Healing Line

Healing Line

Easter and Healing

by Francis MacNutt
May/Jun 2002

I was just listening to a cassette made during a discussion period following a talk I had given way back in 1976 (at the inaugural conference of the Association of Christian Therapists in Tampa). What struck me was a question a cautious theologian from Europe was asking. In my talk I had mentioned five different levels of healing, the last levels being seemingly "supernatural" — beyond what we might expect to happen through the normal healing power we find in the natural order.

The kind of healing that this theologian could accept was that the ordinary, natural powers of healing are sped up when we pray. He could accept that level. To take one example, a woman is burned in a fire and is expected to stay in recovery for many weeks, leaving some visible scar tissue to mark the burn site on her body forever. Instead, after we pray, she is released from the hospital in one–third of the expected time and, surprisingly, there is no scar tissue left.

The theologian could accept that, because human understanding may be able to explain the speed and completeness of the cure. We all know the power of the mind, the "placebo effect" and the power of suggestion. We also recognize the therapeutic power of a loving touch ("therapeutic touch"). Then, too, the love of a caring person or support group also has a curative effect. All that he could accept: any cure that could be explained on the human, natural level.

What the theologian cautioned about was for us to claim that God worked at a higher or "supernatural" level, beyond the laws of nature. My favorite example of healing at this level is the story about the three Indians at Blue Cloud Abbey in South Dakota in 1972, who testified to Jesus filling teeth (I had recently written up their story in my book Healing). The theologian told us that such an attitude towards healing was highly questionable and was not likely to be accepted in his circles. (In fact, the word "supernatural" was no longer in use in many theological circles.)

Listening to that discussion, dating back more than 25 years, I realized that this question is still very much with us, a major question facing the leaders in mainline denominations.

Nor is it only in the healing ministry that we face this kind of question, but it touches the basic teachings of Christianity: the ways these teachings have traditionally been understood are now being questioned and reinterpreted. If you do not accept a supernatural dimension to reality you will find it hard to believe that Jesus was really raised from the dead on that first Easter. Increasingly, there are scholars who teach that the Resurrection of Jesus simply means that his memory continued to live on in the memory of his disciples — so vividly that it seemed he was still alive and with them. He was spiritually, but not physically, resurrected. If this is all that we mean by his Resurrection — if it can all be explained by human reason and by the ordinary creative processes of nature, then perhaps Jesus was just a great teacher — like Buddha.

Since we cannot prove the supernatural, because it is invisible, we always need the gift of faith to believe the great mysteries of Christianity. Our experience in the healing ministry, is a tremendous help, seeing people dramatically healed, being there when someone has a vision of Jesus, all this is a testimony to his resurrection and to his being truly alive today — not just in our memories. I do believe that I have seen truly supernatural healings even though I may have difficulty in scientifically proving that only God could cause them. When we pray for healing and see a broken leg straighten, or watch a tumor shrink down and disappear, that makes it so much easier for us to accept the great mysteries of faith.

We recognize that God, in creating the world we see around us, has given it marvelous curative properties that cause most of the healings we see. Medical treatment, pharmaceutical drugs, together with the healing power of love, the influence of a positive attitude and joyous laughter, the uplifting support life–giving force of a loving community — they all go to produce healing.

But there is another level beyond that. When we see a sick person somehow transformed before our very eyes, we find it easy to believe that Jesus worked that transformation. Through him, with him, and in him we live and move and have our being.

When we pray and see a sick person rise up in joy, it makes it so much easier for us to realize that...

Jesus is truly risen from the grave.

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. May/Jun 2002 Issue