GOD IN MEDICAL PRACTICE (C. 1958)

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Excerpted from The Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe, edited by John Clover Monsma. New York: G.P. Putman’s Sons, 1958

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GOD IN MEDICAL PRACTICE

By Paul Ernest Adolph, Physician and Surgeon

M.Sc, M.D., University of Pennsylvania; formerly medical missionary, China Inland Mission, and associate in anatomy, St. John’s University, Shanghai, China; Lieut. Colonel, Ret., Medical Corps, U.S. Army; Director of Chicago Missionary Medical Office; Fellow of American College of Surgeons and author of several books on Medical Missions. Specialist in general surgery and missionary medicine, particularly in re­lation to the health of missionaries.

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Answering the main question of this symposium, I would say that I definitely accept for myself the existence and reality of God. My conviction results not only from experiences of a spiritual nature, but medical practice has amply confirmed what I had accepted by faith.

Back in my medical school days I learned a basic materia­listic concept of the changes which take place in body tissues as the result of injury. Studying sections of tissue under the microscope I perceived that, as a result of the various favor­able influences which are brought to bear upon the tissues, satisfactory repair takes place. When I subsequently entered upon my career of hospital intern it was with a degree of confidence that I did so—confidence that I understood injury and the healing process to the extent that I could be sure of a favorable outcome when the appropriate mechanical and medicinal factors for the promotion of healing were brought into play. I was soon to find out, however, that I had neg­lected to integrate into my concepts of medical science the most important element of all—God.

One of my patients in the hospital during my internship was a grandmother in her early seventies with a fractured hip. I had seen her tissues respond favorably as I had com­pared the serial X-ray pictures. Indeed I had congratulated her on exceptionally rapid healing. She had now advanced through the wheel-chair stage into the use of crutches. The surgeon in charge of her case had indicated to me that she should be discharged from the hospital in twenty-four hours to go back home, since he was fully satisfied with her pros­pects of early and complete recovery.

It was Sunday. Her daughter came to the hospital to see her on her routine weekly visit, at which time I told her that she could come the next day to take her mother home, for now she could walk with crutches. The daughter said nothing to me about her plans but went to talk to her mother. She told her mother that she had conferred with her husband and it had been decided that she could not be taken back into their home. Doubtless arrangements could be made for her to go into an old people’s home.

A few hours later, when I was called to the old lady’s side as the intern on her case, she was showing general physical deterioration. Inside of twenty-four hours she died—not of her broken hip but of a broken heart, although in desperation we had utilized all emergency medical measures that might conceivably restore her to health.

Her broken hip bone had healed without a snag, but her broken heart had not. Despite all the favorable influences in vitamins, minerals and immobilization of the fracture that we had brought to bear upon her condition, she did not recover. To be sure, the bone ends had united and she had a strong hip, but she had not recovered. Why? The most im­portant element needed in her recovery was not-the vitamins, nor the minerals, nor the splinting of her fracture. It was hope. When hope was gone, recovery failed.

This made a deep impression upon me, since it was ac­companied by the conviction that this would never have been the outcome if this lady had known the God of hope the way I, as an earnest Christian, knew Him. I was stirred to the depths of my soul. As a medical scientist I had a strong faith in God as the Creator of all, but somehow or other I had put my materialistic medical information into a compartment by itself, as though it had no relationship to my belief in God.

Yet could this mutual isolation be justified? Here I was confronted with a patient who had, as it were, gained the whole world in a restored physical body, but in losing her soul, and in particular the hopeful outlook of the soul (for obviously her main hope had been anchored in the perpetua­tion of a close human relationship to her daughter), had found death instead of life, in accordance with Jesus’ words: “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

I was gripped by the realization that I must seek the simultaneous healing of body and soul through the applica­tion of my belief in medical and surgical measures together with the application of my belief in God, both of which beliefs I felt I had established on a firm scientific basis. In this way alone can I give my patient, I reasoned, the com­plete therapy that he needs. Moreover, upon careful consid­eration I have found that my beliefs in current medical therapy and in God eminently meet the requirements of a sound and modern medical philosophy.

Actually, my own experience happens to coincide with an awakening in recent years within the medical profession to the importance of psychological elements in the science of medicine. For instance, today it is recognized on reliable authority that 80 percent of all the illnesses encountered in general practice in our large American cities have a pre­dominantly psychic causation, and that half of these 80 per­cent involve no demonstrable organic causative factors what­soever. In this connection it should be mentioned that it is the concept generally accepted by the medical profession that these diseases with the strong psychic, or so-called nerv­ous, component are not imaginary in any way. Their causes too are not imaginary, but are recognizable through the utilization of a reasonable degree of ordinary insight on the part of the medical practitioner.

What are the basic causes of these so-called nervous diseases? Some of the most important which psychiatrists recognize are guilt, resentment (an unforgiving spirit), fear, anxiety, frustration, indecision, doubt, jealousy, selfishness and boredom. Unfortunately, many psychiatrists, while definitely effective in tracing the causes of emotional dis­turbances which cause disease, have significantly failed in their methods of dealing with these disturbances because they omit faith in God as their basic approach. Moreover, what are these emotional disturbances, these causative factors in producing disease, but the results and reflections of what God in the Bible says He came to save us from? God had long ago anticipated our psychic needs and had provided a perfect remedy for them. The psychia­trists have described in intricate detail the lock which closes the door of health to us. God in His Word has furnished us with the key which fits that lock in minutest detail, to open the door of emotional health to us, just as the notches and elevations on a Yale key correspond precisely to the minutest configurations within the lock as the necessary components for unlocking it.

Only God could furnish this key. Blind experimentation could never make the keys that open our complicated mechanical locks; it certainly cannot make the key that opens the door of the human soul. Also, only God can reveal unerringly the particularities of this key. The poet Cowper has stated the matter correctly:

Blind unbelief is sure to err, And scan His work in vain; God is His own Interpreter, And He will make it plain.

What does God, as “His own Interpreter,” tell us about this key? Very briefly this: That we are guilty sinners needing God’s forgiveness through Christ, so that we may be restored to fellowship with Him and may be forgiving towards others. Sinners thus forgiven have the gift of God’s Spirit within them to dispel fear and anxiety, and to create an environ­ment in which frustration becomes impossible. Jealousy, selfishness, and kindred evils depart when His love reigns in our hearts. Boredom is swallowed up in rejoicing. Hope becomes a living factor—living and life-infusing.

As a medical scientist I have found that, equipped with this spiritual armamentarium as well as with my materia medica, I can cope with the diseases of everyday medical practice with real blessing. To leave God out of the matter is often to provide only half a cure, if indeed that much.

Deep gastric ulcer

Thus, the great majority of peptic ulcers are recognized as due, as has been tritely said, not so much to what the individual is eating as to what is eating him. The patient’s resentments must be dealt with. In dealing with them we face up to that basic forgiveness of the crucified Christ who prayed for His enemies. If we are “of Christ,” we shall find that resentments and bitterness toward others leave us. They must leave us if we are acting in sincerity. This prepares the way for recovery to take place, especially if the spiritual transaction is accompanied by the antispasmodic and antacid medicines together with the bland diet which we usually prescribe for this condition.

Similarly, there are many nervous conditions in which fear and anxiety play an important causative part. When fear and anxiety are dealt with on the basis of simple trust in God, health is restored almost dramatically in many cases.

Space is lacking to give specific instances of recovery from disease which have followed forthright faith in God. I have described quite a number of such cases in one of my books, Health Shall Spring Forth, in which faith’s appropriation of God’s remedy for recognizable psychic failings has, as part of the medical program of therapy, resulted in striking cures.

The human body finds harmonious function when it is in tune with its Maker. Without Him we become prone to dis­-harmony and dis-ease.

Yes, indeed, there is a God! I know—by abundant experi­ence. Broken bones together with broken hearts find healing through Him.

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