Tuesday, July 5, 2016

"You Shall Not Test the Lord Your God"

“Had the Hickmans conceded at trial that David was sick -- but not gravely ill -- and that they relied on faith-healing rituals to cure him, they might have fared differently at sentencing. But instead of invoking a religious defense, the Hickmans said they saw no reason to call 9-1-1 or seek medical assistance because there was nothing wrong with their son, even as he grew weaker and died.” –Randy L. Rassmussen: For TheOregonian/OregonLive

Some years back, a pastor of my congregation told me about a time when his son was very ill, so ill that one night his parents weren't sure the boy would survive the night. They decided that if he died they would tell the authorities that they had not realized he was sick enough to die. Fortunately, the boy did recover, but I wondered why they hadn’t been willing to say that they had trusted in God to heal their son. A few years later I read a letter of instruction that had been sent to the church's ministry:

SUGGESTIONS FOR AVOIDING PROSECUTION—The following suggestions, although by no means a guarantee, will definitely aid in avoiding prosecutions and notoriety in the event a death should ensue from other than natural means.

This is the first and foremost rule in every criminal case. The importance of this one rule cannot be over emphasized.
Avoid telling anyone how long the person was sick. Avoid telling anyone that you knew the person was seriously ill. Avoid telling anyone when the illness first became serious. Don’t mention divine healing.

The ministry is cautioned not to mention the church’s belief in faith healing, and to be prepared to dance around his knowledge of how serious the late person’s illness was:

Deny all knowledge that the ailment was serious. Or if this cannot be done, then: (a) Place the time when the seriousness first became apparent as close to the time of death as possible. (b) Take the shortest period of time possible of the length of the illness. (c) If the question of a doctor should arise, it might be met with, “If I had any idea that she was that sick and that a doctor could have healed her (emphasis mine), I certainly would have called immediately.

(Note: Because this church believes that only God can heal the sick, the phrase, “and that a doctor could have healed her” is not technically a lie.)

The instruction continues:

If a doctor says treatment offers a very good chance of success, the minister can counsel the member to keep asking questions about potential adverse effects of drugs or other treatment.  If the doctor should say that the odds of success are very good, say 70% in favor of success, and without adverse effects, the minister can counsel the member as follows:

[. . .] the patient or parent can meditatively contemplate the answer. He could then state, “I just don’t feel I should take the chance.”*

This church was unwilling to admit that it taught that Christians must be willing to die to prove their faith that God will heal them. And, according to its reading of Hebrews 11: the promise of healing has a loophole. The “assured healing” can occur after Christ’s second coming and the resurrection of the dead in Christ, and member of this denomination must still consider the promise kept.

I don't think that's that a good enough promise. I don't think any parent should be willing to put their child's life on the line for a promise that has a loophole like that. What kind of promise is that? God didn’t require that of Abraham. He tested him, but then intervened and saved Isaac’s life. The only instances I can find in the Bible of an individual child who died--other than when David and Bathsheba's child died because of their sins--was when a servant of God or Jesus himself intervened to raise the child from the dead. Instances like that are notably absent today. So should you "wait on God" to heal your child by denying him or her competent medical care, even if he should die?

Consider this account in the Gospel of Luke 4:9-12

And [Satan] brought [Jesus] to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence:
For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee:
And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.**
And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

Other versions render that last sentence as "[...] you shall not put God to the test." Don’t test God with your child’s well-being. Jesus didn’t fall for that ruse when Satan tried to tempt him by twisting the scripture. Don't you fall for it either.

*The Broadway to Armageddon, Chapter 8, William B. Hinson, Religion in the News, Suite 330—Stahlman Bldg., Nashville, Tennessee 37202
**Psalm 91:11-12


  1. That is a truly shocking state of affairs. It amounts really to lying for God.It amazes me that so many cogits don't realise that their calling by God does not apply to their children. We are not called as in the old testament by nation and family but as individuals. We are not to force our beliefs on to our kids as God does not force his ways on us, he asks us to choose to obey him. I have explained this even to ministers (so called ?)who have said that kids should be made to fast on the day of Atonement, yet same ministers would not baptise kids!

  2. That's the point, isn't it? If adults want to refuse medical care for themselves, that might be their privilege--assuming their affairs are in order, i.e that they don't have minor children who depend on them; parents don't have a moral or legal right to willfully abandon their children for their faith. Parents have a moral and legal obligation to “provide the necessaries of life." And life itself is the first necessary.

    If a child were found floating unconscious in a swimming pool, most faith-healing proponents would rush to take her out of the water and resuscitate her. But let that same child get bacterial meningitis, for example, and it suddenly becomes a test from the Almighty that the parent thinks he would fail if he were to take the child to a competent medical doctor for diagnosis and antibiotics.

    And yes, lying to protect your church instead of doing everything in your power to save your child's life is the opposite of faith. It's the act of a hegemon, a robot, someone who has lost all natural affection and sense of duty toward their child in order to obey an insane church doctrine.