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Summer 2012, Vol. 9

Book Review


Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing
Edited by Candy Gunther Brown
(Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press, 2011) 397 pages

Reviewed by Raymond R. Reid, M. Div.
Staff Chaplain, Mercy Hospital in Springfield, MO

 

 

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The Divine Healing Movement has global and cyclical influence. A trend might start in Africa and move to America or Europe. Another trend might start in Tulsa and move to Asia, and vice versa. The belief in divine healing and the search for miraculous intervention is mobile, as are the people who preach and seek it.

Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing, edited by Candy Gunther Brown, includes the writing of seventeen scholars studying various aspects of the nature of the Divine Healing Movement throughout the world. The global focus is emphasized as entries are grouped by geographical regions and a section that focuses on the networking nature of the Charismatic Healing Movement and how Charismatics in each of these regions influence the others. The research of this book focuses exclusively on the Christian religion, leaving the research on faith healing in other religions for other works.

Each chapter presents in-depth recording of observations and research into the author’s respective topics. The author’s focus is on qualitative research, using study into one congregation as a platform to make generalizations about the larger faith community. Original resources each author uses include information from pastoral sermons, congregational periodicals, and interviews with people belonging to various congregations. The author interprets the happenings within each congregation.

Academic fascination with miraculous divine healing has increased in recent years. In a world with the most advanced medicines and medical treatments, people continue to turn to the supernatural for help. This happens not only in the face of new treatments, but also with the pressure of humanist philosophies, which find these beliefs taboo. Some political climates classify such religious activities as illegal superstitions punishable by imprisonment. Social scientists have attempted to quantify human behavior in every way. This research serves as a precursor to understanding, in numerical terms, why people seek divine healing.

For the sake of this project, the researcher accepts those who have testimonies of healing as speaking the truth. The writers do “not seek to answer the question of whether individuals are ‘really’ healed or whether a divine agent is actually responsible,” leaving that question for another project. This project is more concerned with how “people’s perceptions of seeking, experiencing, or witnessing divine healing affect their self-understandings, religious affiliations, or cultural practices.”

One common theme throughout the articles in this collection is the authors’ distinction between the Divine Healing Movement and traditional Pentecostal churches like the Assemblies of God. While Pentecostals trace their heritage to the first decade of the twentieth century, Heather Curtis’ article, “The Global Character of Nineteenth- Century Divine Healing,” from this volume, traces the Divine Healing Movement through an 1885 conference held in London. This meeting came about as many leaders in the Evangelical faith emphasized healing as a work of God available to believers.

“The Materiality of Salvation” is what Miroslav Volf calls the Pentecostal- Charismatic emphasis on physical health and financial provision, often called the “heath and wealth” gospel. Indeed, while speaking in tongues is the defining feature of the Pentecostal movement and prosperity preaching may be the most visible feature, it is the promise of definitive and divine healing of sickness that is the most prevalent feature. More Pentecostals proclaim that they have experienced healing than that they have spoken in tongues or have received increased financial wealth.

Personal experience indicates that Classical Pentecostal denominations and the Divine Healing churches practice a mutual separation at the leadership levels, while many of the laity seek out both their home church and the healing evangelist for spiritual guidance. Pastors and leaders from groups like the Assemblies of God often express warnings over the emphasis of healing within the faith movement. They believe the faith movement is out of balance and unhealthy, partly because God does not heal everyone. The Bible speaks of healing, but also of suffering, self-sacrifice, and endurance. Many denominational pastors feel these aspects of the Christian life are left out when Divine Healing and a prosperity gospel are preached.

Divine Healing evangelists tout their independence and how they do not confine God to boundaries or doctrinal statements. They pronounce their devotion only to the Bible, often juxtaposing their position with those of “organized religion” who rely on other resources while promoting their own materials. Christ suffered so believers no longer have to suffer.

Brown’s excellent work in bringing articles together that demonstrate the global nature of the Pentecostal Charismatic Healing Movement could prove beneficial for several audiences. First, individuals interested in the global nature of the Pentecostal Charismatic movement from an academic perspective will appreciate this book. Furthermore, the various chapters can be insightful for readers interested in the cross-cultural nature of the Divine Healing Movement. Sociologists and religion majors could benefit greatly from the original resources presented in this volume, as well as the insights offered by its authors

Candy Gunther Brown, “Pentecostalism and the Globalization of Illness and Healing,” in Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing, ed. by Candy Gunther Brown (Oxford, Great Britain: Oxford University Press, 2011), 5.

Harvey Cox, “Foreword” in Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing, xvii-xxi, ed. Candy Gunther Brown (Oxford, Great Britain: Oxford University Press, 2011), xix. Miroslav Volf, “Materiality of Salvation: An Investigation in the Soteriologies of Liberation and Pentecostal Theologies,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 26 3 (1989): 447-467. Many authors in this collection refer to Volf.

Brown, 3.


Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012 9:55 AM