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Why Won't God Heal Amputees?

“Why won’t God heal amputees?”  The question caught me by surprise.

I had just finished my “Why I Am a Christian” talk at Calvary Chapel Chino Valley’s youth conference in April.  After talking with a few students and leaders, a young man approached.  He challenged me with this question, explaining his atheist friend had asked it earlier in the week. And he had no answer for his friend.

Apparently, it’s a question atheists make a big deal about. There is even an entire website dedicated to it (www.whywontgodhealamputees.com).  The website claims “this is one of the most important questions we can ask about God.”  Sometime, somewhere I had heard the objection but had never given it much attention.  Now it was staring me right in the face.  Immediate attention was required.

I proceeded in usual fashion—by asking clarifying questions.  “What conclusion does your atheist friend draw from this question?” I inquired.  He responded, “Well, if God doesn’t heal amputees when we pray for them, then He doesn’t exist.”  I followed with a few more questions, gathering the gist of the atheist’s argument.

The atheist claims that alleged healings, like the disappearance of a cancerous tumor or diagnosed disease, seem to be ambiguous.  Did God supernaturally heal the person or is modern medicine responsible?  Both causes could be offered and both could be disputed.  But according to the atheist, if an amputee grew back a missing limb after intercessory prayer was offered on his behalf, this would be a clear case of the miraculous and thus proof for God’s existence.  On the other hand, no new limb means no God.  A fail-proof test, right?  Wrong.

First, I pointed out this atheist’s argument is guilty of a logical fallacy called a non sequitur.  The fallacy is committed when a conclusion or statement does not logically follow from a previous argument or statement.  If amputees do not grow back limbs when we pray for them, does it follow God does not exist?  Of course not.  His existence is independent of what actions He would or would not take.

But why limit myself to amputee miracles?  Any miracle will do.  A million dollars in my bank account today.  World peace starting tomorrow.  And if these miracles don’t occur, then God doesn’t exist.  Well, I think you can see the irrationality of such claims.  God’s failure to perform a miracle at my request says nothing about His existence.  In fact, even if we granted the atheist his assumption that amputees are not healed, at the very most we could only conclude God does not heal amputees.  Not a profound conclusion.

Second, I pointed out his atheist friend simply assumed no amputees have been healed.  But just because an atheist says there’s never been an amputee healing in thousands of years of human history doesn’t mean it’s true.  Now, I’ve never researched this question but I wanted this young Christian to catch a healthy bit of skepticism, particularly when it comes to anti-Christian claims.  Research is now in order but my point was you cannot simply assume what needs to be proven. 

But we also have to test the intellectual honesty of the atheist asking this question.  If we can produce a credible report of an amputee’s missing limb being healed and replaced, is the atheist willing to accept that evidence?  There are credible reports of miraculous healings in our own time and in the Bible, but he dismisses these wanting further evidence of a particular kind of miracle.  So is this an honest question or an insincere request for evidence when no evidence will suffice?

Third, even personally witnessing a miracle is no guarantee that someone will believe.  This was the case with the Pharisees of Jesus’ time.  They witnessed His miracles, but their response was to conspire to crucify Him.  Greg Koukl calls this “unbelievable unbelief.”  Jesus told them, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

You see, our essential problem is moral, rebellion against God.  Asking for evidence is legitimate, but evidence doesn’t guarantee belief because sinners don’t want to bend their knee to the Lord.  So the question actually arises from a wrong understanding of the atheist’s fundamental problem.  It’s not lack of evidence, it’s sin and rebellion to the Truth. 

Fourth, I reminded this young Christian that God does not promise He will answer every request with a “yes.”  Many times he says “no” or “later.”  And it could be there are some requests He says “no” to all the time.  Might God have a morally sufficient reason for doing so?  Absolutely, even if He never reveals those reasons to us in this lifetime.  As a dad, there are things I do for the good of my kids—taking them to the doctor for shots, punishing them for wrong behavior, or forcing them to eat their vegetables—which they don’t understand right now.  The same is true between God and us.

And this last response requires a bit of maturity to understand.  Frankly, many atheistic arguments are childish.  “If God doesn’t do what I ask right now, I don’t have to believe in him.”  Well, I don’t think God is really interested in becoming a magic genie.  He’s interested in something much deeper and more profound.  He’s interested in the kind of human being you become.  Indeed, Jesus suggests voluntary “amputeeism” for the sake of character development:  “If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:30).  Better to lose a hand than have your moral choices drag you away from God, forever.  Indeed, someone like Nick Vujicic understands God's perspective.

After our conversation, the young man thanked me and walked away with a look of relief.  An atheist’s challenge was turned into a teachable moment.  And a teachable moment strengthened this student’s trust in God’s existence and character.

 

 

 

Comments

I've got an atheist friend with far more challenging questions.

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"the atheist’s fundamental problem. It’s not lack of evidence, it’s sin and rebellion to the Truth. "

If I say that I do not find the evidence for God's existence convincing, are you saying that this is really just my refusal, driven by the ulterior motives of "sin and rebellion to the Truth"?

Is this your claim? Is this what you really believe?

Just curious why you have a pic of Nick Vujicic on this topic? He is not an amputee. Maybe a link to Nick's website www.lifewithoutlimbs.org would be helpful to these unbelievers. It is his passionate and powerful faith, in the midst of his life without limbs, that brings others to know Christ.

I mentioned him in the post ("Indeed, someone like Nick Vujicic understands God's perspective"), with a link to video of Nick. I know that Nick is not an amputee but his life is an example of having God's perspective on a tragedy like the absence of limbs.

I was disappointed that your article does not really answer the question posed, other than to say "because He doesn't want to."

I have personally observed many miracles including restorative healings, but never a severed limb restored. I cannot find a Scripture that answers the question. I do know many disabled people who use their disability to minister for the Glory of God. Without the disability - no ministry would be possible.

I think Brett did a good job of answering, though I think there are a few more good answers.

1. The result of many amputations is Sin. The result of many afflictions are sin. Christians are reluctant to bring up Sin.
2. God set the world up so people's actions have consequences. I have a friend who lost two legs because he was drunk and passed out on a trolley tract in 1986 at Boston College. Why does God have to heal him?
3. As Jesus said, some people were made disabled to show the glory of God.

It would be pretty remarkable if someone did grow back their limbs though.

Some babies are born without limbs or have tumors that require urgent amputation. Not all are responsible for loss of their limbs.

More importantly, why are there NO cases of miraculous re-growing of limbs?
Surely there have been enough prayers requesting these miracles over time. Why hasn't a single case been documented? One of my atheist friends said that if he ever saw a limb re-grow on the news (and wasn't faked) he would become a believer.

Why hasn't god done this?

Well, I think I said a little more than that! And actually, I didn't claim anywhere in the post that God doesn't heal amputees "because He doesn't want to." In the fourth point, I suggested He has morally sufficient reasons for withholding such a miracle. I could speculate on what those reasons are but without Him revealing those reasons to us, we're left with speculation. Nonetheless, I suggested He does have reasons and that's very different from saying "because He doesn't want to."

And my first point was to help people think through the atheist's objection. Given the apparent fact that God doesn't heal an amputee in response to our prayer, what follows? The atheist claims this disproves God's existence. But what I showed in the post is such a conclusion is unwarranted. It's a non-sequitur. The argument does NOT disprove God's existence. And I think that's a pretty important issue to address in regards to this question.

Brett,

I have had this question posed to me multiple times, and I like what you had to say in your response (I've offered some similar responses). I thought I'd share one additional response which I have found to be fairly productive. It harkens back to something that Blaise Pascal said regarding God's Hiddenness, which I'll quote below:

"God has willed to redeem men and to open salvation to those who seek it. But men render themselves so unworthy of it that it is right that God should refuse to some, because of their obduracy, what He grants others from a compassion which is not due to them. If He had willed to overcome the obstinacy of the most hardened, He could have done so by revealing Himself so manifestly to them that they could not have doubted of the truth of His essence; as it will appear at the last day, with such thunders and such a convulsion of nature that the dead will rise again, and the blindest will see Him.” It is not in this manner that He has willed to appear in His advent of mercy, because, as so many make themselves unworthy of His mercy, He has willed to leave them in the loss of the good which they do not want.

It was not, then, right that He should appear in a manner manifestly divine, and completely capable of convincing all men; but it was also not right that He should come in so hidden a manner that He could not be known by those who should sincerely seek Him.

He has willed to make himself quite recognizable by those; and thus, willing to appear openly to those who seek Him with all their heart, and to be hidden from those who flee from Him with all their heart. He so regulates the knowledge of Himself that He has given signs of Himself, visible to those who seek Him, and not to those who seek Him not. There is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition."

I bring this up when people ask me "why doesn't God heal amputees?" and point out that this type of healing might be so impossible to explain away that God would suddenly violate his hiddenness. In other words, a person seeing this type of healing might no longer be able to reject the idea of God, and thus belief is no longer a choice, but something God is compelling.

Since God will never force us to choose him, and will leave enough ambiguity for someone who wants to reject him, it seems that hiddenness is potentially another reason why God does not heal amputees.

Good thoughts, Scott. I definitely think this could be a productive line of reasoning.

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What a question! That's like asking why didn't God make a lion able to fly? Would you think asking God to make that Lion fly is crazy? Basically who could give a good answer, it all rhetorical?
Being born as an AK and BK I never questioned the fact of why I could never "magically" grow limbs or if God even wanted me to, it's just a fact of life. What concerns me about all this stuff is why don't people help other amputees or anyone in need?
God could heal amputees, just like he healed the blind, the lame, ect. I’m not saying I don’t get bitter sometime and maybe just plain sick of the whining of perfectly capable people that could make a difference in this world and help others, but most had rather debate an unwinnable subject like this. If we would work at helping everyone who needs help whether it’s a handicap, mental disablities, or from job lose, ect. YOU WOULD FIGURE OUT WHY GOD DOESN”T HEAL AMPUTEES. . Handicap people were put here to glorify God, make you think? Get the picture? He doesn’t because he wants us to help each other and by helping others we become better people and in the end see that all God wants us to do, praise his and love other as you would love yourself. I don’t pretend that sometime I don’t get really pissed at God, buy who I to question his judgment! I’m an amputee, to make people appreciate what they have, and if it gives God the glory then let it be.

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To me, asking Why doesn't God heal amputees? is rather like asking Why doesn't Bill Gates take a bath?

That is, I don't know Bill Gates personally. I've never seen him take a bath. He's one of the most famous men in the world with camera crews following him everywhere, yet I've never heard one report of him taking a bath. He's never admitted to it, and I bet if asked to prove it he still wouldn't let the camera men follow him into the bathroom to take a look, since he probably doesn't care what they think. Considering all the facts above, I would have to conclude that Bill Gates has never taken a bath.

You stayed true to your topic and illustrated your viewpoints accordingly. Interesting post.
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I've watch on you tube the video of this man who has no arms and legs. I'm so impressed & touched because God is in him. He serves God despite of his condition.

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Insanely, I was just chatting to a Christian friend on Facebook who stated directly to me that she and her friends prayed over an amputee at a mall the previous day and watched the limb regrow before their very eyes. She's not an evil person, but it's hard to take her seriously....

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I was raised a christian but are now an agnostic (at best). I'm open minded enough to return to my faith but as a scientist I have learned to ask questions and frankly I don't think this article answer the question in the title at all. The original website this article addresses, states its case very concise yet clear and methodologically and in a manner that any non-christian, atheist or agnostic will appreciate. Unless the author of the above article can do the same then christianity will keep losing members.

To summarise the issue: the Bible promises miracles for its faithful but when the ambiguity is eliminated, there is no evidence miracles ever occur.

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About
Brett Kunkle is the Student Impact Director at Stand to Reason. He is a huge fan of his wife and 5 kids, surfing the Point in Newport Beach, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yes, in that order.