Is Faith Healing Scriptural?
Interest in faith healing is at an all-time high. Does the Bible support the claims of faith healers? Are actual cures performed, and if so how can they be explained? What kind of healing work does the Bible authorize us to expect?
INTEREST in faith healing is on the increase throughout the world. In the United States faith healers pack out auditoriums night after night and sponsor radio and TV programs. One magazine devoted to faith healing boasts of a circulation of more than a quarter million. The London News Chronicle, May 21, 1954, tells of fifty Scottish clergymen practicing faith healing and that it “is spreading in Scotland.” And according to Time magazine, May 17, 1954, at a meeting of scientists in southern France it was brought out that in France there are more “unorthodox” healers than licensed physicians, 48,000 to compare with 42,000. Also that faith healing is increasing in Germany.
Then there is the increase in Christian Science practitioners, who claim ability to cure people of their ills which, they say, exist only in the mind. And not to be overlooked is the increasing number of miracles accredited to Roman Catholic shrines throughout the world, foremost and most accurately documented of which appears to be the one at Lourdes, France. Reports have come to hand even of the healing of dogs.
The increase of interest in faith healing should not surprise us, as this is a modern, materialistic age. Of course, man’s quest for health is natural enough, since disease brings with it so much suffering, is costly, burdens others and shortens life. Then, too, the increase in mental and nervous disorders, as well as of the degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart and kidney ailments, and that in spite of vaunted medical progress, is doubtless causing more and more persons to look to faith healing for cure.
Attracted to faith healers are not only the sick but also the credulous and curious ones. Was not Herod Antipas delighted when Pilate sent Jesus to him because “he was hoping to see some sign performed by him”? Incidentally, Jesus refused even to talk with him, much less to give him a sign to satisfy his curiosity.—Luke 23:8, 9, NW.
SCRIPTURE CURES GENUINE
Faith healers in Christendom generally lean heavily on the Bible for support of their activity. They argue that, since the Bible tells of miracles’ being performed in times past and God is all-powerful, cures can be and are being performed by his power today. Thus one healing magazine has articles bearing titles such as: “It Is Marvelous in Our Eyes,” “What God Hath Wrought by Faith,” “The Prayer of Faith Shall Save the Sick.”
In view of what man is learning about the effect of the mind on the body some would attribute Scripture cures to this psychosomatic relationship. However, all who believe Jesus’ words to God, “Your word is truth,” cannot accept any such explanation, for throughout the Bible the point is plainly made that these cures were manifestations of the power of God.
Among the pre-Christian examples of divine healing might be mentioned the “curing” of Abraham’s sterility as well as that of his wife so that they were able to have a son though nearing the century mark. The Bible leaves no doubt as to this “cure” being a matter of faith and divine power. (Heb. 11:11, 12) Moses, by means of God’s power, was able both to cause diseases and to cure them. Elisha cured a leper, Naaman; caused Naaman’s leprosy to pass over to Gehazi his servant; and raised a child from the dead.
With the coming of Christ Jesus divine healing received added impetus. He cured ten lepers at one time and healed a man born blind, and those who but touched the fringe of his robe were cured. He even raised several from the dead. Should any question their actually having been dead, let them note that Lazarus was in the grave for four days.
Jesus not only did healing work himself but empowered others to do the same, commissioning them: “As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’ Cure sick people, raise up dead persons, make lepers clean, expel demons. You received free, give free.” (Matt. 10:7, 8, NW) By way of digression let it here be noted that Jesus put the preaching of the Kingdom first. This was in keeping with his repeated commands to those cured not to tell others about their cure.
Note further how Luke stresses the fact that it was God’s power that caused Paul to perform cures: “And God kept performing extraordinary works of power through the hands of Paul, so that even cloths and aprons were borne from his body to ailing people and the diseases left them.” (Acts 19:11, 12, NW) Yes, we cannot escape it, we must grant that God’s servants did practice divine healing.
NO ARGUMENT FOR FAITH HEALING TODAY!
Do not all these facts argue for faith healing today? No, not at all! Why not, you ask? For two primary reasons. First of all, the Christian walks by faith and not by sight. (2 Cor. 5:7) He has no such promise as God gave the Israelites, namely, that if they would obey his commandments “Jehovah will certainly remove from you every sickness.”—Deut. 7:15, NW.
Secondly, miracles, including those of healing, were for the purpose of establishing the authenticity of Jehovah’s messengers. Moses performed miracles and “at this the people believed.” The same was true regarding Christ Jesus. Said he: “If I am not doing the works of my Father, do not believe me. But if I am doing them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works.” (John 10:37, 38, NW) Further note that Jesus did not limit his miraculous works to healing but performed many other miracles. He raised the dead, fed thousands on just a few loaves and fishes, changed water into wine, stilled the raging sea, read persons’ minds, uttered many prophecies that have been fulfilled or are in course of fulfillment. All such established the fact that he was indeed God’s Son, for such things could not have been done of himself.
These very reasons for divine healing in times past argue against expecting divine healing today. Christianity having been firmly established as genuine by the performance of so many miracles, there is no longer any need for further miracles. So the power to perform miracles passed away when the twelve apostles, and those others upon whom Jesus conferred this power, died. Foretelling the end of gifts of the spirit Paul wrote: “Love never fails. But whether there are gifts of prophesying, they will be done away with; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will be done away with.” They were required while the Christian congregation was in its infancy, but upon reaching maturity it could well dispense with these “traits of a babe.”—1 Cor. 13:8, 11, NW.
Consistent with this position is the fact that these miracles were not performed for the benefit of the ones possessing these powers. Thus when Christ hungered after forty days of fasting he refused to change stones into bread to satisfy his hunger. Why? Because it would have been a misuse of his gift. Likewise we read that in traveling, when he got tired, he rested while the disciples went to a village for food. He had power to feed thousands miraculously, why not spare the disciples the trouble by providing food miraculously? No, that would not have been a right use of his power. And for that matter, why bother resting? Being able to give power to others, why not supply his own strength supernaturally? Again, because God did not give him these gifts for his own comfort and convenience.
This same principle was followed by his apostles and disciples. It seems that Paul suffered from poor eyesight. At one time his colaborer Epaphroditus was sick to death, and at another time Paul had to leave Trophimus behind because of illness. And do we not read of Timothy having stomach trouble as well as “frequent cases of sickness”? Why all these instances of illness if divine healing was to be for the benefit of Christians? And had it been a sign of lack of faith to use the services of a physician, would Paul have taken Luke along and affectionately referred to him as “the beloved physician”? (1 Tim. 5:23; Col. 4:14, NW; Phil. 2:25, 27; 2 Tim. 4:20) Obviously, miracles were for the purpose of convincing unbelievers, not for the benefit of dedicated Christians.
Since there is no particular purpose to be served, why should we expect miracles today? Disease is a matter of cause and effect based on laws that God made. It would be folly to flout, ignore or neglect these laws and then expect God to perform a miracle in our behalf. Besides, we are told that ‘time and chance happen to all.’
When we are sick would it be wrong to pray to God about our sickness? No, but we may not pray that he will cure us. What we can pray for is strength to bear up, also wisdom so that we can combat our illness in the best possible way. Just as we pray for our bread for each day, but do not expect God to supply it miraculously.
Nor should we make the mistake of blaming the Devil personally for our sickness or accident as though we were another Job. His was a special case for the purpose of making a record regarding the issue of supremacy. Note that not only was Job restored, but his lost family was duplicated and he was given twice as much material wealth as he had before.
HOW ACCOUNT FOR “FAITH HEALING” CURES?
Since we cannot attribute these modern “faith healing” cures to the power of God, how can we account for them? In the first place let us note that much has been learned in recent years about the body-mind relationship and some authorities hold that about one third of all sicknesses are caused by the mind, one third by the body and one third by a combination of both. To the extent that any ailment is caused by mental or emotional factors, to that extent it could easily respond to “faith cure.” Besides, it is well known that the mind has a great power over the body, even as the Bible indicates: “A cheerful heart is a good medicine; but a broken spirit drieth up the bones.”—Prov. 17:22, AS.
But what about those cures that cannot be explained in this way? The very fact that God “is not partial” would preclude their having been performed by him, for we see many wicked persons enjoying good health and many sincere Christians suffering from poor health. So we must look elsewhere for an explanation. And where is that?
We are told that “Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light.” Also that his agents would perform signs and wonders “to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones.” Yes, if the cure cannot be attributed to physical factors and if God does not work in such a way, the only explanation is the power of the demons. That demons have supernatural power the Scriptures clearly show.—2 Cor. 11:14; Matt. 24:24, NW; Ex. 7:10-12.
This should not seem shocking, for not only do widely conflicting sects of Christendom claim cures but it is a well-known fact that fakirs, medicine men and the shaman of pagan lands are actually able to perform cures, sometimes in cases that failed to respond to modern medicine.
Further making many faith healers suspect is the emphasis they have placed on contributions, the sensational methods used to attract publicity and the countless numbers that fail to respond, all of which is in striking contrast with the divine healing program as carried on by Jesus and his early disciples.
THE SPIRITUAL DIVINE HEALING PROGRAM
Healing of physical infirmity is not the thing of paramount importance in the life of a well-balanced Christian. God’s Word tells us of a spiritual healing program that far excels in importance any physical healing program. In Jesus’ day those healed only physically actually had but little benefit—for just a few short years. But those who were healed spiritually by means of faith, knowledge and dedication to do God’s will had the promise: “This is the will of my Father, that everyone that beholds the Son and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life, and I should resurrect him at the last day.”—John 6:40, NW.
Yes, today a spiritual divine healing program is in progress. As a result of preaching the good news of Jehovah’s kingdom hundreds of thousands are being given spiritual health that far exceeds the felicity of any physical well-being. The knowledge of who Jehovah is, what his purposes are and why he has permitted evil, the realization that Christ died for our sins, the hope of blessings of a new world so near at hand, bring peace of mind, comfort and joy of heart. They cause one to dedicate himself to Jehovah and bring one into the New World society, all of whose members are likewise dedicated to Jehovah, heeding the two great commandments to love Jehovah with all one’s heart, mind, soul and strength, and one’s neighbor as oneself.
This spiritual healing program was long ago foretold: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy.” “And no inhabitant will say, ‘I am sick’; the people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity.” “Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security.”—Isa. 35:5, 6; 33:24; Jer. 33:6, RS.
The foregoing promises are limited to the spiritual healing program now taking place, but they give assurance of a literal physical and mental healing in the near future, in the new earth of a new world in which righteousness will dwell. Of that new world it is written: “And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be any more.”—Rev. 21:4, NW.
What Jehovah purposes he will accomplish, and so his original purpose to have the earth filled with a perfect race of healthy, happy human creatures, dwelling in peace and unity and worshiping only him, will yet be realized. Until that time Christians will content themselves with spiritual health and such physical health as they can have by exercising self-control and by using such remedial measures as are consistent with the Scriptures and soundness of mind. At the same time they will do all they can to bring to the attention of others the spiritual divine healing program with its hopes of blessings in the new world.