Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Why Do People Get Sick?

With this post we enter a series on the subject of Divine Healing. Before we get started, here is a list of pertinent scripture verses regarding sickness that you may want to read in conjunction with this article: Isaiah 53:3-51 Corinthians 13:9-10Romans 8:10-11Ephesians 1:13-14John 9:1-3Luke 10:1-12Mark 16:15-18I Corinthians 12Matthew 9:28-30Mark 9:23-24Mark 6:1-61 Corinthians 11:27-32James 5:14-20Revelation 22:1-3

First, we need to understand where sickness came from. I have no doubt that sickness was not part of the pristine, sinless creation that God called "good". The atonement of Christ included a provision for healing, so it would seem that when things are put right with God, sickness is taken out of the picture. The Apocalypse clears up any doubt on the subject by revealing that in the eternal age to come, trees will provide leaves which keep the body well.

So, sickness must have come into being as a result of the negative impacts that came upon mankind due to not being right with God. That would leave, it seems to me, two possible instigating agents for sickness: God or the Devil. There are scripture passages which attribute illness to God, and passages which attribute it to the Devil, so maybe sickness is a tag team effort.

I don't believe that to be the case, but let me ask you a clarifying question that may help us discover what is the case: "Did bacteria, amoebas, and worms exist before the Fall?" My answer is yes, they most certainly did. God alone is shown scripturally to have the ability to create life, so the Devil cannot be given the credit for their existence. Yet, most of what we experience as sickness is the direct result of creatures such as these infecting our bodies.

I'm led to wonder if our body's God-given equipment (namely our immune system) worked as well as it must have by design specs called "good" by God, would humans or any life form ever get sick? If the virulence of tooth and claw existence that resulted from our separation from God, from death, and from antagonism resulting from a justified curse upon sin did not exist, would there be anything to get sick from?

Even though I could see viruses, prions, cancer and genetic defects as being the result of some devilish ingenuity manipulating what God had created, would these types of things have any ill effect (let alone exist) if we were still in the pristine physical condition we had before the Fall? No, it seems clear to me that sickness exists because of the justified curse of death upon Adam and his race as a consequence of sin. In fact, it seems quite clear to me that disease actually results from death, rather than death resulting from disease. 

Our bodies were stricken with a curse which has them decaying toward death, really, from the moment they come into being. Everything in creation was stricken by God so that it opposes us and our physical existence--the ground, plants, animals, and even our bodies themselves. Our bodies do not work up to original design specs; they are infirm; they don't recover like they could; they age, and then they die. Bacteria, viruses, parasites, and genetic anomalies are a problem now, because of enmity imposed by the curse, and by our immune systems and the replication processes in our cells not working perfectly as they did in Eden.

Now that is not the Devil's doing, at least not directly by authority, it was God's doing, and God's alone. He had the authority: he spoke the curse. Does the Devil play a role in illness? Peter seemed to think he could. The Evangelists often referred to exorcism in terms of healing. It certainly appears that illness and physical affliction are tools in the Devil's arsenal against the human race (remember Job) in his antagonism toward them.

That is not, however, the same as saying disease is caused by the Devil and his demons. Disease, by general principle, is the result of the Fall, and therefore, in a very real respect, is the God-given, natural lot of life on this fallen planet. And all life is subject to it. That the Devil uses what is available to him to exacerbate our condition and to increase misery should not be surprising to anyone. But to see the Devil behind every bush, or every sniffle, is a mistake, and frankly, gives him far too much credit.

Why do people get sick? Simply, because they live in decaying (dead) bodies. The Devil and his roam about seeking to add misery and to steal days from us while we're in this condition, but they are merely the exploiters, not the authors of it. If the Devil and his minions were deep-sixed today, sickness would still be a possibility tomorrowUltimately, to solve the problem and possibility of illness, the curse of death has to be removed from our physical being.

So what's a body to do in the meantime? That, and a few other issues in the posts to follow, starting with this one.


Anonymous said...

Thanks SLW. Great post!

I was considering writing something along the same lines myself to clarify a point I made in a post yesterday - but now I've just added a link to here from that post instead :-)

I attribute the fall to the work of the devil and the rebellion of man, and therefore I am one of those who is likely to say that healing is undoing the work of the devil. This does not mean that all sickness, disease, injury etc is directly inflicted by the devil on a case-by-case basis! Most of it is the direct consequence of the fall - another work of the devil. Though obviously there are also times where there is a spiritual agent directly at work. I have seen Jesus heal both.

The topic is important to me when trying to help people who have been told that God afflicted them. Personally, I don't believe that He does.

I believe in a sovereign God and so ultimately I believe as you do that the consequences of the fall are God-ordained. But whereas God's heart was to protect Adam and Eve from His holiness by gifting them with His righteousness, the devil's heart was to undermine that righteousness, hence provoking God's judgement, and hence instigating the fall. The consequences of the fall are all part of God's order, but I, as I'm sure you do too, attribute the fall itself to the devil and to our rebellion.

Furthermore, Satan is futilely opposed to God's work of redemption and restoration which will one day see the fall completely undone - a Kingdom reality that is demonstrated in this present age when we co-operate with the Spirit but which we have not yet fully consummated. Satan doesn't want us to minister healing, whether there is a demonic influence at work or not.

Some (not you!) take the understanding of God's sovereignty too far, and contradict everything else God reveals about His nature and His character, when they say that God specifically afflicted someone. I find it irreconcilable with everything else God reveals about himself - especially so through Jesus who came to destroy the works of the evil one, not the works of His own, and our, loving Father!

I believe that one of the reasons Jesus heals is that He demonstrates that there is a Kingdom outside of the fall where Father's rule is completely unchallenged. (e.g He taught us to pray "Father's kingdom come, on the earth as it is in heaven") Divine healing gives us hope for eternal life, putting our present condition into its proper context, and reveals the Father's heart of love towards us, His children.

Your thoughts on bacteria and viruses are especially intriguing. If they existed before the fall, and at that time all of creation was in perfect harmony, then perhaps they were parasites of some kind of mutual benefit to both parasite and host? Maybe the very thing that now torments us from time-to-time, once upon a time contributed to our eternal life? Just an intriguing thought with no direct theological basis whatsoever!

I hope these thoughts are helpful. Like everyone else, I'm learning, and although I may write with conviction, I don't write with a closed-heart or a closed-mind.

Looking forward to the rest of the series. Thanks for a great start!

Chris Hamer-Hodges said...

I'm totally with you so far, SLW! Great post. Some believers give the enemy way to much credit (which is what he has wanted from even before the fall!) He is the accursed, not the one who has the power to curse.

If Satan held the power of sickness then it would be he we would fear because of his power, and it would be he we would give praise to because of his mercy and forbearance on not smiting us with any of the foul sicknesses in his arsenal. Clearly absurd!! Either that or we are led, as some have been, into the heresy of dualism with Satan and God struggling for the control over man's health.

The gathering swine show that Satan is incapable of restraint when he is given control, his irresistible urge to destroy completely is too strong. The fact that we see a limit and a restraint to the sickness that rebellious man has brought upon himself shows that it is a loving God, not a twisted devil who is in control.

It is interesting that when Moses appeared before Pharaoh, the two signs he was given (the stick that became a snake, and his hand which became leprous and then clean) demonstrated the authority he had been given by God over both the serpent (Satan) and sickness.

It is because this authority belongs to God, and not the devil, that he can delegate it to us - to achieve his ultimate purpose. The reversal of the curse through the grace, mercy and authority that is in Christ.

SLW said...

Thanks Mark,
You are right in pointing to a partnership in the Fall. The ultimate responsibility is ours, for we failed the test of faith, but would we have if not for the plying of the evil one? What's the old expression... it takes two.
Hopefully, the attribution question in illness will become clearer as I proceed with this.

SLW said...

Thanks Chris,
Loved your insight into the authority, or lack thereof, of the Devil. I think we are probably paddling in synchronicity on much of this.

Anonymous said...

Do I sense we will get to James 5:16 at some point? I hope so. I look forward to Godly wisdom on this passage.


SLW said...

Yessiree, Mark. Hopefully it will be worth the wait when we get there.

Incidentally, in your first comment you said...

"Some (not you!) take the understanding of God's sovereignty too far, and contradict everything else God reveals about His nature and His character, when they say that God specifically afflicted someone. I find it irreconcilable with everything else God reveals about himself - especially so through Jesus who came to destroy the works of the evil one, not the works of His own, and our, loving Father!"

That is exactly why I am not a Calvinist!