An upcoming documentary film examines medical evidence of miracle healings to challenge skeptics and close the gap between the hard sciences and the supernatural.
The “Send Proof” documentary by filmmaker Elijah Stephens explores the ways in which miracle claims can be corroborated by looking at X-rays, MRI scans and other follow-up medical examinations. In the film, he interviews evangelical scholars and some of the most prominent voices in Pentecostal and charismatic Christian circles.
Stephens worked closely with the Global Medical Research Institute and interviewed board-certified doctors, scientists, an atheist medical historian who believes in miracles, and some of the leading skeptic and atheist voices who assert that, when examined closely, miracles never withstand empirical scrutiny.
The film’s release was originally planned for 2017, but Stephens hit multiple hurdles, explaining in a recent interview with The Christian Post that he had never made a movie before and underestimated how long it would take to finish the project. The first showing is scheduled for Sept. 14 at Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California. Harvest Rock’s lead Pastor Che Ahn is featured in the film.
“We have to have our [miracle] cases researched, and many of them ended up in peer-reviewed journals, and that took time,” Stephens said when asked about the delayed release date.
The goal of the film, he explained, is to ask viewers to send in the proof, their medical records, following a claim of supernatural healing so that the evidence that a miracle has happened can be examined.
“I think there is a voice for science inside of faith. I think sometimes science crosses philosophical boundaries it shouldn’t, but it can also add a voice that this is what is naturalistically possible and this is what is a naturalistically known impossibility. And so it’s helpful to take the scientific expression and listen to it, and when and where it should speak,” Stephens said.
The filmmaking process proved to be a transformative experience for Stephens and his wife, Allison, as it led them to dig deeper into their faith.
Although he raised $150,000 through a crowdfunding campaign he launched, the couple had to empty their retirement account to complete the documentary due to additional costs.
“That created a lot of hard conversations and a lot of dying to ourselves. And I think it’s one of those things where you go, ‘I’ve given everything I can give to God and have paid the price.’ It has strengthened that muscle of ‘I will persevere and do whatever it takes to honor Christ,’” he said.
With a passion to bridge the sometimes hostile chasm between the scientists and people of faith, the film’s genesis dates back several years when Stephens was attending Bethel School of Ministry in Redding, California. During that time, his former ministry partner and pastor friend from Chattanooga, Tennessee, who is featured in the film, renounced his faith and now says he has no faith, believing there is no evidence for Christianity’s claims.
Stephens’ personal journey through his own doubts and the intellectual journey he took is interwoven in the storyline. At one point in the film, he recounts how frustrated he became with the idea of making the movie even as he felt God calling him to do it. The movie explains how, in 2015, he was at his house and his friends started texting him saying that Shawn Bolz, a prophetic minister who was speaking at Bethel that day called out his name from the stage. Stephens immediately jumped in his car and high-tailed it to the church.
When he arrived, Bolz, who had never met Stephens prior to that day and knew nothing of his filmmaking aspirations, gave him a stunningly accurate word, telling him that the Holy Spirit was breathing on the project and how it was going to impact medical professionals and others.
Fast forward six years, Stephens says several atheist and agnostic friends and acquaintances who pre-screened the film said they wept as they watched and felt it was even-handed. These acquaintances still don't accept the Christian faith, but nevertheless considered it a thoughtful exploration of the topic.
For Christians who are hesitant to embrace charismatic theology and practice, the filmmaker hopes that the contributions from biblical scholars like Craig Keener of Asbury Theological Seminary, J.P. Moreland of Talbot School of Theology (Biola University), and Gary Habermas of Liberty University will lead them to reconsider what they believe about the supernatural.
He contends that many believers in Jesus are indeed theological “continuationists” — those who believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including miracles of healing, are still operating today and did not cease with the death of the last apostle or the closing of the canon of Scripture — but still retain some elements of an anti-supernatural paradigm, a mindset they have perhaps unwittingly inherited from European Enlightenment thinkers such as 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume.
This diverse array of scholars have insights that are valuable criticisms of the charismatic movement, “and they are our brothers and sisters [in Christ] and we need to listen to them,” he said.
“That’s how the whole Body grows, we have dialogue. And I wanted to display that.”
He also wanted to give a hearing to those who have no faith, are actively opposed to faith, and believe miracles are easily debunked.
Leading atheist and skeptic voices featured in the film include authors Michael Shermer, John Loftus and James Randi who provide their perspectives.
Shermer is the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine. Loftus, a Trinity Evangelical Divinity School-educated former Christian, is the author of the 2019 book, The Case Against Miracles, the 2016 book, Christianity in the Light of Science, and several other similarly themed works.
Randi is the man who exposed televangelist Peter Popoff as a deceptive charlatan. “Send Proof” was the last film he appeared in before he died in 2015.
“I get why the skeptic is skeptical,” Stephens told CP.
“And their voices matter. I wanted to portray them as the scholars that they are and not do a propaganda piece or hit piece. I wanted them to feel like ‘Well, at least he represented my ideas fairly.’”
As CP previously reported in 2016, featured prominently in the film is Indiana University's Candy Gunther Brown, who in 2010 traveled to Mozambique in pursuit of evidence for miraculous healings.
Together with a team of researchers, Brown traveled to Pemba, Mozambique, to visit the Iris Global Missions Base — the ministry of Rolland and Heidi Baker — in order to test the effects of prayer on the deaf and blind. After testing 24 Mozambicans "before and after healing prayer — half performed by Baker — her team detected statistically significant improvements in hearing and vision."
Brown’s findings were published in the September 2010 edition of the Southern Medical Journal.
“I think this is a movie all of humanity can get behind because if miracles occur, then we need to research them and document them. So no matter what faith background you come from, I think we can all support the idea that we should do case studies on this stuff,” Stephens said.