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Faith Healing

November 28, 2011

Faith Healing. A controversial topic that will give me a chance to flex my Calvinist muscles and tell everyone else how they’re wrong.

     I want to start this off with stating that I believe that miraculous healings exist. Many glass-chewing Calvinists have such a stringent position on miracles that you get the feeling that they don’t want miracles to happen and that they’re looking to deny any miraculous activity that isn’t explicitly in the Bible. I do not want to be that person. Not only will I say that miraculous healings happened in the apostolic era, I believe that they can still happen today. There are miraculous cases of people with cancer who woke up one day and found all their cancerous cells gone.

     I don’t deny the possibility of miraculous healings. What I do want to point out is the bad theology that is behind most so-called “faith healing.” I have seen videos online of people being prayed over and then being “healed” of diseases. I want those stories to be true. But I have my doubts, and they are founded, not on scientific, but on theological grounds. 19967872

     The way that most “faith healing” works, in my experience, is something like this: if you have enough faith, God will heal you and others. Sometimes revivalists travel the country and “heal” people; other times faith healing comes through well-meaning laypeople. Whether the healer is a fraud or a truly faithful person, the theology behind it is still bankrupt.

     The basic assumption behind faith healing is that if you have enough faith, God will heal you. I’ve even heard people talk like this: “Well, I was prayed for, but I don’t feel better, so I must not have enough faith.” There is a twofold problem with this. The first is that it makes faith into a sort of commodity with which we can barter with God to get things that we want. You have 50 faith points, God will heal your cold; you have 250 faith points, God will heal your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and so on. The problem with this is that faith becomes a guarantor of God giving you stuff. If having enough faith means God will heal my runny nose, will that mean that if I have enough faith that God will give me a new car or make a girl that I like fall in love with me? God does not always give “stuff” to the faithful. I’m not saying that God doesn’t bless people with material things; he does. We don’t want to be like the Widder Douglas in Huck Finn, who tells Huck that he should only pray for “spiritual things.” The Lord’s prayer includes the request “give us this day our daily bread,” a request for God to fulfill our physical needs and wants. (!) But God is not a vending machine. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

     The second problem with faith healing is that it tries to deny the effects of the fall. Faith healing in effect says “If you are faithful enough, then bad things won’t happen to you. If you are faithful enough, all your diseases will be cured.” This is not biblical. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. A quick glance at the Bible will reveal that “being faithful” isn’t a guarantor (don’t you just love that word) of being 100% free from disaster. Look at the two greatest men in the New Testament, Jesus and Paul. (Paul was a great man, because he was the chief of sinners.) Paul was a great man of faith, an apostle. Yet he had his “thorn in the flesh,” a physical ailment which God did not take away from him even though he prayed for deliverance. Jesus was the most faithful person ever, full stop. Yet his faithfulness did not lead him to a life of material comfort, but to the cross, to a death from suffocation and loss of blood.

     I don’t say these things to downplay God’s gift of physical health. I am a fairly healthy person who has had no major medical catastrophes, and I earnestly pray that I will continue in good health as long as I live. God has blessed us by putting us in the 21st century and in America, with the best medical technology the world has ever known. But in Adam’s fall, we sinned all, and we all must pay Adam’s curse. The world is still fallen, and part of the effects of the fall is human sickness and weakness. The only thing that can change this is the Third Coming of Christ. (Yes, you read that right.)

     In conclusion, I believe that miraculous healings do occur. However, the theology behind most faith healing is bankrupt. God will heal all our diseases, but some will be healed here on earth and some will be healed in the world to come.

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