Science in Christian Perspective



The Christian Physician and "Faith Healing"
Stationed in Mid-Africa Mission Hospital
French Equatorial Africa

From JASA 8 (June 1956): 6-10.

It is practically impossible for a Christian physician not to observe the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ in his medical practice and still claim to adhere to a Christian system of therapeutics. Professional medical work cannot be detached from the spiritual dynamic in one's life, nor can any part of the Christian's life be so categorized and still retain the normal pattern that "in Him we live and move, and have our being," (Acts 17:28). The difference between the course of action entered upon by the Christian as against the non-Christian physician is primarily one of orientation and direction; the naturalist looks at the glory of man, and the Christian aims for the glory of God.

The critic says our mind is thus prejudiced if not detached from the supernatural. We reply that it is unscientific to exclude at least the possibility of the supernatural. Furthermore, since medicine is not an absolute science we do not deal with cold facts and corpses alone, but with warm personalities. We have every right to orient our approach to medicine to include a transcendent God, His Son, the revelation of the Father, and the indwelling Holy Spirit. These truths are revealed in the Bible which provides the only means we now have of ascertaining the mind of God.

The Word of God then becomes a guidebook, not -j source book in our medical practice. But here is a problem: the written revelation is acknowledged as having been completed for nearly 19 centuries, although orthodox medicine, in which we find ourselves, has been developed much more recently. How then can the Word of God be our guide? It is not by specific technical instruction but by careful interpretation, rightly dividing the Word to keep all Scripture in harmony, and by diligent application. This involves a knowledge of the historical context, which demonstrates the mind of God, limitless in time, space, and activity. Without it we cannot know the true relevance of faith in Christ to the medical profession. The actual working of God in our medical work because of our faith and trust in Him and our union with Christ cannot be derived from one or a series of proof texts without both their literary and historical context.

This is the point at which many writers on faithhealing or divine healing go astray, and much confusion arises. For example, some select Exodus 15:25,26 concerning God's care over Israel during the wilderness journey, combine it with Hebrews 8:13, that "Jesus

*Presented at the Tenth Annual convention of the American scientific Affiliation, coiorado springs, August, 1955.

Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever," and thus bind God to a course of action without alternative. This is certainly a violation of historic and literary context as well as ignoring God's progressive revelation to man. The preservation in the wilderness was one of special providence. By the same token we could expect our shoe soles not to wear out as well as to expect healing from this verse. At the end of the journey, Zephaniah records this:

"I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord." (Zephaniah 3:12) God is eternally the same, but His revelation to man was not cataclysmic but progressive. It was given to all men directly at first, later by the selection of a peculiar people, and it was finally made complete in Christ. Our attitude toward God's role in our medical practice and His dealing with physical illness is ascertained only with respect to this full revelation.

What is the origin of disease?

This brings us to the first major principle requisite to understanding God's role in health and diseasethat. of investigating the origin of evil and tracing from the beginning of creation the nature of man, the origin of disease, and its development since creation. This is inseparable from the study of the created universe and man as God's creation, and, in, addition, the scriptural teaching concerning the fall of man and its consequences through the ages until now. It is necessary to know this to appreciate what man's present state is, what the result of sin has been, and the relationship to the provision God has made to redeem man both spiritually and physically. In summary form we may state what evidence seems apparent:

In the face of this decline in physical man and the relative fixity of most viable etiologic agents of disease, there is the suggestion that man himself is the adapting organism who has become susceptible to disease processes, following all the rest of fallen creation. This fits well with the pronouncement of the curse in Genesis 3. The subsequent decline in the longevity of man suggests what we might term a "somatic depravity" as well as moral depravity, imputed to all men at the fall because of the racial sin in Adam (Romans 5:12). The reality of disease as having its origin in sin is obvious.

Then here is a fallen creation. Yet God chose to redeem His creation and to destroy evil-out of a heart of mercy, not by necessity. His design for redemption centered in the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.", (Revelation 13:8). Evil was to become fully manifest and its full consummation given over to complete destruction as told in Romans 1.

Benefits of Redemption

The atoning work of Jesus Christ is the basis for all redemption. We now arrive at our second major consideration: What are the total benefits of redemption? When are they realized? And what can we claim as the benefits of this redemption for therapy in our Christian practice of medicine? This is the crux of the whole matter of faith-healing.

The terminus a quo of the benefits of redemption is the time of conversion: the terminus ad quem is the incorruptible new body of I Corinthians 15. At regeneration the believer is justified and no longer subject to the penalty of sin (Romans 3:24). Sanctification has begun so that ultimately the Christian may be "presented faultless before the presence of His glory" (Jude 24). Now at death;, the spirit is immediately in the presence of God. But the body lies, yet corruptible, in the grave. Physical death, the penalty for the imputed guilt of original sin in Adam, still occurs to believers. Thus complete sanctification of the body is not attained in this life. But it is realized by the believing dead at resurrection or by the living believers at the Lord's coming (I Thess. 4:16;17; 1 Corinthians 15). All sin is atoned for as the result of Christ's death, but somatic depravity persists and is remedied only at resurrection. Thus, in one sense, Christ atoned for all our sins, and laid the basis for the final sanctification of the body.

He atoned for disease only as it is a result of sin either that resulting from the susceptibility of somatic depravity or original sin, or that resulting from individual acts of sin. Moreover during His ministry on earth He took and bore in loving sympathy, not in atonement, all the sorrows and the sufferings which His hand relieved. This caused Him suffering as indicated in Mark 7:34 and John 11 :33, where Jesus sighed, groaned, and was disturbed and suffered at the presence of disease. This is certainly not the natural order of things. Thus if sin be atoned for, mercy can come in anywhere to relieve and heal the body, That which meets the cause can of course meet its effects also. But what benefits can be realized for the body during life, during the time of spiritual sanctification? Are there physical benefits of the redemption? Is not Christ then a complete Saviour, a Redeemer of both natures the mortal as well as the spiritual?

The problem is now more limited in scope, and a true approach to faith-healing is possible. Christ surely is the Redeemer of the body as well as the spirit. But in keeping with Romans 8:18-24, "We wait for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body." The physical benefits of regeneration are the "firstfruits" of the Spirit or samples of the resurrection. There is no sudden physical rejuvenation at conversion, but rather a door to extended privileges is opened.

Creation under the curse is in the bondage of corruption. Hence disease, sickness, and death. There is the universal expectation here of an end of evil and corruption, the result of evil. This occurs when the body is completely redeemed. But for the present we realize benefits described in Ephesians 1 :14 as the "earnest of our inheritance" or sample. But it is not a continued state. There will certainly be vacillations of one's physical state as long as somatic depravity exists. What relation do these vacillations and the first-fruits bear to sanctification? Here arises most of the problems of divine healing and the matter of sin, sanctification, and atonement. But here also the providence of God is revealed. These firstfruits are available to the believer as healing but not guaranteed to him. They are rather the awards of sincere, believing prayer, given by God in mercy.

"The prayer of faith shall save the sick." (James 5:15)

"Epaphroditus had been sick . . . but God had mercy on him to heal him." (Philippians 2:27).

These "firstfruits" are entirely within the providence of an all-wise God. "Thine eyes did see my unformed substance, and in thy book were all my members written (Psalm 139:16).

John W. Sproul in his book Divine Healing Today, and MacKenzie in his book Our Physical Heritage in Christ both indicate that the Christian should NOT pray the prayer ... Thy will be done" because disease is never the will of God. Hereby they make God less than God and deny His providence in attempting to bind God to uniformity and guarantee healing to all. It also rules out His permissive, preventive, and directive will. The healing available to the Christian is, again, a benefit derived as the result of faithful prayer, rewarded by a merciful God.

Disease Serves a Purpose

Now if the providence of God embraces all things, even including illness (as, for example, the blind man in John 9, whose blindness was f or his best good, and not a punishment for a specific sin, according to Jesus), there is a purposefulness implied. But what purpose could be served by disease, itself a result of evil? Does God use evil? C. S. Lewis in the book The Problem of Pains states that God send not only a simple good, but there is a complex good, which, in a system including evil, is directed so as to attain the least harm, being exploited for ultimate good, if even the destruction of the evil.

What is the value then of suffering and sickness to the non-Christian who is basically rebellious against God? Lewis suggests that it shatters the illusion that all is well and shows what we have is not good enough. De Pressence in his book The Mystery of Suffering indicates how easily man loses himself in pleasures and that affliction causes either adjustment or rebellion. This accords with the discipline of Hebrews 12 applied to the believer even in the unredeemed state.

Often in the Old Testament the hand that struck was the hand that saved. But at this point Christian medical men must realize that the benef it depends on how the af f liction is received. I f indignation is expressed at suffering, we may steal away patience and plant cynicism (I Peter 2:19,20). The prayer of faith has a place here but follows a warning as to the nature of disease and prays for conviction. Concurrent medical regimen may be instituted with the expression to the patient that there may be purpose in disease which will bring him to a point of decision . . . which may be either for or against Christ! When either decision is made, the purpose is accomplished.

The purpose of suffering in the Christian is different. It is no less within the scope of God's providence, however. Pardon now is not the goal; the end is holiness. Disease then is a discipline to the Christian in some way. This is best seen through the complete revelation in the New Testament. In the Old Testament each disease was viewed as specific retribution for specific sin. But with job this view was superceded, and submission to affliction even by the righteous was required without seeing God's purpose. Now we can see more .plainly His purpose in us (Ephesians 1:9). Obedience to God's Word and His will is primary. "My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of His correction." (Proverbs 3:11). Hebrews 12 calls it chastening or discipline.

If disease can possibly have a place in God's providence, then what place is there for medicine? Would it constitute meddling? No, it is certainly not contra indicated. God ordains the means as well as the ends and uses human agency to whatever extent He desires before asserting His divine power. In John 11, Jesus asked for the stone to be removed f rom the grave of Lazarus before he raised him. He could well have rolled it away himself by a single word. In Mark 2, Jesus speaks of a physician as having his proper place.

A. B. Simpson (The Gospet' of Healing), however, claims that reliance on natural methods and using medi cine is a "crutch" which destroys faith. This is possible. But Asa, the king of Judah (I Kings 15) died not because he trusted ' in medicines and physicians but really because he had not trusted God. James who states that the prayer of faith heals the sick also in dicates that every good gift is from God. Why could not these "good gifts" include penicillin, anesthesia, and surgical technics? There is sometimes but slight difference between a food recommended for health and an extract or product of that food called a drug.

A distinction must be made between miraculous and divine healing at this point. Ambrose Pare, a 16th century surgeon, stated it well when he said, "Je le pansai; Dieu le guerit." ("I dressed his wounds; God cured him.") All healing is in one respect essentially divine. But not all divine healing is miraculous and the miraculous not all of the same degree. For example, after Jesus raised Jairus' daughter (Mark 5), he ordered nourishment be given to aid her convalescence. Paul, by the power of Christ brought about the healing of Publius' father on Malta (Acts 28), yet Trophimus lay sick in Mileturn (II Timothy 4:20). Epaphroditus was ill for some time also. (Philippians 2:27) ; his eventual healing may have been every bit as divine; but its course did not make it seem especially miraculous. There is no special uniformity. Dr. J. 0. Buswell, Jr., once said: "God never performs a needless miracle."

  Have Miracles Ceased?

Some have claimed that the so-called age of miracles stopped as such with the end of the apostolic age, as does A. C. Gabelein in his book The Healing Question. But A. J. Gordon cites Uhlhorn in Conflict of Christianity zeith the Non-Christian World, showing au,thenticated sources testifying to healing miracles in the third century of the same calibre as in the first or in the apostolic times. If this is true, then there is no limitation to the apostolic age, and no reason to deny the possibility of the same type of miracle today.

But during the middle ages, there was much abuse of these privileges, and the Roman church gave them the value of practically fetishes. The gross and spuri ous replaced the plain and simple. As truths faded, so did signs. But nevertheless, history shows the recur rence of such signs at the times of religious revivals; for example, the Huguenots, Waldenses, and other movements. A gift cannot be sought, but rather given. However, since prayer and devotion to Christ, separa tion from the world, and consecrating all our medical skill to God will put us in position to realize power from Him, ability in diagnosis and treatment, and answers to our prayers according to His will. Pastor
Blumhardt of Germany was said to have been a great man of prayer. Though he saw God answer prayer ,for healing often, he did not presume to have the gift of healing and go out to exploit it. It was only after two years of frequent prayer and fasting that he felt led to lay on hands and pray for healing.

Unfortunately today there are many who are parading a gift of healing which is not at all scriptural in nature. A healing meeting is never mentioned in Scripture. Gabelein cites well-documented sources to show that frequently a "cure" has not actually occurred, or the advantage is only through hypnosis. Testimonials of many of the cures are often so bizarre and vague and general that they are worthless as evidence.

Then it remains for us to seek a place of fellowship with Jesus Christ through abiding in Him and to consecrate whatever medical skill we have in order to be useful in the ministry to souls and bodies. It is important to remember the relationship of disease to the sin of man and moreover the sins of man, but at all times to remember that sickness and disease can occur within the scope of God's providence. Ultimate redemption will occur eventually when the bodies of the believers will be completely sanctified and will be new bodies for eternity. However the unsaved dead will be raised in their new bodies and forever judged in their bodies. Hence the body is important as the vessel of our temporal life here where decisions count for eternity and as a dwelling (when incorruptible) for the spirit for all time.