More on our October issue's the theme of Paranormal/Faith Healing
Causerie: “Finger of God”, and other healing ministries, by Michael Cocks
In our Anglican church with its liturgical services, we invite people up to the altar for the laying on of hands, and anointing with oil for healing of mind and body. There is a great atmosphere of worship and caring, but, I am afraid, we would be startled indeed if a lame person could walk, or a blind person could see. In contrast to this we have healings within the context of evangelical and charismatic ministries. I consider that even if we do not altogether share their theologies, we should withold prejudice, and in our minds and hearts, truly enter into what is going on.
This week someone gave me a copy of television evangelist Bill Subritzky's DVD “The miracle working power of Jesus Christ”. Around the rim of the disk I read the words, “Anorexia, Arthritis, Asthma, Cancer, Diabetes, Epilepsy, Heart Disease, Muscular Dystrophe and 44 other conditions.” It reads like what might appear on an old-fashioned patent medicine. I must not presume to judge the ministry of Subritzky, for I have not really made myself acquainted with it. But the fact that it is directed to mass audiences in churches, and through the TV, would suggest that it would be very easy to have reservations as to the reality of the healings, and it would be easy for the welfare of disappointed individuals would go out the window, in the interests of the staging of theatre of TV. Bear in mind, this is uninformed talk from me. The situation, the set-up suggests these cautions to me, not the man and his message.
Wanderlust Productions was founded by Darren Wilson in 2006 when he began work on what would become his first feature length film, Finger of God. The company currently concentrates on creating feature films that are both creatively exciting and spiritually engaging Read on
In his DVD series The Finger of God, Wilson tells us about the ministries of Bethel Church Redding California, but he also reports on similar work by the Anglican Chaplain in Iraq, (he is one of the figures in the Iraqi church pictured here) and the Heidi Baker Iris Ministries.
T.Kulin: “Ever wondered if miracles really happen? Think the age of miracles is past? Think again! The film maker claims to have captured miracles occurring in real time, and he delivers. In this film, the director goes world-wide documenting God's supernatural move on the earth today. You'll see footage from the US, Mozambique Africa, China, Bulgaria...I can't even remember all the places. You really do see deaf ears opened and the lame healed. This is the most powerful evidence for the existence of the God of the Bible I've ever encountered. If you want to have your faith built, your heart encouraged, and maybe your theology challenged, you need to see this film.”
A Customer: “This film will destroy all the images of pasty-faced, up-tight, crabby, hypocritical Christianity that are out there. You see people who genuinely love God and because of that, also love others. Real Christianity lived out in normal, everyday lives, showing the world around them an incredible, personal God. And this film will leave you with a desire to live that way as well. No more stilted religion, but a living, breathing relationship with a God more real than anything we can see here on Earth. Life changing.”
You will find more reviews like this on Amazon. Look at this Video clip to get an impression of “Finger of God” I warm to the emphasis on the deeply personal, on the simplicity, on love, avoiding doctrine, being prepared to care for any one at all, Moslem or whoever, without preconditions. I warm to the absence of a theology threatening people with hell. I warm to the spontaneity.
After viewing the film, I cannot believe the whole thing is staged and some kind of hoax. I feel that I should accept at least many of the healings as being genuine. I am reluctant to be impressed by a claim to have lengthened a leg that was half an inch too short. I am reluctant to believe in miraculously implanted gold teeth, but as for pictures of people covered with what looks like gold dust when they were praying.. well, last week I met a man, who with tears in his eyes, spoke emotionally of how he had had just this experience. It had not been real gold, for whatever it was faded after half and hour or so. In viewing the videos, we do not get any impression of “mass hysteria” but rather of excited and loving people reaching out.
Other thoughts do come.. very keen single people when experiencing the first joy of experiencing spirit, can go out on the streets, be guided, as we sometimes see with television psychics, to approach a stranger in the street, and offer them healing, rather than messages from the dead. Settled communities, one might think, could not operate permanently on this “guided by the spirit” mode. Heidi Baker featured a lot. She was indeed the star of these films, and what we saw of her and what she had to say was moving. Even if she is entirely genuine, and if there is no doubt at all about any of the miracles of healing, when so many people are involved, things must surely go wrong sometimes, disturbed people behave contrary to the way Christ might expect, might want to impose beliefs that are inappropriate.. people come in all shapes and sizes, and some are sane and some are not. I would have liked to have heard about things when they went wrong, about healings that did not occur, disappointments to faced. If I had heard these things I would have the more confidence in commending these DVDs and these sites to others. But even after time things turn out not to be what they have seemed, I still feel that we are being provided with a new vision of what it could mean to be a Christian. Should I have had direct experience of these things, that too would have helped. I am very clear that paranormal healing does truly occur, and some of the articles in our October issue say why. In Roland and Heidi Baker's book There is always enough my concerns about “surely there is a negative” are to some extent met: “We pour out love and compassion one minute, only to run dry and irritable the next. We preach our hearts out and see vast response, only to encounter great ignorance, misunderstanding and hardness of heart the next. We receive miracles of financial provision, only to be robbed and cheated on a grand scale the next” (p.186) Concerning the background of Rolland and Heidi, we read this on the back cover of There is always enough: "Rolland and Heidi Baker are missionaries in Mozambique and the countries of South East Africa. Rolland , whose parents and grandparents were also missionaries, was born in China and raised in Asia. Heidi grew up in Laguna Beach, California, where she began ministering at age 16. Both have their BA and MA degrees from Vanguard University, Costa Mesa, California, and Heidi holds a PhD in systematic theology from King's College, University of London. Both live for revival and the overwhelming presence of Jesus."
Assistant editor Nate Cull's brother Paul is a Pentecostal missionary in Brazil, and we have previously described his work. Paul's ministry is loosely associated with Heidi Baker's “Iris Ministries” and similar seemingly miraculous occurrences have occurred around his work. Readers of this journal may or may not agree with the theology and assumptions underlying this kind of work, but it would be reasonable to suppose that we are truly hearing about the healing and saving power of the Spirit. Nate suggests that a downside of working outside the framework of established churches, is that wonderful things can happen, and then fade away through lack of the structure and organization to carry things further. There are often widely publicised glowing reports of the activity of Spirit in a locality, only for it later to be discovered that the leader has moved away, and the congregation has disbanded. On the other hand, we can be positive, and say that the good and healings that have occurred, have indeed occurred. And how many miracles of love and healing do we encounter in the highly structured traditional churches? I am not implying that there are none - but they do they ever begin to approach the scale mentioned in The Finger of God?