- Ethics & Religion
July 10, 2006
Advance for July 15, 2006
"The Nearly Perfect Crime"
by Mike McManus
"It was a nearly perfect crime," writes Francis MacNutt in his opening
words of his new
book with that title. "You can see the body lying there, almost cold, the heart
This dying body once kept Christianity alive. What we see lying there, scarcely
Christian prayer for healing."
This was not Jesus' idea. In fact, his name, Jesus, means "God saves" and
In his first sermon Jesus opened the scroll of Isaiah and read, "The Spirit of
the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to
freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the
MacNutt, author the classic best seller, "Healing," notes that Jesus'
continually marked by healings demonstrating that he was the long-awaited
Chapter 1 gives many examples and notes so many following Jesus for healing that
he had sneak
away before dawn to go to a new city.
He risked healing on the Sabbath, such as a crippled woman in a synagogue
But that violated Jewish law, and was denounced by the synagogue's leader. Jesus
rebuked him as
a hypocrite, who would give his donkey water on the Sabbath, yet deny the
healing of a woman
bent over for 18 years with pain. The crowd loved it, but not the Pharisees.
Nor did he keep power to himself., but told his 12 disciples they had
"authority to drive
out evil spirits and heal every disease and sickness." In Luke 10 he appointed
72 others and told
them, "Heal the sick who are there and tell them `The kingdom of God is near.'"
For 325 years, Christians believed that God answered prayers for healing.
Origen, who was martyred in 253, wrote that Christians cast out demons "merely
by prayer and
simple adjurations which the plainest person can use, because for the most part
it is unlettered
(illiterate) persons who perform this work."
However, after Emperor Constantine converted in 312, it was no longer
prove that "there was only one true God who was demonstrably more powerful than
gods of the pagans," writes MacNutt. .
To counter diminished fervor, the church honored heroes of the faith,
saints who regarded
suffering as an opportunity to grow in sanctity. "Sickness came to be seen as a
(ital) blessing (un
ital) permitted - if not actually sent - as a test by God in order to help you
grow in holiness."
In the Reformation, healing was denounced by Protestant leaders who saw
Shrines as a corrupt source of donations, a substitute for the true faith.
Baptists have no healing
ministry today because John Calvin argued that miracles ended with the Apostles.
He wrote, "That gift of healing, like the rest of the miracles, which the
Lord willed to be
brought forth for a time, has vanished away in order to make the new preaching
of the gospel
Liberal Protestant scholars even argued that the miracle stories of the
MacNutts comments: "Healing is now all but dead. Case closed."
Well, not really. MacNutt identifies three waves of Christians who believe
1. Exactly a century ago, on April 9, 1906, "the power fell" on a poor
named William Seymour who began praising God in unknown tongues in Los Angeles.
grew so fast that an old stable was converted into a church at 312 Azuza Street.
A direct result
was the emergence of new Pentecostal denominations who believed in healing: the
Assemblies of God and the black Church of God in Christ.
2. In 1959 an Episcopal priest named Dennis Bennett was baptized in the
Spirit and wrote
a book, "Nine O'Clock in the Morning" that awakened the charismatic renewal
movement in both
Mainline Protestant denominations, and among Catholics. Francis MacNutt was a
who never prayed for anyone's healing until Agnes Sanford prayed for a release
in him "of the
Spirit and the charismatic gifts that are already in you through baptism,
ordination." By the 1970s, he led 35,000 Catholic charismatics at Notre Dame's
3. Finally, the "Third Wave" is a movement of evangelicals who embrace
with John Wimber who founded the Vineyard Christian Fellowship now in hundreds
Of far greater importance is the explosive growth of 295 million "neo-charismatics,"
71 percent of
whom are non-white, such as booming churches of Africa.
Yet what American seminary teaches how to experience divine healing?
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