In recent decades, people both inside and outside the scientific and medical communities have developed a strong fascination with and confidence in a very scientific, technical form of medical practice.
To illustrate that fascination, altering genes may serve as a way to eliminate susceptibility to certain diseases. In principle, the prospect of eliminating diseases is a good thing. It reduces suffering. Eliminating disease would be consistent with what Jesus did. But something is more fascinating about eliminating a disease through genetic manipulation than eliminating it by ensuring that whole nations have clean drinking water. I think this glamour is part of what attracts us.
Glamour aside, we are fascinated for what appear to be good reasons. As US News and World Reporti noted in late 1985, a medical textbook published in 1980 would have missed the following: the first heart-lung transplant, the first use of mono-clonal antibodies to treat cancer, the first implant of a permanent artificial heart (with a model number yet!), the first successful transplant of an animal heart into a person, the discovery of the genetic markers for both cystic fibrosis and Huntington's disease. I might add that a USNWR article published in late 1985 appears dated in the summer of 1987, for much more has been done in the intervening eighteen months.
Some months ago, The National Geographic mailed me an advertisement for a book that "celebrates the wondrous nature of the human body." As a Christian, I have no question that the human body is wondrous; David called it that (Psalm 139:14) long before the National Geographic launched their book. The title they chose, however, caught my eye: The Incredible Machine. An incidental reference to "spare-parts medicine" in USNWR1 leaves me with the same impression. That impression is deepened when I walk on almost any large university campus and see a "Health Sciences Center." When, as a boy, I went to my family doctor, his office was in "The Medical Arts Building." Such language reveals a shift in thinking that has taken place, perhaps in just the last three decades.
Why have we changed the way we think about medicine? For one thing, medicine and science have explained many things that we previously did not understand. They have removed much of the mystery that previously surrounded the human body and its functioning. This is especially so regarding our understanding of people's predispositions to certain diseases, and regarding healing. As never before, there now seems to be hope that some of our most dreaded disorders can be treated, and even eliminated.
But many who have tried to think Christianly about these new prospects in the medical world have encountered a tangled hedge of questions. How important (or realistic) is the idea that all persons should be healed of all that ails them? Is it the case that whatever we are able to do, we ought to do? How justly is medical care distributed when expensive, experimental procedures tie up hospital facilities and personnel for months at a time? What risks--both biological and theological--do we take when we tinker with our very genetic make-up? To accomplish healing, are we willing to violate arrangements God Himself may have put in place? What becomes of the person or our conception of the person when people are treated like machines, whose parts can always be repaired or replaced? Christians are not alone when they ask these questions. But many who ought to be asking them are ignoring them.
I suggest that answering such questions is made more complicated by a number of factors. First, most of us are struck by a sense of wonder when we hear what is being accomplished in bio-medical research. Such fascinating developments (and the sheer number of developments) do not invite easy ethical analysis. Second, at first blush, the prospect of longer life, or of a qualitatively better life for people does not invite critical analysis. Such analysis might appear callous as regards life itself, so we are tempted to keep our misgivings to ourselves. Third, we are facing a question of desirable ends and questionable means. "Questionable" is important here; I believe that most of us are not sure the means are wrong. Furthermore, for many people, the attraction of the ends is sufficient reason to conclude that the moral status of the means cannot be allowed to bear on the argument at all. How do we approach the means-ends question then, especially when no one has gone before us, when we have no traditions to stand on in this area?
In what follows, I survey some of the new technologies available in the world of health-care and then outline some principles by which we might approach the dilemmas presented to us by these new technologies. In three areas especially a technical approach to medicine seems to hold the most promise; the elimination of genetically-transmitted vulnerabilities through altering chromosomes; bypassing dysfunctional reproductive organs so that many of those who previously could not have children can have children; and replacing vital organs with transplanted or artificial organs.
Perhaps the most fascinating dimension of modern medicine is the potential to eliminate genetically the predisposition toward certain diseases. At least 3,000 diseases are related to single genes. Most disorders are related to more than one gene. Through painstaking microscopic comparisons between healthy and unhealthy DNA cells in chromosomes, researchers are able to identify which gene serves as the "marker" for various diseases.
Doctors in the Harvard Medical School recently identified the gene connected to one form of muscular dystrophy. In February, 1987, the marker for cystic fibrosis was identified by researchers at Sick Children's hospital in Toronto. In the same month, researchers first reported that the marker linked to Alzheimer's disease had been identified. Diagnosis is now available for 200 of the 3,000 single-gene defects (including hemophilia, muscular dystrophy, and sickle-cell anemia). Clearly, the USNWR article I mentioned above is already out of date.
Once a genetic marker has been identified, medical scientists can attempt to alter the protein in question in the hope of eliminating the disorder connected to the particular gene. Success stories do not abound as yet. But individual cases of healings have been reported where defective cells were replaced in massive numbers. Ultimately, we may enjoy a world where some diseases are eliminated altogether.
Such a prospect should not be pondered, however, without mentioning the darker side of genetic tinkering. Besides any ethical or legal issues that should be brought to bear on our discussion of genetic manipulation, one must not forget that eugenics has been used for evil as well as good. In the post-World War II era, we have learned that Nazi Germany carried out eugenic experiments on its own citizens for at least five years prior to the start of war itself. Part of the plan to develop the master race was the examination of the notion and components of race itself. This side of eugenics did not die with Hitler and his diabolical vision.
Second, we ought to fear any abstraction of "the race" above the person, or the "gene pool" above the dignity of people. Edward O. Wilson does this in his studies of "socio-biology"; he sees the person as simply a link in the development of more DNA. The race will continue and evolve; individual persons do not, and are therefore of little importance in the longer picture. In contrast to Wilson's view, Pope John Paul II has written that therapy for particular individuals--that is, healing--must always be the goal of any genetic interference. We will return to some of these questions after exploring two further frontiers of modern medicine.
For reasons no one knows, sterility has doubled in North America in the past thirty years. Fully 20 percent of North American couples are now unable to have children by ordinary means. For them, new medical techniques offer the fulfillment of lifelong dreams: having children. The two best-known methods for bypassing reproductive disorders are Artificial Insemination (AI) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF, literally "in glass"). A more recent development is embryo transfer, a technique that opens the door wide to surrogate motherhood.
Because the technique of AI is accepted almost universally as a means of breeding better cattle, it was really just a matter of time until it was attempted with people. To accomplish AI, doctors impregnate a woman with sperm from her husband (AIH), or from a donor (AID) if the husband is infertile. If the wife is infertile, the donor-father's sperm is used to impregnate a surrogate mother.
IVF is slightly different. Doctors surgically remove the egg (actually they take a number of eggs) from the mother and, after it is fertilized in a dish, implant it in her womb. Louise Brown, whose mother's fallopian tubes were blocked, was much in the news when she was born in July 1978--the first "test-tube" baby. Over 1,000 babies have been conceived this way since 150 of them at one hospital in Norfolk, Virginia (Eastern Virginia Medical School). Ten clinics operate in Canada, all of them offering hope but none of them achieving more than 30-50 percent success (there is no agreement here).
That less-than-perfect success rate implies at least two things worth noting immediately, one ethical implication and one counselling implication. Embryonic "wastage"--that is, very early abortion--is implicitly part of the IVF procedure and will remain so for some time. As techniques improve and wastage is diminished a new prospect will come. People will likely be able to choose the gender of their children simply by not implanting any embryo of the undesired sex. Such choice is already part of the procedure in principle (the numbers are very small as yet) regarding babies showing a proclivity toward certain defects.
The second implication regards women's mental health. Women whose hopes are raised by the possibility of finally becoming pregnant and who seek IVF as a last resort may suffer greater disappointment if they "fail" in this way too. Already vulnerable, and perhaps (after years of seeing different doctors) by now feeling like the medical system runs their lives, they become the victim one more time. Certainly anyone counselling a woman considering such measures ought to be aware of what the fallout might be if such a procedure should fail.
Embryo transfer, a more recent variation of IVF, has been developed for those women who can carry a fetus but cannot produce an egg. Early in the pregnancy the embryo is flushed out of the donor mother and implanted in the woman wanting the child. (A variation might see the busy mother hiring someone simply to carry her own baby to term). The first embryo transfer was done at UCLA medical school in April, 1983. Like AI, embryo transfer makes way for surrogate motherhood and all its attendant legal and ethical problems. As most of my readers are aware, Mary Beth Whitehead's original intentions, and her contract with the Sterns were considered secondary to the question of who could provide better care to Sara/Melissa/Baby M. In other words, Judge Harvey Sorkow approached the battle over Baby M as a strict custody battle between a father and mother (which, genetically, it was), rather than deciding the legal status of surrogacy. In doing so, the judge has aligned himself with the Vatican's condemnation of surrogate motherhood because it undermines the dignity of the child.
Freezing embryos, while not a widespread practice, has been carried out successfully as well. In March, 1981, Zoe Leyland was born in Melbourne, Australia, the first baby to result from a frozen embryo. Once again, however, a new technology with its attendant promise, brings with it legal and ethical questions no one in the scientific or medical communities has adequately answered. What happens if the parents die after an embryo is frozen? This is not a hypothetical question: A Chilean couple died in a plane crash in 1981 leaving two "children" frozen in liquid nitrogen (-321 F). Whose children are they now? A second, more-sinister scenario has a couple wanting to "time" their children's arrival so that they can accomplish their career goals first. They would freeze for later use the embryos they produce while they are young. To make the picture more sinister, it would be possible to pick out the "best" children at the same time by such criteria as hair and eye colour or stand against such a redefinition of procreation and childhood as that implied by such possibilities.
As was the case with the two areas already reviewed, this area of medicine excites people because it also holds a promise of extended life for many. The spectacular element in transplant/implant medicine appeals to us all. Names like Barney Clark, who lived 112 days after the first artificial heart implant, and William Schroeder, who received the second artificial heart, are commonly heard in the news. It is difficult not to hear about such developments.
We also recognize "Baby Fae," who suffered from hypoplastic heart syndrome, a disorder which usually kills the newborn within a few days because the heart is unable to pump blood. In late 1984, she was given a baboon's heart in the California hospital where she was born. Because the baboon could not consent to the donation, animal rights questions dominated the debate for some time. But for Christians, another question ought to come to mind: what were God's intentions when He created different species and ordained the human race as the crown of His creation? Do we go against the divine will when we make such cross-species changes? In the abortion debate, Christians have often argued for the "sanctity of life" over against the "quality of life." Surely the sanctity argument has some bearing on a discussion of the potential for cross-species transplants to extend life. Baby Fae died. But the questions her short life raised are not settled yet.
The argument I want to pursue here does not demand that I distinguish transplants form artificial organs, or animal donors from human donors. Rather I want to address the larger question of how all such hi-tech procedures affect our understanding of ourselves and of the nature of healing. In doing so, I will refer to all three of the medical frontiers I have explored herein.
How do we think Christianly about such advances as those I have discussed here, especially vis-a-vis the C&MA's traditional interest in divine healing? Some of what follows applies specifically to hi-tech medicine and our stance toward it. Some other comments apply to the relationship between healing and medical practice generally.
Regarding the technical forms of medical treatment I have explored here, we must confront the fact, first of all, that we have a very limited number of responses available to us. As Thomas Elkins puts it so well, we can be so limited that we hide from what is taking place and deny that it touches us and people around us. Or we can be so accepting that we take what comes without thought or comment. Or we can learn to bring Christian values into what is already here now.ii I assume that anyone who has read this far is interested in the third course of action Elkins mentions. I also assume that my readers know how complex this option will be to follow.
The first question I wish to confront regarding hi-tech medicine is that of motive: are humanitarian ends always in view when new procedures are developed? Traditionally, we have respected the medical community to such a great extent that we have perhaps come to believe that doctors never act from less-than-admirable motives. Two new elements figure in the equation in 1987 that were not present, say, fifty years ago. First, much medical research takes place in university hospitals. Even outside the university hospital, the academic mentality has a strong influence in medicine. One consequence of this environmental factor is that doctors are lured by the prospect of the prestige which accrues to any pioneer or discoverer. Confronted by a patient who might benefit from some extraordinary or experimental procedure, the practitioner cannot help but reflect on what personal benefits would likely follow successful treatment. Thus, the patient may become the secondary consideration. I certainly do not think all, or even most, doctors would allow this to happen, but I will argue that, if only in some pre-articulate way, the prospect of prestige must lodge itself in the consciousness of at least some medical personnel. With some others, the prospect is obviously in the foreground.
A second motive that runs contrary to medical tradition warrants mention here as well: financial profit from bio-medical discoveries. To illustrate, we are presently seeing expanding commercialization in IVF research. John Buster, who pioneered embryo transfers with humans at UCLA, sought investors and formed a company, Fertility and Genetics Research (FGR), to match those wanting children with mothers who could supply the needed eggs. FGR is but one of many such companies. The more successful agencies and clinics increase their market share as their reputation spreads. Those who hold the patents on the instruments used in IVF profit as well. In another field, "bio-tech" companies rush to patent new discoveries. Stock in those companies is bought and sold like that of any other. In the face of this new aspect of medical practice, we must ask whether the healing of persons has not been set aside in favour of more monetary or egoistic goals. Clearly, in some cases it has been set aside.
Also related to the question of motive is the issue of what some of the new procedures are being used for, and what some potential abuses might be. It is already quite clear that (besides any arguably justifiable cases) reproductive technologies are being used to cater to the whims of people who wish simply to make child-bearing more convenient, in some cases people whose homosexual lifestyles are condemned by Scripture. Even in those cases which I suggested might be justifiable--where we would at least be empathetic with people's reasons for wanting a child, for example--there is good reason for us to pause. Dr. Patrick Steptoe, for one (who delivered Louise Brown in 1978), believes that compassion demands that we continue work on reproductive technology, but he is now concerned about the rising use of surrogate mothers.iii Such people as Jeremy Rifkin and the geneticist David Suzuki regularly call for the banning of all genetic experimentation on humans. Both fear the potential abuses; Rifkin believes genetics is already out of hand. As Christians, we ought to speak out when childbearing is reduced to a set of procedures implemented when convenient to result in perfect children.
We need to address, as well, questions of justice and the poor. Someone has to pay for the medical personnel, the machines, and the days in hospital. In some cases, the costs for a single procedure range over $200,000, enough money to provide a lower level of medical care to a much greater number of people. The question is, when the media report the latest discoveries week by week, and people everywhere have their own expectations for medical treatment raised, are there enough resources to go around? The resource question will perhaps push us to think more clearly about the theological question on suffering as it relates to God's purpose.
As Harmon Smith, a theology professor at Duke University observes, there is something inconsistent about people's fascination with "absurd, bizarre experiments" when babies are born daily "who are brain damaged because of malnutrition."iv A wider, "Christian" view of healing ought to include a response to the inconsistency he has identified.
The last kind of question I want to raise about hi-tech medicine relates to the meaning of being human. Over the long term, I think this question may outweigh all others in importance. What does it mean to be a person, a spouse, a father or mother? The advances in medicine I have discussed above have raised these questions, as well as questions about sexual relations, procreation, death (and when it occurs), and the importance of physical well being.
Mary Beth Whitehead was a married mother of two children when she signed the surrogacy contract that eventuated in Baby M. At that time she wanted to help a childless couple. She did not anticipate what would occur in her thinking the day she gave birth to her daughter. What did occur has caused us to examine very carefully our concepts of procreation and motherhood. We have been forced to ask, for example, if parenthood is just one more thing that our generation will demand to have on its own terms. In this decade, the disorder of infertility is a bit like having a bad heart, which is being viewed more and more like a minor infection: just one of the many things that can be fixed.
We are beginning to see ourselves not as persons, or even organisms which sometimes suffer and are sometimes healed, but as machines which sometimes break down but can always be repaired. "Science" or "medicine" will find new ways to repair us; they will open new doors. I fear that each time we walk through another of those open doors, we dehumanize ourselves further. This is not to say that individuals are not helped with their individual disorders; they obviously are helped. It is to say that the way we view, or value our own uniqueness as God's special, albeit fallen, creatures is diminished.
As we view ourselves as, and thus become, increasingly just another part of the creation--as opposed to the crown of creation--any idea of divine healing is correspondingly weakened at the root. Although he praised science for its work in eliminating disease, Pope John Paul II asked in 1984 how genetic manipulation could "be reconciled with a concept that credits man with an innate dignity and an untouchable autonomy?"v We must ask that same question, perhaps widening it to include the three areas we have examined here. What will become of our dignity if we change--even if we are simply able to change the very code that has distinguished us from other created kinds, if we learn how to reproduce without families, love, or sex, if we master the science of replacing all our vital organs?
We see then the hi-tech medical procedures have a dehumanizing side to them. Full of bright promise, and the power to reduce or eliminate certain kinds of suffering, the new "fixes" come accompanied by a kind of fanfare that may well seduce us. But such new forms of treatment also bring with them ethical, theological and anthropological questions that we must answer if we are to avoid being seduced by the glamour inherent in these discoveries. May God illuminate us by His Spirit so that we may see the path through these new frontiers.
** His Dominion, 13(4): 19-26 (1987).
i. U.S. News and World Report (1985.11.11:54).
ii. Thomas Elkins, Christianity Today (1985.a.18: 23).
iii. CBC Ideas (1986.3.24)
iv. Times Magazine (1984.12.10:57).
v. The Pope Speaks (29,1 : 17-22).
Keith M. Bailey
The doctrine of divine healing, once looked upon by many evangelicals as an embarrassment, now enjoys respectability both in the church and in the academic community. Doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists who a decade ago would have smiled at the quaint notion of supernatural healing are now working at the integration of scientific and non-medical healing.
As the Christian and Missionary Alliance celebrates its centennial, the movement's teaching on divine healing in the atonement takes on new significance. This doctrine was not an innovation of A.B. Simpson as some have assumed, nor was it just a popular theological fad of the times. It was a truth held by many in the church from apostolic times until the present. The belief in bodily healing as a redemptive benefit has distinguished divine healing from all other forms of non-medical healing throughout church history.
The ancient practice of anointing with oil in conjunction with the Eucharist implied the association of bodily healing with redemption. The liturgies and prayers that have been preserved from the Ante-Nicene period verify this position.
The Patristic writers associated divine healing with the resurrection of Christ. If healing is a manifestation of resurrection power it cannot be disassociated from the atonement. The death and resurrection of Christ are foundations of redemption. One is the necessary complement of the other.
Theophilus of Antioch said in his letter to Autolycus:
Here further, O man, of the work of resurrection going on in yourself, even though you are unaware of it. For perhaps you have fallen sick and lost flesh, and strength and beauty; but when you received again from God mercy and healing, you picked up again in flesh and appearance and recovered also your strength.1
Origen, another of the church fathers, in a Homily on Leviticus written about AD 241, explained the healing offered believers through anointing by relating it to the grain offering in Leviticus chapter two.
The grain offering was a type of Christ's death, the only basis for the remission of sin. The association of healing with the remission of sins means that such physical healings were not general mercies or special acts of power, but the result of atonement.
A third Patristic testimony was from Tertullian in his work The Resurrection of the Flesh.
"He is come to seek and to save that which is lost," What do you suppose that to be which is lost? Man, undoubtedly...The whole man...he will be wholly saved since he has by sinning been wholly lost. Unless it be true that the sheep of the parable is a "lost" one, irrespective of its body...Since, however, it is the bodily substance as well as the soul, making up the entire animal, which was carried on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd, we have here unquestionably an example of how man is restored in both his natures. Else how unworthy it were of God to bring only a moiety of man to salvation...Whereas the munificence of princes of this world always claims for itself the merit of a plenary grace! Then must the devil be understood to be stronger for injuring man, ruining him wholly? And must God have the character of comparative weakness, since he does not relieve and help man in his entire state?...2
Irenaeus was even more direct in his treatment of healing as a redemptive benefit.
The maker of all things, the Word of God, Who did also from the beginning form man, when He found His handiwork impaired by wickedness, performed upon it all kinds of healing...How can they maintain that the flesh is incapable of receiving the life which flows from Him when it received healing from Him? For life is brought about through healing, and incorruption through life. He, therefore, who confers healing and incorruption through life; and He, Who gives life, also surrounds His own handiwork with incorruption. As he suffered, so also is He alive, and life-giving, and healing all our infirmity...3
The ancient church believed divine healing to be a believer's benefit provided by the finished work of Christ. The modern healing movement in which the Alliance was born appeals to the same scriptures and the same theological arguments found in the post-apostolic and Ante-Nicene fathers for the teaching of healing. The modern healing movement recovered an apostolic truth.
The doctrine of divine healing now faces its greatest challenge. Anthropology and psychology are no longer exclusively the study of theologians. The study of man's physical and psychological makeup is largely from a secular point of view. Modern medicine holds to these same humanistic presuppositions.
The Message of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, by W.M. Turnbull and C.H. Christman, published by the Christian Alliance Publishing Company in 1927, quotes Dr. Kenneth Mackenzie as saying that Dr. Simpson was probably the first man to define healing in the atonement. Unfortunately, Dr. MacKenzie had not thoroughly researched this subject. Simpson's position on healing in the atonement was not a new concept nor was he the first to write about it. A number of leaders in the holiness/healing revival of that period had preached and written on the subject.
W.E. Boardman of London published a book on divine healing the same year Dr. Simpson resigned his pulpit at the 13th Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. It sets forth the teaching that healing was procured by atonement. This concept had also surfaced in the writings of German revivalist Johann Christopher Blumhart.
In the first years of the modern healing renewal movement, the idea of physical healing being redemptive met with little resistance. The first wave of reaction to this doctrinal position came from the Reformed theologians and was led by Benjamin Warfield of Princeton. His treatment actually admitted that healing was in the atonement but denied any present physical benefits from that fact. Warfield shows that reformed theology views the resurrection as the ultimate healing and relates that ultimate healing to the atonement.
By the early 1920s the spread of Pentecostalism with its practice of spectacular healing campaigns produced a new wave of resistance to divine healing. The excesses sometimes attendant to those meetings made the teaching of divine healing suspect. At the same time the new dispensational theology was being embraced by many evangelicals. The dispensationalists dismissed healing by making it a manifestation of the Mediatorial Kingdom. They concluded that there was no divine healing during the church age.
The writers of this period failed to research the theological roots of the doctrine of healing. Most of the books and papers written were negative and overlooked the theological issues. Many evangelicals rejected the doctrine of healing on dispensational grounds without examining the historical and theological evidence.
The early controversies over healing in the atonement were in-house wars among evangelicals committed to different closed systems of theology. Little exegesis of the scriptural texts can be found in the literature produced in this controversy even when such theological giants as Benjamin Warfield were involved. Most of the books written against healing in the atonement have been lying on bookshelves unread for more than a generation.
In the several years since the "healing in the atonement" controversy peaked among evangelicals, the attitude of scientists toward the matter of faith healing has radically changed. The recognition of psychic reality by many scientists has made the doctrine of physical healing more palatable to them.
E. Marshall Pattison, M.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour at the University of California says,
The early medical literature of the twentieth century commented upon faith healing as an interesting example of aberrant behaviour. Subsequent scientific discussions focused on the nature of the psychosomatic processes involved in faith healing, thus making the concept of faith healing acceptable to both a religious and scientific frame of reference.4
Pattison's statement summarizes the change in the medical community's thinking on divine healing during this century.
The American Medical Association's Department of Medicine and Religion has released an official statement on faith healing. Dr. C. Pardue Bunch, of the American Academy of Family Physicians, has summarized the medical association's statement.
Medical leaders recognize that man cannot be separated into parts for care and treatment of his illness. Man is a whole being. His health is affected by physical, spiritual, mental, and social factors. The faith of the individual patient is a vital factor in total health. It is not a matter of whether we agree or disagree or accept his particular type or degree of faith. The patient has faith and we must deal with the patient within the realm of his faith.5
The position of the medical profession on the validity of divine healing, as reflected in these statements, offers some encouragement to the church, but there is a missing dimension in all of these official statements from the sciences. The fundamental truth of redemption through Christ receives no mention. The medical profession makes faith the key word. Limiting the consideration of Christian healing to the faith factor has the practical effect of placing divine healing on an equal footing with all other forms of non-medical healing. Historically, Christian healing has been considered the work of Jesus Christ and redemptive in nature.
By recognizing the atonement of Christ as the procuring cause of divine healing, the church is declaring that physical healing for the Christian is much more than faith healing. While the benefit of healing is received by faith, that faith must be placed in the work of Christ and nowhere else. Since healing is a redemptive privilege of believers, it is never given without regard to the believer's spiritual state and the will of God.
The concept of healing in the atonement takes on new significance as science and the church go into dialogue about divine healing. The world view of the scientist may be radically different from the world view of the Christian. The scientist who accepts non-space-time experience as reality may believe that physical healings could come from the psychic experience but would not necessarily perceive the healing as a redemptive work of God of the Bible.
Morton T. Kelsey, an Episcopal priest and a Jungian psychologist, has written a study of healing in which he seeks to align the teaching of the church on healing and the insights of philosophy, psychology and medicine. Kelsey, drawing from the vast healing literature of the church, concludes that healing is in the atonement but redefines the theological meaning of the atonement in terms of a world view developed by psychologist Carl Jung. Kelsey summarized Jung's views:
The vast psychic world with which man is presented through the unconscious contents and meanings, Jung found, as objectively real, and as meaningful and possible to experience as the physical world of space and time. In fact, Jung's thinking can provide a philosophical base for modern experiential theology with an approach to healing.6
Kelsey waters down the doctrine of the atonement by making it an action of the spirit world upon the physical world. He appears to exclude the physical aspect of the atonement. Following Jung's world view, Kelsey sees the incarnation as the Spirit of God becoming incarnate in one human being. Kelsey says that the events of Christ's birth show the incarnation actually to be the ultimate extension of Spirit in human life.7
This conclusion denies the teaching of Scripture that the Son, the second person of the Godhead, became flesh. That is far different from the extension of the Spirit in human life. In accepting Jung's world view, Kelsey abandoned the historic Christian doctrine of the incarnation and the atonement.
Morton T. Kelsey says,
The atonement in terms of the world view we have presented is the spiritual result of victory worked out by Christ, as Spirit, in the physical world through Jesus, as man. If, as it appears, the outer action of ordinary men can influence events in the psychic, non-physical world, through active imagination even changing both psychic and physical circumstances, then the atonement is the supreme example of such actions.8
While making the atonement the basis of divine healing, Kelsey has so changed the meaning of atonement that his affirmation in no way reflects the doctrine as understood by the historic Christian church. He comes from a pseudo-scientific approach and arrives at a doctrine of atonement that is unbiblical.
One cannot assume that the medical community's understanding of the "whole man" concept and the Christian's understanding of that concept are one and the same. Unfortunately many of the efforts to integrate Christian faith and medical science have only dealt with the surface matters. A careful examination of the medical conclusions reveals a totally different perception of the whole man from that held by evangelical Christians. The critical difference between the medical view and the Christian view is their respective definitions of man's "spirit."
By man's spirit the secular disciplines mean merely his capacity for communication with psychic reality. The Biblical meaning of spirit implies man's capacity for communion with the Creator-Redeemer God of Scripture.
A recent book entitled The Holistic Way to Health and Happiness says,
The spiritual dimension of your personality is the basis of your total satisfaction or dissatisfaction with living. Spiritual health generates a sense of personal fulfilment, a sense of peace with yourself and the world. It may also lead to a sense of unity with the cosmos or a personal closeness with God. The greatest reward of spiritual growth is the discovery that you have the power to be a self-fulfilling person despite life vicissitudes.9
The above quote is taken from a chapter entitled "Spirit: The Forgotten Dimension of Health." The author suggests that spiritual growth may occur by reading Walt Whitman or the Bible. Prayer, according to this author, can be important in the healing process, but he spends most of the chapter on Transcendental Meditation as a means of spiritual growth. Obviously, Dr. Bloomfield has a different perception of spirituality from that found in the Word of God.
The terminology employed by the sciences must be clearly defined before relating a given term to a similar Christian concept. The term "faith healing" is not necessarily the equivalent of divine healing as taught by historic Christianity. The pagan culture in which the apostolic church ministered believed strongly in non-medical healing powers. Even in our own day most of the non-Christian world believes in supernatural healing.
The believer must discover from Scripture what is meant by divine healing and how it differs from all other forms of non-medical healing. If that distinction is not made the believer runs the risk of opening himself to the power of darkness.
The medical scientist and behaviour scientist for the most part deny the idea of human depravity. A recent scientific paper claims that man in his primal state reflects the true nature of man.
...we can say with some assurance what `man' is like. And he is nothing like we expected. He is not evil or wickedly lustful, or selfish.10
In that same paper a thesis is proposed to put man in touch with his so-called primordial depths so he may discover his true nature.
The research in primal consciousness seeks to put man in touch with a part of his brain which existed millennia ago so he may recover his instinctive self. The study proposes this concept as a cure of the mental, physical and social void of modern man.
The ever changing theories in modern psychology range from sound premises based on research and adequate evidence to the bizarre theory of the primal consciousness. Since psychology deals with the complex nature of the human personality it cannot, as a science, substantiate all its claims by empirical evidence. It has been subject, more than other sciences, to the influences of philosophical presuppositions. The line between theory and fact is often blurred. The church must exercise discernment in accepting the claims of psychology. The church has forsaken the study of biblical psychology and far too often accepts the conclusions of secular psychology as dogma.
The German theologian, Franz Delitzsch, published The Theology of Biblical Psychology in 1845. In 1855, A System of Biblical Psychology was published by Delitzsch in which he traces the history of human psychology from the early church to his own day. Tertullian, Gregory of Thaumaturgus, Gregory of Nyssa, and Origen all wrote dogmatic works on the nature of man. Delitzsch concluded that by the Middle Ages the study of Biblical psychology was more systematic and rested largely on the philosophies of Aristotle and Plato.
Delitzsch says of the literature on man's nature during Medieval times,
...Combining Plato with Aristotle, there is the attempt to read immediately in the Book of Nature, and to draw out of the depth of the soul's consciousness; but men did not see their way to a free and undivided reference to the teaching of Holy Scripture; and even had they wished to draw from that source immediately, their ignorance of its language would not allow them to appeal to it at first hand.11
In his study of the history of Biblical psychology, Delitzsch determined the Reformers to be the beginning of "a really free scriptural inquiry" into man's nature.
The first biblical psychology written in Germany was Melanchthon's Commentarius de Anima published in 1540. This work used the Scripture as an apologetic for psychological concepts already acknowledged. Most of those conclusions were more philosophical than scientific. Melanchthon's method prevailed until the work by John Albert Bengel (1752) was published. Bengel pioneered the study of human psychology by viewing philosophical conclusions on the subject in the light of Scripture.
By the beginning of the nineteenth century, Biblical psychology had taken its rightful place in the entire system of theology. A rather impressive literature of Biblical psychology emerged during the nineteenth century. Some German theologians considered Biblical psychology to be the rounding out of the doctrine of anthropology. The impact of the natural sciences was already felt by the church. By the middle of the nineteenth century some theologians were yielding to the criticism of Biblical psychology, maintaining that the Scriptures do not speak to knowledge of nature which comes out of empirical investigation. They also held that to be true of cosmogony. The theologians questioned the possibility of written Scripture speaking with accuracy to the nature of the material world and man's physiology and psychology.
The critics of Biblical psychology eventually won the day. The literature in the field is practically unknown to modern theologians. The conclusions of the sciences regarding man's nature have been generally accepted by the church and seldom questioned. Pastors and theologians tend to accept the psychology of the scientific community and search for a few proof texts to sustain those concepts they feel are applicable to their ministry. The problem presented by this situation is that the church, whose business is ministry to the needs of the human personality, is often working from a view of man's nature that is philosophically contrary to the Biblical revelation of man's nature. We are virtually without Biblical psychology.
The rejection of Biblical psychology left the modern evangelical theologians without a grid through which to view the rapidly developing sciences related to man's nature. The bridging of the healing sciences and theology has been, for the most part, initiated by the scientist rather than the theologian.
Franz Delitzsch, professor of theology in Leipsci, Germany, wrote in the prolegomena of his great work a definition of Biblical psychology:
...under the name of Biblical psychology I understand a scientific representation of the doctrine of scripture on the physical constitution of man as it was created, and the ways in which this constitution has been affected by sin and redemption. There is such a doctrine in scripture.12
Delitzsch argues that the spiritual, psychological and mental aspects of man's nature cannot be completely understood apart from the revealed truth found in written Scripture. For the Bible believing Christian, the wholeness of man is understood in terms of the Scripture. Such a Biblical psychology is essential to a sound doctrine of divine healing.
The area of the demonic also calls for a Biblical psychology. The nature and treatment of the demonic is exclusively redemptive. Apart from the atonement of Jesus Christ, no deliverance is possible. While medical treatment has effected cures in the mentally ill, the therapy and drugs have not cured the demonized. It is the power of the blood of Christ and the authority of His name that defeat the power of darkness and release the human personality from demonic bondage. Encounters with the power of darkness require the church to place its confidence in the blood of the Lamb of God. The deliverance of the demonized is a ministry of healing.
The present trend to integrate the concepts of secular disciplines with the church's doctrine of healing has already brought some evangelicals to a less than Biblical view of healing. An example of such syncretism appeared in a recent issue of Christianity Today. Rodney Clapp wrote an article dealing with new trends in the church's ministry of healing. He coins the term "centrist healing" to describe the integration of "faith" healing and medicine. Clapp says,
Because it is ultimately concerned with healing, centrist healing will seek and use any means to achieve that healing. It is not a question of God getting the credit if the healing is direct and instantaneous, and medicine getting the credit if it is gradual and chemical related. Nor is it a question of the pastor or physician taking credit. The pastor, physician and chemicals are all instruments of healing. Anointing oil and penicillin can both be sacraments of health.
The approach of the centrist healing theory, described by Clapp, is completely secular in its viewpoint. On these terms healing is no more than an operation of the physical and psychological laws. Its ultimate objective, according to Clapp, is the healing of the individual. The Biblical doctrine of divine healing cannot be reconciled with the centrist position.
Divine healing has as its ultimate objective the glory of God. Scripturally, divine healing is a benefit for believers only. The healing of the believer and non-believer are two different things. While God can and sometimes does heal a non-believer in a sovereign action, the doctrine of divine healing is addressed to the people of God and rests on a covenant relationship provided by the atonement.
Clapp's claim that anointing oil and penicillin can both be sacraments of health reveals a totally different perception of unction from that of historic Christianity. Penicillin heals by natural laws and anointing oil symbolizes healing by direct, divine intervention. These two approaches to healing cannot be equated. No spiritual conditions or personal relationship to God are required for the successful use of penicillin in the treatment of illness. The anointing is an ecclesiastical rite performed in Christ's name and under conditions laid down in Scripture.
One may argue, since God created the natural laws by which the application of penicillin aids healing, how can that be different from divine healing? While God is the first cause in all true healing, the recovery of a sick body through chemical treatment is a common grace that can be enjoyed by the most ungodly as well as the believer. It is not redemptive and is in no way dependent on a blood-bought relationship with God. Divine healing is a believer's privilege. It is a supernatural intervention. The conditions for claiming divine healing are essentially spiritual in nature.
Whatever interaction the church's ministry of healing may have with medicine and psychology, the distinction between common grace and redemptive benefit must be maintained.
The present interest in divine healing by scientists has the potential for blessing or it could create problems for those evangelicals that have historically taught and practiced this doctrine. The inter-disciplinary study of non-medical healing presents a challenge to those church bodies committed to the doctrine of healing as presented in written Scripture. The present discussion between scientist and theologian calls for a fresh affirmation of the redemptive aspect of divine healing.
At present, medicine and psychology are setting the terms on which their disciplines and the church meet in the study of non-medical healing. There is an urgent need of a solid, Biblical theology of human nature and physical healing. In too many instances the concepts of the healing sciences are accepted and some feeble effort is made to relate them to proof texts. The flow should be moving the other way. Theologians should be able to take the initiative and address the healing scientists with the body of truth on man and the healing of his whole being as found in revealed Scripture. The church must also use this same theology to test every premise of the sciences, for the church and the sciences can only meet at the point of truth.
How then can the Biblical doctrine of divine healing be reconciled to the disciplines of modern science? They cannot be fully reconciled for they operate in two spheres. Science contributes to the body of knowledge about man, but does not and cannot address his spiritual nature. The church must use candour in dealing with modern science's proposals to a happy marriage of medicine and the church in the ministry of healing. What must be surrendered to have such a union with the secular sciences? Since divine healing is procured by the finished work of Christ for His redeemed people, the church is the agency of that ministry and it must be carried out in conformity to written Scripture.
To assume this position is not to discount the value and benefits of modern medicine and psychology. It means the church must scrutinize the philosophical presuppositions in which these secular sciences are established and be prepared to resist the non-Christian concepts in medicine and psychology.
When the church interacts with medicine and psychology it must be selective so as not to compromise the truth. The church dare not surrender its Christ-given ministry of healing to secular movements outside the church. Christian healing comes from a system of truth that admits man's fallen condition and believes that condition to be the root cause of human illness. It teaches that the redeemed sinner can enjoy the benefit of physical healing now on the basis of faith in the stated promise of Scripture. The church has historically believed divine healing to be a blessing of redemption.
As the Alliance enters its second century of ministry, the doctrine of healing in the atonement becomes an important issue. It is upon this sure ground the church must stand as it meets the growing interest of the public and the sciences in non-medical healing. That which makes the biblical doctrine of healing different is its concept of man's depravity and its complete faith in the redemptive work of Christ. Divine healing is not just some unknown spiritual force healing the human body. Christian healing contends that the healing is the direct intervention of the living Christ on the basis of His death and resurrection.
* His Dominion, 13(4): 2-12 (1987).
1. Evelyn Frost, Christian Healing (London: A.R. Mowbray & Co., 1940), p.103.
2. Ibid., p. 92.
3. Ibid., p. 91.
4. Compiled by Claude A. Frazier, M.D., Faith Healing: The Finger of God or Scientific Curiosity? (New York: Thomas E. Nelson, 1973), p. 105.
5. Ibid., p. 124.
6. Morton T. Kelsey, Healing and Christianity (New York: Thomas E. Nelson, 1973), p. 105.
7. Ibid., p. 331.
8. Ibid., p. 338.
9. Harold H. Bloomfield and Robert B. Kory, The Holistic Way to Health and Happiness (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978), p. 244.
10. Arthur Janov, Primal Man: The New Consciousness (New York: Crowell, 1985), p.455.
11. Franz Delitzsch, A System of Biblical Psychology (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clarke, 1890), p.5.
12. Ibid., p. 16.