HEALING THROUGH FAITH
IS healing through faith for real, or is it a bunch of hocus-pocus? Or even quackery? Does scripture give us insight into healing? If so what?
At the beginning of the 20th century, the new Pentecostal movement drew participants from the Holiness movement and other movements in America that already believed in divine healing. By the 1930s, several faith healers drew large crowds and established worldwide followings.
The first Pentecostals in the modern sense appeared in Topeka, Kansas, in a Bible school conducted by Charles Fox Parham, a holiness teacher and former Methodist pastor. Pentecostalism achieved worldwide attention in 1906 through the Azusa Street Revival in Las Angeles.
During the Azusa Street meetings, according to witnesses who wrote about them, blind, crippled or other sick people would be healed. Some of the participants would eventually minister extensively in this area. For example, John G. Lake was present during the years of the Azusa Street revival. Lake had earned huge sums of money in the insurance business at the turn of the century but gave away his possessions with the exception of food for his children while he and his wife fasted on a trip to Africa to do missionary work. Certain people he had never met before gave him money and keys to a place to stay which were required to enter South Africa at the dock. His writings tell of numerous healing miracles he and others performed as over 500 churches were planted in South Africa. Lake returned to the U.S. and set up healing rooms in Spokane, Washington.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Aimee Semple McPherson was a controversial faith healer of growing popularity during the Great Depression… Subsequently, William Branham has been credited as being the founder of the post-World War II healing revivals. By the late 1940s, Oral Roberts was well known, and he continued with faith healing until the 1980s, Roberts discounted faith healing in the late 1950s, stating, “I never was a faith healer and I was never raised that way. My parents believed very strongly in medical science and we have a doctor who takes care of our children when they get sick. I cannot heal anyone – God does that.” A friend of Roberts was Kathryn Kuhlman, another popular faith healer, who gained fame in the 1950s and had a television program on CBS. Oral Roberts’s successful use of television as a medium to gain a wider audience led others to follow suit.
Christian Science claims that healing is possible through an understanding of the underlying, spiritual perfection of God’s creation. The world as humanly perceived is believed to be a distortion of spiritual reality. Christian Scientists believe that healing through prayer is possible insofar as it succeeds in correcting the distortion. Christian Scientists believe that prayer does not change the spiritual creation but gives a clearer view of it, and the result appears in the human scene as healing: the human picture adjusts to coincide more nearly with the divine reality. Prayer works through love, the recognition of God’s creation as spiritual, intact, and inherently lovable. Christian Scientists believe that in the New Testament, Jesus is implying the existence of an underlying spiritual harmony that can be demonstrated through faith in its existence. They look to Luke 8:22-25 where Jesus calmed a storm through prayer and implied that his disciples could have done so also if they had sufficient faith; and to Luke 8:49-50 where Jesus stated that a young girl who had apparently died could be well again if faith was shown.
Christian Scientists believe that prayer works through love – in a sense of unselfed, unlimited and unconditional awareness of the inherent worth of another – and that this is the way Jesus Christ healed. Their aim is “to reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing” which, they believe, was lost after the early centuries of Christianity. They cite such Bible texts as Mark 16:17-28; Matthew 10:8 in support of their contention that Christian faith demands demonstration in healing. This is a faith in the omnipotence of God, which according to the Christian Science interpretation of the Bible such as Luke 17:5-6, logically rules out any other power. The Christian Science view, citing Matthew 21:22; Matthew 7:7-11, is that Jesus taught that we should claim good as being present, here and now, and that this will result in healing. Christian Scientists point to Jesus’ teaching in John 14:12 that his followers would do “greater works” than he did, and that a person who lived in conformity with his teachings would not be subject even to death.
An important point in Christian Science is that effectual prayer and the moral regeneration of one’s life go hand-in-hand: that “signs and wonders are wrought in the metaphysical healing of physical disease; but these signs are only to demonstrate its divine origin, to attest the reality of the higher mission of the Christ-power to take away the sins of the world.” Christian Science teaches that disease is mental, a mortal fear, a mistaken belief or conviction of the necessity and power of ill-health – an ignorance of God’s power and goodness. The chapter on “Prayer” in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures gives a full account of healing through prayer, while the testimonies at the end of the book are written by people who believe they have been healed through spiritual understanding gained from reading the book. Christian Scientists claim no monopoly on the application of God’s healing power through prayer, and welcome it, wherever it occurs.
With claims of being the true and restored Church of Jesus Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has had a long history of faith healings. Many members of the LDS Church have told their stories of healing within the LDS publication, the Ensign. The church believes healings come most often as a result of priesthood blessings given by the laying on of hands; however, prayer often accompanied with fasting is also thought to cause healings. Healing is always attributed to be God’s power. Latter-day Saints believe that the Priesthood of God held by prophets (such as Moses) and worthy disciples of the Savior, was restored via heavenly messengers to the first prophet of this dispensation, Joseph Smith.
According to LDS doctrine, even though members may have the restored priesthood authority to heal in the name of Jesus Christ, all efforts should be made to seek the appropriate medical help. Brigham Young stated this effectively, while also noting that the ultimate outcome is still dependent on the will of God.
If we are sick, and ask the Lord to heal us, and to do all for us that is necessary to be done, according to my understanding of the Gospel of salvation, I might as well ask the Lord to cause my wheat and corn to grow, without my plowing the ground and casting in the seed. It appears consistent to me to apply every remedy that comes within the range of my knowledge, and to ask my Father in Heaven, in the name of Jesus Christ, to sanctify that application to the healing of my body.
But suppose we were traveling in the mountains, and one or two were taken sick, without anything in the world in the shape of healing medicine within our reach, what should we do? According to my faith, ask the Lord Almighty to … heal the sick. This is our privilege, when so situated that we cannot get anything to help ourselves. Then the Lord and his servants can do all. But it is my duty to do, when I have it in my power. We lay hands on the sick and wish them to be healed, and pray the Lord to heal them, but we cannot always say that he will.
Many LDS members believe that healing is one of the signs of the true church of Christ, as Christ told his disciples to heal the sick as one of their duties; however, they also believe that healing is not just restricted to the true church. It is believed that faith in Jesus Christ is the most important thing in a faith healing; however, it is also believed that even the devil has some ability to heal and work other miracles.
Muslims may use prayer and ceremony to address pain and sickness.
There are also some cases of fraud (faking the condition) or ineffective healing (believing the condition has been healed immediately after the “healing” and later finding out it has not).
Reliance on faith healing to the exclusion of other forms of treatment can have a public health impact when it reduces or eliminates access to modern medical techniques. This is evident in both higher mortality rates for children and in reduced life expectancy for adults. Critics have also made note of serious injury that has resulted from falsely labelled “healings”, where patients erroneously consider themselves cured and cease or withdraw from treatment. For example, at least six people have died after faith healing by their church and being told they had been healed of HIV and could stop taking their medications. It is the stated position of the AMA that “prayer as therapy should not delay access to traditional medical care.”