-Snyder, "Review of J.L. Schellenberg, Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason," in Mind 2005.

Further, as Michael J. Murray notes, the logical sequence above omits an important step or two. He reformulates it this way:

1. If there is a God, he is perfectly loving.
2. If a perfectly loving God exists, then there would not be reasonable atheists unless God has some good reason for allowing there to be reasonable atheists.
3. There are people who are reasonable and who are atheists.
3+. There is no good reason for God to allow there to be such atheists.
4. Thus, no perfectly loving God exists.
5. Thus, there is no God.

Murray, "Why God Doesn't Make His Existence More Obvious to Us?" Passionate Conviction, eds. Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, page 45 (emphasis added).

Here we have stepped into another challenging issue: How confident are we that we can figure out all of the reasons God may allow reasonable disbelief and, even more challenging, how he would weigh various goods against each other? As Murry notes, probably one of the least helpful places to look for an answer to such questions "is in the introspective consciousness of the atheist." Id. at 46. The ability of finite, created beings to figure out all of the reasons for actions and value judgments of an infinite, eternal, omniscient being has to at least be left as a valid question. God may have some reason or reasons we cannot understand or relate to in our present state of being.

Nevertheless, many philosophers have postulated reasons why God may permit reasonable unbelief. Two of the main themes underlying many explanations is the necessity of some "epistemic distance" between God and humans to permit the level of free will desired by God and the necessity of such distance for "soul-making," the process whereby humans grow, learn, and mature. For example, Blaise Pascal argued that God lets people experience separation from him, at least for a time, to demonstrate the anguish choosing distance from God will bring. Thus, God seeks to motivate people to repent of their sin and seek closeness with God.

In his textbook on Apologetics, James Taylor gives a summary list of other suggested reasons:
[O]ther specific ends God might try to bring about by hiding from an individual are (1) to make sure that a person does not respond to God in faith for the wrong sorts of reasons (e.g., a fear of hell); (2) to make sure that the inividual's attitudes about God and his or her knowledge of God are appropriate (e.g., humility rather than arrogance, seriousness rather than flippancy); (3) to encourage passionate faith through a sense of risk that would be diminished if there were more and better evidence; (4) to make it necessary for people to rely on one another in beginning and cultivating a relationship with God so that the second Great Commandment is more likely to be fulfilled by human beings; (5) to make it impossible (or at least difficult) for people to have a sense of being in complete control of their lives and destinies so that they need to depend on G0d in faith; and (6) in general to facilitate the acquisition and development of the virtues of faith, hope, and love and other more specific related virtues such as patience and compassion.

Taylor, Introduction to Apologetics, page 166.

Calvinists would respond to the problem of divine hiddennesss by saying that God reveals enough of Himself to convince -- indeed, compel -- those with whom He wants relationship to believe. It is just that God does not want relationship with everyone for His own purposes.

Setting aside Calvinism, middle knowledge may offer some insight. Perhaps God provides what He knows to be sufficient evidence to draw those to Himself whom He knows would freely choose to love Him. Perhaps such a process is necessary to ensure that those who come to God in faith will perservere as sinless through all eternity. Or perhaps the "epistemic distance" is in fact a mercy. That the more clear, the closer, is God's presence to humans the closer and swifter his judgment must be. God is, after all, an "all consuming fire." Heb. 12:29. Perhaps God has balanced the level of evidence of His presence with His desire to give more time for the spread of the Gospel before His judgment must come.

Unfortunately, these discussions tend to take place in a vacuum. One logical extension of the argument from divine hiddenness is that it would compel 90% of Americans to conclude that they are mistaken that God exists because 5% of their fellow Americans do not know either way and another 5% conclude God does not exist. The 90% would have to concede to the 5%, no matter how reasonable their belief or compelling the evidence at hand! This is surely wrong. It means that the argument from divine hiddenness is a license to ignore the existing evidence irrespective of its strength, merit, and persuasive value. It is perfectly conceivable -- and in my experience true -- that whether or not I can discover a reason for God's purported hiddenness from others that it is reasonable for me to believe God exists based on other data, information, and experiences.
[W]e might have good reason to think that, given what other things we reasonably believe, it would not be surprising at all were God to be privy to reasons to permit inculpable nonbelief, reasons that properly outweigh His desire to relate personally to us, reasons we weren't aware of. In that case, even though we rightly believed that God had a desire to relate personally to us, our total evidence would not be sufficient to conclude that God would prevent inculpable nonbelief.

Howard-Syner, op. cit., page 2.

If a Christian has searched earnestly for relationship with God and reasonably concluded that God exists and he has a relationship with Him, then is it reasonable for that person to take the word of another -- whose experiences and motives cannot be as well known to the Christian as his own -- and conclude that despite the evidence and experiences and reasonable conclusions he has reached that he must nevertheless agree that God does not exist? Must one person's genuine reasonable belief always yield to the purported reasonable unbelief of another?

Finally, a note on timing. You may have gone through a hard time of doubt and feel at the end of your rope and that God surely could have just given you more of a nudge than He has. I can relate. I've been there too. But God did provide, though not in the instance of my cry. Although some may argue that the problem of hiddenness means that God would not allow a moment of doubt or disbelief, that turns what is in my opinion a doubtful argument into a very far fetched one. A moment, a month, even years of doubt or disbelief can be remedied in a moment, or over a time period. C.S. Lewis, Anne Rice, Nicky Gumbel, A.N. Wilson, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, William J. Murray (Madalyn Murray O'Hair's son) all disbelieved in God's existence and later came to know Him.

On April 9, 2009, Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report interviewed Bart Ehrman regarding his latest book, Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible and Why We Didn't Know About Them.

For those unfamiliar with the Colbert Report, the show is broadcast Monday through Thursday on Comedy Central. Making little attempt to be serious, the show makes fun of everyone and everything largely through mockery. Generally, the show does not take sides on Christianity -- Colbert has done some comedy that many in the Christian community would find quite offensive -- but in a rare serious interview I once saw, Colbert said that he teaches Sunday School at his church. As a result, unlike many of the interviewers I am sure that Bart Ehrman encounters (where the interviewer has never thought through the issues surrounding the evidence supporting Christianity's claims), Colbert had the religious background to actually engage Ehrman on the issues.

On the show, Colbert challenged Ehrman's drivel. Most of the time, Ehrman seemed incapable of responding to Colbert or matching his wit. Most of the time, he seemed to be stuck on trying to make his talking points despite the fact that Colbert was slowly raking him over the coals. Of course, since the interview is part of a comedy show, so Colbert threw in some jabs at Ehrman that were designed to raise a guffaw or two without really constituting a substantive response. However, the clear winner of the exchange was Colbert. The entire interview is below.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Bart Ehrman
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

Now, there are several things that Bart Ehrman said that need a further response than Colbert could give in a six minute segment on a comedy newscast. For example, Ehrman claims that only in John does Jesus claim to be divine. Obviously, this claim is not new, nor is it completely without merit: Certainly, it is in John's Gospel where we find the most express claims that Jesus is God. But simply because the claim is not as express in the other Gospels does not mean that it is not there at all.

Colbert points out at least one of these claims to be God rather clearly when he notes that Jesus is called the Son of God repeatedly in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, and that the "son" has the attributes of its father. ("What's the son of a duck? It's a duck.") But Jesus taking the title of "Son of God" isn't the only claim by Jesus that is equivalent to a claim to be God in these three Gospels.

On Glenn Miller's fine Christian Think-tank, there is a page entitled The Trinity (IIIf) -- The NT Witness: Summary--The Deity of Jesus Christ in which Glenn sets a partial summary of the evidence from Scripture that shows that Jesus claimed to be God. Many of these claims come not just from the Gospel of John, but from the other three Gospels. These claims include the following all of which are claims found in the three synoptic Gospels:

Jesus' claims relative to worship, glorification, exaltation, object of religious faith, title of "God".

Jesus promised to come in 'the glory of the Father' (Mark 8.38)
Jesus held himself out as a legitimate object for religious faith (Mark 9.42; Jn 3.15; Jn 9.35f) even to the same extent as the Father (Jn 14.1)
He NEVER corrects those who accuse him of making himself equal to God (Mr 2.5ff; Jn 5.17ff; Jn 8.58-59; Jn 10:30-39) nor those who called him "GOD" (Jn 20.28).
He claims loyalty greater than ALL human loyalties (Mt 10.37)

Jesus' claims to authority

Jesus claimed to be able to forgive sins (Mark 2.5ff; Lk 7.48f)
Jesus had authority over the Sabbath (Mark 2.28; Mt 12.8)
Jesus claims that the elect are his, and that the angels are his (Mr 13.26f)--either in possession or authority over
He implied that he had the ability/authority to abolish the law (Mt 5.21)
He implied by his "but I say to you..." passages a divine authority (Mt 5)
He had the authority to give authority over evil to others (Lk 10.19)
He has authority to confer a kingdom--in the SAME MANNER that the Father does (Lk 22.29f)
He claims to have authority to send/give the Holy Spirit of God! (Lk 24.49; Jn 4.10 with 7.37-39; Jn 15.26; Jn 16.7)

His claims to IDENTITY/EQUALITY with the Father

He claims to be on a par with the Father and the Holy Spirit (Mt 28.19)
He claims that his coming was the same as God's coming (Lk 19.43ff)
He claims to operate co-extensively with the Spirit (Mk 21.14-15 with Mt 10 and Mr 13)

Jesus claims to a UNIQUE relationship to the Father

Jesus considered His Sonship-relation with the Father to be ABSOLUTELY unique (Mr 12.1-11; Jn 20.17)
He claims to be the unique Heir of God (Mr 12.1-11)
He claims to have EXCLUSIVE knowledge of the Father (Mt 11.27; Jn 7.28-29)

Jesus' exalted nature and powers

Jesus is often linked to the word 'Lord' (Mr 11.3; Mr 5:19-20)
Jesus claimed to be greater than King David (Mr 12.35-37), than the Temple (Mt 12.6), than the prophet Jonah (Mt 12.41), than King Solomon (Mt 12.42).
He claims that his rank in the universe is superior to the angels (Mr 13.32)
He implies that he is, or will be, omnipresent (Mt 18.20; Mt 28.19)
He claims to have access to knowledge of the future, and events occurring in heaven (Lk 22.31).

The Claims of Jesus which make NO SENSE if He were not God

Jesus claims that his words will outlast time itself! (Mr 13.31)
He claims that the eternal destiny of people depend on their response to HIM! (Mt 7.21ff; Mt 25.17ff)

I would add that there are additional verses where Jesus either claims to be God or is identified as God that are not in Glenn's list. For example, one of the statements of Jesus that all acknowledge as a claim to be God is Jesus' famous claim to be "I am." (John 8:58) Yet, as Lee Strobel reports in his interview with Dr. Craig Blomberg in The Case for Christ, Jesus made an identical claim in Matthew and Mark. Strobel quotes Blomberg as saying,

Think of the story of Jesus walking on the water, found in Matthew 14:22-333 and Mark 6:45-52. Most English tranlsations hide the Greek by quoting Jesus as saying, 'Fear not, it is I.' Actually, the Greek literally says, 'Fear not, I am.' Those last two words are indentical to what jesus said in John 8:58, when he took upon himself the divine name 'I Am,' which is the say God revealed himselft to Moses in the burning bush in Exodus 3:14. So Jesus is revealing himself as the one who has the same divine power over nature as Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament.

Colbert's interview with Ehrman is fun, but the claims of Ehrman's book are not. They are serious and are likely to be taken seriously by people who read it. I am glad that Colbert was able to poke a few holes in it in front of a rather large television audience who likely have little exposure to these types of arguments. I hope that others poke more holes in Ehrman's book and ideas elsewhere because, based upon this interview with Colbert, they sure seem as if it shouldn't be taken as gospel.

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Mother T.

This post was published on this blog in Feb of 2006. I am recalling it here in answer to "Callmeirresponsible's" question "why doesn't God heal everyone?" The answer is because the need for everyone to be healed is outweighed by other considerations, ie the need to preserve the search for truth since that manifests internalizing the values of the good.

The Free Will Defense is offered by Christian apologists as an answer to any sort of atheist argument such as the problem of pain or the problem of evil. The argument runs something like: God values free will because "he" ("she"?) doesn't want robots. The problelm with this approach is that it often stops short in analysis as to why free will would be a higher value than anything else. This leaves the atheist in a position of arguing any number of pains and evil deeds and then charging that God had to know these things would happen, thus God must be cruel for creating anything at all knowing the total absolute pain (which usually includes hell in most atheist arguments) would result from creation.

The apologetic answers usually fail to satisfy the atheist, because in their minds noting can outweigh the actual inflicting of pain. Sometimes atheists evoke omnipotence and play it off against the value of free will, making the assumption that an "all powerful God" could do anything, thus God should be able to cancel any sort of moral debt, make sin beyond our natures, create a pain free universe, and surely if God were all loving, God would have done so.

The better twist on the free will defense would be to start from a different position. We should start with the basis for creation, in so far as we can understand it, and then to show how the logical and non self contradictory requirements of the logic of creation require free will. What is usually missing or not pointed out is the necessity of free will in the making of moral choices. This is the step that atheists and Christian apologists alike sometimes overlook; that it is absolutely essential in a non-self contradictory way, that humanity have free will. Thus, free will must out weight any other value. At that point, since it is a matter of self contradiction, omnipotence cannot be played off against free will, because God's omnipotence does not allow God to dispense with Free will!

Before moving to the argument I want to make it clear that I deal with two separate issues: the problem of pain (not a moral issue--tornadoes and disesases and the like) becasue it doesn't involve human choice. Pain, inflicted by accident and nature is not a moral issue, because it involves no choices. Thus I will not deal with that here. I am only concerned in this argument with the the problem of evil that is, the problem of moral choice. The free will defense cannot apply to makes where the will does not apply.

Basic assumptions

There are three basic assumptions that are hidden, or perhaps not so obivioius, but nevertheless must be dealt with here.

(1) The assumption that God wants a "moral universe" and that this value outweighs all others.

The idea that God wants a moral universe I take from my basic view of God and morality. Following in the footsteps of Joseph Fletcher (Situation Ethics) I assume that love is the background of the moral universe (this is also an Augustinian view). I also assume that there is a deeply ontological connection between love and Being. Axiomatically, in my view point, love is the basic impetus of Being itself. Thus, it seems reasonable to me that, if morality is an upshot of love, or if love motivates moral behavior, then the creation of a moral universe is essential.

(2) that internal "seeking" leads to greater internalization of values than forced compliance or complaisance that would be the result of intimidation.

That's a pretty fair assumption. We all know that people will a lot more to achieve a goal they truly beileve in than one they merely feel forced or obligated to follow but couldn't care less about.

(3)the the drama or the big mystery is the only way to accomplish that end.

The pursuit of the value system becomes a search of the heart for ultimate meaning,that ensures that people continue to seek it until it has been fully internalized.

The argument would look like this:

(1)God's purpose in creation: to create a Moral Universe, that is one in which free moral agents willingly choose the Good.

(2) Moral choice requires absolutely that choice be free (thus free will is necessitated).

(3) Allowance of free choices requires the risk that the chooser will make evil chioces

(4)The possibility of evil choices is a risk God must run, thus the value of free outweighs all other considerations, since without there would be no moral universe and the purpose of creation would be thwarted.

This leaves the atheist in the position of demanding to know why God doesn't just tell everyone that he's there, and that he requires moral behavior, and what that entails. Thus there would be no mystery and people would be much less inclined to sin.

This is the point where Soteriological Drama figures into it.
Argument on Soteriological Drama:

(5) Life is a "Drama" not for the sake of entertainment, but in the sense that a dramatic tension exists between our ordinary observations of life on a daily basis, and the ultimate goals, ends and purposes for which we are on this earth.

(6) Clearly God wants us to seek on a level other than the obvious, daily, demonstrative level or he would have made the situation more plain to us

(7) We can assume that the reason for the "big mystery" is the internalization of choices. If God appeared to the world in open objective fashion and laid down the rules, we would probalby all try to follow them, but we would not want to follow them. Thus our obedience would be lip service and not from teh heart.

(8) therefore, God wants a heart felt response which is internationalized value system that comes through the search for existential answers; that search is phenomenological; intetrsubective, internal, not amenable to ordinary demonstrative evidence.

In other words, we are part of a great drama and our actions and our dilemmas and our choices are all part of the way we respond to the situation as characters in a drama.


One might object that this couldn't outweigh babies dying or the horrors of war or the all the countless injustices and outrages that must be allowed and that permeate human history. It may seem at first glance that free will is petty compared to human suffering. But I am advocating free will for the sake any sort of pleasure or imagined moral victory that accrues from having free will, it's a totally pragmatic issue; that internatlizing the value of the good requires that one choose to do so, and free will is essential if choice is required. Thus it is not a capricious or selfish defense of free will, not a matter of choosing our advantage or our pleasure over that of dying babies, but of choosing the key to saving the babies in the long run,and to understanding why we want to save them, and to care about saving them, and to actually choosing their saving over our own good.

In deciding what values outweigh other values we have to be clear about our decision making paradigm. From a utilitarian standpoint the determinate of lexically ordered values would be utility, what is the greatest good for the greatest number? This would be determined by means of outcome, what is the fianl tally sheet in terms of pleasure over pain to the greatest aggregate? But why that be the value system we decide by? It's just one value system and much has been written about the bankruptcy of conseuqnetialist ethics. If one uses a deontolgoical standard it might be a different thing to consider the lexically ordered values. Free will predominates becaue it allows internalization of the good. The good is the key to any moral value system. This could be justified on both deontolgoical and teleological premises.

My own moral decision making paradigm is deontological, because I believe that teleological ethics reduces morality to the decision making of a ledger sheet and forces the individual to do immoral things in the name of "the greatest good for the greatest number." I find most atheists are utilitarians so this will make no sense to them. They can't help but think of the greatest good/greatest number as the ultaimte adage, and deontology as empty duty with no logic to it. But that is not the case. Deontology is not just rule keeping, it is also duty oriented ethics. The duty that we must internalize is that ultimate duty that love demands of any action. Robots don't love. One must freely choose to give up self and make a selfless act in order to act from Love. Thus we cannot have a loved oriented ethics, or we cannot have love as the background of the moral universe without free will, because love involves the will.

The choice of free will at the expense of countless lives and untold suffering cannot be an easy thing, but it is essential and can be justified from either deontolgoical or teleological persective. Although I think the deontologcial makes more sense. From the teleological stand point, free will ultimately leads to the greatest good for the greatest number because in the long run it assumes us that one is willing to die for the other, or sacrifice for the other, or live for the other. That is essential to promoting a good beyond ourselves. The individual sacrifices for the good of the whole, very utilitarian. It is also deontolgocially justifiable since duty would tell us that we must give of ourselves for the good of the other.

Thus anyway you slice it free will outweighs all other concerns because it makes available the values of the good and of love. Free will is the key to ultimately saving the babies, and saving them because we care about them, a triumph of the heart, not just action from wrote. It's internalization of a value system without which other and greater injustices could be foisted upon an unsuspecting humanity that has not been tought to choose to lay down one's own life for the other.

Objection 2: questions
(from "UCOA" On CARM boards (atheism)


In addition, there is no explanation of why god randomly decided to make a "moral universe".

Why do you describe the decision as random? Of course all of this is second guessing God, so the real answer is "I don't know, duh" But far be it form me to give-up without an opinion. My opine as to why God would create moral universe:

to understand this you must understand my view of God, and that will take some doing. I'll try to just put it in a nut shell. In my view love is the background of the moral universe. The essence of "the good" or of what is moral is that which conforms to "lug." But love in the apogee sense, the will to the good of the other. I do not believe that that this is just derived arbitrarily, but is the outpouring of the wellspring of God's character. God is love, thus love is the background of the moral universe because God is the background of the moral universe.

Now I also describe God as "being itself." Meaning God is the foundation of all that is. I see a connection between love and being. Both are positive and giving and turning on in the face of nothingness, which is negativity. To say that another way, if we think of nothingness as a big drain pipe, it is threatening to **** all that exits into it. Being is the power to resist nothingness, being the stopper in the great cosmic drain pipe of non existence.

The act of bestowing being upon the beings is the nature of God because God is being. Those the two things God does because that's what he is, he "BES" (um, exists) and he gives out being bestowing it upon other beings. This is connected to love which also gives out and bestows. So being and love are connected, thus the moral universe is an outgrowth of the nature of God as giving and bestowing and being and loving.

Thus the question isn't really answered. Why does god allow/create evil? To create a "moral universe". Why? The only answer that is given is, because he wants to. Putting it together, Why does god allow/create evil? Because he wants to?

In a nut shell, God allows evil as an inherent risk in allowing moral agency. (the reason for which is given above).

There is a big difference in doing something and allowing it to be done. God does not create evil, he allows the risk of evil to be run by the beings, because that risk is required to have free moral agency. The answer is not "because he wants to" the answer is because he wants free moral agency so that free moral agents will internalize the values of love. To have free moral agency he must allow them to:

(1)run the risk of evil choices

(2) live in a real world where hurt is part of the dice throw.

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This post was not written in response to the comments on this blog in latest round of arguments about miracles. It's been up on my website for several years on my miracle pages. But it answers certain basic issues brought up recently.

In the discussions of miracles several atheists have made some big misconceptions.

(1) mistaken assumptions about my knowledge of correlation and cause.

some assume that since they are clever enough to know the very basic information, the difference in correlation and causality, that I must not know that because I'm a Christian and Christians are stupid, and they are so very clever to know some basic fact that all high school kids should get, correlation is not causality.

But what they don't get is that just becasue I argue inductively that correlation is indicative of a cause if certain conditions obtain, that doesn't mean I don't know the difference.

(2) What these very clever atheist don't get is that correlation is indicative of cause.

Part of the problem is that certain people don't seem to know what indicative means. Be that as it may, there is an epistemological gap in our knowledge that is a problem at the most fundamental philosophical level. We can only establish causality in one way, buy making very tight correlations and eliminating alternate causes. This is the only way there is, and that's what Hume really proved with the billiard balls.

science can't prove causes. We can only prove correlations. When I assume causes on miracles, it's the only way we ever establish cause. Hans (HRG on CARM) says "only if we eliminate the alternate causes." Yes, that's true, but it also leads to recursion of the original problem. Because if we can't observe causality and it must be inferred from correlation, then you can't say "I have eliminated an alternate cause by showing causality and eliminating it." That's just a repeat of the same problem. The alternate causes are only possibilities, they are not proven either. What it boils down to is in the final analysis is a really tight correlation is the only way to determine cause. Although it is important to eliminate the alternative possible causes, essential in fact. What this means is I am right to assume causes from correlations, given that I can eliminate alternatives, and I usually can, and given the very tight correlation.

All of this means that medical evidence showing the disease went away, when examined by scientific medicos is good evidence for miracles. It's not absolute, there is no absolute. There will always be a gap in our epistemology. We will always have to make epistemic judgment.

(3) Don't need to show hit rate

The argument is made we must show the percentage of those healed vs not healed.

That's ridiculous. The reason is because we do not know the reason when someone is not healed. We cannot assume "O not being healed means there's no ;god, because some are healed." Knowing the hit rate is important in many cases. such as prophesy, "so and so is a true prophet he predicted x," but how many predictions did the make that did not come true?

Knowing the hist rate is not true in terms of empirical evidence of healing because:

......(a) We don't know if the not healing is the result of no god, or God just didn't want to heal. Because a will is on the other end of the prayer we cannot treat it like a natural process and expect it to behave like a drug in a field trial.

......(b) Miracles are supposed to be impossible. they violate natural law. that's the whole theory of naturalism in a nut shell; nothing happens apart form natural law.

Thus if one miracle happens that proves miracles and all it takes is one. proving that x% are not healed doesn't prove anything. miracles are supposed to be impossible and can't happen, if one of them happens, or we can assume it happened, then that proves they do happen. We don't know the rate because God is not a drug. Divine healing is a matter of God's will.

(4) God's action in healing is not indicative of God's feelings about those healed or not healed.

This is the whole fallacy of the God hates amputees thing. You might as well say God hates breakfast because not once in my Christian walk has God ever made me scrambled eggs in the morning.

St. Augustine proved that there is no correlation between worldly prosperity or success and God's love. Rome was sacked by the vandals and everyone was saying "this disproves Christianity." but Augie said "no it doesn't, divine favor is not based worldly success. Stuff happens to Christians too, God causes it rain on the just and unjust."

(5) No double blind

Lourdes evidence does not need to be double blind. First of all these are not "studies." They are not set up as a longitudinal study to see if healing works. These are real people and their journey to Lourdes is part of their journey in life in a search to be healed, they are not white lab mice plotting world conquest.

Secondly, double blind is used as a means of control so we know data is not contaminated by the subjects knowledge of the test. People suffering from an incurable disease cannot cure themselves. So it doesn't matter if they know. If the data shows the condition went away immediately and it can be documented that all traces are gone, the of course can assume healing, provided there is no counter cause such as he took a wonder drug before he left for Lourdes; they do certainly screen for that. That is controlled for in the Lourdes rules.

Of course there are still epistemological problems. There will always be such problems. That's why you can't prove you exist. But just as the answer to that problem is "Make epistemic judgment based upon regularity and inconsistency of data," so it goes with miracles, proving smoking causes cancer or anything else.

Thomas Reid got it right, we are justified in assuming empirical evidence provided it's strong evidence.

One more problem. When I say "correlation" this invites the question "how can you find a correlation if you don't know the hit rate? A correlation implies X and Y are seen together a lot, not just in one instance. But we can't go around giving people cancer and praying for them over and over to see if they ar always healed. We have to let multiple cases stand for correlation. But since we can't say why healing didn't take place we have to use empirical means to assert on a case by case basis. That's why it makes sense to go by a case by case study rather than try to establish a hit rate for miracles.

In response to the documented miracles that I put up atheists have had two basic responses, which of cousre I knew were coming. These amount to (1) circular reasoning: (2) raising the bar. This entials embarkation down a path of excuses designed to demand a higher level of proof everytime the previous level has been met. In the comment Box Dave Ellis says:

So the question remains:

What is more probable? That the lab made an error or that a person was magically healed.

In other words, how could my world view possibly be wrong? Anything that threatens to challenge my world must be wrong, therefore, no evdience can ever count against my world view. Thus any alleged evidence but be wrong and so can be disregarded.

Which do you think occur more frequently? Human error or miracles.

That's why the subject of amputees and facial disfigurement is far from a red herring.

Of cousre any evidence that counts against the atheist world view has to be a mistake of documentation because after all, they can't be wrong, that would mean they are going to hell we can't have that.

The rare few cases where an extraordinary miraculous healing is claimed never seem to be things that are obvious to any observer and impossible to misdiagnose (you'd have to be a pretty incompetent doctor to misdiagnose a missing arm). Instead we get lots of cancers that went away and things where its possible that they were misdiagnosed in the first place or where the doctors were simply in error about how severe the condition was.

Of course such a statement is total poppy cock since cancer was always understood to be incurable until people started suriving it. Then all healings were remission until we medical evidence that remission doesn't mean vanishing symptoms that go away over ngiht with no trace. Then it became not good enough because it could have been misdiagnosed. It doesn't matter how good the evidence is that it wasn't so, since the mere fact of alleged miracle must be construed as proof of misdiagnosis and much never never never be construed as proof of a miracle since that would mean the unthinkable might be true. So now we go down this winding path of a thousands excuses.

As to commenting on the actual cases, as I said before, we have far too little detail provided.

I was quoting out of a book. Shall I post the whole book on the blog? The details are recorded at Lourdes. But of course actually researching is out of the question.

If Hinman wants to pick his favorite and then provide some real detail about it then we can discuss it. On the short summaries he's provided so far though there's really not much that can be said other than what I've already done---point out general problems that claims of miraculous healing need to surmount for us to be reasonably convinced they really occur.

Of course if I did that it wouldn't be good enough. It's not a limb growing back, if it was a limb growing back then its' not the stars spelling out Jesus' name. If it was the stars spelling out Jesus name it would not be seen that way from the other end of the galaxy or would be meaningless to people not from earth, so it has to be just a huge coincidence.

Another atheist sums up the comments:

5/04/2009 07:12:00 AM
Anonymous CallMeIrresponsible said...

1. No miracle healings occur for conditions that would be *absolutely impossible* to heal without divine intervention (amputation, etc.).

2. Miracle healings are only claimed for conditions that human error or statistics could explain.

3. Therefore, miracles are a superfluous explanation.

5/04/2009 03:03:00 PM

Actually that's not as bad a recommendation as you think. The idea that miracle are superfluous, that's not such a bad thing to think. After all, there are no en stances of the word "miracle" being used in the Bible. We have stories where amazing things happen, but not suggestion that such things will always happen. Now i"m pushing my old Church of Chrsit line that I grew up with, "miracles have ceased." What I'm really suggesting is that we need to actually re-define what we mean by the term "miracle." After all my answer on the theodicy problem is that God allows pain, suffering and evil because he wants us to search for truth. He can't really spill the beans and make his existence because doubt, if that were the case there would be no reason to search for truth. So to get us to search, the answers are there, but they are not so obvious that we don't have to look for them. We can find them, but they are not spelled out.

The reason for this is simple, it's because God wants us to internalize the values of the Good. The values of the good are important to hold, and we must internalize them because merely giving lip service to them will not affect the heart. The heart is the seat of the spiritual battle ground. This is the basic reason for free will (for those of us who are Armenians) and it is the reason God allows evil, pain and suffering.If everytime something bad happened it was instantly stopped, healed, reversed, or made better we would not seek truth, we would not seek God, we would make lip service and fear doing wrong and resent God.

So the answers are there, they can be found, but we have to seek them. God does do things in the world but he doesn't always do them in an obvious manner. So we can assume God is at work in our lives but we need not always be able to prove that he is to others who don't understand it. After all the skeptic is not searching, he's working hard to keep from searching. He doesn't want to internalize the values of the good, he wants to be autonomous and to promote his own values. For those who don't get it may seem totally stupid to believe soemthing that isn't proved, but there you have it. We don't always need this kind of proof.

We need to understand that God does not have to do impossible things that could not be done to be doing things in our lives. We don't need to prove that god is doing things in our lives to know that he is. Be that as it may there are some instances, some documented, some anecdotal, that serve as hints for those who are willing to take them. But I guarantee you beyond any any doubt no level of evdience will ever cause these atheists to cease their Constantin excuse making. Whether one says "we don't need miracles lets forget them" or "miracles happen" either course sends the atheist in to a rage if one still believes in God in spite of inability to prove. Yet no matter how good the evidence the atheist is never satisfied.

Take for example the statement above: "No miracle healings occur for conditions that would be *absolutely impossible* to heal without divine intervention (amputation, etc.)." Here's a case that contradicts such an assertion:

Take the case of Charles Ann:

this story was on the net on a certain website at one time. It has sense been taken off that site but I can site when I found it. There is still reference to it on that site but not where it used to be and not the same test that I quoted when I first found it.

Society for the Little Flower (Website) FAQ (visited 6/3/01)
St. Theresse of Lisieux

The second cure involved Charles Anne, a 23 year old seminarian who was dying from advanced pulmonary tuberculosis. The night he thought he was dying, Charles prayed to Therese. Afterward, the examining doctor testified, "The destroyed and ravaged lungs had been replaced by new lungs, carrying out their normal functions and about to revive the entire organism. A slight emaciation persists, which will disappear within a few days under a regularly assimilated diet." These two miracles resulted in Therese becoming beatified."

Now I'm sure the excuse will be made "there aren't enough details." No there aren't. This is not meant to be exhaustive proof. Any apologist would be an idiot to think he's going to find many kind of proof that can just cause someone to believe just by reading it on a blog! Its' a starting point. It's a place to begin looking. In fact you can order copies of the x-rays from the Saint making committee. So I was told in email by a member of the Lourdes medical committee. I have not be able to do it so far. Nevertheless the x-rays do exist and one can research it further.

Let's watch the excuses come rolling in. This is something the atheists need to get their minds around: when nothing ever counts against your position you have not make it more secure you have demonstrated it's bankruptcy. The call for evidence of miracles is useless because nothing can ever count as a miracle. Anything evidence offered is automatically discounted merely because it is evdience of a miracle. Like Ellis said "what's more likely?" well if you refuse to ever believe and you and you have an emotional bias against belief then of course it's less likely that any sort of evidence will ever count as evidence. But then it doesn't prove anything that there is no evdience because nothing ever could be evidence.

O but of cousre, amputation growing back would be. That's the only one that ever would be? What about a new pair of lungs, why is that not just as good? O well of cousre that's not an amputation growing back so it must be wrong. But then remember what I said about it cant' be too obvious? Where's the search if god is beyond doubt? But the atheists can't have this because they want to be forced. If you can't compel them to believe then it's too much trouble to search.

Lungs growing back over night are just as amazing at a severed limb growing back, but a bit less obvious so not as great a bean spiller. But just watch what they do with this one.

(1) not enough detail

(2) I want those x-rays they will say!

O when the excuses come marching in!

Study: The Miracles: A Doctor says "Yes"
by Richard H. Casdorph.(Logos International, 1976)

Richard H. Casdroph collected medical evidence, x-rays, angiograms, and other data from 10 cases associated with the Kathryn Kulhman ministry. Now it will of course strike skeptics as laughable to document the miracles of a faith healer. Ordinarily I myself tend to be highly skeptical of any televangelists. I am still skeptical of Kulhman because of her highly theatrical manner. But I always had the impression that there was actual documentation of her miracles and I guess that impression was created by the Casdorph book.

The Casdroph book goes into great detail on every case. Since these were not the actual patients of Casdroph himself, there are three tiers of medical data and opinion; Casdroph himself and his evaluation of the data, several doctors with whom he consulted on every case (and they vary from case to case), and the original doctors of the patients themselves. The patients gave their permission and were happy to provide the medical data on their healing since they were all people who had written to the Kulhman ministry with words of their healing. Not all of them were healed immediately in the meeting. Some were healed later when they got home.Naturally, no one had a x-ray machine standing by at the faith meeting to crank out results like a Xerox copy, so all of them took some period of time to see the results. Not all of them were totally healed immediately. But all the cases were either terminal or incurable and all of them, within a year, returned to full health and pain free existences.

Dr. Richard Steiner, of the American Board of Pathology, head of department of Pathology Long Beach Community Hospital reviewed several of the slides. William Olson, American Board of Internal Medicine and head of Isotope Department at Long Beach Community Hospital, and several radiologists from that Hospital also consulted on the rest of the cases.

1) Reticulum cell Sarcoma, right pelvic bone.
2) Chronic Rheumatoid Arthritis with Severe Disability
3) Malignant Brain Tumor (Glioma) of the left temporal lobe
4) Multiple Sclerosis
5) Arteriosclerosis Heart Disease
6) Carcinoma of the Kidney (Hyperthyroidism)
7) Mixed Rheumatoid Arthritis with Osteoarthritis
8) Probable Brain Tumor vs Infarction of the Brain
9) Massive GI Hemorrhage with GI shock (instantly healed)
10) Osteoporosis of the Entire Spine

All of these people were totally healed of incurable or terminal states. The one commonality they all have is that they were at some point prayed for by the same person, Kulhman. Let's look at a few examples:

1) Lisa Larios: Cell Sarcoma of the right pelvic bone.

Larios didn't know she had cancer. She had developed a great deal of pain in her pelvis and was confined to a wheelchair, but the doctors had not found the evidence of the tumor at the time her mother took her to hear Kulhman. Yet, when Miss Kulhman said "someone over here is being healed of cancer, please stand up" she stood up without knowing why. She had already started feeling a strange heat in that area and had ceased to feel pain. She went up onto the stage and walked around without pain. She was than "slain in the spirit" which is that odd thing when the healer places his/her hand on the forehead and the person falls over in a faint. It took some time to receive the next set of x-rays because she only learned after the meeting some days later that she had cancer. Than the next set of x-rays showed vast and dramatic improvement. It would still be some time, almost a year, before her pelvis was completely resorted. But she did return to full health. The Catholics wouldn't accept this miracle because it could be confused with a normal remission. The power of suggestion can be ruled out because the heat started before she was called to the stage and because she didn't even know she had cancer, but responded to a call for healing of cancer. The first dramatic improvement which was immediate within a few days, and walking on the stage is not characteristic of remission. Casdroph has the medical evidence from several hospitals to which she had been taken.

3) Mrs. Marie Rosenberger: Malignant Brain Tumor.

"Three things make this case an exceptionally excellent example of divine healing: 1) medical evidence of the case includes biopsy proof of the malignant nature of the tumor. The slides were obtained from Hollywood Community Hospital and reviewed by the head pathologist at Long Beach community Hospital who confirmed the diagnosis of malignant astrocytoma or glioma class II.  2) When the healing occurred Marie Rosenberger was down to 101 pounds and was expected to die."

The healing began to manifest immediately and by the next morning was evident. She received no further drugs or medication from that point on. 3) The third thing that makes the case good is the long term nature of the healing. Her diagnosis was in 1970 and by the time Casdroph wrote the book in 1976 she was still healthy and happy with no sign of the disease since the healing (which was in 1971 one year after the diagnosis).

8) Anne Soults: Probable brain tumor vs. Infarction of the brain.

"This lady's brain abnormality was well documented by the standard diagnostic techniques and she was seen by many specialists. Electroencephalographic study was performed in each of her hospitalizations. The repeat study dated January 6th reported 'abnormal EEG suggesting left temporary pathology, there is no significant change since 12/27/74.'...the clinical impression was that of brain tumor and her symptoms suddenly and completely disappeared following a visit to the Shrine service."
When she went to the service an unknown christian placed his hands on her shoulders and prayed for her. The symptoms immediately disappeared and subsequent tests found that the abnormality had disappeared. This is not normal remission. Remission does not mean that the symptoms immediately vanish.

9) Paul Wittney Trousdale: Massive GI Hemorrhage.

Trousdale was a prominent civic leader and builder in California in the early 1970s. On December 12, 1973 he was admitted to St. John's Hospital in Sana Monica with massive hemorrhaging which required many transfusions.His wife called Reverend John Hinkle to his bedside, they prayed and he was instantly healed. All the medical values returned to normal and he went on to live a normal and productive life, taking part in sports. Subsequent examinations revealed no abnormalities.

10) Delores Winder: Osteoporosis of the Complete Spine.

"Mrs. Delores Winder presents us with an unusual case of severe, chronic, disabling pain secondary to Osteoporosis, which her physicians tried to relieve by five different spine operations. The patients symptoms had begun early in 1957. By 1962 she had worn a full body cast or brace of some sort...although at the time of her healing she was in a light weight full body plastic shell. Although she did not believe in instant miraculous healing she attended a lecture by Miss Kulhman in Dallas on August 30. 1975. She was miraculously healed beginning with a sensation of heat in both of her lower extremities.She has been resorted to full health, wears no brace or support, takes no medication and has completely normal sensations in the lower extremities. This is unusual because the spinathalamic in the spinal cord had been interrupted on both sides, and in such cases the resulting numbness is usually permanent."

Time Magazine Article

Time Magazine did an article on Miracles, and Nancy Biggs documented several examples which are backed by medical evidence. Some where anecdotal accounts, but at least she interviewed the principles. While she doesn't document the crucial medical evidence such as doctors' names, nor does she interview the doctors, the fact of medical diagnosis is at least present.

TIME Domestic April 10, 1995 Volume 145, No. 15

Nancy Gibbs

Author Dan Wakefield, a lapsed Presbyterian turned Unitarian, Expect a Miracle (to be published by Harper San Francisco next month). Wakefield finds that many miracle claimants are very respectable and conservative, those who would not be taken for "crackpots" or religious zealots.

"He [Wakefield]recalls a woman in Atlanta whose teenage daughter was hit by a car while Rollerblading. Doctors told the mother there was no hope; the best prognosis they could offer was that her daughter would be able to feed herself someday. "The family were Episcopalians and engaged very seriously in prayer, as did their church and the Sunday school," he says. "Two weeks later the girl woke up, and she is now back in school. These are not kooks. They only spoke to me because their minister asked them to. The stories I have are not all religious, and they are from all different religions. It is very vast, and serious. People like to dismiss it as the fringe, but there is a real, mainstream thing."

Biggs Interviews Five Church goers in California, each of a different stripe of theology and of faith, but all have encountered miracles in their lives:

"But as they get to talking, they discover that they all have one thing in common: every one of them believes they have experienced a miracle at some time in their lives and were forever changed by it. Roulston was electrocuted on July 29, 1985. "I took 600 amps of 575 volts - it takes 0.15 amps to kill you," he recalls. "I spent a long time in a burn unit. But I survived, the way sometimes people survive being hit by lightning. So now I understand about people who would like a miracle in their life to 'show me that God exists.'"

John Simpson went in for surgery to remove a kidney stone, only to have doctors find that it had disappeared: he credits a prayer wheel of more than 3,000 people that his wife, a Charismatic, organized. Leslie Smith recalls hurtling down a steep hill on her bike when she was seven years old. She began to slip off the seat - and felt hands lift her back up onto the bike. Dorothy Pederson, the most skeptical in the room, believes a miracle saved her husband's life after a brutal mugging in a hotel room seven years ago. John Lashley has had six strokes and two heart attacks. Twice, he says, he was pronounced dead. "Now, this body of mine has been through an awful lot," he says, "but my faith has been up to the task in every phase because my belief works. The miracle is in what it delivers."

Throughout the article she strings us along with the true story of "Elizabeth" an infant with a brain tumor. The story illustrates the power and the difficulty in documenting miracles.

"For five days, says Lennie Jernigan, an attorney, "we prayed for our daughter with a passion uncommon to both of us. And we waited for the diagnosis." The parents agreed to exploratory surgery, which carried a 1-in-5 chance of leaving Elizabeth permanently brain damaged. Surgeons removed part of the tumor from the nerve that controls the movement of the right eye. Trying to get at the rest of it was too dangerous. But when they were finished and the pathology reports came back, the news could not possibly have been worse. Their baby was suffering from an extremely rare malignant meningioma which has killed everyone who ever had it. Her prognosis: continued growth of the aggressive tumor, grievous paralysis and certain death."

[Fluid began to build up in the child's brain and she had to have an immediate operation.]

"The night before the scheduled shunt surgery, a doctor arrived in Elizabeth's hospital room and removed so much thick, infected fluid from her brain that he asked to postpone the operation for a few days. But 12 hours later, when he returned to do another tap, he could barely find any fluid, and it was totally clear. The doctor was baffled. Elizabeth was back home two days later. "We now know it was one of those lesser miracles that presage a greater miracle," her grandfather says."
"A month after the first operation, the same surgeons made a last-ditch effort to remove the rest of the tumor. But when they went into Elizabeth's brain, they couldn't find the lesion. As planned, they removed a section of the nerve that the cancer had invaded, knowing that it would leave her blind in her right eye but agreeing that it represented her best hope of surviving. When the tissue was examined, the pathologist could not find any cancer. Regular cat scans since then have revealed no evidence of a tumor. The medical community calls what happened "spontaneous resolution." The family call it a miracle. Even a resurrection."

The case illustrates the problem; thousands of cases happening to ordinary people all the time. The child is on the verge of death, it has in incurable condition, it doesn't die. Medical science recognizes the amazing nature of the case but can't call it a "miracle." So, was it a miracle or not? Borderline cases like this happen all the time, the person affected personally by the situation, the one whose loved one is spared and whose prayer is answered certainly has reason to place faith in God for answering prayer, but the skeptic always has "wiggle room" to claim "naturalistic healing process not clearly understood, amazing things just happen." So which is it? We can't prove it either way, but there is clearly room for belief.

Addendum: For more on evidence for miracles, see Medical Historians Agree Lourdes Cures are Unexplainable.

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