Part 1 of this series, “A Failed Experiment,” provides the necessary background and explains my purpose in critiquing the late Nabeel Qureshi’s views on healing.
One of the reasons Nabeel Qureshi gave for thinking that it would be God’s will to heal him was that in the Gospels, God was glorified by people being healed, not by enduring their sickness or disease well (vlog #29). I think his intended argument could be stated deductively as follows:
Premise 1: God was glorified through people being miraculously healed.
Premise 2: God should be glorified today.
Conclusion: People should be miraculously healed today.
I agree with both of the premises of this argument:
- We do find references in all four Gospels to God being glorified on account of Jesus’ miracles of healing and resurrection (Matt. 9:8 / Mark 2:12 / Luke 5:25-26; Matt. 15:31; Luke 7:16; 13:13, 17; 18:43; John 2:11; 11:4, 40).
- And of course I agree that God should be (and is) glorified today and forever (Rom. 11:36; 15:6-9; 16:27; 1 Cor. 6:20; 10:31; 2 Cor. 1:20; 4:15; 8:19; 9:13; Gal. 1:5; Eph. 3:21; Phil. 1:11; 2:11; 4:20; 1 Tim. 1:17; 2 Tim. 4:18; Heb. 13:21; 1 Peter 2:12; 4:11, 16; 2 Peter 3:18; Jude 25; Rev. 1:6; 4:9, 11; 5:12-13; 11:13; 14:7; 15:4; 19:7).
However, the conclusion simply does not follow from the premises. The problem is that the way the two premises are related to one another is masked by the overly simple formulation I have given above (and again I’m attempting to express an argument that Nabeel presented only in a very informal, conversational way). I think what he was in effect arguing would really need to be stated as follows:
Premise: If people are healed miraculously today, God is glorified.
Conclusion: If people are not healed miraculously today, God is not glorified.
So stated, the argument commits the formal fallacy of denying the antecedent:
If P, then Q.
If not P, then not Q.
This is a deductive fallacy because there can be scenarios in which P is negated and yet Q remains true, as in the following easy example:
If it rains tomorrow, football practice will be cancelled.
If it does not rain tomorrow, football practice will not be cancelled.
The argument is fallacious because football practice might be cancelled for other reasons (for example, if the coach gets sick).
In the issue at hand, the fallacious argument leads to an unreliable conclusion because it assumes that the only way for the consequent (“God is glorified”) to be affirmed is for the antecedent (“People are miraculously healed today”) to be affirmed. This simply isn’t so: God can be glorified in all sorts of ways apart from whether people are miraculously healed today.
Read through the more than two dozen references cited above from the epistles and Revelation about God being glorified and you’ll find that God is and will be glorified in various ways that have nothing to do necessarily with anyone being healed of a sickness or disease. Indeed, nowhere in the epistles or Revelation is there any reference to someone glorifying God through miraculous healing. From this silence, of course, it does not follow that such healings never take place or that God would not be glorified through such healings. To argue in that way would be to commit another fallacy, specifically the informal fallacy of arguing from silence. What the many references to God being glorified that have nothing to do with physical healing show is that miraculous healings are not necessary for God to be glorified today.
The one reference in the NT to glorifying God in one’s body exhorts believers to glorify God by keeping one’s body holy—by avoiding sinning in one’s body (1 Cor. 6:20). We can do that whether we are sick or not. Being sick, in and of itself, does not glorify God. However, loving God and others, being holy and faithful, always glorifies God, whether we are sick or well.
The full glorification of God in us will indeed include perfect bodily health, something we are clearly promised in the resurrection. In this regard the fundamental tension in NT theology between the “already” and the “not yet” is crucial to understanding the whole subject of God’s will with regard to bodily healing. The life of God’s Spirit is in us now, yet we are still mortal (Rom. 8:9-11), awaiting the redemption of our body (Rom. 8:23). Even mature Christians, though they are “spiritual” people (1 Cor. 2:14-16), do not yet have “spiritual” bodies (1 Cor. 15:42-54), that is, bodies supernaturally transformed with immortality and perfection by the consummation of the work of the Spirit. Our mortal bodies are characterized by relative “weakness” (ἀσθένεια), a general term that includes the physical body’s tendency to fall into sickness, disease, or infirmity. We will not be free from such “weakness,” this proclivity toward unwellness, until our bodies are “raised with power” (1 Cor. 15:43).
This means that any physical healing people receive today, whether through medicine, God’s providence, or miracle, is merely a foretaste of the perfect health we will receive only in the resurrection. There is no blanket or comprehensive promise of bodily health in this age. In the meantime, God is glorified in his people whether we are well or sick, whether we live or die.