HOW MIRACLE HEALING WORKS
(Investigator 15, 1990 November)
Human effort sometimes overcomes great obstacles.
Sarah Duffen had Down's Syndrome and yet advanced through training by
her father from being a "little walking cabbage" to being a "little
walking miracle" who could read, play piano and attend normal school.
(Sunday Mail, 1976 June 6) Gailene Stock, now 43, was paralysed with
polio and spent 18 months in a steel frame when she was about 10. Yet
she went on to become a ballerina with the Australian Ballet. (Sunday
Mail 1990, September 16, p.173)
Some people are healed suddenly and unexplainably. Edwin Robinson was
blinded in a car accident in 1971. In June 1980 he sheltered under a
tree during a storm. Lightning hit the tree, knocked 62-year old Edwin
unconscious, and when he woke up he was able to see again!
A third set of healings occur in a religious context. Such healings
often get called "divine" or "miraculous" by churchgoers. Mrs Fry of
Adelaide, for example, was prayed over at the Christian Revival Crusade
after which her cancer went into remission. (Full story in Investigator
"Miraculous" healings work by:
a. Lessening of psychosomatic symptoms
b. Change of lifestyle giving physical or psychological benefits
c. Mood changes effecting the immune system
d. Temporary reaction to intense emotion
f. Natural events mislabeled "miraculous" or "divine"
g. Response to suggestion when the sick are urged to "claim your healing" and confess it and so demonstrate faith
h. Misdiagnosis by a doctor
i. Alleviation of psychiatric disorders
j. Unknown causes.
By "unknown causes" I refer to those rare healings that may have
occurred during or after prayer and are medically inexplicable.
Even such healings, however, do not prove activity by a God. After all,
an unknown cause is an unknown cause and no more until we find out what
it is. The inexplicable healing can, however, while it remains
unexplained be supporting evidence. If scientists could show that God
probably exists and if theologians could show that the original Bible
scriptures probably had no errors and if those scriptures stated God
would cause inexplicable healings then indeed might inexplicable
healings indicate activity by God. Inexplicable healings by themselves,
without the other three evidences, do not tell us much.
The points in the above a - j list are discussed in documents which I consulted which are:
1. Printed psychology notes of the University of Adelaide discussing psychosomatic disorders.
2. Press clipping about back pains healed by "miracle".
3. Extract from Psychology Today indicating that back pains can be a symptom of stress.
4. Letter from The House Of Tabor about the same case.
5. Postcard from Lourdes (France).
6. Press clipping about Francis Burns healed at Lourdes.
7. Some books that promote "divine" healing.
8. Leaflet advertising an Adelaide conference on healing.
9. Article from The Southern Skeptic about 1st-century Christian miracles.
Press clippings reporting unusual but natural healings. Had these
healings occurred in Church they would have been called "divine" or
11. Chapter on "Hysterical Neurosis" in Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry 1975, p. 1216.
12. Press clippings about a faith-healing conference in USA.
13. A circular about a USA Faith Healing Conference sent out by Richard Rawe.
14. The book Psychiatry And The Bible by C A Wise.
15. Time magazine showing that some ills may respond to hypnosis.
16. Some ads for healing services in Adelaide.
17. Think Yourself Healthy a book about psychosomatics.
18. Press clipping about healings at Lourdes.
19. Press clipping discussing fraud.
The above documents are only a sample of the thousands of pages available on the topic of miraculous healing.
Prior to the faith healing conference (No. 13 above) in the USA, Mr
Rawe wrote to me: "Speakers will be from all sides of the issue. People
who think they have been healed, sight restored and even resurrected
from the dead may come and testify."
Since persons who professed the power to resurrect were also
anticipated Mr Rawe expressed his hope that the conference would
adjourn to the nearby cemetery for a demonstration. Unfortunately for
science this didn't happen. Mr Rawe explained by letter afterwards:
"The ones suggesting they may perform miracles didn't show."
EXTRACTS FROM DOCUMENTS
1. Extract from University of Adelaide 1st year Psychology Notes (1977):
disorders. These reactions are commonly referred to as "psychosomatic
disorders." Again, these involve the manifestation of anxiety in a
physical symptom. They are distinguished from conversion reactions in
that the latter involves symptomatology associated with central nervous
system functions. Psychosomatic reactions involve functions mediated by
the autonomic system. They are, therefore, "visceral expressions of
affect." Symptoms usually derive from chronic and exaggerated forms of
the normal expression of emotions. In most cases, the subjective
aspects of such states are repressed. Psychophysiologic disorders are
divided into the following categories.
a) Cardiovascular reactions. The
symptoms here are manifest in the heart and blood vessels, hypertension
and tachycardia being frequent forms of the reaction.
b) Gastrointestinal reactions. The
gastrointestinal system is frequently used in the physical expression
of anxiety, the stomach being especially adapted to this purpose.
Common symptoms here include anorexia nervosa (lack of appetite),
peptic ulcer, and colitis.
c) Respiratory reactions. Breathing
difficulties have a close association with emotional situations and
might be expected to reflect excessive chronic emotional states.
Hyperventilation and asthma are two respiratory ai1ments in which
emotional factors appear to play a decisive role.
d) Skin reactions. Being richly
supplied with blood vessels under the control of the autonomic system,
skin reactions are especially reliable indicators of emotional states.
Neurodermatitis is perhaps the most common form of psychophysiologic
e) Genitourinary reactions. stress
and conflict are, here, reflected in disorders associated with sexual
and eliminative functions. Prominent symptoms include enuresis,
menstrual disorders, and psychic impotence and frigidity.
f) Miscellaneous psychophysiologic
reactions. This category is appendaged to take account of such
disorders as are associated with endocrine, musculoskeletal, and a
variety of other functions. Headaches in response to stressful
conditions are usually classified under this heading.
2. Press clipping from The Advertiser which reported:
It's a miracle, says 'cured' car victim
... Mrs Lockwood, 39, of Sellicks Beach, said she felt
something was telling her to go, that something waited for her at the
Charismatic movement's "miracle night".
Late in the night, South African preacher Ray McCauley
called for someone who had received back injuries in a car accident. He
said he knew that person would be healed.
"As soon as he started talking I knew it was me," Mrs Lockwood said.
Suffering bad neck and back pain after a car accident
three weeks ago, Mrs Lockwood, minutes after Mr McCauley laid his hands
on her, said the pain had gone.
"I am completely healed, restored to full health—it's a miracle," she said... (1985, January 10)
3. Psychology Today reported:
How a pain in the back can be a load on the mind
... A team from a Minnesota psychiatric clinic suggest
that what is depression to the upper classes may be a pain in the back
for working people.
Toshihiki Maruta, David Swanson and Wendell Swanson
compared the backgrounds, mental and physical states of 26 patients
suffering from aching backs with those of 26 patients suffering from
aching psyches. The back patients all had less education and had
started work younger than the depressed patients. But psychological
tests revealed levels of depression similar to those for the depressed
Mental problems like depression are not acceptable to
lower income groups who therefore use minor physical ailments as the
focal point for anxiety and depression... (Volume 3, No. 9, p. 7)
4. Letter by Barry Chant, director at The House of Tabor (Christian Education Centre), to The Southern Skeptic magazine, stating:
Alan Hammon-Murray suggested that I write to you concerning Mrs Sally Lockwood.
On Wednesday evening, January 9th, Sally attended the
second evening rally of the United Charismatic Convention at the
Using a gift commonly called the "word of knowledge" (l
Cor 12:8), Ray McCauley, guest speaker from South Africa, said that
there was someone present who was suffering back injuries from an
accident with whom he would like to pray. This is not, by the way,
clairvoyance. It is simply declaring by faith an idea that comes to
your mind that you believe has been put there by the Holy Spirit.
Sally responded. When Ray prayed for her, she collapsed
gently to the floor. A few minutes later, she got up and claimed that
her back had been healed.
We believe that this healing was the answer to the
prayer of faith (Mark 11:24). It was not a psychological thing — in
this case the problem was the result of an accident — and no pressure
was applied that could be described as emotional or "mind-over-matter".
A week later, Sally was still telling anyone who would
listen in a very positive way that she was even fitter than ever. Her
physiotherapist was apparently reluctant to say that she had been
divinely healed, but agreed that there had been dramatic improvement.
Divine healing of this nature is simple. Prayer is
offered in the conviction that God wills to heal. No power is claimed
by the person praying nor is it suggested that psychological influences
are used. We believe that there is a God, that he is alive, that he is
powerful and that he does answer prayer.
There are some conditions that need to be fulfilled.
The person seeking healing may be hindered by wrong attitudes towards
God or towards other people (Mark 11:25; 1 Peter 3:7). Faith is usually
necessary — ie faith in God. Supportive love and faith of others may
Underlying all of this is a conviction that the Bible is the Word of God and that it is the basis for faith and practice.
5. & 6. Postcard sold at Lourdes in the 1970s; and a press clipping from The News (South Australia):
London, Sun.: Little
Frances Burns is a wonder girl and the medical experts at the Vatican
are preparing to declare officially the curly-haired six-year-old a
Three years ago Frances was dying of cancer. Surgeons
who had fought to prolong her life since infancy were defeated and gave
her only a few days to live.
Her mother, Mrs. Deirdre Burns, 35, as a last resort
took her dying baby from her home in Glascow, 800 miles to the Roman
Catholic shrine at Lourdes in France.
Frances was bathed twice in the waters. Within two days she sat up in bed and demanded to eat.
A week later the swellings of the fatal tumors around her face had disappeared... (1971, August 23)
7. Books promoting divine healing consulted:
The Power to Heal, Father Francis MacNutt
Nothing Is Impossible With God, Kathryn Kuhlman
Your Faith Is Power, Leo Harris
Christian Healing Rediscovered, Ray Lawrence
8. Leaflet advertising an
Adelaide conference on healing. This conference was organized by the
Presbyterian and Baptist Church with the main speaker Dr Peter Masters
A Review of Significant Trends and Changes in Evangelicalism in Recent years;
Divine Healing: A Look at the Faith Healers Texts;
Proving that Revelatory and Sign Gifts Have Ceased.
9. Article from The Southern Skeptic (No. 9, 1986):
Spirit Gifts Temporary?
Many Christians believe that the 9 supernatural gifts
of the Spirit were transmitted from God to believers only in the
presence of Apostles. The gifts therefore ended at the latest when the
last Apostle died. Evidence includes:
1. "For the promise is to you and your children". (Acts 2:39) Therefore 1 generation.
2. Apostles were present on every recorded occasion the
Spirit and gifts were transmitted. Apostles were sent only to that
"generation". (Luke 11:49 -51)
3. "When the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass
away." (1 Cor.13:10) The "perfect" (the Greek "telios" means
"complete") is interpreted as being the completed Bible. The
"imperfect" is the gifts of the Spirit collectively.
4. Periods of miracles were periods when God
needed to identify his people — when e.g. Israel was separated from
Egypt about 1500 B.C. and when Christians were separated from Judaism.
Miracles identified and authenticated God's messengers. (Acts 2:22;
Heb.2:4; John 5:36; Ex. 4:1-9)
5. The gifts are barely mentioned in parts of
the Bible written after 55 C.E. Apostles and other Christians were
reported as being sick. (Phil. 2:25-30; 1 Tim.5:23; 2 Cor. 12:7-9)
6. "All scripture" — not miracles — makes the man of God equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
7. Second-century commentators wrote of the gifts as past and no longer present.
8. When the gifts were operating all who came
were healed without exception. Nowadays only some are healed. Therefore
something other than the Spirit and gifts is indicated.
Anonymous. Speaking in Tongues. Herald Of The Coming Age. 1982, Number 6
Broadbent, W.G. The Gospel Of Tongues. Gospel Publishing House. N Z.
Reymond, R.L. What About Continuing Revelations ... Today? Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co. U.S.A. 1977.
Runia, K. The Gifts of the Spirit. The Reformed Theological Review. Volume 29. 1970. No. 3 pp , 82-94
10. Press clippings of unusual natural healings:
The Advertiser, January 9, 1973
ATISHOO! And Jean, 22, can hear for the first time
Jean who was deaf from birth. She had a day-long bout of sneezes
because she was allergic to plastic foam at her place of work, and
could then suddenly hear.
The Advertiser, November 29, 1984
Collie's howling break coma
Frank Mattingley who was in a coma for a week and not expected to live.
He was roused by the howling of his dog below the window of the
intensive care unit.
The News, August 23, 1976, p. 16
Regains sight on flight to his relatives
Stan Brown of Wonthaggi, Victoria, who had been blind for six
months. His sight returned during a flight to England when: "at an
altitude of 50,000 feet, Stan's ears began popping and he suddenly
started to see flashes of light."
The Advertiser, January 3, 1985
Man wakes to miracle
Regarding 20-year-old Ian Kirby, blind for 5 years, who could see again after an operation to remove two wisdom teeth.
11. Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry (1975)
hysteria manifested as pain is common, because it may be confused with
pain arising from local lesions requiring surgery or other physical
treatments, and because the nature of the symptom brings the patient,
initially at least, to the non psychiatric physician, it is essential
that the physician be aware of hysterical pain and of the uses to which
the patient puts it in her demand for therapeutic action.
Hysterical Symptoms Simulating Physical Illness
It is apparent from the preceding discussion that the
symptoms of conversion hysteria may simulate bodily disease so cleverly
that diagnosis is difficult to establish. In a special form of
conversion hysteria that is closely related to the problems with pain
already considered, an identification with the symptoms of the illness
of a person with whom the patient has a close relationship is a key
mechanism. This identification is commonly with a person who has
recently died, and it is often accompanied by the signs and symptoms of
a pathological grief reaction. Here, too, pain is a common complaint,
but many different kinds of somatic symptoms may arise in this fashion.
A young man consulted his physician for severe
precordial chest pains, which, he was convinced, were evidence that he
had a fatal heart disease. Careful and repeated physical, laboratory,
and electrocardiographic examinations disclosed no indication of
cardiac difficulty, but a careful history revealed that the patient's
father had died suddenly of a second episode of myocardial infarction
several months before. Neither at the time nor since then had the
patient experienced any conscious grief for his father; instead, he
developed symptoms like those of his father's fatal illness and, to his
own amazement, adopted a number of his father's characteristic behavior
Identifications leading to symptoms may occur for other
reasons. Freud's patient Dora, for example, developed a hysterical
cough through identification with the same symptom in an older woman
she felt to be a rival... (p. 1216)
12. The Quincy Valley Post-Register:
Bible conference on faith healing scheduled in Wenatchee
A Bible conference on the subject of faith healing and
charismatic gifts will be held in Wenatchee at the Church of God, Faith
of Abraham April 19-22...
A total of 13 speakers will be speaking and debating
the topic. Four area radio stations will do talk shows and interviews
with the participants during the coming week. One of the speakers will
be Nick Nelson, pastor of the church of Christ in Quincy for the past
Nelson will be debating with Benjamin Franklin from
California Saturday at 10 a.m. Nelson and Franklin will discuss the
issue on whether the Bible teaches that miracles are still to be
practiced in the church today. Nelson's position is that the miracles
served the purpose of confirming the word so that it could be accepted
as from God. Once the word was completed and confirmed, the miraculous
gifts had served their purpose and ceased, Nelson says... (April 12,
13. A list of discussion points for the Wenatchee conference, prepared by Richard Rawe:
Discussion Points For Faith Healing & Gifts Of The Spirit
1. Is there a difference between the
GIFTS & the FRUITAGE of the Spirit? 1 Corinthians 12, 13. Galatians
2. Does God heal people directly
TODAY without their requesting it? If they personally request it? If'
others request it? Does God always, never, or sometimes heal,
resurrect, cast out demons? What determines whether God will or won't?
3. Does the Devil ever heal, resurrect the dead, expel demons?
4. If so, how can you distinguish the Devil's act from God's?
5. Since the Egyptian magicians
duplicated the miracles that Moses did from God could the Devil do
6. Did Jesus and the Apostles do only a partial job — ½ cure or 1/2 resurrect? What about such today?
7. Do all healings, miracles,
resurrections, speaking in tongues etc. have to be either from God or
the Devil? What about medicine, psychosomatic cases, vitamins,
8. Is there anything wrong with
crediting all "good" healings to God and not to the Devil, or man, or
9. When cures, speaking in tongues,
resurrections and miracles are reported in pagan religions (Hinduism,
Anamism, African Witch Doctors etc.) why not attribute these to God?
10. Many Charismatic Leaders of
today have been exposed as frauds, greedy, thieves, adulterers, etc.
Does what Jesus said about a good tree not producing rotten fruit bear
11. Since there is so much
fraud, deceit, lying, practiced among ALL classes of charismatics what
standards should we have for examining any reported cures,
12. Were "unknown tongues" and "tongues of angels" human languages used by people somewhere?
13. What does history of 1st to 3rd centuries after Christ show about the miracles having stopped?
14. If the 1st century gifts of
the Spirit validated the Christians (rather than the Jewish nation) as
God's representatives in the same way that miracles previously
validated the official part of the Jewish nation is the same purpose in
evidence today? Did God work through independent individuals?
15. Why do we have no examples
today of someone resurrected after being dead 4 days (like Lazarus) or
cured of leprosy?
16. If God gave miracles in the past
to validate some group as his representatives, who today has such
validation and from what date?
17. Scripturally, are we to look for such a group to come?
18. Who "laid their hands on them" who claim to have the gifts?
Does this group have the full range of gifts?
Resurrections? Cure lepers? Heal persons blind from birth? Can they lay
their hands on others and give them the gift?
14. Extract from Psychiatry and the Bible by C.A. Wise:
"To understand what may
happen in 'faith cures' one must understand the close relation of
physical, emotional and spiritual processes, and that experiences on
one level have a marked influence on all levels. Since many physical
illnesses are either caused or complicated by such feelings as anxiety,
guilt, and hostility, the symptoms of such illnesses may be removed,
and the affected organ may return to normal functioning through
resolution of the conflict... There is no doubt that many so-called
faith cures are experienced by persons suffering from emotionally
produced illnesses through relationships and processes which we
understand today. Some persons are very suggestible and through the
proper rituals and ceremonies can find symptoms relieved, but only to
find other symptoms developing later, because the underlying cause is
not removed. Other illnesses, created by a desire to get out of an
intolerable situation, clear up miraculously when the situation is
changed. However, the patient may not understand what has taken place
and under certain influences may claim a faith cure."
15. Extract from Time magazine:
Medicine has known for
years that a virus of the papova group causes warts, horny skin growths
that can develop—and disappear—rapidly. Yet doctors cannot agree upon
the proper cure. Some recommend surgery, cautery with an electric
needle, localized freezing, or acid to burn away the tissue; a few even
fall back on folk remedies like touching warts with a copper penny or
with a slice of raw potato. Now a group of Massachusetts General
Hospital physicians has reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry
that warts can also be removed by hypnosis. The researchers reached
this conclusion after hypnotizing 17 wart-afflicted patients once a
week for five weeks and telling them that warts would disappear from
their bodies. Nine of the patients had fewer warts after the test
period, while none in a control group of seven showed any improvement.
Why the treatment succeeded is a mystery; the doctors can only suggest
that the hypnosis somehow bolstered the patients' immune response to
the virus. (April 2, 1973)
16. Advertisements for church healing services:
Crusade Centre featuring Robert Kayanja from Uganda
Christian Family Centre featuring Phil Pringle
The Potter's House featuring "International Evangelist Chris Davies"
17. The book Think Yourself Healthy by Blair Justice Ph.D.
18. Article from the Chicago Tribune:
Lourdes: The Miracle Hope For The World's Hopeless
LOURDES. France — A thousand wheelchairs and stretchers descend the winding streets into a huge outdoor square.
There are crippled children and cancerous old men, women shaking with palsy, retarded teenagers, a dying baby.
They have come to this place because it is supposed to
work powerful magic against human disease and deformity. The Roman
Catholic Church has certified 63 miracles here since 1858.
They talk of faith and. religious affirmation, but the one overwhelming hope is this: To be the recipient of the 64th miracle.
THE LAST MIRACLE certified as authentic by the church
occurred at Lourdes in 1963. There have been numerous healings during
the interim 15 years, but none of them are deemed strong enough to be
classified as a miracle.
There is a complicated process of checks and reviews set up by the church to validate miracles.
The first review is conducted by the Lourdes Medical
Office, which is made up of all the doctors who happen to be present at
Lourdes when a sudden cure is reported.
If a majority of the doctors agree that the recovery is
medically unexplainable, facts about the case are sent to the
International Medical Committee, a group of medical experts and
specialists selected by the bishop of Lourdes from 10 European
countries ... and if a majority of the membership decides that the
recovery was inexplicable, the case is sent to the bishop of the
diocese in which the cured pilgrim lives.
If the church's Canonical Commission decides that all
the evidence of the case signifies what it calls divine intervention,
the bishop may then declare a miracle.
It is a PROCESS that can take more than five years... (May 14, 1978)
19. Article from the Los Angeles Times:
Faith Healer Gets Electronic, Not Godly, Messages, Skeptics Say
... Popoff, like many faith healers, calls out the
names of illnesses of people at his crusades, then "lays hands" on them
and prayers for their healing. The impression given at such services is
that the information comes from divine sources, indeed, a magazine
distributed by Popoff's organization described an audience member being
"called out by the Spirit for healing!"
But a volunteer team of self-described skeptics, who
recently monitored Popoff's crusades in four cities, claims that if God
sends information to Peter Popoff, he does it at 39.17 megahertz, a
frequency in the range often used by police.
The team recorded hours of conversations in which
Elizabeth Popoff radioed her husband personal details that she and
other aides gathered from the audience in conversations before the
service and from prayer request cards filled out there.
"The tent-show healers are gone, but their replacements
are among us ... louder, slicker and richer by far, assisted as they
are by technology that their predecessors would not have imagined,"
said magician-debunker James Randi, who used as many as 18 volunteers
per crusade to document what he said were deceptive practices by
several faith healers...
Popoff ... is seen on 51 television outlets ... heard
on 40 radio stations and has an average gross income of $550,000 a
month, according to his business manager... (May 11, 1986)
John Dart, Times Religion Writer