Healing in the History of Christianity

By Amanda Porterfield | Go to book overview

7
Christian Healing in the
Shadow of Modern
Technology and Science

Over the centuries, Christian healing has revolved around divine and holy persons. In the New Testament stories, Jesus' close relationship with God enabled him to heal the sick and command demons to leave the persons they possessed. Followers of Jesus drew on their faithful relationships with him and invoked his name in their healing work, and some of these followers became saints with healing cults of their own. Through visualization, prayer, pilgrimage, and acts of penance, believers established personal relationships with Jesus and his saints, especially Mary, and Christians to this day depend on these relationships for healing, strength, and solace.

Beginning in the early modern era among Christians in the West, a new interest in the Spirit of God developed alongside this investment in divine and holy persons. This interest coincided with modern ideas about spiritual power in the universe, as well as increasing interest in personal inspiration as an expression of individuality and source of authority for social reform. Modern invocations of the Spirit of God harked back to the reference in Matthew to Jesus casting out demons "by the Spirit of God" (12:28; cf. Luke 11:20) and to other New Testament references to spirits and spiritual gifts. At the same time, they resonated with scientific discoveries about unseen forces, such as gravity and electricity, operating in the natural world. Modern religious interest in the Spirit's power to inspire, transform, cleanse, and heal people coincided with modern theories about invisible forces that moved planets and created light. As the

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