The Problem With Healing: Part I

By Anthony David Jacques

 

The Problem With Healing: Part I / Part II / Part III 

 

To me, the problem with healing is… well…

It just doesn’t seem to happen.

Now, before we go all postal, allow me to unpack my thoughts a little bit. My experience so far in life has been that it’s always a friend of a friend, or this guy on TV, or something someone read about in a book. It’s like it’s always happening somewhere, but nowhere that I can access. And come on, healing is one of those few aspects of the supernatural that should have an empirically verifiable result. A severed hand restored, a huge tumor gone, and so on and so forth. It’s not like trying to prove that God is a man or that He wants the U.S. to bomb this or that country. I’ll leave that for the Texans to argue over. No, healing is something that should be plainly obvious.

So… Is it all just a big hoax?

I know some of you are reaching for your Bibles, so allow me to address that right off the bat. What I’m driving at is not that I think the historical accounts of healings recorded in the Bible are false. In fact, I was raised to un-objectively believe it all, the whole enchilada, as literal fact. But now I realize that there’s almost no way to prove these Biblical accounts’ fact or myth status, but that’s okay because that’s not my point. My point is, healing supposedly still happens. Today.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, I do have a vested interest in this topic, which I will discuss in a future post. But even before that developed, I was simply curious about the phenomenon. Can you blame me? It sounds really cool. Dead guys walking around and the like.

Where I came from:

I grew up in several AG churches over the years, spread mainly across the Midwest. I remember going to tent meetings and revivals and healing seminars all throughout my childhood. At one point, when I was in middle school in Kansas City, MO, we even went to a Benny Hinn rally (seminar? crusade?) to see all the wonderful healings and maybe get slain in the spirit ourselves. It was amazing the way people responded to his persona, like he was literally wielding the power of God via his trademark blow-into-the-microphone move. You know, the way he just breaths heavily through the PA and people seem to swoon and fall backwards. This was not the first meeting of this type for my family, but it certainly was the largest and most… produced, for lack of a better term.

Interestingly, of all the things I can remember my family wanted healed at one of these sort of meetings, they still seem to want that healing. My dad’s legs are still messed up from a car accident that broke them both, after which they weren’t set properly. He’s always had a cane as long as I can remember, and now wears a brace on one or both of them when the pain gets bad. My mom still has migraines, my older sister still has inner ear problems that give her trouble. I don’t remember my younger sister wanting much more corrected about her than the fact that she has to wear glasses, but insomuch as she has always wanted her vision ‘restored to perfection’ (even today) she’s still waiting. None have given up hope, however.

Now I know we could stop right here and argue till we’re blue in the face. “Just because you’ve never seen a healing doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.” Sure, logically, that’s right. But there are a lot of things I’ve never seen that I don’t doubt exist; a million dollars, the Eiffel Tower, the movie Beaches. The point is, the reality of healing cannot be argued out with logic to establish what must necessarily be true. If it happens, the proof would be easy to access. It bears repeating that healing is one of the few supernatural phenomena that should have an empirically verifiable result.

Missionaries:

Another aspect of my AG upbringing was the Guest Missionary Speaker. As a huge part of the denomination, every few weeks we’d have special guest speakers and missionaries reporting on the great things God’s been up to during their time in other countries.

Here’s what I noticed. When I was a kid, I remember the dramatic numbers of healings, limbs being restored, people being raised from the dead, lepers being fully healed, etc. It was usually in the hundreds for each missionary who came back to report, sometimes more.

However, this seems to have changed in recent years. At some point (long before I had any vested interest in this topic) the numbers began to peter out, or the stories began to take on a second hand vibe. No longer did the missionary say he touched the leper who was healed, but instead,  he had reports of healings in this or that village, maybe after the crusade. And the figures became more and more modest. Was God moving on? I wondered.

Science-Fiction:

Now I hate to have to make this comparison, but it’s inevitable for me, because I used to love the Sci-Fi channel. What can I say? I was a nerdy, teenage boy. Anyway, one afternoon I was watching one of those UFO programs (directly following the Bigfoot one) when the narrator with the 50’s B-movie voiceover was talking about the mountain of evidence for UFO’s and how the camcorder was revolutionizing their ‘science.’

It hit me like a shot of Bacardi 151. The camcorder! Why hadn’t I thought of that? I mean, if I wanted to see a miracle in some far off country (since, at the time, there seemed to be a lull in homeland faith-healings (and I’d never put much stock in the superstar faith healers anyway (man, that’s a lot of parenthesis))) all I needed to do was find video of it. I was sure I would have some sort of evidence soon. I mean, it simply had to have happened once in front of a camera.

I was further encouraged when I realized that most missionary speakers were no longer using a slide show set to a cheesy Michael W Smith song to show what they’re doing in country with church funds, they were beginning to use videos (still, unfortunately, set to a cheesy Michael W Smith song). Since they were armed with camcorders, and since “God is still in the business of healing” (well, that was the catch phrase at the time), then there must be something on video somewhere. Right?

Well, that search has spanned many years now and so far come up with bupkis. It would seem, then, that the growing popularity of personal video cameras was inversely proportional to the number of miraculous healings that missionaries were willing to report.

Now I know, it’s a logical fallacy to assume that correlation means causation. I’ll give you that. But it is certainly something worth taking note of. With the lack of video evidence from missionaries, the people I was taught to trust as handling the forefront of God’s work in other countries, I began to flounder.

A Step In A Different Direction (Or maybe… A Step Back?)

However, it was right about this time that the faith healers were making a comeback. Their success didn’t seem to be hindered by video coverage, they still claimed to be healing hundreds or more per meeting.

After a good deal of wrestling, then, I decided to turn my attention back to faith healers, as uncomfortable as those guys tend to make me feel. I decided it was time I gave them an honest second look. I mean, they make mad cash running seminars, crusades, retreats, selling books, hosting TV programs and blessing anything from prayer cloths to drinking water. If they were frauds, the public just wouldn’t stand for it. Could they?

Thoughts so far?

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23 Comments

  1. Hey Tony,
    I understand where you’re coming from, in that because healings always seem to happen to someone else, they don’t seem really tangible to you or me. But I think part of the issue isn’t that God doesn’t heal anymore, but that the way we view God’s presence here on earth, His relevance to our lives, and His ability to change the forces going on around us has changed.
    Healing is one of those highly misunderstood things about God that has slowly been removed from our conscious consideration, because it’s so much easier to put our “faith” into “realistic” solutions, – Like eating differently if we have allergies, or getting surgery if we have a tumor, or doing all sorts of pills and treatments – it’s all stuff we can touch, generally understand, and change if it doesn’t work. But if God doesn’t work, if we don’t get healed, then Uh-oh, something’s wrong, and we explain it away with, “Well it just isn’t the right timing,” or, “It just isn’t in God’s will,” even though we believe that God heals.
    I think what a person has to decide is how far they are willing to let God infiltrate their lives. Is He just big enough to forgive their sins and make them feel better, or maybe big enough to help them get a better job, meet that special someone, or buy a new house or car? Or is He really big enough to do those things that go completely beyond our human understanding, defying physics and science and every rational explanation? It’s about our willingness to allow faith, the substance of things hoped for, in God alone to rule the day and it turns out that He expects us more or less to simply love Him with everything in us, love others just as much, and then let Him take care of the rest. It’s more about following His commands then focusing on demands. (Hey that rhymes.) But remember, He also says, in paraphrase, You get nothing, cause you ask for nothing. So a balance must be reached there, and it takes a lifetime to reach it, but I’m still game.

  2. It doesn’t happen.

    I actually know a personal friend who had their bad eye sight fixed.

    But i still outrightly say it does not happen.

    Same as god never talks to me.

    I believe in jesus not because he talks to me, not because he heals me, but because i know its the truth. And without it my soul would feel compromised.

    BUT MIRACLES DO NOT HAPPEN.

    i watched a dvd where this missionary in africa can “heal deafness every time she prays for someone”

    my friends went to their orphanage. A huge thing in Mozambique. I asked if they saw any miracles,

    …”well we did kind of… aaaaaa”

    no you didn’t.

    peace and love,,

    http://toldandretold.com

  3. Most major religions throughout the ages, and most people alive today as well as in the past would disagree.

    But what is a miracle?
    -an act of God?
    -a unverifiable event?
    -the result of a predetermined pattern?

    As Christian, there is a degree to which I must believe in miracles—or at least the miraculous. But I don’t depend on them to prove the validity of my faith. Nor do I feel obligated to accept the entirety of anyone’s explanation as to an appropriate system for how, why, and when miracles happen.

    Miracles, by definition, defy existing systems. The miraculous is the result of something unperceived and unexpected.

    If someone comes to you saying that A (what you do) + B (the right conditions) = C (something that God is compelled to do for you) then they’re missing the point. Such a thing would be neither caused by something unperceived, nor did it result in something unexpected.

    I think it’s our natural human inclination to believe we can get a handle on the miraculous—to bottle it up as a sample so we can study it in the lab. But this is against exactly what makes it miraculous to begin with!

    To me, the person who says “Miracles, verifiably, in fact never happen” suffers from the same preconception as the person who says, “Of course miracles happen! You just have to obey God and believe.”

    How can you say? How do you know? How can anyone know? Can we somehow step out of our human skin, our five senses, our worldview, our disappointments, and our education and say that empirically, what people call the unexplainable is actually best explained by this or that?

    I have one last thought. Two people are witness to an event with an unperceived and unexpected cause. One says, “It’s a miracle! I don’t understand it!” The other says, “It’s unusual but certainly not miraculous.”

    The first person takes hope and faith from this event and is empowered for life and ministry.

    The second person sinks into depression, believing life to be largely composed of a mixture of human self-delusion and outright deception.

    Which of these two is deceived?

  4. Anthony,

    You clearly skipped chapel that day back in ’04 or ’05 when the AG historian came with his black and white films of people getting healed. That’s what you get for skipping chapel. I never skipped chapel, except for my alloted skips, plus anytime I could get away with “beeping and sleeping” or before that “slashing and dashing,” or anytime Worship Live was recording, or anytime One Accord was playing, anytime a missionary was there, or a youth pastor, or really anyone who wasn’t a member of the pastoral dept., but the point remains: I saw some video footage of old people being healed, and it was…well, unconvincing.

    Seriously, I agree with Reed. I might also say that empirically proving something (if that’s even possible from an epistimological standpoint)removes any vestage of the miraculous from it.

  5. Dammit Tony, now I want to write a reply essay but I don’t have the time.

    I don’t believe in “miracles” in a traditional sense of a disruption of normal physics and the way of the world. Much like an ancient might view our knowledge of medical science as miraculous (take a pill and you’re healed), I feel that what we experience as the miraculous is just more complete knowledge on the part of God, and that if we had the faculties a healing would make sense empirically. (if that could be done epistemologically James)

  6. Tony,

    First of all great post and welcome officially as a contributor (not that your previous comments were in any way unofficial or lacking in contribution). I agree with most of what has been said so far. Amazingly, I find myself aligning with Mr. Hunt on much of his response. That said, I would only add that much of problems that the church has with miracles can be attributed to an interventionist theology of God. Much like Aristotle’s unmoved mover, many Christians see God as a being removed from this world, whom intervenes seemingly arbitrarily in the lives of humans. This of course brings questions of why God chooses to heal some and not others and all sorts of other questions of God’s nature. This, I presume, is fodder for another post. I simply wanted to point out that removing God from the world completely changes the way that we understand the miraculous. Within the context of miraculous healing, I would have to say that I do not discredit the possibility of such an occurence. Though, I am not convinced we should seek after it.

  7. In case I didn’t clarify well enough, I DO believe in Gods intervention and healing. And indeed our understanding of it is a mystery; BUT I hold that the healing is not “magic.”

  8. Danielle:

    That’s a very insightful thought. I don’t think I have any direct response right now, but let’s see how close our ideas run to each other by the end of this series.

    PS Thanks for reading, sis.

    toldandretold:

    Let’s not confuse reason with anectdote. Saying “…god never talks to me.” is a statement of fact. He doesn’t talk to me, either, for that matter. But that is not to say that mine or your personal experience should be accepted as an all-encompassing norm. God may well talk to people, but you or I can ‘neither confirm nor deny’ these things.

    So far, I’m presenting an anecdote as well, so I’m not saying healing doesn’t happen, per se, I’m simply saying I cannot verify it personally at this point in my life.

    To Reed:

    I think I agree with your general sentiment, but I still find stories of things that don’t need faith to be seen. As with the man with the shriveled hand that the Bible says Jesus restored, this would be an obvious outward, physical healing on par with the stories I used to hear from the missions field that went so far as to raise the dead.

    Inexplicable and unprovable events are one thing, but something as obvious as extraordinary ‘healings’ would not require faith to be plainly observed, but instead would require absolute denial of reality to refute.

    This is where I’m caught. If it does happen, I’d love to see it; if not, then I’m left with the task of reinterpreting a lot of what I have been taught as ‘Gospel truth’ about the New Testament. In a way, I have to re-evaluate what I believe and what it is based on.

    jstambaugh:

    Well, even though I walked in May 04, I was technically done at NCU by December 03, so I don’t think I was there for that chapel.

    Plus, as a veteran chapel checker, I would have never ‘skipped.’ The shame!

    But really, I have much the same response as to Reed. You both seem to believe that miracles require faith twice. Once for the recipient to receive it, but once again for any other party to believe it.

    However, my point is that some (obviously not all) miraculous healings (or events, for that matter) should not need this extra step for the passerby, the person who only witnesses the event.

    But I’ll stop before I get redundant and repeat myself more than once again. 🙂

    adhunt:

    I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I tend to lean in this direction lately.

    Jeremy:

    I really like your final line, “Within the context of miraculous healing, I would have to say that I do not discredit the possibility of such an occurence. Though, I am not convinced we should seek after it.” You would make a great spin doctor.

    Again, though, this is another place where I’m stuck. I want to seek God, ultimately, and in order to do so I have to decide what elements of my old life as an AG kid need re-evaluation, and what to do with those elements if they prove to be superfluous to my faith.

  9. Perhaps it doesn’t happen in developed worlds as much because our minds are full of doubt, pessimism and complexity.

    Perhaps some, namely myself, rather hold onto their angst than be open to miracles in life.

    Perhaps there are healings everyday in hospitals when a surgeon refuses to give up

    Perhaps when someone fights to the bitter end of a horrible disease and still believes in a higher power there is a miracle.

    Perhaps the fact we are here at all is a miracle.

  10. Like you, I also grew up in an A/G church and have faithfully attended that church for over six decades. At some point, logic and common sense starts to enter into the picture. In my case, the doubts were accelerated by what I perceived as excesses – blowing people over, etc. I’m not ready to say that it doesn’t happen; I have concluded that there are a lot of people making a lot of money using this venue.

  11. Sister Marie,

    It’s great to hear from someone who has so much experience (in a good way!) with our fellowship.

  12. I’m interested to see where this goes. I’ve felt for some time now that biblical accounts of healings were descriptive of how things were and not necessarily prescriptive of how things should be. Not that God can’t heal today or hasn’t in the past, but the constant “need” for getting fixed is a huge business that is more in our heads than anything else.

  13. adhunt:

    Leg lengtheners, oh yeah. I think I remember seeing one of these, I’m not sure if it was my dad’s legs or someone else’s, I was pretty young. But yeah, imagine the disappointment the next day.

    George:

    As long as you’re not leaving us on account of me. You do bring out a lot of good comments here. I just find your brand of debate hits a nerve with me, but it’s nothing personal, and I hope that feeling is mutual.

    🙂

  14. First I would like to start with this web site,http://www.awmi.net/extra/healing/hannah .You see I became a christian 12years ago,even though I new I was born again,as I had what I would call an experience of God,I struggled with my new faith(having been brought up in the catholic church)I didnt seem to be able to live holy,i struggled with drugs drink and homosexualality,and did so for years,during this time I continued reading my bible and listing to bible teachers,to keep this short,i will miss out some of it ok,I had the chance to watch a bible teacher called Andrew Wommack,I then went to see him in London and saw Healings taken place,now I didnt know him so there was the same old possibilty that yet again it was a con man,as i through myself into his teaching,it took some time,but I started to see healing in my own life,from colds,infected bites,small things,I prayed for some friends for head ache,ear problems,shoulder pain and saw them healed. Wommack isnt God,you see I went to charis bible collage in walsall england for 3years,Wommack isnt a healer,he is a teacher,but the bible states that these signs follow those that believe,so he believes it to be true, God flows through faith,faith in what? That he can flow through us if we believe,noone heals but God,but faith in him gives him the chance to flow from the supernatural into the natural through someone in the natural.Just like Jesus had to become a man to pay the price for a man adam.cut to the chase,Hannah Terradez is the daughter of a friend of mine,Ashley and his wife Carlie,I was present at the meeting when it happened,I lived with them for a few months. After it happened,Ashly and His wife attended the college,and then their parents,his and her mum and dad attended the college,and are still there,I saw them last friday at the college. There is so much to say about this subject, but,and I know you dont know me, I have seen it with my eyes,now dont take my word for it,but take anyone else’s either,you find out,this is only one of the many testimoney’s I have seen,but to be honest I find it hard to type so this takes flipping ages,I wish i could talk to you all,Wommack’s web site has 100’s of hours teaching you can download for free. Please dont take this the wong way,what is being talked about here has one of two results,life or death,if God doesn’t heal,its death for us all,as it quite clearly states in the bible that he does,so if he doesn’t,he doesn,t exsist,but on the other hand if he does and we can see even just one case,he does all the time for all,its understanding how to receive. Please take a real look at this subject as I did and in fact are doing,john 10v10 says the theif comes to steal kill and destroy,but I(jesus)have come to give Life and give it abundantly.Most people n the world are not sick,in fact i think they are in the minority,it also says that this theif wanders around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. I belive these sickness are a result,in fact a manifestation of evil,just like in the book of Job,to get us to curse God to his face. Again please just look,with all your heart

  15. Anthony B,

    Thanks for your reply. I will certainly look into your link there.

    I think it would be good if you read the rest of the series I’ve put forward here, because I think you assume after reading this post alone that I have no faith in God or his ability to heal. This post is really only the jumping off point for the series and covers my life up until about 8 years ago.

    ADJ

  16. PS… to Anthony B,

    After checking out that link, I *really* think you should read on in this series.

    I thought it was just going to be someone’s story about healing. It’s not. It’s an advertisement to buy a DVD, and to be honest, it’s hard for me not to take issue when people make money off of healing. At best, these teachers give people everywhere false hope, as if we control God’s will to heal this or that person, and at worst, if the healing never happens, it leaves those people spiritually destitute, feeling like it must be their fault that God didn’t heal them.

    Again, please don’t leave off on this post, or you will have a very misguided view of what I was trying to establish with the series.

    ADJ

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