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  1. Edwin A. Schwisow
    22 April 2013 @ 5:41 am

    It is very clear to me that aside from scientifically observable health benefits derived from the prayers of the faithful, prayer has a massive settling effect on the minds of believers who are accosted by major transitions and decisions in life. When it was learned a few years back that my 82 year-old physician father was dying of leukemia (though otherwise in fine health), for a period of several days he went through a terrible Gethsemane of indecision—should he resign himself to death, should we take desperate measures to try to pull through; as a physician himself what was his responsibility to himself in a time like this? He was suffering a mental torment worse than death.

    Dad had an excellent appreciation for the local pastor who visited him during his illness, and when we the family asked the good elder to perform an anointing service, Dad agreed that would be fine, and we gathered around and prayed that God would send his special Spirit to be with Dad and with all of us, as we went through this struggle, whatever the outcome might be.

    As the prayer ended, a very peaceful spirit seemed to fill the room, and Dad said, very calmly, his old self, "Well, I guess that means I'm going to die. I need to get ready." He became focused, assertive and rallied to the task, picking out his burial clothes, choosing music and spoken words for his funeral service, continuing to exercise and take his vitamins as usual, and preparing for his 83rd birthday which was coming up the following weekend. "I think I can make it to my birthday," he told me.

    His mind had been healed. He'd snapped out of his wretchedness of spirit and set about preparing for what he believed now lay ahead, and which he believed as truly as if he had suddenly been granted the gift of prophecy. Ten days later on his 83rd birthday, by then under the care of hospice, as family members gathered, he expired and mother tenderly pulled the sheet up over his face. There is no doubt that prayer is a powerful force on behalf of the Christian soul, not only in the small things of life, but especially in those situations when physical life collides with the juggernaut of our fate. Dad at that time, even at his advanced age, could have rallied for a longer term, and as a physician he knew this was possible though not likely. So for him the prayer of faith directed him to focus on what scientifically was the likely outcome of our vigil and to do what was the right thing for him and us. Was he not healed? Absolutely, though the days granted were very few. Prayer is an ingredient that we should employ far more liberally than we often do. It clearly is a powerful tool to help us focus and recalibrate our lives for whatever lies ahead.

    • Serge Agafonoff
      27 April 2013 @ 2:35 am

      Wonderful story, Edwin, thank you for sharing.  It seems to me that the main purpose for our existence in this world is to be able to achieve a confident, yea, triumphant attitude of the prayer, 'Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.'  Sounds like your dad did just that. Amen.

  2. Trevor Hammond [22oct1844]
    22 April 2013 @ 8:15 am

    RE (taken from blog): "It remains unclear whether an educated person with a healthy lifestyle, good socialization and at least middle class financial resources would be benefited by adding a religious belief system to his repertoire."
    Will salvation and the hope of eternal life in Christ Jesus count as a 'benefit'?

  3. Stephen Ferguson
    22 April 2013 @ 1:01 pm

    I actually agree with Mr 22.  Dr Wilbur (and perhaps Dr Taylor) see the selection of religion as how one might select a new car or refrigerator – a rational decision.  However, religion is inherently not a rational decision – unapologetically so.  

    To paraphrase Karl Bath in his central concept of neo-orthodoxy (arguably the greatest theologian of the 20th Century), who no doubt paraphrased the Apostle Paul himself,  Christianity is an inherently absurd religion. 

    We might as well ask Dr Wilbur (and Dr Taylor) if he sees being in love is a good and rational decision that should be considered on the basis of education, health, good socialization and middle-class finances?  Like religion, I suspect many people would happily take love in situations where it is absurd, where it is a detriment to our education, health, good socialization and middle-class finances.  

  4. Elaine Nelson
    22 April 2013 @ 6:02 pm

    The close association of family aids in longevity, and one's church family may function as a biological family.


    Is it irrational to ask for healing and curing a disease that is terminal?  Why is death such an enemy when in reality it is the final act for us all?  Physicians have a way of commenting on death and old age:
    "Pneumonia is the old person's friend," it is so often the final diagnosis of death and a most comfortable way of dying when sufficient pain meds are administered.  Why fear death?  Does anyone here really want to live with their conditions static for 150 more years?  My husband would have hated living as a cardiac cripple tied to a wheelchair and knew he was dying, and worked the last day of his life, going very suddenly; the best way when death is breathing down your neck.

  5. Anonymous
    22 April 2013 @ 6:17 pm

    Mr. Ferguson's comment about Karl Barth's statement about Christianity being an inherently absurd religion has puzzeled me mainly because I do not know enough about Barth's theological project to have an correct and appropriate appreciationknow of exactly what he meant.  I have been told that he was indeed viewed by his peers as one of the greatest Protestant theologians of the 20th century.  Now that it has been raised, Barth's statement merits much further serious consideration in more detail and I hope that this can be on the AT web site in the near future.

    • Stephen Ferguson
      23 April 2013 @ 11:49 am

      Look forward to it.

    • Stephen Ferguson
      23 April 2013 @ 11:51 am

      By the way, I believe Barth also wrote so, so, so much – so good luck getting to grips with Barth's teachings.  I believe (not sure if it is mere legend), that a student once claimed to Barth that he had read everything Barth had written.  Barth supposedly replied, 'Son, I haven't even read everything I have written!'