Why Seventh-day Adventists Conduct a Medical Program

A commencement sermon given to the graduating class of CME, June 4. 1955. We are happy to make this stimulating address available to all our readers.

FRANCIS D. NICHOL, Editor, "Review and Herald

This year, as we all know, marks the Fiftieth Anni­versary of the purchase of Loma Linda, where immedi­ately was started a school of nursing—the College of Medi­cal Evangelists in embryo. My picture of Loma Linda in 1905 is vivid—I was there. I see the first manager, J. A. Burden, who, with a faith that his prudent associates called presumption, made the initial payment on the property. I see Ellen G. White, aged and often in a wheel chair, moving about the hill and bringing an inspired courage to spiritually timid hearts. I see my beloved father, never in robust health, working for twelve dollars a week and struggling to support a family on it. Sometimes there was not twelve dollars in the treasury! But he kept on working, as did all the others.

What was it that the church sought to do by assuming the frightening financial and educational load involved in the founding of sanitariums and hospitals and this medi­cal college? We are a poor people—poor in numbers and resources. We are also a religious body. Why not use our meager means for the one task of preaching the gospel, and let the state provide the hospitals?

On the answer to these questions de­pends the justification of our medical program. We reply in unison that the answer is found in our Fiftieth Anniversary motto: "To make man whole." But that phrase is capable of different meanings.

If you had asked the Roman citizens of the first century what they meant by the word "man," they would have replied, in substance: "Man is an earthly being, simply an animated mixture of flesh and blood and bones." Consistent with that view the ancient Romans declared, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." And the more diligently they lived by that formula, the more quickly they died. The physical body was the center and circumference of their interest; the securing of physical thrills, the chief end of their living. The present life span was the total span of their hopes and fears. That was materialism undiluted.

If you had asked a medieval Christian, he would have told you that the real man, the only object of God's saving grace, is an imponderable entity, called the soul, which is presently imprisoned in the body. And because the body constantly wars against the soul, it should be subjected to penance and punishment to make its influence steadily decrease until, emaciated and powerless, it finally lets go its hold on the soul.

In so-called Christian lands the last cen­tury has witnessed a sharply decreasing emphasis on the soul. This has been chiefly due to the ever-increasing secularization of our civilization, which has led men steadily to think less of heaven and more of earth, with the inevitable transfer of interest from the health of the soul to that of the body.

Hence, the healing of the body has quite generally come to be viewed as an end in itself. When a patient is relieved of a physical malady, he and his doctor usually agree that the case is closed, medically, no matter how much they may disagree over the fee charged. That the malady may have been related to habits of life that endanger the patient's chances of heaven is a point that is rarely discussed. Therefore, we may properly describe the present-day approach to the healing of the sick as an essentially materialistic one.

I am aware that many present-day hospi­tals have been founded by churchmen who with high principles and genuine love have provided care for the sick. I grant that the warmth of their love has softened the materialism of modern medical care, but it has not dissolved it.

Wholeness More Than Physical Restoration

Nor am I forgetful of the fact that we now have psychosomatic medicine. But, strictly speaking, one may be a pagan and practice such medicine. Indeed, some doctors insist that it is but the reviving of Hippocrates' ancient maxim, that the phy­sician should view man whole. It takes no Christian insight to discern that there is more involved in the picture of man than flesh and blood. But even in so-called Chris­tian lands, too many physicians are satisfied as to the etiology [cause] of a hypertensive case, for example, if they find that the patient has a disturbed renal circulation, though his disturbed personality and spirit may be an even more important causative factor.

I would describe psychosomatic medicine as a belated admission of an evident fact, the fact that there is more to man than gross anatomy and functioning organs. But there is nothing in this branch of medicine that tells us that man is the object of God's redemptive grace. Psychosomatic medicine may enable a man to live with himself and his fellow men; it need not necessarily pre­pare him to live with God and the angels.

As medicine is usually practiced, making a man whole means that the victim of an auto accident, for example, has his frac­tured bones set, his gaping wounds sutured, and his body carefully nursed until its shattered parts have firmly come together again. When he is finally able to walk out of the hospital, he is pronounced healed and whole. That his accident may have resulted from intemperate habits, which have endangered both body and soul, will probably provoke no more than the warn­ing, "Watch your step in the future." But as long as his physical steps are steady and coordinated, the case is closed, though there may be no coordination between body and soul that can assure him of future safe travel on the highway of life.

Was the Seventh-day Adventist medical work founded simply to suture torn flesh, set broken bones, and remove diseased organs? The answer is No! As a religious body we cannot view man as merely a ma­terial object. Neither can we view him as simply an ethereal being, with his soul as our only proper concern. Our medical in­stitutions are a logical extension and a concrete expression of a distinctive theolog­ical tenet that we hold. That tenet deals with the very nature of man himself. We believe, with the holy apostles, that man consists of body, soul, and spirit, three parts mysteriously integrated, interdependent, and interacting. In other words, all three parts are necessary to the creation of that sentient being called man. But if the body is an integral part of man, then the body must be included in God's redemptive plan.

This view of the body enables us to see great point in Paul's declaration to the morally backsliding church at Corinth: "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: there­fore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Cor. 6:19, 20). The divine purchase price includes man's body. We expect Paul to say, "Glorify God in your spirit." What Christians in general have failed to note is that he precedes this with the command, "Glorify God in your body."

The pagan materialists of Paul's day viewed their bodies as vehicles of sensory satisfactions. In contrast, the apostle de­clared to the church at Rome: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom. 12:1). Nothing is more distinctive of the message of the founders of Christianity than their emphasis on the dignity and the spiritual significance of the body in the divine plan for the saving of man.

This significance becomes even more evident when we remember that the salva­tion of man is in two parts. At the moment of conversion he receives a new mind and spirit; at the last great day, a new body. But the new body—prerequisite to resi­dence in a heavenly world—will be given only to those who have kept this present body disciplined by the standards of heaven, the standards implanted in the new mind and spirit at conversion.

The Bible picture of the Christian life is one of constant tension between the re­newed mind and spirit on the one hand and the unrenewed body on the other. We can agree with the geneticists that the Lam­arckian doctrine of the inheritance of ac­quired characters is false. But the Bible and all experience teach us that in the spiritual realm we have inherited all the evil traits that all our ancestors acquired from Adam onward. Someone has well said that every man is an omnibus in which all his ancestors ride. And what a sorry-looking lot of passengers they are in that wayward bus, which naturally travels downward. At conversion the omnibus turns upward. From that moment onward the task of the converted man is to see that his ghostly, unwanted passengers do not drive from the rear seat.

Someone has observed that God will forgive your sins, but that your nervous system will not, which is but a whimsical way of stating that although a man receives a new mind and spirit at conversion, his body is the same as before. Perhaps that body is troubled with brittle nerves, or an endocrine system in imbalance, or a gas­trointestinal tract that creates a chronic tumult. These and other disorders pre­sent great and continuing threats to the man who is seeking to travel heavenward.

That is why Bible writers present a regimen of life whose objective is to make the body a willing servant to a regenerated mind. They teach temperateness in bodily habits and practices, both because the body is included in God's redemptive plan and because the body reacts upon the mind and spirit, those mediums through which God communicates with man. That is why Paul declared: "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1 Cor. 9:27). That explains also why he enjoins us: "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). And he consistently sums up the matter in these words: "I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:23).

Thus, from the Bible doctrine of the nature of man we come to the arresting con­clusion that the care of the body, in sick­ness or in health, with the disciplining of its habits and practices, is a high religious duty. And that duty is to be performed, not with the healthy functioning of the body as an end in itself, but as a means toward the end of sanctifying and saving the whole man.

Nor is this all that the Bible teaches about the mysterious interrelationship of body and soul and spirit. It teaches also that the sins of the soul affect the health of the body. That is psychosomatic med­icine on the highest level. Whether cur­rent medical research will substantiate the theory that stress is the prime cause of all disease, I know not. But this I do know from the Holy Word, that the stresses set up within man by his rebellion against God produce, first, his spiritual maladies and then, his physical. The figurative stiff neck of spiritual rebellion and spiritual death finds its ghastly sequel in the literal rigor mortis of physical death. All the physical maladies of man find their basic etiology in the infection of the spirit that took place in Eden. "When lust hath con­ceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (James 1:15). That has been true throughout all of man's history. For example, historians have written at length to explain the decline and disintegration of the great Roman Empire. But the heart of the explanation is briefly this: The Roman Empire was dissolved in the Roman baths. As Paul declared, "He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption" (Gal. 6:8). Dissipation is but a way station on the road to dissolution.

Or let me state it this way: We believe that all the laws of the universe are but the expression of the mind and will of God. To reject this view would be to abandon our theistic position and to accept the mate­rialistic belief that these laws are but an expression of the blind forces inherent in matter. In other words, we believe that the so-called laws of nature are simply a revela­tion of how God guides the material aspects of His vast universe. Place this view along­side our belief that man's body is included in the plan of salvation and we arrive again at the inevitable conclusion that we should faithfully obey the laws of our physical being as a part of our religious duty. How else can we obey the command to glorify God in our bodies?

Malignancy of the Mind

Thus conceiving of nature's laws we understand why sickness soon followed sin in our world. When man broke the moral law, he turned in rebellion against the rulership of God over his whole being. It was therefore inevitable that violation of the divine laws dealing with his moral nature would be followed by violation of the divine laws dealing with his physical nature. There is a sobering relationship between theology, physiology, and pathol­ogy. The cancer of sin, whose primary site was the rebellious mind of man, rapidly metastasized through his spiritual blood stream, until his whole being was filled with the malignant growth. Disobedience to moral law had its baleful corollary in disobedience to physical law, with the com­bined disobedience spelling out that fateful word, death.

This, briefly, is the Adventist view of the nature of man and of his relation to divine law. And it is this view that pro­vides the explanation and full justification for our operating a chain of medical in­stitutions as an integral part of a religious movement. We could not consistently do otherwise.

This is why the Adventist Church de­clares that its medical workers are not a group separate and distinct from the great company of church workers, but are verily a part of that company. All of us must work together if we are to save the whole man. This is why our medical work began with a prayer meeting, became bright with a heavenly vision, and has ever been the direct concern of the Advent leadership. This is why our school bears the name College of Medical Evangelists. Most im­portantly, this is why you should go forth from this institution with a sense of high obligation to God and man. Remember that the College of Medical Evangelists was founded as an act of faith: faith in certain distinctive beliefs; faith in the graduates that would come from this college. The challenge to you is to reward this faith.

Anchoring Medicine to God

It is you who must translate these beliefs into action in behalf of men. First you will deal with the immediate problem of re­lieving bodily suffering; you will seek to make men whole physically. But you will not stop there. You will go on to help them to see that in many instances their maladies were caused by violations of the divine laws of their physical being. You will there­fore appeal to them to give obedience to nature's laws for the high reason that these laws are an expression of the will of God, who made us in His image and who com­mands us to glorify Him in our bodies. Thus you will tie health to heaven.

Many of our medical men are tempted to feel that if they do this much, and do it in the context of Christian compassion, they fully discharge their duty. But they forget that the tears of compassion, though they give fragrance to professional service, lack bactericidal power against the deadly germs of sin that sicken the souls and bodies of men. That is why you cannot stop simply with an appeal to men for obedience to physical laws. When Christ healed a certain man He solemnly gave him this spiritual prescription: "Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon thee" (John 5:14). We can permanently aid men only as we help them to see that either directly or indirectly sickness is related tc, sin. We must anchor medicine to God and His ab­solute moral standards if we would set forth an unanswerable argument against all those habits of life that bring damage to body or soul, or to both.

Let me illustrate: In days gone by doctors were heard appealing to men to abstain from immorality on the ground that they might contract a certain loathsome disease for which there was no sure cure. It took only Sir Alexander Fleming and penicillin to make that low-level appeal quite mean­ingless. But though the Spirochaeta pallida may be dead, God still lives. Not the fear of a germ, but the fear of the Lord, is the invincible argument against every debasing habit. Holiness and purity have ever been the price of genuine peace of mind, and of finally meeting God in peace. The graduates of this college are not sent forth by the church to administer wonder drugs as an earthy substitute for obedience to divine law, a kind of magic neutralizer of iniquity. Remember, you are in league with God, not with the drug manufacturer.

I have heard some CME graduates speak as if the greatest accomplishment for this college would be to acquire the status of a far-western Mayo Clinic. They seem to feel that everything else should be made second­ary to the securing of medical eminence.

Now, I am not opposed to eminence, medical or otherwise. Because I magnify spiritual skill, I do not therefore minimize scientific skill. The two are not antithetical, but complementary. However, if the first and chiefest attention is given to the exhil­arating climb toward the heights of med­ical eminence, there will be a depletion of the reserves of energy that should be used to reach the spiritual heights. That is what we must ever guard against. The record is clear that CME has always sought to pro­vide high-grade scientific training, but it has provided that training in a certain con­text, the context of heaven. Remove the context and you remove the reason for the college. This is the priceless ingredient in the formula by which we seek to prepare men and women for the varied branches of medical service.

This needs to be said, calmly but emphat­ically, if we are to keep our thinking straight and our vision clear. CME is not simply a center for education in the medi­cal arts and sciences; it is an arm of the church, which seeks by a skillful blending of competent medical and spiritual care to provide health for the whole man, to offer him hope of the life that now is and of that which is to come.

Some young graduates speak with awed and husky voice of their desire to become great surgeons. Far be it from me to depre­ciate skill with the scalpel. But I should think that at best a surgeon would find only subdued satisfaction in taking from a supine, insensible patient even one of his irreplacable organs. The graduates of CME should be distinguished, not so much by what they take from their patients, as by what they give to them. This college was founded on the conviction that we do have something to give to men—something more than can be found in a medicine bottle, a hypodermic syringe, or a test breakfast.

I have watched the heroic endeavors that are made at times to keep the breath of life in a patient, even though at best he could hope to live perhaps only a few years more. CME was founded on the firm belief that it is possible to give patients such medical care that there will be added to their lives not merely years but eternity.

Now, patently, if you are to measure up to the standard that CME sets for its grad­uates, you must have more than perfection of training in your branch of medical service. No matter how up to date may be the garment of professional skill in which you are garbed, you will fail of the Advent­ist goal if the garment of your religious skill is faded and threadbare. Or, to change the figure: an inert religious experience is like a medicine that is no longer potent, be­cause the expiration date on the label has passed. The only worth-while spiritual medicine you can personally bring to a patient bears a daily expiration date. Nothing loses its potency so quickly as a religious experience that is stored away on some dark shelf of the soul.

There is no sham in life more easily ex­posed than sham in religion. Not even the light of day is needed to expose it; the shadows of the dark valley will do it even more devastatingly. There is no beauty parlor that can provide synthetic beauty of soul, no colorful cosmetic that can hide the pallor of spiritual anemia. Nor is there a perfume that can neutralize the earthy odor exhaled by those who constantly feed on earthy thoughts.

Remember, yours may be the last face upon which a dying patient gazes—the next will be the face of his God. Whether he meets God in peace may depend on whether you planted the peace of God in his heart before he died.

High and holy is the calling of a CME graduate. Nothing short of evangelistic fervor can enable you fully to measure up to your duty and your opportunity. In a world where atomic scientists have posed the threat of extinction, something more than ordinary medical scientists are called for. It is not sufficient simply to make men physically whole when they face high ex­plosives that can physically tear them apart.

Now, if you truly possess the evangelistic vision and fervor that should distinguish CME graduates, you will resolve in your hearts to promote this most worth-while kind of medical care everywhere. That means you will move from this sunny southland to every corner of the land, and to lands beyond. GIVIE was not founded to guarantee to its graduates a permanent sun tan. The sunshine that is significant for you is that which you can bring to the lives of your patients. And that heavenly sunlight is the best neutralizer of the fears en­gendered in men's souls as they read of the unearthly light that atomic bombs may bring.

Great is your opportunity, and great will be your temptation. Let us not blink that fact. You will be tempted to settle for some­thing much less than evangelistic ardor, even for a large car and a large bank ac­count, and whatever they may symbolize. Now, I have traveled the world and have made a specialty of visiting cemeteries, but I have never found an epitaph that de­scribed a man as famous simply because he had possessed much gold. In the cathe­dral of St. Stephanos in Vienna I read these words on the slab that covered the body of an archbishop: "I was priest, abbot, bishop. Now I am dust, ashes, nothing." With those few staccato notes the archbishop wrote the score of the short and somber song of life. In the country churchyard in England where Gray composed his immortal elegy, I read these lines:

"The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,

And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,

Awaits alike the inevitable hour.

The paths of glory lead but to the grave."

The longer I live and the more ceme­teries I visit, the more I am convinced that lasting honor and satisfaction come, not by selfishly acquiring either possessions or position, but by unselfishly pouring out one's life in service for God and man. You have received a training that fits you to bring blessing to men; you have stood in the light of heaven, and are prepared to bring light to others. Lest you be over-tempted to abandon that opportunity for the gold that you might gain, I leave with you a hauntingly appropriate poem. It pictures an aged Roman soldier. In his youth he had stood guard at the Saviour's sepulcher and had been bribed to keep silent on the glorious events of the resurrection morning. He is speaking to a Christian:

"I was a Roman soldier in my prime;

Now age is on me, and the yoke of time.

I saw your Risen Christ, for I am he

Who reached the hyssop to Him on the tree;

And I am one of two who watched beside

The sepulcher of Him we crucified.

 

"All that last night I watched with sleepless eyes;

Great stars arose and crept across the skies.

The world was all too still for mortal rest,

For pitiless thoughts were busy in the breast.

The night was long, so long it seemed at last I had grown old and a long life had passed.

Far off, the hills of Moab, touched with light,

Were swimming in the hollow of the night.

I saw Jerusalem all wrapped in cloud,

Stretched like a dead thing folded in a shroud.

"Once in the pauses of our whispered talk,

I heard a something on the garden walk.

Perhaps it was a crisp leaf lightly stirred—

Perhaps the dream-note of a waking bird.

Then suddenly an angel, burning white,

Came down with earthquake in the breaking light,

And rolled the great stone from the sepulcher,

Mixing the morning with a scent of myrrh.

And lo, the Dead had risen with the day;

The Man of Mystery had gone His way!

"Years have I wandered, carrying my shame;

Now let the tooth of time eat out my name.

For we, who all the wonder might have told,

Kept silence, for our mouths were stop with gold."

—EDWIN MARKHAM


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FRANCIS D. NICHOL, Editor, "Review and Herald

May 1956

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