The Religio-Medical Liaison—No. 2

Did not Jesus effect many cures, and that without drugs?

By W. FREDERICK NORWOOD, PH.D., Associate Dean, College of Medical Evangelists

From the first, Christianity and Greek philos­ophy were at odds. There was an element of materialism in Greek learning that was intol­erable to the early church. Did not Jesus effect many cures, and that without drugs? Conse­quently there was little or no quarter for the pro­fessional physician in early Christian society. Christian students of the great Galen in the second century A.D. were excommunicated for studying pagan medicine. 6

Eventually Christian compassion and Greek medicine combined, thus fixing the pattern of the healing art throughout the fallow centuries of church dominion. Christians found in the Apocry­pha justification for moderation:

"Honor a physician with the honor due unto him for the uses which ye may have of him; for the Lord hath created him.

"For from the Most High cometh healing, and from the king He shall receive a gift.

"The skill of the physician shall lift up his head, and in the sight of great men he shall be in admiration."'

After the fall of Rome science and learning sought refuge in the bosom of the church. Bene­dictine monks engaged in copy,ing and preserving the classics of the past, including Greek medicine. In addition to their literary interests, these seques­tered copyists took vows to nurse the sick as a prime duty of the order. 7 Thus came into being what came to be known as monastic medicine, it was a mixture of Christian charity, Hellenistic heathenism in Christianized form, and some scien­tific precepts of Hippocratic medicine.

In the midst of the Middle Ages a series of papal bulls, issued to regulate the monastic practice of medicine, went wide of their intent and resulted in stopping the monks' practice, particularly surgi­cal procedures.8 Thereafter surgery gravitated more than ever into the hands of bleeders, cuppers, barbers, and vagabond surgeons. Medicine in gen­eral was discredited. Universities then began to provide a place for medicine among the disciplines of learning.

The Renaissance produced a tumult of ideas con­cerning the emancipation of both mind and matter, all of which contributed to a cleavage between science and ecclesiasticism. The strong trend toward realism gave to the world in the seven­teenth century a new conception of science. Mod­ern medicine had its birth at this time when the church was beginning to lose its authoritarian grip on the thinking of men.

Although professing to be primarily interested in the same objective—the welfare of humanity—religion and science have for the past few hundred years been engaged in a warfare of attrition, often becoming to the dignity of neither. Medicine fol­lowed along with science, trying to regard itself as a branch of learning unrelated to religion—unrelated because presumably incompatible.

The emancipation of medicine from its shelter of the Church and medieval scholasticism does not mean that religious medicine ceased to exist. In the Catholic Church there are forms of healing reminiscent of pagan rites in which saints take the place of deities. The concept of divine healing in Protestant churches is usually a reflection of the belief and practice of pristine Christianity. 10 In modern times there have been many devoted Chris­tian physicians who looked upon their profession as divinely ordained and their duties as both physi­cal and spiritual. Not a few clergymen of early New England were also physicians who merged their -duties in a manner highly acceptable to the community. When the Reverend James Doolittle, a 1766 Yale graduate, died, his admirers placed the following quaint epitaph on his tombstone:

"Blessed with good intellectual parts, Well skilled in two important arts, Nobly he filled the double station Both a preacher and physician. To cure men's sicknesses and sins, He took unwearied care and pains ; And strove to make his patient whole Throughout, in body and in soul."

The annals of modern medical missions offer a refreshing contrast to the prevailing trend of medi­cine away from spiritual considerations. The inspiring and exalted work of David Livingstone and of Sir Wilfred Grenfell, however, was based more upon a belief in Christian compassion than upon any studied scientific observation resulting in a compelling conviction that the physical and spir­itual needs of mankind are inseparable.

Revolutionary discoveries in medicine during the past century, opening up pathology, bacteri­ology, physiology, chemistry, and pharmacology as vast fields of experimental opportunity, have glori­fied the materialistic concept of life and made of the laboratory the modern temple of Aesculapius. Further emphasis has been placed on man's inher­ent capacity to redeem himself physically by the elevation of surgery from the rank of a trade to the level of a highly respected profession. In the wake of Morton and Lister have followed a dramatic and impressive array of achievements in surgical technique.

The pre-eminence of medicine in our modern scientific civilization has had two significant results so far as the mores of the religio­medical liaison are concerned.

First, the Christian church in general has ex­alted the increase of scientific knowledge and counseled its adherents to be grateful to an om­nipotent Providence for progress in the struggle to maintain life and health. At the same time a sizable portion of the church has continued its battle with science and heightened the tempo when­ever the sacred precincts of theology have been threatened. Meanwhile an increasing number of Christian churchmen have abandoned the struggle with science and have attempted to make their theology comply with popular hypotheses of science, submitting their faith to the trial of slide rule and test tube. Obviously general confusion among the professed followers of Christ has resulted.

The second result is the rise within the church of healing cults, such as Christian Science and New Thought. Although the advent of such religio­intellectual fads may, in large measure, be laid at the door of American medicine, which until well through the nineteenth century was characterized by a stodgy drug therapy, these cults have been sustained and maintained because of the increasing vogue of materialism among both scientists and religionists, and by their neglect of psychological factors in disease and religion. Although not a part of this study, it is worthy of note that the con­temporary upward trend in the standard of living under American capitalism has had its part along with science and modern religion, in strengthening the impulse that we are "rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." 11

Another aspect of the modern scientific move­ment is the exploration of the mental processes—that portion of the human entity which seems to be the least tangible and the most unpredictable. Al­though pseudo science and quackery have had some share in this movement, there has emerged within the realm of medicine the science of psychiatry and within the scope of education the science of psy­chology. These fields are complemental.

Some farseeing clergymen in recent years, sens­ing the increasing deficiency of mental health among professed Christians as well as in the popu­lation at large, entered into experimental observa­tions and careful study of the phenomena of con­sciousness and behavior. For the same reason many physicians have become increasingly aware of the necessity of the psychosomatic approach in medicine. These convictions have resulted in an expanding volume of literature supporting the sig­nificance of mental health in considering either the physical or spiritual welfare of the individual. 12

For the first time in history, then, we find repre­sentatives of religion and the healing art standing on common ground, with a measure of mutual respect for each other. May it be that many a phy­sician burdened with the cares of practice and the riddles of emotional medicine will sense his prox­imity to the Creator and declare: "Surely the Lord is in this place ; and I knew it not." 11 Likewise may many gentlemen of the cloth sense anew their inescapable duty "to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound."

It should be clear to all of us that psychology is not in itself religion, but the avenue of mental hygiene is an effective approach to spiritual prob­lems. It is equally true that the psychosomatic ap­proach in medicine is no panacea for all ills. We

must all recognize that there are conflicting view­points and a variety of schools of thought in psy­chology. Some good can be seen in each system. The Christian, too, must be discriminating. A sur­vey of the life and teachings of Christ are most convincing to the student of mental hygiene. There is no space in this study to detail Jesus' practical knowledge of what we in the twentieth century call the psychology of personality, but such observations are spiritually and intellectually thrilling. 14

It may still be argued, by persons seeking a cloistered form of religious experience, that the church should fortify its members with ex-cathedra enactments in pursuance of the moral code so that the individual adherent, like the present-day bu­reau-conscious American, with OPA bulletin in mind and coupons in hand, knows exactly what he can and cannot do. Such a religious concept is not in harmony with the sovereignty of the indi­vidual and his right of choice. Moral character is given sinew by exercising discernment and choice. This principle is repeatedly emphasized in the Scriptures.

The suggestion that one may riot, with justifi­cation, use the nomenclature of psychology because some scholars have, with the same tools, erected intellectual edifices incompatible with Christianity, does not stand scrutiny. It would be just as ra­tional to rule out embryology because the language of that branch of science is utilized in support of the recapitulation theory, or to abandon anatomy because certain structures are labeled "vestigial re­mains" in support of the evolutionary hypothesis.

Truth needs to be sought after more than de­fended. It is its own best defense. No Christian need be disturbed over the fact that a component of truth is discovered by an unbeliever, or is prom­ulgated by one holding a different religious view­point. John was perturbed in spirit because he and his fellow disciples saw someone, not at­tached to their group, casting out devils in their Master's name. They even forbade the action of this unidentified "outsider." Jesus promptly laid down a basic principle. Said He, 'Forbid him not. . . . For he that is not against us is on our part." 15

What, then, is our duty as a group of Christian physicians, educators, and workers in religious and social fields? A suggestion, full of import, has been made by an outstanding Christian, not of our persuasion, E. Stanley Jones :

"I have been insisting that there should be a demon­stration center set up in America where the best in sur­gery, the best in medicine, the best in psychiatry, and the best in Christianity could be brought •together and, working as a team, treat the whole person and make out of him a healthy, adjusted, harmonious, adequate person. Twenty-five leading surgeons, medical men, psychiatrists, and clergymen after a whole day's dis­cussion agreed that such an institution could and should be set up. Such a venture was the next step. The place was selected for demonstration, but the war has blocked the plans." "

A careful analysis of this quotation should con­vince us that its idealism is not new. For many years we have had access to a body of literature on the ministry of healing from which a plan not unlike Dr. Jones' might well be synthesized. The chapter in Ellen G. White's Ministry of Healing entitled "Mind-Cure" is a classic in the literature of mental hygiene. 17

Indeed, it is encouraging that this group has undertaken a review of the relationship between the spiritual and physical ills of mankind, and -a scrutiny of the common ground on which we stand. Never was the world in greater need of rapprochement between these vital forces.

6 Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, V, 28; Cited by Sinerast, op. cit., p. 18.

7 Ecclesiasticus 38:1-3.

8 FIELDING H. GARRISON, An Introduction to the History of Medicine, 145 f.


9 Ibid., 168 f.

10 Cor. 1 2 : 9 ; James 5:14, 15.

11 Rev. 3:17.

12 One of many worth-while sources is The Art of Ministering to the Sick, by Richard C. Cabot and Russell L. Dicks.

13 Gen. 28:16.

14 See Ernest M. Ligon, The Psychology of Christian Personality, and Karl R. Stoltz, The Church and Psycho-Therapy.

15 Mark 9 :39. 40.

16 E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of the American Road, p. 168.

17 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, pp. 241-258.


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By W. FREDERICK NORWOOD, PH.D., Associate Dean, College of Medical Evangelists

August 1945

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