(Investigator 51, 1996 November)

Faith and positive emotions rather than divine intervention may explain healing at Pentecostal meetings. Convincing "miracles" are rare.

The Portside Christian Revival Crusade offers regular prayer for healing besides holding occasional special healing services.

Brett Jenkins of Gawler said he suffered from sugar intolerance but prayer healed him. Les Barnes, 37, had his left eye removed and had only 10% vision in his right eye. He was legally blind and trained at Melbourne's Guide Dog Association Centre to walk with a cane. Following prayer in Church and on the Christian radio station normal sight came to his right eye.

Psychologist Laurie Eddie said, "I'm not impressed; the eyes are only one component of vision."

Using video enhancement as an analogy Mr Eddie said that the brain may enhance, or suppress, what the eyes see: "An alleged cure for diabetes is more objective if we have before and after blood tests."

A Portside CRC pastor who asked not to be named said he knows of numerous healings following prayer including healing of cancer, skin diseases, arthritis and backaches.

Mr Eddie responded, "Cancerous cells are present in everyone but the immune system stops them from multiplying. Stresses on the body cause release of hormones which suppress the immune system and then the cancer may grow. "If the stresses are removed by events which change emotional life the immune system may recuperate enough to suppress the cancer so that remission occurs." Mr Eddie described an American case in which a man given six months to live hired and watched comedy videos. After three months he went into remission.

A healing service conducted by Ray Hullah took place at Portside CRC on September 29.

Mr Hullah told of other churches where knees fused from bone cancer were repaired, deaf ears unstopped, spinal bifida cured and the leg of an 84-year-old lengthened with new bone, muscle and sinew. "Whatever your need God can meet it," said Mr Hullah.

He spoke of neck to knee arthritis cured: "There is nothing like waking up with new vertebrae in your neck.

"We've had ovaries put back in women; I'm known as the pastor who got all these women pregnant."

Following this discourse about 1/4 of the audience went to the front for prayer.

The rest repeatedly sang for an hour:

Jesus Jesus
Holy and anointed one
Jesus Jesus
Risen and exalted one
Jesus Jesus
Your name is like honey on my lips
Your spirit is like water to my soul
Your word is a lamp unto my feet
Jesus I love you, I love you.
John Foley, secretary of the Skeptics Association SA said, "One bloke I saw at an Assembly of God church cured one hundred people. The same man said he cured 16,000 in a football stadium in the Caribbean.

"If they can do stuff like that why are people still going to doctors? Why aren't doctors out of business?"

Harry Vanderhoek, a member at Portside, is blind in one eye. He has not been cured despite repeated prayer. He said that he has not seen cures of really obvious physical damage such as getting a missing leg replaced.

Richard Cadden, a Melbourne Jehovah's Witness with achondroplasia (dwarfism), said he debated with Pentecostals on whether Bible verses about healing apply today: "I said to them, 'Heal me.' They said they can't because I lack faith. I told them Jesus taught that faith the size of a mustard grain is more than enough."

The Portside Pastor said, "Not all we pray for are healed. Sometimes unbelievers are healed.

"Some of the healed have faith, some don't. Some expect results, some don't. If they expect healing more are healed.

"We've not done surveys but I think more than half are healed. We're not sure why God doesn't heal everyone.

"Sometimes God tests our faith. Jesus said, 'According to your faith.' Sometimes Jesus didn't heal because of lack of faith.

"One former missionary is so sick she can't come to Church. Her faith is shaken but still solid.

"Sometimes Christians who are not healed become discouraged and lose their faith.

"If someone is on medication we tell them to stay on it until there is physical proof of being healed."

Mr Eddie said, "People may claim to feel better after services. We would need to look at the person's medical history and do follow up studies. If a broken leg were healed we'd need before and after X-rays."

The word "Healing" in a computer file of journal articles revealed titles such as "The Healing Power of Love," "The Healing Power of Forgiveness," "Religion as a Community Resource for Healing," "Incredible Healing Power of Family Rituals," "The Healing Power of Friends,"  "The Healing Power of Touch," "The Healing Power of Music."

Such headings suggest that whatever healing might occur in church may be related to factors other than divine miracle.

In Psychiatry and the Bible C A Wise wrote: "Since many physical illnesses are either caused or complicated by such feelings as anxiety, guilt, and hostility, the symptoms of such illnesses may be removed, and the affected organ may return to normal functioning through resolution of the conflict."

Dr. W----- who has a clinic in the Portside area said, "Many are healed at the clinic who had stress and depression which caused physical symptoms.

"All they may need is counselling. All they may need is support. All they may need is sympathy. All they may need is belief in something.

"I listen and they make a miraculous recovery.

"The mind is the major healing organ. Prayer may promote peace of mind and that can effect a cure."

The Portside CRC's special healing service produced nothing unusual except for those who fell to the floor and giggled until they seemed too weak to stand up alone.

An independent Bible researcher of Adelaide summed it up: "To use healing in church as proof of miracles or of God won't work. There will always be other explanations. I think people who hope to be helped in church with help they can't get elsewhere should go for it."

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