Question: Why are most medical practitioners wary of Christians talking about faith and healing?
Dan Wooding, ASSIST Ministries Founder (http://www.assistnews.net), can answer this reader’s question positively and encouragingly.
The award winner journalist and author recently attended an outstanding conference in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital city, where some 240 WCDN (World Christian Doctors Network) doctors and medical professionals from 38 countries had gathered to discuss and explore whether miracles still happen today and, if they do, to provide and examine medical data to prove them.
Already ASSIST’s director has filed several encouraging reports of testimonies from doctors who strongly believe that a Christian’s faith is justifiable. Such as this one on South African Christian doctor, Dr Frans Cronjé, MBChB (UP), MSc, the Principal Investigator of a three-year ‘physical, mental, physical and spiritual health’ study undertaken in collaboration with a ministry called Be in Health (BIH) Georgia, under the auspices of Human Research Ethics Committee of the University of Stellenbosch (SUN).
Dr. Cronjé makes his presentation in Sofia, Bulgaria
Dr Cronjé presented the preliminary, pre-publication findings of this prospective, observational, cohort study at the 11th annual conference in May.
Afterwards Dr. Cronjé was asked by the ASSIST founder to comment on the study. The following is an adapted extract from what he shared: ‘Until this conference, the main focus of WCDN has been on reporting and celebrating supernatural and miraculous health outcomes in response to intercessory prayer, deliverance and other spiritual interventions. These cases glorify God, strengthen faith, and encourage spiritual conversions. However, they have limited impact on medicine as a whole: they might convince individual medical practitioners, but even the most convincing miraculous recovery does not address the underlying functional separation between the church and the broader medical profession.’
Dr Cronjé added, ‘Secular physicians are generally suspicious of faith and religion in matters of health; an individual’s persuasion of faith may even be seen as a potential threat to medical compliance. As such, case reports containing statements like “the patient decided to depend on God for their healing” are likely to be dismissed on principle by unbelieving physicians. Even if the outcome is good, it would be considered a fluke; if it is bad, it would entrench their unbelief and engender further mistrust. It may even provoke subsequent scorn and ridicule of patients with spiritual views on health or – even worse – produce a state of censure of all religious interactions with patients. We must therefore be wise when matching evidence with the desired objective.’
Faith brings good results
He went on to say, ‘It may come as a surprise, but a vast number of assessment methods have already been developed and validated to facilitate systematic research on faith, religiosity and health. As a result, more than 15,000 studies have appeared over the past 30 years. The consistent findings have been that faith and religion play an important role in the prevention, treatment and perception of disease: they affect disease management practices and outcomes quite specifically, including the use of health care resources, compliance, choice of treatment, patient satisfaction and the effectiveness of treatment.‘
It seems that three factors have been identified that appear to mediate general health benefits related to faith and religiosity: Mental health, social support, and a reduction in risk-behaviours.
Dr Cronjé says, ‘Conditions such as anxiety, depression, addiction and social isolation have well-established associations with medical problems and poor health outcomes. As such, any intervention that changes these for the better – including faith and religion – would also be expected to improve physical health outcomes. And the actual scientific evidence bears this out. Therefore, in spite of any concerns about the exact mechanisms and even amidst frank denial of spiritual realities, there is great merit – and there are validated methods – for conducting systematic enquiries on measures of faith, spirituality and religion and their impact on mental and physical health. Such studies verify and quantify the health advantages of an active faith life and can even evaluate the pneuma-psycho-somatic (spirit-soul-body) dynamics within communities of faith.’
Referring to the BiH program he pointed out: ‘There are validated scales for forgiveness that could be invaluable for spiritual leaders in assessing the spiritual epidemiology of their congregations or to quantify changes in response to ministry. There is also a need to demonstrate consistent, objective, physical, mental and spiritual (religious) health benefits in response to the teaching and the life-application of biblical principles for love and life. The international ministry, Be in Health, founded in Thomaston Georgia, USA has become specialised in faith-based teaching on spiritual, psychological and physical health issues.’
BiH – consistent improvements
‘Over the past 10 years BiH has reported consistent improvements in mental and physical health following attendance of a 5-day program called For My Life TM (4ML). There have been sufficient anecdotal reports of good outcomes to justify formal scientific investigation and verification. It is estimated that approximately 30,000 people have attended the program since its inception.’
He continued, ‘BiH has made an in-depth study of the so-called “spiritual roots” of disease, developing a wide range of biblically-based educational materials and programs aimed specifically at healing, health and disease prevention. The 4ML program offers the initial, intensive, systematic teaching, ministry and discipleship components. Topics include biblical perspectives on sickness and health; pathways of disease; “spiritual roots” of disease; the effects of fear, stress and anxiety on health; the importance of forgiveness; and resolving negative religious coping in becoming reconciled with God, others and themselves.
‘Over the years BiH has gained experience in ministering to a variety of minor and major mental and physical illnesses. Several chronic and “incurable” diseases stand out as responding uniquely and often quite promptly to this method of ministry. These include: severe allergies, food sensitivities, auto-immune diseases, certain cardiovascular- and endocrine disorders as well as diverse mental health issues. Consistent improvements have also been reported in depression and anxiety. There have even been several documented cases of remission in paranoid schizophrenia.
‘Although many faith-based organisations offer ministry or guidance on issues of health, few offer specific teaching on the potential associations between spiritual, psychological and biological problems. Even fewer address the potentially harmful effects of negative religious coping in a systematic way. To our knowledge none have attempted to document the spiritual, mental and physical health outcomes of standardised faith-based education in a formal way.’
Glorifying the great physician.
This Balkan gathering was a joyful event for the professional medical attendees who had gathered to ‘Glorify the Great Physician’ and to ‘Discuss Medicine, Science and Spirituality.’ ASSIST News Service is highly recommended – for Dan Wooding’s full article on the above and other WCDN Conference reports – http://www.assistnews.net.
Each of the professionals believes that ‘spiritual healing’ is an answer to sickness in the 21st century. They say that medicine alone cannot deal with some of today’s worst illnesses. But they also believe that miracles should be ‘documented’ and various respected doctors present actual case studies of miracles with the medical evidence to back them up. Dr Cronjé’s e-mail address regarding BiH: email@example.com.
For further stories like this one, just go to http://www.assistnews.net.
Got a question? Email lifefocusministries AT gmail.com