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Agnes Sanford: Apostle of Healing and First Theologian of the Charismatic Renewal, Part 2, by William L. De Arteaga

The first work Agnes wrote in this manner was Behold Your God (published in 1958).39 This was her first attempt at serious theological reflection since The Healing Light of 1945. It came after two novels, which Agnes termed her “teaching parables,” and two children’s books. Mrs. Sanford’s brother badgered her for something more “meaty” and suggested a commentary on the creeds. Agnes felt this was a word from the Lord and she began work on Behold Your God. It developed as an extended commentary to The Healing Light, demonstrating a considerable deepening of her thought. The references to the creeds were reduced to incidental after thoughts.

Like The Healing Light, Behold Your God was simple in language and humble in its presentation. Mrs. Sanford admitted, for example, to being befuddled by the theological discussions of the Holy Spirit that dealt with a filioque debate that separated Christendom in the Eleventh Century. Yet, her understanding of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, as well as her understanding of the spirit of man were both pioneering and profound.

By the time Mrs. Sanford wrote Behold Your God, she had witnessed wide varieties of healing, from demonic based spiritualism, to Christian Science and metaphysics, to authentic Christian and Spirit-filled healing. In her understanding, godly spiritual healing could come at any one of three levels, which she related to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.40 At the first level, any person who believed in one God, and who prayed believing would be granted some healing power. This was true regardless of whether or not one was a Christian. This position, which some Christians believe is impious, is biblical. The healings in the Old Testament all took place not because of faith in Jesus, but because of faith in God as healer (Jehovah-rohi). Agnes saw the contemporary equivalency of Old Testament healing in those in the Christian Science and the Metaphysical Movements who had strong faith in God, though they saw nothing uniquely divine in the person of Jesus. However, once a person believed in the divinity of Jesus, and made a commitment to His Lordship, the person was elevated into a healing power double that of the Old Testament position. The third and highest level of healing was reached when a believing Christian accepted the person and baptism of the Holy Spirit and received the gift of healing. Mrs. Sanford’s insight makes clear the sad situation of the contemporary world, Metaphysical believers can be healers, while “born again” Christians, who believe in cessationism, are often completely ineffective as channels of God’s healing power.

Mrs. Sanford saw the practice of positive thinking and visualization (holding a desired goal in the imagination) as having similar levels of power. Visualization is God-given and available to any believer in God. The power of visualization and positive thinking are increased when a person becomes a Christian and adds the name of Jesus to his prayer-visualizations. A third level is reached through the power of the Holy Spirit.41 Agnes looked at the biblical evidence and saw a pattern that explains this: Jesus taught first faith (i.e. positive trust expectancy) to his disciples and only revealed his divine nature later in his ministry.42 (Behold Your God, 35-36).

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Category: Church History, Summer 2006

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include Quenching the Spirit: Discover the Real Spirit Behind the Charismatic Controversy (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015), and The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing Prayer to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Emeth Press, 2018). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He continues in his healing, teaching and writing ministry and is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

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