Shalom and Justice in Health Care -- By: E. David Cook

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 04:1 (Spring 2000)
Article: Shalom and Justice in Health Care
Author: E. David Cook


Shalom and Justice in Health Care

E. David Cook

E. David Cook is professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Cook is also a member of the faculty at Oxford University and serves as clinical ethicist at John Radcliffe Hospital. He has authored numerous articles and books, and has often appeared in radio and television broadcasts produced by the BBC, Radio Oxford.

Introduction

It is now almost a truism to state that the Christian lives in the tension between the now and the not yet. The glories of the coming kingdom in all its fullness stand in tension with the harsh realities of living and dying in a fallen world. Such tension provides the framework for Christian living. We are in the world and yet not of the world, for our citizenship is in heaven, and yet we must live concretely in the here and now.

This means that there will always be a tension between proclaiming the ideal and working in a setting that falls short of that ideal. We continue to preach the ideal, but inevitably fall short of that glory until the whole of creation is redeemed and our bodies partake of the resurrected life. In the interim God invites us to grow up into the full manhood and womanhood intended for us in and through Christ. It is the challenge to be changed from one degree of glory to the next and fuller degree of glory. It means the death of human pride and self-satisfaction in our achievements. It stresses our utter dependence on the grace of God, his mercy and power to enable us, like Paul, to claim, “It is no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me” (Phil 1:21).

If we now apply this framework to the theme of just health we see that there must be two elements in any move towards shalom. There must be the proclamation and description of the ideal of shalom and just health. But that ideal must be matched by a realistic strategy for dealing with the issues of justice and health as they actually face our world and us in the twenty first century.

Living in a pluralistic society creates a major challenge for Christianity. The challenge is no different today from the time of the birth and spread of Christianity recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. That is why the Bible is so relevant to today’s world and today’s situation. Today we experience what the early Christians did, a variety of competing worldviews and the minority role of Christianity. The main difference is that in our setting Christianity has played an important role in the development of society, particularly in its moral and ethical standards.

In any approach to health care issues, we must retain a keen sense of our context and a clear historical...

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