Going to a doctor for help is never a sign of lack of faith

Going to a doctor for help is never a sign of lack of faith April 26, 2013

One thing I like about Patheos is it gives us a chance to read what others think of us. It isn’t always pretty, it isn’t always comfortable reading. But listening to other’s perspectives is often of benefit us. Sometimes they may prompt us to say something we wouldn’t have otherwise, as the “Friendly Atheist” did today. I read his post about a couple who have apparently not sought medical help on two occasions leading in each case to their death of a child.

Friendly Atheist feels that Christians are nowhere to be seen when it comes to responding to things like this.  Here is an extract of what he said:

Religion shouldn’t be a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

And we shouldn’t have to wait for a third Schaible child to die before the parents are punished for their faith-based homicide.

On a side note, a lot of Christians will go to great lengths to protest abortion rights because they oppose “killing innocent babies.” But those same groups are basically nowhere to be found in cases of faith-healing deaths.

via Christian Couple Kills Their Second Child… with Prayer.

I’m not familiar with the case, and at least in the second situation we should hold to the usual “innocent until proven guilty” rule. But I am sure that all my regular readers would agree that people with physical illness should pray AND simultaneously seek medical help in exactly the same way as unbelievers. I am sure that all my readers would join me in arguing parents must care for their children by utilizing the skills of the medical profession.

We would argue that  the same God who urges us to go to him in prayer has also given the skills to Doctors to heal us by medicine. I have heard of accounts where people were healed on the way to the doctor. Interestingly, when Jesus healed the lepers in his day he would send them to the Priests who fulfilled something of a medical role in those days. God even chose a doctor to write one of the gospels. I hope that Christians everywhere will not feel guilty about visiting a doctor, and would urge their friends to do the same. Faith and works are called for!

Unfortunately, there are many people who still feel guilty about going to the doctor when they have a mental illness. Somehow mental illness feels different, perhaps partly because of what the Bible says about joy, and probably more so because it remains a taboo topic for many Christians. I believe things are changing, and am praying that the pace of such change will accelerate.  I do believe that God can heal today, both physical and mental illness. But  I also believe that he gives us doctors to assist in his healing work.  I would never discourage a Christian from seeking medical assessment, advice, and treatment whatever condition they are suffering with.

I think it is important that we are vocal about some of the issues that our opponents think we are silent about. Perhaps Christians don’t speak much about this kind of thing because we know that the vast majority of Christians would agree with the perspective outlined in this post. But we must learn not to assume, especially when those that disagree with use our silence to assume things about us.




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  • Kate Snyder

    We should be extremely careful when comparing track records. You don’t want to dig yourself into an embarrassing hole. The number of deaths at the hands of doctors is absolutely enormous compared to those who may (or may not) have trusted God and died.

    In the United States alone, experiencing a fatal adverse drug reaction (ADR) is the fourth leading cause of death and has been for decades (after heart disease, cancer and stroke). Physicians administering medication to their trusting patients in a hospital setting kills about 100,000 people per year. That’s a lot of human beings. Read the JAMA meta-analysis here: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=187436

    And this is only one study. A more recent Johns Hopkins study reveals that hospital misdiagnoses may account for as many deaths per year as breast cancer (over 40 thousand). So the hole just gets deeper.

    As for God, His way is perfect. The word of the Lord is tried. Has medicine been tried? Not long enough, as if time would be helpful. What’s touted as the best treatment today may be viewed as bloodletting tomorrow, yet bloodletting went on for 2,000 years!

    God help us, we are guinea pigs, and the findings change with each new generation.

    Jesus is the Great Physician who has provided forgiveness for all sin and healing of all disease in His blood atonement (Isaiah 53 & Matthew 8). Those trusting in Him, in childlike faith, call on the elders before the doctors, as James 5 commands, and Jesus has proved Himself faithful over and over and over again because the prayer of faith *will* save the sick, and no one needs to apologize for believing and seeing that come to pass. But the chances of death are so much greater for someone trusting in drugs and surgery. They need compassionate prayer more than they realize, as they rush to get “help.”

  • Steve

    Perhaps through mis-diagnosis or adverse reactions to treatment you can argue that some small percentage of the population would have been better served by not going to seek medical help, but a far greater number of lives have been saved and made better because they sought treatment at a sound medical establishment when needed. In addition, especially in the particular case cited where the couple had already lost a child to an utterly irresponsible reliance on prayer, common sense should have a hand in dictating when it’s time to seek medical help. This couples wrecklessness has shown they are not capable of caring for their children, and frankly they should be jailed and their kids taken away. Due to advances in modern medicine and our general knowledge about biology, people are living longer & healthier lives. Our medical workers aren’t going to have a perfect track record, but this trend of dramatic improvement is undeniable. You are free to not to be a guinea pig and as an adult of sound mind you can refuse treatment if you so wish.

  • cowalker

    It’s pretty telling, isn’t it, that no one–including Christians–condemns parents who fail to enlist believers to pray for their sick children? There is no convincing evidence that prayer contributes to a good outcome. It’s a nice psychological booster (if the patient knows about the prayer) but it’s a nice-to-have placebo, not a necessity.

    Believers know that medical science–flawed as it is–is the most effective way to deal with injury and illness, and almost everyone with access to medical care prioritizes getting medical care above prayer. Quite sensibly, they save prayer for after they’ve checked into the ER. It can’t hurt, but you can’t rely on it either.

    The Schaibles are crazy outliers, probably gullible ignoramuses being exploited by some con artist preacher.

  • Hi Adrian,

    I had to look at the date of posting; as I thought I’ve sen this story before. There must be a blance in our approach to healing. I firmly believe in my Father’s ability to heal. At the same time, my Father has blessed many doctors with the needed skills and insights into healing the sick.

    I’m glad that you mentioned the fact that Jesus had no problems with sending people to the priests. It’s not a sign of a lack of faith to see a doctor. Do not be afraid to ask the Father, for supernatural healing and yet be ready to see a doctor. God should be first and the doctor, second. It would also be wise to pray for your doctor.

    There is so much medical information out there; it would be extremely difficult for the doctor to know precisely what’s to be done. This is why it’s a good idea for the doctor, before seeing the person.

  • Theodore Seeber

    For Protestants this can be hard. For Catholics, Sirach 38 just about covers it.

    And yes, I also consider parents who don’t avail themselves of prayer as well as medicine in these situations, to be quite foolish indeed.