Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The dark side of prayer for healing - Hearing Shane's voice.

I've got a confession to make.

I get nervous when people pray for healing.

That's problematic on a couple counts.  For starters, I'm a conservative evangelical Pentecostal ordained minister. Our theology implies (but does not dictate) that healing is contained within the atoning sacrifice of Christ.   Healing prayers are part of our century old tradition.

I've learned over the past decade that many do not really understand healing and its legitimate current role in the expansion of the gospel. (I do not believe the healing narratives in the New Testament are socially imagined, nor do I discount the testimonies of those healed at the frontier of mission)  Since the healing revivals of the 1950's, spectacular healings have become the centerpiece of many measures of evangelistic success and a sign of pentecostal purity.  Some evangelists, perhaps unwittingly, use healing services to objectivize a person with disability in order that their career may advance.

Some will argue that I have a limited perspective on God's power.  I would disagree -- I actually think our pentecostal theology of healing is not nearly as robust as God would desire it.

Deb Creamer, in  Disability and Christian Theology: Embodied Limits and Constructive Possibilities, provides an essential reminder -- that everyone has limits. (review forthcoming). Reach for the stars... but realize every body eventually becomes boxed.  Death is a certainty that even miraculous hearings do not overcome.  Healing is wholistic -- it's not just for the individual's body, soul, and spirit, but for the community as well. The greatest regeneration someone may need is not one new vertabrae or one less chromosone.

Shane Clifton, dean of theology at Alphacrucis College in Australiawrites about his experience on his blog and in a newly published article in Pneuma, entitled "The Dark Side of Prayer for Healing" As a person who encountered sudden onset disability in 2010, his article accurately reflects the experiences -- the  "testimonies" of persons with disability.  He calls for a pentecostal theology of well-being -- which encapsulates our healing tradition yet moves beyond it, tackling social justice and poverty issues which are at the root of many modern experiences of disability.  This approach still validates the pentecostal message, yet allows those with disabilities to flourish by engaging in mutual ministry to those around them, contributing to the growth of the Kingdom, without being objectivized by outsiders.

This is one of the best summations I've seen in a while.  His voice is one that all those in ministry should heed.

Read his full post here.