God, medicine and suffering

Myself and a friend are hosting a Forum in our church in a few weeks looking at the topic “playing God in the end of life”. We’ll be talking largely about ethical issues regarding end of life in regards to modern medicine.

Thinking about this scares me. When I think of its importance to those dying and bereaved, I see it contrasted with so much of what we do as doctors. I am increasingly coming to the opinion that we are losing our way in our aims and goals in medicine. The responsibility for this lies with both society and the medical establishment.

As usual it appears that someone else has thought these thoughts much better before I did.

In God, medicine and suffering, Hauerwas talks a lot about how we talk and act around suffering and what we have come to believe – both as a society and a church.

It’s a dangerous book to read as a medic, it just might change how you look at what you do. Books are like that. Christianity is like that.

I’ll leave you a few quotes to mull over as I continue to do so. No doubt you’ll hear more on this.

Sickness is a problem because it challenges our most precious and profound belief that humanity as in fact become a god.


I think childhood suffering bothers us so deeply because we assume that children lack a life story which potentially gives their illness some meaning.


Our medical technologies have outrun the spiritual resources of our society, which lacks all sense of how life might properly end.

Thinking about this is no abstract theological exercise. Hauerwas contends that that is the whole problem with how people talk about the problem of evil – they fabricate an abstract god and abstract suffering to puzzle the brain.

The God we worship and the Bible we read talks about it and struggles with it. We have actual people, actual suffering, actual incarnation. It forms a very different question.

Kevin spoke really lucidly on this a few weeks ago while I was in the midst of reading the book.

Anyhow. My contention is that we are more interested in curing rather than caring. Even if curing will often one of the best ways to care we far too often start at the wrong place.

1 Response to “God, medicine and suffering”

  1. 1 PatrickM September 28, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Hey Anday.
    Marva Dawn is a woman and brilliant theologian who has suffered much and has a book called Being Well When We’re Ill.
    And you might be interested in this book just reviewed here

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September 2010

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