A More Excellent Way To Be In Health, by Henry W. Wright
I must admit that I was not very enthusiastic to read this book, at least in part from its giant size and the fact that it was given to me by someone with a strong interest and dogmatic thoughts on alternative health, which are always matters that tend to encourage my native wariness and skepticism. In many ways, this book more than justified my wariness—the author believes himself to be anointed of God, and that those with negative feelings about him, or other political and religious leaders, will not be healed, and his frequent use of the trademark for biblical phrases like “A More Excellent Way” and “Be In Health” signifies that he operates to make merchandise out of the gift of healing in the Holy Spirit. In addition, he focuses most of his attention on the supposed spiritual roots of illness, usually (but not always) disregarding environmental causes to illnesses by looking at spiritual causes, including the sins of one’s parents, especially the fathers. It might be uncharitable to suspect that the author had some sort of difficulty with his father, possibly an abusive one, but suffice it to say that after one reads the twentieth or so case where the author tries to diagnose the etiology of some sort of disease by connecting it to bitterness and anger over an abusive father, it is a bit tiresome to read, even if the author does have some promising lines of thought to reflect on. Nor is it surprising that the author chose to anticipate on a disease de jour, in this case Environmental Sensitivity, as a way of bankrolling his faith healing ministry.
What is surprising is that this book has anything to offer a reader at all. There are at least two areas where this book manages to provide its readers, or more hopefully, skimmers, with useful and thought-provoking material. One of them is the fact that the book makes a strong point that God can still heal today, even if many people no longer seem to expect Him to. Those readers who share the author’s intense skepticism about doctors and allopathic medicine will find much to appreciate here, even if the author is scarcely less kind on practitioners of alternative medicine, which he often equates with occult practices of Eastern religion. The other noteworthy point, and one I have seen in my own life and witnessed in others, is that many health problems, particularly of the low-grade or chronic kind, often result from relationship problems and the aftermath of traumas and difficulties. By pointing to the hypothalamus as being key in creating physical symptoms as a result of emotional and mental torment, the author appears to be onto something—that forgiveness and learning how to trust is key for physical health, and that the consequences of evil in our lives can be massive and profound, written in our very ailments. While this is not the most cheerful of thoughts, it is something worth pondering and bringing before God, at any rate, especially considering the fact that this author is the sort of person whose book appears likely to have brought him into substantial legal trouble, as the small disclaimer at the beginning and at other times is far outweighed by the mass of testimonials at the end of the book, taking up over 100 pages of material, that claim that the author and his ministry healed them of serious illnesses.
In terms of its contents, aside from the testimonials that take up about slightly more than a quarter of the book, there are some massively unbalanced chapters. The book opens with the author’s claim to have insight by contrasting God’s word with medicine and psychology, then looks at the spiritual root of disease in separation from God, from others, and from oneself. A short chapter on bitterness follows, and then the author has a somewhat lengthy chapter providing supposed insights into healing and prevention that range from theta brainwaves to fear and trauma and supposed open doors to spiritual influence. A short chapter discussing the 8 R’s to freedom (recognition, responsibility, repentance, renunciation, removal, resistance, rejoicing, and restoration, if one corrects them all to the same part of speech) follows, another short chapter on the fivefold ministry of the Holy Spirit, followed by a lengthy chapter on the physiology of stress and fear, an even longer chapter that looks at the etiology of disease in a few select roots, mostly the same ones over and over again, a lengthy chapter featuring 33 somewhat arbitrarily organized and repetitive blocks to healing, followed by some short closing remarks that amount to an altar call, and then a very short bibliography, a glossary of medical terms, and the book’s appendices. This is a book that could have used the strong hand of an editor to pare down its repetition, for though there is an editor, all he seems to do is add occasional notes without lopping and cropping to make this book more readable.
One of the more serious problems of this book is worthy of at least a little bit of explanation, as it is a problem that this author shares with many others. Despite having some insight, the author suffers from a strong rigidity in his mindset, and furthermore has an inability to separate his interpretation of a given scripture, which is uneven in terms of its validity and approach, from the reader or critic’s belief in the scriptures themselves. In many cases the author appropriates an individual blessing, like John’s blessing to Gaius in 3 John, as a universal blessing for all believers. Likewise, there are many cases where some may believe in a passage, and may even believe in part the author’s interpretation of a passage, or an overall feeling that God’s power to heal is not any shorter now than it has been in history, without following the author all the way. The author reads like someone who has a few worthwhile insights, mixed up with a lot of other wrong ideas, an overly inflated view of their own wisdom and discernment, and a tendency to extrapolate their insights far too broadly and exaggerate their degree far too much. This is a common error, however, so it behooves us to think and act differently ourselves so that we provide some room in discourse for our own humility, our own growth, and our own recognition that others who disagree with us in part may also agree with us in part, and that worthwhile discourse depends on the existence of common authority and interpretation, and that usually a joint recognition in our own personal authority is not what is held in common by ourselves and others whom we discuss. Sometimes in books, speaking less can be of much greater benefit than speaking more; certainly that is the case here.