There's been a lot of buzz in the media about Kent Brantly. He's the American doctor who credits God and the compassionate care of medical staff and friends for his recovery from the Ebola virus. He and his family moved to Liberia in 2013 because he felt called to serve the people there.
One article in the Sydney Morning Herald asserts that "Science, not God, saved Dr. Brantly from Ebola." Yet Brantly's written statement suggests that his daily communion with God through prayer, as well as the prayers of many others, brought a sense of support and purpose which he feels was important to his recovery.
Perhaps faith or spiritual life is a subjective experience. Sort of like genuine love. You may not be able to measure it in a laboratory, but many people have certainly felt its beneficial effects on their lives - and even their health.
Some commentators in the debate about Dr. Brantly have described belief in a divine healing power as a "miracle" or as "supernatural." It may seem so to some people. But to others, a transcendent or enlightening presence may feel like a natural thing. Sort of like a sunrise on a mountaintop. One moment all is dark, and the next moment a magnificent ball of fire rises up from the horizon and illuminates the whole landscape with pristine light and clarity. Pretty wonderful. But not magic.
The Sydney Morning Herald article asks why Brantly arrogantly assumed that God deemed him more worthy of saving than the 1400 people who have died of the disease. Actually, Dr. Brantly expressed great compassion for those who did not survive, and he requested that people of faith continue to pray for a quick end to the Ebola epidemic. In his expressions of gratitude for his recovery, there was no hint of arrogance or sense that God's love is so limited that it would deem him worthier than others.
The question of why some people may be healed by a divine influence and others not, raises some other questions: What can we learn from people who have experienced physical healing through prayer or through what they believe is a divine presence? Has it happened more than once -- i.e. is it consistent, repeatable?What is their conception of God? How do they approach prayer? It could be really interesting to ask them more about their spiritual practice.
An inspired spiritual thinker on issues of God, prayer and health, Mary Baker Eddy, pondered these questions deeply. Through her contemplative life, she came to experience God as divine Love or Mind, and she viewed each person as the expression or reflection of this divine Being. She found it wasn't really about asking God to fix something but rather it was cultivating this spiritual consciousness that brought physical healing to herself and to others whom she embraced in her prayers. Eddy developed this approach to healing through her own investigation, followed by practice, of the healing work done by Jesus.
In her book entitled Unity of Good, she wrote, "God is harmony's selfhood." (p.13)
Many people describe spiritual experience as something that's actually quite natural if you take time daily to quiet the mind and open thought to a sense of peace, beauty, and harmony that is wholly apart from the usual perceptions of the physical senses. It may be precisely within this transcendent sense of harmony and peace that people find their connection to Spirit, and new pathways to healing.
Perhaps this kind of spiritual practice could actually be considered to be a type of science, if we understand science to be a form of knowledge or consistent practice that brings tangible results. Jesus' healings, as recorded, were certainly consistent and tangible.
So, rather than the polarizing question "Is it science or God that heals?", some people are asking, "Is a spiritual approach to life actually something we can better understand and cultivate to improve our health?"
It's definitely a topic worth exploring as our increasingly connected world reaches out for solutions to illnesses like Ebola.
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