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Faith healing, also called divine healing or spiritual healing, is the use of spiritual means in treating disease, sometimes accompanied (in extreme instances) with the refusal of modern medical techniques. Faith healing is a form of alternative medicine.

Christian faith healing

The term is sometimes used in reference to the belief of some Christians who hold that God heals people through the power of the Holy Spirit, often involving the "laying on of hands". Those who hold to this belief do not usually use the term "faith healing" in reference to the practice; that expression is more often used descriptively by commentators outside of the faith movement in reference to the belief and practice.

Faith healing is often reported by Catholics as the result of intercessory prayer of a saint or a person with the gift of healing. An example of a person reported to have the gift of healing is Blessed Brother Andre Besette, CSC, a Holy Cross Brother known as the "Miracle Man of Montreal".

The Catholic Church requires one or two miracles for the canonization of a saint, depending on the case. These are most often cases of faith healing reported as resulting from that person's intercession.

Many people who resort to faith healing do so in cases of otherwise incurable disease. However, there are groups that believe in faith healing as the primary (if not sole) remedy for any health problem.

The predominant view among supporters of faith healing is that medical treatment should be sought whenever necessary, and that the two are not incompatible (believing that God can heal both supernaturally and through modern medical practice). However, there is an extreme view that teaches seeking medical treatment constitutes a "lack of faith" in supernatural healing.

The term "faith healing" is occasionally used in connection with Christian Science, though its adherents maintain its practice of healing is methodical and does not rest on faith alone, but also on an intimate understanding of God's law.

Some practitioners such as William Baldwin and Ken Page incorporated methods that were Christian in origin with Shamanic tools for work on clients regardless of their spiritual beliefs or backgrounds. Many consider Richard Rossi one of the most credible examples of faith healing because of his willingness to subject all healings to medical verification.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Healing evangelist

Healing evangelist is an evangelist who presents the gospel with a demonstration of spiritual power and healing in tandem with a proclamation of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

The first American healing evangelist to achieve prominence was Aimee Semple McPherson in the 1920's. Oral Roberts was the best known healing evangelist in the 1940's healing movement, although others like Jack Coe and A. A. Allen rode the wave of interest catalyzed by Roberts. Most travelled with large tents to hold mobile, open air crusades.

Kathryn Kuhlman was a popular female healer similar to Sister Aimee McPherson. Kuhlman gained fame in the 1950's and had a television program on CBS. Other healing evangelists developed a strong television presence, such as Ernest Angley in Akron, Ohio.

Modern healing evangelists include Benny Hinn, who based his work and model on Kuhlman, John Wimber, leader of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship movement, and Richard Rossi. Rossi was unique for advertising his healing clinics through secular television and radio, thereby drawing a crowd of skeptics. He believed he could demonstrate and prove God's power to unbelievers through indisputable miracles. Rossi trained the audience to pray for the sick, in an effort to not be personality centered. This new model was in contrast to most faith healers who call the sick to the platform for the healing evangelist to cure them. Rossi also insisted on medical verification of healings and allowed secular television investigative journalists to test the healings for veracity. Rossi's ministry continues through Eternal Grace Church based in Hollywood, CA.

Other forms of hands-on healing are popular in aspects of the New Age movement, but do not involve the evangelistic element of the above personalities.

Scriptural texts used to support healing evangelism include John 14:12 and the Great Commission given in Mark 16, which says "these signs shall follow them that believe, in My Name they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover...." Critics respond that these verses do not appear in the earliest manuscripts.

Proposed sociobiological basis

In the UK and British Commonwealth countries, "spiritual healing" is used generically to designate healing by prayer, mental intent and/or the laying-on of hands, both within religious practitioner frameworks and in the secular community - where spiritual healing could include healing as taught and practiced by the National Federation of Spiritual Healers (UK), Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, Healing Touch, and dozens of other related practices.


Faith healing has not scientifically been proven effective. What few controlled studies have been performed have evidenced no beneficial effect. Its practitioners can only cite anecdotal evidence of cases where it has been successful, ignoring the far more numerous cases where the patient dies despite the efforts of faith healing. Doctors often ascribe any success to the placebo effect or to spontaneous remission: some people will heal with or without treatment, and it is generally natural to credit the most recent treatment for the cure (this logical fallacy is called post hoc ergo propter hoc).

Prominent 1980's-era faith healer and televangelist Peter Popoff was publicly exposed by noted skeptic James Randi and popular TV host Johnny Carson, when it was discovered that the apparent healing miracles and prophetic acts performed by Popoff were in fact part of an elaborately stage-managed setup including planting of audience members and broadcasts to an in-ear radio receiver. Other faith healers such as Benny Hinn (who was videotaped by hidden cameras and profiled on an episode CBC's The Fifth Estate) have also been hit by allegations of fraudulent activity.

Ethical issues when conventional treatment is refused

Faith healing can pose serious ethical problems for medical professionals when parents decline or refuse traditional medical care for their children. In some countries, parents argue that constitutional guarantees of religious freedom include the right to rely on alternative healing to the exclusion of medical care. Advocates of conventional medicine argue studies have shown faith healing no more effective than a placebo, making it unethical to rely on, though advocates of spiritual healing argue there exist methodical and bias issues. Doctors as a rule consider it their duty to do everything that they can in the interests of the patient. In consequence, where they judge medical treatment necessary to save an individual's life or health, and balancing the question with legal and privacy concerns, they may act contrary to the patient's or parental preference. In 2000, a UK government ruling allowed a child to be treated by doctors against the parents' wishes.

See also


  • Dr. Matthias Kamp, M.D.: Bruno Groening - A Revolution in Medicine. The rehabilitation of a man who was misunderstood. A medical documentation on spiritual healing. Grete Haeusler Publishing, 1998, (Chapters 1 - 4)

External links



Transpersonal psychology

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