When I was in college my friend John and I were roaming around a state park when he was hit by an intense seizure. I had no idea what was happening. We were alone in the park and I was frightened to my bones, so I knelt down and laid hands on the pulsating, groaning form of my friend. I prayed against the powers of darkness in the name of Jesus. This was obviously a demonic attack.
Wait. A demon? Sounds like naive superstition from a pre-scientific era when humanity invented gods, both evil and good, to make sense of the world.
For the religious skeptic, natural (scientific) explanations are preferred, and must be given — or at least attempted — for all phenomena. To regress to the days of the gods is unthinkable.
Natural explanations are also more responsible, the skeptic points out: blaming Satan for sickness or disease might result in neglect of medical attention for a person in need.
For Christians, however, the question of ultimate causation gets back to the sovereignty of God, who oversees the events of the world. Nothing is outside his purview.
But God also involves us in the process. He’s graciously given the gifts of science and medicine to humankind, and these should be used to their full potential.
It seems right, then, that I should pray for John in his affliction, asking God to bring healing, and protection from an unseen enemy.
It’s also right that John should visit a doctor and take any medications prescribed for his condition.
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So, what caused John’s seizure?
In the hindsight of several decades, the answer is unknown to me. But I wouldn’t say that the natural explanation (neuro-malfunction) is automatically the superior — or even exclusive — answer. Perhaps the cause was both natural and spiritual. Or perhaps one and not the other.
Image courtesy of Steve Blake.