Dear Theophilus: Navigating Christian Faithfulness in the Healthcare Professions

By Manny Cota, Faculty

Female brunette nurse in the car praying with mask hanging from rearview mirror

Dear Faculty,

How should Christian doctors and nurses navigate the ethical dilemmas in the industry such as abortion, euthanasia or biomedical engineering?

– Theophilus

Dear Theophilus,

This is a very important question regarding Christianity and medical ethics. As a Christian working in healthcare, you have a high calling to be the hands and feet of Jesus, the great physician, to the sick and vulnerable. Yet the landscape of healthcare today is complex and ever evolving due to the rapid development of new medical technologies and the legal complications.

These come in a society involved in the never-ending struggle to discern where one person’s rights begin and another’s ends. There are no easy answers, but rather some wisdom to be shared for growing to be the kind of person that is faithful to the calling of Christ in healthcare.

Thinking Biblically

Primarily, we need to be grounded in categories that guide Christian theology about life, health and ethics. In other words, we need to think biblically. This is not simply a matter of knowing the right Scripture to apply to specific situations or getting the Greek or Hebrew just right (although that’s part of it).

Consider for a second how you would approach someone asking for the biblical position on stem cell research or cloning? Clearly, there is no passage that mentions those technologies by name, and the historical context in which the authors of Scripture were writing could have never dreamed of such technologies.

Is there no Christian theology about these and other issues in bioethics? Not at all. To think biblically is a matter of interpreting life in the categories and realities framed by the overarching story of the Bible under the authority of Christ as he leads us by his Holy Spirit in the community of believers (i.e. the Church).

What Is a Person?

This is perhaps one of the most important categories to get right when thinking about Christianity and medical ethics. How one’s worldview defines what it means to be a person determines how persons ought to live life and how persons ought to be treated.

I remember a young man shared that he had heard a pastor on the radio claim that human cloning is biblically wrong because any human clone would not have a soul. This is an honest question and the pastor, I have no doubt, is being earnest as he is thinking through this very complicated issue.

Without getting into the details, while there are good biblical reasons to push back against human cloning, this pastor’s argument is very confused and arguably not biblical in the sense we are speaking of here. Why?

Because it is a misunderstanding of what the Bible means by person, what it means to be created in the image of God, and what the Bible means by soul (not to mention a misunderstanding of the biology and science involved). Fortunately, there are many resources and scholars in Christian bioethics, whose passion is to help believers learn and apply these categories to life and work.

What Is the Law?

Second, as a practical step for Christian healthcare workers, when dealing with a thorny ethical dilemma, familiarize yourself with the legal parameters of the issue at hand. Also, be aware of any policies in place at the organization, practice or hospital you work for. Being faithful witnesses in part means working well with others.

There are options (even if they seem to be less and less common) for employees to do their jobs well and act according to their conscience and faith convictions. At least this way we can say with integrity that we are earnestly attempting to live peaceably with all people insofar as it is up to us.

Finding Fellowship

Finally, all of this ought to be lived out in constant fellowship with the community of believers. Find other like-minded believers in your profession and involve yourself in regular fellowship, discussion, prayer and mutual encouragement with them. When you're around other believers, it's easier to talk about Christianity and the medical ethics that you face. In addition to your local church, professional societies such as the Christian Medical & Dental Associations are a good place to start.

Have your own theology questions? Get your questions answered by emailing cotblog@gcu.edu using the subject line “Dear Theophilus.” If you would like to learn more about the College of Theology and our degree programs at Grand Canyon University click on the Request Info button at the top of your screen.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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