In these chaotic days, we have not only the right but the duty to test every movement by the standard of the Holy Scriptures. In particular, we must direct a Biblical test-lamp onto the paths of outstanding personalities who come up like comets on the spiritual horizon.
We have no right to judge:
"Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1).
"Who art thou that judgest another man's servant?" (Romans 14:4).
"There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?" (James 4:12).
But we have the duty to test:
"Prove all things, hold fast that which is good" (I Thessalonians 5:21)
"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (I John 4:1).
Kathryn Kuhlman was a healer who drew large crowds to her meetings. Millions came to her for help. Her meetings were attended by up to ten thousand at a time.
Kathryn was born in Concordia, sixty miles from Kansas City. Her mother was a Methodist, her father a Baptist. As a young girl, she went to a Baptist seminary and was ordained as a Baptist preacher. Her first church was in Franklin, Pennsylvania. One day some people in her congregation said that they had been healed while she was preaching. Kathryn was astonished. When such occurrences became more frequent, she began to preach about faith healing, without ceasing to put the main emphasis on the salvation of the soul. Before long, she moved from Franklin to the great city of Pittsburgh, where ever-increasing crowds flocked to her services. From 1946, she conducted an average of 125 healing meetings per year. She used the largest halls in the USA, and her healing meetings were attended by about one and a half million people each year. This figure is given by a doctor named William Nolen.
In addition to the meetings, she appeared on many radio and TV programs. The huge sums of money given as offerings have been used for building twenty-five churches, many schools and homes, and for social projects of many kinds.
It is a thankless, but necessary, task to subject the healing work of this woman to the test of the Scriptures. I will do so in such a way as to allow as many other observers as possible to have their say.
The background of my views is the material I collected during many lecture tours in the USA. At the time of writing, I have been there thirty-four times for tours. I have read Miss Kuhlman's books, I have attended a four-hour healing meeting at the First Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh; and I have had a personal conversation with her. I also have many verbal and written reports from people who attended her meetings.
At this point, I must thank most warmly my two principal informants. Mrs. H. Maynard Johnson, wife of the technical director of the Eifel Hospital in Minneapolis, collected twenty-eight cases of healing, with full addresses, from Minneapolis and the surrounding area for me. I also received an excellent, scientifically based article from Dr. H. H. Ehrenstein of Songtime Boston. Names of further assistants will appear in the course of the chapter.
First of all, I must give a brief sketch of the style of these healing meetings. After a fantastic organ prelude, Kathryn would appear on the stage dressed in a long blue or white robe. Everyone would stand up. She would say: "How glad I am to have you all here. The Holy Spirit will perform a great work among you." The atmosphere was heightened by an introductory hymn sung by thousands of expectant people. This was followed by prayer and a short sermon. Then Kathryn would suddenly announce, "Up there in the second row of the balcony a man has just been healed of cancer. Please come down to the platform," or "a girl in the seventeenth row has just been healed of a lung disease." It would continue in the same way for several hours. The people who had been healed came to the platform. Kathryn would hold her hands about six inches above the head of each and pray. They then would fall backwards to the floor. Two attendants would catch them as they fell, so they would not hurt themselves. The people who had been healed would lay for ten to thirty seconds unconscious on the floor. When they stood up, they would say that they had a wonderful feeling. While I was watching, I saw even ministers falling to the floor unconscious, one of them a Catholic priest.
Kathryn would then ask those who had been healed one or two questions, different every time. For instance, she asked a woman in her fifties, "Do you believe in Jesus?" "No, I am a Buddhist." A young man about twenty years old was asked: "Are you a Christian?" "No, I am an atheist." "Won't you believe in Jesus now that He has healed your wife?" Kathryn asked. A long silence passed. After much pressing on Kathryn's part, he finally said, "I will try."
Many people have tussled with the question of how it was that Kathryn could tell which person had been healed of which disease. Many doctors investigated this problem and came up with various answers. Was it clairvoyance or mediumistic contact?
The next question is, Did healing really take place, and did it last?
Another question relates to the spiritual aspect of these heaings. Did the people who had been healed find the way to Jesus, and if they were Christians already, was any harm done to their faith?
A sensational aspect was the way those who had been healed fell backwards. What powers were involved? Was it hypnosis? Kathryn's friends called such people the slain of the Lord.
Let us now call some witnesses. Since I am one of them, I will first give three of my experiences.
Ex 105 At the healing meeting in Pittsburgh a woman doctor brought a woman on to the stage. The doctor gave the following report: "This woman had multiple sclerosis in an advanced stage. She used to wear two splints and was almost blind. Her abdomen was partially paralyzed. She had a permanent catheter for three years. Three months ago I went with the patient to one of Kathryn Kuhlman's meetings. The patient was healed. Since then she has needed neither splints nor catheter. The paralysis has disappeared. She is now a nurse in the hospital in which she used to be a patient."
There is no reason to doubt the truthfulness of this testimony. We know, of course, that the fact of healing gives us no indication of what power it was that brought it about.
Ex 106 My second example shows a spiritual situation. I met a man at the meeting who allowed me to ask him some questions. He was very willing to answer them. "Have you experienced healing?" "Yes, thirteen years ago I was healed at Kathryn's meeting." "Do you belong to Jesus? Do you pray and read the Bible?" "Yes, I follow Jesus and know Him as my Lord and Savior." "Has your healing lasted?" "Yes, for thirteen years." This is another testimony that I cannot simply dismiss.
Ex 107 A third experience made me begin to have doubts. It was during a personal interview with Kathryn. She suddenly began to pray with me. She held her hands about six inches above my head. At once I began to pray in my heart, "Lord Jesus, if this woman gets her power from You, then bless both her and me. If she has gifts and power which do not come from You, protect me from them. I do not want to come under an alien influence." While Kathryn was praying, two ushers came and stood behind me to catch me as I fell. I felt nothing, however, and stood like a rock without losing my consciousness in the least. Then came a second surprise. Kathryn nudged me gently, probably in order to make me fall. She did not succeed. Then she asked me, "Do you have a healing ministry yourself?" I answered, "In my pastoral counseling it has happened occasionally, but that is not my calling: my task is to preach the Gospel and bring people to salvation."
Since this experience, I have for years kept my eyes and ears open to try to discover the truth behind these enormous healing demonstrations.
There is a problem about the experience of the man who was healed thirteen years ago and yet has suffered no ill effects in his spiritual life. On the assumption that Kathryn did not heal by divine power, as thousands of people believe, would it be possible for a person who had been healed in such a way to suffer no spiritual harm? I have enough examples front counseling people in similar situations to be able to say yes.
Ex 108 A German architect told me that he had found the way to Jesus through the preaching of a minister who was a drunkard. The minister was often drunk, but when he was sober, his preaching was sound. God can bring people to new life even by means of unworthy witnesses.
Ex 109 I have heard of several believers who have found the way of salvation through the ministry of a charlatan who taught unscriptural doctrines. I shall not mention this man by name, although he has done much harm.
The next witness we must call is Mrs. H. Maynard Johnson, whom I mentioned above, the lady front Minneapolis who has provided me with so much useful material. The reports she sent to me are of great evidential value, since they describe the situation one year after the healing took place. I will begin with Mrs. Johnson's own experience, in her own words, but shortened.
Ex 110 "My husband, daughter, and I went to see and hear Miss Kuhlman and pray that I might be healed of what my doctor had just told me could be the first stages of rheumatoid arthritis. I had been having pains in my joints, especially in my fingers and wrists. I have been forced to give up my hobbies of sewing and organ playing. Writing had become painful also. During Miss Kuhlman's healing service, she spoke from the stage saying that someone seated in our section was receiving a healing of arthritis. My arms went up over my head, and I began wiggling all my fingers and there was no pain. One of her helpers stopped at our row and told me to come with her to the front. As I approached Miss Kuhlman, she asked what I had been healed of; then she lightly touched my forehead with her finger tips, as she called out to God to remove the arthritis from my body. At that instant I was slain in the Spirit. I felt completely separated from my surroundings, as a beautiful peace went all through me. As we left the auditorium that day, I told my family, "If the physical healing wasn't meant to last, I know my spiritual healing will never leave me." A year later I can still make that statement: the physical healing has lasted, too. The day after the service, I was scheduled to go to the clinic to have extensive blood work done. My blood tests showed that I was not only normal, but better than normal. I have witnessed to many people regarding this marvelous healing of my body and spirit. My whole life direction has changed since this happened to me. My prayer life took on new meaning. My hunger for the Word has greatly increased. I continue to spread the word as to how great it is when we let God take complete control."
Because I am very grateful to Mrs. Johnson for the twenty-eight case histories she has so carefully reported for me, I might be tempted to keep my own views to myself. But this case also raises a number of questions.
1. In cases of arthritis, the psyche and psychosomatic connections often play a part. Healings from arthritis head the list of all healings by suggestion.
2. I cannot accept this phenomenon of being slain in the Spirit as a work of the Holy Spirit. When people fall to the ground in the course of a spiritual revival, in repentance and sorrow for sin, weeping over their sins and asking for God for forgiveness, it is quite a different matter.
3. What are we to make of Mrs. Johnson's reference to a spiritual healing which would still be there even if the physical healing should disappear? The expression spiritual healing is used by many spiritist healers. The only kind of spiritual healing the Bible knows is the process of conversion and regeneration. Mrs. Johnson was already a believing Christian when she went to the meeting. There is no such thing as a second rebirth. This so-called spiritual healing does not make sense and could be compared with what is known in extreme circles as the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Lack of space unfortunately forbids me to discuss all twenty-eight healings in detail, interesting as that would be. I will here record the general conclusion.
One year after meeting with Kathryn, the state of all twenty-eight people said by her to have been healed was as follows: Ten had not been healed, seven had experienced an improvement in their condition, eleven had diseases in which the mind can play an important part. In the whole of this extensive report, there is not one clear case of healing from an organic disease. So for all the trouble taken by Mrs. Johnson, for which I thank her again, nothing has been proved.
A further witness is a woman who worked for two years as secretary to Kathryn Kuhlman. She followed me and caught up with me at the airport of a great American city. In a conversation, she told me that for two years she had recorded the addresses of those who had been healed, and had later made inquiries as to their condition. Seventy-five percent of those on the register had remained well.
What value can we place on these figures?
1. In the first place, it is her job as secretary to represent her employer. Does this not prejudice objectivity?
2. Her journey after me was quite clearly undertaken with the object of conveying a good impression of the healings.
3. It is obvious that this woman does not possess the necessary knowledge of medicine and psychology to enable her to assess the nature of the healings.
4. Healing is a field in which it is hard to get a clear, overall view. It may occur as a result of suggestion, hypnosis, mediumistic, or occult powers, but it can also have a sound medical or Biblical basis.
This assessment of the figures she gave me is not an attack on the integrity of the lady in question. I formed a very good impression of her as I did of Mrs. Johnson.
In the spring of 1974, there was a "charismatic" congress in Jerusalem under the title of "The Holy Spirit". Kathryn Kuhlman took part. Six months after this world conference of Pentecostal churches, I received a letter from a lady working with the Finnish Missionary Society in Jerusalem. It was about Kathryn Kuhlman.
Jerusalem Sept. 17, 1974
Dear Dr. Koch,
"I write because I don't know anybody else who could answer my questions.
"I have read Kathryn Kuhlman's book, God Can Do It Again and was positively impressed. When K. K. came to Jerusalem last spring ( 1974), I went to her miracle service with great expectation. At the first meeting I felt happy, but afterwards I started to doubt.
"1. How could she know when a person was healed?
"2. With whose power was the healing done?
"3. Why did the healed people fall on the floor, when she prayed for them?
"I went to a second meeting and tried to pray the whole time, but also to watch carefully. After the healing service, K. K. left the platform, and went through the crowd standing in the big hall. Suddenly I felt an oppression and a fear that she should touch me. I closed my eyes, lifted my arms and prayed in Jesus' name that God would help me. When K. K. passed in the place where I stood, she gripped my right arm very strongly for a moment. Nothing happened. After a while, I felt strong power, like electricity, above me, I felt like I was going to die. My arms were paralyzed and I couldn't take them down immediately. Since then I have felt a big difficulty to believe that her power is from God. I have just finished K. K.'s second book, "I Believe in Miracles". It seems to me very good and I can not understand why she gave me another impression.
"I can't get rid of my doubts alone, and they have not ceased to disturb me spiritually.
"If you understand this and could answer me in spite of your huge burden of work, I would be extremely thankful."
This Finnish missionary is not alone in her experience. Others, myself included, have noticed the difference between the books and the person. Often people have told me that, by praying continuously through a meeting, they have become aware of an unscriptural atmosphere. It is possible even then for subjective elements to become mixed with objective assessment.
Vim Malgo goes into the question of the "World Congress on the Holy Spirit" in Jerusalem. Four unscriptural points come out in this report.
1. The Holy Spirit was the central theme. The Holy Spirit does not allow himself to be given a central place; the Holy Spirit makes Jesus central (John 16:13).
2. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is identical with regeneration. A child of God is filled (Ephesians 5:18) ever more deeply with the Holy Spirit, according to his faithful obedience.
3. The Holy Spirit does not allow himself to be the main person. Jesus says in John 16:14, "He will glorify me."
4. Finally, it was an ecumenical congress at which all shades of opinion were represented .
Vim Malgo's conclusion is that it was not the Holy Spirit who was at work, but other spirits. The so-called baptism of the Spirit is usually a baptism with spirits.
Malgo says: "The spirits find one another." In English we have the saying, "Birds of a feather flock together." It is therefore characteristic that Kathryn Kuhlman was one of the main speakers and drew the largest number of hearers. This point has troubled me more and more over the years: Kathryn accepted invitations from wild extremists and stood on the same platform with them.
There is a long report about Kathryn Kuhlman's appearances in Vancouver and Seattle. Lack of space again compels me to mention only the main points. This observer writes, "Kathryn Kuhlman calls herself an instrument of the Lord. In reality, she is a medium of the lord of this world. A person cannot receive a second birth from the Holy Spirit when someone touches his face and says a few words to him. I believe in the charismata gifts of the Spirit. But what Kathryn Kuhlman displays is not a gift of the Holy Spirit of God, but a gift of the spirits who rule in the air. These spirits make use of her, herself deceived and deceiving others ... She is a medium of Satan."
Another who writes in similar vein is a well-known professor of theology at the University of Tubingen who has the reputation among believers of being a born-again Christian. This professor wrote to me, "Kathryn Kuhlman is a spiritist. Twenty years ago you would have said so yourself."
Certainly I would never make such a harsh judgment without careful investigation. We must think and speak well of a person, as long as he has not shown himself to be evil.
The most scientific assessment is the report Dr. Ebrenstein of the USA has sent me. The article, which appeared in a Christian magazine, is entitled "In Search of a Miracle." It is written by a doctor and surgeon from Minneapolis, Dr. Nolen, who also has a good name as a Christian.
Dr. Nolen had the addresses and telephone numbers of eighty-two people in Minneapolis sent to him. These people had been to the Kuhlman meeting and had been said to be healed. Some of them were sufferers from cancer, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases. Dr. Nolen followed up those who had been healed in order to get an accurate picture of the whole story.
Ex 112 Before the beginning of a meeting, the doctor was standing near the elevator in which about 100 patients in wheelchairs were being taken up in turns. Among them was a man without a wheelchair who was limping very badly. The doctor asked him, "You find it painful to walk?"
"Yes, I had an operation two years ago. But it did not heal. So now I am hoping that Kathryn Kuhlman will heal me."
"Shall I get you a wheelchair?"
"Yes, that would be nice of you."
The doctor brought the lame man a wheelchair, in which he was taken into the auditorium. During the meeting Kathryn called out into the hall, "There's a man here with cancer in his hip. You're cured. Your pain is gone. Come down and claim your cure."
The man in the wheelchair was embarrassed at the idea of being pushed forward to the platform in a wheelchair. So he stood up and walked slowly down the aisle. Behind him came one of the ushers, pushing his wheelchair. The doctor watched carefully. It was the man for whom he had borrowed the chair. When he reached the stage, Kathryn Kuhlman asked him,
"Whose wheelchair is that? Not yours surely?"
"Yes, it is," said the man. He did not want to give a long explanation. . Kathryn continued,
"You've had cancer in the hip and now your pain is gone. Is that right?"
"Yes," he answered.
"Bend over so everyone can see." He bent over. "Walk around." He walked around. "Isn't the Holy Spirit wonderful?" she cried. A sound Of rejoicing went round the hall.
Afterward, the doctor inquired of this man. Nothing had changed in his condition. But in Christian circles, the news was spread everywhere that a man in a wheelchair had been healed.
Ex 113 Another case, that Dr. Nolen followed up, was that of a woman who was said to have been cured of lung cancer. In his own words, "When I contacted her, Leona told me that she had not had lung cancer at all. 'I have Hodgkin's disease,' she said, land some of the glands in my chest are involved. But since no one else got up when Miss Kuhlman said that someone with lung cancer is being cured, I figured it had to be me. I've been back to my doctor and he says he can't see any change in my x-ray. I think I breathe better, but it's hard to tell, since I never had much trouble breathing anyway.' "
Dr. Nolen also obtained from Kathryn Kuhlman a list of eight people who were alleged to have been cured of cancer. Again the result of his investigations was completely negative.
Dr. Nolen comments,
The more I learned of the results of Kathryn Kuhlman's miracle service, the more doubtful I became that any good she was doing could possibly outweigh the misery she was causing ... I don't believe she is a liar or a charlatan or that she is, consciously, dishonest ... I think she sincerely believes that the thousands of sick people who come to her services and claim cures are, through her ministrations, being cured of organic diseases ... The problem is - and I'm sorry this has to be so blunt - one of ignorance. Miss Kuhlman doesn't know the difference between psychogenic and organic diseases. Though she uses hypnotic techniques, she doesn't know anything about hypnotism and the power of suggestion. She doesn't know anything about the autonomic nervous system. Or, if she does know something about these things, she has certainly learned to hide her knowledge.
Dr. Nolen's report, which I have reproduced here in a shortened form, does not answer all the questions raised by these strange healings. In particular, he does not deal with the falling backwards of the patients or he simply calls it hypnosis. Such an explanation is inadequate. Doctors, ministers, and strong-willed people cannot be laid out on the floor, as if they had been knocked out by hypnosis. Here other powers are involved. Again, the sometimes accurate indication of the place where the patients are sitting and of the nature of their diseases sounds remarkably like psychic contact.
It will be held against me that at first I spoke favorably of her. I have already answered this objection. We ought to maintain a positive judgment about a person until he has given proof to the contrary. During the four years since that first meeting, I have received a great deal of material. This has resulted in a different impression from the one which I formed at first.
In any case, Kathryn Kuhlman stands or falls before her Lord. Jesus has the last word about her and her work, and not we shortsighted men. We have the duty to test her work and to keep the Church of Christ informed. Let us take care that our work is able to stand in the eyes of the Lord. When King David saw his own guilt in the light of God, he sighed: "For mine iniquities are gone over my head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me" (Psalms 38:4). When we recognize our own guilt, the desire to cast stones goes away. Nevertheless, we are not spared the necessary duty of acting as signposts to the Church of Christ, even when this means great heartache.
And it should be obvious from this chapter that it gives me no joy to
have to write about Kathryn Kuhlman. We might add this biographical note:
Kathryn Kuhlman died on February 20, 1976.