Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pennsylvania parents who practiced faith-healing are convicted of manslaughter in their son's death

Walter Martin has been credited with saying, "Bad exegesis leads to bad theology, which leads to bad morality." Yet another tragic example is that of a Pennsylvania couple who let their 2-year-old son die as a result of their fanatical opposition to medicine. As reported by Joseph A. Slobodzian in the Philadelphia Inquirer on December 11, 2010:

The Rhawnhurst couple who put their faith in prayer as their 2-year-old son died of bacterial pneumonia were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter Friday.

Continuing the silence they have kept since their arrests in April 2009, Herbert and Catherine Schaible said nothing after the Common Pleas Court jury of eight men and four women delivered the late-afternoon verdict. The couple also were pronounced guilty of endangering the welfare of a child...

... Their pastor, Nelson A. Clark of the First Century Gospel Church of Juniata Park, which teaches healing through prayer and eschews medical care as evidence of a lack of faith in God, seemed crushed by the jury's conclusion.

"We are hurting now," Clark said as he left the Criminal Justice Center courtroom. "That should not have been. That was not what we wanted to hear. Not involuntary manslaughter."

The Schaibles' 2-year-old son, Kent, died after fighting what began as a cold and progressed over two weeks to bacterial pneumonia. According to testimony, Herbert Schaible, 42, and Catherine Schaible, 41, prayed for their son and thought he might be getting better.

But on the night of Jan. 24, 2009, the Schaibles discovered that Kent was dead. They called the church's assistant pastor, Ralph Myers, who came to the house, joined the parents in prayer, and then called a funeral director.

"We tried to fight the devil, but in the end the devil won," Herbert Schaible told homicide detectives in a statement read to the jury during the trial, which began Tuesday...

... First Century Gospel Church preaches a literal reliance on faith and prayer to heal, and cites such scriptural bases as Abraham's faith in God when he offered to sacrifice his son Isaac. While the church considers members who obtain medical care to have sinned, it does not shun those who see a doctor.

According to testimony, the church permits dental care, such as cleanings and filling cavities, and does not proscribe modern inventions such as personal computers.

A glance at the What We Believe section of the website of First Century Gospel Church shows that the church is mostly sound in doctrine, but fanatical on the issues of healing and money:

Believing faith in the atonement work of Jesus includes trusting God for healing without medicine, for divine protection without devices, and for daily needs without laid-up money. Acts 3:16 "By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him." When we worship and serve God, He heals us of illness Exodus 23:25.
Psalm 91:9-10 "If you make the Most High your dwelling—even the LORD, who is my refuge—then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent." Our trust is to be on God everyday for everything in life. Matthew 6:19-20 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth... But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven," by giving it to charity.

The church has posted a sermon titled Healing Ministry of Jesus, which includes:

A minister who claims to teach from the Bible, but goes to a hospital for medical treatment, is not trusting God in faith on the Blood sacrifice of His Son. The minister’s decision reveals his serious lack of faith. To preach that Jesus came to save us, but not to heal us, is false teaching—and we are warned to watch out for false prophets Matthew 7:15; 2 John 1:8.

Our close friends should share our believing faith in Christ, and our trust on God for health, healing, and Heaven. Jesus said His true followers were those who did His Father’s will Matthew 12:50—and it is His will to trust Him in believing faith for healing.

God sent His Son to shed His Blood, and to heal those oppressed by the devil Acts 10:38. If we accept Christ as our Savior, we also have to accept Him as our Healer, because Jesus defeated Satan who causes sickness. It is a sin to trust on medical help and pills; and it is real faith to trust on the Blood of Christ for healing. Romans 14:23 "All conduct not based on faith is sinful." God wants us to repent of the sin that caused the illness, and to trust Him alone for the healing.

Moses was educated in Egypt, and would have known about the Pharaoh’s medical plans, so he would have taught the Israelites to use medicine—if that was God’s will, but Moses did not do that. He always told them to go directly to God in prayer about everything.

Sickness is from the devil, but we can be healed by faith in the Blood of Jesus. John 14:13 "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son."...

...Many would not receive eternal life, because they would not trust God in faith for healing. If anyone has more faith in doctors and drugs, than they have in God and the Blood of Christ, their salvation would be in serious jeopardy.

First Century Gospel Church seems to have difficulty understanding progressive revelation. Because God revealed himself to Old Testament Israel in certain ways doesn't necessarily mean that we can expect Him to reveal Himself in the same ways today. The healings and other miracles performed by the Lord Jesus Christ were done not only out of compassion but to demonstrate that He was who He claimed to be. The healings and other miracles performed by the apostles helped to validate the fact that they were men sent by Jesus Christ to proclaim His message.

The position of First Century Gospel Church on healing raises a few questions in my mind. If it's sinful to accept medical treatment, why is Luke referred to by the apostle Paul in Colossians 4:14 as "the beloved physician?" If First Century Gospel Church is correct, shouldn't Luke have been required to give up the practice of medicine upon his conversion to Christ? Paul's last letter, II Timothy, contains the statement in the latter part of chapter 4, verse 20, "Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick." Nowhere is it implied that Trophimus (or Paul, for that matter) were lacking in faith in this situation.

Moreover, if healing necessarily goes along with trusting in Christ, why do Christians die at all? The fact is that Christians prior to the return of our Lord continue to die, in most cases as the result of illness. As Walter Martin said, "There is one illness that you will not recover from, and that is--your last one."

I believe that Jesus Christ still heals today, but only if it's His will to do so; He will grant people the state of health that will bring the most glory to Him. I've known Christians who were not healed of disabilities or illnesses, and maintained a strong Christian witness without being healed. Joni Eareckson Tada is a well-known example of this, but there are many others with a similar testimony.

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers made the following comments on the difference between faith and fanaticism in the entry for April 26, which deals with God's command to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac in Genesis 22:

The great point of Abraham's faith in God was that he was prepared to do anything for God. He was there to obey God, no matter to what belief he went contrary. Abraham was not a devotee of his convictions, or he would have slain Isaac and said that the voice of the angel was the voice of the devil. That is the attitude of a fanatic.

I suspect that the First Century Gospel Church is too devoted to its convictions on the subject of healing, leading the church to turn a blind eye to the unnecessary deaths of children. Since 1971, there have been almost two dozen such deaths within the congregation of this church, as reported by Mensah M. Dean in the Philadelphia Daily News on December 7, 2010:

* The six children of Roger and Dawn Winterborne: Bruce Winterborne, 7 months, died in 1971 of bronchial pneumonia; Roger Bruce, 20 months, died in 1973 of bronchial pneumonia; Marjorie Dawn, 5 months, died in 1974 of bronchial pneumonia and dehydration; Larry, 6 months, died in 1978 of bilateral bronchial pneumonia with dehydration and malnutrition; Jocelyn, 4 months, died in 1980 of bronchial pneumonia. The family had moved to Norristown at the time of a sixth child's death in 1983 at the age of 4 days.

* Sharon and Jeffrey Still, premature twins, died Feb. 6 and 7, 1990, respectively following an unattended home delivery. Their sister Karyn, 9, died the next year in a measles outbreak that also killed five children, ranging from 19 months to 13 years old, from other faith-healing families.

* Kimberly Wilson, 18 months old, died March 12, 1992, of pneumonia and myocarditis.

* Dean Heilman, 22 months old, was a hemophiliac and bled to death on July 8, 1997. His parents were convicted of manslaughter and child endangerment.

* Lisa Carpenter, 15, died of meningitis in 1984. Her brother, Leroy, 17, died of a ruptured appendix in 1989.

* An unborn boy died Jan. 1, 1994, because his mother was hemorrhaging. She died during the delivery.

* Curtis Houston, 16, died of a leg infection in 1994, a few months after his mother and baby brother died. He had broken his leg a year earlier.

* Benjamin Reinert, 10, died Dec. 31, 2002, of untreated leukemia.

* Kent Schaible, 2, died Jan. 24, 2009, of bacterial pneumonia. His parents go on trial for involuntary manslaughter today.

* Amy Fox, 3, died March 11, 2009, of meningitis.

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