Journal Article

“All Things Are Possible”: Towards a Sociological Explanation of Pentecostal Miracles and Healings

Jörg Stolz

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 72, issue 4, pages 456-482
Published in print December 2011 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online April 2011 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/socrel/srr019
“All Things Are Possible”: Towards a Sociological Explanation of Pentecostal Miracles and Healings

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Pentecostal miracles and healings have often been described and interpreted, but rarely explained in their sociological workings. As former research implies, actual biomedical effects of Pentecostal healings are possible (the so-called placebo effect), but quite limited. In Pentecostal healing services, however, very impressive miracles and healings are routinely produced: paralytics arise from wheelchairs, cancerous ulcers disappear, legs grow, cavities are mysteriously filled, and the deaf suddenly hear. Drawing on a case study and qualitative interviews, this paper offers a sociological, mechanism-based, explanatory scheme for the observed phenomena. It is argued that a number of “social techniques” (e.g., suggestion, rhythm, music), context factors (e.g., audience size and beliefs), and causal mechanisms (e.g., probability, latency, selection, and editing effects) are combined in an ingenious way in order to produce miracles and healings.

Keywords: healing; Pentecostalism; charismatic movement; anthropology of religion; rational choice theory; theory

Journal Article.  11182 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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