Thursday, August 16, 2018
Pontifical Urban University, Vatican City (Rome)
“Now a man called Simon had for some time been practicing magic arts in the town and astounded the people… But when they came to accept Philip’s preaching of the good news about the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, and even Simon himself became a believer… When Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, with the words, ‘Give me the same power so that anyone I lay my hands on will receive the Holy Spirit.’ Peter answered: May your silver be lost for ever, and you with it, for thinking that money could buy what God has given for nothing!” - (Acts 8:9-23).

he above episode of Simon the Magician in the New Testament’s Acts of the Apostles is a fitting introduction to our present article. St. Peter’s rebuke to Simon the Magician is a clear evidence that prophetic mission in Judeo-Christian religion and tradition must be differentiated from magical acts and nefarious activities of the charlatans who parade themselves nowadays as prophets or pastors of miraculous healings.

The New Testament periscope on Simon the Magician is a clear rebuke that prophetic mission and ministry of prayer for healing or obtaining miracles from God is not a professional career or business venture. Neither is it for money-making, personal enrichment, seeking fame, popularity, strength or abuse of spiritual power in the community of believers.

Rather it is a gratuitous, an unmerited divine call of an individual within the community of believers for a particular purpose within a particular time, and in furtherance of the message of revelation of God and salvation in Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit within the ecclesial community itself and the society in general. Since it is for the orderly building-up of the body of Christ, the Church, ministry of healing is exercised under the supervision of the competent ecclesiastical authorities.

Anything outside this clime ridicules the prophetic mission itself as well as the ministry of miraculous healing. It makes the miraculous and healing ministry claim of the individual “prophet” or pastor in question, not only suspicious but also Simon the Magician reincarnate of today. This means that the motivation and agenda of any individual who claims to be prophet or healer these days need to be tested to see if they are really of God or are they magicians like Simon.

This implies that all those who claim to be prophets and healers today may need to revisit the rebuke not only of St. Peter to Simon the Magician, but also the Old Testament encounter of Prophet Elijah with the charlatan prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-40). In addition, they should not forget the rebuke of Prophet Amos to Amaziah, leader of the Band of false prophets at Bethel:

“To Amos himself Amaziah said, ‘Go away, seer, take yourself off to Judah, earn your living there, and there you can prophesy. But never again will you prophesy at Bethel …’ I am not a prophet, Amos replied to Amaziah, nor do I belong to prophetic brotherhood (band). I am merely a herdsman and dresser of sycamore-figs. But Yahweh took me as I followed the flock, and Yahweh said to me, ‘Go and prophesy to my people Israel.” – (Amos 7:10-15).

Again, the above citation from the Book of Prophet Amos helps us to distinguish a true prophet from charlatan prophets, those who belong to band of prophets and who see prophetic mission as a business venture, a way of making money. Thus, the rebuke of the true prophets of God to both the prophets of Baal who worked for King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, and Amaziah and his band of prophets, have much to tell us on how to evaluate the nefarious activities of all those who parade themselves as prophets and pastors of healing and miracle centers in Nigeria.

All this implies that the present flourishing of activities of modern day prophets of miracle workers challenges us to a more accurate analysis of that phenomenon in the Nigerian context, especially in view of Jesus’ directive to the disciples to “cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who are suffering from virulent skin-diseases, drive out devils” (Mt 10:8).

Again, this is necessary because one of the present religious realities of Nigeria today is the activities of the self-acclaimed prophets of miracle workers and healers in the country, who also claim to be pastors or even priests. The self-acclaimed miracle-worker prophets are multiplying in number every day in Nigeria. So much so that Robert Mugabe, former President of Zimbabwe was recently quoted to have mocked the country about them, when he said: “Nigeria is the only place in the world today where the number of their prophets have outnumbered the number of prophets in the Old and New Testaments put together!”

In our present article, we shall focus our attention on the meaning and significance of miracles in Christian tradition and teaching as based on the Biblical teaching and witness. The article aims to make a brief overview of the meaning and significance of miracle in the light of the New Testament teaching and Christian tradition, and in the context of the present religious reality of Nigeria.

In my previous article entitled “At A Time Like This in Nigeria… Where Are The Prophets”, we discussed the topic of “true and false” prophets in Biblical tradition and in the light of the phenomenon under discussion. In order not to repeat what we have already discussed in that previous article, we shall concentrate on the topic of ‘miracles’ in the present article, with particular attention to its implications in our present religious reality in Nigeria and elsewhere.

Our aim is to evaluate and see whether those phenomena associated with workers of miracles and prayer healing ministry pastors that abound in Nigeria and elsewhere today are really, genuine or are they a deformation of what miracles stand for in the economy of salvation in Jesus Christ!

Thus, the article is about the meaning the miracles have for Jesus and the evangelists in the New Testament. Since it is a fact that Jesus worked miracles, then it becomes extremely important to learn what he himself thought of them: to know what place they have in Christian mission and what meaning the Church had attached to them down the ages.

Generally, speaking, the experience of praying for health recovery can be found in every period of the Church, and therefore, and of course also today. What is to a certain extent new is how the number of centers of prayer meetings for miracles and all kinds of healing, sometimes coupled with liturgical celebrations, are on the increase today, with the purpose of obtaining physical recovery or outright miraculous healings from God. On various occasions, not at all sporadic, cases of miracles performed by an individual “prophet” or “pastor” owner of the prayer center are mentioned.

This, thus, increases the expectancy for the same phenomenon to occur in other similar meetings organized by the prophet miracle worker in question. At times, their claim is on a so-called “healing charism”, ‘gift of prophecy and miracles.” Often, they project themselves to have performed miracles, which in reality never took place.

At the same time, one has to value this longing for healing among the common masses who frequent the prayer healing meetings and miracle centers. The longing for healing is deeply rooted in the human heart and has always gone together with the desire to be free from pain and illness, and to understand their meaning once they have been experienced.

Be it as it may, if the way this longing for healing of the poor masses is being manipulated by the self-acclaimed pastors and prophets of miracle workers and healers are not prudently checked, sooner or later everyone gets involved in it. This human phenomenon is therefore, perfectly fitting for further scrutiny.

The teaching of the Catholic Church, for instance, considers illness for the sick person as one way to live in union with Christ, a spiritual purification and for who are assisting the ill person, a chance for them to be charitable. The Church also teaches that illness and other human sufferings are a privileged time for prayer: To obtain God’s grace, to be able to faithfully accept God’s will and also pray for healing. How can this be discerned in the present religious reality, the way some quacks or charlatan self-acclaimed prophets and pastors of miracle and prayer healing centers are behaving?

There is also the issue of the relation between healing, miracles and power, and healing, miracles and faith. This raises the question of the values and functions of healing and miracles in Christian tradition and as practiced by Jesus in His earthly ministry. What are the significant values and functions of miraculous healing performed by Jesus Christ? How do we relate Jesus’ practice of healing with the present practice as found in the miracle and healing prayer centers in Nigeria and other places?

Related to the above point is the question of how to rediscover the tradition of healing and essence of miracles as experienced by the early Church. This is where consultation and theological exchange among the churches are paramount in sharing the experience of existing healing traditions (liturgical, sacramental, prayer, etc.) as well as helping to rediscover the forgotten ones.

We are also confronted with the following questions: Are the recent influence of healing churches and miracle centers, viable contributions to the healing practices of the Church in the world today? What is the relationship between healing and the sacraments, healing and liturgy, healing and counselling, healing and psychotherapy, healing and medicine, healing and poverty alleviation, etc.? Should there be room for the variety of healing practices without disregarding medical ways of treatment and sacramental ministration?

Related to this is the question of who should exercise the ministry of healing and working of miracles? Some argue that until today the ministry of healing (and exorcism in particular), had been narrowed down only to the responsibility of the priest or pastor. Thus, it is argued that churches should provide the structural space for gifts of healing to be cultivated. People should be taught about healing as a spiritual gift; and the ones who have it should be encouraged to use it.

Those who use it should, however, be guided by experienced ministers, their ecclesiastical authority and the Teachings of the Church on healing in order to avoid abuse of this spiritual gift. The Paschal Mystery of Christ, the crucified Son of God who emptied Himself for the salvation of the human race, should be a model for using the power of healing.

The above problems arising from the actual practice of workers of miracles and healing ministry present us with further questions as follows:

  1. Is one healed because he/she believes (or has faith) in Christ?

  2. Does one believe because he/she is healed?

  3. Is it the faith or the miracle of healing that we need in our evangelizing mission?

  4. Furthermore, how do we relate healing to the theology of the Cross?

  5. What are the goals of healing and miracles?

  6. Do we really need to organize prayer meetings and establish miracle centers in order to obtain healing and miracles from God?

  7. What type of relationship exists between the healers and the believing community?

  8. Does healing or miracles occur only when a particular charismatic individual, prophet or pastor is around? What is the role of the believing community in healing ministry?

  9. What is the importance of healing in the Christian mission?

  10. Has the multiplication of healing and miracle centers any relevance in nation-building and in advancing the role of the Church in society?

These questions are closely interrelated for our knowledge of the relationship between healing, miracles and faith will lead us to the central place of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ and the salvific value of suffering in the healing ministry. The Church’s ministry of healing, when well understood and practiced, is a sign of the reign of God inaugurated in Christ. It is derived from the efficacy of the resurrection.

What is Miracle?

A miracle is an astounding event, astounding because it is extraordinary, and extraordinary because what has occurred is or involves a breach of the usual natural order. Nature “on its own” does not bring forth miracles; if they occur, the laws of nature must, by way of exception, have been suspended or overridden; and such a suspension can only be ascribed, directly or indirectly, to God.

Such is the conception of miracles supported not only by common usage but by a long tradition of Christian theology as well. According to Thomas Aquinas, “those happenings are properly called miraculous which are done by divine agency outside the commonly observed order of things.”

Among contemporary theologians, however, there is a certain shyness about discussing miracle in this sense, and a tendency to shift the emphasis towards a personal and existential dimension, which received view omits but which clearly belongs to the miracles narrated in the New Testament. However, this contemporary approach has a major weakness in that it tends to exalt the ‘personality cult’ of miracle workers of our day and downplay the real meaning and significance the New Testament itself ascribed to the miracles of Jesus and that of the apostolic Church.

If the New Testament teaching and witness are recognized for what they are and as being in some sense definitive, miracle is more than an extraordinary event or show of spiritual power of a particular charismatic healer or “wonder worker.” It is a vehicle of meaning, a sign, which invites (though it does not compel) the personal response of commitment, conversion, and faith.

In this regard, miracle is intimately bound up with kerygma, the message or announcement whose validity is confirmed and accredited by the “mighty deeds” of the one who pronounces it. In the Gospels, not everyone who listens to Jesus’ parables takes them to heart, but only those who “have ears to hear”; likewise, not everyone who watches his miraculous deeds occurring can “see” what they signify – the glory of God disclosed in him – and those who “demand a sign,” obstinately laying down their own conditions for believing in Jesus, are consistently refused.

Hence, the fact that these episodes were recorded, not only by detached and “neutral” observers”, but by interested parties, Christians for whom faith in Jesus as the Christ made all the difference, cannot be dismissed as mere bias. On the contrary, their personal involvement was, in part, a result and so a continuation of the very events they narrate.

For contemporary Biblical and theological scholarships, then, the first question to be asked about miracle stories is not “What really happened?” but rather, “What is the meaning and significance they convey?” Contemporary theological discussion has been less interested in philosophical debate about the bare possibility of miracles than in restoring them to a religious and historical context which is intrinsically constituted by human meaning and value, human decision and discernment, in ways that natural science is not.

But while this newer approach does subordinate the question whether miracles occur in fact, it does not render such a question meaningless. Although the New Testament convincingly show that earliest Christians believed those miraculous events occurred, it is a further question whether Christians today should accept anything that goes on in healing prayer meetings and centers of today’s miracle workers as authentic or not? This is the challenge today with regards to nefarious activities of the self-acclaimed healers and workers of miracles in Nigeria and elsewhere.

This brings us to the central point of our argument, namely: “What are the meaning Jesus ascribed to his miracles?” As a matter of fact, there are three logia (discourse) of Jesus that are instructive in this regard. The first is the logion on Exorcisms – “ But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you” (Mt 12:28; Lk 11:20; Mk 3:22). Secondly, the attacks on the towns by the Lake (Mt 11:20-24; Lk 10:13-15); and finally, the delegation from John the Baptist and the Answer of Jesus (Mt 11:2-6; Lk 7:18-23).

According to these logia the miracles have a meaning that is internal to them, a meaning intrinsically associated with them, and Jesus himself is the one who gives the events this meaning. It is therefore arbitrary to claim that the miracle stories are the result of an activity or invention of the early Church, which is alone responsible for their form and meaning.

Quite the contrary: the meaning precedes the story and has its origin in Jesus: It is pre-paschal. The tradition has simply accepted this pre-paschal meaning that goes back to Jesus, opened it up, as it were, and gone into it more deeply. These logia that have preserved the thinking of Jesus for us are all the more important because they belong to Quelle, the earliest of our sources for the Gospel.

In its teaching on this, the First Vatican Council informs us that miracles as recorded in the Gospels and the whole of New Testament have corroborative or juridical functions: As “divine facts”, proofs and signs, the function of miracles is to afford solid proof of “the divine origin of the Christian religion.” In this case, a passage from the Gospel of Mark on the mission of the apostles comes to mind: “And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it” (Mk 16:20). By means of miracles, God bears witness that he is with his messenger and that his messenger’s word is truly the word of God. (See “Denzinger” (DS) 3009).

Vatican Council II, on its part, speaks of the two functions of miracles of Jesus as follows: to reveal and to accredit. On the one hand, miracles are vehicles of revelation, for they belong to the planned working out of a revelation that is accomplished in international ways: they are saving words that find expression in intelligible, meaningful actions. On the other hand, miracles also attest to the truth of the witness given by Christ and to the authenticity of the revelation which he is in his very person (Dei verbum 4).

The Impact of Miracles on Christian Life

The implication of all we have said so far is that, there is nonetheless, the fact that today no less than in the time of Jesus and the early Church, miracles have an important role in Christian life. In the Gospels, miracles, conversion and faith always go hand in hand. For since miracles and the coming of salvation in Jesus Christ are inseparable as signs of the Kingdom that is at hand, they are at the same time a call to conversion and an invitation to faith in the person who comes to establish the Kingdom.

When Christ performs a miracle, at the same time he urges the recipient to conversion and to faith in his mission. This connection between external wonder and interior conversion, this establishment of a transforming relationship between Christ and the beneficiary of his action, is a distinguishing mark of Christian miracles.

This connection between miracle and conversion is emphasized in the healings of the paralytic (Mk 2:1-12) and the invalid at the pool of Bethzatha (John 5:14). The connection also finds expression in the rebuke to the unrepentant towns of Galilee: Chorazin, Capernaum, and Bethsaida. In this very early text with its pre-paschal flavor Jesus takes note of his rejection by these three towns which are unwilling to see his healings and exorcisms as signs of the Kingdom.

Yet these miracles are calls, in the form of actions, to repentance and conversion in preparation for the imminent arrival of the Kingdom. The messianic signs are now present; it is therefore imperative to pay attention to them and understand them. Miracles are the Kingdom itself made visible. But the people of the three towns of Galilee are unable to recognize the signs of the Kingdom; they have closed themselves to the preaching of Jesus.

The same must be said of the miracles of our times: those of Lourdes and Fatima, for example. In his encyclical “Le Pèlerinage de Lourdes” Pius XII wrote: “As it was for the throngs that crowded around Jesus, the healing of physical maladies is still not only an act of mercy but a sign of the power which the Son of Man has to forgive sins (Mk 2:10). At the sacred grotto the Virgin urges us in her Son’s name to conversion of heart and hope of forgiveness.”

The conversion to which Jesus urges by his miracles consists in renouncing everything that is opposed to God’s reign. It supposes an interior “change of direction”, a war against oneself, because the reign in question is that of God and not of selfishness and Satan. Like the demoniac among the Gerasenes and the blind man of Jericho, one must “follow him on the way” (Mk 10:52) and “be with him” (Mk 5:18). The concrete recognition of the signs takes the form of conversion and the acknowledgment of Jesus as the one in whom the kingdom comes.

Furthermore, miracles are also connected with faith in Jesus. Faith is as it were the native climate of the Gospel miracles. If it is lacking, and even more if it is replaced by hostility, a miracle becomes impossible, because it lacks the only context that makes it meaningful (Mk 6:5).

Again, because miracles are an irruption of the world beyond into our universe, of eternity into time, they create in human beings a kind of tension between their attachment to the earth (an attachment that is a sign of their present condition) and the reality of their future, definitive condition. Human beings are children of the earth and are therefore tempted to take up permanent residence there and forget that they are also pilgrims. They need security and find it in an understanding of the universe, which they inhabit, in the taming of its forces, and in the formulation of its laws.

A miracle comes as a shock because it is utterly exceptional and cannot be fitted into the familiar patterns; it also introduces a disturbing factor into the seamless web of earthly security. Miracles are mysterious, but in addition, and more importantly, they force human beings to ask questions about the ultimate meaning of the human person and the universe. A miracle bids human beings recognize that nothing is impossible to God and that someday the Risen Lord will triumph over evil in its last refuge, namely, sin and death.

In the same context, miracles remind us that we are now living in the “Last times” that are to be crowned by the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. Miracles remind us that he who has come to destroy the works of Satan is also he who is coming to establish humankind and the universe in a definitive order of things. Miracles have their place between the creation of the world and the transformation of all things and all persons in Jesus Christ.

Miracles are anticipations of the eschatological order. By means of miracles through the divine action, humanity is advancing toward the final resurrection, when all incoherence and all evil will disappear. Meanwhile, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the pledge that this superabundant, gushing life is truly coming. The “Spirit of God” once again hovers over the world to re-create and transform it. The spirit who gave life to the body of Christ will also give life to our mortal bodies. The Bridegroom is there with the power of the Spirit, and miracles are the fleeting manifestations of his active presence.

Furthermore, miracles and holiness go hand in hand. In fact, the Church constantly associates miracles and holiness, especially in the causes of beatification and canonization of Saints. Miracles and holiness are signs of the new world begun by Christ, for holiness accomplishes in the human person what miracles accomplish in the cosmos.

The saints spring from among us and dwell in our midst. On the other hand, they belong to a new world and anticipate our resurrected condition. Their wholly filial manner of life is a reminder of the freedom of Christ, who is supremely loving. The saints are the prophets of the world to come. Their existence bears witness to the new condition of the children of God: they “make visible” to their fellows the future condition to which all are called.

It is not surprising, therefore, that miracles should be an almost normal accompaniment of holiness in our world. Miracles make their appearance spontaneously as signs of the kindness of Christ to those who are configured to him, as sparks of the active presence of his grace in them, as signs of their participation in the cross and glory of the Risen Lord.

The universe is being changed and human beings are being changed: miracles and holiness represent the new world and the real change now being produced by the efficacious word of salvation.

Finally, there is connection between miracles and the central mystery of Christianity: Trinitarian Life; that is, the Blessed Trinity, in which the whole economy of salvation has its origin. If everything is grace for human beings, the reason is that God is love and miracles are an epiphany of this omnipotent love.

Miracles are works that involve the entire Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit, and that tend to make ever more intimate the uninterrupted dialogue of the Father with his children whom Christ has redeemed. As signs of the great presence of God among human beings, miracles give a deeper and broader understanding of that presence, even more today through the ministry and pastoral work of the Church and its members than in the time of Jesus.

From the forgoing, we can deduce the following four aspects of the definition of miracle based on the essential data of the Scriptures, tradition and the teachings of the Church: a) A wonder in the cosmic order; b) A religious or sacred wonder; c) A special, utterly free intervention of the God of Power and Love; and finally, d) A divine sign.

According to the French Jesuit theologian Rene Latourelle, “a miracle is a religious wonder that expresses, in the cosmic order (human beings and the universe), a special and utterly free intervention of the God of power and love, who thereby gives human beings a sign of the uninterrupted presence of his word of salvation in the world.”

When A ‘Prophet’s Miracle’ Is Not of God: The Nigerian Reality

The forgoing discussion aims to help us scrutinize the activities of the prophets and pastors of miracle centers and healing ministry in Nigeria today. It helps one to evaluate for himself or herself, the authenticity of anyone who claims today to be a prophet or miracle worker in our society. The criteria for doing this hinges on knowing whether the activities of these workers of miracles are really in consonance with the New Testament teaching as well as the Church’s understanding of miracles from the earliest times.

The New Testament passage of the Acts of the Apostles on Simon the Magician with which we started this article teaches us that prophetic mission or gift of healing are not meant to be a business or professional career of any individual in the Church. Prophetic mission or healing ministry is not a career or business venture one would wake up one day, set up an empire or prayer-center for dispensing. Thus, gift of healing is not a professional career nor is it a commercial venture.

Again, performing miracles or healing in the Church of Christ does not require establishing a separate center for such a ministry or similar activity outside the normal life of the Church’s parish pastoral engagement. Healing or miracles occur in the Church independent of those centers and business or commercial structures we see in today’s prayer and miracle healing ministry of the self-acclaimed prophets and pastors. They occur independent of the priest or pastor himself when discharging his normal or usual pastoral activity within the ecclesial community. The spiritual gift of healing with its communitarian dimension and perspective does not require at all, a separate center by the priest or pastor for the purpose of dispensing miracles and healing.

In other words, it is a gift of the Risen Christ to the Church and therefore to be exercised within the believing community for the benefit of all. It is a gift for the community itself which, can only come up if need be and at the rhythm of God and not that of man.

Therefore, to set up a center for the purpose of miraculous healings is not only like creating a separate church of your own, independent of the Church of Christ that was founded on the faith of the apostles; it is as well like telling the world to come and see where you “manipulate” God and his healing power! This is ridiculous and therefore, arts of magic and paganism of first order.

Again, any prophet or pastor of healing ministry whose motivating factor or principal concern is about building a business empire, conglomerated factories, industries, banks, etc. in order to make money and fame, all over the place through his ministry, is not of God. Any prophet or pastor of healing ministry whose ministry and preaching are about attracting attention for recognition, fame, political and economic influence, or to obtain “Oil Well” at the Niger Delta, shares in government companies, and promotions of members of his church in political posts, is not of God. Any prophet or pastor that engages in money rituals and defrauding of members of his congregation, etc., is not of God either.

Basic Issues:

From the foregoing, emerges some basic issues associated with the practice of miraculous healing by the self-acclaimed prophets and pastors in Nigeria today.

In the first place, the prominence “prophets of miracle workers” have attained in Nigerian society today is such that many of our distressed poor masses, who are often their clients and victims as well, no longer frequent hospitals or consult medical doctors when sick. These days, a good number of our people living in rural and urban areas, often times would choose the prayer houses of the self-acclaimed prophets of miracle workers instead of going to the hospital for treatment. Our hospitals are deserted nowadays by the poor masses because of this phenomenon.

Today, most people prefer the “promised” miraculous healings purported to be taking place in the prayer centers of the prophets of miracle workers instead of going to hospitals for treatment. With economic hardship and excruciating poverty in the land, prayer houses of the prophets of miracle workers and healers are now ‘new havens’ for the distressed poor masses. The miracle workers and other self-acclaimed healers are making fortunes out of this ugly situation of the people. Becoming a “prophet cum miracle worker” is now a lucrative business in Nigeria. Many have fallen victims of the nefarious activities of these self-acclaimed miracle-workers and prophets.

Secondly, the poor masses who frequent the prayer meetings and seek assistance, come out brainwashed and schooled, often times, in the false religiosity of these prophets of miracle workers. Many families, because of the nefarious activities of these prophets of miracle workers, unexpectedly, have lost their beloved ones who, when they were sick visited these prophets.

Furthermore, the prophets of miracle workers and healers in Nigeria today exert their influence and nefarious activities to other spheres of people’s lives. For example, stories abound of how they had defrauded and deceived many people who had approached them for counseling and prayers for success in trades or job employment. Many young people looking for jobs or learning trades, as well as young women looking for husbands, have met their waterloo at the hands of these prophets of miracle workers.

All this shows that the spirituality and practice of these self-acclaimed prophets and pastors of miracle workers do not represent a true Christian and African religiosity. Rather, they are a deformation or transformation of that religiosity. For looking at what we discussed in this article, there is no doubt that the nefarious activities of these prophets and pastors of miracle workers and healing ministry in Nigeria today have nothing to do with the New Testament teaching and early Church practice of this ministry.

Therefore, as we argued in an earlier article, it is dangerous to found African Christianity on the spirituality of workers and seekers of miracles. African Christianity should be founded on the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ. The upsurge of charlatan miracle and healing prayer centers in Nigeria today is an obstacle to that goal!

Thus, it is a great challenge the Church and civil authorities should not overlook, but rather must find a way to address with urgency. The first place that calls for urgent attention is the actual reality of Nigeria that pushes some people to frequent these prayer centers of miracle workers and healers. To tackle the menace of the charlatan prophets and pastors, we should not close our eye to the present Nigerian reality, with its concomitant challenges of poverty, poor healthcare, political instability, insecurity of life and property, recklessness and impunity, violence, Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen terrorism, etc.

In fact, the near-total breakdown of rule of law and order and a failed leadership both in civil and religious spheres of the country are part of the causes of the flourishing of these charlatan prayer centers for miracles and healing in Nigeria. That is, the challenge of overall integral development of the human person, healthcare and ministry of healing should receive a priority attention of the Church and civil authorities.

This is about people-oriented leadership the country and religious organizations are in dare need today. With purposeful leadership both in civil and ecclesiastical levels, the menace of charlatan prophets and pastors could be contained in Nigeria.


In the journey of faith, as in the life of faith itself, miracles are doubtless not the most deeply felt or the purest or the most decisive sign, especially, for the people of our day. These are more responsive to the sign of the love manifested by men and women who, though weak like us (think of Blessed Michael Tansi of Aguleri (Nigeria) or Mother Teresa of Calcutta), show us the Gospel “standing tall” before us, on its feet, alive and life-giving. They show us the sign that is the Gospel itself inasmuch as it sheds on human problems and human conditions a light so penetrating and so mysterious as almost to force to the question: “Who is this man/woman who solves the riddle of the human condition to such an extent?”

This implies that the abuse of spiritual power through the nefarious activities of charlatans in healing ministry, especially, the self-acclaimed workers of miracles is a matter of concern that need to be addressed with urgency.

We need a Christianity in Nigeria founded on the Paschal Mystery and not on the spirituality of workers and seekers of miracles. Nigeria needs a Christianity where the life and witness of the Church, priests, pastors and all the faithful will return to the essentials of the Gospel and begin to bear authentic witness to the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

In Nigeria, we need a Christianity, where ministry of healing should be seen as an exercise of a spiritual gift within the Church, for the building-up of the community of believers in unity, freedom, justice, honesty, faith, hope and love, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and supervision of the appropriate ecclesiastical authorities.

This means that for a ministry of healing or prayer for miracle to be valid it must remain faithful to the essential data supplied by Scripture, tradition, and the teachings of the Church. These data, however, consistently highlight the impact miracles are expected to have on Christian life in our journey of faith.