About the book

Faith in the Great Physician tells the story of how participants in the evangelical divine healing movement of the late nineteenth century transformed the ways Americans coped with physical affliction and pursued bodily health. Examining the politics of sickness, health, and healing during this period, Heather D. Curtis encourages critical reflection on the theological, cultural, and social forces that come into play when one questions the purpose of suffering and the possibility of healing.

Curtis finds that advocates of divine healing worked to revise a deep-seated Christian ethic that linked physical suffering with spiritual holiness. By engaging in devotional disciplines and participating in social reform efforts, proponents of faith cure embraced a model of spiritual experience that endorsed active service, rather than passive endurance, as the proper Christian response to illness and pain.

Emphasizing the centrality of religious practices to the enterprise of divine healing, Curtis sheds light on the relationship among Christian faith, medical science, and the changing meanings of suffering and healing in American culture.


Winner of the Frank S. and Elizabeth D. Brewer prize from the American Society of Church History for the best first book in the History of Christianity

"Heather Curtis has done both the historical guild and the church a great favor in so elegantly narrating the history of a movement that challenged long-standing assumptions about the spiritual utility of corporal pain—and, in so doing, remapped our imaginations and transformed our understanding of suffering."

Lauren F. Winner, in Books and Culture: A Christian Review

"Lyrical and convincing."

Pamela E. Klassen - Church History

“Curtis has written a fascinating book that offers a new and insightful look into late nineteenth-century evangelicalism . . . this book is ‘must’ reading for scholars of late nineteenth-century American religion.”

Ellen M. Umanksy, American Historical Review

“Heather Curtis has done a masterful job analyzing the early flourishing of divine healing in modern American Protestantism. Through rigorous research, lucid prose, and thoughtful interpretation, Curtis has demonstrated the enduring significance of this movement.”

Jonathan R. Baer – Bulletin of the History of Medicine

“A model of careful historical research that scholars of American religion and American history will find indispensable."

Lynn Neal, Journal of Religion

“Heather Curtis is to be commended for this splendid contribution to the scholarship of the era.”

Nancy Hardesty, Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era