Short Article (1): Healing & Disobedience

Readers tell me they would like fewer long articles and more shorter pieces, so here’s my first.

Alan Scott, the leader of Causeway Coast Vineyard Church in Coleraine, Northern Ireland has me blocked on Twitter (for having the audacity to question him), but one of his tweets was retweeted by John Dickinson – a Presbyterian minister in Carnmoney, Northern Ireland – who I follow. The tweet – aimed at a Christian audience – said “The call to heal the sick is inescapable. If you don’t have the gift of healing, try out the gift of obedience.” A little perplexed by this notion I asked is it really the case that failure to heal the sick amounts to disobedience on our part. Unsurprisingly I got nothing from Scott, but Dickinson responded with: “Matthew 10:8.”

I looked it up:

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”

Frankly I was even more baffled than before. First of all, if this verse means we are disobedient to a command of Christ by failing to heal the sick then we are equally disobedient for failing to raise the dead. In any event, Dickinson appears to have taken little or no notice of the context of this verse: a narrative in which Jesus sends out his disciples on an evangelistic mission. There is no indication whatsoever that this is a divine injunction for all believers everywhere for all of time. I made the point to Dickinson – asking him, perhaps a little cheekily, when he had last raised the dead – but sadly he didn’t respond.

I confess I feel sorry for the people who choose to sit under the teaching of those who would place such a burden on their backs. You don’t heal the sick? Then suffer the guilt of being disobedient to Christ. When I read the tweet to my wife she asked, “what about people like me? I don’t know how to heal the sick. How am I supposed to obey a command to do something I can’t do?” Despite not being philosophical astute, my wife had hit upon the ethical principle of “ought implies can:” if it is the case that I ought to do something, then the thing in question must be something I am indeed capable of doing. My wife can of course pray for the sick, but as for actually healing them, that’s beyond her power. Is she therefore disobedient? On the theological ruminations of Scott – seconded, seemingly, by John Dickinson – the answer is “yes.” But isn’t that simply a reductio ad absurdum of their position?

I wonder how this wonderful “gift of obedience” works out for Scott (or Dickinson). In practical terms how does one obey Christ by healing the sick? Scott’s friend Mark Marx regularly performs the “leg growing” wonder which I’ve written about numerous times before. He simply commands legs to grow – he commands muscle and sinew and bone to grow in the name of Jesus. Is this what we should be doing to obey Christ, commanding body parts to normalise, diseases to leave, and tumours to shrink? Does Scott (or Dickinson, if he agrees with this theology) do this or is there some other method available? Do they regularly see the lame walk? The blind see? The dead rise? I doubt it, though if they wish to present evidence to the contrary I’ll gladly consider it.

As well as putting a burden of guilt on the backs of other believers, such theology achieves another purpose: the elevation of the leader in the eyes of the congregation. This kind of theology creates the illusion that the leader sees much more success in healing people – because, unlike regular believers like you and I, these guys really really obey Jesus. This mix of guilt and admiration is a bewitching brew used as a form of social control over the lives of often vulnerable and impressionable people. It keeps the flock in check, and helps create and maintain the sort of spiritual hierarchy in which a certain breed of modern – typically charismatic – church leader thrives. However, it’s fundamentally abusive and leaves people emotionally and spiritually shipwrecked. My wife and I have suffered our fair share of abuse at the hands of such theology and the men and women who preach it. It was most liberating to leave it behind and come to realise that despite all the hype the preachers of such theology don’t have much success themselves. They certainly do, however, possess the gift of beguilement.

Stephen J Graham


Filed under Charismatic Movement, Faith-Healing

5 responses to “Short Article (1): Healing & Disobedience

  1. I’ve always thought it rather reductive -and dare I say blasphemous- to resort to such pitiful mimicry and hysteric stage spectacles when it comes to ‘soulful’ or ‘spiritual’ practice. It cheapens the whole idea of anything sacred, does it not? These grandiose testimonies are a reflection of collective insecurity, often delivered with a sad desperation in a bid to appeal to onlookers and convince them; like they’re trying to market God itself.

  2. Good job. I certainly know how you feel.

    Alan Scott and John Dickinson are not Christians, see 1 Peter 3:15, as many other church leaders are today. They have not fear of God or share the humble spirit of the Christ, caring more about protecting their public image or what’s politically correct, than standing for God’s will and teachings.

    In 2011, I was healed by Jesus Christ of two blood clots in my brain. He restored the control of the left side of my body, and I basically had to relearn how to walk (relearning how to run took me a couple of years, as I kept forgetting).

    I almost died of two blood clots in each of my lungs some time later; I saw shadows standing over my bed while calculating their efforts; but when the Spirit of God came over me, I felt a peace beyond any understanding or any possibility to explain.

    Zero Christians were healing the sick (there’s 1 to 3 churches per block in Florida!), or even visiting them.

    After this event, I took my family to Doral Vineyard Church in Florida seeking to serve God in any way possible. We visited it for almost two months. It was impossible to talk to the pastor Rafael Gomez, as he was always busy controlling other churches in Florida.

    But he and his co-pastor (or whatever he was, since it was very confusing!) Jose Alvarez kicked us out promptly, because we dared to question the leaders not praying in the name of Jesus as taught in the Bible, declaring they didn’t need the Name because they had a relationship with God, teaching New Age practices, and lecturing about lesbians, “players” and gays in Sunday school to our daughter and other minors, instead of teaching them anything holy, Bible, or God related. By the way, the children were very confused because of such lessons.

    Our concern was posted in our personal Facebook wall, and not related to Doral Vineyard in any way or name; unfortunately, we made the mistake of accepting a friend request of Jose Alvarez, and he saw it.

    I only talked to Gomez on the phone for 1 hour. A day later, he sent us an e-mail telling us not to return to his church.

    I blogged, and made some YouTube videos regarding the experience and Doral Vineyard’s teachings and sermons. Both pastors went berserk, blocked my account, and offended my family and me all over the Internet, threatening us to take us to court, which is total the opposite to anything you can think or expect of Christ.

    Afterward, I did some research of their online postings, and I found they were deeply racists and xenophobes, event when they were not considered “white” by American standards, or born in the United States. They also deleted any comments in their church’s Facebook wall that didn’t reverence them, and blocked the accounts of anyone who disagreed with their opinion.

    They were the rudest and vilest people I ever found leading in church, and the worst experience we ever had. After four months of being healed by God 4 times, and after visiting Doral Vineyard for only two months, I was to the point of throwing my Bible in the trash and stop praying and trusting God.

    My family doesn’t want to hear about God or the Bible anymore.

    The greatest insult we can tell each other nowadays is “you are acting like Rafael Gomez”.

    Maybe because it is.

  3. Pingback: The Charismania Collection | stephenjgraham

  4. Bill Foye

    Hi there, I came across your article while doing a bit of research. I can understand your scepticism given the amount of nonsense that goes on in some charismatic circles. I would not agree with everything that anyone says so I take on board your criticisms of Alan/vineyard and others but there are people being healed and coming to faith through the ministry of Alan Scott and vineyard, they are seeing things happen on a regular basis. I live in Northern Ireland and have actually seen the growth of the church/spread of the gospel/transforming power of God in numerous lives. One irrefutable example is Josh martin. I know this boy and his parents and something amazing happened to him, so I would say to you do not throw everything out because of some bad stuff.

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