“Though Jesus often responded to people’s faith during His ministry, the success of His healing power was certainly not dependent on their level of belief.” ~John MacArthur, Strange Fire, available at Cleveland's Loganberry Books
There is no doubt John MacArthur is a scholar and a theological heavy weight. However, it would appear his vision is so narrowly focused on bringing a critical look to the debate about miracles in the modern day; he makes here a terrible slip in his comment in an observation that is stunningly wrong.
There is no question that Jesus’ “success” in healing people was dependent on their level of belief. Scripture plainly tells us that when he went to his hometown, “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mark 6).
MacArthur goes on to say, “New Testament healings did not depend on the faith of the recipient.” Yet the Gospel of Mark clearly states that a man brought his demon possessed son to the disciples but they could not heal him. Jesus then calls them an “unbelieving generation”.
The father then asks if Jesus could drive out the demon, to which he replied, “If you can? Everything is possible for one who believes.” The father then responds, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9).
First, Jesus chastises the crowd and disciples for not believing. Then he proclaims all possibilities exist for those who “believe”, i.e. those who have faith.
Yet, MacArthur continues, “In our day, though charismatic leaders claim to have the same supernatural power, nothing truly miraculous is being done through them. The so-called ministries of today’s faith healers and televangelists are nothing more than a façade. Healers like Benny Hinn are obvious con artists who are getting rich on the backs of gullible and desperate people.”
Televangelists are easy targets, and many of them are corrupt scam artists. But as Steve Thompson shares, “All it takes to see what is wrong with somebody is a critical spirit and one working eye.” Easy targets are not proof of anything, nor does MacArthur have any right to make such a claim towards Hinn.
To claim that people who seek a miracle are ‘gullible’ and ‘desperate’ is to claim that people that take scripture literally and believe in a miracle working God are fools. Yet, where does scripture deny miracles for today? Time and again in scripture there is a proclamation to have faith, to build faith, to believe in faith, to pray in faith, and to walk in faith. Why? That God might move supernaturally.
To claim that faith is not an important issue is simply disingenuous. Yes, it is heartless and cruel to claim someone’s lack of faith is why their prayer wasn’t answered. (To be clear, why prayer is unanswered is a mystery many a person has attempted to explain, but all explanations offered so far have done nothing to clear up the mystery.) What we do see in scripture is there is a direct tie to faith and answered prayer.
When the leader of the synagogue’s daughter died, he asked Jesus for a miracle. The crowds simply proclaimed their own fears. Jesus responded to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed” (Luke 8).
Just believe. Can it be any simpler? Tomorrow we will continue.