Supernatural!

(This post is a continuation of a previous reply.)

Wow that’s an awesome reply! I might check out that book by Anderson. I actually listened to his History of Philosophy and Christian Thought course on iTunes U, which was very well done in my opinion.

The nihilistic implications of atheism are actually one of the main reasons that Christianity, or maybe religion in general, have become more attractive to me as of late. But I just have this strong internal resistance to believing in any miracles. One of the big things where I don’t necessarily see a hard contradiction, but which does seem to be very problematic, is the six day creation story. When I look through previous posts on this sub I see quite a few of people advocating for a young earth (like 6000 years old), which I understand, because an earth that’s billions of years old, with humans only existing hundreds of thousands of years is not possible if you take Genesis completely literally. That being said, I cannot see myself ever believing in the young earth theory in any way shape or form.

That means that if I were to start believing, I would have to take the creation story as an allegory. I’m currently studying history and philosophy at university, and something that struck me is that pretty much everyone accepted the creation story as historical fact for a good 1400 years. But now the story suddenly has to be interpreted allegorically, because it has been proven way beyond reasonable doubt (in my opinion) that the earth is in fact older than 6000 years.

My default position when I’m confronted with anything supernatural is to see it as bogus (I don’t believe in Bigfoot, horoscopes, palm reading or anything like that), so I feel like I really need to justify my belief in something supernatural to myself. And if the current scientific evidence is enough for a lot of Christians to see the story of creation as an allegory, the Bible as a whole loses this air of complete trustworthiness to me. I mean who’s to say that I shouldn’t interpret the New Testament stories as allegorical as well?

Sorry for the long and probably confusing reply. I tend to ramble when I start writing about this stuff.

Thanks, /u/MyUsernameHadSwears! 🙂 I’m more than glad to help sincere people asking sincere questions if I can. I’ll try to categorize my responses in the hopes of achieving improved clarity:

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C. S. Lewis’s rewrite of chapter III of Miracles

C. S. Lewis’s Rewrite of Chapter III of Miracles
By Elizabeth Anscombe

Abstract

In 1948, Elizabeth Anscombe, then a student of Wittgenstein and a research fellow at Oxford, publicly challenged C. S. Lewis’s central argument against naturalism. In response to her criticisms, Lewis rewrote the relevant chapter of his book Miracles. Anscombe briefly acknowledged the revision in print as an improvement, but never wrote more extensively about it. In 1985, however, she gave a talk about Lewis’s revised version to the C. S. Lewis Society, discussing its strengths and remaining weaknesses. Below is a transcript of that talk.

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A natural mechanism for the resurrection?

Below is an excerpt of a comment I originally left in this post: “Naturalized miracles“. Please see the previous post for context. In fact, the “Naturalized miracles” post is far more worth reading than my comment because it features responses from philosophers Tim McGrew, Lydia McGrew, and Robert Larmer – all of whom are far more intelligent and far better read than I am.


1. Suppose a naturalistic mechanism is discovered for Jesus’ resurrection. How would that necessarily eliminate God? Perhaps God did it through this hitherto unknown natural mechanism. Perhaps God raised Jesus, Lazarus, Tabitha/Dorcas, Eutychus, Jairus’ daughter et al through this natural mechanism. I can’t in principle see how explanations involving personal agency can ever be reducible to explanations involving scientific mechanisms. On second thought, I don’t agree with my own example!

2. It’s arguable science may have walls it can never surmount. Not now, not ever. Take the hard problem of consciousness. Or take Stephen Hawking’s argument that physics may never be able to discover a theory of everything given Gödel’s incompleteness theorems. Perhaps it’s arguable the dead coming back to life is another hard wall science runs into.

3. Take the necrosis theory of cell death. Take a type of necrosis known as liquefactive necrosis. The mechanism for liquefactive necrosis is the release of lysosomal enzymes (via necrotic cells) and/or the release of hydrolytic enzymes (via neutrophils entering the tissue). I think this theory might serve as an illustration of “the more science progresses, the lower the probability of such a thing becomes” and “the progress of science has made such a suggestion less convincing rather than more”.

At the same time, one scientific mechanism is often a part of an enormous web of scientific mechanisms. Scientific mechanisms enmeshed within other scientific mechanisms. If one mechanism is changed, then much of the web may be impacted as well. As such, one might say, the more science progresses, the tighter the web becomes, and the more difficult it is to break free from this web.

A heart attacked

heart

I’d like to briefly comment on the medical or surgical aspects of a story about a man named Carlos Suzuki from Brazil found in this paper:

Pedro replied that his brother had been suffering with a serious heart condition. He had undergone an aborted surgery a short time before in Sāo Paulo where they lived. The medical team explained that Carlos’ arteries were extremely clogged and that his body was very debilitated. Fearing for his life, the doctors decided not to complete the planned surgery. Instead, they advised him to enjoy the few months of life he had remaining as best as he was able since there was little more they could do to help him.

Sounds like Carlos may have had severe coronary artery disease (CAD) and needed coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery. (Presumably percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) or percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) with stenting wasn’t a viable option in Brazil at the time.)

A few minutes later Antonio, dressed in a white coat, walked rapidly out of the building onto the porch pushing a cart laden with “surgical” instruments. Without saying a word he reached across the cart and picked up an electric saw with a serrated circular blade. Rapidly he attached the tool to an extension cord handed to him through a window from inside the building. Carlos, wide-awake, continued his conversation with Pedro and seemed to pay little attention to the approaching man with the saw in his hand. Antonio methodically turned on the tool and still not addressing or interacting with Carlos, drove the spinning blade into the left side of the patient’s chest. As it spun, the skin parted and blood spurted out. The onlookers gasped. The patient did not cry out or move, but he did continue his conversation with his brother. After withdrawing and reinserting the blade several times, Antonio removed it and, with his fingers, picked up a strip of flesh from near the patient’s heart, the same piece Carlos showed me the next day in the airport. The procedure took but a few minutes. The saw blade had not been cleaned before it was used and no effort was made to sterilize it afterwards when the healer turned it on his next patient. Carlos did not received any anesthesia and was wide-awake as the blade severed his flesh and the healer removed the tissue. Without uttering a word to the man whose body he had violated in this extreme manner, Antonio unplugged the saw and walked away, pushing the cart in the direction of his next patient. A few minutes later a woman, also dressed in white, holding what looked like an ordinary sewing needle and thread, closed and bandaged Carlos’ wound. She then helped the patient from the cot and escorted him back into the building where he was given a glass of “specially prepared water.” After drinking the liquid, he was chaperoned to yet another room where he was told to rest quietly.

1. So yeah, bottom line, if anyone operated on another person in this manner, it would’ve very likely resulted in their death!

2. A CABG would normally begin with harvesting the long saphenous vein from the leg and/or the radial artery from the arm. That’s because these blood vessels are grafted in and around the heart’s blocked blood vessels to circumvent the blockage. Given Carlos had “extremely clogged” blood vessels, if this healing truly worked, then are there additional blood vessels present in Carlos’ cardiac anatomy which weren’t present before?

The alternative is something like a PCI or PTCA where a stent is used to unblock blocked arteries. To clear the blockage. If the healing worked by clearing blockage, so that all we see is unblocked or clear blood vessels, that would be more economic. It would not “multiply entities” like having extra blood vessels appear as above.

3. Normally, in a CABG, Carlos would have been given an anticoagulant (heparin) and placed on cardiopulmonary bypass. That’s because the surgery would’ve required the heart and lungs to be temporarily stopped so their function would need to be artificially replaced. However, Carlos was fully conscious for all this. That’s interesting because Carlos had a gaping wound in his heart with blood spurting out and he didn’t crash but quite the opposite. That seems physiologically impossible.

4. Antonio “drove the spinning blade into the left side of [Carlos’] chest”. I presume that’d be a left anterolateral thoracotomy. It is possible to use an anterolateral thoracotomy for a CABG. However, to my knowledge, that’s typically reserved for trauma patients with cardiac wounds such as gunshot wounds or knife wounds. Yet Carlos was not in extremis.

Contrary to popular belief, the heart isn’t normally located on the left side, but the heart is normally located in the middle of our bodies, i.e., middle mediastinum. It’s just that the left ventricle of the heart is usually slightly shifted toward our left side, hence we feel the left ventricle beating most on our left side. Given this, the heart is normally accessed via a median sternotomy.

5. For a median sternotomy, either a pneumatic sternal saw or an oscillating saw is used. However, neither saws have “a serrated circular blade”. These saws look more like this for example.

For a left anterolateral thoracotomy, it’s usually either trauma shears or a Gigli saw. Neither involve “a serrated circular blade”.

6. Wire sutures are typically used for a sternotomy closure, sometimes with titanium plates or kryptonite bone cement, but certainly not “ordinary sewing needle and thread”. That wouldn’t keep things closed, not for long anyway!

[Carlos] explained to Pedro that it had not been Antonio who had operated on him. Antonio, the bricklayer with a first grade education, was a medium whose body at the time of the surgery was inhabited by a spirit, the spirit of a Dr. Ricardo Stans, a German national who received his medical education in Italy during the 19th century. Sometime after his death he is reported to have returned to “our world” to treat living patients using the bodies of mediums like Antonio. When operating, Carlos informed his brother, Dr. Stans was assisted by a number of other spirits who had been trained in various aspects of medicine, or in other healing traditions, in previous lives. He was told that they brought with them “advanced” medical techniques from the spirit world. It was these spirits who had cleaned the instruments and provided the anesthesia for Carlos and the other patients.

I don’t know how surgical operations worked in the 19th century. However, at a minimum, even back then, surgeons would’ve known where the heart is located. Would surgeons back then have approached the heart on the left side?

Although I don’t know if they had anything like a saw with a serrated circular blade back then.

The argument from silence

Here’s an excerpt from Tim McGrew’s paper “Arguments from Providence and from Miracles” in the book Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God: The Plantinga Project.

Consider the argument from silence-typically, the argument that because some person or place or event is unmentioned in a particular historical text, or perhaps unmentioned in any text we now possess, that person or place never existed, or the event never transpired. It takes only passing familiarity with scholarship both of the Old and of the New Testament to reveal how pervasive this form of reasoning is. Shouldn’t Paul have mentioned more details about Jesus’s life, if he actually knew them? Shouldn’t the authors of the Synoptic Gospels have mentioned the resurrection of Lazarus, if it had really happened? Shouldn’t Joseph’s have mentioned slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem? And for heaven’s sake, why doesn’t anyone besides Matthew say something about those resurrected saints walking about Jerusalem just after Jesus’s resurrection, “seen by many”?

What we need to inform our judgment about arguments from silence is both analytical and historical information. What is the proper way to reconstruct such arguments? And given the reconstruction, what sorts of information might help us to evaluate them? For the reconstruction, modern tools are needed. But buried in the annals of previous centuries of controversy we can find a wealth of examples where the argument from silence fails, and fails spectacularly. The existence of the works of Thucydides, for example, is not noted by any author whose works we now possess until two hundred fifty years after they were written. Grafton’s Chronicles, which embrace the reign of King John, make no reference to Magna Carta. In the extensive memoirs of Ulysses Grant, Lincoln’s general during the American Civil War, there is no mention of the Emancipation Proclamation. Neither Herodotus nor Thucydides, nor any of their contemporaries mentions Rome, even in passing, a point Josephus brings up in his controversy with Apion. In his sprawling travelogue, Marco Polo never refers to the Great Wall of China, or tea, or printed books. Examples of this sort could be multiplied almost endlessly. At what point is it unreasonable for us, in the face of an avalanche of such examples, to retain our initial confidence regarding what ancient authors would have said?

“Faith Healing and the Sovereignty of God”

Dr. Koop is a cessationist, and argues as much in this article (below). I don’t agree with him. However, I’m posting this for reference. I might respond to it in the future.


Modern Reformation
“Faith Healing and the Sovereignty of God”
By C. Everett Koop

Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:22-23)

I don’t know how many operations I performed in my surgical career. I know that I performed 17,000 of one particular type, and 7,000 of another. I practiced surgery for thirty-nine years, so perhaps I performed 50,000 operations. I was successful, and patients were coming to me from all over the world. And one of the things that endeared me to the parents of my patients was the way my incisions healed. No one likes big scars, but they are especially upsetting to mothers when they appear on their children. So I set out early on to make my scars small, as short and as thin as possible. These “invisible” scars became my trademark. But was I a healer?

The secret of thin scars is to make the incision precise-no feathered edges-and in the closing, to get the edges of the skin in exact apposition. I would do this by sewing the stitches inside the skin, but not through it, and the knots were tied on the bottom. All you have to figure out is how I crawled out after doing that.

I was the one who put the edges together, but it was God who coagulated the serum. It was God who sent the fiberblasts out across the skin edges. It was God who had the fiberblasts make collagen, and there were probably about fifty other complicated processes involved about which you and I will never know. But did God come down and instruct the fiberblasts to behave that way? In a sense, he did. But he did it through his natural laws, just the way he makes the grass grow, the rain fall, the earth quake. The question, then, is not, Does God heal? Of course he heals! We are concerned with this question: Granted that God heals, is it normally according to natural laws or an interruption of those laws (i.e., a miracle)?

Ordinary Providence

It is God’s providence that keeps the sea at the edge of the shore, or an airplane in the sky, or that makes cats out of kittens. When the twenty-three chromosomes of the sperm and the twenty-three chromosomes of the egg are put together, it is God’s ordinary activity that forms a baby. It is his ordinary activity that grows a baby into a child, a child into an adolescent, an adolescent into an adult, and an adult into an elderly person. It is also his ordinary providence that brings about the death of a person, set off by one phenomenon or another. Nevertheless, the phenomenon is part of God’s natural law. Can you interrupt or alter God’s law of nature? It may indeed appear that you can. You might accelerate the process or slow it, but you cannot avoid it. Whatever happens, it is according to God’s providence.

Suppose you get tonsillitis. Your doctor recommends penicillin, and your condition improves. You say to your doctor, “You’re a magician!” Not so. He was an instrument, just as I was an instrument in stitching the skin together. I used instruments to do it, but I was an instrument in so doing. You might say at this point, “What makes you so special?” And the reply is, “I’m not.” Nothing makes me special. God uses instruments who will spend eternity with him. I’m one of those instruments. But he also uses instruments who curse him and people who never even acknowledge him.

I remember well an incident that occurred during my days in training. A woman was recovering from gall bladder surgery. She said to her surgeon as he made his rounds, “I thank God for making me well.” The surgeon angrily grabbed the foot of the bed with both hands and shouted, “God didn’t do that; I did!” But whether this doctor acknowledged it or not, he was an instrument of God’s providence.

Now, back to the tonsillitis. God created a fungus that a man named Penicillin notatum. It has been around, I presume, since the beginning of time. But I was well into my residency before Alexander Fleming noted its properties. Penicillin killed bacteria, and it did so through a very complicated process: all part of God’s natural laws. Penicillin killed the streptococcus in your tonsils, and you were healed in accordance with the process and timing of God’s law.

Maybe you have had a severe illness. Let us say you have “hovered at death’s door,” as they say. Then you slowly improved, and here you are today, fit and healthy. I can just imagine that when you recovered someone told you, “It’s a miracle!” Not necessarily. God’s providence was again at work.

Let me offer an illustration that should be familiar to most city dwellers. I missed the entrance to the expressway and wandered all around parts of San Francisco I had never seen before. Finally, I got back to where I wanted to be, got on the expressway, and arrived at the airport with no time to spare. It was a miracle that I caught my plane! Miracle? Not so. Just a loose use of a word that is rarely employed in its authentic meaning. That was no more a miracle than the recovery from tonsillitis. Now, I can hear somebody say, “He doesn’t even believe in miracles!” But I do believe in miracles, and that is why it is worthwhile to define the term.

If the surgeon who reacted so arrogantly to the praise attributed to God were writing this article, you would be wasting your time to continue reading. But I have credentials in this matter. I am a Bible-believing, evangelical Christian steeped in the doctrines of the Reformed faith. I am absolutely committed to a belief in the sovereignty of God in all things, and because of my understanding of the art and science of medicine, I have a perspective on the process of healing as it ordinarily takes place.

Supernatural Intervention

Having defended my supernaturalism, let us turn our attention to a case study that does circumvent or interrupt God’s natural laws. It is the account of a man who never attended medical school. On one occasion, he encountered a homeless person who had been unable to walk since birth. The man’s heart went out to that disabled individual and, looking the man straight in the eyes, the non-credentialed physician said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, stand up and walk.”

Of course, this is an excerpt from Acts 3:6, and the unlettered healer was the apostle Peter. The next verses tell us, “And he took him by the right hand, lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he, leaping, stood up, walked and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.” That was a miracle! An apostle uttered those words of healing. It was performed before there was a written New Testament, and the healing was immediate, radical, and demonstrable to those who knew the man when he was disabled. The healing of this lame man was instantaneous, and that is what made it a miracle. However, a miracle is more than a matter of time. It is an act of God produced in unusual circumstances in which he uses means unfamiliar to us but which are perfectly normal expressions of his character. Miracles may be a departure from God’s usual way of acting (as we understand it), but we can never say they contradict God’s nature.

Over the years I have had innumerable people say that I am wrong, that they have witnessed numerous miracles. For example, after I had spoken one night, a woman came to me and said, “God can do anything! … I once knew a woman who went into the hospital to be fitted for a glass eye. The surgeon turned his back to get an instrument, and when he looked back, he found a new eye in the empty pocket where there had been nothing before, and the woman could see!”

I said, “Did you say you knew this woman?”

“No. I knew someone who knows her,” she conceded.

“Well,” I said, “could you tell me who he or she is? I would like to have a conversation with even that person.”

“Well, I don’t really know that person either, but I know someone who knows her.”

“Even so,” I persisted “I would like to meet that person.”

“I don’t really know that person, but she knows someone who knows someone….”

And so it goes.

Is It Faith or Faithlessness?

A surprising number of Christians are convinced God will not be believed unless he makes tumors disappear, causes asthma to go away, and pops eyes into empty sockets. But the Gospel is accepted by God-given faith, not by the guarantee that you will never be sick, or, if you are, that you will be miraculously healed. God is the Lord of healing, of growing, of weather, of transportation, and of every other process. Yet people don’t expect vegetables without plowing. They don’t expect levitation instead of getting in a car and turning a key-even for extraordinarily good and exceptional reasons.

Although God could do all of this, Christian airline pilots do not fly straight into a thunderstorm after asking God for a safe corridor, although he could give them such safety. We do not have public services and ask God to remove all criminals, prostitutes, and pornographers from our midst, although he could do that too. God could eliminate AIDS from our planet. While we pray for a speedy discovery of successful treatment, I must do all I can to employ medical science in its task, as all health care professionals must do.

We live in a fallen world and the afflictions of our bodies and souls are the result of that fall (not the immediate work of Satan). Disease and death are “givens” in this fallen world. They are the expectation; all will be straightened out only after the return of Jesus Christ-and not before. God is sovereign. By “sovereignty” I mean that God is in total control of this universe, at all times. If you and I could determine human circumstances by our “faith” (as it is called), God would not be sovereign, and I do not think, indeed, that he would be God. He did not create us and drop us down here, withdrawing control to see how we would make out. He does not act capriciously nor arbitrarily. It is all in line with the grand plan that you and I can only see in pieces now but will see in its completeness in the future.

Presumptuous Christian writers claim to know God’s intent, such as the author of the book that insists, “God wants you well.” Who says so? Why should he want you well when he did not want the apostle Paul well? Paul apparently had a serious eye disease to which he refers in his letters to the young churches. And indeed, Paul asked God to remove his thorn in the flesh several times. But God chose not to do so. Timothy, Paul’s protĂ©gĂ©, had something in the way of a gastrointestinal complaint. Paul didn’t respond with the command, “Be healed!” Instead, he told Timothy to stop drinking only water and to drink a little wine!

Affliction is part of the Christian’s life just as much as the nonbeliever’s (sometimes more so). The proper response of Christians to affliction is not to demand healing but rather to witness to the world that through the grace of God a Christian is able to accept affliction, trusting in the sovereignty, grace, and mercy of God in time, knowing that all of these things will be removed in eternity.

Soon after the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus himself began to perform miracles. And those miracles, no doubt, authenticated Christ’s claims and his mission. Thereafter, he invested his twelve apostles with these same healing capabilities in order to authenticate this “new” religion, which we call Christianity. But after serving their purpose, these gifts ceased. With the completion of the canon of Scripture, the total revelation of God has been given (that is, not all that can be known about God, but all that God has decided to let us in on).

If miracles were commonplace, they would cease to be miracles. And I repeat what I said earlier: It is always God who does the healing, but he does not regularly do so in a miraculous way. He heals providentially. God can be, and should be, glorified when healing of illness takes place. But he should also be glorified when healing does not take place-and even when death ensues, in spite of the pain and grief it may cause. I don’t say this flippantly. I lost my own son to a rock-climbing accident, and I have learned how essential the doctrine of God’s sovereignty is in such circumstances. God was greatly glorified by that tragedy in ways I could have never predicted.

Miracles, then, were the credentials of Christ and the apostles, to whom he gave the gift of healing. And one can assume, I think, that the cessation of these gifts came at the end of the apostolic age. A few biblical statements would seem to promise, at first glance, that God will do whatever we ask of him. Obviously, though, these cannot be taken as absolute promises in an unconditional sense, because, if this were true, God could not possibly be sovereign. Such passages must be analyzed in light of other passages. For instance, we read in John 15:7, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you” (NASB). Nevertheless, there is a condition to this promise, given in 1 John: “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (5:14, NASB).

When a faith healer commands God to perform a miracle, in the absence of a prayer that says, “thy will be done,” it is, as far as I am concerned, the most rank form of arrogance. No doubt some have said that it is the will of God for every affliction of man to be healed, but you know that this could not possibly be true. Otherwise, we would have to conclude that God falls far short of his plans.

But if faith healing is really accomplished by faith, why is a mediator (the faith healer acting in a priestly role) necessary? Why are the healings often either invisible or said to have occurred over a long period of time? I want to see a person with one leg suddenly (“immediately”) have two. In fact, I want to see a person cold, flat-out dead, get up and walk. Now it is not that I want to see these miracles take place just to satisfy my own curiosity. I want to see them happen in such a way that there is no praise attributed to the faith healer. And I want to see it done in a situation that is not a carnival. Now if all of those conditions were in place, I suspect that a healing service would occur very much in private.

Did I Have Enough Faith?

I was once the president of an evangelical organization which hired an investigative writer to look into some cults and into some specific faith healers. Our investigator traveled to a southwestern city where a healing campaign had been advertised some weeks in advance. Adjacent to the huge tent into which thousands would pour for services was a smaller tent. For the whole week prior to the services, those who had physical infirmities came to this smaller tent in order to be screened by associates of the healer. The associates’ job was to pick the proper specimens for their “chief” to heal on television. They chose people with such conditions as asthma, which has a very strong emotional overlay. They dealt with hysterical people, and with those who were very open to the power of suggestion. With others, they tried to see if they could find samples of psychosomatic illness that could be altered by suggestion.

Among those who applied for healing was an elderly Christian gentleman who lived out on the prairie. His vision was becoming dim, and he most likely was developing cataracts. The only lighting in the little cabin where he lived was a kerosene lamp. He was a devout Christian, read his Bible daily-or tried to. Unfortunately, his sight had deteriorated to the point where he could no longer read. On the night of his appearance before the healer, the old man was led into the meeting which had the atmosphere of a sideshow. The faith healer said, “Well, Pop, you can’t see anymore. You’ve gotten old; you can’t even see with your glasses. Your vision is failing.” Then he reached over and took off the old man’s spectacles, threw them on the platform, stamped on them, and broke them. He then handed the elderly gentleman a large-print Bible, which under the lights necessary for television in those days, enabled the gentleman to read John 3:16 out loud, to the astonishment and applause of the audience.

The elderly gentleman praised God, the healer praised God, the audience praised God, and the old man went back to his dimly lit cabin and could not find his Bible, because his glasses were destroyed. The man went back to the healer, but was told the most discouraging thing a godly man could possibly hear: “You didn’t have enough faith, or the healing would have stuck.”

Now, obviously, this makes two classes of Christians: those who have enough faith to be healed-the first-class Christians-and those who don’t have enough faith to be healed-they, of course, are second-class. There is great poverty in that kind of religion. One’s willpower, not divine grace, becomes the basis for faith and life.

Biblical Christianity is different: It does not allow us to peek into the hidden workings of God to determine his purposes in all suffering. “Who sinned,” the disciples asked Jesus, “this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned … but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:2-3). Then Jesus, the Great Healer, did the work of opening the man’s eyes-not because the man had fulfilled some “work of faith,” but because Jesus is the Messiah who gives sight to the blind.

Issue: “Come Holy Spirit”, July/August: Vol. 7, No. 4, 1998, pp 42-46.

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Brewer on the Lewis-Anscombe debate

derekbrewer

Derek Brewer was a former student of C.S. Lewis who later became the master of Emmanuel College at Cambridge University. Brewer had dinner with C.S. Lewis and Hugo Dyson a few days after the Lewis-Anscombe debate. The following is taken from Brewer’s essay “The Tutor: A Portrait” in Remembering C.S. Lewis: Recollections of Those Who Knew Him (James Como, ed.).


We met on Wednesday, 4 February 1948, first in Philip Stibbe’s room, then at the Roebuck, where we ate. Once again my diary:

None of us at first very cheerful – one has to work hard to keep up with Lewis. He was obviously deeply disturbed by his encounter last Monday with Miss Anscombe [the distinguished philosopher and Roman Catholic, then at Oxford, now Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge], who had disproved some of the central theory of his philosophy about Christianity. I felt quite painfully for him. Dyson said – very well – that now he had lost everything and was come to the foot of the Cross – spoken with great sympathy.

Lewis described the club meeting, where Miss Anscombe had delivered, at her own request, such an onslaught against his views, with real horror. His imagery was all of the fog of war, the retreat of infantry thrown back under heavy attack (five of us had been infantry officers at the age of nineteen and had seen action; a curious commentary on English scholarly life in the twentieth century).

Much of the evening was spent in cheerful ribaldry, but Lewis was really still miserable and went early. I finally noted, with a young man’s cheerful egotism: “a good evening, and a little less boisterous and exhausting than others”.

The encounter with Miss Anscombe had been at the Socratic Club. Just after the war the Socratic was a very popular university society for the investigation of general religious questions in an uncommitted spirit. Lewis came regularly – he was not chairman but was probably honorary president – and various people read papers, to which it usually fell to Lewis to make the first reply in discussion. I went sometimes, though I missed Miss Anscombe’s evening, and occasionally we exchanged a word or two about the previous evening’s meeting at the beginning of a tutorial. Lewis attended, I formed the impression, entirely as a sacrificial duty and loathed it, though I suppose there must at bottom have been some satisfaction in it for him.