Ken Blue’s Authority to Heal is for me enjoyable on two levels. Topics of Christianity in application are particularly edifying to me; moreover, to Blue the assumption that God intervenes is a given. That alone makes the book an interesting read.
That stated, as with all theology touching the Charismatic movement I remain slightly arm’s length with Blue. I am not a cessationist; however, I think that Pentecostal derived spiritual movements are suspicious, and as the former with its “Oneness” heresy, highly questionable “Apostolic” manifestations, and scorn for even traditional biblical education is a tree that bears as much bad fruit as good.
I also do not know Ken Blue’s stance on many things as he does not address them in the book, so I can only endorse as far as he discloses.
But we will take Blue seriously on his notion that Christ heals today.
That pulls the pin…
That right there is a hand grenade of sorts. Many people will say God doesn’t intervene at all. I cannot ward of all possible objections.
Yet, from my own stances, experiences, and personal bias which in general agree with the author’s assumptions, the Ken Blue’s surety seems to be a faith we should all have yet lack.
As that’s my stance, any refutation on those points for me would be forced. If you disagree here, then you could likely do better.
A better aim for me personally, is to review and distill the best from Blue’s effort. After a brief synopsis of his argument, my reasons for agreement, (and some personal experience that tempers said agreement), I will conclude with my criticism of Blue’s method.
The Book is very widely read though a tad old now, yet there are merits in Ken Blue’s position we could reiterate today.
Let’s let the explosions begin
Blue picks his fights very early. In his first chapter he claims therein that the “greatest hindrance” to an intervening healing action of God is ‘an outlook that accepts the cross of sickness as something Christ-like and sees seeking healing as selfish.’
Blue sees this ideal germinating from two experiences of early Christians, the first being the experience of persecutions.
Referring to what he sees as Jesus’ ambiguity regarding “sanctification by persecution” Blue points out that Jesus sometimes says: ‘flee from persecution’ (Mt 10:23) and at others says to ‘accept it’ (Mt 5:39).
The second reason Blue states many Christians see suffering as salvific coming from ideas about a “thorn in the flesh” from 2 Cor. 12:7 or other pious notions.
Blue has a list of what can go wrong
It is imperative for Blue in all cases that we view sickness as the evil it is; if we fail to do so, sickness becomes enshrined and we will resist action towards healing.
Blue list a lot of harmful hindrances. They sum up as:
- Chalking everything up to the will of God as unchangeable fate.
- Relying on Faith, in the sense it is the power of our own believing.
- A secular world view that refuses to allow for God’s action in history.
The spiritualized language of Ken Blue
The rest of Blue’s book is an extended dialogue.
He tries to address these three remaining hurdles to healing, and a lot of it is topical.
However, the nexus of Blue’s thought flows from the central conviction that the Kingdom of God was announced by Christ and that “…acts of healing and deliverance were and are weapons of assault against Satan’s “pseudokingdom.”
- Blue defines this pseudokingdom as “the comprehensive counterfeit or negative image of the world God created.”
- Blue builds a dynamic of two kingdoms at war, and gives his readers a view of God who wills healing, fights for healing, and desires faith that allows healing.
- Blue worldview posits these three things, as aspects of the coming Kingdom of God, are the signs of God’s reign on earth, the defeat of sin, and the end of suffering.
- Yet, Blue also wants his readers to have a faith that is aware that God’s kingdom is “now and not-yet,” and will only be complete when Christ returns. Sufferings and casualties will continue until that time.
The Synoptic “Kingdom of God” and Paul’s views intertwine in Ken Blue’s thinking
Blue’s discussion and pastoral advice regarding healing is this dynamic of a now and not-yet Kingdom of God interacting with the fallen world. This theme drives his book. And it is Christ Triumphant.
What about when it doesn’t work?
If we are unsuccessful now, our faith reminds us that the Kingdom is still not here fully.
We know that to have faith is to trustingly risk oneself; risking ourselves is independent of risking our faith. Blue’s suspicion towards secularism or towards those who deny healing is again that such a position simply accepts the world as it is. But it’s not even a complete view of that, because such fails to recognize that Christ’s Kingdom is already here.
Did that jump around to you too?!
In pulling apart and standardizing Ken Blue’s ideas, I had to sacrifice the internal order of the book. His writing style is primarily conversational, and might be a product of the type of Sermon’s popular in evangelical circles where life application after life application are given.
And therein lay what is perhaps the biggest critique of Ken Blue’s message. He is fixated on the application and life story style of theology and lenses everything through it. That hermeneutic has one big flaw.
If one were to charge Blue with reading into events his view of healing, the charge would stick. His entire theological mechanism is to “read into.”
While it creates an admirable faith, it is not without problems because it in effect allows the creation of multiple dogmas, doctrines, etc. ad hoc, and all those with manifestations of healing power.
If such a system goes off the rails, it will plunge deeply.
My own reflections after reading
Healings entail the Kingdom of God bursting onto the scene resulting in overturning the rules of causality and the very fabric of the universe. But, there are less “miraculous” signs of the same Kingdom coming. Blue relates, and I concur, that simply praying for others brings the Kingdom about.
This means a healthy Christian community must spend time with, communicate with, and pray for its members, their hopes, and troubles. And that such an act is no less valuable or radical than “showy bits.”
The practical aspects of the of Blue’s book are admirable too, for his focus is primarily about engaging other people. I think a majority of Christians would be comfortable applying this aspect of Blue’s position than perhaps his more extensive view of healing. Blue developed this theme nicely not neglecting the corporate aspects of healing but instead casting them primarily as “sacramental event(s) for the entire church.”
Blue stressed and I agree that such ministries help group cohesion. Churches should put in place a communal system of mutual love and support, and healing ministries for many churches seem like a natural extension of such practices.
Discussing Healing calls us out though…
When modern theologians discuss death, cancer, and sickness as originally good parts of the created order, I cannot go with them. Such views fail to fully take into account the vindicating aspects of Christ’s resurrection, and ultimately our own vindication.
The Gospel message is that because Jesus lives, Christians are vindicated in the obliteration of evil, sickness and death (Acts 5: 29-32).
A gospel without hope in believer resurrection and healing offers no hope but instead condemnation (1 Cor. 15:13-19).
The gospel when modified to deny the miraculous elements is utterly defeated as a counter-cultural message; if death and illness are natural then Christ’s struggle against death, disease, and resurrection becomes an immoral/foolish conflict against the divinely instituted Santisima Muerte!
At the very least, I myself would not be Christian if such were the case. I accept the gospel on grounds that Christ has power to confront the world and evil head on.
Still, I’ve yet to see it
I will admit, however, it seems God has not followed through on those promises in my own private experiences and those of fellow Christians.
To be a tad personal:
It has become a running joke between my wife and me that God will not let me have comfort from material processions; I have a few health defects that could be healed without much effort if I only had the money.
I struggle to see God as willing to help me in any special way.
Most discouraging is the fact that when I pray for healing I have psychosomatic feelings that cause false hope. It seems my bent bones feel even sorer after I pray than before!
We must realize vindication is ultimately not this side of the second coming. So I obediently pray for healing even if my own experience causes hesitation.
Strictly theological conclusions about Ken Blue’s Authority to Heal
Theologically, I had the impression that one of Ken Blue’s arguments was a bit underdeveloped.
He attempts what I believe to be a misguided rebuttal of some common Calvinist thinking. Blue dislikes the idea that we see God as controlling all events and thus de facto causing or allowing illness. I agree with Blue that it is pastorally abusive for us to tell the mothers of dead children that “it all fits into his plan” (Blue 35), although the alternative Blue raised did not seem attractive. Blue envisions God wanting and desiring healing but still needing to battle for his kingdom. Blue places healing within an active conflict, and I am not sure I can follow him.
Blue’s approach allows a bit too much of a “hand-wringing” God who ultimately is subject to not only to our choice and the “chance” we may not cooperate, but also to the progress of the whims of war. Such systems can tempt us to place the universe into the hands of Fortuna independent and over against the God of Israel. Blue does not himself go so far, but I feel stronger steps should be taken so such a common pitfall is avoided.
I’ve run into some of these things before, like open theism and I’ve made my views on over-playing free will known elsewhere
The fight for bringing the Kingdom is ongoing only for the sake of mercy (2 Peter 3:9). We prolong victory for the wider acceptance of the peace terms. The real reason for the ongoing fight is not to advance or claim the Kingdom as an unfinished work (John 19:30), but rather Christians suffer because it allows more time for more people to repent (Matthew 24:14). We take the cross for other people; if our cruciform life imitates Christ, it means we die now so ultimately both we and our enemies live. My enemies do not deserve it, but I did not deserve Christ. It is exactly at this point that I have been most effective in evangelizing.
Most people hunger for a God whose love will not be frustrated by death, who cannot lose. There are some who seem to prefer a God who actively makes us suffer, who causes evil, as opposed to a God who fights for us. The larger question is if God can or will do anything about our pain. If God can be frustrated in his purposes, is driven by an outside Fortuna, or is subject to our “freewill,” people have to resort to practices such as praying or worshiping angels or saints or other practices that strive to ensure that their free willed decisions will save them. Only a God who is beyond such contingency is truly “Lord.”
Over to you:
I trust God that he knows what is best for me. Obedience to Christ means we must pray for others, in part because he said to but primarily because we should love one another.
Blue offers a lot of good advice about how to do it and how to handle the frustrations that come with doing so.
Still, if even Jesus ultimately felt abandoned (Matthew 27:45-46), we must learn to serve, work, and wait upon the Lord with the realization that this might involve some suffering. It is important that know that this is not our time of vindication, but that the real Kingdom of God is still to come. In fact, I think we actually do not pray for “miracles.” We instead pray for God’s Kingdom which is already victorious and to which we already belong to simply reveal its truth in our lives.
Where do you stand on the issue of healing/miracles today?
Have you read Ken Blue? What did you think?
I’d welcome your comments.
Ken, Blue. Authority to Heal. Dowers Grove: Intervarsity, 1987.