Wednesday night during our discipleship group someone asked about the girl in Wisconsin, Madeline Neumann, who died because she did not get the appropriate medicine for her treatable form of diabetes because her parents insisted on prayer instead. They are being charged with second-degree reckless-homicide. This reminds me of a story that Haddon Robinson mentioned in a sermon he preached at Moody Pastor's Conference in 2007. He told the story of John Liberger.
This brings up the question that many believers and unbelievers ask -- "what do Christians believe?" "Is that the Christian answer? No Medicine and only prayer." "Where was God for these people?"
Jessica Ann Liberger was a 5-week-old baby girl. Jessica became ill with pneumonia. Her father, John Liberger, was a preacher. He did not believe in medication. He prayed for the healing of his daughter. He believed that God would answer prayers. He prayed day and night. He prayed fervently. Unfortunately, Jessica died. The police found that John, Jessica’s father was guilty of criminal negligence. He went to court and the judge found him guilty. Instead of putting him behind the bars, his sentence was five years of probation and community service in hospitals. When they asked Liberger about the verdict, he said: “God is my judge. I’ll give an account to Him.”
Here are a few thoughts and a few links to read more on this subject:
- The Bible states that we are completely dependent on Him for everything. Acts 17:28
- Prayer that God would heal the sick is not only sanctioned but instructed although physical healing is not always promised (Paul prayed for his affliction to leave but God chose not to). James 5:13-18
- The Bible never forbids the use of medicine but warns against our reliance and trust in medicine rather than in God. Doctors in the Bible are never seen as equivalent to wizards or sorcerers (Luke was a doctor). Jesus calls himself the great physician and I don't think he meant to say that all other physicians of the body are anti-Christ. Paul told Timothy to take some medicinal wine for his upset stomach--this seems strange if the only answer is to pray). Asa in 2 Chron 16:12 is condemned not so much because he went to doctors, but his lack of seeking the Lord was the general direction of his life by that time. See this page about Christians and medicine.
- The Bible tells us that human labors are in vain or useless unless God graciously blesses them. I get this principles from Psalm 127. "Unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain." The point here is not that we pray for a house and hope that God sends a angelic version of Noah to build it. The point is that we build and do the work (and the house he is talking about is more than physical--the family) in trusting reliance that it is God that must do it --"without me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).
- People whose zealous "faith" drives them to reject all medicine, especially for their family, demonstrate what Haddon Robinson called "The Danger of a Strong Faith and Weak Theology." I encourage you to read these sermon notes by Robinson on this topic and look at the example of Jephthah in the book of Judges.
- A Zealous Faith must always be accompanied by a proper seeing of God and His Word. Jephthah did not know the Law rightly and consequently killed his daughter as a human sacrifice (Judges 10:1–11:40). Unfortunately, I think the parents of Madeline lacked a proper understanding of the Word of God.
- A Zealous faith with poor theology can result in great tragedy. I think the crusades, Jephthah, parents who let their children die of treatable sickness because of their "faith", and many others find so much grief and tragedy because of a failure to see God and His Word rightly.