There is a brand of Christianity that is always talking about the cross and the importance of dying to self. At best it is an imbalanced over-emphasis–a half-truth–and at worst, flat-out error. It promotes sin-conscious introspection, feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing, self-hatred, unworthiness, spiritual paralysis, and legalism. It promotes spiritual pride in a reverse sort of way—you are esteemed for how worthless you feel about yourself and how “humble” you have become in appearance to others who control access to power in the specific church culture.
Dr. Bruce Alexander of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC reconsidered a famous lab experiment done in the 1970s involving addiction. He pondered that the presumptions behind the science could be flawed and incomplete. The scientific experiment in the 1970s involved a lone rat in a rat cage with two water bottles. One was laced with cocaine and the other just water. In this well-known experiment, it was allegedly proven that nine out of ten rats in the rat cage will go back, again and again, to the cocaine bottle until they killed themselves. The conclusion taken from this experiment was that the rats were hopelessly chemically addicted to the point of suicide. Not so fast.
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.
One of the most significant reasons we do not see healings in our midst as we might, is because of the worldview assumptions and the cultural values of western individualism and personal privacy. The scriptures were not written to, or by, people with a western worldview. They understood sickness, disease, and healing differently than we do. We cannot come to the scriptures with our western presuppositions, and expect kingdom results. This profoundly affects our theology and practice of praying for the sick.
Biblical faith has three important objective elements: His Word, His Person, and His Cross. These three are in fact, one. The Word is the revelation of His Person. The Cross is the instrument of revelation. The Person of the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of the Lord) actively administers both the Word and the Cross to us. We get into trouble when we try to separate these three from one another.
The Jews didn’t engage life in a compartmentalized fashion. For them, Yahweh’s nature couldn’t be parsed into this or that sub-attribute and broken out for independent analysis. For us, it’s the methodology we use for deepening our understanding of something. It’s the foundation of our science. Acknowledged or not, it’s the way Western Christians have been taught to engage life, the Scriptures, and God Himself. Our worldview affects how we approach the topic of healing. Healing is an outflow of a maintained relationship, not the result of adherence to principles.
Healing gifts have ceased. They have passed away because we now have the Bible. If you are not healed it is because of sin or a lack of faith on your part. God only heals from His sovereignty. Healing is guaranteed in the atonement, if you are not healed, it’s your fault.
These and many other diverse perspectives have left many in the body of Christ in confusion and pain. This five-part blog series will be excerpts from my book, Healing: Hope or Hype? In it, I try to find a new covenant, grace-filled, faith-filled, God-honoring, scripture-honoring middle road on this topic. Neither ditch of passive, fatalist, unbelief in a mysterious sovereignty and the guilt, manipulation, and fraud of the televangelists is acceptable. Those suffering in their bodies deserve better than either of these extremes can offer. Those of us in health owe it to those who suffer to minister to them in identificational care, and power . . . without the hype, shame, and manipulation.
Abusive spiritual authority is epidemic. Reactionary responses to abusive authority are also epidemic. My friends Don Atkin, Greg Austin, and myself address what genuine kingdom authority looks like: a serving nation of priests, not chief executives and “visionaries” of an organization. In this installment, Greg Austin talks about the “descending priesthood” as a necessity for genuine NT kingdom authority.
I am thankful for forty years of charismatic heritage. I have experienced the best and the worst that universe can offer. If, like Paul, I had to show off my “supernatural credentials,” or my resume of “supernatural experiences,” I could hold my own. I choose to boast of something, er, Someone else. Today, the lust for manifestations, and self-centered, insecurity driven, need for a “touch” from His presence, etc., are leading more and more believers (especially naïve younger believers) into New Age, Gnostic, occult, and other pagan practices and “spiritual techniques” in the name of “being open to the Spirit.”