By Sean McDowell —
Last week as I was teaching on the topic of miracles in my Resurrection class at Biola University, one of my students shared a remarkable instance of a miracle story from a peer-reviewed medical journal. He is working on a documentary of modern miracles and also spear-heading a movement to document recent miracle claims in peer-reviewed journals.
The journal article is available online with public access, so you can check out the details for yourself. Essentially, the case is about a 23-year old white male who experienced intermittent cramping and projectile vomiting at one week of age. He was soon was diagnosed with gastroparesis (a chronic, lifelong condition that is known to significantly impact the quality and length of life).
Maximal medical treatment was administered, but ineffective. For the next 16 years, his symptoms remained severe and refractory and he was dependent on a feeding tube.
Yet in November 2011, he experienced “proximal intercessory prayer” (PIP) from an evangelist who reported his own story of having his life spared when his intestines were severed in a serious car accident. With the permission of the family, the evangelist prayed in the name of Jesus for the healing of the boy.
Halfway through the prayer, the boy described experiencing a shock throughout his body. That night after the prayer, the boy ate a meal for the first time without any complications. According to the article, this kind of sudden, lasting recovery from gastroparesis is unique in the scholarly literature. The journal authors write:
“For 16 years the patient was totally dependent on j-tube feedings and could not tolerate any form of oral feeding. After receiving PIP, his intolerance to oral feedings was completely resolved. He was able to tolerate oral feedings and was completely taken off of the j-tube feedings one month after the PIP experience” (p. 291).
Could the “healing” be a result of the placebo-effect? After surveying the literature and concluding that the placebo effect cannot be completely ruled out, the authors conclude, “In the end, there is insufficient evidence that placebo effects can account for the observed resolution of symptoms” (p. 292).
The authors rightly note that this case has several limitations regarding what conclusions can be drawn from it alone. But quite remarkably, even the patient’s pediatric gastroenterologist (who was his primary care physician for 16 years) described it as difficult to explain.
Such a miracle claim should not surprise us. As Craig Keener has carefully documented, millions of people alive today believe they have seen or experienced the miraculous. But it is a thrilling development to see such a case appearing in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
Let’s hope there are plenty more to come.
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Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, the National Spokesman for Summit Ministries, a best-selling author, popular speaker, and part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.