What should the church teach about healing?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPresented by Dr David McDonald, Consultant Psychiatrist 

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.

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One response to “What should the church teach about healing?

  1. Not Coping with Miraculous Healing?

    I enjoyed some interesting discussions which felt like I was fighting the corner for ‘miraculous healing’. This was generally accepted as part of the wider healing spectrum, but I think there is a discussion to be had around recognising the plain miraculous physical healing that Jesus practiced.

    Is our disappointment with prayer for physical healing driving us to embrace a broader holistic understanding more in keeping with our less spectacular modern experience, or should we allow the raw text of the Gospels to drive a fresh reappraisal?

    Ancillary to this is a need to look at the possibility of research on clinical outcomes to prayer. Research eviddence does exist and it does indicae a correlation, but it is not mind blowing. So how can we capture anecdotal human evidence of physical healing (which I hear about a lot in our charismatic/new/pentecostal churches) to inform health discussions? Is there an evidence platform that we haven’t really thought about yet?

    While being aware of the charlatans out there, we should not allow bad practice to discourage open investigation of physical healing or to skew our broad understanding towards cynicism.

    If there is another conference I would like to imagine the impact of say, 5-10 people telling their story of physical healing! I am guessing we might find it as unsettling as the religious people of Jesus’ own day, who would be quick to find some weird and wonderful explanation, albeit the evidence was right under their noses!

    Also, ‘next time’ we might perhaps benefit from the input of those with a radical edge who are known for genuinely witnessed success in this area to provide some interesting input?

    Charlie

    Warmest regards

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