Question: What kind of cult or religion is this so-called "John of God" in Brazil that does these so-called healings?
This is a difficult question to answer because, unfortunately, multiple cults and religious movements, etc., start on a daily basis around the world. Some fall more neatly into a category than others. For instance, Mormonism (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) is a “Christian cult” because they claim to be Christians, they say they are followers of Jesus, they use the Bible, etc., but they deny fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith such as the Trinity, the eternal nature of God, salvation by faith alone, and others. There are “Islamic cults” such as the so-called “Nation of Islam” and “Jewish cults” like “Kabbalah.”
John of God might more appropriately be referred to as a guru or even a witch doctor. He is an individual who claims to have religious or spiritual truth and powers to heal. Maybe the best way to describe this movement is occultic in nature. Such charismatic figures are usually the source of new religions and cults but, again, it is hard to neatly categorize this particular movement because it doesn’t seem obvious that John of God's intention is the formation of a new religion per se.
All of that said we can still evaluate this movement Biblically and expose the dangers of getting caught up in such a group as this. Consider this statement from the official “John of God” website:
"Internationally known as John of God or João de Deus, is arguably the most powerful unconscious medium alive today and possibly the best-known healer of the past 2000 years. However, João is a humble man who is very clear about one thing: “I do not cure anybody. God heals, and in his infinite goodness permits the Entities to heal and console my brothers. I am merely an instrument in God’s divine hands.” – John of God. The medium Joao Teixeira has no formal medical training. Instead he gives over his consciousness and incorporates the spirits of past doctors and saints. These entities give talks, examine the waiting masses and conduct the visible and invisible operations."1
So in just this short statement, we learn that this man claims to be a medium, a healer, and that he credits “God” as the one who deserves the acclaim. One problem we see right away is that it is not at all clear just who “God” is according to John of God. Given the location of John of God (Brazil) and the mention of “saints” as a category to whom he gives his consciousness, it is very likely that Roman Catholicism has majorly influenced him and those around him and their understanding of God and Scripture. Certainly the official Roman Catholic doctrine would not support much of what John of God is doing; however, the practice of praying to saints and the overarching belief that we can continue to commune with the dead could easily lend itself to the practice of being a medium.
The Scripture is exceedingly clear that we are not to involve ourselves with mediums and the practice of trying to contact the dead is an abomination to God. Deuteronomy 18:9-14 states:
9 “When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the LORD your God, 14 for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this.
Likewise Leviticus 20:27 says “A man or a woman who is a medium or a necromancer shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them.” So then it is abundantly clear how the God of the Bible feels about the practice of contacting the dead and those who are involved with it. This is not to say that in our day and time we ought to travel to Brazil to put John of God to death by stoning him (mind you as Christians we are now under the new covenant) but only that God’s feeling about the seriousness of this practice has been clearly stated and whatever is going on in Brazil with John of God is not of the true God who does not participate in such activities.
A real question concerning John of God is whether or not he is legitimately practicing necromancy or if he is just a con-artist who has found a way to make money. Regardless, he is on dangerous ground. If he is indeed involved in trying to summon the dead then he is inviting God’s wrath upon himself, and he is also opening himself and all who involve themselves with him, up to demonic activity. The actual ability to contact the dead is an interesting subject. We know that Saul used a medium (in direct opposition to God’s stated will) to contact the prophet Samuel after he had died (1 Samuel 28), so it would seem that there is a possibility of doing this but, again, it is a direct violation of God’s command. Furthermore, when a person surrenders their body to a spirit (as is the practice of mediums) they cannot know for certain what kind of spirit they are dealing with. Demons are the only spirit beings that the Bible makes us aware of who actually possess the body of human beings (Mark 5:9; Acts 19:11-20, etc.). This is never applied to the spirits of people who have died in Christ or apart from Him. In the case of Saul calling up Samuel, it is unclear how this manifested itself but it does seem to indicate that Samuel did not possess the medium.
So if John of God is truly opening his body up to spirits, though he may claim that they are spirits of deceased healers, he is probably opening his body up to demons. To be sure demons are powerful beings and can do miraculous things. In Acts 16:16-18 we see a case of a demon-possessed slave girl who told fortunes and made her master a lot of money:
16 "As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, " “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” ' 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And it came out that very hour.'”
So we know that even the Bible teaches that demons have abilities that seem miraculous. So if John of God is allowing demons to possess his body and some people are being healed this certainly does not mean that it is of God. In fact, it is a plot of Satan to draw people’s attention away from Christ and towards this puppet of the devil called John of God. Satan may be pleased to heal a person of an ailment if it keeps their focus away from Christ who alone can heal their eternal soul!
Finally, this may just be a money making scheme, or it could legitimately be both a way to make money and also really demonic at the same time. Neither venture need be mutually exclusive. It is interesting that on John of God’s website you can buy DVD’s, and not only that but they suggest that if you come to see John of God and want to experience healing the best way to assure your trip is successful is if you hire a guide. From the website:
"John of God only speaks Portuguese. You can negotiate your own way to and around the clinic, or hire a Casa guide when at the clinic or do a complete package for travel, accommodation, translation in the Clinic and tourist activities. There are pluses and minuses for each option. But the bottom line is that you need to be familiar with the place before you go so you know what to expect and can immediately plug into the process. You need to be resolved that you want to be well. And, you need to ask the right questions until you get the answers you need. Remember, ask and you shall receive."2
Incidentally, there are at least two different guides with websites offering to lead your journey to Brazil to this “miracle worker.”3 After doing some research we can be confident about these three things concerning John of God:
- He is not serving the God of the Bible.
- Practicing as a medium opens dangerous doors to the activity of Satan and his demons.
- Someone, somewhere, is making money off of people who are seriously hurting and in need of the Great Physician, the Lord Jesus Christ.