A fundamental problem is that there are different concepts about the bio-psycho-social-spiritual nature of mankind and what we really are. This could be likened to the concept of light: it can exist as a wave or as particle. Light can thus be both energy and matter. Often Christians are keen to split things apart, whereas in healing we need to consider both the biological and the spiritual within a wider relational and environmental framework.
We need the realization that God is everywhere and in everything. There was discussion about whether ‘the shadow side of God’ was still God or the forces of darkness but no acceptable compromise was agreed
Does demon possession exist? David recounted a strange case where he visited a very disturbed boy at home. When he gave the mother his name she looked very surprised, saying that her son had told her that morning that David McDonald would come and make him better. Neither boy nor mother had any way of knowing it would be him out of the pool of psychiatrists. The boy believed he was afflicted by the spirit of a dead film star. After prayer the boy remained free of mental illness (and the film star) – as far as is known indefinitely.
Some participants wanted a more definite (charismatic) statement rather than a sharing of that which is currently beyond logical explanation. But St Augustine was quoted: “Miracles do not take place in opposition to nature – only in opposition to what we know of nature”.
Several miracles were attested to by participants, including a strange case where a woman was delivered from chronic pelvic pain and infertility when she went into a trance and experienced herself being gang raped and killed. She came out of the trance at the moment of envisaged death – and her symptoms left her. David suggested this might have been an adult version of a hidden and suppressed memory of childhood abuse
Can we discern whether miracles or deliverance is by God or Satan – “many will come and deceive the elect, doing signs and wonders”. What follows usually provides the answer. The Christian Deliverance study group emphasises not ‘deliverance from’ but ‘delivering to” – out of darkness into light.
There is a lot of evidence that spiritual practices (exercising compassion; yielding to God’s will; meditation/space to reflect etc) bring about beneficial physiological and biochemical effects. Bringing together arts and science to find the meaning of a patient’s condition and space to think together lead to better well-being – Is this a role the church could take on?
A participant from Africa spoke of the dangers of “power evangelism” and TV evangelists who encouraged patients to stop medication. It was felt that the Jesus model (telling the man with leprosy to show himself to the priest) is that we should always tell those who are healed (or believe themselves to be so) to go and “show themselves to their doctor and if he finds them cured then to stop medication.
There is a group in America Global Medical Research Institute www.globalmri.org which researches individual claims of healing.