HOW MIRACLE HEALING WORKS

(Investigator 15, 1990 November)



INTRODUCTION

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 6)    

"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
e.     Fraud
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.


DOCUMENTS CONSULTED

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.
10.    Press clippings reporting unusual but natural healings. Had these healings occurred in Church they would have been called "divine" or "miraculous".
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):

Psychophysiologic 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 skin disorders.
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 patients...

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:

Dear Sir,

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 Centennial Hall.

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 also help.

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 "living miracle."

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 of London:
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
   
Regarding 22-year-old 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

Regarding 68-year-old 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

Regarding 88-year-old 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)

Because conversion 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 patterns.

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 five years.

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, 1990)

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 5.
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 likewise today?
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, minerals, etc?
8.    Is there anything wrong with crediting all "good" healings to God and not to the Devil, or man, or medicine?
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 on this?
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, resurrections, etc?
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

C. Trost

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

John Dart, Times Religion Writer

... 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)


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