Healing in Search of Atonement

With a Little Help from James K.A. Smith

In: Journal of Pentecostal Theology

From its beginnings ‘Healing in the Atonement’ has been one of the key platforms from which the Pentecostal movement has branded itself. Disease and suffering were tagged as consequences of the Fall and in need of redemption not unlike the soul. Specifically, this presentation will explain why traditional constructions of ‘healing in the atonement’ gained immediate traction with Pentecostalism; demonstrate that contemporary applications of healing in the atonement frequently issue in violence to the sick, injured or diseased; argue that ‘healing in the atonement’ is crippled by a deficient understanding of creation and in particular human finiteness as it relates to sickness and/or death; and examine James K.A. Smith’s ‘Logic of Incarnation’ to see if there is a constructive path here to formulate a theology of healing that remains faithful to Scripture and can maybe even be friendly to the more traditional atonement theories of healing.

  • 3

    John J. PilchHealing in the New Testament: Insights from Medical and Mediterranean Anthropology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press2000) pp. 19–36 (24–25).

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  • 4

    Provocatively Crossan adds‘If Jesus … were among us today, I do not believe for a moment he could cure the disease called AIDS. I do think, however, that he could heal the illness known by that name’. ‘The Life a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant,’ The Christian Century 108.37 (December 18–25 1991) pp. 1194–1200 (1197).

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  • 6

    Published in 1915The Gospel of Healing by evangelist A.B. Simpson became a popular source for Pentecostal theologizing on healing. The seven chapters provide a scriptural foundation for healing. They articulate principles directions and common objections against the gift of healing but nowhere does it actually articulate a definition for healing or for its adversary sickness both which are probably assumed by the author. See A.B. Simpson The Gospel of Healing (Harrisburg Pennsylvania: Christian Publications Inc. 1915).

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    Smith WigglesworthEver Increasing Faith (1924; reprint; Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House1971) p. 43.

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    D.A. Eammons‘Healing Stripes,’ Pentecostal Testimony (March 15 1943).

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    SimpsonGospel of Healing p. 64.

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    Editor‘Healing for the Body,’ Pentecostal Testimony (May 1 1941). Arguably letting go of this idyllic posture toward death has been more difficult for Pentecostals of the ‘Finished Work’ order over Wesleyan Pentecostals who viewed death as the ultimate place of healing.

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  • 19

    P.S. Jones‘The Mystery of Suffering,’ Pentecostal Testimony (September 1961) p. 7.

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    Roy Smith‘When Healing Doesn’t Come,’ Pentecostal Testimony (May 1984).

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    R. Skinner‘To Another the Gifts of Healing,’ Pentecostal Testimony (May 1984).

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    Smith‘The Logic of Incarnation’ p. 18.

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    Smith‘The Logic of Incarnation’ p. 34.

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    Smith‘The Logic of Incarnation’ p. 17.

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    Smith‘The Logic of Incarnation’ p. 34.

  • 40

    Placher‘Narratives of a Vulnerable God’ p. 16.

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    Susan NelsonHealing the Broken Heart: Sin Alienation and the Gift of Grace (St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press1996) p. 40. Nelson adds ‘sin is the human response to a creation that feels both in its possibility and in its limitation less than secure. It reflects an understandable human desire for “safe passage” for a way to feel secure in a world that threatens that security … Sin in this sense is the human refusal to accept and live within the anxiety-building parameters of the human condition and the practice of securing ourselves in ways that are idolatrous.’ p. 37.

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