Posted by: Dan | November 18, 2006

Genuine Healing in the Presence of Fraudulent Healers?

Reflecting on Ted Haggard, coupled with some readings from Albert Nolan's Jesus Before Christianity (in which he emphasises the power of faith), has led me to reflect on another public representative of Christianity: Benny Hinn.

Now let me be clear from the start that I think that Benny Hinn is a predator. I believe that he preys upon the most desperate and vulnerable members of society in order to advance his personal wealth and power. I have serious questions about the faith Hinn professes to have, and I have even more serious questions about the healings he claims to perform. (Hinn refuses to provide any supportive documentation that his healings have been genuine. And when faced with documentation that suggested that a number of people [who claimed to be healed at his rallies] had not actually been healed, Hinn claimed this was so because those people had lost their faith, or fallen into sin, after the rally!)

However, I had a new thought tonight. Given Jesus' emphasis upon the faith of the recipient of healing, I asked myself this: “Is it possible that some healings have occurred at Hinn's rallies because of the faith of those who attend?” Of course, these would be healings that God performed despite of Hinn, and not because of him. Is God so humble, and so gracious, that he would choose to heal the sick, even in the presence of a fraudulent healer? He just might be. After all, God's compassion for the poor and needy seems to regularly overcome his distance from the wealthy and self-satisfied.

I wonder what the implications of this might be for those of us in the Christian community? Perhaps an implication would be that this simply highlights the absence of those within the Christian community who are willing to affirm the faith of others who believe (or long to believe) that God can make lame people walk, blind people see, and sick people healthy. Perhaps it reveals to us that we have lost something of Jesus' emphasis that the Spirit brings liberation from all things.

Of course, by asking this question I am in no way suggesting that the reason why so many Christians are sick is because they lack faith. Far from it. I actually believe that God can heal people based upon the faith of Jesus, not upon the faith (or lack thereof) that is held by the recipient of the healing. This is so for at least two reasons: I think that God often acts in our regard because of the faith and intercession of Jesus — and not because of our faith (or lack thereof); and I think that sharing in the sufferings of the world (include sharing in the illnesses that come from living in a world that is broken) is a fundamental element of the Christian vocation. If it is part of the Christian calling to be broken with the broken, then it is also a part of the Christian calling to be sick with those who are sick.

However, I also think that the near total absence of miraculous healings in the Western Christian community does, at least in some way, suggest an absence of faith in the Western church as a whole (and not in sick individuals specifically).

I long for a Christian presence at the margins of society that truly does offer addicts freedom from the power of drugs, drugs that, in the words of a friend of mine, “enter into your body and alter you at the level of your DNA” (this friend knows this from his firsthand experience with crack). The Spirit should be a presence that restores us, at the very same level.

I long for a Church rooted at the margins of society that offers freedom to people who suffer from mental illnesses, people who hear voices that torment them and tell them to hurt themselves. The Spirit should replace such voices with an inner voice of love.

And when such addictions and illnesses persist, I long for a Church that embraces those things and transforms them into redemptive acts of solidarity with our broken world. The Spirit should be a Spirit that binds us together and makes us one.

The near total absences of such transformations in the Western church, and the far greater presence of such transformations in African, Asian, and Latin American churches, suggests to me that we in the West could learn a thing or two about faith from our sisters and brothers in the two-thirds world.

So, I guess I have drifted away from my original question but I would be very interested in hearing how others might answer that question, and what others have to say about all these things.

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