I am doing an integrated study of theology and medicine. Below is a working draft of my efforts.
Suffering has been in the human condition since one can remember. People complain about suffering and seek comfort and healing for it. The physician is always in the picture when healing for suffering is the agenda. I am writing this paper for the Christian physician. This is to help the Christian physician minister to the patient. The Christian physician is not just treating the disease when he/she allows himself/herself to be a vessel of Gods healing in this world. The Christian physician brings healing just as Jesus Christ came to heal those who were sick. My goal for this essay is to give a Christian perspective in the ministry of healing that Christian physicians might find themselves. This is a descriptive essay of three different perspectives on the origin of suffering. I will draw the first perspective from the work of Jeane Claude–Larchet, Theology of Illness, where he subscribes to the classic Christian understanding that suffering is a consequence of Original Sin. Next, I will highlight the argument of Eric Cassell in The Nature of Suffering and The Goals of Medicine, where he says that suffering comes from all the components of a person which includes the physical, spiritual and even the social. The third perspective I will draw is from Douglas John Hall’s book, God and Human Suffering, where he argues that suffering is inherent to our created nature.
The physician starts healing the patient by investigating about the chief complaint of the patient. In this case, the chief complaint of the patient is suffering. The investigation begins by probing into the history of the present illness. This is the classical medical approach and I would like to use this method so that the Christian physician still approaches the patient like he/she used to. This approach may seem illogical if I am trying to argue about a renewal in how we do medicine but I believe it to be a practical approach. One cannot change an institution like medicine overnight and so I will look at this approach as a first step toward a change in medical care by offering a new perspective to the physician’s classical approach.
History of the Present Illness
The patient started to experience suffering when humanity disobeyed God and was expelled from the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3). This is the classical Christian interpretation on the origin of suffering. The patristic have written that suffering came after the original fall of humanity. Jeane Claude-Larchet, writing about the theology of illness in his book of the same title turns to the patristic writings in describing the origin of suffering. Larchet quotes St. Maximus the Confessor when he said ‘“The misuse of his freedom of choice introduced into Adam susceptibility to punishment, corruptibility and mortality’(p26, Larchet).” In the same breath, St. Theophilus of Antioch notes “in his disobedience, man acquired fatigue, suffering and distress, and finally he fell into the power of death (p27, Larchet).” It is clear from the Patristic writings that early Christians understand suffering as caused by sin. This understanding of the origin of suffering has shifted over time. This will be apparent from the discussions I will offer below.
.... to be continued...