Miracle Healings: the Psychology of Deception

Speaker: Categories: May 09, 1998


[1hr, 3min, 55sec / 56min, 1sec]


"Does it matter who heals you?"was the question posed some years ago by a well-known SDA media personality. How would you answer? If you were diagnosed with a terminal illness, might your response be different? Might you consider going to afaith healer, whether Adventist or non-SDA, if your condition were serious enough? Would you recommend such an action to a friend or relative in a similar serious condition?

With the wide variety of television programming available -- it's likely that have viewed one or morelivehealing services. For some, the charismatic aura of such sessions limits their appeal. For others, this sameevidenceof the supernatural makes viewing almost addictive!

Are suchfaith healingsreal? Would the individuals be pronouncedcuredby their personal physicians? If there are those who have the gift offaith healing, should not health maintenance organizations (HMO's) be interested in putting such healers on staff and, thereby, greatly reducing the amount of organization funds needing to be devoted for the health restoration of its members? Do you know of any HMO which has recommended that a member seek afaith healer?

Dr. Jarvis, who has devoted many years to the investigation of miracle or faith healings, suggests that there may be something other than reality in suchapparentmiracles. He notes:"Deception seems intrinsically evil, but the Bible does not universally condemn its use. The magicians seemed to be in league with the devil in working against Moses in ancient Egypt. Are they [i.e., such magicians,] still rogues to be avoided?"

Would it be proper to categorize some, if not all, of today'sfaithormiracle healersas magicians?

Our May speaker notes:"Deception involvesillusionand/orallusion. Professional deceivers are so much better at what they do than the average person is at detecting their trickery that there is little hope for amateurs. Further, deception usually involves a strong degree of self-deception because people so strongly want to believe that the illusions are true that they often become co-conspirators in their own deceit."

According to Dr. Bill Jarvis,"There is only one ultimate protection against deception. Most Adventists think they already have it, but they may be deceiving themselves."

"Are Adventists willing to put prayer to a real, scientific test?"challenges the Executive Director of the National Council Against Health Fraud!"What would that involve? What would happen if prayer fails the test?"

Have you heard yourself yet say,"Wow"? Has your mouth dropped open as you read any of the above paragraphs? Have you ever wondered if the Church's investment in creating a medical school for the scientific training of persons to become skilled in healing human physical ills might have been better invested in training such persons in the art of praying for the sick? Might not such an approach have served as a stronger testimonial to our faith in the Divine Physician?


William Jarvis, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Schools of Medicine (Preventive Medicine faculty) and Public Health (Health Promotion and Education faculty) at Loma Linda University, with a secondary appointment in the School of Dentistry. Dr. Jarvis is a health education consultant specialist and is involved in a wide variety of activities related to his field. He is the Executive Director of the National Council Against Health Fraud, Inc., a nonprofit, voluntary health agency which combats health misinformation, fraud, and quackery. He serves on committees dealing with diverse subjects such as alleged paranormal healing, cancer quackery, controversial public health issues, and nonscientific health care practitioners. Dr. Jarvis is a member of the California Attorney General's Task Force on Health Fraud.

Dr. Jarvis earned his B.S. degree in Health and Physical Education/Social Studies from the University of Minnesota, his M.A. in Health and Physical Education/Sociology from Kent State University, and his Ph.D. in Health Education from the University of Oregon. He has taught physical fitness and healthful lifestyle classes through university extension and YMCA programs. He has personally run more than 54,000 since beginning this conditioning activity in 1965.

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