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A Social Anthropologist’s Analysis of Contemporary Healing, Part 1

Jill’s experiences continued for a few months and were punctuated by a recurring vision of a house, the rooms of which symbolized various areas of her past life. As these were dealt with, the doors were shut on them. Finally, Jesus took her outside the front door and across the lawn to where her pastor and his wife were standing. He handed her over to them, indicating that her treatment was over. After this, her visions of Jesus ceased.

The extent of her healing is shown by the fact that she has now been accepted for training as a psychiatric nurse. During her interview for the course, she was asked how she felt about dealing with sexually abused children. Jill replied that she could handle it because she had been through that experience herself. When asked if she needed counseling for it, she said that she did not need it and told the interviewers about her own experiences of healing. The fact that they recognized her healing and accepted her for training as a psychiatric nurse testifies to the effectiveness of what Jesus had done for her. Moreover, because of her own experiences she now seems to have a special rapport with children who have been sexually abused, who instinctively seem to know they can trust Jill.

Can God make use of methods which appear to parallel those of secular psychology?

We have to ask, therefore, whether God can make use of methods at certain times which appear to parallel those of secular psychology. Essentially, we have to ask whether the one who created humanity and designed human psychology in the first place also knows the kinds of techniques which are most appropriate for healing it. Are these methods ones which God has made available because he knows that sometimes they might be necessary?

Confusion has arisen because of a failure to distinguish between sources and methods.29 For physical healing it is clear that God makes use of a variety of methods, so why should the same not be true of emotional or psychological healing? The Gospels record that Jesus used many different methods for healing conditions which are all described as ‘blindness’ (though the causes in each case are not specified). On one occasion Jesus gave a word of command (Mark 10:52), on another occasion spat in the blind man’s eyes and then laid hands on them (Mark 8:23-25), and at another time rebuked a demonic spirit causing the blindness (Matthew 12:22). On yet another occasion he spat on the ground and mixed his saliva with mud before applying it to the blind man’s eyes and telling him to wash it off in the pool of Siloam (John 9:6-7).

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Category: Fall 2008, In Depth

About the Author: David C. Lewis [as of 1993] is a cultural anthropologist and is currently a Research Associate of the Mongolia and Inner Asian Studies Unit at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, where he received his Ph.D. (Anthropology). He also serves as a Consultant Anthropologist for several Christian mission organizations. He has conducted research projects at Nottingham University and the Oxford Hardy Research Centre (Religious Experience Research Project, 1984-1985). He has written numerous scholarly articles and books, including Healing: Fiction, Fantasy or Fact? (Hodder & Stoughton).

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