Amanda Porterfield offers a survey of ideas, rituals, and experiences of healing in Christian history. Jesus himself performed many miracles of healing, and Christians down the ages have seen this as a prominent feature of their faith. Indeed, healing is one of the most constant themes in the long and sprawling history of Christianity. Changes in healing beliefs and practices offer a window into changes in religious authority, church structure, and ideas about sanctity, history, resurrection, and the kingdom of God. Porterfield chronicles these changes, at the same time shedding important new light on the universality of religious healing. Finally, she looks at recent scientific findings about religion's biological effects, and considers the relation of these findings to ages-old traditions about belief and healing.
Tell the story of healing throughout Christian history in under 250 pages--a daunting task? Absolutely. But Porterfield, a religion professor at Florida State University, pulls it off admirably. In her view, healing encompasses more than just dramatic miracles worked by Jesus or his followers. Learning to live with chronic pain can be seen as a form of healing, as can repentance and the experience of being forgiven. The early church frequently described Christ as a physician and suggested that spiritual healing could protect believers from physical illness. Christians nursed the sick in a conscious emulation of Christ's ministry. The medieval church developed the idea that the body parts of long-dead saints could heal, and icons were considered "vehicles of healing power." This book is boldly global in scope--the chapters on the early modern and modern eras travel from China to South Africa--yet one wishes that Porterfield, who cut her scholarly teeth on colonial New England, would have written a bit more about the U.S. Nonetheless, she proves that healing is a central theme in Christian history, and is a fascinating lens through which to examine the Christian faith. Indeed, she has produced not just a history of healing in Christianity, but a history of Christianity itself. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.