A.A.’s Silkworth Factor
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The Dr. William D. Silkworth You May Not Know
His Acknowledged Founding Role in A.A.
Many AAs know that William Duncan Silkworth, M.D., was the chief psychiatrist at Towns Hospital in New York and that he wrote the “Doctor’s Opinion” which precedes the A.A. basic text in Alcoholics Anonymous. Some have heard him described as the “Benign little doctor who loved drunks.” Some know that Bill Wilson was treated for alcoholism at Towns Hospital on four different occasions. Many know that it was at Towns in December of 1934 that Bill had his conversion experience which he called his “hot flash” experience. Others have learned that Bill turned to Silkworth, his attending physician, to inquire about the conversion experience and whether he had gone crazy or not. Silkworth responded that “whatever it is, you had better hang on to it.” Later, Silkworth was credited with the “allergy” theory of alcoholism and with defining the “progressive,” “medically incurable” “disease” as an obsession of the mind coupled an allergy of the body. And these facts, some known and some not well known, caused Bill Wilson to acknowledge Dr. Silkworth as one of the founders of A.A.—in a sense as the source of the “First Step” idea. These materials can be found primarily in A.A.’s Big Book, in Pass It On, and in Bill’s articles posted in The Language of the Heart—all A.A. “conference approved” books.
But that’s about as far as even the deeply involved A.A. member has advanced so far is the benign little doctor’s background, beliefs, activities with Bill Wilson, and other contributions are concerned.
The last fifteen years or so have turned up a good many additional facts about Dr. Silkworth. First of all, my research unearthed some remarkable statements by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale about Silkworth’s belief and comments on the healing power of Jesus Christ, as far as alcoholism is concerned. See The Positive Power of Jesus Christ by Norman Vincent Peale—cited and discussed at length below. Discussions of the Peale account regarding Dr. Silkworth and also of my interview with Dr. Peale can be found in Dick B. New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemker, and A.A. 2d ed. Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1999, pp. 18-22. Further, an excellent resource website (http://silkworth.net), has assembled and posted an ever-increasing volume of historical material about the good doctor. Most recently, Hazelden published a biography of Silkworth that adds both questions and facts about the doctor’s real role in the founding of A.A.
Dr. Silkworth, the Christian, His “Great Physician,” and Bill Wilson
In the present-day secular climate in 12 Step Fellowships, I don’t see great value in doing anyone’s homework for him when it comes to the source and meaning of the phrase “Great Physician.” Nor in burdening the reader or listener with any great quantity of details about the Biblical roots the phrase. Nor in trying to “prove” anything at all about Dr. Silkworth, his religious beliefs, the Great Physician, or Jesus Christ. But I will mention two or three good starting points for those who want to become informed. And in this article, I’ll just lay out some statements made by others who investigated, researched or known Silkworth and his papers or who have looked into this subject.
Silkworth’s Recent Biography
First, let’s look at some things that Silkworth’s recent biographer Dale Mitchel found and wrote in his biography, Silkworth: The Little Doctor Who Loved Drunks. Center City, MN: Hazelden, 2002. Mitchell wrote:
Silkworth’s family remembers him as a deeply spiritual man, yet unsatisfied with any particular denomination. A devout Christian, he initially fit well into the temperance mind-set developing across the country. For years he attended a church that would also have an impact on the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous, the Calvary Christian (Episcopal) Church, pp.11-12. [This was the church of which Rev. Sam Shoemaker was Rector during A.A.’s formative years].
Though Mitchell doesn’t specifically say so, this Calvary church was born on September 19, 1836 and was commonly called Calvary Church in the City of New York in which Church, Congregation or Society Divine Service is celebrated according to the Protestant Episcopal Church of the State of New York. See Samuel M. Shoemaker. Calvary Church Yesterday and Today. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1936, pp. 15-16. And it was in 1925 that Samuel Moor Shoemaker, Jr., accepted the call to become the 12th Rector of Calvary Church. Shoemaker, Calvary Church, supra, pp. 231-245.
Incidentally, on this subject of Silkworth’s attendance at Sam Shoemaker’s church, we could certainly use a lot more research and information on Silkworth’s religious upbringing, denominational background, and churches attended (just the type of research we did on Dr. Bob’s own religious background, church attendance, and Christian beliefs). Also, on the years of Silkworth’s being a communicant at Shoemaker’s Calvary Church. More on the nature and extent of his interest, attendance, and activities there. More on his personal papers and his family’s observations—those that led them to say that he was “a devout Christian.” And much much more on whether and how well Silkworth knew Rev. Sam Shoemaker, the rector. Such information might tell us much about Silkworth’s actual discussions with Bill Wilson, his views on conversion, and his understanding of faith cures and divine healing. Also, if there were further exploration into Silkworth’s membership and activities in Norman Vincent Peale’s church in New York, this too could bring some important A.A. roots to light.
Silkworth’s Talks with Bill Wilson about the Healing Power of Jesus Christ
Now let’s return to an extremely interesting, though inadequately detailed, account that biographer Mitchel wrote about several discussions between Bill Wilson and Dr. Silkworth:
During his third visit to Towns Hospital, Bill had a discussion with Dr. Silkworth on the subject of the “Great Physician.” Many theorists mistakenly believe this discussion occurred on his last and successful visit. In fact, Bill Wilson himself wrote that he had thought about this discussion before he decided to check himself into Towns for the last time, at the urging of his wife and his brother-in-law (Mitchell, Silkworth, supra. p. 44).
The official AA position on Bill’s experiences at Towns Hospital includes little mention of the amount of time he had already spent with Dr. Silkworth, particularly during his prior visit to Towns. Long before he had experienced his “enlightenment,” Bill Wilson had grown to trust the compassion offered by Dr. Silkworth. They would spend hours talking in Dr. Silkworth’s little office (Mitchel, Silkworth, supra., pp. 44-45).
In his autobiography, Bill wrote of the darkness that had descended upon him before his hospitalization for the last time, and said, “But what of the Great Physician? For a brief moment, I suppose, the last trace of my obstinacy was crushed out as the abyss yawned.” Bill Wilson, Bill W.: My First 40 Years (Center City, MN: Hazelden, 2000, p. 145. Later, according to Mitchel, Bill Wilson wrote in Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age: A Brief History of A.A.,
“Alcoholism took longer to kill, but the result was the same. Yes, if there was any Great Physician that could cure the alcohol sickness, I’d better find him at once.” Mitchel, Silkworth, supra, p. 44.
Also, in his autobiography, Bill wrote that, just before he had his hot flash experience at Towns Hospital, the following occurred:
“I remember saying to myself, ‘I’ll do anything, anything at all. If there be a Great Physician, I’ll call on him.’ Then, with neither faith nor hope I cried out, ‘If there be a God, let him show himself.’ The effect was instant, electric. Suddenly my room blazed with an indescribably white light.” (Wilson, Bill W., supra, p. 145).
Mitchell fails to mention that before, or possibly just after, his “Physician” discussion or discussions with Silkworth during Bill’s third hospitalization, and before his finally check-in at Towns Hospital, Bill had met with Ebby Thacher to discuss Ebby’s altar call at Shoemaker’s Calvary Rescue Mission. Thacher told Bill that he (Ebby) had been to Calvary Rescue Mission—also operated by Shoemaker’s Church; that he there had “found religion;” and that God had done for him what he could not do for himself. Wilson himself then went to the Rescue Mission, stated he wanted what Ebby had received there, and went to the altar and made a decision for Christ. I personally talked with Mrs. Samuel Shoemaker on the phone, and she told me she was there when Bill made that decision for Christ. In fact, several important books about Calvary make it clear that altar calls at the Rescue Mission were for the purpose of enabling acceptance of Christ, and that is what the penitents did—just as Ebby Thacher and Bill Wilson did. Mrs. Shoemaker used those very words. Many years later, Lois Wilson stated in an address that Bill had there given his life to Christ.
Bill twice made a further statement of great interest on this point. It is not clear whether Bill was referring to his acceptance of Christ as his Lord and Saviour at the Calvary Mission altar or to his hot-flash conversion experience at Towns Hospital not long thereafter, Bill Wilson twice wrote “For sure I’d been born again” (Bill Wilson., Bill W.: My First 40 Years. Center City, MN: Hazelden, 2000, p. 147; Dick B., Turning Point: A History of Early A.A.’s Spiritual Roots and Successes. San Rafael, CA: Paradise Research Publications, 1997, pp. 94-98). To the same effect is a letter I personally found at Stepping Stones–a letter that Bill had written stating that he [like Ebby] had “found religion.”
As to Bill Wilson’s subsequent conversion experience at Towns Hospital, Mitchel wrote:
What is not known is on what day of this eleven-day stay at Towns Hospital the now famous “white light transformation” occurred. Most believe it occurred on the third day of his belladonna treatment and also after possible use of Phenobarbital. While lying in bed, suicidal, depressed, and hopeless, Wilson would accept anything to help him quit drinking. He had tried everything he knew. He had reached a bottom that he had never experienced. Just prior to his experience with “the veritable sea of living spirit” Wilson often later talked about, he chastised God and said to himself “I’ll do anything at all. If there be a Great Physician, I’ll call on him!” again referring to his prior discussions with Silkworth. Then, according to Wilson, Bill cried out, “If there be a God, let him show himself.” . . . Suddenly the room lit up with a great white light. . . . All about me and through me there was a wonderful feeling of Presence, and I thought to myself, ‘So this is the God of the preachers!’ A great peace stole over me and I thought, ‘No matter how wrong things seem to be, they are all right. Things are all right with God and His world.’” Mitchel, Silkworth, supra, p. 47.
The “Great Physician” was Jesus Christ
In the days of Silkworth, Shoemaker, Bill Wilson, and Dr. Bob, there were a number of expressions which may not be familiar in usage within A.A. today. But in that period, when someone spoke of the “Good Book,” that person meant the Holy Bible. Also, when someone spoke of the “Great Physician,” that person meant Jesus Christ. And this common description of Jesus as the divine healer is not at all a matter of conjecture.
Let’s look at a few of the hundreds of writings about the Jesus, the “Great Physician,” that make this usage apparent.
The Early Church Fathers spoke of Jesus as “Physician” (in what some scholars call “Patristic Evidence”)
Clement of Alexandria:
Clement of Alexandria calls our Lord ‘the Physician of Humanity, the Saviour,’ and describes Him as caring for and healing both body and soul, which two, Clement says, constitute ‘the proper man’ which man is healed by Christ. (Evelyn
Frost, Ph.D. Christian Healing, 2d ed. London: A.R. Mowbray & Co. Limited, 1949, p. 31).
The good Instructor, the Wisdom, the Word of the Father, Who made man, cares for the whole nature of His creature; the all-sufficient Physician of humanity, the Saviour, heals both body and soul (Frost, Christian Healing, supra, p. 83).
Man has brought upon himself the danger of death. . . . He has received from his own Lord, as from a physician, the salutary enough rule to live according to the law, that he should eat of all indeed [that the garden produced], [and] should refrain from only one little tree which. . . . the Physician Himself knew as a perilous one. . . (Frost, supra, p. 74).
But if our physician Christ, God, having rescued us from our desires, regulates our flesh with His own, wise and temperate rule, it is evident that He guards it from sins because it possesses a hope of salvation, as physicians do not suffer men they hope to save to indulge in what pleasures they please (Front, supra, pp. 85, 86).
Theophilus of Antioch:
Entrust yourself to the Physician . . . God, Who heals and makes alive (Frost, supra, p. 87).
There is one Physician, both fleshly and spiritual; made and not made . . . even Jesus Christ our Lord (Frost, supra, p. 88).
But that the Lord came as the physician of the sick. He does Himself declare, saying, “They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Frost, supra, p. 106).
[In the Syriac] of the letter sent by King Agbar of Edessa to “Jesus the Good Physician” (Frost, supra, p. 108; and in footnote 4, Frost says Agbar died in A.D. 40. “This passage of the doctrine of Addai appears to be the earliest instance in which the title Good Physician is given to our Lord”).
[Note: In the foregoing quotes, almost every one of the Fathers is speaking of Jesus in terms of what Dr. Frost describes as, “The Christian doctrine of the Incarnation and of the Sacraments. . . The Second Adam, the inaugurator of the new race, is Christ ‘made what we are in order to make us what He is,’ for ‘if any man be in Christ there is a new creation.’” (Frost, supra, p. 372). Other writers who spoke of Jesus as the Great Physician, and are quoted below, did not necessarily regard Jesus in the light of that doctrine.]
Many religious writers have spoken of Jesus Christ as the Great Physician:
William Boardman: The Great Physician (Jehovah Rophi). Boston, MA: Willard Tract Repository, 1881.
Elwood Worcester, D.D., Ph.D. and Samuel McComb, M.A., D.D., Worcester, McComb, Coriat. Religion and Medicine. New York: Moffat, Yard & Company, 1908:
He [Jesus] conceives of His mission as that of a physician, a Healer of the souls and bodies of men. “They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick” (p. 340).
From time to time through the centuries men have arisen endowed with a peculiar power to dispel the moral and physical maladies of their fellowmen. Among these, “the First among many brethren,” stands the Lord Jesus, the Great Physician. Of Him it was said that He taught and healed” (p. 342).
Such a doctor is Jesus (p. 351).
The relapses must have been very exceptional; otherwise we could not account for the splendor of His fame, as the Physician both of soul and body (p. 363).
John Maillard, Healing In The Name of Jesus; A Book of Devotion. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1936:
As this spiritual consciousness is sustained, the scene of physical and material things fades, until the realization of the living Presence of Christ fills the picture. It is then that I know that Christ is the Great Physician (p. 24)
We who are humble and loving disciples of our Saviour, the Great Physician, the King of Love, must follow Him and we must glorify Him (p. 44).
Ethel B. Willitts, Healing in Jesus Name. Crawfordsville, IN: published by the author, 1931. This title was owned, studied, and circulated by Dr. Bob; and the author repeatedly referred to Jesus as the Great Physician, pp. 66, 104, 151, 209, cf. 95.
Joe Mcintyre, E. W. Kenyon and His Message of Faith. Orlando, FL: Creation House,
1997, p. 79.
T .L. Osborn, Healing The Sick. Tulsa, OK: Harrison House, Inc., 1992. At pages 18, 55, Osborn referred to Jesus as “Christ the Healer” and the “High Priest of our confession.”
David Fedder. Back to God: The Great Physician, Oct.10, 1999, n.d.
What Do All These References to Jesus as the Great Physician Mean?
At the very least, they mean that when Dr. William Silkworth spoke to Bill and his other patients in terms of the Great Physician, Silkworth was making direct reference to Jesus Christ, the Healer, the Great Physician of the Ages.
They also tell us, based on what Silkworth said to others, that Silkworth, the articulate doctor, had made clear to Bill Wilson that healing was available from Jesus Christ, the Great Physician.
And they give us every reason to believe that when Bill Wilson spoke of the Great Physician and spoke of calling on the Great Physician, he was speaking in the language of the ages—just as he did when he spoke of the Creator, the Maker, the Father of Light, and the God of our fathers. Bill was speaking in Biblical and in Christian terminology.
The account of Dr. Silkworth’s Specific Referral of a Patient (not Bill Wilson in this account) to the Great Physician
Author Mitchel made this erroneous statement about my (Dick B.’s) research:
According to AA historian Dick B., in a conversation with Peale [Dr. Norman Vincent
Peale] shortly before his death, Peale discussed the following account of a hopeless
alcoholic named Charles. After Silkworth told Charles that his treatment was over and
that, as a doctor, he had done everything he could, Silkworth told him there was an area
in his brain about which he still held a reservation and that could be the cause of his
return to drinking after he left the hospital. Mitchel, Silkworth, supra, p. 50.
[Then, at pages 50-51, Mitchel quotes a supposed conversation I—Dick B.—
had with Dr. Peale; but no such conversation ever took place. However, I did have an hour interview with Peale prior to his death, prayed with him, and communicated with him by mail. But my interview concerned two other subjects: (1) Whether Peale knew who Wilson was speaking of when Wilson used the phrase “higher power;” and Peale replied that he had never met anyone, including Wilson, who thought the “higher power” was any personage other than Almighty God. He told me he had written that in his book The Power of Positive Thinking; and sure enough, you can find a lengthy discussion of Almighty God as the “Higher Power” in that book. (2) What Peale knew about Wilson’s “spiritual experience.” Peale replied that Wilson had told him of two different experiences, both similar in form and content. And later, I discovered that Wilson’s grandfather had had such an experience in East Dorset, Vermont and described it in terms almost identical to those used by Wilson of Wilson’s own Towns Hospital “hot flash” experience. On the other hand, my interview with Peale never involved the topic of the “Great Physician.”
What did occur in the course of my own historical research is that my attention was called to Peale by a person attending a conference at which I was a speaker. That person showed me Peale’s The Positive Power of Jesus Christ. And in that book is Peale’s own written account (set forth below in a moment)–an account which I have since often quoted—but not in company with any claim that Peale and I ever discussed it]
Though he did not have his Peale source correct, Mitchel went on to make the following important comments about Silkworth, Peale, and Wilson:
Over time, Silkworth and Norman Vincent Peale became very good friends. Dr. Silkworth and his wife once held their church membership at Marble Collegiate Church in New York where Peale was the lead pastor. Much later, during the Alcoholics Anonymous continued discussion on the validity of the Carl Jung theories on spiritual conversion, Peale held his stance in support of Dr. Carl Jung’s belief that far too many men turn to physicians rather than to the minister for spiritual healing. Silkworth furthered this declaration in his own early writings, presented later in this book. A student of Sigmund Freud, Jung was instrumental in convincing Rowland H., Ebby’s Oxford Group friend, and later Bill Wilson of the importance of ego. An avid reader, Silkworth followed the principles of Jung and William James as they pertained to deflation of depth and the usual requirement of reaching a “bottom” to enable the alcoholic to first feel the despair of crisis, then accept the possibility of a Supreme Being as the answer. Silkworth referred to Jung in his speeches and saved a private letter from him. It was Carl Jung who impressed upon AA through his conversations with Rowland and Bill there existed an opportunity of a spiritual (“religious”) conversion as a last chance from chronic alcoholics (Mitchel, Silkworth, supra, p. 51).
Whether or not Mitchel is correct in his assumptions about Dr. Silkworth’s agreement with the principle of “deflation of depth,” Mitchel’s point about Silkworth’s interest in a religious conversion of the type to which Carl Jung referred is particularly interesting when you compare it to Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s account of Dr. Silkworth and Charles K., a businessman in Virginia, who had become a full-fledged alcoholic; so much so that he had to have help, and fast, for his life was cracking up.
Peale then relates the following:
He [Charles K., the alcoholic] made an appointment with the late Dr. William Duncan Silkworth, one of the nation’s greatest experts on alcoholism, who worked in a New York City hospital. Receiving Charles into his clinic as a patient, the doctor gave him treatment for some days, than called him into his office. “Charles,” he said, “I have done everything that I can do for you. At this moment you are free of our trouble. But there is an area in your brain where you may hold a reservation and that could, in all likelihood, cause you to return to your drinking. I wish that I might reach this place in your consciousness, but alas, I do not have the skill.”
“But, doctor,” exclaimed Charles, “you are the most skilled physician in this field. When I came to you it was to the greatest. If you cannot heal me, then who can possibly do so?” The doctor hesitated, then said thoughtfully, “There is another Doctor who can complete this healing, but he is very expensive.”
“That’s all right,” cried Charles. “I can get the money. I can pay his fees. I cannot go back home until I am healed. Who is this doctor and where is he?”
“Oh, but this Physician is not at all moderate s to expense,” persisted Dr. Silkworth. “He wants everything you’ve got. He wants you, all of you. Then He gives the healing. His price is your entire self.” Then he added slowly and impressively, “His name is Jesus Christ and He keeps office in the New Testament and is available whenever you need Him.”
“I need Him now,” said Charles softly, “right now, I need Him, and I will give Him myself.”
“Great,” remarked the doctor. “You will find healing and you will never need to come back to me as a patient, only as a friend. God Bless you, and,” he concluded, “He will do just that.” [Peale then tells how Charles came to Peale’s church and found the doors locked. But, said Peale, Charles seemed to feel a Presence, a strong Presence in which was wondrous power and love. Peal then continues:]
Reaching for his wallet, he drew out his business card. Taking out his pen, he wrote on the reverse side of the card, “Dear Dr. Jesus, this is Your unworthy servant Charles. Dr. Silkworth says that only You can completely heal me. I hereby now and with all my heart give myself to You. Please touch me in my brain and in my heart with your healing grace. I love You, dear Jesus.” He signed it “Charles” and dropped the card in the mail slot.
HEALING COMES. Charles stood quite still, unconscious of either rain or snow. Suddenly he sensed light and a pervasive warmth spread throughout his entire being, beginning at the head and running down to his feet. It was as if a great big hand touched his head in loving-kindness. He had the same feeling that a person has when after a long illness comes a sense of well-being. He knew for sure that he had been healed. There was no doubt of it at all. He felt clean with a cleanness never before experienced, and with it an awareness of newness. He had been reborn. He was a new man in Christ. Old things long held in his nature were passed away. We became acquainted through his card dropped in the church mail slot, and I met him later while on a speaking engagement in Virginia. . . . Charles never returned to his old life. He had many problems subsequently, but the power held firm. It never weakened. His healing, which came so dramatically, was permanent. He paid the full price, as the doctor had said he must. He gave himself, all of himself, with nothing held back; and he received the power, the full power, with none of it held back. See Norman Vincent Peale, The Positive Power of Jesus Christ: Life-changing Adventures in Faith. Carmel, NY: Guideposts, 1980, pp. 60- 62.
A Footnote on Silkworth’s Belief as to Spiritual Healing
Mitchel’s biography leaves us with the following about Silkworth:
First, using his own subjective terminology (“Higher Power”), Mitchel says of Silkworth:
“He believed quite early that a sound personal relationship with a Higher Power was paramount to the spiritual healing that went hand in hand with the physical healing of the addict and alcoholic. Many of the letters he had received from patients mention Silkworth’s description of a spiritual journey; the patients also thank him for introducing them to a spiritually based lifestyle.” Mitchel, Silkworth, supra, p. 34.
Unfortunately, in the foregoing statements, Mitchel reveals his bias and revisionist thinking about God as some “higher power.” But the value of the statement is in its reference to spiritual healing in the context of Jesus Christ as the Great Physician and Divine Healer.
Other Issues as to the Great Physician
I have already written extensively on the many recorded healings and miracles in the Old Testament. Also on the many miracles and healings by Jesus as recorded in the Gospels. Then on the healings which Jesus empowered others of his followers to do and then the healings which his crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension enabled the Apostles and others throughout the ages to heal, cast out evil spirits, and raise the dead just as Jesus had done.
That Jesus called himself a physician, that Jesus was much involved in healings, and that he specifically empowered others to do (as he put it, “in my name) the very things he had done are Biblical truths not the subject here. But there are other issues which simply cannot be discussed in this paper.
For example, what did a “cure” mean in the Bible? See my titles, Cured: Proven Help for Alcoholics and Addicts and When Early AAs Were Cured and Why What did people mean when they said they had been “saved” and thus made whole and well?
What did people mean when they said there had first been a “conversion?” Thus it now is clear that Carl Jung, Rowland Hazard, and Bill Wilson related that a “conversion” was a necessary ingredient of the life-changing process and, at a later point, “taking” the Steps. Writers have made it clear that Jung’s idea of a “conversion” was not the same as that spoken of by many Christians. Further, there are questions as to ingredients involved in a conversion—believing on Jesus, confessing that Jesus is Lord and believing that God raised Jesus from the dead, saying the “Sinner’s Prayer,” being baptized by the Holy Spirit, being baptized by immersion, and so on.
What did people mean when they spoke interchangeably of Jesus as God, Yahweh as God, and as Lord? So many of the writings mentioned above pose these problems when they talk of what Jesus did on the Cross, why he was crucified, and whether he became sin.
I mention these issues because this discussion was not and is not intended to discuss religious views on whether Jesus healed, whether Jesus could and did heal all diseases, whether Jesus healed because God empowered him, how Jesus healed, and how to call upon God or Jesus for healing and cure. The answers are as many as the ages. But the simple ideas of early A.A., of Dr. Silkworth, of Dr. Bob, and probably of Bill himself were to the effect that you were not born a Christian (You become a Christian when you accept Christ), that Jesus was the Way to the Creator, and that God heals, Jesus heals, and believers can heal. The tip of the iceberg is presented by E.W. Kenyon in Jesus the Healer. Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 2000, in his chapter on Methods of Healing, which begins as follows: “There are five ways by which healings are obtained through the Word.” Kenyon describes these in part as follows:
“Every believer should understand this clearly, that he has a right to perfect deliverance from the hand of his enemy in that Name” (“In the Name of Jesus Christ”), p. 31.
2. A second method is found in Mark 16:18. “In my name. . . they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover”, p. 31.
3. A third method is for the carnal believer, that is, the believer who is governed by the senses and not by the Word. 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 calls him a babe in Christ. James says (5:14) “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save him that is sick, and the Lord shall raise him up’. . . ,” p. 32.
Every believer has a right to ask the Father for healing or any other blessing and if he asks in the Name of Jesus, he has the absolute guarantee that the Father will hear and
answer his petition, p. 32.
Where two are united, and are demanding in Jesus’ Name the healing of loved ones, prayer is bound to be answered. God watches over His Word to make it good, p. 32.
“There is another method of healing,” says Kenyon, “which I believe to be the best.” He cites Isaiah 53:3-5, 1 Peter 2:24, and Matthew 8:16-17. “These scriptures prove that healing is ours. We simply know that by His stripes we are healed. We thank the Father for our perfect deliverance. It is not necessary that we pray, or ask the Father to heal us. We know that He said, “By His stripes ye were healed.” The afflictions in our bodies were laid upon Jesus. He bore them. We do not need to bear them. All we need to do is to recognize and accept that fact. We refuse to allow disease in our bodies. We are healed” (pp. 32-33).
It must readily be conceded that many religions, many denominations, and many believers and non-believers would dispute the foregoing or suggest that there are other ways and reasons and beliefs about healing.
The Sum of the Silkworth Factor: He, many other Christians, and very probably Bill Wilson believed at an early point that alcoholics could be and had been cured “by” or by “belief in the name of Jesus Christ”—the Great Physician.
This describes the Dr. William D. Silkworth you may not know. He saw the precepts involved in A.A.: For the real alcoholic, neither fear, nor self-knowledge, nor willpower, nor any human power had succeeded in relieving him of his alcoholism. He was “medically incurable” in the viewpoint of physicians. He suffered from a “seemingly hopeless condition of mind and body.”
But God could and would heal him if sought. That healing, thought those who spoke of the Great Physician, assured that Jesus Christ enabled the needed Divine Aid.