Gift or a Given?
An attempt to understand what goes on in the process of healing and to challenge a re-think in the churches.
Most books on the topic of spiritual healing focus on practical aspects of services and liturgies and on testimonies of miraculous cures. Starting from an acceptance of the reality of healing in personal experience the author attempts to unpack the theological implications of what he has seen and done. He comes to the conclusion that the usual focus of the church on healing as a charismatic gift from an interventionist God is a distraction from the presence of healing throughout the natural world and human life. He sees healing as a perspective which can also be extended to inter-faith dialogue and the world of politics and the environment. Finally he provides a practical example of how such a perspective can be applied in the life of the worshipping community.
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The author, an ordained minister of the Methodist Church in Britain since the early 1980s, traces his interest in the Healing Ministry back to the 1970s when he was asked to join with some others to pray for persons in need of healing. That interest has grown and developed over the intervening years. He is Connexional Advisor for Health and Healing in the Methodist Church in Britain and Chair of Churches Together for Healing (England). Gift or A Given? is the product of much study and reflection and twenty-five years of exercising this ministry in Britain and Germany. He sees the healing ministry as a central priority of the Gospel and not an optional extra for those that way inclined. In his opening chapter he gives an insight into the way his thinking on the theme has progressed. Subsequent chapters deal with definitions of healing, healing in the Old and New Testaments, thought and practice in respect of healing down through history and the influence of scientific knowledge and its effect on attitudes to healing and caring. He devotes a chapter to an honest statement of his theological stance acknowledging that others may not share his views and welcoming dialogue. His main thesis is that healing is part of the natural order rather than an unnatural intervention. For him healing is a given, built into the way in which God has created things, rather than a gift given to particular individuals. However, individuals, through becoming immersed in the healing and loving grace of God, may be instrumental in transmitting His healing to those who need it. If we are at one with God’s purposes and we make ourselves available as His instruments, things will happen which otherwise might not have taken place. They will happen, not because some natural law is broken but because something we do not yet understand has occurred. He sees the ministry of healing as having significance not only for individuals but also for communities and countries. The Church can be a therapeutic community that facilitates reconciliation between human societies and cultures. Gift or A Given? is informative and challenging. It will be a stimulating read and valuable resource for anybody interested in or involved in the ministry of healing. ~ Alan Meara, Churches Council for Health and Healing in Ireland newsletter "Christian Healing" newsletter
This is an excellent book on healing that addresses really topical issues on what healing is and where does or should it sit within the churches ministry. It attempts to set the ministry of healing within context, thus it starts in the introduction with author, John P. Atkinson who is the British Methodist Church's Advisor for Health and Healing, giving his own personal account of how he came into the ministry of healing. The very first chapter then addresses the linguistics of the word Healing, and this is important because as he rightly points out there is a subtle difference between healing and curing and his concern is that in some churches this boundary has become so blurred as to cause potentially dangerous problems – this he addresses in much more detail later on in the chapters 'What happened to healing' and 'What is healing'. The chapter 'Biblical Focus', though short, offers good insight into how healing was perceived in the Bible and the roots from where some of the variant ideas of healing stem. The 'Theological Reflection' chapter in some ways expands on these insights and also offers more detail on the differences of understandings of healing in modern accepted practice, as well as John Atkinson’s own insight on them. Gift or a Given? is a simple, accessible, and practical book that considers what healing is and should be, offering clear insight and guidance. At the back of the book is a set of questions for discussion and that makes this a great tool for any involved or considering healing ministry or for a reflection day. ~ Melanie Carroll, Goodbookstall
This is a very good book. It's accessible, relevant and with some significant theological underpinning. ~ Gethin Abraham-Williams, Author