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William De Arteaga: Agnes Sanford and Her Companions, reviewed by Jon Ruthven

Agnes Sanford

De Arteaga points out that even Sanford’s use of the terms, “healing light” or “energy” of God for healing precipitated criticism because the terms were associated in the indiscriminate, foolish consistency of Fundamentalist cessationist critics as demonic “New Age” expressions. Actually, the terms, in the context of Christian behavior and healing, occur in the New Testament as binding on believer’s action: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.” Certainly, one could argue that obeying the com­mands of Jesus to practice healing, is an expression of “living as children of the light” which produces “all goodness, righteousness, and truth”! (Eph 5:8-9). Indeed, Jesus himself gives the “light of life” (Jn 8:12). In speak­ing of God’s divine energy bestowing healing into a weaker, physical energy of a sick person, Sanford was right in line with the universal principle about all spiritual gifts: “There are varieties of ‘energy things’ [Greek: energēmatōn] and it is the same God who energizes [energōn] all [charismata] in all [everyone]” (1 Cor 12:6). Again, “All these [charismata] are empowered [energei] by the same Spirit” (vs 11). These, and 15 similar verses necessarily vindicate as thoroughly biblical, Sanford’s term, “healing energy”—hardly a term proving “New Age” influence.

According to De Arteaga, Agnes Sanford was not only a trail blazer for the charismatic renewal in the older mainline churches for the practice of healing, but she appeared as the most outstanding and definitive biblical theologian as well. Following her lead, Francis MacNutt wrote the book on healing that later completely shaped the theology and practice of John Wimber and the broader Pentecostal and charismatic movement.

Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal has now taken its place as the definitive study on the one who probably is the most seminal and influential figure in the early charismatic renewal. De Arteaga has provided a powerfully insightful study, not only of an original charismatic theology and its development, but a cautionary tale for critics of a Godly, highly intelligent woman, surrounded by conflicting heresies—including mainstream Christianity—who finished well by faithfully following “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

Reviewed by Jon Ruthven


Further Reading:

Does Agnes Sanford offer something for Post-Christian Europe? by William L. De Arteaga

Agnes Sanford: Apostle of Healing and First Theologian of the Charismatic Renewal, Part 1, by William L. De Arteaga

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

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Category: Church History, Fall 2015

About the Author: Jon M. Ruthven, Ph.D., passed away April 11, 2022. He spent his entire adult life in ministry, starting with David Wilkerson in Boston and New York City in the mid-60s. After spending a dozen years pastoring, a couple a years as a missionary in Africa as President and Dean of Pan Africa Christian College in Nairobi, Kenya, he ended up teaching theology in seminary for 18 years. Always interested in training and discipleship, Jon sought to develop a radically biblical approach to ministry training that seeks to replicate the discipling mission of Jesus in both content and method. Jon wrote numerous scholarly papers and books including On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Postbiblical Miracles (1993 and 2009) and What’s Wrong with Protestant Theology? Tradition vs. Biblical Emphasis (2013). He emphasized the biblical grounding for a practical ministry of healing, signs and wonders in the power of the Spirit. Facebook.

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