Monday, April 19, 2010

Two-Faced John 14 12-14

While driving home from work last week, I listened to Make It Plain with host Mark Thompson.  Mark Thompson is religious and makes a point to say "God bless you," to every one of his callers.  I don't think I've caught him missing one yet.  He does offer an interesting show and it doesn't get too religious, but this one evening, a caller who wanted to talk about the health insurance crisis got him fired up.  The gentleman on the phone mentioned that he had been diagnosed with leukemia but it was not serious enough that his insurance would authorize treatment.  He explained that he has a strong faith in God, but that it's getting hard to have faith.  Mark comforted the caller, mentioning that he would pray for him and reminded him that he needed to pray for himself.

Then he whipped out John 14:12-14.

12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 

 13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 

 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

I had heard this same quote mentioned before, but by a former Pentecostal minister who now speaks to atheist groups.  Lee Salisbury used to be bathed in the Holy Spirit and deeply believed in the words of the previous passage but it became one of the passages which gave him the most trouble.  When was the last time you heard someone rise from the dead, grow a lost limb, cure the blind, speak in tongues, feed a multitude with fish and bread, walk on water, or change water into wine?  Either Jesus is lying or the Gospel is wrong, is what he concludes.

During Mark's brief interview, he claimed to have cured this caller of his cancer by the power of God.  This is a dangerous line of thinking which extends into the abuse and death of children by religious parents who see modern medicine as a sin against God, because your trust should be with Him.  This man was overjoyed to hear that he had been cured, even though he must have known it wasn't true.

Apologists for this particular piece of the Bible have various answers for why we don't just scrap modern medicine and train Christian healers to fix our biological problems.  Answers include, "We won't know until the 144 thousand witnesses for Christ receive their anointing," "Citing Acts which mentions that converting one sinner is a greater work than all of the miracles that Jesus did, so that counts," "No one in history has been Jesusy enough to be able to perform supernatural acts.  The potential is there for all humans to perform supernatural acts but we lack the faith and discipline to actually perform them." "People have risen from the dead and supernatural healing takes place in churches all over, there is proof, I swear."

This is the problem with Biblical interpretation.  In one case, it can be used to give comfort to someone going through a difficult time and in another be used to harm children by refusing medical care.  It is fortunate that most Christians are not Biblical Literalists, but I can imagine plenty of sermons have centered around this passage.  How many people may have delayed visiting a doctor because they didn't want to test their faith in Jesus?


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