Re: Scott Oakman response

Pete Pretorius (
Wed, 10 Apr 1996 17:05:21 -0700

Response to Scott Oakman and Dennis Sweitzer by Pieter Pretorius:

>Scott Oakman responded,
>>>>>This is a subject quite close to my heart as a medical student. I hear
>healings, but they are often distant (a friend of a friend of my pastor's
>in Africa...) or very subjective (relief of vague symptoms, release from
>fears/bondage, etc.) [Let me hasten to interject that I believe such
>testimonies are *valid* for the one testifying, and I take them at their
>that God has touched their life--but I like more objective measurable
>Nevertheless--I am seeing more of this. For example, a woman completely
>healed and pain free after a *documented* 7 year history of ankylosing
>(an autoimmune arthritic condition) going back and testifying to her doctor
>word *and* objective measurable signs (range of motion, etc.) of that
>It is my understanding that there is evidence of psychological influence on
>the immune system. So possibly (some) autoimmune disorders could be
>affected by psychological states. If it is found that ankylosing
>spondylititis is such a case, what does that do to this example of an
>objectively documented healing? (certainly not change her healing!)
>I guess we have a spectrum of healing, from the subjective to the
>objective, from the mental (psychological) to the physical? Healing from
>fears/bondage is definitely mental, and healing from a heart condition would
>be definitely physical, but:
>Healing an ulcer, could be mental on the grounds that the person has been
>healed of dealing with stress in a negative manner; or could be physical, if
>caused by H. pylori (a bacteria which seems to cause many ulcers)--or if
>there is physically a hole in the stomach.
>Depression apparently depresses the immune system. Lifting the depression
>(mental) could lead to healing of other afflictions.
>This is not to question the value of any healing. But seeking objective
>evidence can be tricky. Ideally, one would need to match a list of patients
>on medical criteria, and from each matched pair, randomly assign only one to
>be prayed for. This should be done without the knowledge of the physician
>or patient. At the end of the study, compare the medical records for the
>two groups and see if the healing rate is any different. This will
>compensate for spontaneous cures as well (frequently, people get better
>without any intervention).
>Now, if we do a clinical trial as I've described, can we expect God to
>cooperate with our plans? He may not heal anyone in the study, or heal
>equal proportions in both groups--just to confound the researchers, and to
>hide his presence.
>Someone responded the accusation that miracles were just coincidences:
> "When I pray, coincidences happen. When I don't pray, coincidences don't
>happen." Indeed, to a large degree, answered prayer often seems
>indistinguishable from coincidence.
>Stray thoughts on objectively evaluating miracles,
>Dennis Sweitzer

There are proof of strong effects of cortical (limbic and other so called
higher centers) activity on the autonomic nervous, endocrine, immune and
other systems of the human being. I have several references about
cardiovascular influences. There are also proof of the strong influence of
deep convictions such as rituals (eg. Voo-doo-death).
There are indications of the role of social factors, such as social support,
empathy, hostility and other socio-psychological influences on
physiological and medical phenomena such as cardiovascular reactivity,
coronary heart disease, hypertension, arrythmias, cancer etc. Even the
phenomena of sudden cardiac death is linked to prefrontal brain influences.

Is it then too far fetched to postulate that faith convictions may have
health implications?The efferent pathways seems to be there. The role of the
perception of security provided by the sure belief that your sins are
forgiven and that you are an adopted child of the Lord and that your life
has a purpose for now and eternally, can have an effect on your mind as well
as your body. Important though is that prayer and faith cannot be "used"
like a tablet or other medical treatment.

Pieter Pretorius, P O Box 43530, 1625 Robson Street, Vancouver V6G 1C0,Canada