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Christians have long been ignorant of what they have done wrong in their role as missionaries to indigenous peoples. Nothing, in this podcast, indicates any insight. What is needed is not pious talk of admitting wrongdoing and seeking forgiveness and reconciliation. That may be an option for the State to pursue, but “dual citizens” need to make an apology, on behalf of the church, that is qualitatively different. Notoriously, Christian missionaries took it upon themselves to civilise the aboriginal population, and they did so enthusiastically as agents of colonialism who could not conceive the Great Commission of Christ except in terms of the imperialistic context of European culture.
The idea that January 26, 1788, should be seen as “Gospel Day for Terra Australia” is laughable and cringeworthy. I am reminded of that good Christian of his time, George Augustus Robinson, who undertook humanitarian work for the colonial government of Van Diemen’s Land with intentions to serve God and preach the gospel. “I asked them [the natives] where they went to after death”, Robinson wrote. “One said to England. I scarcely credited what I heard”. Robinson tells us that he was consoled by the thought that he, himself, had not been remiss in his efforts “to point the degraded of the human species (the untutored aborigine) to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of this world” (Friendly Mission, ed. NJB Plomley, 2008, p. 64).
David does not give any reasons why he believes the case of the parents who prayed to God for healing (rather than administer insulin to their diabetic child) constitutes what he calls “a clear case of neglect”, “religious misapprehensions”, and “poor theology”.
This is unfortunate because one of the greatest problems that Christian parents face, as dual citizens, is in relation to the medical care of their children. Unfortunately David chooses, instead, to discuss the issue of the right of the state to intervene versus parental rights, which is not at all what the present case is about. That is to say he goes off on a tangent.
The Gospels are full of stories of divine healing. Nowhere does the New Testament refer to the efficacy of alternative medical treatments (but see 1 Tim. 5:23). Historically this has raised a grave problem for the church, but I have never seen it dealt with adequately by church leaders who believe all the fine Bible stories of Christ healing the sick and raising the dead at the drop of a hat as it were.
The question at issue, in the present case, concerns why it was wrong for the parents to ask God to heal their child, rather than for them, first and foremost, to administer insulin to their child. When I’ve heard answers given to this sort of question, the message I’ve got, in effect, was that we no longer need God for the purpose of physical healing, or that it would be prudent not to involve the Almighty, as, for instance, insulin is demonstrably more reliable for the treatment of diabetes. It’s a bit troubling when you let yourself think like that.
I won’t bother commenting on the Boris Johnson story which is topical, but exceedingly trivial.
I feel it is presumptuous to compare the healing miracles of Jesus to the prayers of parents seeking divine intervention rather than established medical treatment for their children. The presumption is independent of how earnest and faithful the parents’ prayers may be. Jesus performed His miracles of healing to declare His divinity as well as to relieve the suffering of those He healed.
As those who live in a scientifically advanced age, we have an obligation to acknowledge the power of natural substances like insulin which the Lord has made available to us through the science He has enabled. We have a particular obligation to apply such things when appropriate to our children, rather than deny them and expect divine intervention instead.
Perhaps I have a view of such things different from many lay people because I am a medical practitioner and a committed Christian, as well as a parent. I am convinced that what I have learnt from the Scriptures and from medical science is God-given. My many Christian medical colleagues agree that our calling as doctors is to apply the scientific knowledge we have and the scientific remedies that the Lord has provided as He has directed in the second great commandment.
Is medical science and industrialised medicine a gift to us from God? I think that that is a question we have to consider, and, indeed, to answer negatively. However the alternative – as you say, Robert – can not be to “expect divine intervention instead”. None of it is as simple as that.
I’m sorry, Chris, but you are absolutely dead wrong.
What you chose to call “industrialised medicine” is a gift from God, whether you like it or not. If you had a scientific medical education and the experience of treating people who come to you for medical help, you would know without question that what you have to offer as a medical doctor is God-given. It is no substitute for ignoring God-given scientific knowledge and expecting divine intervention instead.
Grow up, Chris. Your naivety is very embarrassing; embarrassing to all of us, especially you. Try to think what the Lord would say about these things.
Robert, you appear to have chosen to take my comment personally. There was no need for you to do that.
The technicized medicine of capitalist societies, quite clearly, is not a blessing from God. It is blasphemous to think otherwise. If it were a blessing from God, none of the arguments of medical nihilism would be able even to get off the ground. The simple thing, further, is that if it were a blessing from God, then obviously, it would at least be safe to be admitted to a hospital as a patient.
Robert, as a doctor, I imagine that you are challenged enormously to maintain a godly profile in a profession that has thoroughly abused human fertility and which routinely kills the unborn and the suicidal. It is a profession subject to ethical standards that are indifferent to the Lord God who created the human body, but, yes, I am certain that what you have to offer as a medical doctor has been given to you by God. What all believers have to offer the world, by way of their employment, is God-given. One may therefore work to the glory of God, say, as a cleaner in a public toilet and not be excelled by another believer who is a medical doctor.
Now I am obliged to apologise to you, Chris.
Sadly, the medical profession I joined just over 50 years ago is no more. My senior colleagues agree when we lament its passing. Now, for many young doctors in particular, medicine is a business. For many doctors today, medical “care” is about incomes more than about outcomes. The concept of valid diagnosis before treatment has been lost by many. What you say about the abuse of human fertility is all too true. Human sexuality is being abused in the same way. Doctor-gods even condone human cloning. Post-modernism has triumphed over the scientific evidence base for many.
There are still some, mainly old, doctors who maintain the ethical standards of the past, based on Christian principles, but their numbers decrease with every death or retirement, and they are not being replaced. I am very fortunate: the Lord has provided me with an apprentice who is only 34 years old but she will practise as I do and will take over my patients in time, and give them the same standards of care that I do, and for the same reasons. Unfortunately, she is an anomaly in the medical scene of today.
I apologise to you and to all who seek ethical medical care in today’s world. Perhaps seeking divine intervention is the best course after all.
Robert, none of us can respect our professions anymore. I was trained as a teacher, myself, but I’d now say that schooling outside the family home is a menace.
I have to say that I am profoundly sorry for you, Chris. Your [deleted] plumb new depths.
I can and do respect my profession, the profession of Hippocrates, Hunter and Orr, amongst many others. Those who set down the principles and practice of medicine were men of the highest integrity. The principles they established are immutable and totally consistent with, if not actually based on, the teachings of Jesus.
Certainly, some younger doctors of today are more interested in income than in outcomes, but that does not detract from the value of ethical, evidence-based medical practice, meaning valid diagnosis, specific, targeted, effective treatment and regular follow-up until the problem is resolved. The art of medicine is as important as the science: medical care means looking after the patient’s biological, psychological and social welfare so that they feel truly valued as a person.
I suggest you look into the mirror, Chris, and if you see an [deleted] looking back at you, as I expect you will, go away somewhere and weep for what you might have been if you had managed to acquire a modicum of common sense at some time in your life.
Robert, there is a very good historical discussion concerning the relations between capitalism and professionalism which you may find relevant to this issue, including your observations in relation to the financial motivations of “some younger doctors of today”. See The Authority of Experts, ed. Thomas I. Haskell, 1984, 180-225. Haskell refers to “… the virtual extinction among serious thinkers of a set of assumptions about the moral superiority of professional careers that once enjoyed extremely wide acceptance”. However my comments above are not actually germane to Haskell’s discussion, and it does appear to me that you have misconstrued what I have said.
Perhaps you have overlooked my use of the adverb “anymore” in order to modify the claim above that the professions can not be respected. As you, yourself note above: “[p]ostmodernism has triumphed over the scientific evidence base for many”. I think that this is right, and that it does go a long way toward explaining why we can not respect the professions anymore. I think that it’s important also to make the point that evidence-based reasoning is not desirable because it promises to rationalise medicine or to preclude the humanity of the doctor, in particular, the importance of his or her values and intuition in providing care for the patient.
Chris, I used strong language and for that I must apologise to you again.
My main point remains. Whilst I have countenanced criticism of my profession, medicine, and indeed offered some myself, it is stupid to throw out the baby with the bath water.
I do respect the principles of my profession and all those, such as my young apprentice and very many colleagues around the world, who adhere to, and are dedicated to, those principles. I also respect the profession of teaching: I have had many excellent teachers and I know many excellent teachers now.
I suggest, brother, you need to re-think what are the real issues in all of this.
No, Robert Bruce, I think one should never apologise for merely strong language where appropriate – as long as it’s not nasty, demeaning or abusive language. But then moderator David would surely have stepped in.
Geoff, the language used by Robert Bruce was nasty, demeaning and abusive. David’s “House Rules” on this page speak very clearly on this, and, in particular, as to the shame that this language brings upon us all as Christians.
Robert, it is difficult for me to follow you in this discussion. Am I right in thinking that you are made angry by my comments that you see as being too critical of the professional class? I don’t know what to make of this as your being abusive and/or apologetic toward me does not make the slightest sense to me.
I don’t know why you (and Geoff Fletcher) are seeking to be antagonistic at a personal level. Am I perhaps right in thinking that you believe that I have maligned good people, in the relevant professions, who, being the exception, appear clearly to prove the rule. If so, I point out to you both that I have said absolutely nothing in respect of people who are doctors, lawyers, or teachers. I draw you attention to that, Robert, because you are the only one who has chosen to denigrate people who are members of your profession.
Of course I have made some appropriate sociological observations that bear proper witness to what is the biblical judgement on human society in its present decadence. No apologies for that.
Correct me if I am wrong about this and can you say perhaps as to what you think are “the real issues in all of this”?
Sorry Chris Russell, I wasn’t attempting to be antagonistic but ironic, and will not repeat that now. I admire your restraint throughout this dialogue. Not so for others. It all distracts from the issues originally raised.
OK, I think I need to step in now.
As Chris notes, I do have some rules about commenting and, while I much prefer to leave people to sort most things out, I’ll make a couple of observations/requests.
Robert has used “strong language” but also apologised for it. Thank you Robert. Let’s not have to apologise again.
Chris, your initial comments about the “professions” were so sweeping in their nature as to include pretty much anybody in those fields. I don’t think you can complain about a robust pushback (albeit we’ve already dealt with the failure in language). Attempting to pull that initial accusation back was inevitable and I’ll I’d simply note that shooting a blunderbuss with pellets everywhere then claiming that it was a surgical snipe doesn’t convince me.
Settle down everyone.
David, I didn’t pull back any “initial accusation” and I made no “surgical swipe”. I stand by everything that I have said above in relation to the professions, in particular, the medical profession. I don’t object to “a robust pushback”. What I got back from Robert Bruce was ill-tempered nonsense, which I dealt with as respectfully as I could.
The professions have been widely criticised in the relevant literature, if not by Christians who remained conformed to their social class; however I can happily refer people to some notable exemptions eg Ivan Illich and Jacques Ellul.