Volume 8, Issue 3: Medicus
Every profession has its built-in opportunities for tedium. One near and dear to every physician's heart is afforded by holding retractors during surgery. During a recent rather lengthy procedure, while the surgeon scraped pizza-like material from the aorta of a fifty-six-year-old woman, I reflected that many of the medical procedures we take for granted today would have been considered miraculous in an earlier age. In fact some, if not many, of the miracles of biblical days might be handled today with ordinary medical technology. This, of course, is not meant to belittle the miracles of biblical times nor to exalt modern medical technology. However, it is important for us to notice that we, believers and nonbelievers alike, share in the common graces afforded by a great God who created us in His image and gave us the cultural mandate to rule the creation as benevolent kings (Gen. 1:28; 9:2; Ps. 8:5-8; Heb. 2:5-9). Given our access to such a wealth of medical technology, it behooves us to sharpen our ability to think biblically about the use of this technology.
Our tendency, as with so many other aspects of the Christian walk, is to wander from the straight and narrow path to the ditch on either side of the road. To the left we make an idol of medical technology and worship at the feet of an increasingly successful, but nonetheless fallen, science. To the right we ignore or neglect what God has provided, as illustrated by the story of a man who drowned in a flood. As the story goes, the man refused to leave his home as the flood waters began to rise even though warnings on the radio clearly suggested he needed to evacuate. Later, neighbors came by to invite him to evacuate with them first by car, later by boat, and ultimately by helicopter. To each of these attempts the man refused the offer saying, "God will save me." On finding himself at the "Pearly Gates," he implored of God as to why He had not saved him. God's reply was that He had come to him by radio, by car, by boat and by helicopter. As Christians we must guard both against taking our medicine too seriously and against not taking it at all.
Before examining specific examples of this dilemma, perhaps we might identify some principles which are generally applicable. First, we should never avail ourselves of technology which is contrary to biblical law. Abortion, physician-assisted suicide, and euthanasia fall in this category. In an earlier "Medicus" I considered other examples of blessings and consequences of God's law. Second, we should avoid things which violate clear teaching found elsewhere in the Bible. As an example, the Bible warns against the use of mediums or spirits (Is. 2:6; Lev. 19:26; Deut. 18:10,11). I mention this because of the current fascination with some aspects of "alternative medicine." Third, we should avoid things which are contrary to a Christian worldview. Some would argue, for instance, that chiropractic doesn't have a philosophy; Chiropractic is a philosophy. Key underlying principles include (a) the existence of a Universal Intelligence, (b) the presence of an inborn Innate Intelligence in all living things, (c) that health is the expression of the Innate Intelligence through Innate matter, via Innate Energy, and (d) that disease is the result of the interference with the transmission of Innate Energy causing a decrease in the expression of Innate Intelligence. It should be noted that while all chiropractors do not ascribe to this philosophy, this illustrates a worldview contradictory to a Christian worldview. Additionally, the field of mental health has become inundated with philosophies which run counter to Christian worldview thinking. The current preoccupation with "victim" status is illustrative. We find that people are victims of their parents, alcohol, drugs, sex, molestation, spouses, children, violence, pornography, the environment, hormones and the list runs on but never includes the individual, and most definitely does not include sin. For us as Christians to remain true to our worldview, God must be sovereign, and the individual must be responsible.
The past two decades, concurrent with the explosion in technical abilities, have brought a quieter but more pervasive expansion of knowledge regarding preventive methods. Remember the pizza-like material in the aorta? What we now know about diet, exercise, vitaminsi.e., -- life style -- is sufficient to allow people to live one hundred and twenty years. Few of us will have to wrestle with the ethical and theological issues of organ transplantation, test-tube babies and cloning our descendants, but all of us must choose on a daily basis what we eat, what we drink, whether we smoke, and how much we exercise. The information available to each of us and how we apply it is an area which will have a profound impact on each of our lives. Remembering, of course, that "bodily exercise profits a little but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come"(1 Tim. 4:8).