Is Health Care and the New Testament Uninteresting?
Sep 14, 2009 by Craig Blomberg | 4 Comments
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’” (1 Cor. 15:54-55)
Many thanks to those who wrote in response to DJ Turner’s invitation on Facebook for suggestions for topics for this blog. There was only one topic that two people mentioned, so I will begin with it. But, intriguingly, one person requested it and the other one called it “not interesting.” And that I find interesting!
I could envision someone saying health care and the New Testament was too complex a topic for a short blog. I could imagine someone saying it wasn’t as high a priority as some other issue. I could anticipate someone recognizing it really is more of a topic for systematic theology, since there are no Scriptural texts that explicitly address what kind of health care a nation should or shouldn’t have. But not interesting? Surely you jest. :) Such a person must be quite healthy. If they were seriously ill, or chronically disabled, I suspect the reaction would be very different.
Since it was decided that health care should be this year’s topic for the Vernon Grounds Institute of Public Ethics, centered on our campus, I really ought to say something about it. But from what text?
Recently, I was asked to fill in at a local church for one of our graduates who was out of town. He had been preaching through 1 Corinthians and had asked me to plug into the series by speaking on 15:35-58. It, like all of 1 Corinthians 15, is an exhilarating chapter, presenting the truth and glory of the bodily resurrection, first of Jesus and then of all believers. But what do you say by way of application from a text on resurrection for Christian living in the here and now?
Certainly, one common topic among commentators and theologians has yet to be overused in local pulpits: We are to model, individually and as churches, however imperfectly in this age, the kind of resurrection life that will one day be ours perfectly, for the sake of a watching world. If unbelievers can see believers living in a transformed way in this world, at least some will want what we have and come to the Lord. That was one of the big impetuses for my salvation, in high school, when I saw my peers through a Campus Life club talking about Jesus as making a difference in their daily lives and living in ways that made it visible
So what in the world does that have to do with health care? If we are created as embodied beings and if our eternal destiny is to be embodied, then our bodies matter. Of course, we remain lost forever if we live record long and physically healthy lives and die without Christ. But if we take Christ’s ministry of physical healing seriously, we will be concerned about the physical health of all in our world.
Occasionally, God heals miraculously. But those are the exceptional instances. We wouldn’t call them miracles if they happened often! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with praying for a miracle; there’s everything wrong with counting on one, promising one, or trying to manipulate God to grant us, or someone else, one. In the ancient world as well as the modern one, God has worked the vast majority of times through doctors, medicine, and natural healing processes.
None of this determines what is the best mechanism by which to give the greatest amount of affordable health care to the greatest number of people in any society. As with all political questions, people including Christian people, will probably always proposal multiple models and debate their relative merits. But caring for the physically sick should always be a priority for God’s people, even if not necessarily the highest priority. If our current system is increasingly unaffordable for increasing numbers of people (and it is)and if the gap is growing between the haves and the have-nots, even among the insured, as to who can have what quality of health care (and it is), then every Christian should want to reform the system in a way likely to create more help for more people.
If that’s not at the very least interesting to say nothing of downright urgent, it’s time for a heart check.