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An objection that I've heard many times from both atheists and Cessationists against the gift of healing is the following:

If the gift of healing is for today, why don't we see faith healers emptying hospitals? Shouldn't it be very easy for a person with the gift of healing to go to a hospital and start healing people left and right? It would make it on the news and everyone would be able to know about it.

How do Continuationists respond to this objection?

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  • Neither Christ, nor His apostles, managed to empty the hospitals of their days (not that there were many there, but they did not exactly heal all disease, or raise every dead).
    – Lucian
    Jul 30 at 1:31
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    I don't know if most would say this, but some certainly teach that healing is contingent on the patient's faith.
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 30 at 1:41
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One of the big problems with many mainstream Christians accepting the continuation of the charismatic gifts is because a large number of Pentecostals have had a type of mind over matter or simple faith in faith emphasis for healing. It is only in recent years that a more theologically balanced and mature understanding of faith healing has been articulated.

Mainline continuationists (Anglican, Lutherans, Catholics, etc.), that are not Pentecostal, would argue that the gift of "effecting of miracles" or "gifts of healing" are not "at will" gifts that are under the control of the person who engages in prayer for healing.

Jesus frequently told his disciples to pray "in my name." If one sees Jesus as King, then the phrase in my name begins to take on a unique significance. The focus is no longer on the name of Jesus as a type of magical incantation, but rather on what guidance a believer is getting from the Father in heaven through the presence of Jesus. In other words, the phrase "in my name" is best understood and translated as "under my authority" or "under my influence." It is this walk with God and hearing from the Spirit that enables gifts, like the "effecting of miracles" or "gifts of healing" to be done in great boldness.

R.C.H. Lenski writes about the New Testament effecting of miracles:

"We should not think that healings and miracles were wrought at will by the person concerned. In each instance a specific intimation came to them from the Spirit that the act should be performed,…the Biblical narratives do not always supply us with the details that show the Spirit’s intimation. In each instance the gift or the energy is bestowed by a communication from above for that case alone. Lacking such communication, even the apostles made no attempt to perform a miracle." (R.C.H. Lenski, Interpretation of 1 Corinthians, p. 502-503)

"How many times had they walked past this lame man as he sat daily begging at the gate! But on that morning the Holy Spirit conveyed the information to the apostles that they should heal him. On many days she cried, and Paul did nothing. Then Paul suddenly turned and healed her. He must have received the intimation to do so from the Spirit." (R.C.H. Lenski, Commentary on Acts)

The 19th-century Lutheran theologian, Francis Pieper, points out:

"There are cases in which Christians have asked unconditionally for temporal blessings, as for example, when Luther prayed unconditionally for the prolongation of Melanchton’s life...But such cases belong to the domain of the fides heroica and are not subject to the general rule. It is the business of the Holy Spirit to direct the prayer of the individual Christian in special exceptional circumstances. Who will dare to circumscribe His power." (Christian Dogmatics, Vol. 3:83)

Pieper appeals to C.F.W. Walther's Pastoral Theology book that encouraged bold prayers for deliverance from evil spirits for healing. Pieper brings to light the theological insights of Quenstedt:

"There are extant heroic examples of prayers of certain men who were impelled by divine zeal; those examples are not rashly to be imitated." (Christian Dogmatics, Vol. 3:83)

Here it is also important to not shift the focus away from the prayer itself to the faith of the person praying. What Christian would claim to have “heroic faith?” It is only in hindsight that a person can say that they were used by God for the effecting of a healing miracle. And then, even when that happens, a pious Christian should express a deep sense of humility that the gift of the effecting of miracles took place only because the Holy Spirit was active in power. In another context, Francis Pieper writes about the Power of God (Potentia Dei):

"Of course, there is a miracle working faith (Wunderglaube, fides heroica, Matt. 17:20; 21:21; 1 Cor. 12:1,10) which is not bound to rules. He that has this gift knows when to use it." (Christian Dogmatics, Vol. 1:460)

Pieper adds a footnote: Cp. Luther, St. L. XI:957 ("If it is necessary"); Walther, Pastorale, p. 294 (Fritz, Pastoral Theology, 1945, p. 210).

For those engaging in effective healing ministries, it is often suggested that so-called words of knowledge are frequently given as an invitation to pray with boldness. However, these are not necessarily infallible indicators that a miracle will take place. Sometimes God can prompt us and call us to pray boldly - even though the results may not happen in a perfect manner. For example, God put a divine purpose in David's heart to work towards building the temple - even though it was not His ultimate will for the temple to be constructed in that generation. God's revealed will is for us to pray for the mending of a fallen world with great boldness. However, out of respect to His hidden will, we should add in our prayers "according to your perfect will. Amen."

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Cessationists also misunderstand God's healing grace. It's not a magic power. It's bringing God's grace into physical pain and disabilty. The "go empty hospitals" argument is the same as the "why evil if God is good" argument. As Jesus said in another context, "You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God."

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  • "It's not a magic power. It's bringing God's grace into physical pain and disabilty." Can you explain in more detail why this means continuationists shouldn't go to hospitals to bring God's grace into physical pain and disability? Also please explain the analogy with "Why evil if God is good", because it's not clear how they're all that similar.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 14 at 22:17
  • Continuationists do go to hospitals and pray with patients who request prayer. You can't go into a hospital and force your way into rooms to pray for people. "If God has given Christians power over sickness etc., why is there sickness today?" Change a few words and it's about God and evil.
    – RG1
    Aug 16 at 13:06
  • Those are things that you should explain in more detail in your answer. Jesus could certainly heal from a distance so he could enable his people to do likewise.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 16 at 13:15
  • "Jesus could heal from a distance." This happened once. And the centurion's faith was extraordinary. Again, we're not talking about magic. This is God's grace in action.
    – RG1
    Aug 17 at 20:02

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