Authentic Healings or Biblically Bogus?

June 19, 2008

Like many of you, I have been reading with interest the reports coming out of Lakeland, Florida. Amongst other things, reports of various healings have been rife. Whatever the validity of these claims – I don’t know enough about the detailed facts to make any judgements- what is certain is that they must be assessed by certain objective, biblical criteria.

I was interested in this regard to read yesterday some thoughts by Richard Mayhue on the matter (The Healing Promise, p 193):

“James Randi has listed the criteria which his rational mind demands in order to validate a genuine healing miracle of God. They include:

1. The disease must not be normally self-terminating.

2. The recovery must be complete.

3. The recovery must take place in the absence of any medical treatment that might normally be expected to affect the disease.

4. There must be adequate medical opinion that the disease was present before the application of whatever means were used to bring about the miracle.

5. There must be adequate medical opinion that the disease is not present after the application of whatever means were used to bring about the miracle.

Randi might be surprised, but the Bible sets an even higher standard for miraculous healing.

1. The healing must be instantaneous.

2. The healing must be of a disease that neither the medical community nor the human body can heal, such as AIDS – either instantly or absolutely.

3. The healing must be total.

4. The healing must be completely convincing, even to skeptics.

5. The healing must be done in public with no elaborate services involved.

6. The healing must be of an organic disease.

These criteria marked God’s healing power through Christ and the apostles.”

By such standards, are the healings in Lakeland biblically valid? That is the question that must be answered.


  1. Good post. Does instantaneous brainwashing count?

  2. Should not we differentiate between healing and miracles? The body does have natural healing abilities given by God.

  3. Mike,

    Good point.

    I think that in the case of Lakeland, though, its definitely ‘miraculous healing’ that’s being claimed. Similarly, that’s what Mayhue is addressing…

  4. Most concerning (and illuminating) is Bentley’s line that God told him that he was not to teach people about Jesus because people already know about Jesus- rather he was to teach them about angels. It is once more an reminder that the way to discern authenticity is to get to the core of whatever message is being proclaimed and to see, above all what is being taught about Jesus.

  5. Here’s a link (with due reservation made for discernment by Youtube!)

  6. I think that the first set of criteria listed are highly persuasive in terms of being really thorough in checking any claims to the miraculous. This is essential! False claims do no-one any good, and can bring the gospel into disrepute. I know of one false-healing claim that almost killed a girl who withdrew her medication on the instructions of a church leader/healer……

    I personally have no idea if these reported miracles in Florida are genuine or not. Such criteria as Randi lists, if applied and proved, might be sufficient to overturn my natural scepticism!

    I wasn’t sure about the second set of “biblical” criteria though – for a number of reasons.

    (1) Instantaneousness? When Jesus healed a blind man, he at first only saw ‘trees as men walking’, Jesus ministered to him again and the healing was completed! Mark 8. The only healing miracle I am absolutely personally,sure was genuine concerned a missionary beseiged by mirgraine’s – who when prayed for suffered a migraine for a week…. and then barely any more for the rest of her life. (3) It was not 100% complete, she did have one or two subsequent attacks, but following prayer by th elders of her church she was enabled to continue with her ministry, whereas before she could not.

    (2) A healing that medicine cannot accomplish? I think that this is a bit of an argument from silence in scripture that might in fact be a bit of an affront to the freedom of God! While miracles as “signs” of who Christ is, are the primary purpose of miracles, the other Biblical reason for divine healing is an expression of the compassion of God.(Matt14:14). This might not be limited by the advances of medicine as ‘signs’ might be.

    4) Completely convincing even to sceptics? Again I am not at all sure that this must always be the case. The hardness of the human heart is the key factor in interpreting the ways of God, rather than the scientific, rational evidence. In the gospels when the voice of God was heard “some believed, but some doubted”? God interventions can still be received or not received in this way!

    5)Public/no ceremonies? The problem with this criteria is that it seems to assume that a genuine spiritual gift CAN only be used correctly. While a agree that this is HOW the gift of healing SHOULD be used – it is entirely possible to have a genuine gift but to handle it wrongly. The argument of 1 Corinthians is not that the misuse ofgifts renders them bogus, rather that the Corinthians should discipline themselves to make their practice appropriate -as they are handling the gifts of God!

    6)An organic disease? I think this is a useful one, in that it makes it clear that physical, medical healing is the category under discussion. Other ’emotional’ healings or personality restorations may be wonderful hints of the ‘wiping away of every tear’ and part of what the Holy Spirit – a guarantee of what is to come’ will yet achieve – but must not be included in physical healing.

  7. I, too, have concerns about Lakeland but this list of criteria seems rather restricting on what we are able to praise Jesus for! To take just one example, Jesus’ healing of Peter’s mother (Matthew 8:14) would not count as biblical if all these criteria were applied to it.

    If we’re going to be biblical let’s be thoroughly biblical, and not restrict healing to laboratory type conditions.

  8. Matthew,
    You said we should not restrict healing to laboratory type conditions.

    I agree to a point. In the case of false teachers like Bentley, I think a laboratory (if not a padded cell) would be appropriate.

  9. Lakeland is my hometown. There is a history of these kinds of meetings there, with more than a little controversy (Rodney Howard Brown, etc…). I almost wonder if people just know there is a ‘good crowd’ for this kind of ‘ministry’ there. These reports have certainly been interesting. But they are very familiar for folks in Lakeland. I just pray that the hoopla does not make a pure Gospel witness more difficult for the faithful in Lakeland.

  10. I’m a little surprised by the appeal in your post to “certain objective, biblical criteria” when the Bible itself never lists these as criteria. They make an interesting list, but it’s Richard Mayhue’s creation.

    “These criteria marked God’s healing power through Christ and the apostles.” Is the list not valid for healings that appear in the OT?

    And how important — or problematic — is the appeal to “objectivity”? Is medical science the arbiter?

  11. Hi all

    I have studied todd bentley’s words for many years now (well before Lakeland broke out), kept track of his charity’s social action (amongst orphans in Uganda, check out “Jesus Village”) watched his lifestyle carefully (secular press have found him to live a “modest lifestyle”), and viewed many hours of lakeland most weeks and have become increasingly concerned about the comments made by people who construct arguments on *either* side on the basis of youtube (we all need to watch our use of youtube, myself included!!) and without watching the revival meetings in their entirety for some evenings or without being present at UK meetings. I have been to three meetings in the central belt where ordinary Scottish folk who have been to Lakeland offer to pray for any who are sick or anyone who wants to be able to pray for others. I sensed an extraordinarily powerful sense of God’s presence and received prayer that is really affecting me as I work and minister to people.

    Please consider the written evidence from http://www.stevehickey.wordpress.com http://stevehickey.wordpress.com/2008/06/12/florida-revival-todd-bentley-answers-his-critics-dr-grieg-get-healed-and-provides-an-independent-theological-witness/posted on June 12 or from (I suspect some of us may not want to read todd b’s explanation on his own website) of salvation and healings by the hundreds. This is the fruit by which we should judge and guard ourselves very carefully on what else we say. I don’t know about anyone else but I’m desperate for anything that brings people to the living God 🙂

    I have never heard Todd not teach about Jesus. The alleged fixation with angels is dealt with in his plea reproduced on steve hickey’s website. He talks passionately of Jesus and yes, he does see angels sometimes ushering in the presence of God which is totally biblical; are we saying that such theophanies are not to occur today?

    I wonder what we may have thought of Elisha lying on a dead boy. Guess he would have been labelled and cast out of the Christian community for such dodgy practices. And of course we today would never recommend this form of healing prayer (see below!)

    The reality is – and Todd says this honestly in his statement – throughout the ages God has used unusual people in extraordinary ways to achieve unbelievable purposes that must have caused controversy and yet EXTENDED the kingdom powerfully.

    “When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy’s body grew warm. Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.”

  12. Many of the points here are fair comment. I think I would have been more comfortable if Mayhue had spoken about “general trends in the NT” as opposed to a definitive and closed criteria. I think the point however is that the “vast majority” of miraculous healings in the NT were instantaneous, total, convincing, public and organic – even if we can point to some exceptions. The question is: are the Lakeland miracles “mainly” in that category? If not, why not?

    In these kind of conversations I also detect a reticence among some to be willing to “assess” anything supposedly miraculous. “Are we not acting like atheists and trying to subject the bible to scientific standards?” All I would say to that is that we hardly honor God by simply accepting any and every miracle claim. Are we happy to call “of God” all of Benny Hinn’s miracles, for example? If not, then by some criteria we must evaluate the validity of claims of miraculous healings. In my mind, the bible can be our only source of reference in this regard. Even if there is no definitive list of criteria given in Scripture for authentic healing, certain trends can be inferred.

  13. I don’t wish to make comment about the actual incidents, nor about whether even such incidents can occur in our era of Redemptive history, here is an important criteria from Scripture concerning our reactions to such things.

    Deuteronomy 13:1-5 “1 “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 “and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’–which you have not known–‘and let us serve them,’ 3 “you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 “You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. 5 “But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.”

    I think brief but fair synthesis of this passage is that what someone says concerning God and Christ is more important that what they can do, indeed the effect their “ministry” has on people is more important than what their ministry consists of.

    This is not the only criteria for assessing ministries, but it is an important one.

    So in other words, no matter what someone can do or what they claim they can do, if they do not speak a God-centred message, a Christ glorifying message, and their message does not draw people to Christ, we are to reject them.


  14. Someone just show me miracles like we see in the New Testament. Period.

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