Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself. - Irenaeus

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Doctors, Medicine & Faith

What the Bible says about Doctors & Medicine?
by Dale Brown

It is the conviction of many religious people that to use medicine or to rely on medical science one is failing in their faith toward God. As a result some endure much undue suffering, and at times die from ailments that might otherwise be cured through the most basic of treatments.
The awesome nature of the living being has been observed and studied since the beginning of creation. The psalmist wrote, "I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Thy works and my soul knows it very well" (Psm. 139:14). Physicians will acknowledge that regardless of their treatments the human body is quite resilient and will heal itself of most ailments whether treated or not. But when one experiences trauma do to a severe accident or when the immune system is compromised in some way a patient will more than likely die without medical or divine intervention. A broken limb might very well heal on it’s own but a little help from the X-ray machine will help the doctor to set the bone in the proper position.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses often carry a "no blood" card, a legal document declaring refusal to accept a blood transfusion. Christian Scientists often avoid medical treatment because of their belief in "mind over matter". Similar ideas are endorsed by well meaning but naive Christians who in effort to please God refrain from pain medication, vaccinations, and often even vitamins. Children are often the innocent victims of their parents convictions.

The chemistry of the human body is one which is in a constant and delicate balance. If the essential minerals and vitamins necessary for life are not received through normal food intake the body begins to break down. On the other hand, if there is an overload or unbalanced intake of these items the body’s internal organs go to work in effort to balance out the chemistry.
The social habits of both the religious and non-religious often set into motion events that sooner or later will manifest in some form of ailment. Long term smoking is understood by most to cause respiratory problems and those who rally around the social drink or the cookie-jar are likely to end up with diabetes. God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. It is the simple law of reaping and sowing at work. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and if we don’t take care of it we can only blame ourselves.

When God created man He blessed him and told him to rule and subdue every living thing on the earth (Gen. 1:26-28). In the very first chapter of Genesis God tells us that He created every herb of the field for man (Gen. 1:29&30). Some of these plants contain medicinal qualities. From the opium poppy comes a number of pain-killers including codeine and morphine. The prophet Ezekiel wrote of trees whose leaves are for healing, or medicine in the KJV (Eze. 47:12). From the bark of the willow tree came aspirin, an analgesic. From the plant foxglove came the heart drug digitalis. From the poisonous plant nightshade (belladonna) came atropine. Though not an herb, ordinary bread mold contains the antibiotic formula, penicillin, which helps the body to fight infection. Even wine has been observed to have some degree of medicinal qualities if not abused. Paul wrote to Timothy to "use a little wine for the stomach and your frequent ailments"(1 Tim. 5:23). Proverbs 31:6 says to give strong drink to him who is perishing, which seems to suggest a rather crude yet effective means of taking ones mind off the inevitable.

And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians (2 Chr. 16:12). This passage is often cited as an indictment against physicians, but it is actually an indictment against Asa for not seeking God. He went to seek foreign gods (2 Kgs. 1:2&16) but never turned to the God of Israel.

Luke, the author of the Book of Acts and one gospel, was a physician and companion of Paul. When all is said and done, whether God uses a physician or not, ultimately it is He who should get the glory. If God does not give the ability to the doctor to diagnose the problem there is nothing he can do anyway. We should be prayerful about which doctor we go to because we might need a specialist. The story of a woman healed by Jesus who had spent all her money on doctor bills yet was not healed of a blood hemorrhage which plagued her for twelve years illustrates the point (Mk. 5:25).

"It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Thy statutes" Psm. 119:71
Affliction can have a positive result in that when we are weak we are more apt to do a bit of soul searching.

The scripture is clear that we should first of all examine ourselves (1 Cor. 11:28-32) and in an act of submission to each other confess our sins to one another and pray for one another that we would be healed (James 5:14-16). James even suggests anointing with oil as did the disciples in Mark 6:13. The oil in this case is not meant to be a medicinal application but rather a symbol of the Holy Spirit whom we are placing our faith in for the healing.

When King Hezekiah became ill, Isaiah the prophet instructed him to place a cake of figs on the boil and he would recover (2 Kgs. 20:7). Surely God could have healed him without the figs.
Faith healing is not positive thinking, though a good attitude is a healthy thing. As the psalmist wrote, a joyful heart is good medicine. God however, is able to heal us whether we think right or not. Healing resulting from a "mind over matter" technique is "us" doing the healing and not God. Doctors often get the same results with a sugar pill or placebo.

"And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us"(1 Jn. 5:14). It is God’s will that we often miss.

Sometime after Christ left this earthly plain Peter healed a lame man whom Jesus must have walked by a number of times, for the man had been left at the temple gate by his parents everyday to beg for alms (Acts 3:2-8). Why did Jesus not heal him? God’s will? The timing was not right. In this case God chose to glorify Himself through the church, thus validating the message being preached by Peter and John.

Should one end up going to the doctor he should not feel condemned, for the Bible tells us, "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 8:1)
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."(Rom. 8:35-39)

There is one disease that no man can cure; that is our last one. But on the other hand, going to be with Christ might be considered to be the ultimate healing. Paul wrote, "To live is Christ, and to die is gain". (Phil. 1:21)

1 comment:

  1. Well said. I remember, long ago, telling Aunt Donna, in response to the CFB's refusal to seek medical attention, that I didn't care how many tubes and instruments a doctor may hook one up to, or what extraordinary efforts were taken to preserve a life, in the end, it will be God's will that determines life or death. When I consider what we have seen from the ignorance of the CFB in our lifetimes, it truly saddens me.

    I hope your Dad understands this!