Sunday, 18 October 2009

Dudley Outpouring on the BBC

The Revival Fires Church got slammed on the BBC this week for claiming healing.

This was BBC 1, prime time, in the west midlands. It is the first ten minutes.

I found it very hard viewing, for all manner of reasons.

On the one hand I believe in healing, that God heals, that some people are healed.

I also know Churches are under the spotlight regarding healing claims.

I think Trevor Baker is a genuine guy. I don't believe he is deceitful. He used to minister near here in Telford and was a real blessing to many people.

On the other hand, some of the things other bloggers commented on regarding the whole approach, such as the way the offering is administered, are ruthlessly exposed and highlighted by the programme.

I just wish there were some medical records available for the BBC. Without them, any healing claims are open to questioning, and add in the cynicism of the age and a bit of cash washing around and it is a perfect storm for a programme like that.


Eutychus said...

Firstly, it's become my casual opinion that healing, along with other spiritual gifts, genuinely occurs in christian contexts more or less in inverse proportion to how much it's talked about.

Secondly, I believe the numbers of reported healings in charismatic circles outnumber the proven instances (and by proven, I mean with evidence which would stand up in a court of law) to a worryingly high degree.

The theolgy says it should happen, the expectation is it should happen, people automatically assume the reliability of what others tell them (after, all, they're christians!) so they fail to adequately check their sources. The result is that things are asserted on the basis of little or no evidence which may indeed create misleading expectations.

Peter Kirk said...

Thanks for this very fair summary. See also what I wrote in a comment on my own blog, in response to another commenter.

Blue, with a hint of amber said...

I hadn't spotted that comment, thanks Peter.

Euty, I think also some of the "speaking faith" elements, the word of faith theology, mean when praying etc people can definitely raise expectation.

So even on the base level there is a massive difference in how a listener may understand "Lord, please heal X in Jesus name" and "I claim X is healed in Jesus name"

Peter Kirk said...

Eutychus, since your Christian brothers and sisters at Trevor Baker's church (for example) say that these healings are happening, and your theology says it should happen, on what basis are you suggesting that your brothers and sisters are lying? I understand the secular BBC presenter being sceptical. But I really don't understand why professing Christians who believe in healing put more faith in what the sceptics say than in what their fellow Christians say.

Blue, what matters is which theology is correct, not which theology gives a better impression to the sceptics at the BBC. Jesus and the apostles never prayed for people to be healed, they claimed healing in Jesus' name. We should follow their example, whatever the BBC says.

Eutychus said...

there is a massive difference in how a listener may understand "Lord, please heal X in Jesus name" and "I claim X is healed in Jesus name"

True. But I'm talking about the gap between widespread reports of healing having taken place (not just claimed) and actual verifiable information. It's a gap which is uncomfortably big in my view.

This is going back a few years now, but you may remember the story of the resurrection of Daniel Ekechukwu. The video of this alleged event was distributed widely and uncritically throughout Newfrontiers when I was still part of it. I don't know whether the guy was resurrected or not, but to circulate such an extreme claim on so little hard evidence does not strike me as a very responsible approach.

Eutychus said...

To Peter Kirk:

Firstly, nowhere here have I suggested that anyone is lying or indeed being deliberately misleading. The point I'm making is that in my experience people quote and otherwise support testimonies of healing which have not been verified by even the most basic of journalistic standards, i.e. establishing a named source and checking it. A genuine instance of healing would have everything to gain and nothing to lose from this - so why do people so rarely bother to investigate? (Could it be because they have not heard of things like confirmation bias? As it is, too many (I do not say "all") claimed testimonies of healing fail to withstand further investigation.

I haven't stated my position on healing here, either, but I would say that I have never been so sure of having seen healing take place and/or being sure of something similar happening again to make it a focus of publicity.

Finally, it could perhaps be argued that Jesus and his disciples never prayed for healing, but I don't see them "claiming" healing either, for that matter. I read of them healing. And not just from unequally long legs, backache or high blood pressure, either.

Peter Kirk said...

Eutychus, sorry if I misrepresented you. I accept that you didn't exactly suggest that anyone was lying.

But you did criticise the fact that "people automatically assume the reliability of what others tell them", which implies that you expect people to be sceptical of what others say. That is not a specific accusation of lying, but it does imply that you think that some Christians do lie about such things. The context in which you write suggests that you have Trevor Baker in mind.

Also you DID summarise your position on healing: "it's become my casual opinion that healing, along with other spiritual gifts, genuinely occurs in christian contexts ..."

We can agree on this last point (although not on the continuation of your sentence). So suppose that you, or I, do at some stage witness a notably miraculous healing. We are sure enough of it that we want to tell others of it, to glorify God and bring them to seek him. But we do not have medically verified proof of the healing, or perhaps we do have it but not permission to make it public. Should we keep quiet? If so, why? Only in an attempt to placate scoffers?

Eutychus said...

Peter posted his response on his blog earlier, so I've responded to it there. Thanks in advance to David for publishing this link!

In the following exchange over there I illustrate my point about verification with my experience in a rather different arena to healing: verifying that people are actually dead.

Just for variety here, but still on the subject of not verifying claims, and the trouble this can get people into, specifically including well-meaning Christians, consider the sorry story of New Era Philanthropy and some of the christian organisations (such as Wheaton College, Illinois) that fell for it - and lost a lot of money - due to the store they set by untested recommendations from other christian organisations.