| || |
Consisting of two simple sentences, the article of faith on divine healing is the shortest article in the manual: "We believe in the Bible doctrine of divine healing and urge our people to seek to offer the prayer of faith for the healing of the sick. We also believe God heals through the means of medical science." At first glance these few words hardly seem to touch on the same weighty matters of faith dealt with in earlier articles, such as sin, salvation, and the incarnation of Jesus Christ. But the affirmation the church makes in this article of faith is nevertheless important and does touch on central concerns of our faith.
What do Nazarenes believe
- First, by urging people to pray for the sick we affirm that God cares about our physical bodies. Now and again throughout Christian history, believers have fallen into the trap of thinking that bodies are evil. Early heretics called Gnostics taught that the goal of life is to allow our "true self," our "soul," to escape the corruption of this evil physical reality. However, genuine Christian faith will not allow us to call evil what God has created as good. Furthermore, we believe that what God created, God cares about. So when we exhort our people to pray for those who are ailing, we do so believing that God is concerned about things that cause us pain and disrupt our life in this world.
Second, in urging people to pray for the sick and in recognizing that God often works through human beings trained in medical science, we affirm our belief in a God who acts. In our scientifically-driven Western society, many people are not comfortable with the idea that God "messes about" in the natural world or the world of human affairs. We much prefer explaining everything neatly and simply in terms of physical causes and effects without having to say all the time, "God did it." That may be an easier way to view the world, but it does not accord with the picture of God painted in the Bible. "The God of the Bible is a God who acts, who is engaged in the world of natural and human affairs, a God who can make things happen.
We affirm that God is free to be "miraculous" when he so chooses and we also affirm the validity of what some would call "I'm miraculous" medical science. But while not all of God's works need to be categorized as miracles, that doesn't change the fact that God is behind medical healing. He gifts doctors and nurses, created a world where certain chemicals have positive biological effects, and designed the human body in such a way that it can be largely-though apparently not completely-understood.
- Of course, this does not mean that God heals every time we asked, either divinely or through medical science. Our article of faith is written as an exhortation to prayer, not as a guarantee that God will always do what we want. There is no sense in praying if we do not think God cares enough to act, but our prayers are not magical incantations that force him to do so. God is in the business of growing the kingdom, and sometimes God's kingdom is best served in our weakness and infirmity. These are the times when we find ourselves praying with Jesus in Gethsemane, "yet not what I want but what you want".
- We believe that this physical world is not the ultimate one. Indeed, the condition of the soul is paramount. We recognize that the ultimate healing God wants to accomplish cannot be limited to the healing of the mortal bodies and minds in the fallen world. We know from the cross that God's ultimate healing is sometimes accomplished in the midst of pain-and-suffering.
- Nevertheless, we still affirm that sickness and disease do not represent life as it was created to be, and we believe that God will often-though not always-demonstrates his love and concern by acting in ways that heal and restore physical bodies.
Adapted from Articles of Faith: A Small-Group Study, NPH 2008