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Monday, August 12, 2013

"Compassionate Jesus" (Christopher Bogosh)

TITLE: Compassionate Jesus: Rethinking the Christian's Approach to Modern Medicine
AUTHOR: Christopher Bogosh
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2013, (160 pages).

Have we placed our deepest hopes on modern medicine uncritically? Have we allowed our faith to be based on what medical advances have to offer? Are we so infatuated with a long life that we have failed to see the big picture of what life is all about? What about Christian health professionals who are using and even promoting medical sciences based on less than biblical principles? Is there a viable alternative to modern medicine?  These questions are dealt with along with the two big questions in this book:
  1. Are we living for Christ in the midst of a medical crisis?
  2. Do we really see our death as great gain as we look in hope
    to Christ?

The author's journey of reflecting on these questions begin with his sister's death. He recognizes that all of us because of sin deserve to die anyway. We are all living on "borrowed time." Do we really understand what it means to die at the Lord's timing? Three things guide the author. God is merciful; God is just; and God is in control. Thus, one must not embark on a healing at all costs aptitude, but to adopt a healing in God's will attitude. For there is something far greater than good health or physical comfort. The ultimate healing according to the Bible is to be healed in Christ, and to be restored in human wholeness via connecting to a people of God called church. Lest we be participants of the cult of health and healing. Seven principles are then suggested, all of them based on the person of Christ and biblical compassion.

Chapter 2 commends the level of medical advancement over the years and the good intent of greater access to medical care for all Americans. There has been lots of good in the medical sciences, where diseases and pain have been actively addressed. The problem is that such techniques and advances are tied closely to unhealthy values such as materialism. Going through the history of how medical science has found its way to modern society, Bogosh raises the important question of temporal hope vs eternal hope. Even Christians fail to think biblically enough when it comes to health care. In highlighting the wonders of medicine, it can also be tempting to downplay the risks or negative effects in other ways. Sometimes, treatment may not be the best option. For example, what if cancer treatment causes a person to become physically worse than the cancer itself?

Chapter 3 argues for greater biblical insights in medical decisions, especially during medical dilemmas. Medical equipment and chemicals can only detect a part of the human condition. What about the spiritual, the emotional, and the non-quantitative aspects of a person? We need to recognize that there are many things medical know-how still do not understand. At the same time, there is something that only human compassion and sensitivity can detect, not machines. Fix machines to measure the wrong thing, and we can easily get a wrong diagnosis of the true condition. Some biblical insights worth pondering are:
  • Our hope must be in Christ and not mere healing;
  • All physical healing is temporal. Perfect healing never happens in this life;
  • Spiritual restoration often must come before physical healing in the present;
  • Exercise biblical compassion like Jesus, to care and to touch people toward holistic aspects;
Chapter 4 expands on what it means by "God's medicine." Bogosh talks about prayerful communion and how it allows one to live with pain and suffering, and at the same to cast hope on God. Along with the actual plea for comfort, there is also the awareness of loneliness, meaning, and significance of life. Giving some reflections on the book of Job, Bogosh highlights the need for spiritual renewal and a dependence on God that one's faith will grow strong. Healing prayers also includes the possibility of God using modern medicine to heal. Prayer is to be TOGETHER with any medical help we seek.

Chapter 5 is about hospice and how to think biblically about it. The goal is not cure but care. Bogosh praises the role of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's contributions to the hospice situation with her well-known book, On Death and Dying, which presents the five stages of growth. Unfortunately, Bogosh takes her book to task in terms of the fifth stage: Death, which relies more on Buddhist and Hindu philosophies. 

So What?

I am reminded once again of 5 things as I read this book. First, medical sciences have their limits. Too often, many of us especially in the developed world too easily gravitate to the latest and the greatest medical advancements in order to find the best cure. We buy in so much to the healing-at-all-costs philosophy that we fail to see the bigger picture of what life is all about. There is only so much that modern medicine can do. The faster and clearer we see it, the better our decision making. Second, the underlying philosophy is an important point to note. There is a difference between modern medicine and medical science. The former contains sets of philosophical principles while the latter is "an empirical method." According to the author, a trained health care professional as well as theological school graduate, modern medicine has built its science on the foundations of "naturalism, humanism, agnosticism, and evolution." The author concern is simply this: Not only are such philosophies challenging the fabric of theism and Christian principles, many Christians are uncritically accepting them. For example, people treat the brain as if it is just a mental faculty, splitting up the human body in a dualistic fashion, which has been a theological heresy through the centuries. Then, there is the uncritical and frantic chase to prolong life at any cost, introducing ethical concerns as well as the danger of idolizing the human body. In this book, Bogosh tries to highlight the different philosophical underpinnings, the conflicting natures, and the challenges of pitting modern medicine with what the Bible is saying. Chief to his concerns is the way people are looking to hospitals, doctors, and modern medicine as their place of healing and hope, instead of to the God of the Bible. Third, we have uncritically accepted the medical practices and even allowed them to replace the hope in God of the Bible. This can be seen when families bankrupt themselves just to make sure their loved ones get another shot at life. While I understand it from an emotional angle, it does pose ethical considerations, like what if there is someone with a better chance of survival? What if the same amount of money can extend another person's life for a few more years, compared to your futile dumping on cash just to extend life by a few more months? Four, biblical principles are important and we need more biblically informed people in the medical profession. Here, I find Bogosh's training and experience in both the medical profession and the theological training helpful. His insights are clear and comprehensible in many ways. His writings are filled with stories and experience that many can identify with. Finally, I am reminded again about who is indeed the Lord of our lives. We cannot lord over our own lives. When Paul says, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain," it reminds us what living is all about. If the Lord decides to take our lives early, so be it. For God is merciful. God is just. God is in control. Only God knows how long we live. We need to be constantly seeking to do God's will, and to interpret life's events from the perspective of God's will and love.

This book is a must have for health professionals, Christians, and anyone interested in learning how to look at modern medicine and practices more ethically and biblically.

Rating : 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Reformation Heritage Books and Cross-Focused Reviews without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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