[ I changed themes, and now the formatting on this post is all messed up…I don’t have time to fix it right now — I will soon. – MB ]
For its part, CERM is a Christian site, and though I do not agree with the vast majority of their writings, they stand profoundly against what they call the “word of faith” teachings, and I found it striking that this article on Bethel Church was reposted on a Christian site. (There will be time for discussing the intra-Christian debates on healing and resurrection in due course.)
Winters’s article speaks mostly for itself, so I’ll pull just a few quotes from it, and briefly comment on them.
Adam Short, a 28-year-old from North Carolina, runs http://www.Healingherald.org where he posts stories of miraculous healings from the Healing Rooms and beyond.
Short is a third-year intern at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) and said he has received words of knowledge and signs from God leading him to people who needed to be healed. [ … ] Short said his goal for the Web site is for people to be encouraged by the good news and not question it. “Nobody ever questions bad news,” he said. [pp. 2,3]
I think it’s worth noting, that Short does not want people to question his stories. I don’t think you have to be an extremely skeptical person to acknowledge that someone telling you flat out not to question what they have to say is full of crap.
“If you’re sitting here and you say, ‘I’ve been deaf in my left ear since childbirth,’ and I pray for you and then I have you close your right ear and I whisper 10 feet away and you can hear me, I don’t feel like I need to get a doctor’s report,” he said. “I’m happy you’re happy you can hear. That’s enough for me.” [p. 3]
Here’s a link to the wikipedia entry about confirmation bias. (I’ll have my wikipedia policy up and running in a few days.) If the person thinks they’re going to be healed, wants to be, hopes to be, in some cases needs to be for their faith to survive, it is no surprise that they will confirm the healing, whether such a confirmation is justified or not.
Of course, we can’t talk about Bethel Church without mentioning Bill Johnson.
Though he had people praying for his hernia to heal early in 2009, the condition still required surgery and Johnson said that was OK because God can use doctors as well as he can use Bethel’s healing teams, though both are necessary.
“The doctors serve a great purpose but they’ll tell you they can’t fix everything,” he said. “Some things need to be fixed by a miracle or just aren’t fixed at all.” [p. 3]
A few other sources on the hernia surgery are here, here, and, importantly, here. Such behavior certainly fits the pattern: claim that healing occurs, and when it doesn’t, justify it by saying that God can use doctors, too. I’ll actually agree with the last part of his quote: there are certain things that doctors can’t fix, and that is why humans do not live forever.
Winters doesn’t delve too deeply into some of Johnson’s broader resurrection claims (on which I will post in the future), but does mention what he calls the Dead Raising Team, or DRT. There seems to be a bit of misunderstanding as to what the DRT actually accomplishes, Winters deserves to be quoted at length.
Johnson said the team got approval from Mason County to be listed along with other county services and had been given badges so they can go behind police lines if there’s an accident or fatality. Johnson told the audience, who erupted in shouts of “come on, Jesus” and cheers, that there had been one resurrection so far.
Marty Best, manager of the Mason County Department of Emergency Management, said he met the Dead Raising Team and suggested they become volunteers for his department so they could have access to emergency situations.
“Our mandate is to protect life, property and environment,” he said. “If a person is raised by a defibrillator and adrenaline or by prayer they still return to their loved ones.”
Best said the team must first get the permission of the unit commander before they can start praying over a fatality and they can never impose it on anyone.
In contrast to what Johnson said, the DRT is not included in the services listed on the Mason County Web sited.
Nor have there been any resurrections, Best said.
“Not yet,” he added.
Johnson said the resurrection he mentioned in his sermon was from a DRT report and that he never said it had happened behind police lines. [p. 4]
Sounds like a slam dunk for the Reddings DRTs.
Winters also cites a skeptic, Harriet Hall retired family physician and writer. To her credit, Winters gives more than just a token quote from the skeptical perspective. Hall comments on a testimony from Bethel’s website.
“Where are the medical reports? Where are the X-rays? Why was this case not written up in a medical journal? What happened to the patient afterwards?” she said in an e-mail.
Hall said the Journal of the American Medical Association formerly featured a testimony of a patient who was cured of cancer on one page with the patient’s death certificate printed on the opposite page, showing that the patient had died of cancer shortly after providing the testimony.
Finally, Hall cuts to the core of the faith healing movement.
“If you challenge the pastor to participate in a formal study to establish that these healings are really occurring, you will get lots of rationalizations and backpedaling with no understanding of how science can go about testing for the truth of a claim,” she said. “They have no interest in finding out if the healing is ‘real’ because they already ‘know’ it is real for them.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself, Harriet.