Dr. Ronald Cooke on miracles

“It surely is noteworthy that the scriptures tell us that one of the characteristics of the false prophet is this: ‘Through covetousness they shall with feigned words make merchandise of you.’ That is he finds out what it is people want to hear and then pretends that is his message in order to get money. True Christianity has had to battle not only secularism and agnosticism but the erroneous teachings of those who claim to be her prophets.

“To claim to heal someone miraculously is quite a claim to make. To claim to heal someone who has abused his body is an ever bigger and more impossible claim to make.

“One of the problems never discussed on our Charismatic forums is the problem of abusing the body. The question needs to be asked and answered, ‘If we abuse our physical bodies is God going to miraculously intervene to heal them?’ We have seen grossly overweight people complaining of back problems and leg problems going forward to be healed by Faith healers. Now is God going to do for us miraculously what we refuse to do for ourselves by heeding his command to let our moderation be known to all men? If God miraculously healed those who have become broken down in health by intemperance, he would be working contrary to His Word.

“Gluttony is a sin seldom mentioned by biblical preachers, and yet someone has said that over-eating is the number one sin in the church today. Another speaker once said that we know the fundamentalist preachers by their pot-bellies. So with pot-bellied preachers filling our pulpits (no pun intended), it is no wonder that we hear nothing about the number one sin. Fat preachers blast smoking and drinking, but if they were honest, they would blast the sin of intemperance in eating also, but their own sinful intemperance silences their tongues.

“To watch while a faith healer tries to heal the sore legs and knees of a grossly over-weight person is one of the most pathetic sights in the church. God’s fixed principles demonstrate that if a person eats too much, his legs will not be able to support his body and also his heart is being strained and his back is being strained to support all the weight. So God is not going to heal that person of sore knee caps, back spasms, and heart strain in some miraculous way. The only way that person will be genuinely helped is if they take off about 100 pounds. Even Christ is never reported to have removed 50 or 100 pounds of excess obesity miraculously from the human body.

“The miracle workers of today are trying to do what we might call ‘miracle impossible.’ If a person uses tobacco and has ravaged the fixed principles by which man breathes, is God going to give him new lungs or restore his old ones? One of God’s fixed principles is you reap what you sow. Now it is possible to stay the harvest if the bad sowing is changed into good sowing soon enough, but if it is allowed to come to full fruition then the fixed principles which God has ordained in this situation demand that the harvest is reaped. God cannot change the harvest no matter how much faith we may exercise if it has come to full fruition.

“Some people who have smoked have stopped and their bodies have not suffered. But the person who continues to smoke may contract lung cancer or emphysema and the damage is irreparable.

“To tell people to come to a meeting and expect to be healed through the touch of a fallible man, when it is apparent that not even God would heal them if He still was performing miracles for they ignored His precepts, is surely one of the most deceptive practices going on in the name of Christianity.

“God imposed his principles on the world after the Fall and nowhere does it indicate in the Bible that He sets aside those principles to come to the miraculous aid of those who ignore His principles in the first place. In fact, that is the very thing the second part of Christ’s three-fold temptation teaches. Christ did not tempt the [Father] by casting Himself down and ignoring the principles of gravity which God made a part of His creation. Christ refused to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple for He knew in so doing that He could not expect miraculous aid if He carelessly and presumptuously ignored the normal principle of gravity. He answered the devil plainly and firmly, ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.’

“Man at best is an erratic creature. Even the best of men are fallible. They are susceptible to being deceived even by their own hearts, as well as their own sense perceptions. Therefore it stands to reason that we need the more sure Word of Prophecy to keep us straight and not the alleged miracles of fallible men.”

-Ronald Cooke, Do Miracles Then Continue?, Manahath Press, Hollidaysburg, PA, 1984, pp. 108-111.

Dr. Cooke’s books are provided on a free will offering when you contact Truth International Ministries

Human ability and the imperative mood

While I was struggling with issues relating to Calvinism, I often repeated an assertion that I had picked up from my Dispensational brethren which was essentially this: God’s giving of a command to fallen man necessarily implies that man has the ability to respond to the command. In other words, responsibility necessitates ability. For God to demand something that His creatures were innately incapable of responding to would not have sat well with the non-confessional, non-denominational Dispensational church I was brought up in, and it did not sit well with me.

Not having a sufficiently coherent theological framework in place, such an assertion regarding man’s ability to repent seemed reasonable, especially when the “prevenient grace” of God would necessarily be bestowed upon all. It was not that man in his natural state could keep the commandments, but that God had enabled all men to do what He commands by extending His grace to all people. And all you had to do to make this case was show from the Scriptures that “God…commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30), remind objectors that only some men actually do repent, and chalk up the difference to man’s inviolable and autonomous will which sometimes stubbornly resists the grace of God.

It wasn’t until years later (and my dogmatism on this point had been already eroded by a variety of authors and pastors, including my own) that I heard a lecture by the late John W. Robbins which cut right through my objection and exposed the logical fallacy in my reasoning. It was his first lecture in a series titled, “An Introduction to Logic“. Ironically, while I was criticizing the Calvinists for being illogical on this point, I learned from Robbins that I was the one who was being illogical. Without realizing it, many of us may be regurgitating the arguments Erasmus hurled at Luther, despite the fact that the Reformer had obliterated the objections of the Romanist almost 500 years ago.

In 2010, during a sermon series addressing the five-points of Calvinism, Pastor Ed Moore contended that it was incorrect to assume that responsibility implies ability. But at that time I had my own illustrations sufficient to keep me under the delusion that he was wrong in this bold assertion. As it turns out his argument was logical and biblical and I had totally missed it.

Below I have transcribed the segment of Robbins’ lecture that struck me and showed where my logical blunder was. Following the transcription I have included a relevant excerpt from Luther’s Bondage of the Will. Links to both of these resources are also provided.

Hopefully this will be useful to anyone struggling with the issue of responsibility and ability.

-Nick Sabato

“In [The Bondage of the Will, Luther] deals with many of the logical blunders that people make in interpreting and understanding Scripture.  One of the things he deals with is this (and this will become clearer as we go on):  …You cannot draw an inference from a command. You can draw an inference only from a proposition.  You cannot draw an inference from a sentence in the imperative mood. […] The imperative mood  is something like the Ten Commandments, ‘thou shalt not do something’.  It’s a command.  A declarative mood sentence is something else. It’s a statement about something.  David was king of Israel; it’s not a command. It’s simply a sentence in the declarative mood.

“…One of Luther’s arguments in Bondage of the Will is that people are drawing inferences from commands. They think, for example, that because God tells them to be perfect, they can be perfect. And Luther says this is an elementary blunder, a blunder worthy of schoolchildren. He says it’s a logical mistake. He says, ‘God tells you to be perfect to show you that you can’t do it.’ And that’s why you need a Savior. If you can do it in your own power, there’s no point in having Christ die on the cross. But many people in that day, and in our day think that because there’s a command in Scripture, that implies we can do it. And Luther gives a little lesson in logic, right there in the Bondage of the Will about drawing inferences from commands rather than from declarative sentences.”

Robbins, J., “Introduction to logic” (lecture 1 of 18) in ‘Collection 11 Introduction to Logic’ 23:15-25-15.

Martin Luther:

“And this is the place, where I take occasion to enforce this my general reply: — that man,by the words of the law, is admonished and taught what he ought to do, not what he can do: that is, that he is brought to know his sin, but not to believe that he has any strength in himself. Wherefore, friend Erasmus, as often as you throw in my teeth the Words of the law, so often I throw in yours that of Paul, “By the law is the knowledge of sin,” — not of the power of the will. Heap together, therefore, out of the large Concordances all the imperative words into one chaos, provided that, they be not words of the promise but of the requirement of the law only, and I will immediately declare, that by them is always shewn what men ought to do, not what they can do, or do do. And even common grammarians and every little school-boy in the street knows, that by verbs of the imperative mood, nothing else is signified than that which ought to be done, and that, what is done or can be done, is expressed by verbs of the indicative mood.

“Thus, therefore, it comes to pass, that you theologians, are so senseless and so many degrees below even school-boys, that when you have caught hold of one imperative verb you infer an indicative sense, as though what was commanded were immediately and even necessarily done, or possible to be done. But how many slips are there between the cup and the lip! So that, what you command to be done, and is therefore quite possible to be done, is yet never done at all. Such a difference is there, between verbs imperative and verbs indicative, even in the most common and easy things. Whereas you, in these things which are as far above those, as the heavens are above the earth, so quickly make indicatives out of imperatives, that the moment you hear the voice of him commanding, saying, “do,” “keep,” “choose,” you will have, that it is immediately kept, done, chosen, or fulfilled, or, that our powers are able so to do.”

Luther, M., De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of Will, Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, pp. 111-12.