THE BIBLICAL APPROACH TO MEDICAL TECHNOLOGIES - Dr. Greg Kenyon M.D. is pleased to introduce : Dr. Greg Kenyon M.D.

Dr. Kenyon is a family doctor who practices medicine in Mitchell, Ontario, a town of about 3600. God has brought Greg and his wife Laurie to the point where they see that there should be no separation between being a Christian and one's day to day life. This conviction has led to considering how God wants them to approach all questions in life including those of medical practice, such as the use of the various technologies that are available in medicine.

They believe the Scripture contains all that is necessary to be directed in how God wants us to respond to the issues we face. The Kenyons and their family are members of the Free Reformed Church of Mitchell. They home school their six children who range in age from 2.5 to 11 years old. The material presented here is a series of articles originally published in The Messenger and was first delivered as a speech at the Annual Free Reformed Ladies' Conference held in June 1997.



This article was developed when I was asked to speak on a Biblical approach to the use of medical technology. Initially, I thought it would be most helpful to talk about a number of medical technologies, providing information so that you can know what you are getting involved In and make more informed decisions. As I talked with people, however, I have been impressed by the number of Christians who express difficulty in making decisions in the face of the many advances in technology. If this difficulty lies in lack of information, providing information would be most helpful. I think many of us can research what these technologies involve or someone within our Christian community could help us do this. Once informed about a technology, the most difficult part is deciding if using it is right or wrong.

However, medical technology, if broken into small enough parts, is not where the problem lies. Consider Amniocentesis, where a needle is put into the womb to remove fluid to perform tests on. Using this to diagnose Down's Syndrome, so a potentially abnormal baby can be aborted, is directly condemned by the sixth commandment and indirectly condemned by Jesus' great concern for the crippled and less fortunate of our world. Amniocentesis can also be used to see if babies' lungs are mature enough to survive a premature delivery. If the intent is to save the baby, this use can be condoned. Another example, the D&C is the most common procedure to abort unborn babies. This use is condemned in the sixth commandment. Some of us will be more familiar with the use of the D&C to diagnose and treat abnormal vaginal bleeding. This use is encouraged by Jesus' example of healing the sick and diseased. I hope you can see that technology itself is not where the problem lies but how these things are used.

Decisions about the use of medical technology often come at times of trial. We expect doctors to help with our health. They give their options along with their list of risks and benefits. We are to decide what to do. How do we decide, especially when many of the doctors and developers of various techniques are not bound by the Word of our Lord? How do we know they are not leading us astray? How do we decide if it is all right to proceed?

As a doctor, I face similar questions. Can I proceed in the direction the patient wishes? What advice should I give about the use of the various technologies? I ended up contemplating how difficult the answers to these questions can be. Should we not find that a Biblical approach makes things more clear? It is, therefore, the Biblical approach in regard to the use of medical technology that I will deal with.

My expertise in this area comes from my perspective as a Christian who works as a family doctor. I am confident that God has given me something to say as He has convinced me that Holy Scripture alone is the ultimate authority for faith and life.[1] Everything I do, every decision that I make, should be founded on the principles of Holy Scripture.

I used to consider many areas of medicine as being indifferent or neutral to Scripture. I have come to appreciate, however, that everything I do, all the advice I give, is rooted in what I believe. I tell my patients that if I care about them from my heart, I can only give them advice that I believe may make a difference. If that advice is about life then it will, I hope, be consistent with the Bible. If it is about cut fingers (although this may seem neutral) my desire to do what is best should come from a God-given desire to love my neighbour. I have seen how genuine concern for small, apparently neutral issues, over a number of years has been used by God to build credibility and open opportunities to more explicitly share Jesus Christ as the answer to hurting hearts.

I have struggled with many difficult decisions. Our response is either good or bad, either right or wrong, either glorifying to God or not. How can I be sure that my responses are good? Only when they are founded on the whole of Scripture. Experiencing these struggles has shaped how I have come to approach decision making as a Christian doctor.

I hope to share some aspects of decision making with you. I hope to look at ways our modem world approaches medical decision making and help you consider some flaws of these approaches from a Christian perspective. I plan to look at some common unbiblical ways used by Christians confronted with medical decisions. Finally, I want to present some elements of truly biblical decision making. Various medical technologies will be used as examples in my discussion.

Some may have question about technologies that I do not address. If they are important to you, you may write me, at [email protected] .

The World's ApproachIndex

First, we will consider approaches of the world in medical decision making. People often have to look to others for help when making medical decisions. The information needed to make an informed decision can be hard to understand and not readily available to the average person. Also, people are often distressed with illness when they are expected to make some of these decisions. Fortunately, our laws require 'informed consent" for any medical procedure. A reasonable description of what will be done along with risks and benefits is supposed to be provided. There is Biblical warrant for requiring informed consent in the Scripture's command to be truthful to one another and in the principle of personal responsibility. [2]

As medical people try to provide you with the information needed to make informed decisions, their guidance will vary. With less controversial procedures you may be expected to decide with a minimum of additional information from the doctor. With controversial areas, such as issues of fertility, genetic counseling, transplant surgery and palliative care, there often seems to be a lot of guidance offered. Multidisciplinary committees with doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists. and hospital chaplains, may be ready to walk you through the process of decision making. Some of these will be considered experts in medical ethics.

As people try to help you make informed decisions you should anticipate problems that may exist in the process. According to Scripture, 'the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God" (1 Cor. 3:19). We must expect the world's advice to be biased. This will affect the information the world gives you to base your decisions on. There are biases in the description of a procedure, in the presentation of the risks and benefits, and finally, in the interpretation of a patient's concerns or desires.

First, consider biases in the presentation of a procedure. Christians will be more likely to present the aspects of procedures with moral implications. People who believe in moral neutrality may not see any need to present moral issues. Anti-christian people will be motivated to present what is not moral in a way that appears moral. For example, I consider it important, when telling about an intrauterine device, or IUD, for birth control, to say it works by preventing implantation of the fertilized egg. I will say it stops the newly formed life from implanting in the uterus like a very early abortion. For a non-christian gynaecologist, who believes abortion can be justified, the prevention of implantation will not be an issue as long as it prevents pregnancy. He may not bother giving details of how the IUD works. Biases in the presentation of a procedure may mislead a Christian who is not discerning.

Second, consider biases in the presentation of risks and benefits. Consider an elderly person with a severe stroke who can not swallow well, but is not dying, where the method of feeding through a feeding tube is being presented. People who accept God's control of the timing of death, while not ignoring the potential of temporary bowel discomfort of restarting feeding, will emphasize the increased possibility of meaningful communication with God and others that good nutrition can aid. They will include benefits such as the maintenance of skin integrity, thus decreasing the risk of bed sores while the person waits for God to take them Home. They will acknowledge that we cannot accurately predict how much recovery will occur and some patients regain their ability to swallow over time. On the other hand, people, who believe we can control the timing of death, who believe dying in apparent comfort means all is well, and question the value of the life of a handicapped elderly person, may stress the possibility of very uncomfortable cramps or diarrhea as feeding is reintroduced and pass over the temporary nature of these discomforts. They may cite studies that suggest that people who die of starvation die a comfortable death.

I would also like you to consider the blood test called serum alpha-fetal-protein as a screening tool to determine if a pregnant mother may be carrying a baby with Downs Syndrome or with Spina Bifida, a condition with the spinal cord not being covered over properly. The doctor who believes God is actively involved in the formation of life from its conception in the mother's womb and that God is the author and finisher of life, will be careful to inform you of the false positive rate of 96 to 99 percent. He will point out that confirming a positive test requires Amniocentesis or Chorionic Villus sampling. (Amniocentesis, mentioned earlier, involves putting a needle into the fluid around the baby. Chorionic Villus sampling involves putting a needle into the placenta. The miscarriage rate with both of these procedures is a half to one percent. This means that using the blood test to screen would kill one normal baby to find about five Spina Bifida or two Down's Syndrome babies.) The doctor will point out that there is no treatment and the test is really done to give people information to decide on keeping or terminating their pregnancy. He will point out that these tests do not determine the severity of the Down's Syndrome or Spina Bifida. Most of us have seen some beautifully happy Down's Syndrome people. They seem to have a gift of cheerfulness.

In contrast, the doctor who considers human life is expendable, as long as ended at an early enough stage, is more likely to say the screening test can pick up 65% of the Down's Syndrome and 80% of the Spina Bifida (when the entire population is screened). He will likely look at the safety of Amniocentesis and CVS with no miscarriages in some studies. To him a half percent loss rate is a small and acceptable risk. He may present Down's Syndrome and Spina Bifida in their extreme forms.

I hope that you can see that biases in the presentation of the risks and benefits of a procedure may misguide you.

Finally, consider biases in the doctor's interpretation of what a patient says or wants. Patients are usually asked what their concerns are and what they hope the procedure will accomplish. The difference between the world's and the Christian's view of desires can lead to various interpretations of what the patient says. I have seen this with deciding about using a potentially life-giving treatment to an elderly patient who was unable to talk from a stroke. The patient previously expressed he would not want to live in a nursing home and would not want to be kept alive by tubes and things. Our laws require the closest family to be involved in the decisions.

The family often looks to medical staff for guidance. Some of the staff involved decided the patient meant they wanted to be left to die. They did not understand that those who have Christ have two different kinds of desires, our own desires and desires that are guided by Christ. In the past, I had explored with my patient, the not wanting to live in a nursing home. I had asked, what if it is God's plan that you spend time in a nursing home, would you still say you would not want to live in a nursing home? This patient had a desire to do what God wanted, including living in a nursing home, if that would be God's plan. Paul describes this in Philippians saying, "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you" (1:23-24). The world is not given to understand these desires and will tend to give the human desires they under- stand more weight in a decision. When what the patient says is misunderstood, the advice that is given to the patient will be less likely to be honouring to God.

I hope I have shown that there are many places for biases in the description of procedures, of the risks and benefits, and in the interpretation of what the patient says. It is important to keep these things in mind because the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God. I hope you see a need to test the counsel of the world with the Scriptures and the counsel of the godly.

A Common Approach In Christian CirclesIndex

  We now consider how we can be led astray by common approaches to medical decision making in Christian circles.

A common approach among Christians accepts the prevailing view of medicine that separates medicine, as being in the physical realm, from our spiritual life. The Bible does not make this separation. I believe the tendency of Christians to separate physical life from spiritual life leads some to implicitly trust the advice of the doctor. It also leads to minimizing the role the doctor's beliefs have in the advice he gives.

We expect the doctor to gather the facts of our illness or problem and provide a physical solution. For example. the couple, who is having trouble getting pregnant, expects to find out what the physical obstruction to pregnancy is and what can be done to overcome the malfunction. The fertility experts take a physical approach, dealing with hormone imbalances, blocked fallopian tubes, mucous problems, sperm that doesn't move right, etc. Their solutions involve procedures with individual eggs and sperm.

The separation of physical from spiritual aspects in medicine is also obvious in psychiatry. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Extreme anxiety is a medical disorder with a medication solution. Lying and stealing can be explained away in medical terms as a conduct disorder. Of course, these extreme examples many Christians can see through.

Some problems, indeed, have physical explanations and physical solutions. A heart attack can be explained physically by a sudden loss of blood flow to a part of the heart muscle resulting from a gradual narrowing of the arteries, followed by a sudden blockage by a blood clot. An urgent dissolving of the clot by newly developed techniques is often in order Yet many medical problems are not that simple.

To what extent do we consider medical decisions mainly in the physical realm? When dealing with medical decisions, how often and how seriously do we consult the Word of God? If you consult a doctor with your teen age daughter who has just told you she thinks she might be pregnant. You will go prepared to state what you believe about the sanctity of human life beginning at conception. If the doctor mentions abortion as an option, you will likely want to present God as the Author of life, along with His command against killing. ln this situation the need to consult the Lord in the decision is obvious. But what if the doctor recommends antibiotics for your child's ear infection? You will likely accept the advice with no consideration of a moral point of view. If you take it to the Lord, it will probably involve prayer for a timely return to good health. I believe, we often accept what the doctor says with little thought of actively using the Bible in deciding what we should do.

Let's consider how Scripture approaches physical problems with some examples. James 5:14-16 says,

(14) Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
(15) And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.(16) Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
The sickness here is physical sickness. The same Greek word is used to refer to the many sick Jesus healed. In this passage there is first a call for prayer. Second, there is a call for physical action to anoint the sick with oil. This anointing may be like our use of ointments or lotions to treat sickness. The Greek word for anoint in this passage is "aleipho". It refers to the use of oil to clean the head (Matt 6:17), oil to treat the sick (Mk.6:13), spices to treat Jesus' body (Mk.16:1), and ointment to soothe the feet (Lk.7:38). My dictionary says this is the common or mundane word for anoint. The religious word for anoint, that some people assume James is referring to, is 'chrio." This is used for the anointing of Jesus (Lk.4:18).The call for physical action to anoint, I believe, is for the elders to use the best medicine or ointment of the day. In our day that might mean using doctors. The passage goes on to say that the prayer of faith shall save the sick. If the sick are not yet saved, can we not expect some kind of healing that they may remain in the day of grace that they may be saved? Next, it tells us that if there is sin, it shall be forgiven. This teaches that some physical sickness is given because of sin. It does not teach that ll physical sickness is a direct result or our sins. It does imply that we should search our hearts for sins when sickness arises. How often, when you are faced with physical ailments, do you, along with prayer and searching for a medical solution, search your hearts in case you may have faults to confess to one another?

Next, I would encourage you to read about Asa, a king who "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord." After thirty-six years of peace. Asa relied on his own methods rather then seeking the Lord. Asa responded to the Lord's rebuke with anger. Within three years he became "diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but physicians." Then he died. Years before, Asa and the people entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, saying whoever would not seek the Lord should be put to death. The sickness of Asa's feet was associated with turning his back on God. If he had followed the principle described by James, he may have seen his sin and repented. He went to the physicians instead of God. The result was his death. How often, when you have a medical problem, do you place your trust in the advice of physicians first without searching out the direction of the Lord? (2 Chron. 14-16)

Finally, consider the woman with the chronic issue of blood that was healed by touching the hem of Jesus robe (Mk.5:25-34). This women had a chronic physical illness, "an issue of blood for twelve years." It appears that the usual approach to such an illness was to consult physicians. She consulted many physicians and had done so at great expense. There must have been many methods and techniques, each with the promise of success, that convinced her to spend "all that she had." It is also likely that some of the things tried had results, thus holding her attention. What the best medicine of the day failed to do, Jesus did by His power in response to her faith. To what extent do we initially follow the advice of doctors and really only truly turn to trust in the greatest Physician, Jesus Christ, when other avenues have failed?

The Bible shows that medical decisions are best made before the Lord, in prayer. from the start. There is nothing to suggest that the sickness in James, the diseased feet of Asa, or the issue of blood, on the surface were any more than physical problems. Yet, they all had spiritual or moral implications. How often do we consider that God has a purpose for our medical problems? Consider the implications in heaven of the sufferings of Job, or the way that the thorn in Paul's flesh showed the strength of Christ, or God's purpose for the ninety-nine years of barrenness that Sarah endured. In this sense, all medical decisions have spiritual or moral implications.

Also, there is nothing in these passages to suggest that the doctors applied the rules of the practice of medicine" incorrectly. This suggests that the problem with trusting primarily in the advice of a doctor is not necessarily because the doctor may give bad advice. A genuine doctor only gives advice that HE BELIEVES will make a difference or is the best thing to do. Let me place the emphasis on "What he believes." If you are dealing with issues, such as cut fingers, where the doctor's beliefs are similar to your own, there will not seem to be a problem. What if the doctor's beliefs about the best solution are not the same as yours?

When it is easy to determine if the doctor holds your beliefs, such as on issues like abortion, you are not as likely to unknowingly get into trouble. The problem arises when it is not easy to tell if the doctor believes as you do on the issue. Medical schools teach that doctors should separate the advice they give from their own belief or morals. They teach that the doctor should present a neutral position in areas of beliefs. How many medical personal have you met who easily tell you what their personal beliefs on an issue are?

In the introduction I pointed out that nothing is indifferent or neutral to Scripture, that all the advice a doctor gives is inherently rooted in what he believes. A doctor, true to his heart, cannot give advice that is separated from what he believes. Any doctor, not true to his heart, is at risk of being deceived and thus even unknowingly deceiving people. God is aware of this and says, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly." This does not mean that the unbelieving doctor's advice is of no use to you, but that you should not walk in it. You should subject the unbelieving doctor's advice to the counsel of the godly.

I hope that I have encouraged you to consider whether your approach to medicine accepts the prevailing world view, that medical decisions can be separated from your beliefs. I hope I have shown that Scripture does not separate between physical health and spiritual life. By accepting the world's approach, we may miss, like king Asa, what the Lord really wants us to see.

Before we move on, I would like to impress upon you that the world is making the connection between physical and spiritual aspects, and is possibly more aware of this connection then many Christians are. The problem is that the world is looking to spirituality that is separate from the Word of God. Most of the alternative medical styles are based on one form of belief or another. Many are tied in with various New Age religions. Although this is not the subject of this article, I want to encourage you to be aware of the growing problem of New Age religions in our communities.

The Biblical ApproachIndex

So far we have acknowledged along with Paul that "the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God" (1Cor 3:19). Therefore we must expect the world's biases to tarnish the world's information. Next we looked at some Christians' tendency to separate physical problems from spiritual life. We considered how this can lead to implicitly trusting the advice of the doctor and not recognizing the effect the doctor's beliefs can have on the advice given. We will now consider some elements of truly biblical decision-making.

How can we guard against the problems highlighted? How can we guard against being led astray by others as we make decisions? How can we confidently make decisions about medical procedures?

In his second letter Peter writes to them that have obtained faith through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, "[God] according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness." (2 Peter 1:3) If we believe this, we must also believe God has given all we need to approach the issues of life, such as medical decisions, in a godly way.

What means does God give us that we may know what is right? Psalm 119:8 teaches that we can keep our way pure by "living according to the Word of God." Solomon, with his God-given wisdom, instructs his son to remember and let his heart keep the law of the Lord, to strive for obedience (Prov.3:1-2). John Frame, of Westminster Theological Seminary, in his book Medical Ethics, writes,
In the midst of all the complicated arguments of medical ethics it is too easy to think that we can never reach an assured conclusion. And when that is the case, it is important to remember that persuasion and assurance are essentially the results of supernatural acts of God. And we should also remember that Scripture contains a clear (though not always rationally comprehensible) methodology for attaining this certainty. Paul states that methodology this way: "Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you will be able to prove the good, pleasing and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2).[3]

A renewed mind will strive to be founded on pure motives that arise out of a God given righteousness at the deepest level of our being (Deut.6:5; Jer.31:33).

As we make decisions "according to His Word" (Ps.119:9), we have reason to rejoice. We have the best and only perfect guide to right decision-making, the Word of our Lord.

How does Scripture guide us? Consider the question of whether to proceed with a kidney transplant? The Bible has no direct instruction on transplants. Some say the Bible is silent in areas like these and these are matters of Christian liberty. Some suggest these issues are neutral with no right or wrong answers. Such responses may miss the truth that a pure response to any issue, even a kidney transplant, must result from "living according to the Word of God." When the right response is not clear, John Frame points us to scripture saying, "Even in these difficult areas, God expects us to bring the broader principles of Scripture to bear. He wants us to do the wisest thing we can do. [4] How can these broader principles of scripture help us analyze the risk/benefit and cost/benefit ratios of various medical treatments?

We should keep in mind that "living according to the Word of God" cannot be reduced to following a list of rules. We cannot develop a list of rules that, if followed, will guarantee the right answer. Rules are really only helpful when understood in the context of God's living relationship with us. Living by the Word of God is not just following a set of rules. The Word of God is living. It is this Word that we must appeal to as the perfect guide to right decision-making.

Dr. J Douma, a minister among the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (liberated), in a translated work called The Ten Commandments, builds on the premise that Scripture speaks to all areas of life. He recognizes there are a variety of ways that Scripture should be used. He considers Scripture's use a guide, a guard, a compass, and a source of examples. When we can appeal directly to Scripture it is our guide. Often, rather then pointing the way directly, Scripture warns where not to walk and thus acts as our guard. When Scripture does not give specific details of our path, it still points the direction we should walk and acts as our compass. Also, many examples show us how we should or should not conduct ourselves. Of these various ways of using Scripture, I think that we most often overlook the role of Scripture as our compass to point out the direction we should walk.

Scripture as our GuideIndex

First, consider Scripture as our guide. As guide, the Bible tells explicitly what to do or not to do. For example. we are to love our neighbour, we are not to kill, we are to give to the poor, we are not to covet. "Making a simple appeal to the Ten Commandments, or quoting an adage from Proverbs or a saying of Jesus, can tell us in a number of situations exactly what God's Word is for us or for others."[5] When Scripture speaks explicitly, the application should be straight forward. For example, obtaining organs for transplant by taking a life is wrong, according to God's guiding words, "Thou shalt not kill".

When we have difficulty following God's guiding Word it is not because God's Word is obscure, but because we do not follow it. Sometimes, we do not follow God's Word out of ignorance. This may happen when using new technologies if we are not aware that some aspect of what is being done goes against God's Word.

When I first moved to Mitchell, I ignorantly got involved in something wrong. I was the only professing Christian in a group of five doctors. When covering for the other doctors I was called to give Pergonal injections to a woman who was going through invitro fertilization. In ignorance, I gave the injections. However, it seemed to trouble my conscience. I learned the injections were given to cause the women to produce many eggs instead of one. Then the eggs were surgically removed. As many as possible were fertilized. About eight were put back into the uterus and the rest were discarded or frozen. Of the eight put in the uterus, it was hoped that only one would survive. My giving of Pergonal injections in this situation, was helping to prepare some life to be conceived just to be killed or to die.

God devotes Leviticus chapter 4 to sins committed in ignorance. God required sacrifices when someone realized they had been sinning in ignorance. Our Lord's just requirements have not changed. He remains concerned about our sinning in ignorance. The difference today is that He has provided the sacrifice that He requires. When considering any procedure it is necessary to know something about the path before you decide it is all right to walk it. Sinning in ignorance is no excuse (Num.15:29-30).

Scripture as GuardIndex

Second, consider Scripture as guard. Often we can not directly apply Scripture to situations. For example, the Bible does not explicitly say in which situations it is right for a doctor to act or right for a person to consult a doctor. This does not mean you cannot apply Scripture when defining the role a doctor should have in your life. You can appeal to principles of Scripture. Consider the blessedness of not walking in the counsel of the ungodly. Application of this principle means the counsel or advice received from non-Christian doctors must be subject to the added discernment of the godly. Here Scriptures act as your guard.

Also, Scripture does not give specific guidance about transplants. It does say, "thou shalt not kill," and we are to love our neighbour. These would stand guard against any transplants that require the taking of a life by the hand of man, such as transplants of fetal organs, or declaring death before death is certain so that the desired organs will survive. [*]

Scripture as CompassIndex

Third, consider Scripture as our compass which points the direction we should walk. We often want to know exactly what we should do. Proverbs says, "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Proverb 3:5-6) Rather than trying to figure out from Scripture exactly what we should do, we are to trust the Lord. Our ways should acknowledge Him and the principles of life and decision-making He gives in Scripture. Then our path will be His. With medical technologies there are many things the Bible does not directly address. When we approach decisions about these technologies in a godly way, walking how God wants us to walk, the Lord will direct our path.

We need to note, that except in decisions directed by Scripture as guide and as guard, the outcome of the decision may not be the same for all Christians. For example, before God it may be right for one person to proceed with a technology like a kidney transplant and wrong for another. We need to be careful that we do not bind others to the same decisions as we would make in the areas of medical technologies. Of course, when Scripture gives specific commandments, we can expect that others should follow these as well.

The use of PrayerIndex

The first major compass principle is to take the decision to the Lord. Rather than being anxious about the outcome of the decision we are told to "in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Phil.4:6). James 1 says, to the one who lacks wisdom in a decision, "Let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering." Note that wisdom from God is promised to him who asks in faith. We cannot expect God to honour decisions made in conjunction with a lackadaisical prayer life.

The use of our MindIndex

The second compass principle involves the use of our mind. Consider situations where Scripture does not give explicit guidance, such as organ donations. As mentioned earlier, Scripture does act as guard and clearly rules out some aspects of organ donations, such as the use of fetal organs. So, how are we to decide how to proceed when confronted with the question of either donating or receiving an organ?[*] What does God expect us to do? He tells us in Romans 12:2: "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." Notice that we are to use our minds to prove what God's good, acceptable and perfect will is for our lives. The Greek word for prove can be translated as "to test, examine, prove, scrutinize, or discern." [6] We are to use our minds to discern what God wants us to do.

Some may be afraid to use their mind, saying, "is not the mind at enmity against God and not subject to the law of God?" I would encourage you to study what Scripture says about the mind. The greatest commandment instructs us to love the Lord with all of our mind. Romans 8 teaches that the person who focuses on the ways of the world or the ways of the flesh cannot discern what God's will is for his or her life. This is the situation with the unbeliever, the unconverted, but it need not be the way with the converted. To the converted Paul says in Ephesians 4, "unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ." Romans 8 encourages us to be not in the flesh but in the spirit for the Spirit of God dwells in you. With Christ we have what we need to be "transformed by the renewing of our mind, that we may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom.12:2). If we, on the other hand, "conform to the world" (Rom.12:2), we cannot trust our mind. The compass of Scripture directs us to consider before God the condition of our mind as we decide what God's will is.

The Use of Our ConscienceIndex

A third compass principle involves the use of our conscience. We must listen to that part of our heart that can prick us when we do not follow God, warning us of what not to do. As we make decisions, we should strive to say with the apostle Paul, "herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men" (Acts 24:16). Not only must we listen to our conscience, we must strive to have a conscience that is worthy of listening to. Just as minds turned away from God cannot be trusted do discern God's will, a conscience that is seared, when the heart is hardened, cannot be trust to point out the wrong path. 1 Timothy 4 tells us that those who have departed from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils ... have their conscience seared with a hot iron" (vs.1-2). The passage also teaches that if our conscience is seared we can expect it to "speak lies" (vs.2). This major compass principle of Scripture tells us to listen to our conscience and strive to have a conscience void of offence before God. To do this when it, in agreement with God's Word, urges us to stop sinning, to run from temptation, to stand for what is right, etc, we must heed it.

The Use of Godly CounselIndex

A fourth compass principle involves our use of counsel from others. Psalm 1 promises blessings to the one who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly (vs.1). In the epistle of James we are told to take our problems to the church. I believe that it is important to seek out godly people to consider your decisions with. Proverbs 27:17 says, "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." Others in the body of Christ may see where we are blind.

In the area of medical technologies you may have to accept advice from non-Christian medical staff. This may be necessary to gather the facts of the procedure, but you should be acutely aware of the biases we have considered. The advice of all non-Christian doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, therapists, chaplains, etc., should take second place to the advice of godly people who God puts in your life.

Other Compass PrinciplesIndex

There are many other compass principles. As we go through the process of dealing with medical technologies we should walk with love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We should not display idolatry, acceptance of witchcraft, hatred, being contentious, anger or selfishness (Gal.5). This will lead to walking the path that God want us to walk. Then we will be witnesses of the power of our Lord Jesus Christ to those who God brings on our path as we consider the use of medical technologies.

I have tried to present the Biblical approach to considering medical technologies. I have encouraged you to be aware of the biases we should expect from the world. I hope that I have encouraged you to consider whether your approach to medicine accepts the view that medical decisions can be separated from your beliefs. I trust that I have shown that Scripture does not make this separation between physical health and spiritual life.

I presented how I believe Scripture applies to every aspect of the decisions that we make. Using the terminology of J. Douma, I presented how the Scripture acts as or guide and as our guard. I looked at "the broader principles of Scripture" under the heading of Scripture as our compass. I highlighted how we should be concerned about the condition of our prayer life, the condition of our mind, and the condition of our conscience before God, so that these can be used by God to direct our path. I also highlighted the importance of seeking out godly counsel. Douma also mentions the use of examples in Scripture. I have not touched on these, but this may be an interesting area for further study.

Perhaps you are disappointed that I did not give detailed specifics about various medical technologies. That would take too long, but I hope that I have given Biblical principles and some practical applications to be used in making decisions regarding medical technologies.

  Dr. Greg Kenyon M.D.


[1]Return John Frame, "Medical Ethics: Principles, Person and Problems" (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1988), p.2.

[2]Return John Frame, "Medical Ethics: Principles, Person and Problems" (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1988), p.2.

[3]Return John Frame, "Medical Ethics: Principles, Person and Problems" (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1988), p.28.

[4]Return John Frame, "Medical Ethics: Principles, Person and Problems" (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1988), p.2.

[5]Return J. Douma, "The Ten Commandments: Manual for the Christian Life" (English translation, Phillispburg, NJ; Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. 1996), p. 368.

[6]Return From the Greek lexicon in the 6th edition of the Online Bible, by Larry Pierce, R.R.2, West Montrose, Ontario M0N 1V0, February 1993.

[*] ReturnThe concerns about organ donation and the declaration of death will be in an article titled "Organ Donation: A Christian Family Physicians Perpective" by Dr Greg Kenyon.

To be presented on SpindleWorks at a later date, the Lord willing. [editor]