If Salt Loses Its Flavour

The measure of Biblical faith has been redefined by different denominations as the Judeo-Christian concept of divine revelation, with all of its wonderful and supernatural aspects, as opposed to the 19th century rationalist movement of common sense and the demythologisation of the Holy Scriptures. One of the spiritual consequences of accelerated secularization in the 20th century was that even a lot of clergymen interpreted the supernatural world of the Bible and miracles from a worldly point of view, mainly taking certain principles of the materialistic ideology into consideration. As a result of submission to the materialistic world explanation, miracles were defined as elements of myth or magic, which were reflections of the peculiar, ancient, dated and insignificant world view of the authors of the Holy Scriptures.

Official rationalists tended to present the defenders of Biblical miracles and their validity as groups as those who tried to corrode sensible Christian faith with occultism. Pentecostal-Charismatic Christian communities and individuals, for example, among others, were stigmatized as dangerous heretics, who deceive the Christian world with New Age ideologies, hypnosis and other psychological technics, which were extraneous to Biblical revelation and spirituality. Some critics went so far as to accuse people representing the supernatural power of evangelistic faith as being false prophets and antichrists of the last days. However, it is an extreme and untrue statement about those who believe in the miracles and signs of the Holy Scriptures and who defend divine power (Greek: dynamis), since Christians who believe in the God of miracles do reject occult practices. At the same time, they emphasize that God also has power and authority which is beyond and able to change the empirical world and which He may also share with people. Skirmishes between believers and deniers of miracles have not only set different Christian trends against each other but they were also typical of various groups of the Jewish religion. As the wonder rabbi Schneersohn was associated with occultism and para-phenomena by his theological opposition so were those Pentecostal Charismatic Christians who preached God to people as their Healer (Hebrew: rophe). Contrary to all rumours, the majority of miracle believing Christians accepts the positive role of medicine in healing. There have been some small extreme groups (there still may be some) which considered every medical intervention and therapy as the work of the devil and so expected their members not to turn to doctors in case of an illness, but to call upon God exclusively. However, many times there was no answer to such requests, so tragedies occurring in those groups resulted in rightful storms of indignation in society. The majority of those who believe in God's healing power see no irreconcilable conflict between the two types: therapies coming from God and man, since medical treatments that are based on scientific results do not violate the laws of Biblical faith or the good conscience of believers. Beside professional medical service, the patient may practice his personal faith in God regarding his healing.

It is the different treatments carried out with spirtual power or psychic energy not coming from God that are incompatible with Biblically based healing miracles. Not only are materialists unwilling to consider the essential difference between the two, but also Christians who think the era of wonders has ended. Hereinafter, we recall the main Biblical revelations and statements based on which rabbis, prophets, apostles and preachers proclaimed divine healing to people.

The origin of illness

First of all, from a theological point of view, illness is of spiritual origin. According to the story of creation the Creator presented man with a good and healthy body. Most theologians with anthropologies based on the Judeo-Christian revelation agree that the visible world came under the influence of illness (Hebrew: choli) as a result of original sin and also that is why man became exposed to various sicknesses and pains. However, it does not mean that every illness is directly caused by a particular sin, though many Biblical examples, especially in the Old-Testament, illustrate the cause and effect correlation between sin and illness. For example, in his psalm (32.), with harsh sincerity, David correlates his illness with his own sins, and his healing with the forgiveness of them.
On the basis of the Bible, an illness may as well be God's judgement on a rebellious man. According to the Torah, man may become exposed to serious physical suffering and misery because of his rebellious attitude to God's Word. However, Job's tribulations and sicknesses cannot be interpreted with the help of the direct correlations of sin and illness. The real reason of his ordeal had remained secret and incomprehensible for man until the Lord's revelation unveiled it even for Job's accusing friends at the end of the book. The New-Testament acknowledges the Old-Testament correlation between sin and illness, but also counts in other factors that may cause sicknesses (e.g.: degenerated physical world, work of demons, protection from greater danger, means of correction etc.).

God is your healer

According to those who believe in the miraculous power of God, the Lord made the covenant of healing with Israel after they crossed the Red Sea, in Marah. 'I am the LORD, who heals you.' (Exodus 15:26) The divine revelation meant not only a promise, an alternative to the Jews, but also God's name (Jahve Rofecha, that is, Eternal Healer), one of the essential features of His nature (reality and law), which the sons of Israel shared from through their obedience to God's Word. Moreover, their restored health was under divine protection against illnesses.
God's healing ability is also proven by the regulation of the law, according to which the priest had to make an atoning sacrifice for the healing of the sick. Rituals were only means to let God's healing power work in the lives of those who were suffering. Throughout long decades and centuries God restored the health of ill Jews through atoning sacrifices. Therefore it was evident to Old-Testament Jews that their most effective healer was their God, who showed them not only the correlations between sin and illness, but also the divine way to regain lost health.
Another Old-Testament illustration of God's healing work is the bronze snake made by Moses, which had to be put up on a pole (Numbers 21). The antecedent of this command of the law was that the grumbling people were attacked by poisonous snakes in the desert. Of the people bitten by snakes, only those who looked at the bronze snake could survive. This symbol had nothing to do with magic. It was not the bronze snake that had supernatural power, but God transmitted His healing power to the sick in the way he had described.
Even in the eras after the exodus there were prophets working in Israel, like Elijah and Elisha, who had healing power. The Old-Testament people firmly rejected magical signs that followed occult practices, but welcomed miracles that came from God's servants.

Jesus, the healing rabbi

New-Testament believers have even more reasons to believe in God as their healer. During His earthly ministry Jesus spent most of His time teaching people, healing the sick and casting out demons. The four gospels clearly prove this. Jesus overcame illness, a dark and oppressive enemy of mankind. His fight against sickness was based on God's power and authority. He made it obvious that God's will is not illness, but healing which corresponds the laws of His heavenly kingdom.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth healed the sick in different ways. A paralysed man could regain his lost health by the forgiveness of his sins (Mark 2:5-11). In other cases Jesus cast evil spirits out of the sick, who were then healed (e.g.: the demon possessed man from the region of the Gadarenes, a deaf and mute man, the moonstruck boy etc.) Sometimes Jesus placed His hand on the sick and they received healing, for example Peter's mother-in-law. Often the sick touched Jesus' clothes and were miraculously healed, like the woman with an issue of blood. Besides these, Jesus also healed the sick in other 'extraordinary' ways.

Splintered Christianity and healing

The main arguments in the Christian world are not in connection with Jesus' healing work, but with the church's conception of and relation with illness. According to those who object to prayers for healing, the main goal of Jesus' coming was the acquisition of the forgiveness of sins. He is going to put an end to sicknesses and pains when He returns. Till then, divine healing is not a part of a believer's standard life, but is exceptional, a pre-sign of the coming Messianic age.
On the contrary, Pentecostal-Charismatic Christians emphasize that Jesus' atoning sacrifice was complete and perfect, in the course of which He redeemed the whole personality of man (his spirit, soul and body). According to their reasoning, the divination of the prophet Isaiah, which says that 'He took up our pain (choli) and bore our suffering' (makob), has already been fulfilled in Jesus' sacrifice on the cross at Calvary. Therefore the possessions and blessings gained through His atoning and replacing sacrifice are already available in this present age of salvation.
The quoted scripture was referred to as Jesus' earthly ministry and redemption by the writers of the Gospel too. The apostle Peter quotes Isaiah in a similar sense, when he tells Christians in his letter, that 'by his wounds you have been healed' (the original Greek text uses a tense that refers to an action (you have been healed) that was completed in the past. Even in the apostolic era the church distinguished the Lord's healing work from the time when the whole body of man is going to be redeemed. The latter is described as a future event, a goal of the second coming of Jesus Christ. Early Christians firmly believed that they had been redeemed from sicknesses, so evangelisations were followed by mass healings and deliverances. The early church interpreted the New-Testament as the covenant of healing too.
Those who oppose miracles usually argue that the age of the apostles has ended, therefore divine healing is no longer available. However, the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement emphasizes that the Lord has not changed and has not withdrawn the charismas of the Holy Spirit either, among which the gifts of healing have a significant place. The Lord would like to share these supernatural abilities just like in the apostolic times. According to them the reasons for the absence of supernatural healing are very often ignorance and disbelief. Although faith does not produce healing, it makes the spirit and soul of believers open and willing to receive God's healing power. Supernatural healing is still a hot topic in various countries, the sadly, the negative consequences of which is that squabbling Christian trends neutralize each other, while illnesses cause gradually growing problems and burdens to people, families and even to state budgets. The spiritual division of Christianity provides favourable spiritual conditions to wonder-doctors and 'faith-healers', who are not in the least interested who their spiritual power comes from.  
Source: Hetek