Proverbs says a broken spirit dries the bones. For those of us from even a nominally Christian background, this is hardly earth shaking news. However it is more than a quaint archaic metaphor. The implication in this verse, and others like it, is that the inner man affects the outer. Sometimes, even our physical health can be affected by the state of our soul. Those of us who have trusted Christ for our salvation don’t realize how deeply imprinted we’ve been with a scientific materialist worldview regarding everything except our salvation. This unconscious frequency in our thinking affects the issue of faith for healing and our approach to sickness, disease, health, and medicine. It is one reason among many why we do not see legitimate physical healings as we might.
Coming out of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, Western civilization embraced a Cartesian worldview that believed in a fundamental divide between things spiritual and material. In a Cartesian worldview, the material and immaterial realms are viewed like two separate floors of a building that never intersect. Modern empiricism, material determinism, and scientism, take things a step further by denying that the spiritual/immaterial floor even exists in the building.
The totality of the human experience is allegedly due to the chance interaction of matter. In this worldview this is no objective reality to anything immaterial. If it can’t be observed, measured, and repeated then it’s not real. Morals, value systems, love, emotions, etc., are considered nothing more than the manifestation of different chemical reactions in the brain. To this day, our formal state-run institutions of learning are based on these premises that are considered to be self-evident and scientific.
Proper science has done humanity a great favor in a diagnostic and progressive sense. Where it fails us is in its pursuit of absolute causality in all matters biological or physiological. The human species is a living, organic unity, which cannot be parsed into the elements of a chemical equation. After the secular philosophers of the Renaissance got rid of sin, guilt, and God, the next thing to go was the human soul, and with it went any coherent concept of personhood.
Attitudes toward belief in things immaterial range from benign tolerance, to rabid hatred and the conviction that religion in all forms is the number one evil on planet Earth which science has come to eradicate. While Renaissance enlightenment helped us put bloodletting, blistering, the four humors, and the like in the past, it also eliminated from consideration the possibility that anything immaterial affected the material order. Western humanity has chosen to ignore the immaterial realm to the point where we have become incomprehensible to ourselves, which results in psychological and physiological suffering. Though we are the most materially prosperous culture in the history of humanity, we are psychological sufferers as the booming psychiatric and counseling trade will attest to.
Everyone reading these words is carrying this worldview in some degree or another. We bring it into the Church. Somehow, we believe Jesus saves our soul but when it comes to our health, we believe science or modern medicine is all there is. This hinders the release of healing in our midst. It’s a non-Semitic, non-integrated, non-kingdom, and non-biblical view of what it means to be human. It’s an artificial cleavage between the material and immaterial realms. If we want to change the statistics of health and healing in our midst, then the Cartesian Western-colored spectacles must go. If we want to get biblical results, then we must get on biblical ground, and reject Western empiricism.
Neither the Scriptures nor the greater Semitic culture they came from, view human experience, sickness, and disease empirically. For Semites, the connection between the immaterial and the material was as much a presumptive and self-evident reality as it is the presumption of ignorance and delusion for a material determinist. There’s going to be an inevitable culture clash between these two views. They cannot be mutually accommodating. The Semitic view must be more fully embraced by the Church if healing is going to flow beyond the current level of common Charismatic practices.
Over the past thirty or forty years, this gap has indeed been closing. The pendulum that swung from superstitious paganism to rationalistic empiricism has swung back to something uncomfortably vibrating in the middle. Even medical professionals are forced to admit that there is more to health and medicine than bugs, drugs, and knives. The philosophy of a generation ago believed that if there’s a disease, a microbe caused it, we can treat it with drugs, or cut it out by surgery. Any reasonable modern doctor has come to admit that the denial of the immaterial—the psyche, the soul—is no longer science, but a philosophical worldview.
Seventy to eighty percent of visits to a doctor are unrelated to any physiological condition. People are not sick. They are self-dramatizing. Dr. Claude Bernard, the founder of modern physiology and the father of the scientific method in medicine said: “The knowledge of the whole man is the ultimate goal of medicine.” Dr. Pierre Ponsoye said: The life of the mind cannot be subjected to a yardstick . . . that is why physiological and psychological phenomena remain incommensurable.
The full explanation of the material-immaterial intersection is still pending, but no one doubts its existence from a scientific point of view. Dr. Alphonse Maeder said: “From actual practice, I have come to the conviction that an exclusively scientific approach does not suffice if one is to give the patient the maximum help which he expects and requires. Even Louis Pasteur , “Mr. Microbe,” on his deathbed, admitted that Dr. Claude Bernard was right on the importance of environment [non-material influences] on disease. Recent research done by Dr. Moshe Szyf and his colleagues at McGill University in Montreal has produced fascinating results in regard to the impact of environment on DNA. This field of science is known as epigenetics.
In one experiment, rats from the same litter were divided into two groups. One group was permitted maternal touch and interaction. The other group had all its physiological needs met: food, care, etc., but was denied any physical contact with the mother. When DNA samples were examined from each group, the DNA of the two groups was no longer the same. This has profound implications on multiple scientific, social, psychological, and physiological issues. This research implies that non-material environmental influences can change DNA , literal physical reality. It also implies that genes have “memory” as Dr. Bernard and others from a generation ago believed.
What began on the “kook fringe” for incense burning hippies has developed into bona fide alternate therapies of holistic medicine. Holistic medicine encompasses diet, nutrition, exercise, the mind/body or soul/body connection, as well as the impact of relationships and community life on health.
In many ways, it’s an adaptation of an Eastern view of things, which the Scriptures themselves anticipated thousands of years ago. After all, the Bible is an Eastern book. If we want to get to the bottom of why healings do not flow more readily in our churches, then it’s imperative that we adopt a holistic and biblical worldview concerning the cosmos, the nature of humanity, and medicine. Slapping a little Bible verse grease on the axle of a Western worldview will not get the bus moving. The transmission is locked up. We need a new gearbox: the gearbox of a biblical and kingdom worldview that incorporates the entirety of what it means to be human.
This blog is an excerpt from our title: Healing: Hope or Hype? Why Legitimate Physical Healings are Rare in Local Churches, and What We Can do About it! It is available in all formats at www.stevecrosby.com.
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