Today I am delighted to highlight the work of a great man and friend. Elijah Stephens is a colleague of mine from Bible school and a former Vineyard pastor from Chattanooga, Tennessee. In addition to being a brilliant teacher of the Word he is one gutsy fellow who has undertaken an intriguing and radical project: a documentary film exploring the intersection of science and the supernatural, specifically prayer for healing of diseases and physical injuries. Earlier this year I was in the room of about 700 people standing right behind him when he received a stunningly accurate prophetic word from Shawn Bolz of Expression 58 (Glendale, CA) about this pursuit. We had been working together and praying about this project for several months and it was a huge encouragement to receive such confirmation. Here’s the trailer:
Even in Christian churches where the practices of laying on of hands, anointing with oil, and prayer for the sick do not occur during Sunday services, many (dare I say most?) Christians do believe in and pray fervently for healing and do so with raw, expectant faith, invoking the name of Jesus. Names reveal identities in Hebrew culture and the name of Jesus literally means “God saves” or “God heals.” In the biblical text, the Greek word sózó is used interchangeably when referring to salvation, healing, and deliverance; God sent his aptly-named Son to save, heal, and deliver humanity. Healing is in God’s character, evidenced foremost by the life of Jesus. The Son of God did many wondrous acts of healing when he was walking the earth and he often intoned in his ministry that he could only do what he saw his Father doing (John 5:19), and in so doing he perfectly represented the Father.
So let us fast forward to today, where thanks to modern science we are able to peer extensively into the wonders of the natural world, especially the human brain and body. What of the supernatural in this evidence-based arena? Is there any medical evidence whatsoever with which to back up claims of miraculous healing? And is that even a question we can honestly ask since a healing that God performs supernaturally cannot be scrutinized by the scientific method and other forms of empirical testing?
Moreover, what about the scientists themselves and the contempt that some churches have shown them? Certainly notable exceptions exist, but too often scientists have been dismissed or ignored in Christian circles. To be fair, some scientists antagonize people of faith; a cursory review of some of the bestselling books by the new atheists/scientists in recent years will quickly confirm this. Authors like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett contend that religious faith is not only foolish but evil and must be stridently resisted. Religious abuse and the charlatan quacks who employ manipulative tactics to persuade gullible people that they are ministering in supernatural power serve only to bolster their cases.
Even so, despite the antics of the new atheists and the belief of some Christians who hold to cessationism, miraculous physical healings performed in the name of Jesus do continue to happen today. If you ask Elijah, he will tell you that he is one who believes that when such miracles do occur, the necessary protocol is to follow up with doctors to get X-rays and the relevant medical tests done to verify that the healing has in fact taken place. Testimonies of healing should always be shared with the utmost integrity and never be embellished.
An additional challenge we see on this subject, particularly in the West, is our rationalist mindset buttressed by philosopher David Hume’s contention that uniform human experience precludes the miraculous. New Testament scholar Dr. Craig Keener of Asbury Seminary has done a yeoman’s job on miracle research and apologetics, and he challenges the rationalist assertions from Hume and others, arguing that human experience is anything but uniform and that miracles are best explained as divine acts. For more on this check out his 2 volume set Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts.
It also needs to be said that no Christian physician or any other medical professional who devotes his or her time to studying the human body and medicine, finding cures for diseases, and developing treatments for illnesses should ever feel like a second-class minister of the gospel because his or her work is not explicitly supernatural or involve expository preaching of the Word. You certainly will not hear me or Elijah defending the kooky ‘healers’ out there, but the presence of deception and the fake does not equal the absence of truth and the real.
These are but a few of the themes that this documentary will address in greater detail and it is high time that an intelligent, truthful film on this subject gain ground. I encourage everyone to check out PrayerMovie.com and stay tuned for its release!