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Article published in the Christian Post.
Can prayer be scientifically measured? In 1872, English intellectual Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, attempted to test the effects of prayer in a famous experiment. He hypothesized that the royal family, whose health the faithful prayed for every Sunday in Anglican parishes, would live much longer than the rest of the British population.
He found that the contrary was true, and concluded that prayer doesn’t work.
The royal diet and lifestyle did not factor into his equation, nor did Galton question the hierarchical theology of God favoring those privileged enough to command an entire nation to pray for them.
In more recent times, Richard Dawkins has hailed the “Great Prayer Experiment” as the definitive proof against prayer efficiency. The Experiment was a 2006 study conducted by Herbert Benson and team, showing that cardiac bypass patients who received prayer did not suffer from less complications after surgery than those who didn’t. In fact, the opposite was true!
What Dawkins doesn’t tell you in his book The God Delusion was that not all who prayed were Christians. A significant number of them belonged to Silent Unity, a New Thought group with unorthodox views on prayer. One of their leaders, James Dillet Freeman, has said that your purpose in praying “is to quicken into activity the creative processes that lie at the root of being and out of which the world takes shape.”
Mixing prayer methods like this when trying to measure prayer is a bad move. Other prayer studies that only included born-again Christians have received more positive results. But there’s a serious flaw with these kinds of prayer studies: they cannot guarantee that the control group they use don’t receive prayer. When you’re in a religious country, that’s impossible to guarantee. Thus, if weird or no differences emerge between patients who “receive prayer” and those who “don’t receive prayer”, it might be because all of them receive prayer!
I suggest another strategy. Over the last year, I’ve collected examples of people being cured after prayer in a way that medical science cannot explain. There are a lot of these cases. Some of them can be found in works like Testing Prayer by Candy Gunther Brown and Miracles by Craig Keener. They sometimes get published in scientific journals like this one. I’ve also spoken to people in my native country of Sweden, asking for their permission to confirm their stories with their medical records.
I’ve found blind people that see, deaf people that hear, cancer patients who were told that they were about to die that instantly got well, as well as allergies, brain damage, blood diseases and ulcers disappearing as people pray. I’ve also spoken to a man who was diagnosed with ALS, a fatal motor neuron disease, in 1987 but lives a healthy life today after a pastor prayed for him at the hospital. The doctors were sure that their diagnosis was correct, and could not explain his recovery.
These cures are too radical to be explained away by placebo or spontaneous remission. They are SICAPs: Scientifically Inexplicable Cures After Prayer. Such phenomena, I argue, are excellent candidates for miracles. Hypothetically, if God would heal someone in response to prayer, it will look exactly like a SICAP.
A naturalist (someone who does not believe in miracles) will argue that SICAPs are the result of unknown natural phenomena. Science is evolving, and what’s inexplicable today might be super obvious in the future. But here’s the problem. The naturalist cannot say that most SICAPs are the result of these unknown natural phenomena – that leaves room for some miracles to exist. No, all SICAPs must be natural phenomena. And that’s very unlikely. One could even call it miraculous.
The SICAPs we observe are simply too diverse to be easily dismissed as a scientific oversight. Furthermore, many of them occur at the very moment someone prays, and several have connections to prophetic visions or other spiritual experiences. Attributing both that and an inexplicable cure happening simultaneously is stretching naturalism to its limits.
On top of this, we generally view unknown explanations as quite unlikely. Why is the day generally hotter than the night? Is it because of the sun, or some other explanation we haven’t come up with yet? Both are theoretically possible, but I think we all know what’s more likely.
Thus, I conclude that affirming the existence of SICAPs logically leads us to affirming the existence of miracles. Miracles that happen in response to prayer. Who said that faith and science are opposed to each other?
Micael Grenholm is the editor-in-chief for Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice and pastor of Mosaik Church in Uppsala, Sweden.
My name is Micael, and I believe miracles are happening today. I’ve seen some amazing things on missionary journeys as well as here in Sweden, where I live. As an evangelist and apologist, I long for others to discover that God is alive and active today.
However, when I have talked to other Swedes about this, it has been difficult to convince them. As residents in the most secular country in the world, people here are skeptical and require evidence. For a long time, I have wanted to be able to refer to a single book in Swedish that collects the most well-documented, inexplicable answers to prayer that we know of.
Such a book is not available today. So I’ve decided to try to write one myself.
A Gold Mine for Documented Miracles
Sweden has an extensive welfare state, with free, advanced healthcare accessible to all citizens. Swedish Christians rarely have a problem combining their prayers for healing with medical checkups and care. (more…)
Morality. Logic. Themselves. It seems like when some atheists try to deny the existence of God, they also need to deny the existence of some very fundamental things. In this video, I talk about the seven strangest denials I have heard from various atheists.
Originally published at PCPJ.
Quite a few media outlets have recently claimed that science has disproven the Bible. They point to a recent study showing that the DNA of modern Lebanese people match 90 % with the DNA of five Canaanites that died 3 700 tears ago. They then go on claiming that the Bible says that all the Canaanites were killed as Joshua and the Israelites conquered their land.
The titles of the articles show that their authors think that according to the Bible, Canaanites were “wiped out”. The Telegraph states “Study disproves the Bible’s suggestion that the ancient Canaanites were wiped out”. The Independent agrees: “Bible says Canaanites were wiped out by Israelites but scientists just found their descendants living in Lebanon”. And the Daily Mail argues “Bronze Age DNA disproves the Bible’s claim that the Canaanites were wiped out: Study says their genes live on in modern-day Lebanese people”
There’s only one problem. The Bible doesn’t say that the Canaanites were wiped out.
Judges, you know the book that comes right after Joshua, clearly states that there were “Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills” (Jud 1:9) and “Canaanites living in Hebron” (v. 10). Canaanites were around in Israel around the time of Solomon (1 Kings 9:16) and even in the time of Jesus (Matt 15:22). (more…)
Previously published at Jesus Army.
Elijah Stephens is a former Vineyard pastor and spiritual coach belonging to Bethel Church in Redding, California. Since 2015, he has been working on a documentary about medically verified miracles. Micael Grenholm asked him a few questions.
WHAT is a medically verified miracle?
That is a good question. When it comes to miracles, we are talking about when God enters the world and does something. What makes something a miracle is God’s activity.
This is why you can’t study miracles scientifically, but what you can do is to find cases where people have prayed and there’s “before and after” medical evidence. For example, a person has a tumor, one day there is prayer, the next day the tumor disappears.
What you want to do is to corroborate miracles with medical evidence. So that’s what we’re attempting to do with the movie; finding cases where miracles have been corroborated by medical evidence. (more…)
In this short lecture, I talk about the existence and origin of the universe actually shows us that God must exist. The universe must have an explanation outside of itself since it is contingent – that is, not necessarily existing. God, if he exist, would be necessarily existing and is thus a perfect candidate for the explanation for the universe.
Similarly, the fact that the universe came into being 13.7 billion years ago must have a cause since everything that begins to exist has a cause. Since the universe is all of time and space such a cause must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial and very powerful. That’s what we mean by God.
I often hear that the Biblical views on the sinfulness of wealth, the need for simplicity and the universal calling to economic equality are radical ideas. But they’re actually extremely realistic, in contrast to the mammonistic and neoclassical ideas of the necessity of wealth, growth and inequality. Not only because the Biblical ideas, if put in practice, fights poverty much more effectively, but also because they’re the only ones that can reduce the devastating impacts of the upcoming climate change catastrophe.
The other day I listened to a very interesting lecture by professor Kevin Anderson from Manchester University. He talked about the really dangerous form of climate change denial, which isn’t the goofy ideas that the planet isn’t warming or that its warming but we’re not the primary cause and so on. Those views are rejected by the vast majority of scientists and most ordinary people don’t believe in them either. No, the real problem is when scientists adjust or deny their results in order to communicate that we can mitigate and adapt to climate change without too much reduction in economic growth and without adjusting our economic system. He writes on his website:
In several important respects the modelling community is self-censoring its research to conform to the dominant political and economic paradigm. Moreover, there is a widespread reluctance of many within the climate change community to speak out against unsupported assertions that an evolution of ‘business as usual’ is compatible with the IPCC’s 2°C carbon budgets. With specific reference to energy, this analysis concludes that even a slim chance of “keeping below” a 2°C rise, now demands a revolution in how we both consume and produce energy. Such a rapid and deep transition will have profound implications for the framing of contemporary society and is far removed from the rhetoric of green growth that increasingly dominates the climate change agenda.
This week will be a sabbatical for me, where I won’t use any internet in order to rest and write on my book. To prevent you from being bored, dear blog readers, I want to share with you this very interesting lecture by Candy Gunther Brown, Professor of religion at Indiana University, on mecially verified healings. Enjoy!
I’m currently writing on a minor thesis in systematic theology on belief in miracles. I will compare Pentecostal pastor Surprise Sithole in South Africa, former arch bishop of the Swedish Lutheran Church KG Hammar, and pope Francis. One of the books I’m reading as a background for my study is Craig Keener’s excellent Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. For the thesis, I’m mainly interested in his church historical and philosophical chapters, but for my life I’m interested in every single page of this 900-page book. Here’s a very interesting excerpt from Chapter 11: Supernatural Claims in the Recent West:
Scientist, Journalists and Doctors
John Polkinghorne, the scientist-theologian noted in chapter 5, reports a woman whose left leg was paralyzed from an injury. Her doctors had given up trying to do more for her, indicating that she would remain an invalid for life. In 1980, she reluctantly and without any positive expectation agreed to meet with a priest conducting a healing meeting. On their second meeting, she had a mystical vision in which she was commanded to arise and walk. “From that moment she was able to walk, jump and bend down, completely without pain. Her husband, an orthopaedic charge nurse, on examining his wife, found that a large ulcer, which he had been dressing, had also healed spontaneously.” Polkinghorne concludes that one may think what one will, but the account “cannot simply be dismissed on a priori grounds as not having possibly happened.”
Others have collected further claims, and some have investigated them. As in Jamie Buckingham’s supportive follow-up of claims involving one ministry (see below), some popular authors have investigated some of the claims available to them. For example, one investigative reporter for the Eire Daily Times recounts that he did follow up and confirm numerous reports of healings, as well as debunking some others. Some of the confirmed cases were instant and dramatic answers to prayer, and some involved cures never attested as occurring apart from claims of miraculous intervention. Some other investigators have gone further.
Kumi Naidoo, international director of Greenpeace, tweeted an article today that caught my attention. Written by David Suzuki at EcoWatch, it discusses climate change deniers and their mutually exclusive arguments. At a recent conference organized by the Heartland Institute, one of the biggest centers for climate change “skepticism” in the United States, the speakers were arguing that climate change isn’t happening, or that it’s happening but that it’s cooling the earth instead of warming it, or that it is warming it but it’s not caused by humans but by the sun, volcanoes or something else, or that it is happening and it is caused by humans but it’s to expensive to do anything about it.
Obviously, these four theories are not compatible with each others, yet they were uttered at the same conference. The only common thread was, according to Bloomberg news, the constant jokes about Al Gore. I wasn’t at the event, but I recognize the pattern from various climate skeptic blogs that I’ve encountered; and I would like to add another thing that I think is almost universal among climate change deniers: conspiracy theories.
When I took a course in climate change at Uppsala University, we watched a British climate change “skeptic” documentary that argued that the earth is indeed warming, but it’s caused by the sun rather than carbon dioxide. It ended with an attempt to explain why most scientists believe in man-made climate change if it’s so obvious that it is caused by the sun, and the answer was – I’m not kidding now – that they are communists. The voice-over explained to us that after Soviet collapsed, Marxists and leftits felt disillusioned in how they now would crush capitalism, and found their escape in the environmental movement and its demand to decrease fossil fuel usage.
There are many well documented reports of unexplained healings. This is one of them.
For nearly 20 years Ema Mckinley suffered with a condition known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, a rare neurological disorder that left her disfigured and wheelchair bound. Through all the pain and near death experiences, her faith never wavered.
Ema says, “God was my partner in all of this and the strength and help He would give me, I could get through one more day!”
It was in the very early morning hours on Christmas Eve 2011, Ema’s life would forever change. A miracle as she tells it, was about to take place. (more…)