Healing Line

Healing Line

My Great Healing

by Francis MacNutt
Mar/Apr 2009

I recently realized that I have quietly lived through a huge healing process, and many of you have, too! It has taken time and has happened so gradually that you may not have even noticed that it happened, but it is actually a greater healing than most others you may have experienced or witnessed. This enormous healing lies in how Christians have improved in living the Great Commandment of loving each other. And here is how it took place in me.

As I began life as a young Roman Catholic in the 1940s, the usual attitude in relation to Protestants was hostile, and it was even questioned whether or not they could be saved. “There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church” was the unofficial but traditional teaching that had come down to us. Many of us had even memorized the Latin: “Extra Ecclesia, nulla salus.” Most of my family, classmates and friends were not Catholic, and so the next question was, “Are they all lost?” At this date, 70 years later, this sounds extremely harsh, judgmental, and even silly; but for centuries, Catholic theologians (such as Aquinas) were trying to work out ways by which virtuous non–Catholics might be considered as saved. Pope Pius XII taught that non–Catholics could be saved by an “unconscious desire or longing” (1943). While the official church teaching refused to condemn Protestants, some rigorists were literal in their interpretation of “no salvation outside the Catholic Church,” and the Catholic priest who was chaplain at Harvard when I was there was actually removed from office because he was teaching that Protestants were not saved.

And then later, I found out that many Protestants returned the compliment and believed that Catholics were lost. Infant baptism didn’t count if the Catholic had not “been saved” and been baptized as an adult by immersion (Believer’s Baptism). Even in the 1960s, I saw that many Christians not only stayed separate from each other, but they also believed that others were lost and did not even merit the title of “Christian.” Sadly, this seemed to be especially true for those denominations that held crucial truths with the most conviction.

The next stage — which, again, happened gradually — came when we began to mix more freely at religious meetings where we met Christians from other denominations, and we came to recognize that they truly loved Jesus. We realized that it was rash judgment to imagine that God turned his back on them. At the Tennessee camp meeting in 1967, where I was baptized in the Spirit, I was with 700 Protestants, and I could see at once that they loved God in a profound way. There I became friends with the other speakers: Tommy Tyson (Methodist), Agnes Sanford (Episcopalian) and Derek Prince (independent Evangelical). To me, they seemed like extraordinary models of Christianity. I didn’t necessarily agree with all the teachings of their denominations, but I could agree with the teachings they gave at this conference. Not only did I see them as “saved,” but even as being holy. I was specially impressed with the fact that they each spoke for an hour every day, for six days, and I was sorry when they stopped at the end of their hour. That said to me that the Spirit was truly inspiring their teaching.

This was the next stage: to recognize that, far from being lost, Christians from other denominations seemed to be holy! Perhaps they were even better Christians than I was!

The third stage, which quickly followed (in the 1970s), was when I changed from believing that I had a grasp on all the most important Christian truths and had very little to learn from Protestants. (I am really embarrassed to admit this!). For example, I learned about the gift of inspired preaching from Tommy Tyson, about the gift of healing from Agnes Sanford, and about deliverance from evil spirits from Derek Prince. Most important of all, I learned about the importance of the baptism in the Holy Spirit from Pentecostal friends. When I looked into Catholic history, I could find them all, but most of us hadn’t experienced them in everyday life. I had never learned to pray with anyone for their physical healing with expectation that they might actually be healed. In all this exciting learning process, I never felt that I was departing from my Catholic tradition; instead, I believed that I was rediscovering the depths of my tradition and helping to restore it to its rightful place.

Something like this has happened to many of us. In our churches, we have moved in the direction of loving and esteeming each other, rather than despising or looking down on others. Associating with Christians in other denominations has deepened my faith rather than eroded it. It’s so different from my old fear of associating with Protestants. I know that doubting is a real danger if you don’t really understand your own tradition, so my suggestion is that we go deeper into our own Christian tradition to discover the treasures that lie there.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:14–19).

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Mar/Apr 2009 Issue