Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Even as it happened in the New Testament


I always feel bad for Christians who don't believe that God works in all of the same mighty ways today as He did when the New Testament was being written. I love my cessationist brothers and I don't think of them as lesser Christians but I do think that they miss out on some of the blessings that belong to them as children of God. A while back I was on a blog frequented by many ex- and current Laestadian Christians and I saw one of the posters there arguing that God doesn't heal miraculously any more and also that Lutherans, specifically Laestadians, don't believe in divine healing. As I read Memoirs of Early Christianity in Northern Lapland I was happy to find an anecdote which contradicts this present Laestadian's views on God's provision for miraculous healing today. The testimony is that of Pietari Hankivaara, born in Kittila, Finland in 1834, a preacher who made journeys as far as St. Petersburg in Russia to preach the gospel. In 1871 Hankivaara went to preach in a village where there was an epidemic of typhoid fever. His testimony follows:
Along the way I began to feel illness, and upon arrival I was seriously ill, the mind was confused and the first night I was in a delirium of fever. The following day a very well known brother in the faith, Mikon-Juhani by name, arrived by my bedside, who having heard of my sickness was very unhappy.

At that time I was momentarily out of my delirium, and he asked me if I believed that even now it is possible to heal out of sickness through the power of faith even as it happened in the beginning of the New Testament. I replied: "Indeed, I believe that God is just as powerful now as in the time of Jesus." I said and assured him that with all my heart I believe so. Then he lowered himself down on his knees by my bedside, placed his hand over me, and prayed for my recovery. Instantly the pain and sickness from my body disappeared, and at the same time I arose from my bed, put my clothes on and went into the living room of the house, where services of devotion were in progress. Many people had gathered there, and they were amazed and delighted at my unexpected recovery. The great miracle of God was apparent to all, and thanks were expressed to the manifestly good God for His evidence of grace in this occurrence.

-Pietari Hankivaara (1834-1926)


17 comments:

Alexander said...

"I do think that they miss out on some of the blessings that belong to them as children of God."

How? I hear this all the time and it doesn't make any sense to me.

God is sovereign. If he wants to do something he will. I don't see how my belief that he can or can't do somthing has any effect on what he will do.

The quote implies that if we only have enough faith then God can heal us. Thats rubbish.

I'm not a cessationist in the sense that God is sovereign and can do as He pleases.

Matt Perkins said...

Hey Alexander, thanks for your passion and your willingness to call me out where you think I'm wrong - I appreciate it.

I believe that God is completely sovereign. If it was God's will that someone be healed of something then I think God will accomplish that no matter what the person believes. I also believe that miraculous healing does occur and that this often happens when brothers and sister pray for the healing of one in the congregation. So ultimately I don't think any Christian can miss out on any blessing so maybe I shouldn't have said it that way. But I also know that after I came to believe that all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit we see in the NT were active today and when I was around brothers and sisters who also believed this, I saw God work in some mighty ways, including healing, that I most certainly felt blessed by. I guess that's what I mean. I also know that if you look at the majority of charismatic and pentecostal Christianity there are a lot of serious problems there like the prosperity gospel and often a serious lack of discernment, so believing these gifts are still present is no protection from error.

When it comes to God healing us if we only have "enough faith" I agree also that that is complete rubbish. Unfortunately many who believe in healing think in this way. But I don't think that believing in divine healing requires thinking in this way and I also don't think the quote implies this error - if I did I wouldn't have posted it. The quote does use the term "power of faith" but I took it to mean that Hankivaara was simply asking Mikon-Juhani if he believed that divine, miraculous healing can occur, not if he "had enough faith." If you were thinking of asking for someone to pray that God would miraculously heal you I think it makes all the sense in the world for you to ask the person who would pray whether or not they believed that miraculous healing were possible. When I want prayer for healing I don't go to one of my cessationist friends - not because I think they have "less faith" but because they'd probably look at me like I was crazy when I asked them to pray that God would heal me.

So brother, thanks for challenging me. I'm assuming that you'll probably still think I was wrong to post this even after my reply but I appreciate any further words of correction or exhortation from you.

Alexander said...

No problem ;)

Perhaps I was imposing my own wariness of the errors that are associated with this topic on the quote.

I see this issue as a distraction from the gospel. Jesus said that "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah", Too many well meaning Christian are seeking after signs other then the cross and it concerns me. This might be me just throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Jacob M. Aho said...

Matt:

Your reply was right on
the mark.

However, if you continue
reading in that book that
you quoted from, you
will observe on page 118
an incident that pushes
the faith button in the
charismatic direction quite
rigorously. Read it and
tell me what you think.

Jacob M. Aho

Anonymous said...

Certainly there are many examples of "instant" healing all around us, not just in scripture. As Longfellow wrote, "God is not dead, not doth [H]e sleep". Nonetheless, or perhaps in light of this, isn't all healing a gift from God?
Surely the God who is Light of Light and The Word of Truth is the source of all knowledge and understanding. Even what would be called secular knowledge by many. If we are encouraged to seek that we may find, and righteous people are seeking to first do no harm and bring relief to their fellow man, would they not also receive God's grace via understanding and skill? Doesn't someone going to school also have great faith that when they complete their coursework they will be instilled with ability to heal those around them? So we can talk about faith healing; but truly, all goodness comes from God.

Scarlet Pimpernel

Jacob M. Aho said...

Alex:

It would be helpful if
you knew what "Our"
background contains. The
book that Matt is reading --
is a book that most
Lestadian (leaders) want
to pretend that it doesn't
exist. Alex, this book
would certainly give you
a different slant on
Lestadianism.

Matt Perkins said...

Hey Jacob, I checked out the second healing story in the testimony of Hankivaara and I could see how that story seems more problematic. Sometimes I wonder how well this book is translated to English though. In that account the one who would be healed said he believed he would recover "through the power of faith in Pieti's prayer." It's kind of a strange statement to make that you would have faith in a certain man's prayer versus having faith in God or something like that. My guess is that if you were really to examine the guy who was going to be healed he would simply say that he believed that God could heal him and that is what is meant by his odd-seeming statement. The other part of the story that might be problematic is that when they prayed for healing, all those who didn't believe that "God can heal the sick without medicine," had to leave the house. This to me seems like it could just as likely be some kind of unfortunate superstitious move as an evidence that these men believed that only if they had enough faith God might heal them. I don't quite know what to make of that story and that's why I wouldn't post it on my blog. I don't think it would be strange though if a group of people were going to pray specifically for a miraculous healing for that group to decide that those who don't believe in miraculous healings not to be part of a prayer group where they are praying for exactly that. That's the point I made in my original comment. One positive thing I see in Hankivaara's testimony is that those who didn't believe in praying for miraculous healing are never denigrated as second-rate Christians. That is something I can respect.

Jacob M. Aho - A disciple of Jesus Christ. said...

Matt:

Again spot on ----.

Alexander said...

@ Jacob,

To tell you the truth I'm not really that interested in lastadianism. I'm a Lutheran before I'm a lastadian. I know about the events that happened at the beginning of the movement the miracles and such. Its just I will not base my faith on those events and will not expect those event to accrue again. Again only the sign of Johan can be trusted.

@ Matt, I was thinking about it some more today and perhaps I reacted with more passion then other is that I am sick of being told that the people in the ALC are second class Christians because we aren't charismatic.

Matt Perkins said...

Hey Alex,
I can see how you could think I was implying something like that by how I worded this post and for that I apologize. I certainly don't view non-Charismatics as second-class and I know that any non-Charismatic Christian is just as much filled with the Holy Spirit as any Charismatic Christian. Most of the Christians I've learned from and been blessed by in my life have not been Charismatics but with all of that said and knowing all of the problems among Charismatics I still do consider myself to be one. The Charismatics that have gained my respect though are not any that you would see on TBN but such men as Mark Driscoll and CJ Mahaney.

The Underground Pewster said...

Am I drawing the thread off track when I interject the report over at NPR of the 16 year old Oregon bot for whom prayer did not result in a physical healing?

The story is at NPR.

"Jurors in Oregon are set to decide the fate of parents accused of homicide in the death of their teenage son. He died of an illness that his parents never provided him medical treatment for. Instead, they prayed. Its the second faith-healing case in Oregon in seven months, and both cases involve deaths in the same family."

The Underground Pewster said...

Oops "boy" not "bot."

Matt Perkins said...

Hey U.P.,
As a future doctor you can be assured that I am in no way advocating "faith-healing" as an alternative to conventional medicine. I think those parents are guilty of child abuse and should have to pay the penalty for their crimes. But the great majority of Christians who believe in praying for miraculous healing would also find these parent's actions detestable. I'm not sure what kind of connection you were drawing between an affirmation of the fact that God does sometimes heal people when they are prayed for and this story from Oregon. I am confident in saying that for the vast majority of those who believe in miraculous healing there is no connection whatsoever with this kind of child abuse.

The Underground Pewster said...

Matt,

The story just happened to pop up today, and I did warn that it might draw the thread astray. The connection is the subject of "faith healing" in general, and the deviation from the topic is "what its place in the present age of 'medical miracles?'" I was afraid the article might lead us into a discussion of the separation of church and state, questions of parental authority, and autonomy. I do not think we will get any defenders of the parent's neglect on this blog.

Having witnessed several miraculous cures over the years, my faith that God may heal disease has been transformed into a belief that such healings happen but are not all that common, and that parents should cover all their bases when dealing with a sick child and rely on both Christ the Physician and us lowly pill pushers here below. I also understand that not all healing is physical or temporal, and we need to be open to outcomes that may differ from the ones desired by man.

When I underwent my most recent medical procedure, I was protected by the LORD who was by my side, and by His presence beside the nurses and my doctor as well as His help in getting them through their training.

All too often we put all of our trust in our earthly physicians for "routine" illnesses and tend to forget the LORD, except in the direst of circumstances. Since the human body can turn south in an instant, I suggest we keep the LORD involved from the get-go.

You have a lot to look forward to, and you appear to be keeping the LORD with you from the get-go. May He bless you and be with you always.

Matt Perkins said...

U.P.,

Thank you for your testimony and it sounds like we are in complete agreement when it comes to always relying on Christ the Great Physician while not abandoning the lowly pill pushers through whom God also often works.

I found that living in Christian community while in seminary helped me to trust Christ even with the "routine" illnesses. When I was living in a close community of Christian men if I found myself coming down with a cold the first thing I would do would be to go to my brother for healing prayer. I don't know about the colds but I do know that one time on a backpacking trip I had a knee injury that I thought would incapacitate me. The pain only seemed to increase and I thought someone would have to haul me out of some pretty deep wilderness. I asked a brother to pray for healing for my knee. Almost immediately the pain left and I made it through another 2 or 3 days of intense mountain hiking with no problem with the knee. I've experienced what I believe to be miraculous healing in other areas of my life too. Of course when healing doesn't come the harder lesson to learn is trusting in the goodness of our sovereign God in the midst of suffering - trusting that He is using our suffering for His glory and for our good. I think that is the more important lesson that must be learned by most Christians.

Jonathan said...

Hello Matt, I am new to your blog, however, a cousin did show it to me in December. However, if you are interested in the old writings and in particular the readers. A good book if you can find it is European Lutheranism. I know other people who also have access to other books. Also another good source which I would use to the fullest extent possible while he is still with us on earth is Carl Kulla if you can meet or correspond with him. He is a member of the Hockinson Apostolic Lutheran Church, however, has not spoke there in a long time (except at special events) I believe you already have one of his books. He has published several more. It seems you are of Angelican background, there is a lot of good writings that came out of england from within the angelican church but seperate from it much like the readers. In particular on faith healing the Apostolic Lutheran Church has always believed this as to disbelieve this would be to throw out the book of Acts and the works of the disciples However, it is not central to our faith as any fruit or work should not be the focus. Our only concern should be Christ and Christ crucified that we may have life. The ALC use laying on of hands even now, the big difference here is that it is predominantly used to heal sin sickness which is when a person repents of sin or lacks the faith to believe over a sin a believer can lay their hands (or in a congregational setting lift their hand up in symbolism) on the person and proclaim the gospel 'Believe all your sins forgiven in Jesus name and precious shed blood, be of good cheer and go in peace!' After all does not our Lord even ask the rhetorical question of which is harder to forgive sin or to heal the sick. Anyhow, in conclusion the gift of healing is a blessing, and fruit of God, however, the gift of salvation is the gift from which all others stem.

Matt Perkins said...

Jonathan,
Thanks for the interesting comment! I am very interested in the Readers - do you know who the author of that book is? Perhaps when I am in Battle Ground again I will try to meet Carl. I enjoyed visiting the Hockinson church and meeting Pastor Holmgren there at Christmas time. Thanks for the info on healing in the ALC - I think your last sentence is very profound and true - "the gift of healing is a blessing, and fruit of God, however, the gift of salvation is the gift from which all others stem." Amen.