Saturday, April 20, 2013

Common Objection #19- "Why Won't God Heal Amputees? Pt.1"

This argument is an internet sensation, but I find it utterly unconvincing for a few reasons:

1. This objection assumes that God has never healed an amputee.  However, how can one know that God has never healed any amputee ever in human history?

2. It is possible that God has morally sufficient reasons for not healing amputees.  Since this is at the very least possible, this objection fails.

As philosopher J.P. Moreland has pointed out, it is possible that:

"God maintains a delicate balance between keeping his existence sufficiently evident so people will know He's there and yet hiding His presence enough so that people who want to choose to ignore Him can do it. This way, their choice of destiny is really free." 

For more on this, please see Pt. 2 of this post entitled "Why Won't God Heal Amputees" Revisited.

3. Even if God has never healed an amputee at any moment in human history it still does not follow that He doesn't exist.  One still must deal with the positive evidence that suggests God does exist.

4. I believe the person making this objection is operating under a false assumption.  Let us imagine that an amputee prays to be healed and wakes up the next morning with their once missing limb fully in tact.  I could easily imagine those who would still search for a naturalistic explanation for how the limb returned in spite of the evidence that a miracle had occurred.  This objection assumes that the problem is intellectual.  However, it could be that the objector is suppressing the truth simply because they do not want to be accountable to God.  In other words, it could be that their problem with God is not an intellectual one, but a moral one.

You can read in-depth replies to this common objection hereherehere or see our follow-up post here.

Checkout our other responses to common objections here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

14 comments:

Callum Hackett said...

1. The rebuttal to this would be to reframe the question from, "why doesn't god heal amputees?" to "why is there no evidence throughout recorded history of god healing an amputee?" The point is not that we know that, for all time, god has *never* done a certain action - that goes down the route of proving a negative which is, in this context, a red herring - but rather that there are thousands if not millions of claims of divine intervention throughout history, and not a single one of them is the healing of an amputee.

The significance of this is that it gives us cause to reflect on an alternative understanding of the Moreland quotation: human conceptions of god are conveniently ambiguous surrounding potentially supernatural mysteries in order to allow for belief, but the evidence is never firm or convincing, and the events never undeniably divine. God may still exist, but this historical trend is exactly what we would expect if god were a human-made construct. Therefore, while we cannot prove that god has not intervened in this manner, we have sufficient reason for doubting that intervention in our universe has ever occurred, or instead for believing that god is in some way capricious.

2. In order to mount an apologetic argument in favour of a theological possibility, I think a little more than "it's *possible*" is required. If that is the sole recourse, you can say that about any anti-theistic objection and thus render yourself impervious to reason. That's intellectually dishonest. You are supposed to substantiate your viewpoint, we are not supposed to demolish it.

3. That is true, hence why I stopped above at "intervention" rather than existence.

4. If there was enough evidence to demonstrate someone really had regrown a limb, it would be disingenuous for anyone to deny it for the sake of maintaining a preconceived position, and to pre-emptively attack such a person as though they represent all who question a potential god's intervention is a straw man.

John Moore said...

Granted that this question doesn't prove God's non-existence. Still, it's an interesting question - for both believers and non-believers.

Do you believe God sometimes cures illnesses? Then why doesn't he cure amputees? He certainly could. Maybe he does, but if so, why does he cure amputees so seldom? He seems to be curing cancer and other illnesses all the time.

I think JP Moreland's answer is the best. God doesn't cure amputees because that would be too blatant and obvious. I don't think atheists have a good response to this.

Chris said...

I'm sure those who're saying this now will say "Why doesn't God restore an eye?" when be starts regrowing limbs. Miracles never made people believe, even in scripture. Ancient Israel saw many miracles. Did they believe? No. Jesus did many miracles. Did they believe? No.

Callum Hackett said...

@John Moore

If you take it as a theological necessity that god works in mysterious ways and will never reveal himself in an act of obvious intervention, then you must necessarily accept that a belief in god is predicated on faith rather than hard evidence. If that is the case, then you must surely understand why people who have a commitment to evidence before belief would reject theism. That is not a failing of atheists because we do not have the burden of trying to characterise your god, only in demonstrating that there is no evidence for him, and that is something you seem already to have accepted as a theological necessity.

Furthermore, you are faced with the problem of multiple religions - i.e. given the apparently ambiguous nature of god's interventions, the evidence in favour of the reality of Christian miracles is as strong as that for Hindu miracles, so on what basis can one decide between them?

Andrew Ryan said...

"I'm sure those who're saying this now will say "Why doesn't God restore an eye?" when be starts regrowing limbs"

No, restoring eyes could equally be used in the original question instead of curing amputees. The point is that it's never something undeniable and obvious that is cured. As for WHEN he starts curing amputees - are you saying you're pretty sure that'll start happening at some point?

MaryLou said...

Given the fact that we have evidence of many miracles including resurrection from the dead, is it really necessary to have a testimony from an amputee who grew a leg miraculously to believe that God can perform miracles?

I say that as a person who has undergone a health miracle and who knows others who have been blessed with miracles as well.

I have Craig Keener's opus on miracles, but have not gotten into yet. He does list a number of documented miracles which I am looking forward to checking out.

Also, if anyone is looking for philosophical arguments re: the existence of miracles, there is none better than that by C. S. Lewis.

Anonymous said...

Furthermore, you are faced with the problem of multiple religions - i.e. given the apparently ambiguous nature of god's interventions, the evidence in favour of the reality of Christian miracles is as strong as that for Hindu miracles, so on what basis can one decide between them?

Like any claim - you investigate it and weight it up again the various possible explanations. I can't speak for the miraculous claims made by other religions but you could start with Craig Keener's book Mircles.

Anonymous said...

3 words: miracle of calanda.

Whether you think it's a hoax or not, it is a case where God supposedly healed an amputee.

Ramon Cruz said...

what about the guard with his ear cut off when jesus was being arrested? the ear was cut off, jesus healed it. orwhat about the lepers? te may have been missing toes or fingers before being healed. if there is even one case of a healed amputee, the argument is invalid. sorry, im short on time.

Andrew Ryan said...

"what about the guard with his ear cut off when jesus was being arrested?"

When you're having to go back more than 2,000 years for an unattributed account then you don't much of an argument.

"Given the fact that we have evidence of many miracles including resurrection from the dead..."

I don't think that IS a given.

Chad said...

Hello everyone,

Thank you for the feedback in regard to my post. I have offered some additional thoughts here.

Godspeed

Chad said...

Rich Deem actually addresses the guard whom Jesus healed here.

Furthermore, for those who are interested, you can checkout Craig Keener's book [a 2 volume set] mentioned above here or listen to this interview with Keener here.

Godspeed

RkBall said...

Another response would be: "God does heal amputees; it's just a matter of when" -- an allusion to the resurrected bodies we are guaranteed through Christ.

StEwPiD_MoNkEy said...

Here's an atheist with a great response.

Your stance is nonsense and illogical. Biblically.

According to scripture, Lucifer had great knowledge of Yahweh. Did that affect his free will to reject Yahweh? No it didn't.

Also it's too blatant and obvious? More obvious that raining mana from the heavens?

More so than Israelites following a cloud through the desert. More so than death visiting all the first born?

The free will argument is nonsensical