Ask any Charismatic if they’ve ever seen or experienced the power of God to heal, and the responses are likely to be nearly 100% affirmative. But ask them to provide some kind of documentation for any of these instances, and you’re just as likely to be met with an overwhelming silence.
Is it possible for such a phenomenon to be happening in abundance and yet go undocumented?
Well, let’s start by acknowledging the fact that it is indeed possible for an event to take place that is later disputed by people due to a lack of evidence, or some other reason. That is to say, just because a claim is met with skepticism does not mean it’s false.
From here, the logical question could then be asked: If divine healings are happening in the world today, what would be the causes for the apparent scarcity of documentation?
By exploring the following variables, we will demonstrate just how easily a legitimate divine healing could fail to meet the conditions for documentation. We'll also show that as much as some critics would like to claim they're taking the side of science or logic, the unknown nature of these factors will demonstrate that both sides of the debate are, in all actuality, predicated on faith. In other words, whether one believes the testimonies of healing to be true or false---belief is being exercised by the individual.
In order to best understand the format of what you're about to see below, I'll use an allegory. Imagine a race track, obstacles, a runner, and a finish line. In this allegory, an authentic divine healing is represented by the runner, the questions we explore are represented by the obstacles that can potentially derail the runner from reaching the finish line, which represents public knowledge and a thorough documentation.
All it takes is stumbling over just one hurdle to lose the race.
A failure to meet just one of these conditions can thwart proper documentation.
Obstacle 1: Was There a Prediagnosis?
How many, among those who experienced an authentic divine healing, were never pre-diagnosed? This may be an especially high number in countries where people are too poor to ever see a qualified doctor. Obviously, without a pre-diagnosis, the prospects of a properly documented healing would be low in most cases.
Obstacle 2: Is A Misdiagnosis Possible?
In cases of healings where there has been a diagnosis, how many could be disputed as a misdiagnosis after the fact? Once again, under these circumstances, a legitimate healing would likely not pass a critic’s evaluation.
Obstacle 3: Are There Other Potential Causes for the Healing?
How many, among those whose diagnosis is not disputed, were being treated in some way? Obviously, if they were, and recovered, the healing could be attributed to the treatment, or even placebo—thus lowering the number of verifiable healings even more.
Obstacle 4: Could Spontaneous Remission Be Argued?
Spontaneous remission is a medically documented phenomenon that has been known to happen for no observable reason. How many doctors have witnessed a genuine healing miracle and instead of calling their local news or shouting it from the rooftops, simply chalked it up to one of these cases? Under these circumstances, it's quite possible the public would never hear about it.
Obstacle 5: Are Doctors Willing to Talk About it?
In his book*, Dr. Scott J. KolbabaI discusses what it is like to be an MD, and the struggle to keep a scientific mind in the face of the miraculous. For this reason, he argues, oftentimes doctors will not talk about the things they’ve seen. How many are sitting on information for fear of ridicule? Under these circumstances, again, we likely would never hear about the healing.
Obstacle 6: The Romans 1:18 Factor
Of those doctors who have witnessed a divine healing, how many simply are suppressing the truth due to their spiritual enmity with God? We certainly shouldn’t assume it’s zero. It's not like mankind has never been guilty of trying to cover up the truth. Under these circumstances, even more legitimate healings would go undocumented.
Public Access Issues
Obstacle 7: Is the Media Willing to Publish it?
Even if we knew the answers to 1-6 (which we don't, and why this boils down to a matter of faith, whether you're a believer or skeptic), how many legitimate divine healings would never make it to the public eye because the news media decided not to cover it due to bias, disinterest, or Romans 1:18?
Obstacle 8: Were the Records Lost?
Of the cases the media did report, how many can we be aware of today? There's Google, and YouTube (but even if we assume search engines are not suppressing or manipulating search results)— not everything stays preserved. For example, one of our videos mentioned a CNN IMPACT story reported back in the 90's that admitted to documented healings taking place in Benny Hinn meetings. Yet we were unable to find a video of the segment. Only the transcript. In these cases, knowledge of such documentation would be reduced even further.
Obstacle 9: Are the Healed Willing to go Public?
Of those who are healed, how many would give permission for their video, and or personal medical information to be shared with the world? In the past, people may have been more willing to do this. Nowadays, with the internet, “Twitter mobs” are making everyone think twice about what they are willing to go public with. Not only are there plenty of secular groups that will jump at the opportunity to attack every single facet of such a story, but there are also believers who literally do this sort of thing full time (onward, Christian soldier).
Lack of Interest Issues
Obstacle 10: Is Documentation a Priority?
The majority of people who claim to heal the sick will tell you they have little interest in trying to prove anything to skeptics. Attacks on those who have attempted to provide documentation that meets all the demands of critics in the past may have convinced them that it’s more hassle than it’s worth. Or worse, that it does more harm than good (accusations of fake videos, paid actors, slandering of persons involved etc).
And can anyone really blame them? Consider the instances in Scripture where people mockingly demanded to see a sign, and either did not see any, or ended up unconvinced by one if they did (Matt 12:38-39, 16:1, 27:42, Mk 8:11-12, Luke 23:8, 4:23-27).
This being the case, it comes as little surprise that quite a few ministers don’t make documentation a priority.
How many healings have gone unnoticed or unpublicized because the participants simply didn't care?
1. I think it’s worth mentioning that there isn’t a single recorded incident in the Gospels or Acts where the person who performed a healing, sought to have a medical authority to authenticate the miracle, for the purpose of using as a witness later. In other words, it doesn’t seem like Jesus or the apostles were that interested in trying to prove their miracles beyond the initial people who were present.
It’s only recently occurred to me that this attitude may not be entirely separate from what's required in an environment to cultivate a healing in the first place. Namely, is the faith that, “produces” a miracle, conducive to a mindset that seeks to gather evidence for one? If the answer is no (and it arguably is), then that would go a long way in explaining the lack of documentation. People who are trying to convince themselves, or their critics, may become side-tracked from operating in faith and the leadings of the Spirit. It’s difficult to quantify what effect this mentality could have on the atmosphere required for a supernatural manifestation. The end result possibly being more miracles when there is less focus on documenting them.
2. Both Matthew and Mark record an incident where the unbelief of the people in the city had an effect on Jesus (Mt 13, Mk 6). The Bible says He did not do many mighty works because of their unbelief. But it doesn’t stop there. It goes so far as to say He couldn’t do them. There is a consistent theme throughout Scripture that connects unbelief to a failure to experience the miraculous---which makes one wonder: is there more unbelief in the world today than back then? Jesus Himself asked, “when the Son of Man returns, how many will He find on earth who have faith?” (Lk 18:8 NLT)
What kind of impact does the active unbelief of the world and of Christians today have on this phenomenon?
All these unknown variables taken into consideration, some might say it’s a miracle in itself that we have as much documentation* as we do.
When all is said and done, it would seem that the same pattern we see in Scripture we also see today: those who believe either saw and experienced it firsthand, or they believed the testimony of someone else. A second category consisting of former critics whose demands for evidence were fully met, doesn't really seem to exist.
And who knows . . . Maybe that's the way God intended it.
*Physicians’ Untold Stories: Miraculous Experiences Doctors Are Hesitant to Share with Their Patients, or Anyone
*A few examples of (what many would consider) documented cases:
Separating the Emotion from the Analysis