Healing in the History of Christianity

By Amanda Porterfield | Go to book overview

Introduction

Healing is a persistent theme in the history of Christianity, threading its way over time through ritual practice and theological belief, and across space through the sprawling, heterogeneous terrains of Christian community life and missionary activity. To focus on healing in the history of Christianity, as this book does, is to attend to important elements of continuity amid the jumble of competing doctrines, innumerable churches, disparate behaviors, and historical developments.

When I embarked on this book, I did not anticipate the extent to which I would come to see Christianity as a religion of healing. My initial goal was to explore the history of Christianity without getting lost in the process. I chose healing as an organizing focus because of current interest in the topic, which I hoped would make my study interesting to others, and because new ways of thinking about religious practice and experience prompted me to take claims to religious healing more seriously than I had before.1

Although I was prepared to take the reality of Christian healing seriously, I did not expect to find the history of Christianity so laden with its signs. I thought I would find the emphasis on healing apparent in the ministry of Jesus marginalized in Christian history, shouldered out by theologians and church authorities intent on marching people toward salvation in heaven, but kept alive, on the edges of ritual practice and belief, by common people desirous of protection and escape from sickness, misfortune, and death. I also

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