Studying Divine Healing Practices Empirical and Theological Lenses, and the Theory of Godly Love
Issue: Vol 11 No. 1 (2012)
Subject Areas: Religious Studies
This article explores how empirical and theological lenses can be brought into focus to study pentecostal divine healing practices. The project takes as a case study the healing prayer practices of globally influential pentecostal networks that developed out of the Toronto Blessing of the 1990s: the United States-based Apostolic Network of Global Awakening and the Mozambique-based Iris Ministries. Although science cannot prove or disprove that prayer really results in divine healing, empirical investigations can corroborate or challenge specific claims. Both social scientific and clinical research methods are valuable in assessing perceptions and measurable effects of healing prayer practices. Theological analysis of how prayer is understood and practiced provides an important tool for designing appropriate empirical studies. This project considers the complementary information provided by before-after medical records, survey responses, clinical measurements, and ethnographic follow-up observations and interviews. Because healing prayer is often transacted in the context of social networks, the sociological theory of Godly Love offers a useful model for interpreting study results. This article argues that the widespread perception that prayer results in divine healing has demonstrably real social effects, and in some cases the social interactions involved in healing rituals produce measurable health outcomes.
Author: Candy Gunther Brown