The Relevance of the Christian Faith For a Modern World -- By: David T. Tharp
ATJ 23 (1991) p. 57
The Relevance of the Christian Faith
For a Modern World
Dr. Tharp (M.D. — University of Rochester School of Medicine) is an M.Div. student at ATS. This essay is his winning submission for the first Jeffrey A. Branche Merit Scholarship Award.
When an individual becomes aware of certain physical or emotional perceptions that are different from his or her normal range of experiences, a critical decision follows. The individual may choose to ignore these changes and hope that they will go away. That may prove to be the case with minor illnesses or injuries, but in other cases the results are not so benign.
Not infrequently, the decision to disregard these unusual sensations represents one’s ignoring the very feedback signals that the human body was designed to provide to indicate its struggle with a potentially overwhelming illness or injury. What one believes to be minor indigestion may represent a major heart attack, and what appears to be a slightly unusual mole may represent a highly malignant melanoma. If the abnormal sensation goes away and the body is able to repair itself without outside intervention, then a physician and the benefits that he or she represents become irrelevant. However, if the underlying problem is not so readily remedied, the decision whether to seek medical treatment may represent life or death.
If the individual enters the medical setting, those abnormal perceptions or sensations now are called “symptoms” and represent either the direct effect of the physical insult upon the body or else the response of the body to the insult. These symptoms, along with other tests that measure bodily functions that cannot be seen externally, form the basis for establishing a “diagnosis.” The diagnosis represents an explanation of the problem, its probable etiology, and its potential danger to the individual. From this understanding, a means of treatment is formulated, which then becomes highly relevant.
As one examines the question of the relevance of the Christian faith for a modern world within the context of this medical metaphor, the issue becomes whether the modern world, and mankind specifically, is in such a state that it, like the human body when confronted with a minor illness or injury, can repair itself, or whether it represents a more malignant condition which requires the outside assistance of a “physician.” To prove that the Christian faith is relevant to the modern world does not require one to prove that the modern world is necessarily in a worse state than in the past, but merely that it is in a state of “disease” that cannot heal itself, that ultimately is destructive or life threatening, and for which the Christian faith offers potential benefits.
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