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Healing and the History of Redemption: An Interview with J. D. King

Healing has been a primary vehicle for church growth. R. J. S. Barrett-Lennard argued that “miraculous cures generally played a significant part in [Ante-Nicene] evangelism.”[8] Similarly, W. N. C. Frend claimed that healing had “an important place in the Christianization of the Greco-Roman world.”[9] He suggests that “miraculous cures … were among the best documented reasons for conversion.”[10]

However, healing was not just a catalyst for evangelism in the Ante-Nicene era; it is also driving church growth in the twenty-first century. Candy Gunther Brown declared,

“In the Latin American, Asian, and African countries where Pentecostal growth is occurring most rapidly, as many as 80–90 percent of first-generation Christians attribute their conversions primarily to having received divine healing for themselves or a family member.”[11]

I chose this controversial title to drive home an essential truth. Healing is a vital dimension of the regenerative work of Jesus. It is more significant than many have been willing to acknowledge. The subtitle of the book says that it is a history of healing in the Christian church. Does it include the theology of healing as well?

J. D. King: It is impossible to wrestle with the story of healing in church history without engaging underlying doctrinal formations. Although Regeneration is not explicitly addressing doctrine, a theological subtext remains implicit. I discuss the thaumaturgical, sacramental, reliquarial, pneumatological, and psychological healing modalities. Obviously, each of these approaches has theological constructs that must be addressed. Although history is the primary focus, theology has a prominent place in the narrative. Identity, function, and worldview are impossible to disentangle. Based on your research would you say divine healing has always been present in some measure in the history and ministry of the Christian church?

J. D. King: Healing is evident, on varying levels, throughout church history. Obviously, some movements (i.e., Reformed and Fundamentalist traditions) have been more resistant. Nevertheless, healing also manifests among cynics. Early Puritans, like Richard Baxter, interceded for the infirmed in their congregations. Charles Spurgeon, R. A. Torrey, and Francis Schaeffer also actively prayed for the sick. There is a long Baptist tradition of praying in homes of diseased congregants—drawing on the admonition of James 5:13-15.

Over the last fifty years, the Roman Catholic tradition has reinstituted the sacrament of healing. The Anglican Communion has also been praying for the infirmed for a least a century. Healing is also being appropriated in mainline churches under the auspices of psychotherapy, ancient liturgical forms, and holistic human development. While there is much to be questioned, many of these practices intersect with faith-based recuperation.

What is even more vital is that throughout the non-industrialized world healing is driving church growth. Although some would contest this, I have found that physical deliverance through the name of Jesus may be what truly unifies the diverse strands of Christendom.

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Category: Church History, Winter 2018

About the Author: J.D. King was a supporting leader in the Smithton Outpouring in the late 1990’s and has served as an itinerate speaker, author, and college instructor. In addition to contributing to Charisma Media and Pneuma Review, King wrote Regeneration: A Complete History of Healing in the Christian Church. He is not only pursuing the Kingdom of God but also has a burden to share its wonder with everyone that he meets.

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