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

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?

It seems that Jesus may not have been the first to use spit in healing contexts but that he made use of an existing practice. In the same way, there are no scriptural precedents for the divine filling of dental cavities, but such miracles have been well-attested in recent decades from both North and South America.30 If God can make use of methods which are widely used by dentists of all religious persuasions, or none, can he also make use of techniques for psychological or emotional healing which were humanly pioneered in other contexts?

Most biblical passages relating to forgiveness and Christian attitudes are addressed to groups rather than to individuals. Their focus is more on preventing the need for ‘inner healing’ than on giving directions how to go about it. However, in actual practice the Holy Spirit appears to make use of a wide repertoire of methods, which in themselves might be neutral but can be used for either positive or negative ends.31



To be continued in Winter 2009



1It is evident that for the Early Church, whose Bible was the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible), the “word” (Greek logos) in the phrase “word of knowledge” denoted “divine revelation” (hence “word of knowledge” = “divine revelation of knowledge”) as the Hebrew dābār “word,” which Greek logos renders in the Septuagint, frequently denotes (Hebrew dābār denoting “divine revelation,” I Sam. 3:7; 9:27; II Sam. 7:4; I Kg. 17:2, 8; 6:11; 13:20; Jer. 1:4, 11; 2:1; 13:8; 16:1; 24:4: 28:12: 29:30; Ezek. 3:16; 6:1; 7:1; 12:1; Hos. 1:1; Mic. 1:1; Zeph. 1:1; Isa. 2:1; BDB, p. 182b [meaning III.2]; O. Procksch, “logos, TDNT, vol. 4, pp. 94-96).

2This certainly applies to two books which specifically purport to be examinations of the ministry of John Wimber, namely James R. Coggins and Paul G. Hiebert (eds.) Wonders and the Word (Winnipeg: Kindred Press, 1989) and R. Doyle (ed.) Signs & Wonders and Evangelicals (Randburg: Fabel, 1987).

3David C. Lewis “Signs and Wonders in Sheffield,” in John Wimber and Kevin Springer, Power Healing (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987). Wimber adds a note on page 285 stating that during the October 1985 Sheffield conference he was not aware that I was conducting a study and had neither personally met nor heard of me. In fact, my article reached him only through a circuitous route (involving Bishop David Pytches and Dr. John White) and I did not expect the request for permission to publish it in Power Healing.

4Donald M. Lewis “An Historian’s Assessment,” in Coggins and Hiebert (eds.) Wonders and the Word (Winnipeg: Kindred Press, 1989), p.53.

5Verna Wright “A Medical View of Miraculous Healing” in Sword and Trowel 1987, No.1, pp.8ff.

6Dr. Ann England (herself a medical doctor) in Ann England (ed.) We Believe in Healing (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1982), p.15.

7Rex Gardner, “Miracles of Healing in Anglo-Celtic Northumbria as Recorded by the Venerable Bede and his Contemporaries: A Reappraisal in the Light of Twentieth-Century Experience,” British Medical Journal, 287, 24-31 December 1983, pp.1927-1933. Gardner compared the contemporary accounts with similar ones recorded in seventh-century northern Britain by the Venerable Bede, arguing that the modern cases lend credence to Bede’s account of similar miracles.

8Rex Gardner Healing Miracles: A Doctor Investigates (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1986).

9Gardner Healing Miracles, pp.202-205. He also quotes from the medical report of the consultant ENT surgeon, who confirmed these details and concluded, ‘I can think of no rational explanation as to why her hearing returned to normal, there being a severe bilateral sensorineural loss’.

10David C. Lewis Healing: Fiction, Fantasy or Fact? (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1989), pp.28-30. (The consultant’s remarks are also confirmed by the authoritative text in the U.K. on Hoffa’s disease, Smillie’s Diseases of the Knee Joint.)

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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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