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The Miracles of Kobus van Rensburg  @psychohistorian.org

The Miracles of Kobus van Rensburg

posted: 2749 days ago, on Monday, 2010 Aug 16 at 09:44
tags: atheism, Kobus van Rensburg, miracles, skeptic.

In a comment (2010 August 15) to my opinion piece on Prophet Kobus van Rensburg, Abrie writes:

To the person who wrote this about Kobus.
IF all you say is not true,why don't you tell this to aal the people i KNow.
First you tell this to my other who,hace new kidneys,there is know way you can have simptoms back after a while,it's new kidneys.
Second you tell my friend who's child was medically declared dead,is alive and well know at this very moment.
Third my father has medical recors that proves his vocal cords were cut off during opperation years ago,now he speaks perfectly.
Just because you did'nt get a miricle doesnt mean no one else does.
If yoy feel so strongly about your point,make an appointed at Spirit minisrties and do a live debate with him on the air.
Thanks hope it gives you something to think about.

Abrie,

I, Auke Slotegraaf, wrote the piece about van Rensburg; this is my website.

Thanks for your comment about the miracles.

I'll respond to your last comments first.

At first it sounds like an intriguing idea to debate van Rensburg on the air. I've taken part in several such debates, both on radio and TV, engaging with a wide range of interesting people, from fundamentalist Christians to UFO believers. The purpose of a debate (at least, the reason why I get involved) is to try and make sure that a reasoned, evidence-based argument has a chance of being heard. After all, if all we hear, day-in, day-out, is "Sarie Marais", then that becomes the totality of our idea of what music is all about. This is why, generally speaking, children end up believing in the same god or gods that their parents believe in.

Sadly, I don't think the regular listeners to Spirit Ministriesbroadcasts are interested in hearing anything other than "Sarie Marais". And I don't think there would be any financial gain in it for Spirit Ministries so why on Earth would they bother? But I could be wrong and I would seriously consider an invitation from Spirit Ministries (or any other fundamentalist evangelical organization) to take part in a well-structured, orderly debate.

You say, that just because I didn't get a miracle, it doesn't mean nobody else does. It is true, I haven't met van Rensburg or his accountants, nor did I get a miracle. I'm not looking for a miracle. Neither am I looking for Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy, or the tokolosie. I am looking for honesty and justice. Van Rensburg offers neither honesty nor miracles.

You mention three examples of amazing events you're familiar with: new kidneys, new life, and new vocal chords. Taken at face value, these claims indeed appear to be miracles.

But is it OK to take things at face value? No, it isn't.

Why not? Because anybody can claim anything, and not everything can be true simultaneously.

Why would anybody make a claim that isn't true? Because they made a mistake, or because they were being deceived, or because they will profit from speaking falsely, or because they are "mad", or there are many other reasons, too.

So how do we decide what really happened? Sometimes, you can't. But you still have to try. So you gather all the evidence you can. You also make a list of all the possible explanations. Then you carefully check each possible explanation for what happened against the available facts. This is, roughly speaking, what a judge does. And also what a scientist does.

If you don't consider sufficient evidence, or take into account alternative explanations, your ultimate decision could be the wrong one.

If I was a secret-alien and wanted to carry out a secret experiment on a human, I would beam them up into my space ship, do my experiments, and then flush the evidence down my intergalactic garbage disposal.

So when I read your claims that three miracles took place, I have to make a decision: do I believe the claims?

I am not asking: "Do I believe Abrie?" I have already decided the answer to that question: Yes. Even though I have no direct evidence for it, I believe you do have a mother, a friend who has a child, and a father. I also believe that each of these three persons had some medical difficulty. Again, I don't have direct evidence of this, but I do have evidence that the human body can be in dis-repair, so I decide that it is likely that your three acquaintances did, in fact, suffer from the afflictions you claim.

Now, I could be wrong you could be making all of this up: your mother and father are fit-as-a-fiddle, and you don't actually have any friends. But that wouldn't much influence the discussion up to this point, since it is in any case entirely possible that other people have problems with their kidneys, vocal chords, and so on.

What I am asking, is "Do I believe the claims that Abrie is making?" I'm not making a judgement about you I don't have enough data. I am interested in the claims themselves.

So far, none of your claims are extraordinary, so I don't need extraordinary evidence to believe them. So I believe it is true that you, Abrie, know three specific people that had particular ailments.

Now, there are the claims that kidneys and vocal chords appeared where there were none, and that life was restored to a dead person.

Extraordinary claims, indeed.

I am not a medical doctor, so I don't know if kidneys and vocal chords can regenerate. If kidneys can regrow, like trimmed hair or clipped fingernails, then I guess you wouldn't suggest that a miracle took place. I suspect that they can't.

At this point, what should I do? Should I believe your claims are true or false?

The first thing to do is to gather more evidence about extraordinary healings. This I have already done. It's a matter of historical record, over many hundreds of years, that people were healed in apparently incredible ways. Long before there were Christians, so-called miracles took place. In parts of the world where there had never been a single Christian, these apparent miracles happened. All cultures, regardless of their particular religious beliefs, have a record of miracle-workers amongst them.

Just on the weight of the evidence, miraculous healings have been claimed long before Christianity existed. Remember, human history stretches back further and wider than our current, western, vantage-point.

These ancient miracles are certainly interesting and require explanation, but that's not the topic of this writing. Here, we are looking at claims of modern Christian-based miracle-healing.

More data is available when one realises that Van Rensburg isn't the first, or only, modern-day Christian-based faith-healer. Again, its a matter of historical record. There are, and have been, countless others. Some of these individuals have been studied more closely than others.

And this is where Van Rensburg's problems begin.

In every single case on public record where faith healing has been openly examined, with efforts made to minimize deception and error, a negative result was found: no miracle.

Sometimes, the apparent miracle was shown to be a wilful hoax. Other times, honest human error was the culprit. In other instances, simple ignorance was the root of the miracle-claim. In many instances, it was a combination of these effects. Please read my piece, "Magical Thinking", for a bit more on this.

All this data shows that, elsewhere, and in the past, faith healing has been anything but a miracle.

And there is no evidence that Van Rensburg and his operation are anything different.

If Spirit Ministries wants to convince the entire world of God's love and healing power, here's a simple method: do it in the open.

What kind of evidence would be worth examining?

I can think of many examples. When you study the history of such extraordinary claims, a few common threads begin to emerge. For example, miracles happen in remote places and under conditions that amount almost to secrecy. Think about alien abductions: flying saucers never kidnap someone in broad daylight from the middle of Green Market Square or a busy New York pavement. The UFOs choose, instead, some place in the gramadoelas. Why is that? Some say that the aliens want to keep their activities a secret. Well, they certainly failed to do that! If I was a secret-alien and wanted to carry out a secret experiment on a human, I would beam them up into my space ship, do my experiments, and then flush the evidence down my intergalactic garbage disposal.

I don't think Spirit Ministries wants to be a secret. Surely, God's love and healing power must be made known to as many people as possible? Instead, van Rensburg uses age-old deceptive techniques honed to a fine art by previous con-men and fraudsters. He gets to keep his secrets (for a while, at least) while making enough money to not worry about the future.

If Spirit Ministries wants to convince the entire world of God's love and healing power, here's a simple method: do it in the open.

If Spirit Ministries is not a sham, then do what Derren Brown, David Copperfield, David Blaine, and Chris Angel does, only do it better. Here's how:

Get a few volunteers who have a medical condition. Gather a panel of internationally-known medical experts (we have to know beforehand the volunteers are truly ill). To make sure there is no other deception going on, add to the panel a prominent psychologist and an expert magician (either James Randi or Derren Brown would be a good choice). Call it "Spirit Ministries goes Big Brother". Invite Prophet van Rensburg and his team to a public space, say Newlands Stadium (he would probably insist on selling tickets). Install TV cameras, big-screen projectors and arrange for a live web-cast. In front of the audience, and the entire internet-world, the Prophet can then perform his miracles. Under the watchful eye of the media, the medical experts, and the deception experts, the outcome of the miracles can be openly examined.

Think of the amazing results! Van Rensburg becomes ultra-rich as the world is convinced of God's love and healing power, and all those nasty scientists convert to Christianity (1 Cor 14:22, John 20:30-31, John 4:48, Acts 2:19). Hallelujah.

Why will this never happen?

Because van Rensburg is a fraud as faith healing is a deceptive trick. Transparency is anathema to his ilk.

As long as van Rensburg keeps tight control over his stage and keeps the prying eyes away from him, he will continue to deceive honest, desperate folk. And that is despicable.

So, I believe that you, Abrie, are sincere. I also believe that you believe in miracle-healing. But I am not convinced by your evidence because it is weak and wide open to both error and deception, and because other miracle-healings have always been shown to be a sham.

Van Rensburg has a moral obligation, as a self-appointed man of God, to come out and face the skeptics, to provide the necessary proof of the extraordinary claims he is making.

Further reading

  1. Profit Kobus van Rensburg
  2. Magical Thinking

nothing more to see. please move along.


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