Science in Christian Perspective
Scriptures and Science
Health involves the whole person who is really all he can be when the obvious body and the influencing spiritual self are in harmony. Disease is an alteration of either aspect of his being, and healing is a restoration of the physical or psychological to its normal state of ideal functioning without hindrance from pain, deprivation or delusion. All healing is from God. He made us, He created us with all the processes that keep us normal; when they go wrong, it is His processes which slowly or rapidly restore to health. So whether illness is conquered by mesmerizers, spiritualists or faith healers, yet it is God-given abilities resident in the body that bring back the person to his healthy state.The need for meaning in life is essential for good health. If you believed that "human beings are just bits of protoplasmic scum that for the time being coat the surface of one of the minor planets," you could doubt the worthwhileness of accomplishing anything, give up in despair, and take to your bed, or pill your way to a grave. But Christianity "amid the encircling gloom" restores hope for living; "to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account" as Paul wrote in Phil. 1:24. Christian faith certainly gives the ultimate hope, as Paul also said, "My desire is to depart and be with Christ which is far better."
live with other persons. Health is in part a relationship to ones neighbors:
friends, fellow believers, and enemies, if he is fortunate to have any.
Recall the quip, "With the kind of friends I have, I don't need any enemies." Healing can be a change in interpersonal relationships, a removal of a stressful situation, or one may finally forgive an injustice and find relief.
Whether illness is conquered by mes merizers, spiritualists or faith healers, it is God-given abilities resident in the body that bring back the person to his healthy state.
Convocation on Medicine
This emphasis on the wholeness of the human being in his total relationships caused the United Methodist Church to hold a Convocation on Medicine and Theology at Mayo Clinic and Rochester Methodist Hospital in April, 1967. The sharing of ideas in both medicine and theology resulted in a stimulating volume 1, edited by Dale White. I summarize the emphases that were especially impressive to me, some of which have already appeared in previous paragraphs.
There was no attempt to deny faith healing; in fact there was testimony to recovery from disease apart from medical benefit. But the conference brought together the influences of both the religious and the scientific in their effects upon man, for it is the healthy mind in the healthy body that is desired. Health, how ever, was not a goal in itself-as a modem TV commercial has it, "If you have your health, you have just about everything," for health exists to enable a person to live profitably in usefulness, "get on with the obedient response to God's vocation, thorn or not."
In God's mind health leading to longevity may not be the most desirable aim. If you consider only health when planning your life, and avoid stress and involve ment, you may live to a hundred, but look what you miss. On the other hand the Bible never favors neglect of health, so the check ups and the avoidances (may I insert smoking here?) are favored. "Health is to enable. It is not in itself the object of the enablement. "
The Bible is in favor of any procedure that leads to health but does not guarantee immediate relief to every one. "Further the presence of faith does not necessarily guarantee healing, and its absence does not necessarily
prevent healing." Sickness may be the result of sin, but often not.
My final selection in this dialogue is on the right to die. Was it right to keep Mrs. Wrigley alive for five years even though she had no consciousness during that time? The decision is a personal matter. Euthanasia was not justified, but no objection was raised to removing the extreme measures used to maintain life, as long as the patient was kept comfortable.
I digress here to mention a case in our own family. My wife's sister came to live with us, had a stroke, received proper treatment, and recovered a measure of activity. But later a second stroke rendered her unconscious. The doctor said there was no hope of recovery, so we agreed to remove the oxygen in excess of that needed to prevent pain and she died comfortably. As someone remarked, "Someday the right to die may be our most precious possession." This concludes comments on the Methodist dialogue.
An excellent evaluation of "faith healing" is in an unpublished thesis by Brewster Porcella.2 His reasoning follows. Healing enthusiasts claiming marvelous healings are matched by Mormons, Spiritualists, Roman Catholics, Mesmerizers and others, so the important consideration in deciding about miraculous cures is what Scripture says and not what experience shows.
Genesis relates that death is the result of sin and Romans 5:12 repeats it, but "as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive" (I Cor. 15:22). "Ultimately, then, the Atonement does make complete provision for the needs of the whole body." But Porcella believes that Isaiah's statement in Chapter 53 "bearing our sickness" (griefs) was fulfilled in Christ's lifetime, before the cross, and the atonement was only for sin. There is a "vast silence in the Gospels and Epistles regarding the idea that Christ in like manner died for sickness." He quotes BinghaM3 as follows, "If these Apostles had a commission to proclaim to the whole of sick and suffering humanity that the Christ who died for their sins in order that all might be saved died equally for their sicknesses that all might be healed, why, oh why, were they so silent about it?" In fact, some of them were ill on occasion, including Paul, who also suggested that Timothy take a remedy (I Tim. 5:23), and who left Trophimus ill in Miletus (II Tim. 4:20). We wait for our adoption, the redemption of our body (Rom. 8:23) . ... . . God desires health for His children, and thus it is proper that a Christian should trust in the Lord for health and bodily strength. But that the Christian can always claim healing and be assured that in each case it is God's will for him to be whole, is an erroneous view and contradicted in several places in the Bible." Christians should follow James' injunction in the event of sickness ". . . and by prayer and faith, and as it is in accordance with God's will, the Christian will be healed." Thank you, Mr. Porcella for these thoughts. He is now librarian at Trinity Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.
Turn now to the thinking of those who have confidence in the atonement as a foundation for faith in bodily healing. In his volume The Ministry of Healing 4, A. J. Gordon has assembled witnesses to divine healing from as far back as Tertullian and Origen and through the centuries to the present age. Considerable detail is given to remove doubts about the genuineness of the illustrations. Gordon writes,Experience is the surest touch-stone of truth, It is not always infallible, indeed; especially when it deals with our spiritual states and conditions. For these are often deceptive and difficult to interpret. But certainly one ought to know when an infirmity which has long oppressed the body has been removed, or when a pain that has incessantly tortured the nerves has ceased. This is the kind of testimony which is not easily ruled out of court.
Gordon is confident that "In the atonement of Christ there seems to be a foundation laid for faith in bodily healing."
Christ's ministry affected both the souls and the bodies of men. Gordon adds that the apostles carried on this same kind of ministry, and the final passage in the gospel of Mark promises overcoming abilities to those who believe. Finally the apostle James exhorted the elders to anoint and pray for the sick "and the prayer of faith shall save the sick." Because everything else that the Lord did in his ministry continues, baptism and the Lord's supper as examples, as well as the gospel message of salvation, therefore if miracles of healing should cease "they would form quite a distinct exception to everything else which the Lord introduced by his ministry."
The volume continues in marshalling the witness of theologians such as Augustine and Luther and more recent writers to the continuance of divine providence in producing healing, and adds chapters on the testimony of missions and even of the adversary. If the working of Satan has "power and signs and lying wonders", then, Gordon reasons, "false miracles are a testimony to the existence somewhere of the true, and that we ought to be very careful lest in our revolt from the caricature, we swing over to a denial of the genuine."
Gordon concludes by giving the three conditions for getting what we ask in prayer; abiding in Christ, doing His will, and asking according to His will. (John 15:7, 1 John 3:22 and I John 5:14).
Because Gordon has appealed to experience, we should be aware of tragedies resulting from a too literal acceptance of the promises in Mark. Newsweek, Sept. 10, 1973, reports that Wesley Parker, age 11, died of diabetes when insulin was withdrawn from him because his father, influenced by a sermon by Daniel Badella of an Assembly of God church, believed that anointing was all that was necessary. Soon the boy developed nausea, stomach cramps, coma and died the third day after insulin was thrown away. The parents permitted him to be embalmed but expected him to be resurrected, an event which has not yet occurred. Another situation involved two persons who drank strychnine, holding to the promise in Mark "if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them." These two died, according to the report in Time, May 11, 1973. 1 believe these two illustrations support the conclusion that where natural remedies, such as insulin, are available, no one should discard this known method of relief, nor should be take a known poison, presuming that he has been granted immunity. This does not rule out God's helping someone who in ignorance or by accident happens to receive poison. Witness Paul's being bitten by a viper (Acts 28:3-6).
Let me say that while not all spectacular healings can be attributed to the release of inhibitions as the result of a renewed confidence in the ability to do what one has not done for a long time, yet some "miracles" can be explained in this way. In a discussion service I mentioned healing as a sudden occurrence after renewed faith. Later a friend said to me, "When I was young, I had a stroke." Rather unusual, I thought, for such age. "Well," he said, "I was a boxer and took a punch on the nose. For twelve weeks the doctor assigned me to stay in bed with no walking at all. Finally we changed doctors. The new one asked if I could walk. I replied that I did not know because I bad not tried. He said to try. I did and I could walk." My friend implied that some sudden healings could be similarly explained. The stimulus of a dynamic faith healer in some cases may be all that is necessary to make someone get up and walk who just did not know before that he could.
At this same service a lady said, "Just in the last few days the Lord has been healing me in a way that has not happened before." Being a mother of five she hardly has time to let her feelings dampen her physiology-here is a clear example of divine intervention in her behalf.Healing and Redemption
Let me add here a resume of a book Healing and Redemption5 by Martin H. Scbarlemann, who in January 1974 was appointed acting president of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. If A. J. Gordon represents the more pietistic evangelicals, Scharlemann can be considered a follower of a more staid and ritualistic group of Christians.
"If men are to be healed, they must be treated in their totality . . . there cannot properly be a sharp distinction between matter and spirit." When Christ was on earth he showed us that "health is wholeness." Now ". . . it is God's presence in His grace which provides whatever degree of health and hope the individual may have" in order to give "a further opportunity to serve that Lord who is the God not of the dead but of the living. Because health is more than the absence of sickness ". . . a man to be whole . . . must live in fellowship with other men and women." The church is the ideal community in which to have complete health for in the church "the members both beal and receive healing by such tasks as carrying each other's burdens and interceding for each other at the throne of grace." But Scharlemann does not hesitate to mention a healing of rheumatoid arthritis when complete faith was put in God. On the other hand he attributes much good to modem medicine. "All of us recognize that science has used the reason with which God has endowed men and achieved blessings undreamed of by men of other generations." But again the medical man contributes only part of healing-for real health is wholeness of body, mind, and spirit. Yet the Christian medical man will not be a mere technician but will deal with his patients as individual persons knowing that "he is privileged to implement the will of that God who is the Source and Sustainer of life." God decides who will be healed and who may sustain suffering.
"The anointing with oil, spoken of by the apostle, may find its contemporary counterpart in such services as the injection of penicillin, the purchase and application of medical prescriptions, and cleaning up after the patient." Scharlemann believes with Luther that "there is no independent order of healers in the church" but it is the responsibility of the members to intercede to assume the burden of healing.Acupuncture
The theory behind acupuncture claims that life is maintained by a vital force called Qi which uses respiration and digestion to supply organs with their energy. The positive force of Qi is Yang and the disorganizing force is Yin; health appears to be a proper balance between these poles. There are points connected by lines on the body which are related to specific organs. If certain points are sensitive, there is an imbalance so that needles inserted in the proper places relieve pain or stimulate the organ to proper functioning. To explain the effect theorists offer various ideas such as a special conduction system, or neural transmission, or even a stimulating effect upon the adrenal gland to produce cortisone. I am indebted to one of our students, Anthony Capps, for this information abstracted from his seminar paper.
Advocates of acupuncture make striking claims for its effectiveness in relief or cure. Out of 10 treated for deafness, 5 were cured and 3 improved.6 It has helped withdrawal symptoms but not removed the craving for drugs. Anesthesia can be produced in operations for hernia, tumor removals and abortion. F. F. Kao, M.D. of Brooklyn's Downstate Medical Center is quoted in Today's Health as follows, "Acupuncture is not quack apuncture, it is not panacea, and it is not a substitute for Western medicine. We are trying to demonstrate its potential use as a supplement to Western medicine."6
But Arthur Freese writing in Science Digest7 says, "It's true it can kill pain, but then so do placebos (sugar pills) and faith healing." It has proved fatal for many, he claims, and it did not help Mao, George Wallace, or Frank Leahy. The needles do hurt. Given over 2 or 3 months acupuncture may heal but time itself heals. So Freese concludes, "Perhaps you should think twice before spending your money to get needled." Those most likely to be helped are-the hypnotizable.
"Although Mrs. Eddy believed that Christian Science healed in the same way Jesus healed, she said in Science and Health that Jesus Christ 'left no definite rule for demonstrating this Principle of healing and preventing disease. This rule remained to be discovered in Christian Science.' "
A distinction is made between immortal man, "God's man, made in his image, and the sinning race of Adam" (Science and Health, p. 345). Judah summarizes healing by writing, "Christian Science reasons that if God is all-in-all and good, and man is God's perfect image, it naturally follows that mortal man, evil, sickness, and death are only errors of man's mortal mind, which, beclouded by sin or error, is ignorant of immortal man's true condition." Hence dispel the erroneous belief and be in health.
I lived for a year with a Christian Science family. The husband would mention on occasion that Mrs. 1. was ill and would not be at meals that day. A clue to their actual belief came from an article in the Sunday School Times many years ago. A converted Christian Scientist wrote that instead of denying the reality of sickness and death, it is held that God and mind are so real that sickness and death, by comparison, are unreal or unimportant, that by dwelling on the real, the valueless will disappear. Sort of believing it isn't so,
But many instances of healing are presented as testimonies in A Century of Christian Science Healing. The foreword claims it ". . . presents the phenomena of spiritual healing not under the category of miracle but at the level of a reasoned understanding of spiritual law." It emphasizes that spiritual wholeness is a greater concern than bodily healing and that healings are not all rapid but may take "years of prayer and regeneration." Mrs. Baker herself visited a child sick with brain fever, talked with her a few minutes, dressed her, took her for a walk, and the little girl was well from then on. Other instances of healing are not testimonies of practitioners but written testimonies of those who have been cured, such as the woman who had tumors and discoloration on her neck and was told by her doctor that she might choke to death at any moment. After she visited a practioneer, she was healed. Many dozen other witnesses, who sign their names and addresses, are included in the chapter, "The Tide of Healing." "The real change, as Christian Scientists understand it, is from material mindedness to spiritual mindedness, from self-centered to God-centered healing."
The Church of Christ, Scientist has "two sanatoriums and certifies others which are privately run" to provide nursing care, "but without medication". The Church seeks to restore man to his wholeness. "Wholeness and holiness are etymologically related, and in Christian Science they are understood as synonymous."Christianity Today on Healing
Two accounts in 1973 issues of Christianity Today are encouraging to those putting trust in faith healing, The March 16 and December 21 issues relate the successes of Julio Cesar Ruibal in both evangelizing and healing in Latin American countries, After presenting the Gospel and asking for hearers to "raise their hands and pray to accept Christ, then be asked them to pray with him for the healing of the sick. A 32-year-old man who bad been paralyzed for seven years stood up, took two steps, and abandoned his wheelchair." A 19-yearold, mute from birth, began to shout, "Jesus." Rubail himself insisted, "It is God, not 1, who does the miracles." Rubail is a Catholic.
You will read an interview in Christianity Today 10 with Kathryn Kuhlman with sympathetic interest. She says that physical healing is important but spiritual healing is far greater. "I am not the healer ... but the power of the Holy Spirit." She has seen healing when the healed one had no faith, but thinks no one can receive physical healing without also receiving a spiritual healing, She takes no medication for herself and believes in doing everything she can to keep in good health. God gave men brains. She asks physicians to talk with those who are healed, One doctor thought the healings of arthritis were the greatest miracles.
going to ask in heaven why everyone was not healed. A reporter had an attorney
friend who came to her service, but died of cancer soon after. However, he had
been saved in the meeting, so the reporter told Miss Kuhlman not to weep if some
are not healed. She was asked, "Why do so few people have the gift of
healing?" and replied, "Let's not take just one gift. Let's get the
overall picture of what Paul is saying in First Corinthians twelve."
The body and spirit are God's creation. No matter how they are made whole, it is the result of resident forces God has put in the person, or by sudden impartations of these forces by whatever kind of stimulus (faith, recognition of error, hypnotism) brings them into play. The healing results from what God has done, no matter who gets the credit. Only the Bible can give proper credit and it all goes to the Creator. The "healer" is merely instrumental in being able to bring God's forces into play. The Bible justifies only the philosophy or theology consistent with itself. Christian Science, for example, may have some techniques which release God given curatives, but its Christology is correct only if it harmonizes with reasonable interpretations of God's word.
3Bingham, Rowland V. 1939. The Bible and the Body. Marshall, Morgan & Scott, Ltd. London.
4Gordon, A. J. 1961. The Ministry of Healing. Christian Publications, Inc. Harrisburg, Penna. 249 p.
5Scharlemann, Martin H.
1965. Healing and Redemption. Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis,
Missouri. 122 p.
6Gwynne, P. Acupuncture Update. Today's Health. 52:16-19. Jan. 1974.
8Judah, J. Stillson. 1967. The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America. The Westminster Press . Philadelphia. 317 p.
9The Christian Science Board of Directors. 1966. A Century of Christian Science Healing. The Christian Science Publishing Society. Boston. 256 p.
Kathryn. Healing in the Spirit, an interview. Christianity Today,
July 20, 1973.