Most Americans believe the supernatural can heal physical illnesses and ailments, a new study shows. And evangelicals lead the way in that belief, Barna found.
But determining where Baptists fall in those attitudes depends on whether they have adopted the high-profile healing practices of other Christian groups, a church historian told Baptist News Global.
“In recent years, Baptists have come to be connected with Pentecostal and charismatic and evangelical” movements, especially around beliefs on spirituality and physical health, said Art Allen, who retired recently from Howard Payne University. Allen taught Christian studies and Baptist history for 30 years at the Brownwood, Texas, school.
Those who consider their Baptist faith to be an expression of evangelicalism likely would fit into the trends uncovered in the Barna report, Allen said.
‘Experience is less frequent’
The Christian research group found that 66 percent of American adults “believe people can be physically healed supernaturally by God,” Barna said in the Sept. 29 study titled “Most Americans Believe in Supernatural Healing.”
Researchers found strong consensus across generations among those who believe in supernatural healing. However, it also learned that 25 percent of Millennials strongly disagree with the concept. That compares to 21 percent of Generation Xers, 14 percent of Boomers and 13 percent of Elders.
“Education level also impacts likelihood of belief in supernatural healing,” Barna reported. The majority — 37 percent —
who believe in supernatural healing have high school educations or less.
The strongest support by far comes from evangelicals, with 87 percent strongly agreeing in supernatural healing. Protestants as a whole were at 55 percent and Catholics at 19 percent, according to the study.
Practice matches belief, Barna added. It found that 68 percent of Americans say they have prayed for someone else’s supernatural healing — compared to a third who have never done so.
Focusing on spiritual, not physical healing
However, the survey found relatively few who report being healed supernaturally. Only 27 percent of Americans said they have had such an experience, compared to 73 percent who said they have not.
“The experience of actual physical healing is, of course, less frequent,” Roxanne Stone, Barna editor in chief, said in the report. “Evangelicals in particular are more likely to pray for and believe in miraculous healing than they are to experience it, though this does not appear to affect their belief in its possibility.”
Stone added that most Christians have heard pastors pray for the health of others during worship services.
“Sometimes pastors pray for the doctors and sometimes the patient’s and family’s state of mind,” she said.
And that would be the extent of many Baptists’ experience with faith-based healing practices — at least historically, Allen said.
Traditionally, Baptists have leaned more on praying for the sick, doctors and successful treatments while placing more importance on seeking spiritual health, he said.
“That’s what we Baptists have been doing: focusing not so much on the physical aspect of life but on our relationship with God and with other believers,” Allen said.
Those traditional practices during the past 400 years have produced healthy results — whether or not illness is reversed, Allen said.
“The real miracle is not physical healing, but spiritual healing and spiritual growth and maturity.”