Faith Healing—Does It Do Any Harm?
FAITH healers explain that their power to heal does not work in every case. As can be imagined, this has led to problems. When sick people have relied completely on a faith healer, and the hoped-for miracle has not happened, at times the results have been serious. In some instances, people have died of diseases that could have perhaps been treated successfully in another way.
Possibly with this in mind, many faith healers now recommend that their “patients” keep in touch with their doctor while still coming to them for faith healing. They say they consider the doctor to be a partner, not a rival, in the work of healing. Some doctors give a wary approval to this kind of faith healing, in view of possible psychosomatic benefits to their patients.
Dr. William A. Nolan, after a long investigation of faith healing, mentioned another problem. Following up several of the claimed healings, he found a lot of bitterness. People had been told, or had led themselves to believe, that they were healed. But afterward the sickness was still there. Some sicknesses were worse than before. Many persons felt deceived.
Suppose, though, a person followed the advice to keep in contact with his personal doctor; and suppose that the individual was prepared for the fact that the hoped-for healing might not happen. Would it not still be worth going to a faith healer—just in case? To answer this, we need to look at the religious aspect.
THE RELIGIOUS CONNECTION
Faith healing has strong religious connections. Evangelists and charismatics feel that their activities ‘bring people back to Christ.’ Do they?
It is noteworthy that during their services people may “speak in tongues” or be “slain in the spirit,” as they say—that is, they fall into a kind of trance in which they cannot move but seem to be aware of what is happening around them. Interestingly, such things are not unlike the fits and trances that involve those other religious healers, the voodoo priests and witch doctors.
True, some “psychic healers” feel their healing is separate from religion. Yet their procedures and experiences are often similar to those of religious healers. And at least some have a background of spiritism or perhaps Oriental religious philosophy.
Are these details important in this liberal 20th century? Yes, those details are very important, if we use as a basis for evaluation the healings performed by Jesus Christ and his apostles in the early days of Christianity. What do we observe when we consider these healings?
THE HEALINGS JESUS PERFORMED
In connection with the healings performed by Jesus, there was no “psychic surgery” or “being slain in the spirit.” Neither did he give emotional sermons before his healings. What he did was often quite informal. He might touch the sick one, or that one might touch him, or sometimes he merely spoke to the ailing. And they were healed.—Matt. 8:14, 15; Luke 8:43-48; 17:12-19.
The healing performed by Jesus was not psychosomatic. A withered hand cannot be healed by that means, yet he cured such afflictions. He was able to cure “every sort of disease and every sort of infirmity.” He even raised the dead. (Matt. 4:23; Luke 6:6-11; 8:49-56) There were no merely marginal improvements, no failures. Words like “disappointment” or “deception” were not heard in connection with Jesus’ healings. Even his enemies admitted that these happened. (John 11:47, 48) Why the difference between then and now?
WHY THE DIFFERENCE?
Since there is wide agreement—by most faith healers too—that Jesus’ healings were from God, could it be that today’s healers are in contact with a different source of power? This is very likely, especially when we consider the connections of some faith healers with spiritism and occultism. And it is very significant that, concerning these practices, the Bible warns us: “There should not be found in you anyone . . . who employs divination, a practicer of magic or anyone who looks for omens or a sorcerer, or one who binds others with a spell or anyone who consults a spirit medium or a professional foreteller of events or anyone who inquires of the dead.”—Deut. 18:10, 11.
This is not religious bigotry. Rather, it protects us from contamination by sinister spirit forces—demons—that have always been against mankind’s better interests. Modern faith healing, with its occult connections, is inevitably different from the healings performed by Jesus Christ, since he always shunned such influences. Anything performed under the influence of these forces will inevitably lead to many cases of “disappointment” and “deception.”
This point about a different source of power becomes clearer when we realize that there is no reason to expect that the same kind of healing Jesus did would be practiced today. The healing work of Jesus and his apostles fulfilled its purpose.
WHY JESUS HEALED
When the apostle Paul’s friend Timothy was sick, Paul recommended not the laying on of hands but the medicinal use of wine. (1 Tim. 5:23) Why? Because the early Christians did not view the gift of healing as a kind of therapy. Neither was it their commission to care for the physical health of mankind back there.
Like Jesus, they were preachers. To Pontius Pilate, Jesus explained his main purpose in life when he said: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.”—John 18:37.
Why, then, the healing? It, along with the other miracles, was a sign. It proved that the Christian message really was from God, was “the truth.” The apostle Paul showed this when he wrote: “How shall we escape if we have neglected a salvation of such greatness in that it began to be spoken through our Lord and was verified for us by those who heard him, while God joined in bearing witness with signs as well as portents and various powerful works.” (Heb. 2:3, 4) Hence, the important thing was the message of salvation, not the miracles. The miracles merely proved the truth of the message. Once that and the fact that God was using the Christian congregation had been established, miraculous gifts of the spirit, including healing, were no longer needed.—1 Cor. 12:27–13:8.
But what about claimed miracles performed today in Jesus’ name? Jesus himself said that many would say to him: “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?” And Jesus’ reply? “Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Jesus did not deny that powerful works would be performed. But these would not be done by his authority, ‘in his name.’ They would be done by some other power; hence, they were lawless.—Matt. 7:21-23.
On the other hand, Jesus said of the activity of his true followers: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” He also said: “Go . . . make disciples of people . . . teaching them.” Yes, the witness today was to be preaching and teaching, not miracles such as healing.—Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20.
A BETTER ANSWER
Hence, while the possible benefits of going to a faith healer are dubious, the dangers are real. There is the danger of getting involved with the demons, and your being viewed by Jesus as being among the “workers of lawlessness.” Additionally, there is a danger of missing out on a much better answer to the problem of human sicknesses than faith healing.
There is a better answer—God’s own answer, which is explained to us in the Bible. This inspired book does not promise instant relief from sickness. But it does give help on health matters. Following the Bible’s counsel on physical and moral cleanness will help us to avoid many diseases, including the modern scourges of venereal disease and cancer as a result of smoking. Listening to its advice will help us to escape many of the stress-related illnesses that can be brought on by envy, jealousy and bitter anger.—Prov. 14:29, 30; 2 Cor. 7:1; Gal. 5:19-23.
Furthermore, the apostle Paul shows us how to rely fully on God in times of crisis, such as sickness. This removes much anxiety and brings the “peace of God that excels all thought.” Such peace of mind brings undoubted psychosomatic benefits in times of sickness, without a person’s having to rely on faith healing.—Phil. 4:6, 7.
More than this, the Bible thrills us by describing conditions that will exist earthwide after the Kingdom, the heavenly government that Jesus preached about, has completely removed the present selfish and violent system of things. These descriptions are more exciting when we understand that the time for their realization is very close.
The apostle Peter said that Jesus’ miracles were “signs” and “portents.” (Acts 2:22) They were “signs” of the truth of Jesus’ message, and they were “portents” of what Jehovah God will empower him to do for mankind when God’s kingdom causes His will to be done in all the earth. Imagine the healing and restoration work that will occur then!
Describing the result of this future healing activity, the book of Revelation says: God “will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” This is a reliable promise. There will be no disappointed hopes or deception, since God himself says: “Write, because these words are faithful and true.”—Rev. 21:4, 5.
Are you concerned about the problem of sickness and death? Most of us are. Then, why not investigate these promises of God? You will find them much more reliable and satisfying than faith healing.
[Box on page 6]
Jesus’ healings were—
• obviously from God
• completely effective in every case
• often quite informal
• acknowledged as being successful even by his enemies
• intended to prove the truthfulness of the message of salvation
[Box on page 7]
Jesus’ healings were—
• NOT related to spiritism or occultism
• NOT accompanied by emotional sermons
• NOT psychosomatic or a form of therapy
• NOT the most important part of his ministry
• NOT foretold to be imitated in our day
[Picture on page 5]
There are differences between the healings Jesus performed and today’s faith healings