What is healing? It seems like a simple enough question. Healing is what happens when a doctor prescribes medicine and recovery follows. Healing is when a religious figure blesses a person and God intervenes to make them physically healthy again. I reject those meanings; the first is too simple and the second is based on a misconception of the nature of healing by faith.
As I have made clear in prior posts, I reject the theistic understanding of God, in favor of God as the ground of being, immanent and transcendent, engaged in a relationship with each of us. This God cannot be defined or fully grasped, but can be related to in Martin Buber’s I-Thou sense of the divine-human encounter. With the traditional understanding of deity, the problem of evil enters into the realm of faith healing. If a God within the structure of being, a God who is up there or out there, created the universe and, more specifically, earth, how can this allegedly intervening deity manifest itself in certain instances and not others? Wouldn’t it seem as though this God arbitrarily picks favorites? Thus, healing miracles in the traditional sense must be abandoned as part of an older worldview. A new way of viewing their revelatory nature must be revealed.
Faith healing is the resolution of an existential crisis. When we are sick and suffering, we often arrive at a point of despair; despair about life and a loss of the will to fight. The certainty of despair over fate and meaninglessness, which is the root cause of suffering, provides a shelter from the unfortunate realities of existence. Anxiety becomes a haven, yet at the same time, we are saying “no” to life. The power of healing within each and every one of us is rooted in our ability to give ourselves up to the grace of God. By this I mean that we say “yes” to life, overcoming the anxieties of existence. We have, as I have mentioned before, “the courage to be,” the courage to accept the negative components of existence into our own being. The faith aspect of healing has nothing to do with beliefs, but in accepting the reality of our relationship with God. Through this faith, we can become whole again, and the root causes of our illnesses can have no power over us.
A brief interlude: It is important, as John Crossan has pointed out, to distinguish between an illness and a disease. An illness is healed by what I described above, while a disease strictly refers to a physical ailment. The healing of illnesses can sometimes lead to the healing of diseases, but faith healing in and of itself is not directed towards disease. Although, physical suffering becomes less potent as the affirmation of life brings joy and peace. In this way, we can forget our suffering, as it ceases to be of primary concern.
The version of faith healing as outlined answers two questions posed by the modern worldview, namely: the problem of evil (as discussed above) and disruption of the so-called natural order of the universe. Both are answered by the realization that healing involves an act on the part of the person suffering, rather than through an intervention by God. God as the power of being cannot and does not intervene contrary to perceived laws of nature within this model. God does not intervene for specific people, but becomes manifest through the healer as the victim becomes responsive to the natural presence and reality of God as the core of their being.