Have miracles been made redundant by medicine?
In the First Century, people did not know that bacteria existed and how it affected human health in good ways and bad. So, they had no idea that Mycobacterium leprae was responsible for the condition of leprosy – a fact discovered by 20th C physician Gerhard Hansen who pioneered the work of multidrug treatments in his search for a cure. Which (for me) begs the question:
Did Jesus heal lepers in 1st C Jerusalem because there was no other way they could be cured?
With no hospitals and no multidrug therapies to fight the infection, is it possible that this is why God acted then to heal people but maybe not now? Given that the only way a leper could be healed during this period was for God to remove the bacteria and reverse the degenerative processes that had taken place – it would seem that any viable healing reported would constitute a miraculous intervention.
But why then and not now?
Well, often when Jesus healed people he did so because no other solution was available to them. This was certainly the case when he encountered the woman with the issue of bleeding (Mark 5:21-33) and also Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:36-42), both of whom were healed through the miraculous intervention of God. But if we were to transpose these two incidents into a 21st century context, I am confident that modern medicine would have been able to help the woman and possibly the girl should both conditions be diagnosed and treated much earlier through proactive medical assessment and intervention.
This might also explain for the rare occasions (today) in which miraculous healings are reported in remote parts of the world – for example, accounts from Africa of the dead being returned to life, the blind receiving sight and the lame restored. These miracles often occurring where people live in remote locations that are miles from the nearest hospital or medical centre. That said, many other people live in remote locations and have never experienced such miracles. Moreover, research into the plight of people in the developing world consistently reveals that many continue to live with their physical disability or die as a result of sickness and/or injury without intervention from the Divine being recorded.
Miracles in the future?
My own personal belief is that the greatest hindrance to healings occurring in the developing world rests with the unwillingness of believers in richer nations to reach deeper into their pockets and fund even more modern day miracles facilitated by medicine. Churches and members giving generously to fund clean water projects for communities, eye drops for glaucoma patients, antibiotics for children, to name but a few.
How different is this sort of thinking from the notion that God will somehow bring miraculous healings to those in other countries in ways that does not require sacrifice on the part of the believer?
(NB The miraculous healing of the paralysed man (Mk 2v1-12) still requires his friends to carry him to Jesus and pay for damage done to the roof when lowering him down)
Perhaps the real miracle that is needed is the one that occurs in the heart of rich believers as God brings about a new perspective – moving people from ‘self-centred’ concerns to ‘other-centred’ acts of altruism. With such generosity God can work many modern-day miracles.