Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

12 Jul 2012

Do You Have a Theology of Healthcare?


Since the Bible’s sufficiency means that the Bible speaks to (though not necessarily about) everything, then it follows that our theology speaks to (though not necessarily about) healthcare. Please note that this is not an analysis of the theological rightness or wrongness of the Affordable Care Act. We could make such an analysis of course, but long before we could, it seems that some far more basic questions need to be answered first, viz., why access to a full range of modern healthcare has erupted in the past 50 years as such a historically unprecedented and frenzied concern (so frenzied that it threatens to take down whole nations!), and whether the Christian worldview can accommodate this concern.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am a firm advocate of modern medicine. I am quite grateful for the fact that the common grace of modern medicine has saved my wife’s life twice—once from cancer and  again from a complication of pregnancy that she could not possibly have survived a century ago. This is by no means a call for Christians to reject modern medicine and turn to organic foods, herbal concoctions, and ancient natural remedies as an expression of superior faith. That’s not faith; it’s foolishness.

But having alienated one block of readers, I turn the rest of your attention to the question at hand. Why has access to a full range of modern healthcare become such an insanely frenzied concern over the last 50 years? And what I’d like to suggest is that the frenzy has erupted largely because the medical industry, insurance industry, and since 1965, the federal government have created it through the cultivation of some very non-biblical presuppositions, viz., (1) that death is the worst thing that can possibly happen and that it must be averted or delayed for as long as is possible and at whatever cost necessary, (2) that the quality of my life must likewise be sustained for as long as is possible and at whatever cost possible (financial cost, that is: the cost of personal self discipline, diet, and exercise are not included here), and (3) the philosophical newcomer to the argument, that the avoidance of death and possession of quality life are universal and inalienable rights.

I recognize, of course, that there are better motivations out there, too—like the rest of you I hope to teach and preach the Gospel for 40 more years rather than be derailed by ill health after 20 (after all, Paul does say that while death may be better, to survive may be in the best interests of the church such that is may be regarded as more necessary—Phil 1:23–24). But at the end of the day, I wonder whether I and with me a great host of other American believers (and especially we who are moving inevitably further from the spryness of youth) have bought into the patently non-biblical presuppositions detailed above and have become gripped by culturally-driven fears and frenzies that have little place in the Christian worldview.

By God’s grace I have access to good healthcare. I hope that I always will. But my greater hope is that I may, with ever-increasing sincerity, share Paul’s sentiments that “Christ be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death,” knowing that “for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:20–21), and further, that “for Christ’s sake, I can delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10).

3 Responses

  1. bill provenzano

    I appreciate this post.

    Could it be that part of the motivation behind those presuppositions, within the context our country at least, may be the following well known sentence – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    It seems to follow, then, as an American citizen I should have access to what ever prolongs my life and affords my pursuit of happiness…or so it probably goes in the minds of many.

    In that context, it appears that what was originally intended to be a good thing may have been twisted along the way. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. We humans have a tendency to twist good things into carnal things.

    With that said, I’m with you.


  2. AStev

    Oh my. Oh, that is good.

    So many of the biggest controversies of our day are built on non-biblical presuppositions.

  3. Kirby

    I remember a sermon on mp3 wherein the speaker addressed our obsessions with health and wellness. Not just a matter of stewardship, but out and out idolatry of our bodies and minds. Bodily health and mental health consume the American (and others, I’m sure), and, as you point out, our financial systems prove it.

    Another speaker brought up the Puritan idea of “dying well”. We all appear to want a “quality” of life so we can live well. And so when Christians pray for the sick, they only pray for healing, and for health miracles (especially for those younger than they should be when illness strikes). But we never stop to say, “Lord, this may be the way you’ve chosen to take this brother or sister to heaven. And if so, please help them to die well, as a testimony to your grace and witness to your salvation.”

    Those two speakers have given me pause in my outlook on health and wellness.