Two weeks ago I wrote about the case of Robert and Jeri Orfali. While they were living in Hawaii, Jeri developed ovarian cancer and died an excruciating death. After the experience, Robert Orfali became a staunch advocate of physician-assisted suicide. Needless to say, it’s difficult to imagine the emotional anguish that Robert must have felt and, to an extent, one can empathize with his desire to see his wife experience death with dignity. In my blog, I shared that I can understand why a person who does not acknowledge God’s sovereignty over life and death would think that PAS should be permitted.
This week (and 2 subsequent weeks) I would like to share a few thoughts about health, disease, “playing God” and death. As a disclaimer, I should mention that I seek to understand these matters from a Christian worldview. Thus, I am compelled to respond from that perspective.
First, what can we determine from Scripture about the avoidance of disease and the pursuit of health? In the Old and New Testaments, Scripture clearly teaches that disease is a common but undesirable feature of humanity. In addition, even a cursory reading of Scripture will reveal that the pursuit of good health is a desirable and worthy objective. We see, for example, that the Lord commanded Moses to bring those with infectious diseases to the priests for care until declared clean. Then again, disease was sometimes a punishment for wrongdoing. For instance, Elijah warned Jehoram that, because of his sin, God would punish him with, “a lingering disease of the bowels, until the disease causes your bowels to come out.’
In the New Testament, we read that Jesus “went throughout Galilee…healing every disease and sickness among the people.” And in Acts, Peter preached that “Jesus of Nazareth… went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” The healing ministry continued in the early church where Luke reports that “people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.” Paul also healed Publius’ father who was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery.” Paul “went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured.” Earlier in Paul’s ministry he argues that some of the believers in Corinth were sick and some died because of sin and God’s discipline. “That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep… when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.”
These passages do not in any way suggest that believers are entitled to health. As a matter of fact, other passages indicate that healing did not always occur; individuals did become sick and eventually die, after all. And Christians believe that death is the eventual consequence of sin. As Nigel Cameron so deftly describes it:
“The sin/death causality runs through the biblical-theological understanding of the nature of reality, and offers one of the foundation-stones of the Judeo-Christian worldview… [it] lies at the heart of Christian understanding of what it means to be human… Sickness, the shadow of death and its foretaste – indeed every sickness – brings with it evidence of our final mortality.”
On the other hand, Cameron continues:
“as we seek to understand the predicament of our mortality, we find that our ground for hope lies in the radically unnatural character of death. If the cause of death is not natural, if it is both moral and supernatural, if it is sin and the divine judgment upon the sin, then we also believe in a final great reversal in which, after weeping has lasted for a night, joy comes in the morning.”
In any case, even if it is true that disease and death are part of fallen humanity, Scripture concurs that death is an enemy and good health is a noble goal. Does this give humans the right to play God in these matters? I will attempt to answer this question in next week’s blog.
 Leviticus 13.
 2 Chronicles 21:12-15. See also Psalm 106: 13-15.
 Matthew 4:23.
 Acts 10:38.
 Acts 5:15-16.
 Acts 28: 8-9.
 1 Cor. 11: 30-32.
 John Kilner, Robert Orr, and Judith Shelly, The Changing Face of Healthcare, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998) 41.
 Ibid, 41.