When it comes to medicine and health decisions, Western Christianity tends toward an “all or nothing” approach. On one hand the voices shout that if we can, we should, and on the other we are told that our faith will heal us. As is the case with almost everything, most of us live in the middle. When I learned that a gentleman with both medical and theological training and experience had written a book about a Christian perspective on modern medical science, I was excited to review it.
The promotional summary says:
“In Compassionate Jesus, Christopher Bogosh calls Christians to examine the pervasive “prolong life at all costs” mentality against biblical principles of care and compassion that are rooted in Christ. This is a call to enter into medical situations trusting in God’s sovereign care and the power of prayer. It is hoped that this book will begin a long-needed discussion among Christians about how we relate to modern medicine, encouraging us to allow the gospel to inform the way we engage the healthcare system.”
Bogosh brings a unique blend of medical and theological training to the subject, and he certainly does ask some important questions that need to be brought to the attention of many Christians and his point that health and prolonging life are our cultural idols is an excellent one that needs much more discussion. He made several excellent points about our cultural language surrounding cancer specifically (treatment is called “fighting” the cancer, while palliative care in terminal cases is called “giving up”) that were very challenging, and deserve much more conversation in Christian circles.
I found the first two chapters to be a little muddled organizationally, primarily because discussing the history of western thought requires far more space than was allotted. However, the argument that modern medical science has been highly affected by the enlightenment, naturalism and humanism comes through.
It is at the point of suggesting a biblical response that Compassionate Jesus disappointed me. While calling Christians to develop a biblical approach to medicine, Bogosh fails to root his own suggestions in the Bible. There are a few scripture references in defense of some definitions, but the author does not make a principle based argument built on the law of God. God has a lot to say about life and its preservation, and a Christian worldview needs to be rooted in the explicit commands, and guiding principles revealed in scripture. I was very disappointed that wasn’t the case here.
For example, in his zeal to counter the “prolong life at all cost” mindset so prevalent in the contemporary medical community, Bogosh comes dangerously close to asking Christians to make friends with death. Scripture is very clear that a Christian should not fear death, nor should we grieve in a hopeless way; however, neither should we embrace it. God did not build us for death. It is the great scar of sin across God’s creation and even Jesus dreaded it. A biblical view of life and death and what the word of God has to say on those topics should be at the heart of any discussion regarding medical ethics, but Compassionate Jesus did not include those foundational elements, nor did it build a response upon them.
The question of what medical treatment, when, and for whom is a cultural sink hole, and without a strong framework, firmly rooted in the word of God, Christians will sink along with society. I hope that Compassionate Jesus will encourage others to broach the subject and begin the process of exploring what the word of God says about these subjects.
I received no compensation for this post. I was provided a paperback and electronic edition for the purpose of review. I was not required to provide a positive one. I keep a disclosure statement here.