Perhaps you have heard this question posed by those who desire to show that God does not exist.
The rationale is this:
Since God answers prayer, certainly there has been a believer who has had enough faith to pray for healing (really re-growing) of an amputeed limb. Since there are not any recorded or verified instances of a person having a limb grow back, this shows that God doesn’t exist. No limbs grow back, because God does not exist to grow them back.
In answering this question, we should realize that this is not really a test of God’s existence, but rather a test of His character. God could well exist, but for various reasons not heal any amputees. This argument is putting the cart before the horse. First one should find out if God exists, then see how He acts. It’s also not wise to set up unbiblical tests for God to perform to see if He exists. This is both highly problematic and subjective.
It’s true that we never see this type of healing in the Bible and this is very interesting. In the Bible we see Jesus healing all kinds of people- the lame walk, the blind see and even a couple of people are brought back from the dead. But there is no record of any amputees’ limbs being restored.
Why do we not see this type of miracle?
3 possible responses:
1. You could technically say that an amputated arm or leg is healed. The damaged or diseased part can be removed and what is left can be healed. So, in that sense the amputee may be said to be healed.
2. Miracles are rare. They are not the norm. For example, how many people are referenced in the Bible who have gone to Heaven without dying? Two. How many times does the Bible state that God created from nothing? Once. So again, miracles are by their definition rare.
Also, according to the Bible, there is a huge difference between God answering prayer and God performing a miracle in answer to a prayer. Biblically it is not correct to say that God answering prayers and performing miracles as being on the same level. Countless prayers are answered daily while true miracles are rare.
3. Just because you haven’t heard of an amputated limb being restored, doesn’t mean that it hasn’t happened. But, if there were evidence of such a healing, would that cause an atheist to change his or her mind about God?
Another problem with this line of reasoning is that it is illogical.
One logical fallacy that this question breaks is called the Excluded Middle (False Dichotomy, Faulty Dilemma, Bifurcation): assuming there are only two alternatives when, in fact, there are more. In this case, assuming that since God has not healed any amputees (in the Bible or elsewhere to our knowledge.) God doesn’t answer prayer and therefore doesn’t exist. This is faulty reasoning.
The pattern goes like this:
1. Since God can do something, therefore God should do something.
2. Since God should do something, therefore God must do it
3. If God does not do something that He must do, then God does not exist.
1. Since God can heal amputees, therefore God should heal amputees.
2. Since God should heal amputees, therefore God must heal amputees.
3. If God does not heal any amputees, then God does not exist.
This is bad logic in and of itself. Just because God can do something, it doesn’t mean that He should or must do something. God is a sovereign being. The Bible does not say that because God can do something, therefore He must do it. This is people putting conditions on how God must act, which is preposterous.
It’s easy to set up a condition for God’s existence and then if God doesn’t meet the condition, conclude that He doesn’t exist. In this particular example, the condition is: if God exists, then He must heal amputees. But this is just one example, any could be used. Some are more intellectual than others. For example, you could say that if God exists, He should strike me dead in 5 seconds. According to the Bible, God has the right to take a person’s life, so He wouldn’t be unjust in doing so. 5 seconds pass, you are still alive, therefore God doesn’t exist.
Or, I could say that if God exists, He should prove His existence by causing all the leaves on the bush behind me to fall off in 15 seconds. Now I could believe that God can do this and I could pray for this to happen with an open and honest heart. 15 seconds pass, the leaves are still there, so God doesn’t exist.
Does it say in the Bible that God has promised to heal amputees, anyone? No. Does it say in the Bible that God must heal amputees to prove His existence or love for humanity? No. Does God say that He will perform any type of miracle or healing to prove His existence? No. Does God guarantee healing to anyone, even if they have a large amount of faith? No. In fact, some who were martyrs for their beliefs did so at a young age and had great faith.
Along with amputees, there could be any number of diseases or sicknesses which God has never miraculously healed. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist, since no one is guaranteed of a healing or a miracle.
To perhaps get to the heart of the matter, let me ask, “Why should God jump through our hoops to prove that He exists? Does God have to perform every type of miracle or healing before one will believe in Him?”
What if there was a documented case of God restoring a limb? For the atheist, ask yourself honestly, would you then believe in God? Or would you just set up another hoop for Him to jump through?
This brings us to a larger issue. That is, the amputee and similar questions work on the following premise- “If I can think of a question that no Christian can adequately answer, then this means that God doesn’t exist. Or at the least that Christianity is false, untrue.”
4 brief responses:
1. What if the answer exists, but you haven’t found it?
2. What if someone gives you a correct, pro-christian (biblical) answer, but you don’t accept it?
3. What if no one can answer the question now, but in 1 month or 1 year someone comes up with the answer? Then will you believe or just ask another question? Then when this gets answered, will you ask another question and it just keeps going?
4. What if the correct answer that you would accept isn’t available now, but is given in 150 years? Long after you have died?
Even if this or another question is answered to your satisfaction, can I, you or anyone know everything about God or how or why God acts? Why does a three year old die of cancer? Why are Christians with strong faith struck with chronic pain for years? You don’t know and I don’t know. But what’s wrong with that? Why does, “I don’t know” have to equal “God doesn’t exist.”? That’s too simple, too easy an answer.
When looking at Christianity, any thinking person will inevitably come across something that is difficult to understand, doesn’t make sense, even seems contradictory at first glance. Given enough time, reading and life experience, this is inevitable.
Now, given that, we have two options when we run into something we don’t understand:
1. I don’t understand, therefore I won’t believe.
2. I don’t understand, but nonetheless I choose to believe. And as I read and talk to people and pray and grow in my faith, I hope to find the answer to my question. But I know that I may never know or never be told the answer to my question. If that is true, I will not stop believing in God or “loose my faith. I will decide to trust in a personal and loving God, despite my question or the reality of a horrible event in my life.
A danger in saying that, “I don’t understand, therefore I don’t believe” is that you or someone else can always think of a reason or excuse for not believing in God. That is the way God has set things up. He has given us enough evidence to believe in Him, yet He has also made it possible for people to reject Him and say that He doesn’t exist.
1. We have free wills.
2. God wants for us to come to Him primarily by faith, with both our minds and hearts.
If you can have all of your questions about God and life answered before coming to faith in Christ, that’s great! But if you demand to have to have all of your questions answered before you become a Christian, then you risk having only an intellectual “faith” in God. This is not truly believing in God. It is like having belief in God that demons have.
James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe thatand shudder.”
Of course this is not saving faith in God. It is not faith from the heart. It is not faith that personally trusts in God for salvation.
With only an intellectual “faith” in God, one can say they believe, but then when the crisis comes or the hard times come, they “loose” their faith in God. But this is not true faith.
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
Whole Book of Job.
Habakkuk 3:17-18, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
Now that’s real faith.
Real faith and real trust in God uses ones mind and intellect and reason as far as they can take him or her. Jesus Christ Himself said that Christians should, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30
God says in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. ”
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:15- “I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.”
At the same time, real faith also admits that intellectually there are just some things we can never figure out and so we trust in a personal God who is far, far more intelligent than we are.
Let me end with a short passage from the Gospel of Luke of a rich man in Hell who is crying out to God to save his family members who are still alive on earth:
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ ” ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”
The rich man says that if his brothers see someone rise from the dead, then they will believe. Now someone rising from the dead is a lot more impressive than healing an amputee. The bar can’t be set any higher than this for a physical miracle.
And yet Abraham says that if they will not believe Scripture, even if they see someone rise from the dead, they will not believe in God. They will make this or that excuse or just try not to think of it any more. Don’t let that happen to you.
Outside of creation, the main miracle which points to God and to the historicity and truth of Christianity, is the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. That’s the miracle which Christianity is based on and shows that God exists.