Column | Healed by prayer?

The newspaper devoted no less than two pages Fidelity Wednesday to the success of faith healing. If such a serious, reliable newspaper does that, there must be something special going on.

“Healed by the hand of God,” was the headline above an interview by Maaike van Houten with Dick Kruijthof, a retired general practitioner in Bleskensgraaf in South Holland and a member of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. Kruijthof recently obtained his doctorate from VU University Amsterdam for his dissertation Healing after prayer. “I didn’t want to prove or disprove that God exists or that faith healing works, but to understand what happens, as a doctor and a believer,” says Kruijthof. “There are many strong opinions about faith healing, without people knowing the facts.”

Kruijthof selected 27 people, believers and unbelievers, for further investigation, in 11 cases the results were “medically remarkable”. There was a “surprising and unexpected course in the light of the medical knowledge of the disease, and there was a temporal relationship with prayer.” Most had been in an advanced stage of severe chronic illness before they suddenly recovered. “Most remained free of complaints, with a few they came back over time.”

It is unclear in the interview with how many ‘most’ were, but let’s assume that there were about eight. Not a high enough number to draw far-reaching conclusions, in my opinion. Most (again that word) ‘healing experiences’ did not take place at prayer meetings, but after personal prayer, during a church service or at an anointing of the sick.

One of them was Corlien Doodkorte, who also passed Fidelity interviewed in detail on the next page. She suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was in a wheelchair when she was prayed for at an Easter conference, after the pastor had called for it. An unknown man put his hand on her head before the prayers began. As a result, she was able to get up from her wheelchair and walk to the pastor. Everyone was stunned, including her neurologist. “I felt that a great miracle had happened,” says Doodkorte.

The end of her story is rather sobering. She felt “90 percent cured” for a while, but she continued to have Parkinson’s and some of the symptoms returned three years ago.

After reading these articles I wondered: exactly how many of the patients studied were completely cured of their illness after faith healing? And could there have been factors other than prayer that made them feel better for a while? I ask because such stories always contain a questionable vagueness and, moreover, they can give false hope to people who are struggling enough as it is.

Kruijthof does not make it clear in the interview exactly what happened and what he understood about it. He does suggest that faith healing works. He steps in Fidelity not of the faith healing that in any case does not work and that has given the concept of faith healing such a bad reputation: that of notorious faith healers such as Greet Hofmans and Jomanda. Because of them, faith healing became synonymous with fraud.

What must God think of all this? I hear Him growling.