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Return to July/August 2016 articles.

The title of this month's lead article is SCIENCE AND FAITH: IN MEDICINE. The picture is of a nurse sitting by a young girl's bed in a hospital.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Psalm 139:14
The cover of our July/August 2016 journal has a researcher in his lab.

Indeed, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. What machine do you know that can run continuously for as long as 100 years without outside intervention to rebuild or repair it? We all complain about our aches and pains, which in many cases are due to neglecting our physical health, but our bodies are incredibly made. Science has given us a wealth of data about our bodies that should be encouraging and should build our faith in God. This data should expand our understanding of the simple statement, “God formed a man from the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7). The word “formed” is commonly used in reference to the creative act of an artist or an engineer.

Our feet alone show the incredible care and design built into all parts of our body. The human foot has 26 bones and 125,000 sweat glands. Our stomach has acid strong enough to dissolve iron, but the walls of the stomach have special cells that produce a mucous coating that prevents the acid from attacking the stomach. Your left lung is smaller than your right lung to make room for your heart. The human brain can hold five times as much information as an encyclopedia and yet it operates on the same amount of power as a ten-watt light bulb. Three-hundred-million cells die in the human body every minute so that every seven years we have a completely new body. All of this is a testimony to the fact that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

A multi-generational family is walking in a park together.

Our challenge as humans is how to care for the body and how to repair it when something goes wrong. Our bodies suffer an incredible amount of abuse. When someone is intoxicated, he has taken a toxin into his body that has produced a change. Toxins do bad things to our bodies, and some toxins are now coming into us from our environment due to human mismanagement of resources. A huge percentage of cancer is caused by man-made carcinogens in the environment. Science has produced many of these substances, and medical science works to correct the damage that these substances have done. Science is warning us about physical threats to our health, and all of us need to pay attention to the warnings. Unfortunately, science cannot address the most fundamental causes of these hazards to our health — greed, selfishness, materialism, and human stupidity. This is where faith has a necessary role in how we deal with the care and repair of our bodies.

Christianity offers a perspective that complements medical science. The teachings of Christianity provide a unique view of the value and precious nature of our bodies. First Corinthians 3:16 – 17 (NKJV) says, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” The word “defiles” is the Greek word phtheiro which is uniquely used in this verse and means to corrupt or ruin, not just to make dirty. When we corrupt our bodies we not only cause medical problems to take place, but we also violate the spiritual force that gives the Christian the strength to do God’s will. Another treatment of this concept is given in 1 Corinthians 6:15 – 20 (NIV) when the subject of prostitution is addressed. We are told, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body?” [Genesis 2:24 says], ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.”

Science can offer ways to combat sexually transmitted diseases and avoid conception, but faith is needed to allow people to avoid the negative effects of selfish, promiscuous sexual gratification. Lifestyle is a major contributor to medical well-being, but science is powerless in motivating people to choose to adopt a constructive lifestyle. People who struggle with alcoholism and other chemical problems that damage their bodies frequently find that “learning to look to a higher power” is critical to changing their lifestyle to a constructive one. We go to a scientifically trained person for help in repairing the physical things that go wrong with our bodies. It is equally important to go to the right help to avoid those things that damage us physically, and also for help with those things linked to spiritual problems in our lives.

A pregnant couple in the park.

We tend to make major decisions about life based entirely on what can be done, and without a spiritual understanding of what ought to be done. The abortion issue has been rooted in the fact that it is now possible for people to end a pregnancy by killing the baby. From a scientific perspective, this cannot be viewed as anything but murder. In most states today if a woman is assaulted and the baby she is carrying dies, the person who did the assault is considered to be guilty of murder. Attempts to circumvent this fact have depended on saying that the baby is just an extension of the mother’s body. That view has very little scientific support. Morning sickness happens because the mother’s body is rejecting the baby as not being a part of her body. An elaborate design is built into the system that prevents this attempted rejection from killing the baby (see January/February 2009, page 18 for more on this). Babies respond to things happening outside the womb at a very early stage of the pregnancy (see June 1978; November/December 2013, page 27; January/February 2014, page 28; March/April 2014, page 28; May/June 2014, page 29).

From a faith perspective, there is a much better solution to an unwanted pregnancy than abortion. Deciding to have a baby is part of the family unit structure, and avoiding promiscuous sex (fornication) is the surest way to avoid the issue. When an unwanted pregnancy does occur, the baby is still viewed biblically as special, and adoption allows that beautiful child to continue to bless the world. Faith has a role in dealing with this issue, and there are solutions that avoid the psychological, physical, and social consequences of abortion.

A hospital nurse with a tablet talks to a senior patient.

Science and faith have a complementary relationship when it comes to the end of life as well. Euthanasia, suicide, and “pulling the plug” are growing issues in our world today. Science has developed the capacity to extend life through technology. One problem is that science cannot define “life” in a very adequate way. Some base it on the beating of the heart, some on whether brain waves exist, and some on quality of life. From a biblical standpoint, death is when the soul leaves the body — when the indwelling of the Spirit no longer happens. Unfortunately, all of these definitions are hard to apply. Because of technology the beating of the heart is no longer useful, because hearts can be restarted or transplanted or replaced with mechanical devices. The quality of life is always relative, and brain waves are not an all-or-nothing proposition. Science should be able to make the process of dying relatively painless, but the decision to “pull the plug” has to be made by the individual or the family. Faith is involved in this, and many times an extended life has brought forgiveness, blessings, and peace not to only the one dying, but to the family left behind as well.

We have mentioned several times in this journal that atheistic decisions about death and dying have huge problems associated with them. Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton University has suggested that from a scientific and political perspective we should euthanize mentally and physically challenged individuals, as well as people who have mental illness of such a nature that hospitalization is required. His argument is that the expense of maintaining these individuals until natural death is prohibitive (see November/December 2010, page 26.) Many arguments for abortion and euthanasia come from the same mindset. To remove faith and Christian values from these issues is to create a society that is totally mechanical and animalistic. One is reminded of Liberal, Missouri — a town created by atheists in which no churches or Christian values were allowed. The town closed because of the chaos that resulted from such a belief system. The founder later said that he never again wanted to live in a town with no churches (see July/August 1989).

The mention of mental illness brings up another facet of the “science and faith in medicine” discussion. Many years ago it was popular in articles written about mental health to say, “It isn’t what you eat that is important, it’s what eats you.” Twentieth-century psychology had much of its roots in the teachings of Freud which gave a strictly physical explanation of human behavior with most of it based on assumptions about human sexuality. In the twenty-first century, we have learned that mental health is far more complex than just having one cause. We have also learned that physical health is radically affected by mental health. The importance of having a purpose in life, being part of a support group, having security, and being loved cannot be over-emphasized. Christianity meets those needs in powerful ways. There have been numerous studies showing the value of prayer, not so much that a miracle is expected as the fact that others care and are in support of the ill person. The value of looking to a higher power, to which Christianity has always called humanity, is not questioned by those who work with addiction. The importance of forgiveness, and of loving the person while not loving what they have done is a key to getting over a terrible wrong.

A hospital nurse with a tablet talks to a senior patient.

The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 – 7 remains a masterpiece in how to live successfully. Going the second mile instead of demanding payback, turning the other cheek instead of retaliating, returning good for evil instead of carrying a grudge, living one day at a time instead of hoarding for the future and being obsessed with things, accepting others instead of judging them, and looking for good fruit in making decisions are all keystones to good mental health and happiness.

Stress is a major cause of both physical and mental illness. Living the Christian life allows us to handle stress. I have a close friend who is a very successful doctor. I have heard him say that all he can do is “provide the resources that allow healing, but whether the patient gets healed or not depends on forces beyond the reach of medicine.” Faith and God’s actions in our lives are a major part of those forces. Science and faith are friends, and working together they can help us deal with everything that happens in life — from conception to death.

Left: a female college student sitting in a park reading a textbook. Center and right: An senior couple walking along a beach together.

Our thanks to Dr. F. Batmanghelidj, Mark Gardner, and Paul Mitchell for the data on the human body.

— John N. Clayton

Picture credits:
© monkeybusinessimages. Image from BigStockPhoto.com
Cover photo: © l i g h t p o e t. Image from BigStockPhoto.com
© monkeybusinessimages. Image from BigStockPhoto.com
© sborisov. Image from BigStockPhoto.com
© monkeybusinessimages. Image from BigStockPhoto.com
© Claudio’s Pics. Image from BigStockPhoto.com
Last three photos: © monkeybusinessimages. Images from BigStockPhoto.com