Sickness as Evil

I spent the better part of the day yesterday watching YouTube videos of a Word of Faith preacher named Keith Moore. For those who aren’t familiar with Moore, he’s a Rhema guy, which means he came out from under the teachings of Kenneth Hagin. He did a series on healing and his argument was that it is always God’s will to heal. If Jesus healed in the first century, and Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then he’s willing to heal any and all who come to him in faith. It’s the faith that heals, you see.

I don’t want to get into all the specifics of WoF teaching on healing, but something that kept jumping out was his repeated insistence that God did not create sickness or disease. He kept insisting that when the creation narrative says that everything was “good” that it meant that God could not have created sickness, disease, or death because these things are “bad.” But he understands these things as morally bad and he took the “good” of creation to be a moral good.

I’d challenge both premises. I don’t read the “good” of creation to be moral at all. There’s nothing morally good about the sun and the moon. It was good because they functioned according to God’s intended plan. And I’m not even arguing for something like Walton’s emphasis on function in creation here; I just think this is a straightforward way of reading the text. If someone can tell me what’s morally good about the creation narrative then I’m all ears.

And in the same way I don’t think there’s anything morally bad or evil about sickness and disease. Is sickness bad? Well, as someone who was just laid up for a week with a super-flu I’d say, YES, it’s bad! But it’s not morally bad. With that said, God created a tree of the knowledge of good and evil, right? So evil had to exist as part of the original creation, or so it would seem. Now this can refer to evil of all sorts; both moral and amoral.

I don’t think it follows from the narrative or logical argument that God couldn’t have created sickness or that God can’t use sickness for his glory. But WoF teachers insist that it is impossible for God to use sickness for his glory. They attribute the existence of sickness and disease to the devil. They attribute the existence of death to the devil as well (although on my reading, death was part of the original creation as well; it was the tree of life that stayed the death of Adam and Eve, but that’s a subject to be discussed at another time). But that’s giving the devil way too much credit and interpreting something that’s amoral as immoral. I think this is a fundamental flaw of WoF teaching.

I’d welcome your thoughts on this subject.



7 thoughts on “Sickness as Evil

  1. Nick. I have to restrain myself from getting on a soapbox here. :)))

    I don’t think God ever created sickness to be part of his creation and therefore sickness is part of the fall. However, We live in the yet and not yet. God never promises us that we will be without trial and difficulty. He does however promise us that he will be with us and comfort us through our journey of life.

    I believe in miracles, healings and prophetic words for today. I have seen, prayed for and received many of the above. And there have been times when it seems the heavens are closed. However, I have also been doing a lot of reflection on ancient idolatry / paganism and most of it was basically a health / wealth message which was self centred…..

    I think Genesis and the rest of Scripture tells us clear enough that death is the result of / is the wages of sin and that eternal life is the gift of God. Until the recreation of the heavens and earth, we will always have sin, sickness and death – and I think in that era of recreation, there we will not experience the pain of sickness again.

  2. Nick.. Another thought and I did say I would try to restrain from getting on my soap box.. :)

    Jacob wrestled with God which resulted in a permanent limp. God never healed Jacob of his limp. It would appear that the injury from wrestling with God is all part of what changed Jacob for the better.

    Within my own framework of sickness, I had a powerful encounter with God in my bedroom at 8:30pm on the 16th of October 2007. There his spirit filled the room and I felt him say to me that I was about to go through fiery trials which would prove the genuineness and refine my faith. 3pm the next day I was laying on the ground, paralysed on the right side, high temp of 41 cels, and that verse going through my mind. I expected to be up and running around healed within days. But it didn’t work out like that and 5 years later I’m still not 100%.

    However, I can genuinely say that looking back, I wouldn’t have missed this time for anything. My faith has been refined, turned inside out, upside down, pulled apart and put back together again. My faith is different from 5 years ago. I’m a whole different person from 5 years ago. God has proved to be a rock and comfort and fully trustworthy. Looking back I can honestly say that what I once thought was faith, was in actual fact sheer presumption.

  3. Nothing like sickness to remind you of your own mortality, weakness, and the fragility of life. That you aren’t invincible. Don’t know how that figures into theology but that seems like a good function of sickness to me.

  4. Craig: I think that sickness, or at least all the things that cause it (e.g., germs and whatnot) were created with everything else. I think the fall is what made it possible for that stuff to start having a negative effect on us. But onto the more important issue of your testimony, which is similar to many I’ve heard. It’s like Paul’s thorn in the flesh (which I’m not convinced was a sickness, btw); God can use whatever he wants to use to keep us dependent upon him; his grace is sufficient.

    I think your final sentence is profound. Many people presume upon God based on bad theology and call it faith. And when things don’t work out they begin to question their faith or the faith of others. I once told a woman whose husband died of some disease that he must not have had enough faith to be healed. I’m mortified every time I think of that conversation.

    Bryan: It factors in in an important way; it keeps us mindful of who we are and who God is. WoF places so much emphasis on our faith that we essentially replace God in the equation. I’m never as close to God as when I’m sick. I pray more; I meditate on his goodness more; I read my Bible more. I hate the way I feel but I appreciate the reminder of just how much I need God.

    Troy: Thanks for the recommendation.

  5. I just happened across this post while searching for something else but I feel sort of compelled to join the discussion. I should probably preface my thoughts by saying I am most definitely not “Word of Faith” or even by most standards charismatic. (I did not even believe in things like healing or prophecy at all until about 2 years ago)

    As for sickness, it’s honestly difficult for me to view sickness as amoral and certainly not good. If anyone feels that way then a trip to your local children’s cancer ward will change their opinion quickly.

    I’ve personally battled sickness and suffering for years along with my wife. In our 30s we have watched all of our friends go on to live their lives and start families while we struggle to even have any sort of normalcy to our lives because of illness. Our daily suffering makes even the simplest of tasks impossible at times. But, this is not just about that.

    Though it was sort of dismissed because of the Word of Faith connection, the bible does tell us that Jesus is the same at all times. While he was carrying out his earthly ministry he did heal all who came to him. He never told them that the Father was working out something special in their lives and he had to let them remain sick so they could experience it.

    When Jesus healed the bent over woman he described her as being “bound by satan”. In Acts we are told of Jesus who “healed all who were oppressed by the devil”. When his disciples failed to heal the demonized boy he did not then rationalize their failure or explain it away but instead healed the boy himself and then rebuked his disciples for the littleness of their faith.

    There is no sickness in Heaven and there was none in Eden either. It does not seem to be part of the Father’s plan for his creation. Even in the Lord’s prayer we are instructed to pray, “Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” Is God’s will sickness?

    The bible tells us that Holy Spirit is the spirit of truth that will guide and instruct us. If sickness is being used by God to teach us then why would Jesus so sharply correct those that stated he drove out demons by the king of demons? A kingdom divided cannot stand.

    I don’t have any great revelation as to why more are not healed…but the idea of God using sickness to teach seems contrary to his nature revealed in both the scriptures and the life of Jesus.

    To say that God uses sickness to achieve his ends it would seem to almost be an “ends justify the means” situation.

    I believe the love and truth of God is such that he does need to place sickness on us to accomplish anything. Jesus never demonstrated this in his ministry. Have we not all seen arrogant prideful and even abusive Christians that seem to live in excellent health all their days? Haven’t we seen wonderful Christians devastated by disease?

    I tend to view sickness as some element of the spiritual battle that will continue to be waged until Christ returns.

    Just some thoughts from a sick guy.

  6. Luke: Sorry to not have responded for so long. A few things in response:

    First, I don’t generally view sickness as good either. Like I said in the post, I had a terrible flu the week before I wrote this and it was definitely BAD! But it wasn’t morally bad. There was nothing evil about it. It was bad in the sense that I was extremely uncomfortable.

    Second, the argument that sparked this post had to do with the idea that God didn’t create sickness because he called everything “good.” I’m challenging the notion of the “good” or creation as being a moral good. I see everything as good because it functioned how God intended, and if (for the sake of argument) sickness was created and did what it was meant to do, then it was “good” to in that respect.

    Third, I haven’t said here, nor will I say it elsewhere, that sickness isn’t ever associated with demonic forces. There was many times when it is! In such cases I still wouldn’t see the sickness itself as a moral evil, so much as the means through which morally evil agents seek to afflict people.

    Fourth, I hope that I haven’t given the impression that I don’t think God is a healer. I most certainly do! I’ve been healed of various ailments (some extremely serious) on numerous occasions. But this was all a result of God’s free grace. It was not something that God owed me based on my faith as the WoF teachers would have us believe.

    Fifth (and finally), Jesus may not have said that the Father is using sickness to work for his glory, but what of the plagues inflicted upon the Egyptians? What about God striking Moses or Miriam or Aaron with leprosy? What about Paul’s thorn in the flesh, which he sought deliverance from and was met with the reply, “My grace is sufficient”? What about Job? Etc. The point is that God can use sickness for his ultimate glory whether he’s the primary cause of it or simply allows it.

    I appreciate your thoughts on the issue and I pray that you find yourself in more health than sickness.

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