Russ Llewellyn. Miracles: God, Science, and Psychology in the Paranormal. Editor: J Harold Ellens. Volume 2: Medical and Therapeutic Events. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008.
According to a 2006 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, “29 percent of Americans say they have witnessed ‘divine healing.’” This is an increase from another poll three decades ago that found only 10 percent of Americans believed in divine healing. The belief in divine healing increases to 62 percent among Pentecostals and 46 percent among Charismatic Christians. Contrast that with a 2006 Rice University Study of 750 professors of natural sciences where only about one-third believe in God. In the general population in America, only about one in 20 (5%) do not believe in God. A Virginia Commonwealth University study found that 87 percent think that scientific developments actually make society better. Among those respondents who believe that, 87 percent describe themselves as religious. In a Time magazine poll, 81 percent say that “recent discoveries and advances” in science have not significantly impacted their religious views. Only 4 percent have said that science has made them less religious.
So, between the scientific community and the general population, including that of Evangelicals, exists a large gap in convictions about a core belief regarding the existence and behavior of God. The evangelical community has representatives that express reluctance to believe in miracles and the supernatural. Mainstream Evangelical writer Philip Yancey describes himself as a skeptic. He cites Christians who roll around in wheelchairs and others with stumps for amputated limbs, as people who are prayed for and yet are unhealed. For them, “divine healing feels like the cruelest joke of all.” He says he never read of a healing of pancreatic cancer, cystic fibrosis, or ALS. Nor does he think there are verified instances of AIDS being healed. He says the “church has had to change its message from ‘Simply believe you’ll be healed’ to a more difficult message of preaching against risky behavior, caring for the sick and dying, and looking after the millions of orphans resulting from the disease.”3
So, we have the dilemma of scientists who do not believe in God, let alone miracles and the supernatural, and many Christians who have grown skeptical of miracles, healing, and supernatural experience; contrasting with many in the general public who say they have witnessed a divine healing.
Personal Introduction to the Questions about Religious and Spiritual Miracles
I come with a decided bias to this question of whether religious or spiritual miracle events are real in our experience. I believe I am one. So, for me, the matter of religious or spiritual miracle events being real in our experience is full of concrete meaning. I believe I have experienced many such events. I believe I know of many. When I say that I am one, I am not talking about the ordinary miracle of birth. I am talking about a number of things. First, my father at age 5 in the year 1915 had four various potentially fatal illnesses at once: brain fever, spinal meningitis, mastoiditis, and pneumonia. The doctors told my grandparents that if he lived, he’d be a vegetable. The nuns at the Pittsburg hospital prayed and the people at the Baptist Church prayed. My father, Lewis, was healed and recovered and referred to afterward by the nuns at the hospital as the “Miracle Boy.”
A second event to which I refer is the improbability of my parents meeting or marrying even though they lived only 80 miles apart in Pennsylvania. Neither was an impulsive adult. Both were committed to major obligations. My father owned a printing shop and my mother had just finished a one-year commitment to look after her father following her mother’s death. She had been pre-enrolled at Juniata College. Both my parents came from different Protestant traditions and both, in unique circumstances, left home to attend Bryan University in Tennessee as soon as they heard of it instead of continuing with their original plans. There they met and married. I am the firstborn child of that marriage.
My mother had multiple sclerosis (MS), which required that she use a wheelchair by the time I was 19. She received many prayers for her healing from MS, including one in which a shorter leg from childhood polio was lengthened, but she received no cure from MS. She did, however, live until she was 86 years old, unusual for someone with MS. Could not her remission from increasing attacks of this disabling illness come as the result of prayer?
What Are Religious or Spiritual Miracle Events?
I will be using the term miracle to mean a supernatural event. Our culture often uses the term applied to nature, such as the miracle of conception or childbirth. Some natural phenomena are breathtaking and awesome and are so improbable in design as to suggest a creator. Any event, including physical events or natural phenomena, may be considered a miracle event because of the spiritual or religious meaning and interpretation of the person viewing the event. But these are not what I refer to as a miracle; I refer rather only to those things that would not occur within the natural order and laws of nature.
The difference between what is religious or spiritual has to do with the nature of the event and its interpretation. If it is religious in nature, it would fit within a person’s faith or belief system. These systems of belief or ritual are often organized as institutional religions. Something spiritual may be considered religious as well; but in our Western culture, people often distinguish themselves as spiritual but not religious. Spiritual means, of the spirit. The nature of the event deals with the spirit. To be spiritual may mean to be supernatural, or it may be natural, meaning of the human spirit or some other spirit in nature. Religious meaning comes from human interpretation of events, or the interpretation of those who have a role within religious systems to construe meaning. A religious miracle event is one that a person holding a particular religious faith position interprets as being a supernatural occurrence. Spiritual miracle events are those we are compelled by our faith position and experience to interpret as coming from a spiritual source or process. The spiritual source or process may be an energy. It is not materially substantial or physical.
If we say there is a possibility of spiritual or religious miracles, it’s because we have a set of assumptions about the nature of reality. We assume that there is a world of the spirit. We also assume that this spirit world can interact with our world of sensory experience and observation. The worldview of scientists may be either completely naturalist, or moderately naturalistic, but neither focusing upon nor excluding the supernatural, or supernaturalist, believing in the possibility of both natural and supernatural phenomena. Vitz argues that scientists should declare their super naturalist or antisupernaturalist assumptions. All worldviews begin with a set of assumptions about God, truth, nature, and humanness, and these assumptions form the beginning place of scientific inquiry. The worldview of the scientist deals with what he believes are true scientific assumptions, and how that truth may be known in scientific inquiry.
Reality of Miracles in Our Experience
Throughout church history, there have been people who have experienced divine visions, supernatural experiences, visitations, miracles. Julian of Norwich (c. 1342-1416) was thought to be lying on her deathbed as a young woman at age 30, but had a series of visions of Jesus and the meaning of the cross. In 1373 she recovered to write about these visions and the revelations she received and the meaning they had. The twentieth century has had numerous people who have identified themselves as Christian and have reported visions and revelations. Many of them have been healers who have left a legacy of evidence of divine power at work. Some known for healing are Smith Wigglesworth, John G. Lake, A. A. Allen, Maria Woodsworth-Etter, William Branham, Derek Prince, Kathryn Kuhlman, and Oral Roberts.
The twenty-first century has seen such prophetic people of stature as Bob Jones, Rick Joyner, James Goll, Cindy Jacobs, Nita Johnson, Chuck Pierce, and Graham Cooke. And it has seen healing evangelists like Reinhardt Bonke, Benny Hinn, Heidi Baker, and Todd Bentley. In addition, the Healing Rooms Ministries have prayer rooms around the world currently numbering 623. There have been many people who have reported visitations from Jesus, or experiences in which they visit heaven, such as Nita Johnson, Shawn Bolz, Kathie Walters, or Choo Thomas.
Where Do We Look for Data?
An antisupernaturalist scientific bias has made data collection difficult because it eliminates categories. The word miracle is not used in any of the journals we searched. Even though there are many healings that medical science cannot explain, the category of unexplained healings doesn’t exist in professional journals. Categories, constructs, and naming are necessary in order for data to be gathered and conclusions drawn.
What Are the Scientific Assumptions?
Christians who are scientists often have some different assumptions about the nature of reality and of God than do their secular counterparts. Religious or spiritual miracles have to do with the interpretation of observations or experience. In other words, it has to do with meaning. Scientific bias restricts data and skews results. Empirical science had skepticism built in as an assumption. Unless something is proved to be true, it is assumed not to be true. The scientific assumption is that something is assumed not to exist until it can be proven to exist.
In a scientific way, God can be neither proved nor disproved; but Christians and other theists begin with a set of assumptions that God exists and is knowable. Christians who are scientists do not denigrate secular science but are open to the option that phenomenological data and heuristic argument might well urge that the data confirms their assumption, when the search is conducted with that possibility in mind. Scientific measurements have mapped the ocean depths; but science has not been able to directly observe whether there is life at the bottom of the ocean or what its nature is. At every level where we have been able to get submersibles and take pictures, fish and other marine life exist, varieties and kinds that had not been seen before. It may be a reasonable conclusion to believe that life exists at the deepest levels of the oceans that we have not yet observed; but science does not conclude that hypothesis until it is tested and proven. What do people believe in the meantime? Do we believe that exists life at the bottom, or do we assert that it does not exist? We all believe it is highly probable though it has not yet been proven. The phenomenological data and heuristic perception militates in favor of its existence.
The Knowability of Reality
Science makes assumptions based on beliefs about the knowability of reality. This philosophic approach is called epistemology, how we can know what we know. There are different beliefs about whether human beings can know something outside themselves in a one-to-one correspondence, or whether we can know only approximately. Science has made assumptions about whether we can know—probability. The assumption is that we can know something only with a certain degree of certainty called probability. So our statistics, the mathematics in science, describe a degree of knowability of a certain reality as a probability: the higher the degree of probability, the higher the likelihood that something is true. Science by its nature approaches certainty and truth, but by the nature of its assumptions cannot arrive at an absolutely certain truth. Yet, we human beings build our lives on the degree of certainty we do have both from the conclusions we have made from science and from what we have concluded is true from other sources of experience and perception than science.
Science also makes assumptions about the difference between subjectivity and objectivity. It assumes that humans can assume an observer role in which there is a disinterested or detached interest in the outcome of scientific inquiry. Since all inquiry comes out of assumed positions about the nature of God and reality, one’s bias is always in the assumptions. Science has an inherent problem in handling subjective data that cannot be independently verified. For example, the process of thinking can be independently verified, but the content of the thought cannot. Thus, spiritual content that is a part of one’s consciousness and subjective awareness cannot be independently or scientifically verified. We are left with an objectifying of subjective content, calling it self-report. Because of the objective nature of science, it has limitations in dealing with all the data of reality, especially subjective data. Supernatural and spiritual data are often subjective.
The Mind-Brain Bias
Many scientists make the assumption that the mind cannot exist without the brain, that human consciousness is not possible without brain functioning. This is at heart a materialistic assumption and presupposition. Pim van Lommel, a retired cardiologist from the Rijnstate Hospital, followed 344 survivors of cardiac arrest; 18 percent reported having NDE’s (near death experiences) while their brains showed no wave activity. This observation conflicts with current assumptions which van Lommel states as: “according to our current medical concepts it’s impossible to experience consciousness during a period of clinical death.” I believe that one place where the mind-brain bias is most evident is in the understanding of the out-of-body experience. Some clinicians describe this as dissociation, giving no validity to this out-of-body viewpoint.
Supernaturalist or Naturalist Assumptions
Empirical science makes assumptions about the nature of reality and God as the cause of the worlds of nature and of the human and animal kingdoms. Secular science often holds the position that God is a possibility, but is unknown, or irrelevant. Deists think of him as unknowable or distant: God set the universe in motion according to certain laws and does not intervene in his creation. Christians who are scientists are likely to have a supernaturalist world view. To the Christian, God is the creator who can and does reveal himself in and to his creation. The Christian interpretation of the data of science affects the interpretation of meaning of spiritual experience. Christian do not usually have trouble with the data of scientific observation; but do have problems with the presupposition that truth is knowable only through empirical scientific inquiry. A Christian takes the position that “all truth is God’s truth,” whether delivered to us by secular or by faith-based science.
When scientists make the assumptions that God is nonexistent or irrelevant, they conclude that God is an imagined creation of human beings based on their needs; and that God is a human projection. Such assumptions in the construction of psychological personality inventories can lead scientists to conclude mistakenly that a person who believes that God communicates with him is necessarily psychotic. While that belief is a possible psychotic indicator, most Christians believe that God can and does ordinarily reveal himself to people. So one’s assumptions about God affect one’s interpretation of the data.
The mechanical or physical nature of the universe is now understood in terms of time and energy. Quantum physics posits that the largest part of the observable universe is not matter but energy. String theory asserts the possibility of other dimensions of reality than those observable to our senses. When we begin to think that other realities are possible, simultaneous with our observable and measurable realities, we have the possibility of a spiritual world and reality that exists simultaneously with our contemporary observable, measurable, or sensory reality. The Christian worldview assumes that these spiritual realities are not only possible and probable, but that they are observable with another sensory capacity, a spiritual sensory capacity.
The Bible contains hundreds if not thousands of spiritual revelations including interpretations of natural events. The Christian believes that the Bible could not exist if it were not for the possibility of revelation, communication from God to human beings. The Bible explains that people are not only given spiritual sensory capacities that parallel the natural human sensory abilities. Here is an example from Matthew chapter 13: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’”
Psychological or Personal Experiences Can Be Spiritual in Nature
The Bible also teaches that spiritual maturity enables us to exercise sense organs of perception and train ourselves to distinguish between good and evil thereby (Hebrews 5:14). NT writers constantly invest the emotions people have with a spiritual meaning. For every sensory capacity, there is a corresponding spiritual sensory capacity. For every human emotion, there is a corresponding spiritual emotion. I believe that in our Western culture, spiritual has come to mean an attitude, value, belief system, or interpretation that someone holds. To the Christian, it is more than this. Spiritual is a dimension of reality that is different from natural reality, but exists simultaneously with natural reality. In biblical terms, the world of nature and the world of the spirit are different but overlapping worlds. The world of the spirit is the larger world, and includes the world of nature.
The derivation of the word psychology comes from the Greek word psyche, meaning soul. So the meaning of psychology was the study of the soul. The biblical teaching about soul, or our earthly human nature or personality, includes the spirit. “The soul is the temporal expression of the spirit. The soul deals with life in the physical body. The soul is the expression of the spirit in the physical and material world with its finite and temporal limitations. Our soul is the creative outworking of our spirit through our life in the world, blending the finite and the visible with the eternal and invisible.”
One of the areas of overlap between the soul or psyche and the spirit has to do with our worth or value, self-esteem or esteem by others, our honor. A biblical perspective differentiates between the temporal and the eternal in this most important human and spiritual value.
By our living for God’s glory, a glory that is beyond this life, we receive a worth that is spiritual—of His Spirit—infinite and eternal. Our worth comes from the very heart of God’s love and Spirit, the infinite nature of God himself. Our soul is the container and translator of infinite worth, carrying the things of time and the material world into the world of the spirit, which by its very nature is eternal.
The destination of all things in time, including the soul, is eternity. The nature of being, in that place, is spirit. Both soul and spirit as the nonmaterial part of the self are eternal. At times, the Bible refers to the unseen part of the person as soul, and at other times as spirit. Depending on the author and the context, soul and spirit are sometimes used interchangeably. When that occurs, the likeness or similarity between them is being emphasized. At other times they are differentiated. God, for example, is often referred to in the Bible as Holy Spirit. Spirit describes the essence of God’s being and existence. Human beings are also described as having a spirit. The following Scripture talks about the human spirit: “For this is what the high and lofty One says—He Who lives forever, Whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite’” [Isa 57:15].
In this passage, heart and spirit are parallel words. Heart is used to mean the innermost being of the person, the sensitivity to what is most cherished and prized; it probably expresses the central emotional and affective meeting place of the person’s soul and spirit. To love God with our whole heart, mind and strength and our neighbors as ourselves is a union of both soul and spirit as one. One set of emotions the self has gives us a picture of the overlap that can occur between the soul and spirit. Some emotions occur simultaneously in both soul and spirit because they are both temporal and eternal. They belong to both soul and spirit, and are perceived in our spirits as well as with our soul through our bodily senses.
The example comes from the Apostle Paul who says: “These three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” [I Cor 13:13]. We may experience love in our hearts, the place through which our spirits flow ‘our innermost beings.’ Or we may experience love in our emotions, feeling loyalty, affection or solidarity with family, friends or other people—the way we feel in our souls. Or we may experience love in our passions experienced in and generated from our bodily feelings which may be expressed through a hug, a touch or a kiss. Or we may feel any combination of these feelings simultaneously, merging together spirit, soul, or body as one.
Let me use a metaphor of a house. If the house represents the body, the person living in the house represents the spirit. All that’s done while the person lives in the house represents the soul. In this metaphor, all the person does, good and bad, become the furnishings of the house. Human consciousness, thoughts, and personal identity comprise part of our soul, just as do our emotions and actions. Think about the person in the house. He is spirit. He has a personality. All that happens to him, all he is, thinks, intends and does becomes a part of him, his soul. As he expresses himself, even his house takes on the character of his personality, his spirit. As long as the person is alive they all function together as one person: body, soul and spirit.11
In human personality, many things are subject to the eternal and spiritual or the supernatural dimension of reality. Since the past is a part of eternity, it is not just past, but in eternal dimension is accessible as present. This has great potential impact in the transformation and healing of trauma from the past. The parallel notions of soul and spirit mean that the supernatural power that is available through God’s Spirit, not just the human spirit, can be available in the healing process. The human capacities of mind, will, emotion, and judgment can be subject to the eternal kingdom of God or the temporal kingdom of humankind. Roles and attitudes we take regarding ourselves can be expressions of our human nature acting either toward or against itself. This capacity to be for or against ourselves, God, or others I take to be an essential capacity of human beings and is the spiritual capacity for good or evil.
Some of the Kinds of Spiritual/Supernatural Events
A Christian may believe that dreams (1) can be more than the processing of unconscious material, containing communication from spiritual beings, (2) can be information from God, (3) can give spiritual meaning to past experience, or (4) can be predictive of future events. People’s dreams can be accessed by spiritual beings from both God and Satan. One such dream came to Bilquis Sheikh, a Pakistani Muslim, a vivid dream of Jesus that became a revelation to her that led her on a journey to believe in Jesus as the Savior of the world.
Spiritual visions are more than imagination or personal creativity. They can be revelations from a spiritual being. Phillip Wiebe did careful interviews of 28 people who had visions of Jesus, the Christ, which they thought were from God. He documents these in his book. Some of the kinds of spiritual and supernatural events include:
- Knowing something that has not been naturally disclosed
- Angelic and demonic beings
- Answers to prayer
Many Christian people who are functional and not delusional have reported visitations from Jesus and being taken to heaven: Anna Roundtree, Todd Bentley, Shawn Bolz, Kathie Walters. One of the most extensive reports of visitations to heaven and conversations with Jesus comes from Choo Thomas.
I asked God many years ago, “Are you still doing miracles of healing today?” Within the week of my asking that question, three people told me about miracles that had happened in their lives. One was a good friend who had done a summer missions experience on one of the Alaskan islands when he was 19 years old. He and other teens were playing in a volleyball area when one of the girls tried to put ice down his shirt. In running away from her he tripped in a ditch. He thought he had broken his ankle because his foot was flopping around and it hurt badly. His ankle swelled. Because they did not have a hospital on the island he went on a ferry with a missionary to another island to have the injury treated. As they rode on the ferry, the missionary had her hand on his back and was praying for him and told him that he was going to be okay. He had felt more than natural heat on his back where she had her hand as she prayed. Before they arrived at the hospital, he thought that his ankle was healed and that he was better, except the swelling still took another hour or so to go down. X-rays determined that he did not have a fracture.
A dentist I know went to provide free dental work to the poor of Mexico. He did that in the day and at night met them for Christian teaching and prayer. During one of these prayer times, a woman came to him carrying a child with impetigo. He prayed for her and simply prayed a blessing prayer for her child. He did not even pray a healing prayer. Within the next 15 minutes, he saw the woman with a group of other women pointing at him saying something in Spanish like: “He did it.” My dentist friend did not know what she meant. She brought the child and showed him the change. The child no longer had runny eyes or a scabby chin. The impetigo had apparently been healed.
A patient recounted an experience with an abusive coach of a cheerleading team. She had been exercising as a part of her routines and had gotten shin splints. The coach pushed her to keep exercising as though she could work through it. It was so bad she ended up having to use a wheelchair. That night she had a prayer group pray for God to heal her. She was healed and able to walk away from that group without using the wheelchair and without pain.
- Religious and Spiritual Miracle/Supernatural Events in the Bible
- Food multiplication (Matthew 14:15-21 and Mark 8:1-9)
- Being transported from one place to another (John 6:21, Acts 8:39)
- Being healed of an illness (Matthew 9:32, Mark 1:34)
- Being raised from the dead (John 11:44, John 20:1-17)
- Being healed of a spiritual affliction (Mark 2:5-11, Matthew 8:28-33)
Religious and Spiritual/Miracle Events in My Personal Experience
When I was a young psychologist I had an experience in walking up the back hill above the garage on the farm where my mother grew up. I was walking to the little church on the hilltop, when in the middle of this cornfield I felt overcome with sadness without a known source. So I stopped and asked myself where it was coming from. Was it from me because of childhood nostalgia, having played and fished for crawdads in the creek below and having visited the farm during summers as a child? No. Was it about me from some other source? No. Was it feelings I was having for my mother? No. Was it feelings I was aware of which were my mother’s feelings? Yes. That was it.
Years later, I relayed this story to my mother who began to cry and said that she knew what it was. Because of her mother’s sudden death after her senior year in high school, and her mother’s burial in the cemetery at the church on the hill top, my mother said that she never crossed the gate into the cemetery again during all the times she went to church. It became clear as Mother talked that her trauma became symbolized by the cemetery and the gate became a phobic object. Crossing it would be opening a door to her pain. This is what my story opened up in her. I realized it was not my feelings I was aware of, but my mother’s, that overcame me. I was not feeling for my mother, nor having empathic feelings for my mother. I was suffering her pain. I believe this experience became the genesis for my developing the ability to feel another’s emotional pain if they come into my presence feeling it, whether they are expressing it or trying to hide it. I believe that this is a spiritual gift that is beyond empathy.
As a psychologist and a Christian, my religious and psychological traditions did not include an awareness of current experiences of prophetic visions. So, I was unprepared to believe what I experienced as really happening. I had had words with a woman who was trying to claim a parking space that we had been awaiting for several minutes. So as we went into the art and wine festival, I had a picture in my mind of our car being keyed or scratched, beginning at the front right fender and along the right side and doors to the rear fender. I was unprepared to believe what I was seeing and put it out of my mind. I thought I spontaneously psychologized it, just imaging it, because of the unpleasant encounter with the woman. When I returned to the car I was surprised to find that it had been keyed along the exact panels I had envisioned.
I have had several of these kinds of occurrences. Another occurred while I was praying with a group of people at the church we attend. We were in a room, removed from the worship center, and did not have any video or audio feeds on while we were praying. As we were praying, I saw a picture in my mind of a toolbox. I interpreted this as a symbol, so I prayed for the symbolic meaning of the tools God would use and the spiritual construction God would do in people’s lives, and the skills of the pastor in this work. When we went to the worship service the next hour, I was amazed to see that the pastor had brought an actual toolbox onstage with him as a prop for his sermon.
I had a dream about opening an office for my psychology practice in a major city to the south, so that with the other clinician in my practice we would have two locations. My dream referred to my plans to open a second office as though I were driving a car. According to the dream, opening another office “would be the long way around” in getting to where I was going. I discounted this dream as having no predictive or revelatory meaning at the time. But within five years, I closed that other office, having concluded that I was unable to be a psychotherapist, a director of a clinic, a supervisor of other clinicians, and write. Writing, I believed, was my unfulfilled calling. Moreover, I reduced my work to a solo practice so I could have the time and energy to write.
Results from Prayer
One of the first results of prayer in my practice that seemed supernatural in origin regarded a schizophrenic woman I treated. She was particularly susceptible to her husband’s power over her and so seemed to become psychotic as a way to deal with her anger and rage toward him or herself. During these episodes, she became Satan, in her view, or he became Satan. This woman moved away from the area, still lived with her husband, and came back to visit with me. Her face looked radiant and she was in the best emotional condition that I had ever seen her. So I asked what had happened. She said she had been meeting with her pastor who prayed for her. This was my first encounter with the potentially powerful effects of prayer on a patient.
One of my DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) patients had integrated several of her alternative personalities through her therapy work. But she had many alternates who remained unintegrated. When visiting her brother, a pastor, they spent about 15 minutes praying for her. The result was that all of her remaining alters integrated into her core personality. Sometimes she misses them and her ability to dissociate to handle stress or emotional pain but her stability has persisted over the years of her continued therapy.
Another DID patient was hospitalized for cutting herself so badly that the hospital staff did not want her to traumatize or influence other patients in group therapy. She was also suicidal at the time. She appeared to be the acting out of one of her strongest alternate personalities, which was trying to be protective in a distorted way. Because of the threat, I resorted to a desperate measure: prayer. I asked her permission to involve this alternate personality in prayer. The patient was a Christian whose personal Christian faith, her spiritual and religious values, were consistent with my request. There was no overt active prayer done on behalf of this alternate. I simply invited this alternate personality to come into a room that in her imagination, inside herself, was filled with God’s light. As the alternate personality did that, the nature and character of that alternate shifted from being harsh and antagonistic to being cooperative and helpful. Subsequently, the patient reacted to this event as though the alternate had died. The patient grieved the loss of strength that she had relied on from this alternate for years afterward. I had interpreted to this patient that her alter had not really disappeared, but had integrated its strength into her core personality with positive traits.
Religious and Spiritual Miracle/Supernatural Events in Psychological and Medical Literature
After numerous searches in the medical and psychological literature, I am amazed to find so few topics related to spiritual life, recovery from death, NDEs (near-death experiences), and the like. In discussing these issues with physicians I know, I have concluded that a number of factors militate against reporting data in journals.
- Supernaturalist language is excluded from scientific vocabulary as though such events do not exist or could not happen. Therefore science has not yet adopted words or terms to collect this kind of data.
- An anti-supernaturalist bias exists in healing communities of medical and related professionals. When we prayed for my daughter’s healing from a brain tumor, my wife’s physician was concerned that my wife was in denial about our daughter’s condition because such things as supernatural healings “do not occur.”
- To deny the existence or occurrence of unexplained healings indicates a blind spot in one’s research. We do not usually report data we have not figured out or researched well enough to explain.
- Peer review of articles means that issues that do not have a replicable scientific explanation will not be accepted for publication in journals.
I suggest that a language be developed for miracle events. NDEs (near-death experiences) is an example of medical bias in the naming the category. With NDE, it’s not necessary to conclude that the person actually died, for presumably, that would be called ADE for after-death experience. NDE suggests that the person came close to dying, since they recovered and are currently alive to report their experience. I suggest a designation like FRAD for full recovery after death be made for people who are dead at least 15 minutes and are revived after death or are revived after a diagnosis of clinical death occurs and no functional impairment exists after coming back to life. The medical community understands that if coming back to life after death or a medical resuscitation does not occur within the first 10 minutes of loss of heartbeat or breathing, recovery without loss of functioning is not normally possible.
Perhaps a term like LAD for life after death could be adopted for any return to life after death. SNE might be a designation for a supernormal or supranormal experience that could refer to miracle, supernatural, or paranormal life experiences. SAB could refer to sighted after blindness. FAS could refer to functioning after a prolonged impairment from a stroke. I am sure the idea is clear. Healings and miracles occur and have not been recognized by the data categories of science. The scientific community needs diagnostic words as data catchers so that what happens can be categorized and commented on in medical and other scientific journals. I am not so concerned whether any of my ideas get picked up as categories, just that categories for healing, miracles, and the supernatural occurrences be adopted for the literature of medical and psychological research, reporting, and discussion.
Religious and Spiritual Miracle/Supernatural Events Reported by Other Verifiable Sources
Dr. Chauncey Crandall
Dr. Chauncey Crandall is a physician in the Cardiovascular Clinic in Palm Beach Gardens and has served as a university instructor in schools of medicine at a number of universities. He describes a 53-year-old man who came to the hospital emergency room with a massive heart attack. His heart had stopped. The medical team worked with him for over 40 minutes and declared him dead. Dr. Crandall had been called in to evaluate at the end of this time while a nurse was preparing the body for the morgue. He states: “There was no life in the man. His face and feet and arms were completely black with death.” He had felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to pray for this man so he went to the side of the stretcher where his body was being prepared and prayed. “Lord, Father, how am I going to pray for this man? He is dead. What can I do? All of a sudden these words came out of my mouth, ‘Father, God, I cry out for the soul of this man. If he does not know you as his Lord and Savior, please raise him from the dead right now in Jesus’ name.’”
“It was amazing as a couple of minutes later, we were looking at the monitor and all of a sudden a heartbeat showed up. It was a perfect beat; a normal beat; and then after a couple more minutes, he started moving and then his fingers were moving and then his toes began moving and then he started mumbling words. There was a nurse in the room. She was not a believer. She screamed out and said, ‘Doctor Crandall, what have you done to this patient?’ And I said, ‘All I’ve done is cry out for his soul in Jesus’ name.’ We quickly rushed the gentleman down to the intensive care unit, and the hospital was by now buzzing about the fact that a dead man had been brought back to life. After a couple of days he woke up. He had an amazing story to tell after I had asked him, ‘Where have you been and where were you on that day that you had that massive heart attack? You were gone and we prayed you back to life in Jesus’ name.’” Dr. Crandall reports that he has seen three such people, who returned to life after death from cardiac arrest.
Dr. Raquel Burgos
In an interview with Dr. Raquel Burgos, she remarked that the topic of healing and miracles “honestly, does not come up” among physicians. She expressed surprise if more than one or two out of a hundred physicians believed in supernatural healing or miracles. Her own experience was that she had a birth defect in her legs, part of which meant that one leg was two inches shorter than normal. Her mother took her to Kathryn Kuhlman healing services and as a result, the short leg grew out to match the longer one within a few days of healing prayer. She was in treatment to correct her leg by an orthopedist and so retains her medical records of what happened. She and a group of physicians started a group called H.E.A.L., standing for His Energy And Love. This group met to pray for the healing of their patients.
Dr. Jeannie Lindquist
Dr. Jeannie Lindquist cited a case she and her husband, both orthopedic physicians, had many years ago. This was during the early years of antibiotics. A man had come for treatment because of a knee injury and the infection that resulted in blood poisoning, sepsis. In order to treat the sepsis, they had to use massive doses of antibiotics, which resulted in kidney failure. They were going to send him for dialysis. Since they both shared the same Christian faith background, they asked him if he would mind if they prayed for him. He was glad to have them pray for his healing. Some time before the dialysis referral and after the prayer, they sent a sample to the lab. The lab thought they must have made a mistake because it was showing up with no kidney problem, unlike the previous sample. So they sent another sample that morning with the same results. A sudden healing had occurred in answer to prayer.
A group of people from our church prayed for Keith G while he was a teenager, because he had such severe migraines continuously that he could not attend high school. While we prayed, I felt that I received assurance in my spirit that he would be healed. He moved with his family to the state of Washington. Years later, he went to the Healing Rooms in Spokane for prayer. During the first prayer time, the migraines disappeared, but they came back within a few days. Had the prayer not worked? Would he not be healed permanently? Prayer had brought the only relief he had experienced from the migraines so he decided to go back to the Healing Rooms for more prayer. This time, through prayer he was healed in a way that lasted. His ability to function in a way that permitted him to attend school was restored.
Mark Weber is a Christian man who engages in healing prayer for people. While he believes he has seen thousands of people who have experienced healing as a result of prayer, he cited one as an example of a documented healing. This man had color blindness and was a third-generation male with that problem. For this problem to exist genetically there is almost certainly an absence of color receptor cones in his retina. He only saw in shades of grey. After prayer he could distinguish colors. Mark has also reported seeing scars up and down both arms of a woman who had been hospitalized with self-inflicted injuries disappear before their eyes as she received prayer.
Dick Patterson is a pastor whose integrity I know, a man who has accompanied Todd Bentley, a healing evangelist, on some of his trips to Africa to preach and pray for healing. He has been a part of many healings for which he has prayed. On one occasion there was a blind lady who recovered her sight in four stages in which she progressively regained more of her sight. After she could see, they took photos of her family dancing happily, because “grandma can see.” Todd Bentley has documented many cases of people who regain their hearing after being deaf, and sight after being blind.
Lorraine is a woman who experienced significant abuse from her mother and as a middle-aged adult is still recovering from it. She has an easier time attaching to animals than to people and is beginning to make the transition to being able to love and trust people. She had pet guinea pigs, one of whom was dying. She took him to the veterinarian and discovered that he had kidney failure. She was not ready to give up on her guinea pig, so she asked God to heal him. When she took him back to the veterinarian, the veterinarian was surprised and examined the pet twice to confirm that he no longer had kidney problems, was looking better, and had gained six ounces.
Gary Paltridge is a layman who does pastoral and healing prayer work. A young man he worked with had an accident and was in chronic pain for which an implant was inserted to dispense morphine. After prayer, both Gary and the person he was praying for saw a mental picture of a demonic figure leaving the man’s body. Simultaneously his pain was completely healed, necessitating the removal of the implant.
Ben has in his possession both an ultrasound and x-rays from his medical records. These show a mass in one picture, the ultrasound. He received healing prayer as the only intervention between the time of the ultrasound and the x-ray. When the x-ray was taken, no mass appeared on the x-ray. The growth had disappeared.
John G. Lake
John G. Lake was a man who lived in the early 1900s and had himself been healed. He became a man of great healing gifts. He lived in Spokane, Washington. He had a scientific bent and so participated in healing experiments so that the results could be observed by scientific instruments. He said that he kept track of and documented over 100,000 miraculous healings. He founded the Healing Rooms Ministries, which has been revived today, so that now 623 healing rooms exist internationally, most of them in the United States of America, under the direction of Reverend Calvin Pierce. There are currently 710 healing testimonies recorded on that Web site. Those testimonies are organized in medical diagnostic categories, but they are written by lay people without attention to the kind of verification that would be helpful to researchers.
Ricky Roberts was born severely retarded. At age 16, he weighed 300 pounds and was not able to do kindergarten work. The week of his healing from retardation, he went from kindergarten to tenth grade, and within that week was tutoring classmates in trigonometry. In a summary of her book, A Walk Through Tears, his mother Dot Roberts writes: “In December 1977, a genuine modern-day miracle occurred … God completely and instantaneously healed sixteen-year-old Ricky Roberts of severe mental retardation, a disability that has plagued him since birth.” Today, Dr. Ricky Roberts has seven earned doctorate degrees, including two PhDs, and is the founder of True Light Ministries, a teaching and healing ministry based in Jacksonville, Florida. There appear to be hundreds of testimonies of healing on the True Light Web site.
In using prayer visualizations in psychotherapy with patients, I went from thinking that people were producing positive visions out of their imaginations, to believing that Jesus was actually communicating with them. Over many different people, patterns emerged in the manner in which Jesus communicated, sometimes saying things to the person about which the patient had an opposite position. I record the usage of prayer in psychotherapy in my paper presented at the convention of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies. I not only have found it helpful with some people who are gifted and able to visualize, but believe that it is superior to my telling someone or having them come to a conclusion themselves when Jesus tells or shows someone something. Here’s the background and the visioning experience of a woman I call Harriet in my book.
Her father was an angry man who picked fights with his family. She was the one who would stand up to him. She could not stand being around him. In fact, she hated him. As a teenager, she turned to athletics to douse the fire of her anger and bring calm. It brought order to her life, distanced her from disturbing and messy feelings, and kept her away from home. Liking herself seemed out of the question. Hating herself fit better.
She could tolerate all these angry feelings about herself and her father better if she just didn’t think about herself. Even now, as a wife and mother, she still didn’t like herself very well.
Instead of running away from her feelings, she was turning to face them. She didn’t like what she saw. Some of what she saw she despised in herself. Would she ever be able to like herself, feel clean and whole, or forgive herself? It took all the power of will she had to face herself and these issues about how unworthy she felt. The truth was, she did not want to feel hopeful. She thought she didn’t even deserve that much. She was, however, willing to open herself in prayer to what God might want to heal in her. While praying, she envisioned Jesus carrying his cross. She realized he was doing this for her. In her prayer picture, she walked alongside him, and as he looked at her his face became radiant and full of joy, because she was one of the people for whom he was doing this. She had trouble receiving the message of that radiance. She told Jesus, “I wish You would not do this for me. I am not worth it.” She knew the anguished pain that lay ahead for him. She could see he was carrying a burden for her that she could not carry. She was glad He was doing something for her that she could not do. But she said, “Why are You doing that for me, when even my question is insignificant?” He looked lovingly at her and said, “It is the central point. It is the whole significance of what I am doing.”
John T. Dearborn, M.D.
John T. Dearborn, MD., said:
A 63-year-old Asian woman who was otherwise healthy came to me for bilateral knee replacement surgery. I had no idea about her relationship with the Lord prior to operating on her. She had been exercising regularly to get ready for the surgery. Unfortunately, during the right knee surgery, her popliteal artery was injured. The injury was rapidly recognized and repaired by a vascular surgeon and within an hour her leg had normal blood flow restored. That should have been the end of the story. Unfortunately, the repair failed to maintain the blood flow through the vessel and she underwent a procedure in the angiography suite to reopen the vessel. That procedure also proved to be inadequate, and she subsequently went another full 12 hours with no documentable blood flow to her foot. Her foot and calf were ischemic and looked mummified when her leg was opened in the operating room by another vascular surgeon. Her blood pH was 7.1, not compatible with life for very long. The surgeon bypassed the clogged vessel and restored flow to what he, with 35 years of vascular surgery experience, felt was a lost cause.
He strongly felt over the subsequent hours that her leg should be amputated. Because I felt that amputation would be especially traumatic for this previously healthy patient and her family, I advocated that we wait. I agreed that if she began a downhill course or that if the limb became infected, amputation should be done immediately to save her life. In the meantime, I initiated a prayer chain with her family and our church family. It turned out that the patient and her family are also believers in Jesus. Her vascular repair held, blood flow returned, and despite the loss of much of the muscle in her calf, her skin remained viable and she kept her leg. The vascular surgeon called her course over the next several days “miraculous.” She never recovered sensation or motor function below the knee, but she now can walk unassisted on her own foot instead of on a prosthesis.
A woman patient I will call Leslie attended a Christian women’s conference: Fragrant Oil. While there was no specific prayer for her, she knew she had been healed of lactose intolerance. So she is now able to eat milk products without supplements.
A man I know whom I will call Walter had a snowboarding accident and as a result had severe testicular pain. This pain was too much to consider marrying his girlfriend. He went to a healing prayer session with someone with healing gifts and as a result had the pain reduced by about 95 percent, enough to get married and have a child.
Some Personal Experiences
I had a weakening of my acid enzymes when I was in my late forties that meant that I did not digest proteins properly. I took HCL (hydrochloric acid) supplements for years when I ate meat. During one time of extended prayer time and fasting, I knew that God had healed that problem, even though I never prayed for its healing during that time of prayer and fasting. It has been about 20 years since that time, and I have not had any more problem with insufficient stomach acidity to break down proteins.
I have a friend who told me of an experience that puzzled him. He was walking to a pool where his daughter was floating. He was walking and about 20 feet from the pool, and in the next step, he found himself instantly at the pool. When he leaned over, his three-year-old daughter who should have been floating on her back had flipped and was face down in the water. He was able to right her immediately. His wife at the time who observed his instant trip to the pool asked him, “How did you do that?” Of course he had no explanation.
I had an experience in a prayer group while speaking in tongues that was an obvious spiritual experience. Glossalalia or speaking in tongues is usually a very private prayer language experience. Different people sound different when speaking in tongues. You could not match someone else if you tried to. More than seven years earlier I had heard a certain kind of speaking in tongues that was unusual. It was distinctive. I had never heard it before, nor had I ever spoken in that kind of prayer language. In one prayer meeting of many county leaders and people of prayer, we were praying, when I heard myself and three other people instantly and simultaneously speaking in that particularly distinctive tongue.
I was in a meeting with Paul Cox that dealt with discernment of spiritual beings. He has a higher level of spiritual discernment than most Christians I know, and he was aware not only of angelic beings and demons present, but of powers also. He believes that powers carry an electromagnetic charge. He pointed to one place in the room where he believed a power to be present and then brought a compass out of his pocket. Outside the area where he believed the power to be present, the compass had one reading for north. But the needle changed about five degrees when he put it in the center of where he believed the power was.
I have veterinarian friends, the Doctors Cox. While they lived in my family cottage, they were considering becoming missionaries, but Trent had such severe back problems that his wife had to help him to dress for months at a time during outbreaks of the problem. No mission board would have accepted them with his back condition as it was. He believes that prayer was the treatment that changed his condition. By the time they moved from our cottage, Trent’s back was no longer incapacitating him.
Pearl Burton’s son Terry was born with hydrocephalus. This was confirmed with both x-rays and a CT scan. The doctor said, “Your son is severely brain damaged. The x-rays show that his brain is only the size of a walnut. I am afraid he will be a vegetable for the rest of his life.” The doctor had said that the buildup of fluid in his head had severely damaged his brain cells. Pearl said, “I needed a miracle because medical science could give me no hope for my son.” As she began to consider how to pray she heard the voice of the Lord say in her spirit, “Pray that Terry will have the mind of Christ.” Her prayer procedure was to pray in faith, laying her hands on him and confessing that he would have the mind of Christ and that he would receive the miracle of healing. She also got a developmental book that outlined normal growth in a baby. She began commanding in prayer that Terry’s body would start doing the things that are normal for his age. In Terry’s next visit to the neurologist, he couldn’t understand how Terry could be walking since he did not have a brain to tell his body what to do. Pearl decided to see another neurologist who took a new x-ray of his brain, which showed a completely normal brain. She says she left the doctor’s office rejoicing that “Jesus is the healer and is still in the healing business.” Terry was tested in third grade as above average on an intelligence test. Terry is now an adult attending college on an academic scholarship.