Healing has various dimensions, physical, emotional, relational and spiritual. But more directly, healing is also related to the atonement, said Graham Hill, senior lecturer in applied theology at Morling Baptist Theological College in Sydney, Australia, during the 8th Baptist International Conference on Theological Education (BICTE).
Hill, in his paper, explored the relationship between healing and the atoning work of Christ. “The church needs to develop a broader understanding of healing and its relationship to our theology of the atonement,” said Hill. “While the atonement is primarily about cancellation of guilt, about God’s work in liberating individuals, the church, and the created order from guilt and sin,” it is also true that “our theology of the atonement can expand our understanding of the nature and scope of healing and its connections with the atonement, the incarnation, and the resurrection.”
There is the need “to explore the nature of healing associated with the atonement in its broadest sense—liberation from sin, restoration of relationships, freedom from addictions, slavery [and] rejection of idolatries” as well as the restoration of “peace, freedom, and joy in the emotional, psychological, and spiritual dimensions of our lives.”
Healing in the present age is contingent because “ultimate healing is in the Parousia,” the second coming of Christ. For instance, while physical healing “is available to all through the atonement…it is not available to all in this present life. It is only guaranteed in the age to come,” Hill asserted.
This realization should lead to caution as to the level of emphasis placed on physical healing as proof of genuine faith. Hill related the crisis of faith he endured in his younger years as a member within a Pentecostal church when, despite earnest prayers and expressions of faith in physical healing, persons for whom prayers were offered ended up dying. “Some Pentecostal, neo-Pentecostal and Charismatic movements have attempted to explicitly link physical healing with the atonement,” Hill observed. “This theology has been felt in Evangelical, Free Church, and mainline Protestant circles also, especially in the majority world and among churches with charismatic leanings.”
Greater emphasis, Hill concluded, should be placed on healing in the corporate and ethical life of the church, including in its public witness, service and its faithfulness in “pursuit of the healing mission of God.”
BICTE, planned and sponsored by BWA, is normally held every five years. The 8th edition is being held in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, from June 28-30.
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© June 29, 2013