Do miraculous healings really take place during religious revival meetings? What about so-called psychic healing? Does it actually work? What is behind the new surge of interest — even by medical researchers — in what many claim to be "faith healings"?
THE BLIND see, the deaf hear, the lame walk!" announced the hand-painted sign. Inside the "revival" tent, the voice of an itinerant "evangelist" blared through an over-powered loud speaker system. "You are healed!" he said to an elderly woman with a cane. "Amen!" echoed several believers. Many in the audience were involved in the hand clapping, singing and shouting. Some were curious spectators from the street, attracted by all this activity on the usually vacant lot. The smell of stirred-up sawdust filled the air, creating a slight haze in the tent. As a couple of ushers escorted the elderly woman off the stage, the preacher turned his attention to the next person in an irregular line of afflicted and ailing individuals. "Come, Witness Miracles!" proclaimed the tract handed out at the entrance. But when the meeting was over, and the money was all counted, and the sawdust in the now silent tent had a chance to settle back to the ground, how many had really been healed that night? On the other side of the world, an "operation" has just been completed. There were no surgical tools, no anesthetics. The patient remained awake throughout the procedure. The surgeon used only his bare hands to "remove" a tumor and then to magically "heal" the incision. The patient says he feels better now. Has he really been cured? Some scientists and medical researchers are studying incidents such as these. Their efforts are part of a growing interest by many in what is claimed to be "faith healing" or "healing without medicine." Driven by the knowledge that conventional medical science is limited in its ability to relieve human suffering, researchers are taking a new look at the claims made. What about such increasingly popular phenomena as "spiritual healers," so-called faith healers, purported miracles associated with various religious shrines and relics, as well as the psychic surgeons of Brazil and the Philippines, even primitive medicine men, treatment by hypnotism and the like? Up until fairly recently such "healers" were not taken seriously by any appreciable segment of Western society. And certainly not by most churches. Now, however, interest is evident even in some of the oldest mainstream religious denominations, which have "healing services" in thousands of their churches. "George Gallup says about 10 million people practice the faith. The spread is so extensive, adds psychiatrist Jerome Frank, that more sick people may now be treated by healers than by physicians" (San Gabriel Valley Tribune, June 22, 1979). What is attracting all these people — including serious researchers? Obviously something must be going on in the various sessions, encounters and "revival" meetings. But what? Whatever it is, a lot of people are convinced real healings are taking place. And a lot of religiously inclined people think it must be of God since, they believe, only He can work miracles. But is that assumption true? If it is, what about all the nonreligious "healers"? How do they function? On the other hand, if God is not the only one capable of performing "miracles," who or what else would be able to cause the manifestations so many declare are "healings"? Some say most of the "healings" are of the devil, especially if they are brought about by nonreligious "healers." But if the sick are really made well, is that possible? Can the devil heal?
All Miracles from God?
First of all, what is a "miracle"? In its broadest definition, a miracle is an occurrence that cannot be explained by natural physical laws. It includes the idea of intervention by a supernatural force. God works miracles. Many instances of His miraculous intervention are described in the Bible. But the Bible also talks of "spirits of demons, working miracles" (Revelation 16:14). It speaks of coming public amazement at "the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders" (II Thessalonians 2:9). The devil and his demons are able to do certain miracles. But did you notice how the Bible describes Satan's wonders? It calls them "lying wonders"! They are meant to delude and deceive. God's law warns against heeding anyone who teaches against the law of God and who "giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass..." (Deuteronomy 13:1-2). Thus the Bible plainly says it is possible for certain ones to do deceptive signs and wonders. At the time of the Exodus, for example, the pharaoh's magicians and sorcerers, whose power certainly did not come from God, were able to duplicate some of the miracles wrought through Moses and Aaron (Exodus 7-8). The mere performance of a sign or a wonder of some kind is not proof that the act is of God. In fact many so-called healers don't even claim to be acting in God's behalf. The January, 1980, issue of Cosmopolitan pointed out that "for every healer who alludes to God and Christianity, there is another who prefers to think in terms of 'life energy' or `vital force,' and who chooses to be called a 'spiritual' or 'psychic' healer." UPI recently carried a report that in atheistic Russia, many in Moscow's intellectual circles, including leading Soviet politicians, receive treatment from a woman "healer." Though the report did not indicate what her personal convictions may be, it is doubtful she would have many clients in an officially atheistic country paying $375 a treatment if she claimed God as her source of power. Clearly whatever is behind the current revival of interest in "healing," it is not happening exclusively in the religious realm. So God certainly cannot be responsible for all of it. But is He responsible for any of it? What if God's name is used by one who professes to bring about healing? More specifically, what if the name of Jesus is used? Does that assure that what takes place has God's approval and that it is Jesus' power at work? Definitely not! Jesus was very specific on this point. He said a day of reckoning is coming and "many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord [they will call Jesus "Lord"!], have we not prophesied in thy name? [they will use Jesus' name in their sermons!] and in thy name cast out devils? [they will claim to do this in Jesus' name!] and in thy name done many wonderful works [including supposed healings]?" (Matthew 7:22). And how will Jesus answer them? "And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (verse 23)! Yes, Jesus declared that many would come in his name, claiming to do wonderful things. And yet would not be servants of God because they would be workers of "iniquity." The word iniquity means "lawlessness." Here Jesus revealed the key as to how we can discern who are God's servants and who are not: If one who claims to be healing the sick does not also preach and teach obedience to God's laws as found in the Bible, Jesus said God does not know him. "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them," Jesus stated. "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but [and here is the decisive factor] he that doeth the will [and that includes obeying God's laws] of my Father which is in heaven" (verses 20-21). "To the law and to the testimony," Isaiah affirmed, "if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20). God has not sent those ministers who do not teach obedience to the laws and commandments of God even though they pray for or "heal" the sick.
Genuine Divine Healing
Make no mistake about it, though, God does promise to heal the sick. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits," David wrote. What are some of those benefits? "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases" (Psalm 103: 2-3). Rather than going through some "healing line" in a noisy public service, however, the biblical instructions to New Testament Christians are: "Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church [God's true Church. These are ministers who preach the truth about obeying God's laws]; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him" (James 5:14-15). God promises to heal. But He does not pinpoint when he will do so. Very often it is in this life; sometimes, though, it is necessary to wait and receive the promise in the resurrection. (For a thorough explanation of what the Bible teaches about healing, read our free booklet The Plain Truth About Healing) Did you notice that both of the scriptural passages just referred to draw a very important connection between healing and the forgiveness of sins? Read them again! Healing is the forgiveness of sins — including physical sins. When we become sick, it is because physical laws as well as spiritual may have been broken. Illness is the penalty for the breaking of those laws. One who desires to be healed must be willing to repent of breaking laws regarding diet, exercise and general clean living as well as spiritual laws involved. But how many who preach about healing and who make a public spectacle as they indiscriminately lay hands on all who come to them, explain about repenting of physical sins? The 250 pound diabetic, seeking to be "healed" of his diabetes, is he told to stop doing whatever brought on the diabetes in the first place? The arthritic who raises his arm at the barked command of the TV evangelist, or the cancer victim who supposedly has been healed are told nothing about how to avoid becoming sick all over again. That's not the way God works! After Jesus had healed a cripple, He told him, "Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee" (John 5:14). It is precisely because healing is the forgiveness of sins that we know Satan cannot heal the sick. Satan cannot forgive sins. Only God can forgive sins. Only He can heal the sick. Satan's nature is 100 percent opposed to God and His ways. He chose to become that way, therefore he is incapable of doing any good whatsoever. If Satan ever does anything that — temporarily at least — seems good, he only does it to trick and deceive. Eve must have thought Satan was doing a great favor when he explained the "benefits" of eating the forbidden fruit. The fruit seemed good. The experience, however, quickly turned sour. We are faced with this question: Since Satan cannot heal, since only God can miraculously heal and he only promises to work through those ministers who teach obedience to his laws (this leaves out the vast majority of those in the world — religious and nonreligious — who claim to practice "healing"), exactly what is the explanation for the many "healings" that are purportedly brought about by the "healers" of the world? Researchers looking into the subject say they have been able to document through medical records and other reports the disappearance of various illnesses and ailments. In many other cases, though documentation is not available, people adamantly insist that they have found relief if not complete recovery through contacting a religious or a nonreligious "healer." So it is not all imagination. And then there are the claims of the "healers" themselves, as well as the many who are convinced they have witnessed healings in others. How is it all to be explained and accounted for?
How It Happens
Any one or a combination of the following factors may be involved: Some Deliberate Hoaxes. The Elmer Gantrys and Snake Oil Sams are still with us. They prey on the desperation that often accompanies illness, offering everything from pyramid-shaped cure-alls to home study courses on how to be a "faith healer." A reporter for The Plain Truth discovered that one traveling "healer" in California had several ex-circus performers with him. These acrobats were able to contort their bodies and then straighten them out at the command to "Be healed!" Consider carefully the word of one of the most prominent of today's professed "healers" when she says flatly that "90 percent of all [so-called] faith healing is phony." She ought to know. Wishful thinking. People wanting to be healed of some malady sometimes claim they are improving as a result of contact with a "healer" because they are afraid that not so affirming would demonstrate a lack of faith, which would mean they definitely will not be healed. Often at "healing revivals" and other such occasions the same individuals come up to the minister for prayer, service after service. Perhaps the first few times they are allowed up on the stage in plain view of the audience. Thereafter the "repeaters" are asked to sit in the front rows during services and to remain seated. At the end of the service the minister comes down off the stage and lays hands on them. There of course the audience can't really see that the same people are being "healed" time after time. One elderly blind man faithfully sat in the front row every night for months. And every night he exclaimed as the minister came down and touched him, "Yes sir, my eyesight is coming clearer." But even as he sat there he confided to a Plain Truth reporter that his condition hadn't really changed at all — "yet"! Another individual at the same service in Wisconsin conceded to The Plain Truth that during a "testimony period" he gave thanks that he was being healed "gradually," but that was not the case — it was wishful thinking. Such incidents abound in "healing revivals;" real miracles do not. Psychosomatic ailments. Many doctors believe that up to 80 percent of all diseases are psychosomatic in origin, that is to say they are caused or influenced by emotions. A partial list of such maladies can be as varied as: headache, colitis, asthma, backache, high blood pressure, ulcers, menstrual disorders, even, many are convinced, some colds, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. Researchers point out that if a body can make itself ill by emotionally inducing such functional disturbances, it can also rid itself of them through a profound emotional experience of some kind. "Healers," shrines, relics, etc. are really producing a "placebo effect." Thus many sick who expect to feel better after treatment by a "healer," actually do improve or recover completely. Scientists are discovering amazing things about the natural power the body has to combat illness when there is a right mental outlook present. For example: "Three University of California scientists have demonstrated that hopeful thoughts may cause the body to secrete its own pain-killing drugs.... Already demonstrated to the satisfaction of some scientists is that positive feelings such as faith and hope stimulate white blood cells and other known parts of the immune system that combat disease" (U.S. News & World Report, February 12, 1979). It must be emphasized here that when such remission of illness takes place it occurs through the operation of natural laws. It is not divine healing — the forgiveness of sins. The Bible itself draws a direct connection between one's emotional state and one's health. A hopeful, optimistic outlook promotes physical well-being. Proverbs 17:22 states: "A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones" (RSV). Again in Proverbs 14:30 we read: "A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh, but passion makes the bones rot" (RSV). Hypnotism. Some "healers" utilize hypnotism. The power of suggestion can aid the disappearance of a psychosomatic disease. Or it can make a sick person believe he is healed whether or not he is. Or it can convince a person that he had an illness he never really had. In any case, this is not God's method of healing. Lying wonders. As we indicated earlier, Satan and his demons, while they cannot heal, can perform certain miracles and "lying wonders." "Healing" sessions often are conducted with outright demonic symbolism and manifestations. Weird lights have been known to appear. A sweet aroma called the "heavenly scent" may waft across the room. People babble in strange tongues and go into trances. Some waltz around, "dancing in the spirit." Others see "visions." Frequently after people are prayed for by the "healer" they fall backward semiconscious into the arms of a waiting usher. It is said they have been "slain in the spirit." You do not find such nonsense in the Bible! Every place in the Scriptures where the righteous fall down before God, they fall forward on their faces — prostrate before the Almighty. On the other hand, everywhere the Bible tells of people falling backward, God's Spirit is not in them! That happens to be a fact that can be demonstrated with the help of any Bible concordance. It is clear in the Bible that if an individual happens to be possessed by a demon, his physical condition may be affected. A demon caused a woman Christ encountered to be hunched over (Luke 13:11). In another instance a demon caused periodic fits and convulsions in a boy (Luke 9:39). Obviously then there were times when the boy was between fits and convulsions. If a demon can cause such physical manifestations in a human, can it not also, by timing its seizures, make it appear a person it possesses has been healed or that a demon has been cast out — at least while others are watching — in order to deceive and delude the onlookers?
But Is It Healing?
Another point to consider is that that some of the "healings" as described in recent articles in various publications are not normal healings. Like the man with a severed spinal cord who after 20 years in a wheel chair was argued into going to a "healing service." Though he had absolutely no confidence he would be healed and was just about 'to leave, he was suddenly ordered to stand up and walk. He reportedly has been walking ever since. But, according to his amazed doctor, nothing has changed anatomically: his spinal cord is still severed, his muscles are atrophied, his legs so emaciated they should not be able to support his weight. There is no physical reason he should be walking. Then there is the diabetic who no longer needs insulin in spite of a physician's attestation that the person's pancreas still does not function. Or the man with an artificial eye whose sight has been restored. He can now read with that eye — even though it is still artificial — made of plastic! If such miracles take place, people are still not HEALED and restored whole, which is how God heals. God's mercy. God has not called everyone to understand His ways in this age. The majority of human beings who ever lived will not really come to know God until they are resurrected in the World Tomorrow after 1,000 years of Christ's reign on earth (see Revelation 20). Only a few are called to find eternal life in this age, as Jesus declared in Matthew 7:13-14. (Write for our free article "Is This the Only Day of Salvation?") To those who obey the truth now God promises: "The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles" (Psalm 34:17). But God nowhere in all the Bible promises to hear and answer the prayers of the majority of humanity now cut off from Him. Nevertheless, we all are His creation. And God's compassion and love are great. It is therefore not inconceivable that there are times when He may answer an unselfish prayer of faith from one who, though spiritually blind, is sincere in reading and believing about healing in the Bible. But sincerity means one is doing what one knows he should be doing. Mr. Armstrong has often explained how his wife was healed as the result of being prayed for by a minister of this world and the minister's wife. In fact, quite a few people were being healed by their prayers — until the worldly minister and his wife discovered a point of biblical truth that they did not want to accept. They rejected it and immediately their prayers ceased to be answered. They were no longer sincere regarding God. God alone forgives sin and therefore miraculously heals. "I am the Lord that healeth thee," God declares (Exodus 15:26).