This is the title of the 13th chapter in Nicky Gumbel’s “Alpha: Questions of Life” book and it appeals to my literal mind. It can be rare to find verifiable claims in this literary genre; it was refreshing to see Gumbel nail his colours to the mast as a believer in faith healing and to provide a case study for those who are unconvinced.
For those of you who don’t know the Alpha course is a charismatic introduction to Christianity, typically held over several evenings. Bear Grylls speaks highly of it. I speak highly of it. You’ll meet pleasant people, get free dinner and interesting conversation. I have issues with the accuracy of some of the course material, but not with the genuine, good-natured people I met on the course. I even enjoyed Nicky Gumbel's jokes and am somewhat jealous of his rhetorical skills. One of the evenings includes a discussion of faith healing, and the story of interest begins with “There are so many wonderful stories of God healing that it is difficult to know which to give as an example.”
I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Nick Vujicic is a surfer, enjoys sailing and is a poor footballer. He's an energetic motivational speaker, Evangelical Christian, and was born without arms and legs. His disabilities persist, but he considers himself healed in that he has purpose and enjoyment in life that find their genesis in his Christian faith. I find I cannot disagree with this example of healing.
Reading further into the chapter, it seemed Gumbel intended to portray the sort of healing one might hope for from a medical professional.
As mentioned, Gumbel found himself awash with potential examples of verified healing through Christian faith. I’ve mulled these words for some time before committing pen to paper (so to speak) and have decided my criteria for fair examination. The example should be:
- Verifiable. At a minimum, there should be proof that the person was at one point sick.
- Non-trivial. A limb regrowing is preferable to, say, a less quantifiable back pain abatement.
- Consistent with reality. Facts within the example should be accurate.
As hopefully illustrated by Nick Vujicic I accept that many find succour in their faith as they go through difficult times, illness and injury. It is not my intention to belittle or doubt this avenue of genuine support. My focus here is on the claims of physical healing.
With that in mind, let us step back into Gumbel’s world where healing is so commonplace. For those who do not have a copy of his tome to hand, his example is available on the following websites:
Extract on Google Books
In brief, Ajay Gohil contracts erythrodermic psoriasis. He finds a Good News Bible, reads Psalm 38 and is healed, then devotes his life to Jesus.
I don’t dismiss the miraculous out of hand and I’m happy to do research when required. Here are some areas that make me dubious:
He attends St Thomas’ Hospital and stays in the Elizabeth ward. This is a good choice of venue as it specialises in skin conditions. It seemed a poor choice as it does not have an Elizabeth ward listed in its directory, but Helen from Unbelievable's Facebook page did track down this reference. I'm not quite convinced, though we should probably allow for some change in ward designation over the years.
The story in general is made more plausible when you consider that all UK hospital beds come with Bibles. Counting against Gumbel is the fact that these are provided by the Gideons. The Gideons distribute either King James, New King James or New International versions, not the Good News version. Hospitals are somewhat particular about cleanliness. They tend to clean rooms thoroughly and remove personal items belonging to former patients, especially those shedding significant quantities of skin. It’s inconceivable that they missed a bible. There are no other organisations authorised to distribute bibles in this manner.
Psoriasis will go into spontaneous remission, even without medical care. If Gumbel has a wealth of examples at his disposal this seems a poor choice as his sole documented case.
Now for the admittedly circumstantial part. We have a man who has undergone miraculous healing. He is reunited with his son, and describes his inner healing as even greater than its physical counterpart. He lives every day for Jesus. And yet searches for his name and his condition only refer back to Alpha course material!
Paul, again from Unbelievable's Facebook page, took the search a little further and looked for any Christian with the name Ajay Gohil. He managed to track one down with a similar name (Gohill), working as a volunteer in a church that also runs Alpha courses. Paul and I both agree that this isn't conclusive, but worthy of investigation for completeness. I've contacted the Alpha coordinator.
The story to me seems implausible on several fronts and I still find myself asking why Nicky didn't use a different example if so many were at his disposal. What do you think?