Wednesday, November 02, 2016

To Understand Miraculous Healings Expand the Horizons of Your Experience

This cottonwood leaf attached itself to one of our window screens as I was writing this post.

I am slowly reading through Craig Keener's brilliant Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost. For all of us who are Pentecostals, and non-Pentecostals, this is essential reading. I have never read anything quite like it, and am consistently deeply moved, inspired, and educated.

Craig uses footnotes, lots of them. He is cautious and hyper-meticulous in documentation. In the section "Reading [Scripture] from within Spirit-filled Experience," he writes that having experiences of the kind we read in Scripture affects how we read Scripture. He writes: "A more liberal or radical scholar who then experiences the activity of the Spirit will find it more difficult to dismiss reports in Scripture of supernatural activity." (45)

At the end of this sentence was a footnote. I turned to the end notes and read, "See, for example, how witnessing miracles changed much of the worldview of Walter Wink, a member of the Jesus Seminar." (318, fn. 30) Really? (You'll know what I mean if you know what the very radical Jesus Seminar was.)

Craig cites Wink's essay "Write What You See: An Odyssey by Walter Wink." Wink describes a number of supernatural phenomena, such as praying for a woman who had a tumor in her uterus the size of an orange. He writes:

"The Friday before our first healing service I received a call from a woman in our church who had just been told by her doctor that she had a tumor in her uterus the size of an orange. I cheerfully told her that would be nothing for God to heal, and to show up Sunday night. (I have never done that since!) Being of a literal cast of mind, she believed me. We laid on hands and prayed, and the next week she went back to her doctor. "I have the biopsy report here on my desk," he said, "but first let's have a look at you." Then, "Who's been messing with you!?" "Why?" she asked. "It's gone. Your tumor's gone!""

Because of this, and many similar experiences with healing, Wink says he has no trouble believing that Jesus actually healed people. And, as the great scholar that he is, he understands that some colleagues have trouble with this. The trouble, reasons Wink, has a lot to do with one's experiences or lack thereof. He writes:

"Historical discussion is often made to bear the weight of what are essentially differences of worldview, which cannot in principle be settled by historical method. Worldviews are constituted by what one believes about the nature of reality, and therefore by what one conceives to be possible. People with an attenuated sense of what is possible will bring that conviction to the Bible and diminish it by the poverty of their own experience. Consequently, one of the best preparations for historical work on the Bible is continually to expand the horizons of our experience, especially our experience of spiritual reality."