FW: Why I am not an Atheist

Sweitzer, Dennis (SWEITD01@imsusa4.imsint.com)
Tue, 09 Apr 96 18:12:00 EST

Scott Oakman responded,

>>>>This is a subject quite close to my heart as a medical student. I hear
healings, but they are often distant (a friend of a friend of my pastor's
in Africa...) or very subjective (relief of vague symptoms, release from
fears/bondage, etc.) [Let me hasten to interject that I believe such
testimonies are *valid* for the one testifying, and I take them at their
that God has touched their life--but I like more objective measurable
Nevertheless--I am seeing more of this. For example, a woman completely
healed and pain free after a *documented* 7 year history of ankylosing
(an autoimmune arthritic condition) going back and testifying to her doctor
word *and* objective measurable signs (range of motion, etc.) of that

It is my understanding that there is evidence of psychological influence on
the immune system. So possibly (some) autoimmune disorders could be
affected by psychological states. If it is found that ankylosing
spondylititis is such a case, what does that do to this example of an
objectively documented healing? (certainly not change her healing!)

I guess we have a spectrum of healing, from the subjective to the
objective, from the mental (psychological) to the physical? Healing from
fears/bondage is definitely mental, and healing from a heart condition would
be definitely physical, but:

Healing an ulcer, could be mental on the grounds that the person has been
healed of dealing with stress in a negative manner; or could be physical, if
caused by H. pylori (a bacteria which seems to cause many ulcers)--or if
there is physically a hole in the stomach.

Depression apparently depresses the immune system. Lifting the depression
(mental) could lead to healing of other afflictions.

This is not to question the value of any healing. But seeking objective
evidence can be tricky. Ideally, one would need to match a list of patients
on medical criteria, and from each matched pair, randomly assign only one to
be prayed for. This should be done without the knowledge of the physician
or patient. At the end of the study, compare the medical records for the
two groups and see if the healing rate is any different. This will
compensate for spontaneous cures as well (frequently, people get better
without any intervention).

Now, if we do a clinical trial as I've described, can we expect God to
cooperate with our plans? He may not heal anyone in the study, or heal
equal proportions in both groups--just to confound the researchers, and to
hide his presence.

Someone responded the accusation that miracles were just coincidences:
"When I pray, coincidences happen. When I don't pray, coincidences don't
happen." Indeed, to a large degree, answered prayer often seems
indistinguishable from coincidence.

Stray thoughts on objectively evaluating miracles,

Dennis Sweitzer