Healing Line

Healing Line

A Fresh Insight Into Healing

by Francis MacNutt
Summer 2001

Several years ago Rev. Don Williams gave one of those life–changing talks you hope to hear every so often to keep you growing. He said we are now living in a new cultural era, the age of "post–modernism." He stated that our entire culture has moved in that direction since the 1960s, that this culture shift is not going away, and that it is deeply affecting our churches, even if they don't even know it. The mainline churches (Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, etc.) are graying year by year and losing members steadily.

Perhaps you are wondering why we should talk about post–modernism: "What in the world is this newfound label, and who cares? I know what I believe and that's good enough for me!" But we need to understand what's happening because it's affecting all of us, whether we know it or not — especially the younger generation. And it's deeply affecting the disputes agitating most churches.

The reason I'm writing about chis new world view is because I believe chat our own experience of Jesus' healing is the bridge we need to bring Christianity to chis generation when older methods fail. Let me explain in as simple a way as possible.

One of the signs of holding a post–modernistic outlook is that the person no longer believes in "objective truth." Instead, truth is subjective: "One person's truth is as good as anybody else's." If you ever loved Frank Sinatra's song, "I Did It My Way," you were singing the new theme song of our age. For example, the churches used to teach that same–sex sexual activity was objectively wrong, but today a homosexual may say simply, "I challenge chat because of my own personal experience." Personal, subjective experience becomes the criterion of truth rather than some commandment proposed by Scripture or the authority of the church. I think all of us can recognize that an extraordinary shift has taken place in the past 30 years. Being "inclusive" is a main value in the post–modern church.

One major aspect of this shift that is taking place — and we really need to be aware of it — is much more fundamental than the issues that are dividing many churches (e.g. should women be ordained?). It has to do with the very center of our Christian belief, set forth in the Creed we all recite. That is, simply, our belief in the physical Resurrection of Jesus — the empty tomb and Jesus' physical body risen from the dead and still alive. I'm writing this article during the Easter season when we celebrate that Resurrection in the most important feast of the Christian year: "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again!"

But now some prominent Scripture scholars and theologians are openly challenging the traditional belief in the Resurrection. They even are interviewed on some well–advertised TV specials. Some are members of the Jesus Seminar where they vote on Jesus' sayings in the Gospels. They have four choices: Jesus said it; he probably said it; he probably didn't say it; or he didn't say it all. These scholars are very bright and articulate. Although you may have never personally heard them, they are changing the way Scripture is being taught in some seminaries.

To give you an example of how the ancient belief in the bodily Resurrection is being questioned, I've been reading a book by a brilliant author in which he states that the Resurrection was simply a powerful memory of Jesus' living on in his friends' memories. Jesus was a great leader, so loved by His followers that after He died, his presence in memory was so strong that it was as if He were still alive. By the time the Gospels were written, 40 years after the Crucifixion, the next generation of followers (such as Luke) spoke and wrote as if Jesus were still alive. They had come to believe it, and that's the new understanding of His Resurrection.

In the first place, this decline in some scholars' belief in the Gospels goes back several hundred years, when some theologians, especially in Germany, started to question whether Jesus' healings and exorcisms had actually occurred. These scholars' need to verify all truth scientifically and rationally led to the denial of the "supernatural" which cannot be measured (this was the era of "modernism"). The technical term for the abandoning of belief in Jesus' miracles is "demythologizing the Gospels." This process has gone on for many years and has affected almost all the Christian churches to some degree or another — except the Pentecostals. How else can we explain how the evangelicals, including Baptists who believe so strongly in the Bible's truth, also believe that healing and exorcism have largely ceased?

To be consistent, once one questions the actions of Jesus — his "works" in healing the sick — what is to prevent questioning his sayings in the Gospels when they challenge the prevailing beliefs of our society? It is amazing, for example, to read the popular commentaries on Scripture by William Barclay. You will find his books in almost every Christian bookstore and you will notice that every time he comments on a healing or exorcism, he states that Jesus lived in a superstitious world where the people believed in such things as evil spirits. Jesus' power to heal was simply the people's primitive belief in Him, which led to the power of suggestion healing these simple people.

The best way our post–modern society can return to a belief in Jesus' Resurrection lies in a personal encounter with God. In an era when personal, subjective experience is what counts, the best way to return to a belief in the risen Christ is to meet him — like the disciples on the Emmaus Road. This is the way it happened 2,000 years ago, and this is the way it will again happen today. Thus, the restoration of the healing ministry is even more important than it was 30 years ago when I first started praying for the sick.

Our experience at CHM is that the person who receives a healing or deliverance no longer has a problem believing Jesus is alive. Often it goes beyond a believing — it's a knowing. Jesus is not just a memory, not just a great leader who lived 2,000 years ago. He lives!

When people experience the Baptism of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit (such as healing) they no longer question the Resurrection. If we need to know by experience and not just because someone with authority has told us what to believe, then this marvelous renewal of the Spirit is just the kind of evangelization we need in our day. It's the same kind of evangelization they practiced in the early Church. Read again chapters three and four of Acts where Peter and John use the healing of the lame man as a powerful motive to meet the One who healed him — Jesus Christ.

"All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection ... " (Philippians 3:10a).

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Summer 2001 Issue