Thursday, November 17, 2011


I believe in miracles. Some people think it crass of me as a scientist to admit to this, but as a Christian, it seems to me that to deny things like Jesus turning water into wine or walking on water, while insisting that he was raised from the dead is straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel.

I know that many of my readers are praying for me, and while some are praying that I have strength to suffer my illness, many will be praying for a miraculous recovery. But do such miracles happen today. Miracles in Scripture tended to occur at specific times: at the times of Moses, Elijah and Elisha, in Daniel's time and at the time of Jesus and the Apostles. Early in Acts, an Apostles shadow or handkerchief could effect a cure, but later in Paul's lifetime he was advising Timothy to use medicine (Take a little wine for your stomach's sake) rather than have the Elders lay hands on him.

Today, most reports of miracles come from rather primitive communities, where they cannot easily be checked up on. An evangelical Christian GP in Southampton, Dr Peter May has spent most of his life trying to authenticate medical miracles and hasn't found a single incontrovertible case. I am also for the most part a sceptic, especially about all those stories from Lourdes in France.

Looking objectively at what would have to happen, any medical miracle would have to be a major feat in engineering. "Prepare ye a highway for the Lord" says Scripture. So there would be Biblical warrant for a new dual carriageway between Bournemouth and Dorchester to appear overnight. Of course, this would involve clearing the route, laying down foundations, packing down the hardcore and then tarmacadaming the road. For it to happen overnight would be astonishing, and it ain't going to happen. What people don't realise is that to cure cancer is an even more complicated feat of engineering.

But we should not limit God in any way. He is omnicompetent. He will do whatever he wants. But He usually limits himself. If miracles were regular happenings, they would not be miracles. God has ordered the Universe in a particular way - if miracles were common then we would not be able to rely on the normal laws of Physics.

Most medical miracles in Scripture are instantaneous. But there is one where Jesus uses means to heal. He mixes up mud and spittle to heal a blind man, but the healing is in two parts. Does this give us warrant for asking that The Lord aids in medical healings? It would then be valid to pray for my medical treatment to work.

The nearest I have seen to a medical miracle was with my friend and patient Dr Waribo Urum from Nigeria. This began 19 years ago. Waribo was a young dostor from Nigeria who had become very anemic. In Nigeria he had received 76 units of blood by transfusion and surprisingly had managed to avoid any virally transmitted disease. He was referred to me for a marrow transplant for aplastic anemia. This itself was a minor miracle. He would need to provide funds for this procedure. It so happened that we had in the hospital a registrar in Geriatrics from Nigeria who brought him to my attention. There seemed no possibility of getting the funds, but at that time there was a coup d'etat in Nigeria and the Registrar's husband became Minister of Health for 6 weeks ans found the money for Waribo.

When he arrived we swiftly discovered that the diagnosis was wrong. He had multiple myeloma and pure red cell aplasia. Although there is nothing in the medical literature that relates these conditions, I felt sure that they must be related. We applied several different treatments including a stem cell autograft. Although his myeloma went into remission we could not cure his red cell aplasia. He remained dependent on blood transfusions, mostly on a weekly basis for 16 years. Then suddenly, three years ago he no longer required them. Moreover his blood group changed. I have no explanation for what has happened.

Today he is settled in this country, he is married to a Christian girl, singing in a local choir and preaching regularly at the local evangelical Anglican church.

Is it a miracle? I have no other explanation, but it is one of those 'Men like trees walking' types of miracles.


Manu Manickvel said...

"I believe in miracles. Some people think it crass of me as a scientist to admit to this"

i do happen to do so too, my own personal case - i was diagnosed 'schizophrenic' in 1991 and diligently swallowed pills till 1994...when i quit taking 'em. Was told i may never be able to indulge in alcohol again(which rule i never did follow), but i guess i am one of the lucky few in total remission. But then, all of us are lucky in different ways, and one is not lucky in all things - still if we can acknowledge anything out of the ordinary as miracles, we should - in 1987 i hit a dog at 160 kmph on my Yamaha bike and rolled for yards together and suffered nothing more than plastic surgery on my foot(had my crash helmet on)...but is it fate or should we call it something else? When the time comes...that we do know.

Manu Manickvel said...

Another instance, doc - my younger brothers were born in 1972 a full two and a half months premature(twins), one had a murmur in his heart that spontaneously went away and underwent a hernia op at the age of 4 months (in those days!) Today both lads are bigger than i am ( not good from a health point of view - they have diabetes like our mum did) but what a miracle! Each weighed 450 to 600 gms @ birth - they looked like rats not human babies...and they spent only a couple of nights in the incubator.

Manu Manickvel said...

i am all for Medical Science...and i know i owe my life to the i am one of the few at the bottom of the bell-curve, with a hyper-sensitive body (asthma since age 3.5) and IBS and hyper-elastic ligaments (dislocated both shoulders and one elbow)and astigmatism to a high degree and outlandish reactions to some antibiotics (bleeding / inflammation)but thanks to the sane advice i got i was able to manage (been 7 to 8 years since i've taken antibiotics) and my immune system is currently stronger than almost anyone here (no flu shots for me!) so that is miraculous for one who was such a sick kid...with allergic rhinitis - dripping from the nose into my food as a child carrying 3 large handkerchiefs to school...

Manu Manickvel said...

One of the most difficult times for me was losing my 27 year old cousin in a bike accident - i'd introduced him to bike-riding...was a real soul-searching time, every day in the paper we read of young souls untimely passing - makes me feel unworthy of being alive (i love speed, i do think i know how to handle it - but on the open road 'tis fate more than anythin else...whether our own lives or others' are at stake - doc, in India Chaos rules on the road!) When my young coz died it made me question anew...and who knows what the One up there intends to do with us or for us in this life or hereafter?

Anonymous said...

Dr Sledge has some interesting views that he talks about in a radio interview.