Healing Criteria

Unashamed Workman posted some interesting thoughts on criteria for determining whether a healing is "authentic". He cites two lists of criteria. The first is from the noted skeptic James Randi:

James Randi’s Criteria

1. The disease must not be normally self-terminating.

2. The recovery must be complete.

3. The recovery must take place in the absence of any medical treatment that might normally be expected to affect the disease.

4. There must be adequate medical opinion that the disease was present before the application of whatever means were used to bring about the miracle.

5. There must be adequate medical opinion that the disease is not present after the application of whatever means were used to bring about the miracle.

These criteria are actually more related to the report of the healing than the healing itself. For example, a person may genuinely be healed by God without any medical professionals present to make points 4 and 5 possible. And God is of course completely free to heal someone without points 1 and 3 being met.

So while these points are not sufficient to determine whether an authentic healing has taken place, they are useful to consider when reporting a healing (in particular I mean reporting a healing outside of the circle of those people who know the person involved). Integrity is important, and to declare that a miraculous healing has taken place when several of the above criteria are not met can actually result in cynicism from those who hear rather than the desired effect of raising their faith.

Professor of Theology Richard Mayhue boldly declares that the Bible goes further and offers his own set of much stricter criteria:

Richard Mayhue’s Criteria

1. The healing must be instantaneous.

2. The healing must be of a disease that neither the medical community nor the human body can heal, such as AIDS – either instantly or absolutely.

3. The healing must be total.

4. The healing must be completely convincing, even to skeptics.

5. The healing must be done in public with no elaborate services involved.

6. The healing must be of an organic disease.

I have to say I have no idea where he gets most of these from. Point 1 is true as a general rule in the Bible, but there are exceptions. As for point 2, again I cannot see why God cannot heal a disease that does not meat this criteria. Point 3 I broadly agree with but noting the obvious caveat that all people healed in the Bible went on to die (and presumably were not immune from sickness the rest of their lives).

As for point 4, this simply is not possible. Has he underestimated the power of unbelief? We need look no further than the example of Jesus’ resurrection to see that some people will ignore the evidence if it does not suit what they want to believe. Point 5 is another tenuous one. Not all healings in the Bible were performed in public, and while there may not have been "elaborate services", a number of them involved unconventional methods. And point 6 is also perplexing. Is healing of a mental problem (e.g. depression, eating disorders) not "real" enough?

So I think Mayhue sets the bar too high to consider something an "authentic healing". And yet I do have some sympathy for his position, as it seems to me far too common for Christians to make exaggerated and even downright false claims about healing these days. Let us be full of faith in the God who heals, full of compassion for those who are sick, and full of integrity in the claims we make about healing.

3 thoughts on “Healing Criteria

  1. Excellent points Mark, and v interesting to read those two sets of criterion for healing. Richard Mayhue of course is a professor at John MacArthur’s seminary is he not? So I guess it’s not surprising his criteria would be as stringent as it is!

    But I do agree with your point about integrity for healing. In our hope and desire to see God intervene in time and space, we should also be so comfortable in His sovereignity that if He doesn’t intervene and heal in a particular case then we admit it – consider what He is directing in that particular case and either pray again (as Jesus did for the blind guy) or allow whatever other circumstances He so desires – such as death, which is part of life.

  2. It’s an interesting one.

    Perhaps Randi and Mayhue have more in common than either would care to admit – namely a worldview that is disinclined to accept the supernatural.

    The worldview of the Bible writers seems much more accepting of events that both secularists and cessationists struggle with.

    There’s something in the Book about the Kingdom being hidden from the wise and revealed to kids, isn’t there?

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