Soundings In A Theology Of Medicine -- By: Nigel M. de S. Cameron

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 014:2 (Fall 1993)
Article: Soundings In A Theology Of Medicine
Author: Nigel M. de S. Cameron


Soundings In A Theology Of Medicine

Nigel M. de S. Cameron*

As we make our way through the 1990s, the pro-life movement’s political ambitions seem—both in the United States and elsewhere—to have been thwarted. Its rhetoric sounds increasingly shrill; and its activism ambiguous in its demand on evangelical allegiance. At the same time, the human genome initiative represents the largest ever public investment in the biological sciences, with singular opportunity for good or ill in the options for intervention and manipulation which will follow this fundamental mapping of humankind. The cloning of the human embryo has just been announced. Protocols for cadaver transplants are re-written so as to trespass on the cadaver status of dying but not-quite-dead “donors.” And, over all, healthcare restructuring is the great political and economic fact of the decade. Never has the thinness, the studied inattention, of evangelicals’ interests in a theological understanding of the medical enterprise been more evident nor more potentially disastrous—both in serious ethical analysis, and, back of that, in a broad theological context. In this preliminary discussion we take soundings in the earlier “bioethics” of the 1950s and, in one case, at the start of the 1970s, when four influential writers engaged in serious theological discussion of medical ethical questions. Then we take some soundings in the theology of medicine itself.

I. Soundings in the History of Discussion

A. Joseph Fletcher

In his ground-breaking book of forty years ago, which should probably be regarded as the first sally into what has come to be known as “bioethics,” Joseph Fletcher’s agenda is defiantly liberal. Yet in two highly significant ways Medicine and Morals1 stands apart from more recent contributions to the field, especially those

* Nigel M. de S. Cameron is Associate Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology and Associate Dean of Academic Doctoral programs at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. (An earlier version of this paper was read at the Paul Tournier Institute Conference of the Christian Medical and Dental Society, Washington, DC, in October 1992.)

most in sympathy with Fletcher’s own conclusions. First, despite his agenda (these lectures call for the overthrow of a series of Judeo-Christian convictions on medical-ethical topics), Fletcher declares that only within the context of Christian theology can his subject be properly approached. That is itself an interesting comment on the character of public and professional discourse in the United States of the late 1940s (when he gave the lectures) and early...

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