Healing and Disease
(the affect of medicine on theology)
(Week 8 of SBTS 28960)
Questions of interest:
Does the Bible teach that disease is caused by demons (which belief some have argued delayed the development of modern medicine)?
Has the success of modern medicine demonstrated that there is no spiritual dimension to disease?
A. According to the Bible
1. disease can have a spiritual purpose, e.g.:
a. to judge/chastise sin
A) God promises that sin will bring increased disease (Ex. 15:26; Lev. 26:21-25; Num. 8:19; Deu. 7:12-15; 28:58-62; 29:18-29; II Chr. 7:12-14; Jer. 14:10-12; 19:3-8; 29:18-19; Eze. 5:11-17; 6:11; 14:12-21; I Cor. 11:29-30; Rev. 9:17-21; 22:18)
1) Egyptians (Ex. 15:26; Deu. 7:15; 28:60)
2) the Egyptian Pharoah for taking Abram’s wife Sarai (Gen. 12:17)
3) Pharoah & Egypt at the time of Moses for pride against God (Ex. 9:13-17)
4) Israelites for making a golden calf (Ex. 32:35)
5) Israelites for complaining about manna and desiring meat (Num. 11:4-33)
6) Israelites for rebelling against Moses & Aaron (Num.16:42-50)
7) Israelites for marrying Moabites and worshipping Baal (Num. 25:1-9; Psa. 106:28-30)
8) Israel for their sin and David’s sin in numbering them (II Sam. 24; I Chr. 21)
9) Judah and Jehoram for following the sin of Ahab (II Chr. 21:5-19)
10) Nations who oppose Israelites (Psa. 89:23; Jer. 49:17; 50:13; Zech. 14:12)
for the purpose of judgment (Num. 25:11; Eze. 5:13; 6:12) and chastisement (I Cor. 11:29-32).
b. for our testing (e.g. Job 2:4-7)
c. to demonstrate that God is supreme and worthy of worship (Ex. 9:13-16)
d. for the glory that comes to God when the disease is healed (John 9:2-3)
e. to bring people back to Him (e.g. II Chr. 7:12-14; Amos 4:10)
2. disease can be caused by spiritual beings:
a. Satan can cause disease symptoms (although Scripture does not clarify whether Satan causes these things directly or instead uses an intermediate physical cause)
A) Satan brought boils to Job (Job 2:4-7)
B) Satan was said to have ‘bound’ a woman with ‘spirit of infirmity’ for 18 years (Luke 13:11-16)
b. Demons (or evil spirits or devils or Satan’s messenger) can cause disease symptoms [all of which might be mental pathologies]:
A) When Jesus cast out a legion of unclean spirits/devils, the possessed was cured of being ‘out of his right mind’, living homelessly among tombs, not wearing clothes, constant wailing, and self-cutting himself (Mat. 8:28-33’ Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:27-39). Unclean spirits caused self-destructive, wailing, homeless, nude, out-of-right-mind behavior in this man. [Such behavioral symptoms could be entirely due to a mental pathology.]
B) When Jesus healed a woman of a ‘spirit of infirmity’ (an evil spirit?) which had bowed a woman down, she ‘was made straight’ (Luke 13:11-16). Although Scripture doesn’t explicitly state that the problem was due to an evil spirit, it may be that an evil spirit caused a person to be ‘bowed down’. [Being ‘bowed down’ might refer to severe depression and thus could be entirely due to a mental pathology.]
C) When Jesus cast a dumb/unclean spirit/devil out of a child, the child was cured of ‘lunacy’ and self-destructive behavior (e.g. repeatedly throwing himself into fire; repeatedly throwing himself into water; violently throwing himself onto the ground; foaming at the mouth and writhing) (Mat. 17:14-18; Mark 9:17-29; Luke 9:38-42). A devil caused self-destructive lunatic behavior in this child. [Such behavioral symptoms could be entirely due to a mental pathology.]
D) Various people (Luke 6:18; Acts 5:16) were ‘vexed’ and a girl (Matt. 15:22-28; Mark 7:25-30) was ‘grievously vexed’ by an unclean spirits. Some sort of physical symptoms [and probably behavioral/mental symptoms] were caused by unclean spirits.
E) Jesus healed the blindness and muteness of a devil-possessed man (Mat. 12:22). Although Scripture doesn’t explicitly claim that the devil caused the blindness and muteness, what is implied is that a devil caused blindness and muteness in this man. [Muteness and blindness can be entirely due to a mental pathology, where nothing physical is lacking or damaged.]
F) When Jesus cast a devil out of a mute man, the man was able to speak (Mat. 9:32-33; Luke 11:14). Although Scripture doesn’t explicitly claim the devil caused the muteness, what is implied is that a devil caused muteness in this man. [Muteness can be entirely due to a mental pathology, where nothing physical is lacking or damaged.]
G) A ‘messenger of Satan’ caused a ‘thorn in the flesh’ for Paul (II Cor. 12:7). Although the ‘thorn in the flesh’ is not identified more specifically [and thus could be a behavioral/mental problem], it would seem that a fallen angel caused some physical challenge to Paul.
c. unfallen angels can cause sin (Rev. 9:17-21)
d. God can bring disease (Gen. 12:17; Ex. 9:13-16; 15:26; 32:35; Lev. 26:21-5; Num. 11:4-33; 25:1-9; Deu. 7:15; 16:42-50; 28:58-62; 29:18-29; II Sa. 24; I Chr. 21; II Chr. 7:12-14; 21:5-19; Psa. 89:23; Jer. 14:12; 19:8-9; 29:18-19; Eze. 5:11-17; 6:11-12; 14:19-21; Amos 4:10; Zech. 14:12; Rev. 22:19).
3. disease can have physical causes (as implied in Scripture):
a. Contact was allowed with a person having a non-leprous skin disease only after cleaning of body and clothes (e.g. Lev. 13:2-6)
b. Contact was not allowed with a person having leprosy (e.g. Lev. 13:45-6) and his clothes are to be burnt (Lev. 13:52), and even the house of a sick person is a matter of concern (e.g. Lev. 14:35ff)
c. Every object and person touched (or spit upon) by a person with an oozing boil is to be cleaned (Lev. 15:1-15)
d. Every object and person touched by sperm or menstrual fluid by a person with disease is to be cleaned (Lev. 15:16-33)
e. Touching ‘unclean’ things made one unclean
A) the carcass of a dead animal (Lev. 5:2; 11:8, 24, 39; 17:15; Num. 19:11-19; Deu. 14:8) and of that which touches it,
B) clothes, wood, skin, or sack is to be washed (Lev. 11:25, 32, 40; 17:15)
C) a clay pot is to be destroyed (Lev. 11:33)
D) food or drink is not to be consumed (Lev. 11:34)
E) an unclean man (Lev. 5:3)
F) flesh that touches an unclean thing should be burnt and not eaten (Lev. 7:19)
f. Disease is said to be laid upon the land (Deu. 29:22)
g. The gonad disease on the Philistines was associated with mice (I Sam. 6:4-18) – strongly suggestive of the bubonic plague vectored by rodents.
h. Jesus’ and the apostles’ healing of plagues and diseases is contrasted with casting out of evil spirits (Matt. 4:24; 10:1, 8; Mark 1:32, 34; 3:10-12, 15; 6:13; 16:17-18; Luke 4:40-41; 6:17-18; 7:21; 9:1-2; 13:32; Acts 5:16; 8:6-7; 19:11-12)
è The Bible does not claim that all disease has a spiritual cause. A multiplicity of causes are suggested for diseases – including physical causes – and though demon possession is a cause for disease, it may be responsible for a small percentage of all disease.
4. The healing of disease occurs
A) by God in response to prayer (Gen. 20:17; II Ki. 20:1-7; Psa. 30:2; 107:19-20; James 5:16)
B) by Jesus (Matt. 4:23-4; 8:5-16; 9:35; 12:10-13, 22; 14:14; 15:30-31; 19:2; 21:14; Mark 1:34; 3:1-5, 10; 5:22-42; 6:5; Luke 6:6, 17-19; 7:2-10, 21; 8:41-56; 9:11, 38-43; 13:32; 14:2-4; 17:13-14; 22:50-51; John 4:46-53; 5:5-9)
C) by the apostles, in the power of God (Matt. 10:1, 8; Mark 3:15; 6:13; Luke 4:40; 5:15; 9:1-2, 6; 10:9; Acts 3:2-11; 5:16; 8:7; 14:8-10; 28:8-9)
D) believers, via the gift of healing (I Cor. 12:9, 28-30)
b. in response to obedience (Prov. 3:7-8; 4:20-21)
c. in response to joy (Prov. 17:22)
d. in response to encouragement (“Pleasant words are as honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones”: Prov. 16:24)
e. via medical professionals? Going to doctors for medical reasons is neither explicitly condemned nor condoned in Scripture, so healing via medical professionals is not excluded or denied by Scripture:
A) Luke was a physician (Col. 4:14) and neither condemned for his profession nor told to leave his profession.
B) Asa’s actions of going to physicians rather than God are not spoken of in positive light (II Chr. 16:12), but that might just be a condemnation of not seeking God.
C) Paul advises Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach and common infirmities (I Tim. 5:23). Although this seems to condone medicine, does it discourage going to doctors?
D) We are told there is power in faith (Matt. 17:20; 21:21; Mark 11:22-24; Luke 17:6; Acts 6:8; II The. 1:11; James 5:15), including healing power (James 5:15), yet Paul prayed unsuccessfully for healing (II Cor. 12:7-10), so neither medicine nor prayer should be understood to be the ultimate solution for disease.
B. Medical research
1. has had success when it was assumed that disease was physical and curable by medicine (so it’s reasonable to assume that there are physical causes for at least some diseases).
2. has neither cured all disease nor explained all cures medically (suggesting that supernatural healing is still read).
3. suggests that there are positive medical consequences with Christianity:
a. better peace of mind
A) God provides meaning, calling (Isa. 43:1, 7; 45:4; 48:12; 54:5-6; Rom. 1:6-7; 8:28-30; 9:23-24; I Cor. 1:9, 24-26; 7:17-24; Eph. 4:1-4; Col. 3:15; I Th. 2:12; II Th. 2:14; II Ti. 1:9; Heb. 9:15; I Pet. 2:9; 3:9; 5:10; II Pet. 1:3; 3:1), purpose (e.g. Rom. 8:28; 9:11; Eph. 1:11; 3:10-12; II Tim. 1:9) and hope (Job 11:18; Psa. 16:9; 71:14; Lam. 3:26; Rom. 5:2-5; II Cor. 3:9-12; Eph. 1:18; 2:12-14; 4:4; Col. 1:5; I Th. 4:13-14; Titus 1:2; 2:11-13; Heb. 6:18-19; I Pet. 1:3) è higher self-esteem
B) peace (Prov. 3:17; Isa. 26:3; John 14:27; John 16:33; Rom. 8:6; 14:17; Gal. 5:22; Eph. 6:15; Phil. 4:7)
C) meaningful relationships (in body fellowship, in marriage, in friendships), which result in more inclusiveness (less marginalization), earlier diagnoses, and more compliance with treatment guidelines
D) less anger (Prov. 14:19; James 1:19), which results in less anxiety, stress, depression, and suicide, which in turn results in lower frequency of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, stomach ulcer, irritable bowels, impaired immune system (and possibly cancer).
b. fewer addictions (Rom. 6-7) è less abuse of nicotine, alcohol, drugs
c. lower risk of sexual activity (Exo. 20:14; Deu. 5:18; Prov. 6:32; Acts 15:29; I Cor. 6:13; 6:18-7:2; 10:8; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; I Th. 4:3-4) è fewer STD’s (sexually-transmitted diseases), which results in less pain, less disability, prolonged survival, longer and more fulfilling marriages.
C. è When each is examined carefully, there is no conflict between a biblical and medical perspective of disease [and that would be, in short, that physical, emotional, and spiritual causes exist for disease].