The Problem With Healing: Part II

He's a complicated man, but no one understands him but his woman!

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

 

Or maybe: A Bone to Pick With Faith-Healers.

So we left off with me about to give these faith healers an honest second look, a sort of cliffhanger, right? But let’s cut to the chase and keep this post short and sweet. Not long into this research, a grim theme began to emerge. Consider the following:

“During the early 1970s, Minnesota surgeon William Nolen, M.D., attended a service conducted by Katherine Kuhlman, the leading evangelical healer of that period. After noting the names of 25 people who had been “miraculously healed,” he was able to perform follow-up interviews and examinations. Among other things, he discovered that one woman who had been announced as cured of “lung cancer” actually had Hodgkin’s disease — which was unaffected by the experience. Another woman with cancer of the spine had discarded her brace and followed Ms. Kuhlman’s enthusiastic command to run across the stage. The following day her backbone collapsed, and four months later she died.”

~ Nolen W. Healing: A Doctor in Search of a Miracle. New York, 1974, Random House Inc.

Not long after this, I read about Kenya, where a Benny Hinn conference also left four dead, including two young children. Police told a local newspaper, the Kenya Times, that “the four had been released from a hospital to be cured at Benny Hinn’s ‘Miracle Crusade.’ ” They’d left against medical advice in really bad shape because Benny Hinn, they were sure, was a much better bet than their doctors.

It seemed like every faith healer who had been around any length of time eventually shared this trait; it was inevitable that something bad happened. What’s worse, while many of these fake healers have been taken down a notch when they face their lack of healing powers, a handful of them seem to have weathered the storm just fine.

For instance (once again), Benny Hinn. He’s still at it today, even though more people have been medically verified ‘dead’ after one of his crusades than healed.

In my mind, then, these Faith Healers generally fall into two categories. The Frauds, and Well-Meaning Idiots.

The Frauds:

Maybe there was someone in the back of the room feeding information to the healer-man (or woman) through a radio-ear-piece gadget. Or maybe they would use cold-reading mind tricks, like a street magician or mentalist, and dupe people into a false sense of trust and through that get the info they need to cast out those evil spirits of, well, whatever the person was dealing with. The miracle-seeker would usually be so astounded by the insight that they would truly believe they were being healed (until, of course, their next doctor’s visit).

Or, as with Benny Hinn (is the horse dead yet?), they resorted to visual gags. His ushers would insist every person who looked old sit in a wheelchair and be taken down front. He’s not doing this so much anymore, mostly because it became public knowledge, but back in the day he would rent hundreds of wheelchairs for his events and instruct ushers to grab all the Q-tips, stick them in a chair and roll them down to the front of the arena.

Then, when all the old people started getting out of  ‘their’ wheelchairs during worship, well, wowee, what a sight! Look at all those empty wheelchairs! The faithful were seeing God move and they believed all the more and threw all their hard earned dollars into the offering plate. Cause God’s gifts aren’t free… duh. 

The Well-Meaning Idiots:

These are a little simpler to explain, but a little more complicated to actually understand. Like Katherine Kuhlman, many of these people really believe they wield healing powers, right up until someone dies. At that point, many face their own inability with a certain dignity and go quietly into the night, but sadly, some go on believing in their own powers the rest of their lives in spite of the empirical evidence of their ineffectiveness.

It’s no wonder our more recent faith healers no longer tell people to take off their neck braces, chuck the meds and stop wasting time at the doctor. As people get smarter, these healings must become more and more subtle. None (or at least, none that I found) of these large, more recent, healing seminars claim to restore limbs, purify lepers or raise the dead; like I had learned to expect as quite commonplace when I was young. That would be so obvious, you’d literally have to have a real healing, wouldn’t you?

(Notice, however, that with these instances, I take issue not with God, but with the so-called healers. They’re the charlatans.)

A Small Rant:

Why does Benny Hinn have bouncers outside his crusades whose only apparent job is to ward off media who are there to interview attendees as they wait to get inside? What harm could that cause? To me, this alone would prove he knows exactly what he’s up to when he dupes the masses.

And why doesn’t a guy like Hinn just show up to a hospital and clear out its children’s cancer ward. There, they would have the technology to verify the healings, right away, and then release the kids with good conscience to go and lead normal, long, enjoyable lives. Could it be simply because they won’t let him pass around the offering plate in the waiting room?

Obviously the answer because there’s nothing to him whatsoever. I’ve already demonstrated that, medically speaking, he has passively killed more than he’s actively healed.

Alright, the horse is officially dead. I can move on.

And I know, I’m beginning to sound cynical. Strike that. I am cynical. But can you blame me? My upbringing tells me that healing is a fact of Christian life, but my inability to find real evidence of healing is distressing. Once again, healing is one of the few aspects of Christian life that should be provable without argument or logic.

Here’s a picture of John Doe after the lawn mower chopped off his foot, and here is John Doe, foot intact with not a scar to be seen. And here’s the picture of John with the baffled doctor. Miracle. Done.

Well, at one point I sort of let this one go. Around the time I started attending Bible college in 2001, actually. For some reason, the fire died out and I decided to move on. It wasn’t until early 2007 that I would once again pick up this quest to understand healing in a modern context.

That will be the jumping off point for my final post in this series, and I will take a look at not only what Bible says about healing, but what the modern church has done to rectify the problems that a (literal) Biblical stance creates.

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25 Comments

  1. i completely agree.

    But what about when you hear stories from people you really respect. Stuff like the speakers needed for a sermon only working at church and so forth.

    I was told this by some one who was touring the Philippines.

    I dont think god intervines into our universe any more. He is outside of time, why then would he come into our time to change stuff.

    No, the only answer is that being outside of time he can know what will happen. Giving him a kind of controll, but without any real “miracle”

    I do not believe in miracles, yet i trust my friend who went to the Philippines what he said is true. He would not lie.

  2. ADJ:

    I believe in healing because it’s in the Bible, which I take to be divine revelation, and because members of my family have been healed of this or that. I have little use for faith healers. Or rather, I’d have more use for them if they’d heal people for free. Once money becomes involved to a significant degree, the fraud begins. I have Benny Hinn stories, but I don’t want to break a sweat beating a dead horse. My personal opinion is that there’s a special room in hell for televangelists and faith healers (with a few possible exceptions).

    GPW

    1. Tony,
      I completely agree with you on faith-healers (and George, with you on tel-evangelists). But I still have trust in the ability of God to heal, and so I hopefully pray for the sick. One simply needs to have a better understanding of “faith” than we were taught when we were kids. I felt that if I could just muster up enough “faith” I could regrow limbs. And when that didn’t happen I knew that I just had to go and get me some more faith somehow.

      There is simply no way to manipulate oneself into “having faith.” So I leave how much faith I have up to God and just pray.

  3. UK Pentecostal scholar (PhD) Keith Warrington’s book, Jesus the Healer: Paradigm or Unique Phenomenon, addresses why healings are infrequent today. His position is that Jesus’ “ministry of healing and exorcism was unique, admirable and pedagogically motivated.” In other words, he says Jesus’ healings were to make another point and the healing itself was secondary.

    He also addresses the troublesome “Word of Faith” movement.

    http://www.keithwarrington.co.uk/

  4. While most of your post is very well researched and thought out, I fear you are trotting down a path that can lead to destruction.

    I, for one, believe in miracles and God’s ability to heal people still here on Earth. Why you ask? The list goes runs long, but one example I’ll share involves my brother getting hit by a car, throwing him 15-20 ft vertically & 70 ft horizontally (that’s super long!). After just two months of countless many praying for him and the expertise of several physicians at the hospital, my brother, aside from some very noticeable scars on his arms and throat, is just as much normal as he was prior to the accident. Aside from some minor pain in his hips occasionally, he hasn’t suffered any permanent damage. Like I said, the list goes on, but this event holds close to my heart and rightfully so.

    Referring back to my statement about ‘…can lead to destruction.’ I’ll further elaborate. Just because you have yet to witness or find proof of God’s healing does not mean it doesn’t happen. There is much about the Christian faith that cannot be proven, including the existence of God. If you are going to claim such things on this basis, then there is so much more you could disregard as myth.

    You’re spot on about those spooky faith healers though. It is a shame so many are fooled by their promises of healing, only to wind up dead.

    All in all, a great read with some extremely valid points.

  5. Jeremy:

    Do share. Don’t leave us all hanging.

    toldandretold:

    I respect other contributors on this blog, but some of us disagree on this topic. That doesn’t bother me. I have good reasons just as much as they do for the things we each believe. Inversely, there are people who agree with my take whom I probably don’t respect, in the authoritative sense.

    Credibility, respect and trust are good things, but they aren’t proof of something.

    George:

    I will touch on my personal take on the Biblical perspective in this next post.

    But otherwise, I tend to agree with you, yet again.

    adhunt, Steve, & mr.ignorant:

    This is more specifically what I intend to cover in my next post. I think ‘healing’ versus ‘miraculous healing’ needs to be sorted out in a concrete way.

    In short, I don’t need faith to believe in my body’s ability to heal or recover physically, but that’s not necessarily a miracle in the Biblical sense.

    But don’t let me get ahead of myself.

  6. Okay, let’s get it all out in the open: our dislike and frustration for “faith healers” runs deep.

    As these “faith healers” boldly deceive faithful flocks and distort the good news of Jesus Christ we should absolutely find ourselves deeply saddened and moved.

    However, let us not throw the proverbial baby out with the bath-water.

    Perhaps miracles do not happen. Perhaps miracles do happen.

    I think that most people who come across this blog are sensible enough to know that there are fraudulent proclaimers of “a word” traveling around and claiming to heal people.

    I also think that most people who come across this blog know that we may want to look a little further than the Benny Hinn’s of the world in a conversation on healing and the miraculous.

    I pray that no decision that I make in my life will be decided by whether or not Benny Hinn was/is lying to the world.

    I am just as frustrated as the next guy or girl on this blog about what we see going on in some Pentecostal circles or in some churches but let us not make our decisions on what we believe by making arguments that appeal to those that we do not believe.

    AMDG

  7. Don’t let others’ excesses determine your idea of truth. Truth comes from the Word of God.

  8. Well, the incredible anticipation which I have obviously garnered will soon be let down. (The truth is that I forgot that I commented and was reading the abortion post and remembered.)
    Here goes- I was in college and had found a growth under my arm. It was small and hidden and seemed to be nothing more than a cyst or calcium deposit- so I didn’t think much about it. After 6 months or so, I began to notice that it was growing. Finally, one Sunday afternoon, just before my traditional nap, I began to wig out- I was incredibly anxious and stressed. I was a step or two below “overcome-with-fear”. I asked a friend to pray for my anxiety. He said a simple prayer of peace (not even mentioning the cyst, just the anxiety). I laid down and quickly fell asleep. When I woke up, I went on about my evening, forgetting the earlier episode. An hour or so later, I remembered the prayer and instantly thanked God for calming my nerves. Then, on a whim, I decided to check my cyst. I looked under my arm and nothing. So I checked my other arm, in case I misplaced my cyst, and nothing- not even a scar or sign of a former cyst. It was a neat moment of God’s personal touch.
    Sorry if this was long, but this story, for me, feels “realer” for two reasons:
    1) it happened to me
    2) it wasn’t anything that could be explained away by doubters… unless you really want to go that far.
    I have a hard time not doubting someone’s “pain subsiding” as the providence of God when in fact it could be that they finally drank some caffeine.
    Sure, genuine healings seem more rare than the way that we pray for them and talk about them. But, rare or not, I can’t doubt that they are real. This circumstance started a “faith snowball” for me that I have been able to be involved in several “real” healings in the last few years. One of my favorite ones, involving my wife, but you’ll just have to believe me on that one.
    I agree, there aren’t any specific patterns of scripture that certainly lead to healing, in fact, my instance doesn’t follow typical “faith” teachings. But this I feel sure of- God heals today.

    Not to start a post, but I would love to see this topic approached from the Wesleyan Quadrilateral- Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience. Anthony, I feel like you covered two and left out two when you reached your conclusion. What do you think?

  9. Well, I haven’t posted my conclusion yet.

    About the four approaches: I don’t know a ton about Tradition,so I might only briefly touch on that. I was raised in a few strange iterations of the AG and have had many strange healing teachings hurled at me, which is to say I have no idea which one they consider tradition anymore.

    As for Scripture, my draft of the last post deals with that angle.

    And thanks for sharing your story. I’m not a doctor, of course, so I am both intrigued and a little skeptical at the same time. Intrigued because it certainly sounds inexplicable, which is a pro, but obviously, I’m skeptical only because I don’t know you that well and I didn’t see it.

    Therefore, my knee-jerk reaction is to say, “But this is just another instance of it happening to/for/near someone else.”

    Please don’t be put off by that. It is encouraging on the whole, in my spite of my apparent need to be skeptical. That’s just a reaction to my upbringing, and reaction I hope to balance out someday. I think right now it keeps me from being disappointed in my own lack of experience, and it also keeps me from swallowing anything anyone says, which I see as a danger in some churches today.

    Interestingly, you also touch on the direction I intend to bring the discussion, in that, for you, the experience acted as a “faith snowball.” I think that is a very valuable thing, which leads me toward the non-skeptical side just a bit. But I won’t get ahead of myself.

    Again, thanks for your comment.

  10. PS about Tradition.

    Also, since I don’t cling to the AG any longer (obviously) Tradition is one of those things I am definitely trying to understand and establish for me and for me family. It is a weak point in my Quadrilateral Approach, to be sure.

  11. I may be getting ahead of you in your conclusion, but when I look at the biblical stories of Jesus’ healings and exorcisms, I’m struck by one thing: in most cases, the physical healing is a secondary aspect of the work Jesus is doing in the texts. Part of illness/disease in his world was ostracization because the sickness was believed to be caused by demons or sin. In physically healing these people, Jesus did the more important work of restoring to community those who were outcast and ostracized through no fault of their own — through the injustice of the narrow-minded elite overly concerned with power, exclusion of the different and the appearance of purity.

    To me, the real miracle — and the rarer one in today’s world and in the first century — is the opening up of radical, inclusive and transformational community to the unsavory, the unfaithful, the discarded, and those rejected by “religion.”

    I’ll take that miracle over a physical healing any day, because, to be honest, that miracle has more lasting, more transcendent and more divine revelation in it than that God can selectively and capriciously decided to isolate a single person’s ailment for healing while ignoring the person in the next hospital bed over.

  12. David:

    You raise a good point. Healing in the gospels is a means to an end. Jesus heals the lepers and reintegrates them into normal society. Jesus exorcizes the Gadarene demoniac, puts him in his right mind, and commissions him as an evangelist. Jesus heals the hemhorraging woman and takes her from “unclean” social status to “clean” social status. Social reintegration is surely an end Jesus sought, and healing is a means by which pursued it.

    But social reintegration is not the only end to healing. I think physical wellbeing is another such end. God made creation good. The world is marred by sin. God sends Jesus to make it well again. Healings in this life are tokens of that eschatological end.

    Indeed, if social reintegration were the only end to healings, then Jesus could’ve accomplished that end without healing anyone. After all, there was an extreme social stigma against tax collectors, drunks, and sinners, and Jesus associated with them, in contravention of strong social custom (and perhaps the Law?). Why couldn’t he have created a community where the sicker, the demonized and the lepers were welcomed as is? Because physical wellbeing was also an end he sought.

    But perhaps I’m being argumentitive. My guess is that you probably agree that Jesus’ healings had multiple ends. If I were to prioritize them, I’d probably put social reintegration first too.

    George

  13. Not argumentative. I think you raise an important point, an I agree that one can’t just sweep under the rug the miraculous in the biblical stories.

    I’d just point out that Jesus was one of many miracle-workers in 1st century Palestine. I think the difference might be his intent — reconciliation and restoration.

    I definitely think Jesus created an community around him that included those considered degenerate in society. However, Jesus was an itinerant. Plus, I don’t think Jesus ever envisioned an alternate society excised from everyone else. I don’t think that’s really community. I think that’s giving up.I think Jesus sought to transform all society and to take back the Sabbath, the Temple, the religion for the poor and marginalized (which was about 3/4 of the Jews).

    I love that Jesus floated between the powerful and the poor with equal fluency, rebutting with wit, eloquence and force the Pharisees and reinterpreting Torah, but also getting drunk with those considered the dregs of society.

    I understand Jesus to be taking “religion” as defined and controlled by a Romanized clerical elite class and opening it up to the poor folks; giving them the “miracle” if you will of forgiveness of sins without a temple tax on their already empty wallets, or purses or whatever they would have carried their money around in, had they had any.

    So, I guess, in short, Jesus’ healings were physical in nature, but social in intent. The physical healings, in his context, don’t make Jesus unique, but the social aspect does. So, I think we agree social integration is the most important aspect of the miracles.

    I’d qualify it, though, to say that I understand the social integration to be the (unique, divine) miracle.

  14. David,
    What a great point. But I’m not certain that all of Jesus’ miracles fit in that theme- what about raising people from the dead? Maybe that’s not a healing in your definition though.
    I love the thought that Jesus was “kingdom” centered. The kingdom is where God’s perfect will and plan (ie. his design and order) happen all the time. The kingdom just exploded out of him wherever he went.
    I believe that it is unarguable that in the “Kingdom of God” there is no disease or sickness. If kingdom living is Christ’s desire for our lives, then isn’t healing availability a bi-product?

  15. David:

    I think we’re having a “yes, and” conversation. As in, yes, Jesus reintegrated the sick AND healed them. Jesus himself stated that his healings demonstrated that the kingdom of God/Spirit of God was present. I would take that as meaning that healings were comprehensive in intent: mending the body, reintegrating into society, and enfolding in divinity (so to speak).

    George

  16. First off, I’m glad you posted this on Facebook. Facebook is my connection to the world. Second, I attended one of those AG churches with you, back in high school. Here’s a clue: We went to a movie together once – Heist. Third – excellent writing. Now… let’s get to the heart of the matter…

    I guess I have a few personal questions for you:

    1. Why do you think miracles don’t occur or occur with less frequency these days?
    2. Do you think that if God wanted, he could perform miracles through a man, a woman or heck, even a goat?
    3. If you’ve answered #2 in the affirmative, then do you think he decides to take a back seat approach to modern miracles because there are so many “bigger” things out there to deal with?

    I guess my observation is this: If I can believe that God sent a part of himself to Earth, to be born of a virgin… and then have his death somehow wipe out all our sin so we can go to heaven one day – then how can it be any stretch of the imagination that he can fix my broken arm? If you think that he is the reason we exist, and that he crafted us… then could you possibly think that he couldn’t fix us?

    I’ll look forward to your response. 🙂

  17. Just a quick thought….

    They say that the most difficult parts of faith are believing in the things you can’t corroborate — is there a God? Did God create us? You know… that stuff…

    I disagree.
    I think the harder part of faith is believing that God has power to bend the rules that we believe he set in place. It’s easy enough to believe that in some hazy wonderous event, he created the planet and gave it life. It’s easy enough to believe that in a distant past there was a man- a man who was also God. Why? Because it’s really tough to prove those things right OR wrong.

    When it comes to having faith that donkeys can talk…. or mountains can be thrown into the sea… that lame men can walk or the blind can see… well, there’s the problem of empirical evidence.

    Maybe it’s harder to believe that miracles happen because, well, our brains have helped us determine that this is a world of order. Gravity exists. People die. Humans can’t regenerate limbs. When someone claims that they believe in God, we smile and say that we do too. Warm fuzzies ensue.

    When someone says that they were healed, we raise an eyebrow and cock our heads. Why? Because in our experience, and due to our level of education, we know that just. doesn’t. happen.

    Maybe real faith is believing that God does exist AND he can bend the rules. Faith the size of a mustard seed.

  18. Thanks for your thoughts.

    I’ll actually address your questions (at least, I think I will) in post # 3, the final in this series. I just don’t want to jump the gun, you know. So definitely let me know if I miss something then (probably post it tomorrow), or if I don’t answer something to your satisfaction.

    I will submit that I do believe He can bend the rules. Good enough for now?

    The bigger question is, I’m wondering who I went to see Heist with. I think I know, I’m actually pretty darn sure, but I don’t want to say and then be wrong… publicly. Heh. 🙂

  19. You guessed correctly (how I love Facebook).

    I’ll let you be for now…but remember, I’m in law school and I LOVE a good argu– er, discussion.

    I’ve begun perusing this site. Interesting stuff. So all these people have some connection to Mpls/St Paul? Cool.

    I found the Christian courtship post interesting. Yes. Good work, whoever you were. Using the word SEX caught my eye a lot more than “courtship” would have.

    I’d love to comment on that blog (or are they called threads?) as well… but it seems a bit old. Pity.

  20. I believe in healing because I’ve experienced it too. Christianity is at a point all about believing God blindly without having to see some proof. For the fact that I believe God created everything is enough to make me believe He can fix (cure) any malfunctioning(diseases, sickness etc). It will be unwise of any engineer to design a machine he can’t fix, and I’m sure God is not stupid.

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