My chapter summaries of Biblical Healing for Modern Medicine, Franklin E. Payne, Jr. M.D. Covenant Books
We have come to expect physicians to heal us, yet the true effectiveness of medicine falls far short. It cannot work miracles.
Dr. Payne argues that modern medicine (written in the 1980s) was detrimental to health rather than beneficial. Despite the great amount of money spent on healthcare, American health is floundering as a whole. If people realized how ineffective it was, they would stop clamoring for national health care. Modern medicine cannot prove its own efficacy. Dr. Payne mentions a number of studies actually showing medicine failures and says that he has files of other similar studies.
Medicine developed a reputation for efficacy by having blossomed simultaneously with the decline of many life threatening diseases such as rheumatic fever and whooping cough. Dr. Payne argues that these diseases were disappearing before medicine came on the scene to take credit.
Having sketched the weakness of modern medicine, he also addresses dangers of alternative medicine, arguing that Christians should approach all forms of medicine with discernment. I do question his statement that “An attempt at scientific medicine has taught that 1) no therapy works in everyone, and 2) no therapy is without side effects…. At least, modern medicine has often published its failures and challenged its standard therapies.” I challenge this in that scientific medicine behaves “as if” we can apply the same therapy across a broad population. We are taught to treat demographic groups. We sort the patient before us into a diagnostic category and match a therapy to them. Basically, I am saying that if modern medicine believes that “no therapy works in everyone”, modern medicine is not acting according to their beliefs. I would also add a little to “no therapy is without side effects” and say that “…in someone” which is what I believe he really means. He is addressing the claims that many alternative medicine practitioners make concerning the safety of their therapies. He is correct that some alternative therapy promoters are not honest about the risks. However, in my own studies, I have been amazed to discover that many effective natural remedies exist which have little to no side effects for most patients. I am beginning to believe that God does a better job of pharmaceutical development that humans. I would also challenge that modern medicine does a good job of publishing its failures. Both groups and individuals in medicine fight against changes especially ones that alter their cherished paradigms. Drug companies hide study results. Many have state that it takes 17 years for research to reach common use in the clinic setting.
Basically, there are sinners in both conventional and alternative medical fields. Patients must discern Biblically even if they never receive formal training in health fields.
“I don’t think a medical student is ever told what his mission in life is. Certainly no one told me when I was a medical student what was expected of me as a lifetime goal in assuming the role of a physician” C. Everett Koop, M.D., 1976
Since there are no explicit goals for medicine defined in the Bible, the ethic of Biblical medicine must be derived. In the attempt to relieve suffering, physicians must diagnose and then manage the patients care. A wrong diagnosis will more likely lead to harm or even death as the wrong therapy will be applied. It is important to recognize that a physician’s worldview determines their diagnosis. An eastern medicine practitioner will diagnose in terms of yin and yang. A chiropractor will see the diagnosis as a malalignment.
Once a diagnosis is made, treatment or management occurs. Physicians hope to heal or cure patients, but do so rarely. They at best help the body to heal itself. Usually they instead either relieve suffering, prognosticate, rehabilitate, prevent, or research. Non-christian physicians would not likely argue with these goals, yet without an objective ethical value, the non-Christian would behave differently.
Preservation of life is not the ultimate goal of medicine. Such a goal would be doomed to failure since all people eventually die. The Bible does not support the goal as men were sent into battle “to defend righteous causes” (Judges 1:1-9, I Samuel 17) and Paul was sent as a missionary into life threatening situations. Sanctity of life is not the highest value for Christians. Relief of suffering is the best goal of physicians.
I would argue that glorifying God is the highest goal (Col. 3:23) and the primary way we do this is by relief of suffering.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.