Tag Archive: Miracles

Bruce, Have You Ever Had Any “Miracles” Happen in Your Life?

miracle working god

Recently, a reader by the name of Jay asked me:

I struggle with my faith often.

But when I think of the times that my life has been spared I can’t /won’t shrug it off to coincidence.

Have you ever had miracles happen in your life? Have you ever or a family or friend come out of situation that could not be explained?

Do you believe in miracles?

I was in the Christian church for fifty years, and I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five of those years. For most of my life, I believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God. I believed God heard and answered my prayers, and in some instances miraculously intervened in my life. According to my worldview at the time, God was a supernatural being who supernaturally intervened in my life on a daily basis. He was very much of a hands-on deity. I preached thousands of sermons, believing that the words that I spoke came straight from God himself. God worked in and through me, and, at times, did things I couldn’t even imagine. Miracles, right?

During much of 2007 and 2008, I undertook a painful and thorough examination of my life and beliefs. In November 2008, I concluded that I could no longer in good conscience call myself a Christian. In early 2009, I sent a letter to my family, friends, and former parishioners that detailed my loss of faith. It was not long after, that I began calling myself an atheist.

One area I paid close attention to during the deconversion process was answered prayers and miracles. I claimed that God had answered my prayers countless times and had worked miracles in my life. Could these things withstand rational, skeptical scrutiny? (Please see Prayer: Explaining the UnexplainableDoes Praying for the Sick and Dying Make Any Difference?A Few Thoughts on a Lifetime of Praying to the Christian God) After countless hours spent combing through the minutiae of my life, I concluded that most of the answered prayers and miracles in my life could be explained away solely through human means and intervention. In other words, the prayer-answering, miracle-working God I worshipped most of my life was, in fact, quite fallible and human.

But, Bruce, shouldn’t these unexplainable things be called miracles? Shouldn’t you give God his due for answering one out of a million prayers and throwing a miracle bone or two your way? You know, all praise to Jesus for saving one out of four hundred passengers in a plane crash; for saving a Bible while a tornado destroyed everything else in its path; for healing a cancer patient here and there?

In any other setting, someone with such a miserably low success rate would be fired or kicked off the team. The Christian God, truth be told, is batting well below the Mendoza line — a below .200 baseball average. Instead of praising Jesus for occasionally coming through, perhaps there are a few questions that need to be asked.

First, how can we know for certain something is a miracle? Are we to assume that anything we can’t understand or explain is a miracle? Second, how can we know for certain that what we called miracles were performed by some sort of God? Third, how can we know for certain that the God who worked these miracles was the Christian God? Humans have worshiped countless deities over the centuries. How can anyone know for sure that their God is one true miracle-working God? Set the Bible aside for a moment and try to clear your mind of whatever religious indoctrination clutters your thoughts. Does it sound reasonable to say that the “unexplainable” is best explained by attributing credit to a deity no one has ever seen? Or, does it make more sense to explain what we call miracles by saying, “I don’t know.”

I am comfortable with saying, “I don’t know.” I don’t have to have an explanation for everything that happens in my life. Using the Bible and religious dogma to “explain” such things is a cop-out. It allows people to avoid accounting for the unexplainable by saying, “God did it!” I would say to Jay and others like him who are struggling with their faith: “Carefully examine your life. Examine whether what you call answered prayer or miracles can be explained by or through human means. Once you complete this examination, ask yourself, should I still think of the Christian God as a prayer-answering, miracle-working deity?” I think you will find the answer is NO. Now, this doesn’t mean that you are an atheist. Many people, after such careful self-examination, become deists, believing that there is a creator God of some sort who set everything into motion and then said, “there ya go folks, do with it what you will.”  What you can be certain of is this: the personal God of countless Christians who is involved in their day-to-day lives hearing and answering prayers and working miracles is a myth; that we are each accountable for our own lives, and that humans collectively, according to the humanist ideal, have an obligation to make the world a better place to live.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Christians Don’t Do the Works Jesus Did, Proving Jesus Never Resurrected from the Dead

jesus raising the dead

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. (John 14:12-14)

Evangelicals believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. It’s a one-of-a-kind divine religious text that is to be, with rare exception, read and interpreted literally. Of course, when confronted with glaring contradictions, Evangelicals will abandon literalism quicker than Sarah Huckabee Sanders abandons truth at a White House press conference. When confronted with Bible verses that are contradictory or which put God/Christianity in a bad light, Evangelicals discard the literal, plain meaning of a text in favor of a convoluted, look-the-rabbit-ran-that-way, theological explanation.

Take John14:12-14. Printed with red ink — the universal sign for “Jesus is talking” — the Son of God said that he would soon return to his Father in Heaven, and once he was gone his followers would do greater works (miracles) than he did. Wow, what a statement, right?

What were the works (miracles) that Jesus did?

  • Healed the sick
  • Cured the deaf and mute
  • Gave sight to the blind
  • Reattached severed body parts
  • Fed 5,000 people with 2 loaves of bread and 5 fishes
  • Fed 4,000 people with 7 loaves of bread and a few fishes
  • Caused the lame to walk again
  • Cured mental illness
  • Raised the dead
  • Turned well water into Boone’s Farm
  • Walked on water
  • Stopped storm winds from blowing
  • Walked through walls
  • Resurrected himself from the dead

What a list of miracles! The writer of the gospel of John said, in John 21:25:

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.

According to that verse, the Bible contains just a small handful of the millions of miracles performed by Jesus. Why, Jesus worked so many miracles in three years, that if all of them were written down, all the books of the world wouldn’t be able to contain them. Wow, just wow! So many miracles, yet there is not one non-Biblical contemporary record for any of them. If a Jewish itinerant preacher performed millions of miracles in a thirty-six-month period, you’d think at least one Roman historian would have mentioned it. Yet, the pages of history are silent.

For the sake of this post, I am going to go with the miracles performed by Jesus as recorded in the gospels. In John 14:12, Jesus told his followers that after he ascended back to his Father in Heaven, they would perform works (miracles) as great as and greater than those worked by him. The Christian church has existed for almost 2,000 years, yet there is no recorded history of Christians doing greater works (miracles) than Jesus. In fact, Christians today think a “greater work” is Jesus helping Grandma find her lost keys or causing someone’s cancer to temporarily go into remission. Healing the sick? Raising the dead? Causing cripples to walk? Giving sight to the blind? Where, oh where can we find and see such medically verifiable miracles? And if Jesus worked millions of such miracles, where can we see legions of people being healed? Where can we see thousands of people being fed with 2 Big Mac’s and 5 orders of large French fries?

Modern Christians are supposed to be greater miracle workers than Jesus, yet everywhere we look we see impotence. Why is that? Evangelicals will make all sorts of peculiar theological arguments, attempting to explain away the clear, literal reading of John 14:12. Perhaps, there is another explanation for the present-day paucity of miracles. Jesus said that miracle-working by his followers was contingent upon him returning to his Father in Heaven. Perhaps, the real reason Christians can’t work Jesus-esque miracles is because he never resurrected from the dead and ascended back to Heaven to the right hand of his Father. Maybe, just maybe, when Jesus died, he stayed dead. You know, just like every other human who has ever lived and died.

John 14:12 remains a direct challenge to the belief that Jesus resurrected from the dead. Had Jesus really escaped the permanency of death and magically floated away from the earth until he could no longer be seen, then Christians from 33 CE until today should have the power to repeatedly do the miraculous. That they don’t tells me that Jesus died on a Roman cross centuries ago and was buried in a borrowed tomb, never to be seen again.

Thus saith the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of Bruce.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Charisma News Spins a Story to “Prove” a Miracle

david and toni espinoza

Charisma News, the go-to source for charismatic excess (and outright lunacy) within Evangelicalism, recently published a story pimping the Christian fantasy show, Godwinks @ PureFlix.  “Godwinks” are, according to Charisma News, miracles performed by the Christian deity. One such “Godwink” involves Toni and David Espinoza of McAllen, Texas:

Rushnell [the host of Godwinks], who tells many of these “godwinks” stories in PureFlix.com’s series “Godwinks at Pure Flix,” recently revealed the most amazing miracle story he’s ever encountered.

He told “The Pure Flix Podcast” about how Toni and David Espinoza of McAllen, Texas, were once given some truly devastating news: David, who was 50 years old at the time, suffered from a heart that was working at just 10 percent capacity, and he desperately needed a transplant.

The family turned to pray—and then something absolutely incredible happened. Listen to “The Pure Flix Podcast” at the 6-minute mark to hear Rushnell explain:

“Toni … said, ‘We are going to pray together as a family. We’re going to get our church praying, we’re going to get everybody praying,'” Rushnell recounted.

Toni soon found herself feeling convicted because she realized she was essentially praying for someone else to die in order for her husband to receive a new heart.

That’s when she totally changed her mindset and made a major adjustment to her prayer routine: She asked God to fully heal her husband.

“She had prayed that God would completely heal David [and] that he would confirm it by making it snow on McAllen, Texas, on Christmas Day,” Rushnell said.

There was only one logistical problem with Toni’s belief that God would confirm the healing with a snowfall on Christmas: it had reportedly never snowed on Christmas in McAllen, Texas. In fact, there hadn’t been snow in the area in 109 years.

But, on Christmas Eve at 11:45 p.m., Toni looked outside and saw a white coating in her backyard: it had snowed for the first time in McAllen, Texas. While some might call it a coincidence, David went back for a heart appointment three weeks later, and his physicians were stunned.

“The doctors looked at the reports, they shook their heads and said, ‘We can’t explain this, but David—you are going to live for a very long time,” Rushnell said. “It was the most amazing godwink that I think I had ever heard.”

Yes, it did snow on December 24-25 2004. However, not only did it snow in McAllen, it snowed across much of Southern Texas. According to Wikipedia:

The most noticeable, and unusual, event associated with the storm was the snowfall it produced. Much of the snow fell in southern Texas, along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, but some snow, albeit less deep, fell across southwestern and southeastern Louisiana. Any snowfall in these areas is extremely unusual, perhaps occurring once every twenty years, and these events are usually airborne flurries which melt on contact with the ground. In many places the snow stuck to the ground and accumulated to an appreciable depth. In Brownsville, Texas, snow fell to a depth of 1.5 inches (3.8 cm), the first measurable snowfall at the city in years, since the Great Blizzard of 1899.The fact that the snow accumulated overnight on Christmas Eve led to a White Christmas the next morning, something completely foreign to the region. Across all of southern Texas and in southwestern Louisiana, snow fell in places where it had not for anywhere from 15 to 120 years. Near the coast, in Corpus Christi, Texas, 5.2 inches (13 cm) of snow fell, more snow than in all previous recorded years combined. This was also the case in Victoria, Texas, where a significant 13.0 inches (33 cm) fell. New Orleans, Louisiana had its first white Christmas in 50 years. In addition to the unusual occurrence of snow inland, moderate to heavy snow was also reported over the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This is the first significant snow fall in Houston since February 12, 1960, when a snowstorm hit central and south Texas with eight to 10 inches of snow

This was a WEATHER event, not a “Godwink.” Science, people, science. It snowed in McAllen, Texas because atmospheric conditions were such that it snowed — no deity needed. As with most Bible-blinded Evangelicals, Toni and David Espinoza saw a miracle where there was none.

December 8, 2017, The McAllen Monitor reported yet another “blizzard,” one that left so little snowfall that weather officials could not measure it. Yes, it technically “snowed,” but here in the upper Midwest, such snowfalls don’t count. Yet, using Toni Espinoza’s logic, a McAllen resident somewhere could have claimed it as a “miracle”; that is if they had demanded God to whip out his divine penis and show it just for them on December 8, 2017.

According to the Charisma News story, it hadn’t snowed in McAllen, Texas in 109 years. I searched high and low for evidence for this claim, and all I found was the following on the National Weather Service website. It tells the WHY of the 2004 snow event:

The Rio Grande Valley of Deep South Texas experienced one of its most memorable Christmas Holidays ever. A rare combination of weather events developed in late December that produced several inches of snowfall, which in itself is quite rare in this region. However, to have snow fall on Christmas Eve and morning is a historical first according to the more than 150 years of weather data. This White Christmas is certainly one for the record books.

….

The freezing temperatures and snowfall were expected in South Texas and National Weather Service Offices were talking about the arrival of unseasonably cold temperatures prior to the holiday. Snowfall was mentioned as a possibility and as Christmas drew closer, snowfall became more likely as the weather forecast became more focused.

We need to look back to the week before Christmas in order to recap the details of this historic event. Signals from the numerical weather forecast models suggested a strong cold front and arctic air mass would move southward along the Rocky Mountains into Texas and eventually over the Lower Texas Coast. This cold front moved through Brownsville, Wednesday afternoon (12/22/2004). A second reinforcing surge of arctic air followed the initial front, dropping temperatures into the 30s and low 40s late Thursday (12/23/2004). Maximum temperatures on Friday (12/24/2004) were in the upper 30s to low 40s across the Rio Grande Valley. Widespread moderate rain covered much of the area with most locations reporting one half of an inch to nearly one inch of liquid precipitation (Figure 1, below). The cold rain began to taper off on Christmas Eve as temperatures began to fall below freezing

As the event began to unfold, the meteorologists at NWS Brownsville refined the precipitation forecast to account for rainfall changing to sleet or a rain/snow mix, and eventually changing to all snow for the overnight hours between December 24th and 25th. The first in a series of winter weather warnings and advisories – Freeze Warnings – were issued by the National Weather Service at 230 AM December 23rd. Around noon on Christmas Eve, the Freeze Warnings were upgraded to Winter Weather Advisories, which were subsequently upgraded to Winter Storm Warnings later that evening for Heavy Snow, continuing until the morning of December 25th when the snowfall finally ended.

All in all, the snowfall was greeted with joy and excitement since it has been almost 110 years since the last measurable snow fell in the city of Brownsville – and for that matter, much of the Valley.

Yes, snowfall in McAllen is a rare occurrence. Yes, it snowed on Christmas Day 2004. Yes, it has snowed since then, though not in measurable amounts. Thus, the best that can be said is that there had not been MEASURABLE snowfall amounts in McAllen in 109 years, and that this is due to climate and weather patterns, not God. I am confident in saying that there have likely been other “snowfalls” to hit McAllen besides the “blizzard” of 2017. Meteorological records only go back for 150 or so years, so it is an argument from silence to say that it has never snowed in McAllen before 2004. This story is just another example of Evangelicals desperately looking for a miracle where there is none. And as far as David Espinoza’s miraculous healing is concerned, neither Charisma News, God Winks @Pure Flix, or the Espinozas provided any evidence for the claim that David was miraculously “healed.”  People are just expected to, by irrational faith, BELIEVEWhen asked on the TODAY show about whether the chain of events was mere coincidence or divine intervention, God Winks host, Squire Rushnell, replied “You know what that shows? It shows that if you have faith and pray, Godwinks happen.” What it shows is that with faith people can and will believe almost anything. If Evangelicals want rationalists and skeptics to “believe,” they are going to have to cough up a lot more evidence than the aforementioned story.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Seeing the Christian God Where None Exists

god of the gaps

If there is a Christian apologetics argument that irritates the heaven out of me, it is the God of the gaps argument. Can’t explain something? God. Have something happen in your life for which there seems to be no rational explanation? God. Any place you have unanswered questions, you will find Evangelicals suggesting “God did it.”

Earlier this year, two Patrick Henry High School students, ages fourteen and seventeen, were killed in a tragic automobile accident. The Defiance Crescent-News reported at the time:

Two Henry County brothers were killed Wednesday morning when their vehicle became submerged in a Wood County creek just west of here.

Killed were Xavier Wensink, 17, and his passenger, Aidan Wensink, 14, both of Deshler. They were students at Patrick Henry Local Schools.

According to the Wood County Sheriff’s Office, at 11:20 a.m., a call was received concerning a vehicle completely submerged upside down in a creek on Sand Ridge Road, just west of Custar Road. Dispatched to the scene were deputies from the Wood County Sheriff’s Office and Weston Fire/EMS.

Grand Rapids Fire Department was dispatched to assist, as well as the Toledo Fire Department’s dive team. Rescue personnel discovered that the vehicle, a 2000 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, was occupied by the two teenagers.

I wept when I read of their deaths. So young, so much of life ahead of them, but in an instant the bright lights of their lives were snuffed out. Their deaths, of course, left their family and fellow classmates struggling to make sense of it all. God’s name was thrown around. Everyone was reminded of the “fact” that God is in control and he allows (or causes) tragedies to teach us to snuggle up close to him and trust that he is working out everything according to his purpose and plan. How about, don’t kill the fucking kids, God! That’s seems to be the right thing to do. You are the sovereign of the universe. Flex your pinky finger and stop the accident from happening. Nothing is too hard for God, right?

The oldest boy, who would have graduated in 2019, played varsity football. His jersey number was 28. Remember that number. It plays an essential part in the story that follows. Patrick Henry lost its first few games, and then one Friday night they scored 28 points and won the contest. They have in subsequent weeks won three more games, scoring 28 points each time. It’s a miracle, right?

The Defiance Crescent-News had a feature write-up yesterday about the 28 “miracle.” Here’s some of what the reporter had to say (behind a paywall):

Since Inselmann took over at his alma mater in 1991, the Patriots had given their frontman victories with 28 points on the scoreboard eight times going into this season. Never before in Inselmann’s tenure had PH won more than one game in a season with 28 tallies in a game, with the triumphs coming in: ‘91, ‘98, ‘00, ‘03, ‘05, ‘09, ‘13 and ‘14.

Fast-forward to the present day, where a glimpse at this season’s results shows four of the Patriots’ five triumphs coming with the squad lighting up 28 points on the scoreboards. Beginning with the Delta victory, that stat includes three in a row over the Panthers, Archbold and Swanton, with a huge 28-13 triumph over Bryan last week keeping PH undefeated in the league.

The significance?

Xavier Wensink’s jersey number is 28. The meaning?

“I really do believe that our team believes that Xavier is with us, and he is watching,” Inselmann insisted. “I don’t call that coincidence. I just think that the good Lord’s watching over us with Xavier, and the kids believe it.

How the season ends is anybody’s guess at the moment, as PH still has to contend with NWOAL rival Wauseon (3-5, 3-2 NWOAL) before hosting what should be an epic season-ending showdown with Henry County hammer Liberty Center (8-0, 5-0 NWOAL, No. 4 D-V).

But regardless of how it all shakes out, the 2018 Patrick Henry Patriots will forever be remembered as the team that didn’t quit, bringing together a school, program and community that, more than anything, needed something to believe in.

“As long as we keep getting better every week, believing in each other, becoming closer and closer as a team, only God knows where we’re gonna go,” concluded Healy.

As you can see, “God” features prominently in this “miracle.” Look, I get it. People want to make sense of a senseless accident. In the midst of their grief there appears a statistical oddity. This must be “God” sending everyone a message that number 28 is tearing up the turf on the heavenly football field. Or this is a sign that the dead boy is alive and well in Heaven, watching over his teammates.

I find it hard to criticize such nonsense. I certainly don’t want to cause anyone more heartache, but high school coaches and teachers and news reporters owe it the community at large to tell the truth. Suggesting that God is so tuned in to what is happening on earth that he takes time to “fix” the scores of football games is absurd. I wonder if the players on the losing teams had some sort of tragedy or loss in their lives too? Why, then, did God choose to give the W to Patrick Henry, but not them? Such arguments cheapen faith.

But, Bruce, four games with winning 28 point scores! What do you make of that? It’s a coincidence. Life is filled with such oddities. When they happen, we should say, hmm, that’s interesting. What we shouldn’t do attribute them to the Christian God. Just because something strange and out of the ordinary happens doesn’t mean God did it.

Patrick Henry’s football season will soon come to a close. The school will move on to its winter sports, but left behind will be family and friends who are still grieving their loss. Perhaps, in the still of night, they will sense God’s presence. If that’s what gets them through the night, fine by me. I suspect, however, that more than a few people will, as they toss to and fro on their beds, say, WHY? And to this question, Christians offer up religious platitudes and appeals to faith. However, from my seat in the atheist pew, it seems to me that God’s silence is deafening. Perhaps the reason this is so is because there is no God, and we humans are left to ourselves to figure out the reasons young lives are ended all too soon.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Gilbert Deya Deported to Face Child-Trafficking Charges

gilbert deya

Gilbert Deya, a British/Kenyan Evangelical pastor, was deported to Kenya to face child-trafficking charges.

The BBC reports:

The UK has extradited a self-styled Kenyan pastor, who claimed he created miraculous pregnancies, to Kenya to face child-trafficking charges.

Gilbert Deya’s extradition came after he failed in his decade-long legal battle to remain in the UK.

He denied charges of stealing five children between 1999 and 2004 when he appeared in court in Nairobi.

Concerns were first raised about the conduct of Mr Deya, who ran a church in London, in a BBC investigation in 2004.

Infertile or post-menopausal women who attended the Gilbert Deya Ministries church in Peckham, south-east London, were told they could have “miracle” babies.

But the babies were always “delivered” in backstreet clinics in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

Mr Deya later moved to Scotland, and was arrested in Edinburgh in 2006 under an international arrest warrant issued by Kenya.

His Gilbert Deya Ministries is being investigated by the UK Charity Commission for alleged mismanagement.

“Our statutory inquiry into Gilbert Deya Ministries is ongoing. We are currently considering the implication of Gilbert Deya’s extradition on our investigation,” the commission said in a statement.

  • A former stonemason who moved to London from Kenya in the mid-90s
  • Set up the Gilbert Deya Ministries as a registered charity, with African and Asian branches
  • Known for his blend of charismatic, performance-style preaching
  • Had income of £652,800 ($858,000) for the financial year ending December 2015
  • Spent £609,300
  • Described by UK Labour MP David Lammy as a “modern-day snake-oil salesman”
  • Says he was consecrated as an Archbishop by a US evangelist in 1992

When the BBC asked Mr Deya during its 2014 investigation how he explained the births of children with DNA different to that of their alleged parents, the 65-year-old Mr Deya said: “The miracle babies which are happening in our ministry are beyond human imagination.

“It is not something I can say I can explain because they are of God and things of God cannot be explained by a human being.”

Kenya’s police spokesman Charles Owino told the BBC that Mr Deya had arrived in Nairobi aboard a Kenya Airways flight following his extradition.

Mr Deya had opposed his extradition, saying he feared being tortured and sentenced to death.

In 2007, his wife, Mary, was sentenced to two years in prison in Kenya after being convicted of stealing a baby.

In 2011, she was sentenced to three years in jail after being convicted of stealing another child.

Desperate women, some past the menopause and others who were infertile, were convinced that being prayed for by Mr Deya and travelling to Kenya would result in a child.

….

According to Wikipedia:

Deya was born in the morning of 2 February 1952 in Juja, Kiambu County, outside of Nairobi and was the eleventh child in a family of fifteen children. He belongs to Luo tribe ans his name “Juma” means Sunday, which is the day he was born. His father, Samuel Oyanda Deya was a sisal plantations worker from Bondo working in Juja. His parents were never meant to be a couple because his mother, Monica Nono Deya, declined the arranged marriage with his father.

He attended primary school but the school preacher dropped out because of bullying and poverty. He started preaching Jinja, Kampala, in Uganda, where he beat up a woman for hitting the children of his sister and worked there as a porter.

He married his 14 year-old wife, Mary Anyango, when he was at 21 on 27 December 1958. They gave birth to fifteen children in total. He started the “Salvation of Jesus Christ Church” in 1976.

He was ordained by the United Evangelical Church of Kenya and styles himself “Archbishop”. He was an evangelist in Kenya in the late 1980s to early 1990s, but moved to the UK, establishing Gilbert Deya Ministries in 1997. The ministry now has churches in Liverpool, London, Birmingham, Nottingham, Luton, Reading, and Manchester, Sheffield and in 2006 acquired a building and planning permission in Leeds. The church claims to be “the fastest growing Ministry in the UK and worldwide”

The Gilbert Deya Ministries claim that Deya’s powers allow him to be able to cause infertile women to become pregnant. Mr Deya claims that “through the power of prayer and the Lord Jesus” he has helped sterile women give birth. In the UK, one woman is claimed to have had three children in less than a year. The women travelled to Kenya in order to “give birth”.

Deya’s wife, Eddah (also known as Mary Deya), was arrested during November 2004 in Nairobi and charged with stealing children. Ten children, none of whom had any genetic connection to the Deya family, were found at Mr Deya’s House. Twenty babies have been placed in foster care in Kenya after DNA tests showed they had no connection to their alleged mothers. Rose Atieno Kiserem, a former pastor with Deya’s ministry was jailed along with Mrs Deya. Upon her release from jail, Kiserem confessed that the ‘miracle babies’ were “a hoax created by the Deyas and their accomplices to deceive me and other God-fearing people.”

Deya has a warrant out for his arrest in Kenya for the trafficking of babies out of the country. The Kenyan police have alleged that the ministry is a baby-snatching ring, and they have petitioned for his extradition from the UK. Mr Deya is seeking political asylum from his base in Glasgow. He was arrested by police at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in 2006.

In November 2004 the High Court in the UK ruled that a ‘miracle baby’ in London was the victim of child trafficking, and that the supposed miracle displayed was a ruse in order to generate funds from a “deceived congregation”. Mr Justice Ryder ruled that in order to maintain the illusion of a genuine birth, the child’s ‘mother’ was seriously assaulted “and a live child who had been born to another family was presented to her as her child.” He also ruled that “[the baby’s] birth as described was a falsehood not a miracle.”

On 13 December 2006, Mr Deya was arrested in London by the Metropolitan Police. A police spokesman said Gilbert Deya was detained under an arrest warrant issued by Kenyan authorities, who had charged him with child abduction and trafficking. He was ordered by a court on 8 November 2007, to be extradited from the UK to Kenya to face five counts of child stealing.

Deya appealed against extradition on the grounds that he might face torture in Kenya, but in late 2008 his case was rejected by the High Court and leave to appeal to the House of Lords was refused. It was reported in April 2010 that Deya was still in England and that David Lammy, Deya’s MP, had enquired of the government why he had not yet been extradited. Lammy was concerned that justice was being denied to several of his constituents who were victims of the trafficked babies fraud. The Home Office responded that it was still considering representations from Deya’s solicitors that sending him to Kenya would breach his human rights.

In September 2011, news reports indicated that all avenues of appeal had been exhausted and Deya would now be extradited to Kenya.

In December 2011, a court in Kenya cleared Mary Deya of obtaining registration for five children irregularly.

The London Evening Standard reported on 21 October 2016 that Deya had applied for a judicial review of the decision to extradite him.

On 12 July 2017, Premier Christian Media reported that the High Court had refused Deya’s application for a judicial review and that he would be extradited.

On 3rd August, 2017, Deya was extradited from the UK to Kenya to face child trafficking charges. He was immediately arraigned in court force child trafficking offences.

 

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Tim Tebow and the Miracle of John 3:16

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Tim Tebow was a guest on Harry Connick Jr.’s talk show this week, and recounted a really crazy experience involving the Bible verse John 3:16.

Fans of Tebow may remember when he wrote “John 3:16” on his face (in his eyeblack) during the national championship game when he played college football at Florida.

….

Three years later to the day, Tebow was playing quarterback for the Denver Broncos in a playoff game.

After the game—which they won in miraculous, last-second fashion—he was informed that he had thrown for exactly 316 yards, his yards per rush were 3.16, his yards per completion were 31.6, the TV ratings for the game were 31.6 and the Broncos’ time of possession was 31.6.

After that game, John 3:16 became Twitter’s No. 1 trending topic. Tebow said he doesn’t think it’s a coincidence. He says he thinks it’s evidence of a “big God.”

Relevant Magazine, Tim Tebow Told an Incredible Story About a Crazy ‘Coincidence’ Involving John 3:16, December 8, 2016

Video Link

Prayer: Explaining the Unexplainable

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Over the course of 50 years in the Christian church, I prayed many prayers — tens of thousands of prayers, to be exact. I publicly testified before fellow Christians that God had answered my prayers.  I had experiences that, at the time, defied explanation. Everywhere I looked, I saw God. When I deconverted, one of the first things I did was give a careful accounting of the prayers I uttered and what God’s response to them. (Please see  A Few Thoughts on a Lifetime of Praying to the Christian God) I concluded:

  • The overwhelming majority of my prayers went unanswered.
  • Those few prayers that I considered answered by God were, in fact, answered, not by God, but by and through human instrumentation.

I was left with a few experiences that I couldn’t rationally explain. One story comes to mind and I will share it here. One night, Harold Miller, a member of the church I was pastoring at the time, and I were driving down Route 22 east of Sego, Ohio on our way to touch base with a family who recently visited the church. As we neared Fultonham, a small community which sat on a ridge above Route 22, I noticed a car barreling down the hill towards the highway. Having no time to stop or change direction, I screamed at Harold, warning him of the impending crash, and prepared to be broadsided. Yet, at the moment the crash should have occurred nothing happened. Both of us thought God had lifted the car above ours, safely protecting us from serious injury or death.

Did God actually pick the car up so it would avoid hitting us? Of course not. Is this really a beyond rational explanation event? Not really. Perhaps my perception was wrong. Perhaps the car wasn’t traveling as fast as I thought it was. While this story is difficult to explain, like some of the contradictions in the Bible, there are reasonable explanations for what happened.

As a Christian, I was taught that God answering prayer was a simple matter of me praying and God hearing and answering my petition. I believed that God answered every prayer one of three ways. God said:

  • Yes, and what I was praying for came to pass
  • No, and what I was praying for did not come to pass
  • Not now, and what I was praying for was added to my long-term begging God list

But Bruce, the Evangelical says, I have prayed prayers that I KNOW God answered! How do you KNOW God answered your prayers? Just because Christians utter petitions that subsequently come to pass doesn’t mean that it is God answering prayers. If Christians could ever divorce themselves from faith and look at things from a skeptical and rational perspective, I think they would find out that most God-answered prayers are anything but.

Virtually every answered prayer can be attributed to human instrumentality or luck (right place, right time). Year ago, I often prayed for God to bless me financially. As a young father with two children, money was always tight. One night, my father-in-law and I  were traveling on a rural Licking County road on our way to visit a church member. While driving down the road we came upon a box. I immediately stopped and got out of the car to investigate. In the box were numerous recently skinned fur pelts. I quickly scooped up the box and we took the pelts to a nearby taxidermist. While I do not remember the exact amount of money we received, it was substantial. See? God answered my prayer!

Polly is a shift coördinator for a local manufacturing concern. She has worked there for 17 years.  During her tenure, she has never missed a day of work. Not one. Polly is a diligent worker, a great example of the Puritan work ethic.  Her work reviews are always at the top of the scale, reflecting Polly’s value to the company. In the years that the company has given raises, Polly has always received the maximum allowable raise.

When we were Christians, we both would pray that she would receive a good raise, and sure enough “God” answered our prayers. But, was it really God who answered our prayers and orchestrated Polly’s raises? Or are her raises attributable to Polly’s perfect attendance and work ethic? Shouldn’t credit be given to whom credit is due? It is Polly, not God, who did the work necessary to warrant a raise. How about now? Neither of us prays, and even if we did it is likely that God’s prayer hot line to our house has been disconnected. Since Polly’s deconversion in 2008, the monetary amount of her raises have increased significantly. Couldn’t it just as easily be argued that becoming a nonbeliever and not praying resulted in these raises?

Christians will often point to the testimonies of those who were saved as proof for God answering prayer. You know the drill. Sister Lena is a member of First Baptist Church in Godland, Ohio. She’s been a member of the church for 50 years. Lena’s husband Bob is not a Christian. Every week, Lena and the church pray for Bob’s salvation. Week in, week out, the church prays that the bloodhound of heaven, the Holy Spirit, will track down Bob and save his soul. And sure enough, one day, after 40 years of praying, Bob is saved.  God answered Lena’s prayer, right? (Lost in the discussion will be the question of WHY God waited so long to save Bob.)

Years ago (everything is years ago now), when I was the pastor of Somerset Baptist Church in Mt Perry, Ohio, the church took to praying for the father of one of the church members. This man was a violent, oft-cursing heathen. We prayed, prayed, and prayed for this man, to no avail. Several times I went to his home and shared the gospel with him. Every time, he said, no thanks preacher, I have no need of God.

The man eventually came down with throat cancer. Surgeons removed parts of his esophagus, mouth glands, and vocal cords. He was unable to speak. A short time later he had a small stroke. The church continued to pray for this man, and one night I decided to share the gospel with him one more time. And this time, the man started crying, and when I asked him if he would like to be saved, he gutterally said YES! I led him to Jesus, and from the time forward he would occasionally attend church with his wife and grown children.  I vividly remember him crying every time he heard me preach (no jokes about my preaching bringing people to tears). I attributed his tears to his thankfulness for God saving him. Was his glorious conversion the answer to our prayers?

Not likely. I am more inclined to think that his conversion was the result of him facing, for the first time, his mortality. Having been raised in a culture where God is frequently called on in times of trouble, this man, having had radical cancer surgery and a stroke, likely wanted to make sure his house was in order before he died. But, what about the tears? Perhaps they were tears of regret. There’s nothing like a brush with death to focus our attention on how we have lived our lives. Perhaps he regretted his meanness. Perhaps he regretted treating his wife and children like slaves. Who hasn’t shed tears over past regrets, right?

After his “glorious” new birth, this man began displaying bizarre behavior. He began spending exorbitant amounts of money at auctions and yard sales, often bringing home junk of little value. When I couple this behavior with his getting saved, I am more inclined to think that his stroke altered his mind. Anyone who has been around stroke patients knows that behavioral changes are not uncommon.

A changed life is not proof for the existence of God or God answering prayer. A careful examination of salvation testimonies always reveal some sort of human influence. Transformed lives can always be traced back, to some degree or the other, to the work of the individual or others. While these transformations make for great stories of the supernatural power of God, they are, in every way, quite earthy.

I readily admit that there are mysteries which are, at this present moment, beyond explanation.  However, is God the answer for every unexplained mystery? Or is it better for us to admit that we don’t know and to continue probing, prodding, and asking questions until we do? Regardless, these mysteries are so few that suggesting that they are evidence for the Christian God is laughable. From my perspective, there is no evidence for the existence of personal, hands-on God of the Christian Bible.

One Reason I Don’t Believe: The Silence of History

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According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, (link no longer active) the 2010 population of the Jerusalem district was 924,000. In 1948, the population of the Jerusalem district was 87,000. According to Wikipedia, the 1st century population of Jerusalem was around 80,000, though this population would swell during Passover and other religious observances. When I lived in Yuma, Arizona, I observed a similar swelling of the population when the snow birds arrived to spend winter in Yuma. Whatever the population of Jerusalem was during  the three-year public ministry of Jesus, there were plenty of people who observed his works. Surely, there were thousands of eyewitnesses who could have written something about Jesus’s miracles, and his death, resurrection, ascension back to heaven. Surely, there were eyewitnesses who could have written something about the acts of the Apostles and the early church. Why then, is there little or no historical record for the life and work of Jesus or the early followers of Jesus? God striking church members dead or causing the followers of Jesus to speak in unknown tongues surely were notable events, yet there is no record of them outside of the Bible. Why is this?

According to the Bible, the events leading up to the death of Jesus, his crucifixion, and his resurrection from the dead, took place during Passover.  After the post-resurrection ministry of Jesus, Jesus ascended back to heaven, and on the Day of Pentecost, while the followers of Jesus were gathered in an upper room, they were filled (baptized) with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2)

Acts 2:1-6 states:

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

This miracle of speaking with other tongues caused quite a stir and, as a result, on one day:

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41)

In fact, according to according to Acts 2:47:

And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Every day people were being saved, baptized, and added to the church, or so says the author of the book of Acts.

In Acts 3,4 we find Peter and John going to the Temple to preach the gospel. While they faced great adversity from the Sadducees over their preaching that through Jesus people could be resurrected from the dead, Acts 4:4 states:

…many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.

So, in a short amount of time, the Acts narrative moves from 120 followers of Jesus being gathered in an upper room to 3,000 people being saved, baptized, and added to the church, to 5,000 men believing the preaching of gospel. Yet, outside of the New Testament, which was written decades after the events recorded in Acts 1-4, there is no historical mention of a large number of people becoming followers of Jesus. There is no mention of 3,000 people being publicly baptized on one day. There is no mention of a large gathering of Jesus followers in the outer court of the Temple.

In fact, there is no non-Biblical historical record for any of the astounding events recorded in the Gospels and Acts. Suppose a well-known man died in the community you live. You saw him die. With your own eyes you saw his dead, embalmed body. Yet, three days later, this same man came back to life and was sitting with his family and friends at the local Applebee’s. Do you think such a miraculous event would make the front page of the newspaper? Do you think it would be trending on Twitter? Do you think everyone in your community would quickly know about the dead man brought back to life? Yet, when it comes to Jesus the miracle worker, a man who purportedly raised people from the dead, cast demons out of people, gave sight to the blind, restored the hearing of the deaf, walked on water, and walked through walls, there is no non-Biblical historical record of any of his works.

According to the Bible, Jesus was well-known in Jerusalem. When he came riding into Jerusalem on a colt (or an ass, you decide) people lined the streets and cheered him. This same man, a short time later, was arrested, publicly humiliated, nailed to a cross like a common thief, and buried in a borrowed grave. Three days later, however you count three days, this same well-known Jesus resurrected from the grave and appeared to over 500 people. Pretty news worthy stuff, right? Yet, outside of the Bible, there is no historical record of these events.

Even more astounding, according to Matthew 27, at the moment Jesus died:

And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

At the very moment Jesus died, the veil of the Temple, a curtain that was likely 30 feet wide, 60 feet high, and four inches thick, (using 18 inches as the measurement for a cubit) was torn in half. And according to the Gospel of Mark, there was an eclipse at the moment of, or right before Jesus died. Ponder for a moment such astounding events, yet, outside of the Bible, there is no record of them ever occurring.

If that is not astounding enough, consider that the Bible says when Jesus died the graves of the saints were open and out popped resurrected followers of Jesus. These resurrected saints went into Jerusalem and appeared to many people. Yet, not only is there no non-Biblical historical report of this happening, none of the other gospel writers or Paul mention it. Surely, dead relatives and dead fellow believers resurrecting from the dead and walking about the city of Jerusalem would be important to 1st century Christians, yet outside of Matthew no one mentions it.

Yes, later Christian authors, working from the text of the Bible and stories passed down to them, speak of these events being true, but why are there no Roman or Jewish historical writings that mention these astounding events?

I am well aware of the various arguments that can be made, but I don’t buy them. It seems far more likely that these miraculous, astounding events never happened. Yes, Josephus possibly said:

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.

I say possibly because what Josephus actually said is a matter of great debate. (the oldest manuscript of Josephus’s writings is dated a thousand years after his death) Regardless of the authenticity of the aforementioned passage, Josephus does not mention, outside of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, any of the miraculous events that occurred at the time of the death of Jesus. Why is this?

This is one of the reasons that I do not believe the Christian narrative. While this is not proof for there being no God, it does call into question the narrative that many Christians proclaim is truth.

[signoff]

Dear Evangelical, Why Don’t We See Any Miracles in Your Church?

One of the thorniest verses in the Bible for Evangelicals is John 14:12:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

Evangelicals believe that the fourteenth chapter of John is the very words of Jesus. This chapter tells Evangelicals not to have a troubled heart,  that 2,000 years ago that Jesus ascended back to heaven to prepare a room/mansion in heaven for them. When they die or if the Rapture happens before they die, the Evangelical is promised the keys to brand new home in the sky, This chapter also tells Evangelicals that Jesus is THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life, proving to the Evangelical the exclusivity of their version of the Christian gospel.

In verse 14 Jesus says, If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. Ponder these words for a moment. Think about all the prayers Christians have uttered over the centuries, prayers asked in the name of Jesus without nary a response. Evangelicals love to say that God answered this or that prayer, but pressed for proof of their supernatural claim, they quickly retreat to the safe confines of faith. (Please see A Few Thoughts on a Lifetime of Praying to the Christian God)

Let’s do some Bible math:

If ye shall ask any thing in my name, will do it + He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do = a church that should regularly see people raised from the dead and healed; a church that should be able to feed the hungry; a church whose leaders work miracles, including walking on water, turning water into Welch’s grape juice, and healing the deaf, blind, and dumb.  Add to this, Jesus also said in Mark 16:15-18:

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

that those who believe in Jesus would cast out devils, speak in new languages, handle snakes, drink poison and not die, and lay their hands on the sick miraculously causing them to recover from their sickness.

Is it not then fair to ask where such Christians are today? Where can a non-believer go to see Christians doing greater works than Jesus? Why are hospital beds not empty, mental hospitals closed down, and world hunger eliminated? Surely, if as the Bible says, Christians are to do works greater than Jesus, we skeptics have the right to say show us.

Most Christian sects come up with elaborate schemes to explain away the normative meaning of these verses. The works of Jesus and the early church were sign gifts, the Evangelical says, and once the canon of Scripture was completed these sign gifts were no longer necessary. I wonder if Christians who say this ever consider that what they are basically saying is that Jesus was lying in John 15/Mark 16 or that there should no longer be the expectation of  verifiable miracles. (I use the word verifiable to turn away those that want to appeal to all sorts of subjective experiences that they say is proof of  God working a m-i-r-a-c-l-e)

In the delusional world inhabited by Pentecostals, snake handling Baptists, and those who subscribe to CHARISMA magazine, greater works than Jesus are being performed on a regular basis. When asked for verifiable proof of their claim, appeals are made to faith or the Christian mutters, I just KNOW that God is in the miracle-working business. Funny business God is in…no advertising or place of business, yet non-Christians are expected to believe the business exists. I know there is a McDonald’s right here, says the Charismatic, because a book I read tells me there is.

Here’s my challenge to Evangelicals. Please pray that God supernaturally heals me from my physical maladies. If she does, I will believe and recant every word I’ve ever written about the Bible, God, Jesus, and Christianity. Wouldn’t it be a great testimony to the miraculous power of almighty God and the veracity of the Christian narrative if God healed an atheist like me? Instead of praying for God to kill me, why not pray for God to heal me? Even a little healing like miraculously removing the cancer on my lower lip so I can stop Fluorouracil treatment will be enough to convince me. I’m waiting.

Come Get Your Miracle at The Church on Fire

Several weeks ago, Polly and I were in Fort Wayne to attend a baseball game. Polly made a wrong turn and we ended up driving by The Church on Fire, a United Pentecostal church. United Pentecostal churches are also called oneness churches because of their denial of Trinitarian theology. Here’s a few photographs of the church’s sign and its unique roadside prayer box.

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Mark Hall Lead Singer of Casting Crowns: Miraculous Healing or Luck?

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Casting Crowns 2013

A few years before I left the ministry, the music group Casting Crowns were one of my favorite groups.Songs like Does Anybody Hear Her?, Who am I, American Dream, and If We are the Body spoke of the dysfunction and incest I saw in Evangelicalism. Both Polly and I cried many a tear as we listened to Casting Crowns. Their music had a way of working its way down to the pain and emptiness that had engulfed us. While I think they have, in recent years, become enamored with their success, I do appreciate the help and encouragement I found through their songs.

I said all of the above so I could hopefully blunt any criticism over what I am going to say next.  Mark Hall, the lead singer for Casting Crowns, was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of kidney cancer. Hall went though surgery to remove the cancer and now the Evangelical community is abuzz with reports of God miraculously healing Hall.

Charisma News, a news site that reports as fact the most ridiculous of miracles, had this to say about Hall’s miracle:

Mark Hall, the lead singer for Casting Crowns, asked his fans for prayer earlier this month when doctors found a solid mass on his right kidney.

God answered those prayers. The doctors successfully removed the cancerous growth and he’s heading back home again.

“The pathology report is in and the news is just as we expected and also an answer to the prayers we have all prayed,” said Melanie Hall, Mark’s wife. “The pathology report confirms that the tumor was indeed kidney cancer but it was fully encased. The findings of the report confirm that the cancer had not spread to the kidney or anywhere else. Glory Hallelujah!!”

Melanie said the cancer was classified as the nuclear level 3 cell type, which is aggressive. That means it was active and ready to spread to other parts of Hall’s body.

“This just makes all of this even more of a miracle,” Melanie said. “I wish that I could explain in words how much of a miracle it was, but it would take too many words. And to be honest, I am too tired.”

Melanie pointed to three circumstances that allowed doctors to find the tumor. First, Casting Crowns is normally never off in March—but was this year. Hall was not experiencing any tumor-related symptoms—gastric problems took him to the doctor. And doctors don’t routinely order CT scans with contrast for physicals.

“God was at work in this before we had any idea. He is good that way. We are thankful for His mercy and grace. We are thankful that He chose to answer our requests in this way,” Melanie said.

“I know that not everyone’s stories have the desired ending. But I also know that God desires us to trust Him with it all anyway. Even still, He says He will work it all together for our good. Thank you again for your continued prayers. For us, in this, the war is won but we still have to fight the recovery battle.”

Is Mark Hall’s successful cancer surgery a miracle? Where’s the miracle component? A competent, qualified radiologist performed the CT scan, a competent, qualified anesthesiologist put Hall asleep, a competent, qualified surgeon removed the cancer, and a competent, qualified nursing staff assisted and took care of Hall before, during, and after his surgery. Pray tell, where’s the miracle? Just because countless Christians prayed doesn’t mean that the Big Man upstairs stopped filling out his March Madness Bracket so he could answer all these prayers and “heal” Hall.

The fact is, it is trained doctors who successfully treated Hall. But, But, But, the Christian says, WHO gave the doctors the skill to successfully operate on Hall?  By all means, please prove to me that you can know the Evangelical God gave the doctors their skill? Which is more likely: a deity giving someone a particular skill set,  or hard work, training, genetic disposition, upbringing, education, and desire giving some a particular skill set? I’m going with the latter.

There’s no miracle to be found here. Hall was lucky. Let me deconstruct Mark Hall’s wife’s explantion of the miracle.

First, Casting Crowns is never off in March and Melanie Hall sees this as providential. Providential, as in God giving Mark Hall aggressive kidney cancer so he could then miraculously “heal” him? Providential, as in God having Casting Crowns take the month of March off so he could miraculously “heal” Mark Hall? Isn’t amazing that any string of events and circumstances can be strung together as “proof” of God’s providence.

Second, Hall went to see the doctor for gastric problems and he was not showing any signs of having a tumor. Yet, the doctor supposedly ran an unneeded CT scan and viola! found the cancer.  Here’s the problem with this scenario. Doctors do order CT scans for gastric problems. How do I know this? Last December, I went to the doctor for gastric problems. What did the doctor order? A CT scan. What did they find? Enlarged lymph glands, a lesion on my pancreas, and a gallbladder filled with stones and sludge. I then had an endoscopic ultrasound. My doctor feared I had pancreatic cancer. Fortunately, the lesion was benign, but I will soon have my gallbladder surgically removed. There is nothing miraculous about a doctor ordering a CT scan on a 45-year-old man complaining of gastric problems.

So then, miracle or luck? Luck. A miracle would have been a CT scan showing Mark Hall’s cancer and then when the surgeon cut him open the cancer was gone.

Melanie Hall’s parting comment to those hoping to be healed like her husband reveals the bankruptcy of praying for miracles:

“I know that not everyone’s stories have the desired ending. But I also know that God desires us to trust Him with it all anyway. Even still, He says He will work it all together for our good.”

You see, most Christians who pray for divine healing from cancers, illnesses, and diseases find out that their God, who supposedly never leaves or forsakes them, is on vacation and can’t be bothered with their petty requests. For every Mark Hall “miracle”, there thousands and millions who will die without their God ever giving them a thought. In their dying hour, they find out that the Great Physician is anything but.