Healing by prayer either with or without the use of modern medical science has become a widely accepted part of the modern American religious scene. This is especially true of two sectors of the church which otherwise are rather different. The Pentecostal groups on the basis of a very literal acceptance of Scripture have made healing an integral part of their church life. Some ministers of the Episcopal church in a trend back to Catholic theology have adopted anointing and prayer for the sick as a substitute for the Roman sacrament of unction. Many others, while sympathetic for various reasons to the basic idea, are puzzled about the place of faith healing in both their theological and ecclesiastical system.
The following is a proposed solution. The ideas have their source in John Calvin’s discussions of unction (Institutes I, xvii, 3 and 9; IV, xiv, 1; IV, xiv, 9; IV, iii, 16; IV, xix, 20; IV, xix, 18; IV, xix, 21; Articles of Faith with the Antidote, Article X) and his commentaries on relevant biblical material (Isa. 6:10; 19:22; Jer. 14:19; 17:14; Matt. 9:2; 10:1; John 12:40; Acts 19:6; 1 Cor. 11:30; James 5:13–16). Calvin says that anointing and prayer was a sacrament only of the apostolic Church. The Roman church mutilated the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but Calvin claims to have restored a biblical teaching and practice of these sacraments. Could the same have been the case with unction?
In Protestantism the number of sacraments has been limited to two—Baptism and Holy Communion. This writer realizes the serious nature of a proposal to increase this number. However, after due consideration of material presented below, it has seemed a possible way of developing a theology of healing for pastoral use. ...1
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