What Is 'Extreme Unction' And What Do We Lutherans Believe About Healing And The 'Faith Healer'?

What are we to believe, teach, and confess regarding "Divine Healing" and "Miraculous Healing" as Lutherans?

It's no secret I've been very vocal (and critical) in the past citing all the spiritual dangers associated with a "Health-And-Wealth/Prosperity Gospel/Word-of-Faith/Name-It-Claim-It" belief system that's so prevalent in Christianity today.

Others have taken that to mean that I somehow don't believe in miracles from God. Nothing could be further from the truth!

I think a much more accurate statement would be to simply say that I'm trying to figure out the relationship between faith, prayer, and miracles (specifically "healing" miracles).

The best way I can think to put it into words for you would be to cite what I read from the A Lutheran Beggar blog on this subject...



 
The vast majority of the time in the Gospels, faith is presented as a reason for someone being healed or not being healed, whether or not one is able to cast out a demon, whether or not one's prayer is answered, whether or not one can cast a mountain into the sea or not. Besides a couple of times where Jesus tells someone that they are saved or forgiven because of their faith, it would seem that Jesus' portrayal of faith is not what we have come to understand it as, within the Pauline and Lutheran context. I have my own thoughts on this matter but would love to hear from my readers. How do you guys gel these things within your understanding? Do you know of any other Lutherans who have addressed this issue? If so, what were their conclusions? 
*- Faith, Healing, Prayer And Miracles In The Gospel


I too would like to hear from others on this. An excellent follow-up to that 2009 piece is the same blog's "Faith And The Promises Of God" study too.

In addition, something I read in my studies today will demonstrate that I'm open to the reality that miracles do still happen today...I just don't believe that the Bible promises that they are "normative" for Christ's Church and His children in these last days.

So, I suppose I'm writing this to help clarify my position, especially since I once linked to an article a long time ago that may have given the wrong impression.

How do I know that? Because I stumbled across this recently from another Christian blogger...



I love that the faith healer blog Jeffrey K. Radt links to basically twists Luther to be a proponent of exactly what he is fighting against: the Roman teaching that extreme unction accomplishes healing work according to the faith and work of the doer, rather than according to the grace of God. All heresies really end up looking a lot alike. /sigh


What's "Extreme Unction," you ask? Don't worry, as a "Newtheran" myself, I had to look that up too in order to find the answer.

As Michael Harrell wrote in response to my question about it on Facebook...



Extreme unction is the anointing of the sick with oil. That's it. Elders of the church go, anoint the sick, and pray over them. It's not a faith healer thing. It is considered a sacrament by Rome, that is a vehicle of grace: by the priest anointing a praying over you, there is God's healing power specifically given over to you, an outpouring of His grace to make you well. 
Luther wrote only that the Catholic teaching of ex opere operato -- that a work is accomplished merely by performing an act -- is not true. That just because a priest does it does not compel God to act. Luther instead wrote that Christian truth compels us to rely not on extreme unction as an act, but on the promise of God -- this is what faith is, to trust God's promises! 
Misunderstanding Luther on faith leads to misunderstanding Luther on everything else.


In The Pagan Servitude of The Church, Luther dismisses Extreme Unction as a sacrament, but he does comment on the need to continually pray for the sick (James 5:13-16).

Basically, we need to encourage one another not to allow our confidence in God to wane, and continue to pray with faith and expectant hope no matter what we see. Whether God heals us or not must not be taken to indicate His love (or lack thereof) for us either.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, I'm open to continuing this discussion as long as anyone doesn't go off the rails and try to use Isaiah 53:4-5 (a prophecy of how Jesus Christ will come one day to heal us from the wages of sin which is death) to justify their position that God's Word promises good health for all believers in this life, because the Gospels declare that's just not true.



NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism almost 2 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha!). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm experiencing and/or studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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2 comments:

  1. This has raised my curiosity but I am not well versed on this topic. I am interested as well on what others would have to offer on this topic.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, hopefully, other more "seasoned" Confessional Lutherans will chime in on this for us.

    Grace And Peace,
    JKR

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with...Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all mature spiritually (myself included) then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!