‘How does one safeguard against false claims of miracles?’ (part 2)
In my last post I detailed how at a conference I was attending, the speaker left the venue believing that God had healed 200+ delegates who had experienced hearing loss prior to the meeting.
Now – before I realised the speaker’s intention to ‘tally’ up the numbers of those healed – I was pleased that so many delegates had been healed. However, as the totals were called out, I found myself troubled by the speaker’s lack of judgement in presuming everyone who had raised a hand had actually been healed. There was no way he could know this and no medical professionals present to validate these positive outcomes.
Instead, my sense was of an incredible weight of expectation on the delegates to provide a positive verdict to those who had prayed for them. After all, they had prayed in faith and it would be a brave delegate who would disappoint so many by telling them the healing had not occurred. I also reasoned the speaker’s ministry might be sorely embarrassed if no hands went up – an outcome he might be less than keen for his team to collate, let alone take with him and share at the next conference.
A few weeks after the conference, a different issue began to bother me as I wondered how feasible it was for delegates to provide a reliable self-assessment that they had been healed without access to medical resources. I also wondered how many still considered themselves healed three weeks after the emotional rush of conference was over. Speaking with many believers over the years, some consider God to be bringing about a kind of partial healing to their physical disability, even when there is little or no medical evidence to support such a claim other than the ability to endure. I am also aware of how a fair number of believers may raise a hand at the speaker’s request for no other reason than to not do so is to be construed as lacking faith.
I left the conference sad and disappointed. Not because healing had not occurred – I am quite certain it did for a small number of delegates. My sadness came about because of the reluctance of some to bring their work into the light and test the number of healings against the hard evidence of medical assessment. My own opinion is that when people with a hearing impairment believe they have been healed by God, then the church has a responsibility to have these verified by medical professionals. When leaders avoid doing this – perhaps because they think it will disrupt the ebb and flow of the conference – it is as if we cocoon ourselves in an environment in which we can say and believe whatever we like without fear that we will be challenged.
People are healed by God – but probably not as many as we would like to think. Yet, when leaders and speakers are encouraged to continue in their own self-deception we become like the characters in the children’s story who allow the Emperor to believe he is wearing a special cloak, when in reality he is wearing nothing at all. The bottom line is believers need to act responsibly and be willing to challenge the claims of healings borne out of emotional response and untested against hard evidence. Until this sort of challenge occurs, people inside and outside the church will consider our reports of healings as little more than the ludicrous ramblings of those without integrity – a position neither honouring to God nor the commission he has placed upon those who are his followers.