REVIEWED BY LAWRENCE G. SEIDL
An analogy to a glass half-full or half-empty is appropriate for Faith, Healing, & Miracles by Frederic Flach, MD, KHS, a book whose value depends on the reader’s perspective. For the casual reader, the book splendidly chronicles a history of miracles from early biblical times, through the life of Christ, to present-day experience. The book also prompts the discussion of what properly fits the arena of faith and what requires parapsychological investigation. In an era of positivism, Flach attempts to construct a complement to the writings of Larry Dossey, Norman Vincent Peale, M. Scott Peck, Bernie Siegel, and Andrew Weil from a faith-based perspective.
The book’s premise is that through time, humanity has focused on extraordinary miracles–the rolling back of the Red Sea, Lazarus rising from the dead, the appearance of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes–at the expense of those synchronous events that Flach calls everyday, ordinary miracles. He distinguishes the impossible (extraordinary miracles) from the improbable (ordinary miracles) from a scientific viewpoint. Flach, a well-known psychiatrist, spends the remaining chapters trying to establish a link between the role of faith in psychotherapy and the presence of the scientific within the mysterious power of faith. The text concludes with Flach’s guidelines for building a body-mind-spirit resilience.
From another viewpoint, however, the book is not as promising as it appears to be. I had a sense that the publication was just another mainstream book marketed in the lucrative genre of new-age spirituality. As with so much "wanna be" literature, the book is long on raising the issue of miracles but offers little on anchoring this issue beyond the anecdotal. It is in this context that the publication attempts to cover too much ground and ends up wandering from topic to topic without doing any of them justice. All too often, I found sound bites instead of substance and paragraphs instead of pages as Flach attempts to capture some key aspects of faith, healing, and the role of God’s hand in miraculous events. I wanted him to convince me by throwing in a quote by St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Augustine, or at least giving some divine base for miracles. Healing and miracles should not be secularized to a point requiring apology about God’s providential hand.
Perhaps I might explain my disappointment differently. I read book jackets. The front and back jacket covers for Faith, Healing, & Miracles try to convince the reader that some final earthly authority exists on these matters. The front cover states that the book is "a brilliant link between faith and science that should dramatically increase miracles of all kinds." The back cover notes, "Miracles are all around us. Sometimes it takes an expert to point them out." These statements imply that Flach has taken the authority and mystery out of the divine and placed them under the scientific domain.
My point is simple. Even though you can’t judge a book by its cover, the cover creates one of the compelling arguments to read a book. The jacket for Faith, Healing, & Miracles promises something that the book does not provide. Flach suggests that the book is about faith, healing, and miracles, but it does not live up to those expectations, at least in any in-depth level. Given the current spiritual hunger that dominates America, this book is only going to leave the reader wanting or disillusioned: a little bit like having a candy bar to satisfy the need for a full meal. Perhaps eliminating the commas in the title to suggest "faith healing and miracles" would more appropriately reflect what the reader will find in the ensuing pages.
Faith, Healing, & Miracles will whet the appetite of readers who are new to the topics of spirituality and healing. Avid readers of spirituality and holistic healing will likely find Flach’s latest publication to be lacking and just one more publication in an overpopulated sea of material. The book, while doing some things well, simply does not sustain either the believer or the scientist in the long run.
Reviewed by Lawrence G. Seidl, Vice President, Mission Integration, St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Topeka, KS
Copyright © 2000 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
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