The society that we live in today stands as a monument to the scientific and technological triumphs of the last century. There is no denying that this advancement of science has made our lives a great deal easier, longer and more comfortable and we wonder how previous generations had been able to survive. Somewhere down the line science replaced religion and philosophy as the main source of infinite knowledge.
In recent years society has begun to doubt the unlimited power of science and has realised that it is unable to provide all the answers to the fundamental questions of existence. A new spirituality has emerged from this understanding which has resulted in a gradual shift in attitude. The materialism and how powered competitiveness of much of the last twenty five years has given way to a slightly more relaxed, positive and intuitive mood.
This change in attitude has been most apparent in in peoples attitudes towards health. They are adopting a more holistic approach to health and acknowledging the importance of lifestyle, correct diet and regular exercise for the upkeep of a healthy body. At the same time people are starting to recognise and understand the importance of the state of their mental, spiritual and emotional well-being on their physical health.
In reality we have always known how strongly our emotions affect our spiritual being. We connect the idea of wellness with the idea of emotion when we say that we do not ‘feel well’ and when we do not know exactly what is wrong with us. It is in this atmosphere of enthusiasm for the holistic ideal that such concepts have been wisely accepted into our collective consciousness. This in turn has opened the way for alternative therapies, some of which have been practised for hundreds of years, to be adopted into mainstream society. A world of specialist therapies has become more acceptable and readily available.
Faith healing is one of the most conservative and respectable of the so called alternative therapies to be welcomed into society. It is difficult to give a definitive description of faith healing because it has become an umbrella term for all the diverse elements of healing that come within its range. In its purest meaning faith healing is the belief in ‘right’ thinking that is practised within a religious system. Christian faith healers believe that all healing comes from God.
However the implication that faith is necessary before a person can be helped by healing forces means that non believers will be excluded. Another problem with the term ‘faith healing’ is that it places the source of healing in a person’s faith and not in Christ or a divinity. This definition reduces the role of God in healing and is also potentially harmful to those people who do not experience any lessening of the symptoms following healing. This will result in them believing that it is their fault for not having enough faith. This can then lead to a spiritual crisis.
A more flexible definition of faith healing is that of a therapy that is based on something other than current scientific knowledge. The term ‘spiritual healing’ is used by those who are reluctant to be emphatic as to the origin of healing, whether it is from God or from some other universal source.
When redefining healing it is important to note that this means changing attitudes towards disease. It has been suggested that all diseases are psychologically rooted or stress related. For example stress, over-work and unexpressed anger are recognised as contributory factors in the emergence of many medical conditions. This kind of direct cause and effect approach can be harmful as it will suggest to the patient that he or she is responsible for the illness. This in turn could induce feelings of guilt and shame which could become another obstacle to well-being.
It should be mentioned that faith healing is a complementary therapy which is intended to be used in conjunction with orthodox medicine, not to replace it. The proof of its effectiveness is largely anecdotal rather than scientific and this invites a skeptical attitude. However in any analysis of faith healing it would be wise to to accept that there are things in life that defy scientific explanation.