Author: Jane Morgan
This book (the complete title is as above but hereinafter is referred to as “A More Excellent Way”) suggests healing is possible for those who have suffered/are suffering from long-term illnesses and who may have given up all hope of their prayers ever being answered. Not only this, but the prevention of disease is also a goal of this ministry. “A More Excellent Way” documents many healings which have taken place within the ministry it offers. There are many people who may be bitterly disappointed at not being healed and would reach for any life-line offered to them in their suffering.
Does it matter how they are healed, as long as they are so?
Why take the trouble to write this article – surely healing and resultant happiness are paramount? Let’s make it clear from the outset that the purpose of this article is not to be insensitive, nor to doubt that healings do occur through the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, nor in any way to add to the distress of those who are seeking healing and who may have begun believing the contents of the above-named book. It is important, however, to examine where “Be in Health” (a global outreach ministry based on the above-named book) emanates from and whether it is, in fact, Biblical.
A. What do we know about Henry Wright and his church?
Henry Wright is the senior Pastor of Pleasant Valley Church in Thomaston, Georgia, USA. He is included in the Heritage Registry Who’s Who 2004-5 for “The accomplishments and achievements attained in the field of Religion and Health, Healing and Disease Prevention.”
His church, which is described as “trans-denominational”, is to be found on an historical site of 38 acres. It is situated on a large campus which is used for ministry. It includes catering and accommodation facilities and is also used for teaching ministry and conferences.
“PV Days” are “Pleasant Valley Days” combined with the “Be in Health” global outreach ministry. These appear to be days when there are combined outings and fellowship for those connected with the same and there are also opportunities to receive “special teaching” from Henry Wright. Pleasant Valley houses the global outreach ministry called “Be in Health”.
The website contains the link to the “Be in Health” ministry, which is explained through Henry Wright’s own words from his book, “A More Excellent Way”.
“If I have anything to do with it in my lifetime, I intend to bring the pastoral ministry back to where God wanted it from the beginning. That happens when God honours what ministers are teaching, by healing diseases as the Word is applied to the lives of the people.”
“Be in Health” is a ministry linked to the above-named book and is the umbrella for other ministries called “For my Life” (one such course is available in the UK),“For their Life” and “For my Life – Children” (see www.beinhealth.com.) Conferences are held internationally as part of their “global outreach ministry”. According to this website a “Be in Health” Conference offers teaching ‘to unravel’ the mysteries of disease as well as ‘revealing pathways to health and wholeness’. Other topics addressed are: whether diseases may be “spiritually rooted”, offering of “insights into allergies, cancer” etc and also to teach “how to defeat and prevent disease, using the discernment God has given mankind to produce wholeness of spirit, soul and body”. There is also a list of other topics which a conference might pursue, some of which are “Blocks to Healing”, “Spirit World Realities” and “Eight R’s to Freedom”.
There is also a project called the “7000 Project” – it is apparently named so because of a reference to God reminding the prophet that there were 7000 people who did not bow down to Baal, a pagan idol. This project is designed, it is suggested, through the incorporation of technology, communication and research from “Be in Health” to serve disciples better in the promotion of “wholeness in mankind”. As an associate of the 7000 Project, it is suggested that the resources mentioned above will aid one to become “that true disciple of Christ”. Their goal is to serve for “the perfecting of the saints”, the “work of the ministry” and for edifying the body of Christ”.
There is a “Be in Health” Centre in Farnham, Surrey, which is described as being a “launching point to reach Europe”.
B. What is this Ministry?
The website for Pleasant Valley Church holds a section for what is believed doctrinally to be a Christian church. They believe that both healings and miracles are “part of the Atonement and valid for today”. This is followed by four Bible references: Psalm 103:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 3 John verse 2 and 1 Corinthians 12. There is no explanation for these. Indeed, we read on the website that, “We are dedicated to the eradication and prevention of all spiritual, psychological and biological disease.” It should also be noted that the preferred Bible of this church is King James Version. There are various articles to be read on the “Be in Health” website. It is also possible to listen to messages via audio links. Communication is also encouraged for those needing help or advice by telephone, internet, attendance at conferences and by ministry publications.
The titles of the articles are interesting, and are as follows:
“Unforgiveness is Sin unto Death”
“The Healing and Prevention of Disease”
“How Fear Affects the Body”
“The Sins that Make the Black Man Sick”
“Be in Health” suggests that unclean spirits have been allowed, by us, to enter our lives, causing sickness. It is also believed that it is possible for unclean spirits to have been inherited and made manifest in our everyday lives. It is maintained that the teaching for this comes from Romans 7 wherein we read (verse 15)
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (NIV)
This is because of sin within us and this ministry teaches that it will free us from every sort of disease of mind, spirit and body when the sin is recognised, repented from and renounced, both personally and with reference to generational sins within our families. We are led to believe that deliverance and healing will follow and a further important point in this teaching is that minds are to be renewed by the washing of the water of the Word of God. Romans 7 concerns our struggle with sin and verses 24-25 (NIV) read “…Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Interestingly, thoughts are very significant within this ministry in relation to healing. We read in the Bible that we must take every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor.10:5). We should note that Paul was speaking in defence of his Ministry. Reading within the Biblical context is very important!
We know that our thoughts are variable in source, in that they may come from the Holy Spirit, from ourselves or from Satan and so this thought-based interpretation of Scripture, by Henry Wright, must lead us to examine every thought, if it is to be “taken captive”. If a thought is contrary to God’s Word, then it is believed that sin is admitted into our thoughts and then our actions are a consequence for good or ill. Therefore, it is suggested that as the body is designed to cleanse itself, in the same way as the spiritual issues are addressed, then cleansing and healing will subsequently occur. Listening to the audio ministry on the website, a few months ago, a speaker said that “thoughts are inherited” and that “one may be born with the thought pattern that goes with a particular gene”. One must ask the inevitable questions, “Is this scientifically proven?” and “How in the world is this plausible?”
The speaker also stated that he was asking God to tell him “Everything He (God) knows and everything the devil knows” in order to aid him in this healing ministry. He also said that he wanted “to wear God out” with his requests. There are now new mini recordings, available on the internet, entitled “The Best Medicine from Heaven”, “Destroying the Devil’s Eraser” and “Are You Hiding behind God?” The first of these tells us that Scripture has nothing to do with drugs, joy is the best medicine from heaven and “you don’t need pills, just the Gospill” (play on words).
On the previous recordings, people were also asked to contribute their experiences and information regarding this ministry and healings and these would be included in the ‘Be in Health’ research. The speaker said he “wants to learn” – whether hearsay may be included as accurate research needs to be decided!
Further, it appears that there is a list of possible causes and roots of disease which people may use to analyse their condition. It is noted that there is access to an updated, extensive list of 900 causes – available when one joins to become an associate member of the 7000 project.
It is important to examine the Biblical connections made between disease and healing. Examples Wright gives (KJV) are:
“…in the last days men’s hearts shall fail them because of fear.” Luke 21:26
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7
“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” 3 John verse 2
“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” Proverbs 17: 22
“A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones”. Proverbs 14: 30
I believe that if these references are read in context, and in their entirety, then it is not possible to entirely connect them with healing. For example, Luke 21 refers to the signs at the end of the age and in that context would men’s hearts fail them.
Returning to the articles written by Henry Wright (titles above) some points that arise are noted as follows:
) The importance of forgiveness in our lives is not in question and of course, it is important to get right with God.
“It is important to forgive and understand that it isn’t the person that hurt you. It’s the sin that lives within him. It is manifesting through them, making a victim out of you….Why should you die because of sins of another? I refuse to take other people’s sins into my body. Unforgiveness is a sin unto death, which produces disease unto death.” (Henry Wright- website)
This gives us an insight into how the author is making the connection between sin and disease. It is curious because he suggests that sins of others may be taken into one’s body besides the possibility of taking sinful thoughts into our minds. This is, surely, incomprehensible!
b) The prevention of disease is to be encouraged – be it through health tests, diet, exercise etc. In this article, some physical conditions and their so-called “spiritual roots” are also listed. For example, congestive heart failure is attributable to “self hatred, loss of identity and deep-rooted bitterness”, strokes to “anger and hostility” and hardening of the arteries to “self-rejection and self bitterness”.
Reference is also made to psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) – the science that deals with the mind’s role in helping the immune system to fight disease. To my mind, this is an over-simplistic reference as PNI is interdisciplinary and investigates far more than links between mind and body. (Wikipedia refers). He also states,
“Healthy thinking may eventually become an integral aspect of treatment for everything from allergies to liver transplants”.
Wright says that because our doctors ask about familial diseases, then this proves a connection between past and present illnesses in one’s life. This is quite true, but the connection is not necessarily a spiritual link, but purely a genetic link! To support this, he refers to Nehemiah 9:2 where the children of captivity began to see things in their parents and grandparents that were also in them. However, the Israelites were confessing the sins of their fathers in following other gods.
“A major factor in disease prevention involves the person getting their spirituality right…You not only can move the hand of God to have these diseases healed, you can begin a more excellent way of thinking. You can actually prevent these diseases from happening and be in health by pursuing wholeness of spirit, soul and body”.
These statements are implying man’s control over his health and offering “more excellent” ways of thinking. We do need to think carefully – whether Jesus is Lord of our lives or whether we believe we are in control of our lives. There is a possibility of superiority developing, if one tunes into this “more excellent” way as suggested by Henry Wright. There is nothing and no-one better than Jesus!
c) Henry Wright uses medical terminology which, to the layman, is impressive and sounds knowledgeable and plausible. The article refers to the hypothalamus gland, the autonomic nervous system etc. and he makes frequent reference to the Merck Manual. There is no question that God gives us peace that the world cannot give but Wright tells us that when we are feeling continuously stressed and having fearful thoughts, and if the stress is not removed, then the body will start breaking down and the “medical profession calls this General Adaptation Syndrome…When the body can no longer maintain its homeostasis, sickness will result.” I believe that terminology like this could influence the innocent reader and worry them and in itself cause stress and undue worry – thus creating unnecessary fears.
d) In this article, which is a reprint from a newspaper, Wright is attributed as saying that:
“…it’s not enough to cure diseases – he wants to prevent them completely. We are all familiar with the cycle of disease in our culture and, more closely, in the black community”.
He believes that separation from God is the foundation for “all incurable diseases” and suggests African culture, based on superstition etc., has caused separation from God. This relates, he says, to the community, because, according to his investigations, auto-immune disorders develop from self- rejection, self hatred and guilt and he links this to single-parent families etc. He also makes reference to the damage the white man has done to the black man and alludes to bitterness bringing fear and rejection into many lives.
In this connection he uses the quotation of 1 John 4:18 “Perfect love casts out fear”, but the context of this verse relates to confidence on the Day of Judgement
It is surprising that he directs attention to black people – surely his teaching should be applicable worldwide?
What further conclusions may be drawn?
Wright offers “a more excellent way of thinking” into which, by implication, pride and greed could develop. Everyone wants healing, of course, and there is a growing trend for people to follow different ministries which offer this. We do need to be careful that we are following true Scripture and not one man’s convenient interpretation of it. Anyone may find a verse to fit their beliefs! He says he speaks out of “all the authority of his heart”, but is this authority Scriptural?
He claims that diseases which were sent by God to Egypt are avoidable, if we obey God’s laws. However, as Christian believers today, we know that we are not under the Law but in God’s saving grace; we are in a new covenant with Him. This is why Jesus came to earth, to save us – and only Jesus can save us! In the words of the chorus:
“I am a new creation,
No more in condemnation,
Here in the grace of God I stand.” (Dave Bilbrough)
Fear, in itself, is not always a negative experience. For example, we know that Job experienced fear because God allowed Job to be tested! The diseases which occurred in Egypt were for a purpose and allowed by God to try and change Pharaoh’s heart. Experiencing fear will not necessarily cause us illness. It is possible that some sins may cause illness but we must ask God’s Holy Spirit to give us discernment on these matters.
The area of unaddressed sin and fear which may hinder a healing is not new and has also filtered into various New Age ideas. Mental healing and correction of thinking may be found in Christian Science, to name but one. Family Tree (history) ministries and deliverance ministries also contain similar themes. The book, “Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions” by Dr Caroline Leaf uses, interestingly, the same verse, “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”. (2 Cor.10: 5b)
The use of this verse to support such ministries is concerning because people tend to turn en masse to anything new in the belief that God has a fresh word. We were not put on this earth to be constantly checking our every thought as to its validity. This will cause stress, fear and neurosis. Issues of our thinking may quickly become out of balance and mind control of this nature soon develops into obsessional problems and even depression – the exact opposite of what is supposed to be achieved! As Christians we know that we sin and fall short of God’s will, BUT we also know that He is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins”. We also know, if we love and trust Him, that we are covered by His cleansing and healing blood which was shed on the Cross at Calvary.
There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that one needs a list to identify the type of sin causing which type of disease. Yes, Jesus had discernment and yes, we must ask Him for discernment in our prayers for particular situations. It is also possible that this kind of ministry results in too much analysis of one’s past – presuming that this is an option. Many of us, for various reasons, do not know our family background. It could also be the case that attendance at healing ministries, funding for same and also reading of lists for roots of diseases could cause undue pressure, worry and fear for someone already feeling unwell. This way of interpreting Scripture sounds very plausible because it is believed by the patient to be just that, but it could also result in disturbing and insensitive comments being made. The last thing anyone recovering from a heart attack needs to hear is that it could have been caused by a generational curse! The writer has known this to have been said in just this kind of setting!
In many ways Henry Wright is not saying anything particularly new but what he does say is concerning in its presentation and needs close scrutiny – which new discoverers of his ministry may be tempted to overlook. For my part, I find it difficult to follow any single line of reasoning. The author jumps from topic to topic and diverts the reader’s mind by sending it into irrelevant tangents. A further review of “A More Excellent Way” is to be found at www.bible.org. I would strongly recommend reading this, also, as it deals with contextual issues and the way random, selected verses become confusing when applied to diseases.
An article appeared in “Christianity”, October 2007, about Dr R. T. Kendall’s latest book and is entitled, “Ten reasons why we should forgive ourselves”. Reason 8 reads, “Your own physical health could be at stake” and explains that holding a grudge could possibly raise one’s blood pressure and be injurious to one’s health; as also could not forgiving oneself be prejudicial to health, as one would be holding a grudge against oneself! The writer reminds us to remember the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Matthew 6:9-13. There is nothing new in exploring links between mind and body and health.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
The Bible tells us that through Christ Jesus we have been set “…free from the law of sin and death”. A balance of thinking is imperative in weighing up healing issues. God has given doctors wonderful gifts of being able to diagnose and perform surgery etc. Many of us would not be alive today if it had not been for medicine. It has its place, too!
“And now I will show you the most excellent way…Love never fails…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”. 1Corinthians 13:1 (NIV)