Table Charismata Matters

Friday, January 27, 2017

A Response to Steve Hays' Comments Regarding Nabeel Qureshi's Illness

I greatly admire and appreciate the persons and works of both Steve Hays and Nabeel Qureshi. The following is a response to both Steve's blogpost on Nabeel's situation and Nabeel's approach to seeking healing and coping with possible impending death.

My comments should be read in light of Steve Hays' blogpost:
Faith and providence
[Highly Recommended, though I have some disagreements. See also my comments in the combox there.]

Blue Sentences in Italics are quotations from Steve's Blogpost.

I've previously summarized my views on Healing HERE

Preventing crises of faith due to bad theology is always a good thing. Nevertheless, I think we also shouldn't structure our theology based on what's safest for Christians, but rather on God's truth and promises. As a Calvinist I believe that as a matter of fact God does sometimes intentionally decree that such and such person will not and may not be healed in this life despite all his/her praying, believing and being prayed for by others (including those of godly Christians, not just pagans). However, I don't think that fact negates the Scriptural teaching concerning God's willingness to heal according to faith. For the freewill theist, faith is self-generated, and therefore outside the bounds of God's decree and overarching providence. But for the Calvinist, faith is (in the ultimate/final analysis) God's gift. Whether it be faith for salvation, or healing. Whether it be the special "gift of faith" or the "grace of faith" (a distinction made by George Mueller which I agree with). That's true even though Christians can (and are encouraged to) strengthen and grow their faith. Such attempts (success or failure) by Christians to cultivate their faith is itself empowered and decreed by God (the successes are obviously also empowered and decreed by God).

I do think we ARE Biblically warranted to exercise "expectant faith" with the understanding that God is sovereign and has the right (due to authority, perfect wisdom mixed with love) to refuse to positively answer a prayer request. I don't think this position is logically contradictory. I also think it balances all of the Scriptural teaching equally. I remember as a young Calvinist emphasizing God's sovereignty to such an extent that I ended up, in essence and unintentionally, disagreeing with (or at least "correcting") Jesus' teaching and example. So, for example, in the Lord's (model) Prayer, I would end up praying the last four petitions conditionally. Namely, "IF IT BE YOUR WILL forgive my sins. IF it be your will, lead me not into temptation. Also deliver me from evil and give me bread ONLY IF it be your will." However, Jesus does seem to encourage us to have high expectations that our prayers are and/or will be answered positively (e.g. Matt. 7:7-11//Luke 11:9-13; Matt. 17:19-20; Matt. 21:21-22//Mark 11:22-24; Luke 17:5-6; John 14:12-14; 15:7, 16 and many other passages).

When it comes to provision, Jesus said we are to look at the birds of the air and see how God provides for them even though being His creatures, they are nevertheless NOT His children; and that we believers are His children and are "of more value than them" (Matt. 6:26; 10:29-31). Also, that God already knows what we need before we ask, as well as knowing we need certain necessities of life.

Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.- Matt. 6:8
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.- Matt. 6:31-33
Obviously these promises aren't true and fulfilled without qualification or exception since there have been Christians in times past who have died of sickness and starvation. However, our Lord does seem to encourage us to generally expect His provision all things being equal (even if not all things considered from His omniscient perspective).

"In his latest update he says Jesus healed everyone who came to him, or everyone who was brought to him. He infers from this that it is God's will to heal everyone."

Many non-Calvinists often assume God only has one will. However, Calvinists are free to believe that there is a sense in which God has multiple wills.

See my blogpost: Distinctions in God's Will from a Calvinist Perspective. Even well known Calvinist R.C. Sproul refers to three kinds, 1. Sovereign decretive will, 2. Preceptive will, 3. Will of disposition. In my blogpost I add three more kinds of God's will. Working with only Sproul's three, it's logically possible for God's will of disposition to be that all be healed even if in God's decretive will He has decided not to heal everyone. In keeping with some medieval theologians Luther distinguished between the hidden God (deus absconditus) and the revealed God in Christ (deus revelatus). He taught that we ought to approach and believed God as He has revealed Himself finally and most especially in Christ, and to leave God's hidden and secret purposes to Himself. Similarly, I think we can do the same when it comes to earthly blessings (e.g. health, wealth, protection etc.), while acknowledging that God's ways are sometimes mysterious and counterintuitive on account of His sovereignty and far seeing wisdom.

It does seem that Jesus did heal everyone who actively came to Him for healing. The only two He refused to heal was the the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman and Lazarus. In the former case, Jesus finally and eventually did heal the daughter and commended the woman for her great faith manifested in her persistence. In the latter case, neither Lazarus nor his two sister technically asked Jesus to heal him, but left it up to Jesus what to do. Despite the fact that in His ministry Jesus often encouraged people to believe for healing and taught that they would receive according to their faith (e.g. Matt. 9:29; 8:13; Mark 9:23 etc.). As C.H. Spurgeon said, "Whether we like it or not, asking is the rule of the Kingdom", and they technically didn't ask for healing.

"To some degree, we can infer God's will from providence. For providence mirrors God's decretive will. The past is the record of God's plan for the world, up to that point."

I agree with this statement and would emphasize the phrase "to SOME DEGREE". However, when it comes to healing, provision, protection (et cetera), Scripture encourages us to ask for and expect them, all the while teaching us to understand that God is sovereign in granting and withholding such blessings. There is a clear tension in Scripture's teaching on these topics, yet they aren't contradictory. Though atheists often frame them as contradictory on the one hand, while some Christians over emphasize one side to the neglect of the other on the other hand. For example, some Charismatics emphasizing God's goodness and willingness to bless and answer prayer to the neglect of God's sovereignty. While some Calvinists so emphasize God's sovereignty that their acquiescent faith doesn't rise to the level of expectant faith.

"So there's nothing faithless about inferring that it's not God's will to miraculously heal everyone, or every Christian in particular, from the fact that God doesn't heal everyone. History in itself, is a reflection of God's will."

While providence can give us a hint as to what God might have decreed, our inferences are not infallible. We cannot infallibly infer what God's 1. future decree or 2. ultimate purpose is based on past providence. God encourages us to persist in prayer both in the OT and NT (1 Kings 18:42-46 cf. James 5:17-18); as well as displaying His disappointment in our lack of persistence (2 Kings 13:18-19). Especially for those things God has said He's generally willing to grant like healing (Matt. 17:19-20; Ps. 103:3; James 5:14-16).

"Most people didn't come to Jesus for healing for the simple reason that most people didn't know he existed. Outside the ambit of Judea and Samaria, he was unknown. So consider all the ailing people who never had an opportunity to seek him out for healing. Not to mention people living on other continents."

Very true. However, from a Calvinist perspective, I think there's a parallel we can draw regarding God's will for salvation and healing. In Calvinism, the offer of salvation is sincere to all who do fall under the preaching of the Gospel. Meaning, anyone who is fortunate enough (in God's providence) to hear a sufficiently faithful presentation of the Gospel, then the offer is sincerely given to that person. Anyone may receive it the Gospel if they encounter it. Calvinists also don't discourage people from accepting the Gospel on account of the fact that God has decreed that some people who hear the Gospel will not accept it. Rather they do their very best to encourage acceptance and faith. Similarly, I think Christians should encourage faith for healing even if, as a matter of fact, God hasn't decreed to heal everyone who prays for or is prayed for for healing. Just as no amount of rejection of the Gospel should tell us that anyone is a lost cause while they are still alive, so we should never assume that God never intends to heal someone so long as the person is alive. Since, past providence only tells us about the past. For all we know, God's providential plan is to heal a person tomorrow or an hour from now.

I think the theological concept (popularized, but not invented by George E. Ladd) of the Kingdom of God being "Already, But Not Yet" touches on this subject. There's a sense in which, because of the finished work of Christ, the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated even if it hasn't fully arrived or been realized. Because of that, we can have foretastes of the blessings of the Kingdom now. Jesus said, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). I think it isn't eisegetical to include in that dominical statement the BLESSINGS of the Kingdom. That's obviously implied. It is not eisegetical because in principle "all the promises of God in Christ are 'Yes' and 'Amen'" (2 Cor. 1:20). In principle all provision and healing (etc.) has been provided for in Christ. Since the Cross Event and the establishment of the New Covenant—which is based on better promises [Heb. 8:6]—God is ALL THE MORE (not the less) "Jehovah Jireh" (our provider), "Jehovah Rapha" (our healer), "Jehovah Tsidkenu" (our justifier), "Jehovah Mekaddishkem" (our sanctifier), "Jehovah Shalom" (our peace), "Jehovah Nissi" (our banner/victory), "Jehovah Shammah" (who is there [i.e. here with us]), "Jehovah Raah/Rohi/Roi" (our shepherd) et cetera.

"He said in light of this that he must believe God has in fact healed him. But sadly, that hasn't happened."

In principle all believers have been healed at the cross of Christ. Even if they haven't yet appropriated it or if God hasn't yet bestowed it (which amounts to the same thing, since faith is the gift of God—as per Calvinism). Jesus clearly taught that we are warranted to believe we've received something by faith, and according to truth, even if it hasn't already arrived or manifested in current earthly fact.

"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."- Mark 11:24 ESV

"And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."- Matt. 21:22 NASB
[ESV doesn't imply one ought to believe that one has already in principle received the request. Possibly because it better translates the passage than the NASB, NKJV, KJV, and YLT. Meaning, I could be wrong in citing this verse to support my position. Nevertheless, Mark 11:24 is clear in every translation.]

Truth and observable fact (in this world) aren't always in agreement. Christ is reigning and the ruling King even if it isn't a direct and visible rulership at the present time. Paul teaches as a matter of TRUTH that "all things are yours" even if as a matter of FACT they aren't (1 Cor. 3:21-23). That's because they are in principle. By Christ's stripes we have already been healed even if we're not experiencing it. That's because Christ has already purchased our healing at the cross—in principle (Matt. 8:16-17 cf. Isa. 53:4-5; 1 Pet. 2:24).

If a promise never arrives in this Age, then God may have decreed for it to arrive in the next Age. Though, admittedly, some promises may only have the possibility of being fulfilled here and now in this Age. For example, OT promises of no barrenness and the promise of having children who aren't miscarried but grow up normally to adulthood (Ex. 23:26; Deut. 7:13). Some will ask, "What of the pastoral problems of disappointment, disillusionment and the condemnation of lacking enough faith if one were to adopt this approach to faith?" That shouldn't happen in my theology of healing. I've addressed these types of concerns in a footnote in another blogpost HERE.

I agree with most of the sentiments of Calvinist continuationist Vincent Cheung in the following blogposts. The exceptions include his overly critical condemnation of cessationists who haven't yet arrived at his conclusions. Also,  his arguments aren't as logical as they should or could be. I've come to my conclusions mostly independently from his.

Faith Override by Vincent Cheung

All Things Are Yours by Vincent Cheung

The Extreme Faith Teacher by Cheung

See also his books on Healing here: Vincent Cheung on Healing

There are a number of Arminian/Arminian-like teachers on healing I appreciate. The one whose teaching I appreciate the most and from whom I've been most influenced is Roger Sapp's teaching and ministry. Many of his materials can be accessed at my blogpost here:

Roger Sapp Materials

My blogpost on recommended resources for healing can be accessed HERE

Again, I've summarized my views on Healing HERE

When it comes to the general issue of suffering and persecution, I believe God has taught that we will experience such things in this world and to expect it (2 Tim. 3:12; Act 14:22; John 16:33). I believe God deals with us according to our knowledge and faith. So, for those who haven't arrived at the views of healing and sickness I (and others) have come to, I think sickness could be part of that suffering which some Christian endure for the glory of God. However, I believe that technically sickness is always a negative. It's portrayed that way 99% of the time in the OT and the NT. Jesus always dealt with sickness as an enemy (e.g. Acts 10:38). He never coddled it. He never accepted it. He taught it was always to be resisted and prayed against and hopefully overcome. Not overcoming it though is not necessarily a manifestation of inferior faith, even if it is a manifestation of a lack of sufficient faith to get healed. God has promised that with enough faith healing will occur. In the context of healing and deliverance Jesus said, "If you can [or "if you can believe" depending on a textual variant] ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE TO HIM WHO BELIEVES" (Mark 9:23). However, in God's providence He doesn't always allow us to arrive at that level of faith. Our duty to believe is independent of what God has secretly decreed.

As John Calvin has said, "You know however that our duties by no means depend on our hopes of success, but that it behooves us to accomplish what God requires of us, even when we are in the greatest despair respecting the results."--John Calvin, letter to Philip Melanchthon, March 5, 1555
(Jules Bonnet, ed., Letters of John Calvin, vol. 6, p. 158).

Some will point out the Apostle Paul's acceptance of sickness as disproving my position. It doesn't because Paul received a revelation concerning his "thorn in the flesh". My theology of expectant faith for healing focuses on (though not limited to) 1. God's Revealed Will in Scripture regarding His general willingness to heal, 2. God's Dispositional Will regarding sickness and health. These can be overridden by God's Directional Will (in this case an extra-Scriptural revelation that God does not intend to heal Paul for the meantime or indefinitely). See again my Distinctions in God's Will. Unless and until one receives such a revelation, they are warranted to believe God would prefer them healed and to expectantly hope and pray it will happen. Also, it's not clear that Paul's "thorn the flesh" was actually sickness or related to a possible eye problem. Some interpret Paul to be implying he was eventually healed of his eye problem in Gal. 4:12-15 since he speaks of it in the past tense. Charismatics have made a good case that Paul's thorn was actually demonic opposition which stirred up strive and persecution against Paul (see for example F.F. Bosworth's book Christ the Healer and Roger Sapp's book Performing Miracles and Healing).

Having written what I have, I'm not imply or stating that any or all of the Apostles held to my view of healing. They may not have. There could be minor differences among the Apostles regarding various doctrines. Infallibly inspired as they were when preaching or writing officially as Christ's representatives, they were still (in themselves) fallible and not all knowing. They didn't necessarily understand the full implications of what they themselves wrote or what was written in the Old Testament. If this was true with OT prophets (1 Pet. 1:10-12), why not NT Apostles (2 Pet. 3:16). Doctrine was being developed and theological understanding was maturing even during the times of the Apostles. That's true in post-Apostolic church history as well. For example, none of the Apostles would have formulated the doctrine of the Trinity as the Church did later at the councils of Nicaea I, Constantinople I, Ephesus and Chalcedon. The same thing goes for the doctrine of justification via faith alone as precisely formulated by Reformational and Post-Reformational Evangelicals. The same could be (and I believe is) true regarding the doctrine of healing, pneumatology, provision, election and predestination, eschatology etc.

In a post like this the issue of the use of ordinary means should be addressed. I'm convinced that going to doctors and using medicine, surgery and other things in keeping with ordinary providence are Biblical and should be encouraged, even though God should be the first and continuing source we should ultimately look to for any blessing. Availing oneself of ordinary means is not necessarily an expression of doubt. Since, God is not only a God of extraordinary providence, but also of ordinary providence and special providence. Jesus' statement "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick", strongly implies that Jesus approved of doctors (see Matt. 9:12; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31). Also, Paul referred to Luke as the beloved doctor/physician as if he continued to be a doctor after becoming a Christian, rather than abandoning his practice (Luke 4:14).


My Tentative Views on the Charismata

My Blog Comments That Address the Supernatural [comprehensive list]

Quotations on Faith

Quotes on Divine [Physical] Healing

Steve Hays on Cessationism

1 comment:

  1. Appreciate your thoughts. Thanks for posting.