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ss nucleus - spring 2000,  Christianity and Medicine

Christianity and Medicine

Can faith and medicine be integrated? What is an authentic Christian doctor? How should we care for our patients? Here are a number of excerpts from articles written by doctors who strive to be different, as Christ was.

Jesus the healer

Following Jesus’ example

As health professionals we frequently come into contact with strangers who are facing tragedy. Yet emotional involvement is something which is not encouraged within the health professions. Even in the face of tragedy, any display of emotion is undesirable. The image that the modern health professional strives to portray is that of the cool, dispassionate, detached, slightly cynical expert. But I strongly believe that as followers of Jesus we are called to be involved with the stranger, as he was. Time and again, Luke and the other gospel writers emphasise that Jesus was not a disinterested observer of suffering and pain. He was deeply and emotionally involved. God, through Jesus, has entered fully into the human experience, and is totally and emotionally involved in the joys and the agony of his Creation. Empathy, the way of Christ, emphasises our common humanity - ‘I care, I am involved, I am a human being like you, we are in this together’ (Wyatt J. Raising the widow’s son. Nucleus 1997; 26-29, April).

Jesus cared for the whole person

Jesus was much more than a medical doctor curing diseases. Yes, he cured leprosy, but he did much more than that; he healed persons who had leprosy. He healed the whole person because he knew that when someone was ill, every part of him was ill - feelings, emotions, heart and spirit, as well as coronary arteries, liver, kidneys or joints (Fountain D. Faith and Medicine: bringing them together under Christ. Nucleus 1999; 12-18, January).

The Christian doctor

Body, mind and spirit

To be really effective doctors we must treat the whole person - body, mind and spirit. This tripartite aspect of man is recognised in the Bible (1 Thes 5:23). God is concerned with all three aspects and therefore we should be also (Palmer B. Should doctors evangelise their patients? Nucleus 1996; 2-12, October).

Integrated healing

As long as we concentrate on physical healing we will fit in with what our culture expects. If we dare to suggest, like Jesus, that spiritual disease can be as significant as physical paralysis, then we risk unpopularity, even outrage. But if we are to be true followers of our Lord we must attempt to practise integrated healing, however difficult this may be in our modern hospitals, our professional structures and our health service. We must try to keep together what our materialistic secular culture wants to separate. Of course as paid employees in the National Health Service we must not abuse our position of trust to concentrate on our patients’ spiritual needs either. But we need to think through carefully what practical steps we can take to integrate physical and spiritual healing in our own professional practice. There is a profound, if complex, connection between the inner spiritual and the outer physical aspects of disease and healing. As followers of Jesus we need to be concerned about both, whatever the consequences will be for our popularity or our professional reputations (Wyatt J. Healing of a paralysed man. Nucleus 1996; 13-16, October).

Living the truth

The Christian doctor does not stand on the touch-line telling his patients how to live and die. He is involved in the game himself. The Christian Gospel is not a department of medicine to which we refer patients saying, ‘Believe in God if it helps you’. If it is indeed the truth the doctor must be wholly committed to it himself. He cannot give what he has not got, nor lead where he is not going, nor introduce others to someone he does not know. Cicely Saunders, founder of the Hospice movement, maintains that we must communicate truth to others not only in words, but also in relationship; a trust and confidence which is transmitted from one to another, an assurance that ‘rubs off’ and helps our patients to find the same faith for themselves (Crouch M. Telling the truth to patients. Nucleus 1993; 2-9, July)

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