Developing a practical theology of the Christian ministry of healing, in dialogue with the work of Paul Tournier

  • Elizabeth Slinn

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This practical theology research project is concerned with developing the Christian ministry of healing in dialogue with Paul Tournier, a twentieth century Swiss physician with a Calvinist background. Over the half a century of his work, Tournier developed an integrated approach to his clinical practice by treating the ‘whole person’: physical, psychological and spiritual. He believed that spiritual and psychological wellbeing fundamentally affect physical health. He named his overall approach as Médecine de la Personne (tr Medicine of the Person), the most important element of this being a transformative encounter with Jesus Christ. This project aims to further develop the Christian healing ministry (CHM) by revisiting his work and methods, which although aimed at clinicians, have resonance and practical purpose for CHM practitioners today.

In this study the main themes that supported his praxis of the Medicine of the Person were identified in a prior critical literature review, which included Tournier’s published work. These themes are then explored in further library and empirical research into the healing ministry. These themes are taken as the basis of semi-structured interviews among a cohort of practitioners in the CHM. The aim is to test whether the fundamentals of his practice have relevance for those practitioners today and if they can then further develop the ministry of healing.

The combination of the results from both the literature and practical research are then taken into a further dialogue with theory, the latter being academic literature related to the themes. The research then concludes that there are elements of Tournier’s approach that can further develop the CHM. These elements include his ideas of the person, the importance of prayer, the use of Scripture, forgiveness, dealing with suffering, the importance of friendship, listening and the role of church community. The research’s unique contribution is drawn from the empirical element ,whereby the practitioners in the ministry give both theological and practical knowledge give life to theory. The research provides some contribution to practice in the areas of prayer, the use of scripture, matters of safety and the place of the CHM in the Church. However, its main contributions to knowledge concern the source of healing in the Triune nature of God and the nature of the CHM as bringing about a personal transformation. It also considers further the relationship between God and his people, some of the interesting tensions between the espoused and operant theologies of practitioners in areas such as the Kingdom and eschatology in practice and the healing ministry’s place in the spiritual community of the Church.
Date of Award11 Sep 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorAngus Paddison (Supervisor) & Neil Messer (Supervisor)

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