What he says is mostly very sensible and important. But there is one issue that I would like to take up. He writes:
We don’t want to confuse coincidence with causation – sometimes it really was the bad pizza from last night and not always a Spiritual attack.
He goes on to talk about Paul Hiebert’s “flaw of the excluded middle.” But it seems to me that his own thinking is characterised by a version of this flaw. For he seems to believe that a bad stomach, like the one his wife suffered on Sunday night, has one of two causes: either it is a spiritual attack from “the devil and his cohorts”, or it has a physical explanation such as a bad pizza.
But this is a false dualism. The problem seems to be that in Hiebert’s worldview, at least as I see it summarised in this short article which Brian linked to, the two separate tiers of a typical western worldview have been replaced by three separate tiers. And by implication any one action must originate in just one of these tiers. So, to the physical explanations and the transcendent divine explanations accepted by typical western theists, Hiebert seems to add a third separate explanation related to spirit beings in this world.
Now I believe Hiebert, and Brian, are right about the reality of this intermediate spiritual world. But it seems that they separate it from the other worlds, and if so they go wrong here. A better picture would be of this intermediate world as the filling which links together the otherwise separate world into a united whole.
An implication of this for me is that it is wrong to say that any event has a cause just in one of the three domains. So, I would say, Brian’s wife’s bad stomach had a physical cause, perhaps a bad pizza, but it also had a cause in the spiritual world, the devil or one of his minions attacking her. And it also had a cause in the divine realm in that God only allows such things for a good purpose.
So I don’t accept Brian’s apparent dualism. I would say that every bad stomach has a physical cause. I don’t think I believe that the devil can affect stomachs directly apart some physical means. I would also say that every bad stomach has a spiritual cause in that such bad things are always indicative of the activity of personalised evil. Also everything is subject to God’s sovereignty and only happens because he wills it. In other words, every event has causes in all three realms.
I would apply this principle also to good things that happen, like healings. Here we come back to the discussion of what Todd Bentley is doing. I would hold that healings like those reported at Lakeland, Florida are ultimately caused by God. I would suggest that in them there is some kind of agency of good spiritual forces such as angels – and this would partly justify Todd’s interest in angels. And I would also say that there is some kind of physical cause of each healing.
So, I would expect that when someone who has been healed at Lakeland presents themselves to a doctor, the doctor will generally find some medical explanation of the unexpected cure, some unusual coincidence of factors which has allowed a complete recovery. This may be one reason for the scarcity of medical attestations of healing. Even the girl who was raised from the dead on the third day was probably, according to the doctors, wrongly declared dead and in fact just in a deep coma. But does this invalidate these things as miracles? No, because God who is in control of all things is able to bring together the medical factors to bring about the healing at just the time he wants to. If he chooses to do so at just the time that Todd declares someone healed, then he is being faithful to his promise to do anything his faithful people ask (John 16:23-24).
Now I don’t claim that absolutely everything that happens has a physical explanation according to the ordinary laws of physics. The resurrection of Jesus, which was not just the healing of someone who looked dead but was not, is a clear example of an event with no normal physical explanation. And the final resurrection of our bodies will also be such events. I suspect that this happens rather rarely. Maybe it happens in some unusual healings, what Todd Bentley and others call creative miracles such as regrowing of limbs – but see this story about how even this can have a physical explanation. I really don’t know how common such miracles are in the world today. But when they do happen they are a sign of something extraordinary, the new world breaking into the old. There is a lot more to explain there, but I won’t try to tonight.
So let’s avoid unnecessary compartmentalising of events, good or bad. Let’s avoid overblown claims that every healing involves a complete suspension of the laws of physics, rather than what the world might describe as a lucky coincidence. Let’s also avoid the scepticism which denies any healings, which so often comes from a worldview which does not allow for the suspension of the laws of physics. Let’s instead glorify God for the wonderful things which he is doing, even when he is using physical processes to do so.