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John Alexander Dowie

This first doctrine is based on Hebrews 13:8, which states that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This focuses on the continued ministry of Christ. Dowie never claimed that healing was done by his own power. He was arrested in 1895 under the allegation of illegally practicing medicine. In Chicago, he had founded a Healing Home, a converted hotel where sick came for counseling and prayer. During his trial, he was asked if he lays hands on the sick for the purpose of curing people of disease. Dowie responded, “No sir. I do not heal anyone. I do it for the purpose of obeying God, Who uses me in the healings.”8 When asked if Dowie is effecting a cure, he responded that it is God that effects the cure. “I have never healed anyone, nor claimed that I did.”9 In a sermon Dowie said, “The Hand that cleansed the foulness of the leper’s flesh and made it sweet and clean; the Hand that made the deaf to hear, the blind to see, the lame to leap, the dumb to speak; the Hand which raised the dead to life is here. No vanquished Christ have we.”10

For Dowie, there is no cessation of the ministry of healing, because there is no cessation of Christ. This theology ran contrary to the growing dispensationalism of his time. While Dowie understood the “gift of healing” in the life of the Church, he did not emphasize the use of the sign-gift. As revealed in the above transcript from his trial, Dowie saw healing as the work of the eternal Christ, and not in a gift given to the church. While the church has been gifted with various gifts, Dowie taught that healing was best sought in the Savior. In practice therefore, Dowie spent time with the sick in counsel and prayer. He would teach them the Scripture behind the doctrine of divine healing that reveal God’s desire to heal. Once faith in God is generated in the sick person, Dowie would often lay hands on the sick one and pray for God to heal that person. The focus was upon Jesus and His power to heal.

For Dowie, sickness was never the work, nor the will, of God. He rejected redemptive suffering from sickness or disease.

The element of faith was important for Dowie, for he would not pray for one who did not believe in divine healing.11 However, the focus was never on faith, but on God. Dowie writes, “While faith is a very precious grace, yet it is only the medium of the communication of God’s infinite love and power, and we must never put it in the place of God, Himself.”12 Dowie was so adamant about this that he shunned the term “faith healing,” in preference of “divine healing,” because it is healing by God, and not faith. Theologically, he expresses it as, “Divine Healing, or ‘Healing through Faith in Jesus;’ not healing BY faith, but THROUGH faith; through faith in Jesus, by the power of God.”13 Faith, prayers, laying on of hands all have Christ as their focus, because in Dowie’s theological scheme, Christ is the healer.

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Category: Church History, Winter 2006

About the Author: Derek Vreeland, MDiv (Oral Roberts University), DMin (Asbury Theological Seminary), is the Discipleship Pastor at Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri. He is the author of Shape Shifters: How God Changes the Human Heart: A Trinitarian Vision of Spiritual Transformation (Word & Spirit Press, 2008), Primal Credo: Your Entrance into the Apostles' Creed (Doctrina Press, 2011), and Through the Eyes of N.T. Wright: A Reader's Guide to Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Doctrina Press, 2015). http://derekvreeland.com Twitter: @DerekVreeland

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