Worldview in Medicine: Choosing Life and Health or Disease and
Reader, suppose someone
were to ask you this question, “What would you do with your life
to promote the greatest health for the greatest number of
people?” Before reading further, please pause and reflect on
this question. It would be a good exercise even to write down
Here is the Biblical
answer, “To achieve the greatest health for the greatest number
of people, one should become a Biblical preacher or a
evangelical missionary!” Was that answer among what you wrote
This answer introduces
you to the Biblical worldview of medicine, no matter what
country of the world in which you live. Any Biblical
worldview always starts with the Biblical view of man, anywhere,
at any time in history. The first man and woman (Adam and
Eve) were created in a perfect state. Had they not sinned, they
would have lived eternally with complete health. Because of
their Fall, disease and death were introduced. “The LORD God
commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may
eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will
surely die’ ” (Genesis 2:16-17).
David Livingstone, the
great missionary to Africa, had this Biblical understanding when
he gave up the practice of medicine to concentrate on
evangelism, discipling, and church planting. His time was best
spent in evangelization and preaching, rather than in medical
care that, at best, would give only temporary relief.
The practice of
medicine is inherently religious.
Medicine Under Scripture.)
If it is practiced on the fundamentals that man is basically
good and makes choices consistent with that understanding and
that he is only a collection of molecules, every answer to any
problem is biochemical or surgical.
Or, by contrast,
medicine can be practiced by the believing Christian with the
Biblical view that man has a soul, responsible to God for his
thinking and behavior.
normal? What is health?
The World Health
Organization (WHO) states that "health is a state of complete
physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the
absence of disease or infirmity.” Biblically, health by this
definition, exists only in the Garden of Eden (pre-Fall) and in
heaven for believers. No matter what advances in medical and
scientific technology, because of the Fall, disease is going to
be prevalent and death will always occur (until Christ returns).
So, the WHO definition, while it may be a noble goal, will never
be achieved on planet earth.
What, then, would be a
Biblical definition of health? I propose this definition: health
is that physical and mental state of a person in which he or she
is born-again, obedient to God’s commandments , and makes
maximal use of the best medical science that can be discerned
within a Biblical understanding. Let’s explore this definition
in detail for it is basis to a biblical worldview in medicine.
1) A person.
Health is always an individual matter, relative to one person
only. It ranges from a body like an Olympic athlete and a mind
like Einstein to the severely retarded and physically
incapacitated child or adult with a severe genetic disorder.
Thus, exercise, diet, intellectual development, medications,
physical therapies, and other modalities maximize one
individual’s capabilities according to one‘s inherent physical
and mental abilities. Those who are basically “healthy” of body
and mind require, perhaps, only basic diet and exercise. Those
with severe genetic disorders may require a wide range of
frequent physical and medical interventions.
2) Born-again or
regeneration. This chapter is not the place to present
the different Christian beliefs about what being “born-again”
means. I refer here simply to the fact that the Bible divides
all mankind into two groups, the saved and the unsaved (for
example, Matthew 25:32-33). How can a man or woman who is
rebellious towards God (Romans 5:10) be considered healthy in
mind, if not in body? How can an unbeliever be motivated to make
his body a temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19-20)?
3) Obedience to
God’s commandments. “If you love me, you will keep my
commandments” (John 14:15).” Commandments” mean all of God’s
instructions to His people, not just the Ten Commandments or
those that are called commandments. If you read Psalm 119, you
will see the many different nouns that are synonyms for
Moses instructed the
Hebrews, as they were to enter Canaan and after they had
received the entire book of the law (from Genesis to
Deuteronomy), “See, I have set before you today life and
prosperity, and death and adversity,” (Deuteronomy 30:15. Also
read verses 11-20). My paraphrase of that choice for a Biblical
worldview in medicine is “Choose life and health or disease and
death.” (See also, Exodus 15:26.)
One example of Moses’
choice is HIV/AIDS and all sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Spouses who are chaste before marriage and sexually faithful
after marriage never have to worry about contracting
HIV/AIDS or any of the other worldwide epidemic of STDs. Thus, a
major fear among the earth’s populations is erased by simply
following God’s directives!
4) Makes maximal
use of the best medical science that can be discerned within a
Biblical understanding. There are some subtleties here
of which the reader should be aware. “Best medical science”
means a Biblical and statistical discernment that
is careful and thorough. An example of Biblical discernment is
that the law in every state in the United States allows any
physician to treat any age girl for birth control, pregnancy, or
sexually transmitted diseases without parental consent or
knowledge. Such law is unbiblical, striking at the health that
is the unity of the family.
An example of
statistical discernment is screening for prostate cancer which
does not alter morbidity (experience of disease) or mortality
(increasing life expectancy). Even the U.S. government’s own
position in its “Report of the U. S. Preventive Services Task
Force does not recommend screening for prostate cancer.
There are numerous
examples of other conflicts between the Bible and modern medical
“science,” a few of which we will explore here. There are
hundreds of examples of statistically irrelevant practices
that are commonly accepted by health care workers. Biblical
discernment includes scientific, as well as, biblical
understanding because God is Sovereign over both the spiritual
and physical universe. Most opinions spoken and written by
Christians fail the Biblical standard at many points. Scientific
analysis is almost non-existent. (Note: I have been involved in
Biblical medical ethics for almost 30 years, publishing several
books, a journal, and two newsletters. Most of that material has
been moved to this website where you are reading this article.
For these articles see the articles under
Journal of Biblical Ethics in Medicine and
Biblical Reflections on Modern Medicine.)
Governments and Health
Government has a great
deal of influence on the health of its people. We have already
addressed the issue of treating girls without parental
permission and a policy on prostate cancer. The official
promotion of condoms, non-intercourse sex practices, and other
non-statistical recommendations, rather than sexual fidelity
before and after marriage, as answers to the HIV/AIDS epidemic
is another heinous example. Countries that pass laws to allow
same-sex marriages will also be severely hurting the health of
their peoples, striking at the health that true families provide
and increasing sexual promiscuity. Public health measures, or
the lack of them, may affect the health of hundreds of thousands
of people. So, a Biblical worldview in medicine is necessary for
governments, as well as, individuals. We will see this necessity
in this next section.
“Now (Adam) had
relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to
Cain” (Genesis 4:1). Very simply, this verse defines when human
live begins: with the sexual union of a man and woman that leads
to conception. Human life begets human life. The issue is no
more complicated than that.
For those who might
want more Biblical support, I could cite the following.
John the Baptist
leaped in his mother’s womb at the presence of Jesus (Luke
1:41). John has sufficient consciousness, that is,
personhood, to react to His Lord’s presence. Now, the exact
age of John in the womb of Elizabeth in not precisely known,
but drawing the line anywhere during gestation from
conception to birth can only be defined by some arbitrary
standard that denies the continuity of human life from
parents to their children.
David had a sin
nature at conception (Psalm 51:5). Only a person can have a
sin nature. David (and, therefore, any descendant of other
humans) are persons from conception.
In Psalm 139:13,
the unborn child is being “knit” together by God Himself.
Does he “knit” at certain times before birth and not others?
If so, how do we discern when He does not work that we may
consider the unborn child non-human in order to abort it?
In Jeremiah 1:5,
we are told that God ordained and sanctified Jeremiah before
he was born! Thus, persons begin in the plan of God,
starting at conception, when the person is first formed a
unit of being.
Citing other verses
will not convince the person who is unwilling to accept the
authority of God’s Word which clearly states that the individual
person begins at conception, and that it constitutes murder to
intentionally kill that person any time later in life (6th
For the most part (at
least superficially), Western civilization is a pretty picture.
Tall, strong lines of skyscrapers and huge ships, libraries and
universities, hospitals and physicians’ offices, asphalt and
concrete roads, computers that stagger the imagination in their
capabilities, and dozens of other marvels. But, if you go into
any nursing home and look at the bodies of the people there and
observe the functioning of their minds, you will see the
devastating effects of the Fall of Adam and Eve. For all our
“advances and technology,” we cannot prevent much of the ravages
of disease and the dying process.
effects cause a great deal of human suffering by the persons
themselves and their families. On an emotional level, one can
understand the drive to find a “solution” to end this suffering.
(It is also costly and a great inconvenience.) No one wants this
tragedy for himself, herself, or a member of one’s family. But,
God speaks from Mount Sinai, “Thou shalt not kill!” He
does not need to say more.
What is most needed in
these difficult situations is the presence of tenderness and
longsuffering, the “until death do us part” commitment of
spouses, the “honoring of father and mothers,” the
reconciliation of conflicts (before the opportunity is gone
forever), the creativity of care and comfort, and the greater
heights that men and women are sometimes called to scale in
their love or one another. Unfortunately, Christians are too
often no better than non-Christians in these circumstances.
Surely, we should strive to fulfill the criteria by which the
world may judge our testimonies (John 17:20-25).
You see, dear reader,
the reality of Moses’ choice that he gave his people, “choose
the way of life or death” is the same choice today. The
unbeliever (call him humanist, atheist, agnostic, communist,
socialist, spiritualist, or whatever) answers difficult problems
with the solution of death: death to the unborn child and death
to the aging and diseased ridden person. God’s answer is
life, as difficult as it may be under the effects of the Fall.
about Psychology and Psychiatry
The human individual is
a unity of both body and mind. Thus, we cannot avoid considering
the sciences of the mind (psychology) in a chapter on medicine.
professionals in this field trace modern psychology and
psychiatry to Sigmund Freud. This man was an atheist who tried
to find a solution for the problem of guilt. Voila! We are face
to face with the Bible again! There is no solution for guilt
other than the forgiveness provided in Jesus Christ and to be
Some writers who are
Christians pose the question, “Is the Bible really a textbook on
psychology?” (The only difference between psychiatry and
psychology is that psychiatrists are M.D.s and may prescribe
medications. Both use the same “psychotherapies.”)
You should answer, “It most certainly is!” What is psychology
about? Thinking and behavior. What is the Bible about? Thinking
Now, there are a couple
of differences. The Bible is truth; psychology is science (see
the Chapter on Science and Technology), based upon an
evolutionary concept of man. The Bible is God’s Word; psychology
is man’s word (as theory and experimental knowledge).
One other comment
should suffice for a very brief overview here. There are
diseases of the brain. Some are obvious, like brain injury:
accidents with head injury, strokes, Parkinson’s disease,
cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s, brain tumors, etc. Some are likely
due to brain disease: schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Some
are very questionably caused by brain disease (at least in most
cases): depression, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, and
panic disorders. The borders in many of these areas between
disease and behavioral choices is yet to be worked out
definitively. Yet, today, a far greater number of these have
been labeled “mental disorders” than are truly organic. In
all cases, the Bible must be applied to behavior in all areas
where choices can be made.
Use and Abuse
We started this chapter
with medicine being practiced on the basis that man is a body (biochemicals)
only or he is both body and soul (the Biblical view). So,
let me ask you this question, “Both legally and illegally, what
do most societies believe the answer to their problems is?” The
answer is, “Drugs.” People go to physicians to get drugs. (They
care little for spiritual answers based upon mine and many
others’ experiences.) If they can’t get the drugs that they want
there, they get them “on the street” (illegally).
You see, a man’s view
of himself will determine his approach to medical care for
himself and his family, whether he is the patient or the
physician. Medical practice is the reflection of a culture,
as is every other area of endeavor.
(Note: I have been
involved in Biblical medical ethics for almost 30 years,
publishing several books, a journal, and two newsletters. Most
of that material has been moved to this website where you are
reading this article. For these articles see the articles under
Journal of Biblical Ethics in Medicine and
Biblical Reflections on Modern Medicine.)
All Bible quotes are
1. Physical health
(health of the body) is mostly dependent upon one’s spiritual
health: regeneration and obedience to God’s commandments for
2. Physical health is
mostly an individual phenomenon, as each person has different
abilities and physical composition.
3. Only a discerning
Christian can practice medicine that is fully Biblical, and
therefore, most healthy.
4. Since God calls for
truth, the Christian in health care should be discerning of what
is and is not efficacious medical care according to the best
understanding of medical science.
5. The government of
any nation has responsibility for public health. It does not
have responsibility for one’s individual health.
6. Abortion is the
wrongful death of unborn children, any time after conception.
Even though abortion may be legal in many nations, it is wrong
morally, and God condemns its practice.
7. Euthanasia is any
act that intends the death of a person for reasons of
“suffering.” Acts of health care workers that inadvertently
cause the death of a person, either from withdrawal or
institution, and that is intended to relieve suffering only, may
not be euthanasia.
8. Psychology and
psychiatry are mostly governed by a godless morality and a
9. Medications (drugs),
either legally or illegally, will never solve people’s moral and
Questions to Consider
1. List at least five
ways that an understanding of physical (bodily) health from a
Biblical anthropology (understanding of man) is different from
that of a non-Christian.
2. What are the two
criteria for men and women that will prevent their ever becoming
infected with any sexually transmitted diseases?
3. What errors has the
government of your country made relative to health care? What
have they done right?
4. Is all medical
practice that results in the death of a patient consistent with
euthanasia? Why not?
5. Define “healthy.”
Define what is “normal