We live in an age of incredible advances in medicine. We also live in an age of incredible skepticism about the validity of much of what modern medicine does--in part because of the expense of doing it. A result of this skepticism has been the growth of extreme alternative medical methods. There have always been people who claimed to have magic potions and elixirs that would cure anything, but today there are reputable scientists and medical practitioners who are selling no more than snake oil. They have elaborate arguments for the use of herbs, special diets, special kinds of lights, acupuncture, special enemas, vitamins, minerals, special ion machines, filters for everything from water to air to blood, and things to wear to keep us healthy, including magnets, garlic, miracle plants, minerals, and countless charms. Those who promote these "cures" showcase studies where miraculous results are claimed. Many of the promoters are people who claim to have benefitted from whatever cure they are promoting.
A disturbing aspect of all this is that many times the cure is said to have a spiritual basis. Sometimes churches are involved in the production or promotion of alternative cures and even bring it into their worship activities. One of the claims is that the alternative medical treatments are natural instead of man-made, and therefore they should be superior to anything modern medicine can offer. Linking the alternative cure to prayer or the laying on of hands gives the cure credibility in the minds of many people. This sometimes causes people not to seek medical help for a condition or to delay it until the condition is beyond any medical help.
It is important to understand that we are not talking about things that might just make us more comfortable. Comfort has psychological and spiritual roots, and anything that makes us more comfortable without doing any harm to us is a good thing. No one questions the beneficial aspects of prayer or of support from those we love and who love us. However, to claim a cure for cancer, diabetes, leukemia, or a similar disease, can be very misleading and even destructive.
My wife battled this issue for sixty years. She was a type 1 diabetic, meaning that she had been taking insulin injections since she was 10 years old. I estimate that she took some 80,000 plus insulin shots, not to mention over 200,000 plus finger pricks. In the 49 years that we were married, my wife had to deal with just about every complication that type 1 diabetes brings upon its victims--heart problems, kidney failure, retinopathy, neuropathy, gastroparesis, osteoporosis, gum disease and skin hypersensitivity. As we faced these illnesses together, we always were able to find a medical answer that either solved the problem, or put it into a form that she could live with and did not cause death. Ten years ago my wife was recognized by the Eli Lilly and Company with a 50-year award, because very few diabetics have been able to live with insulin-dependent diabetes that long. Her discipline, and the advancements of medical science made it possible for her to have a very productive and high quality of life for a very long time. Until her heart finally stopped on May 9, 2008, she still had her feet and hands, could still think clearly, and was not on dialysis. We had used modern medical science to fight diabetic ulcers, kidney failure, osteoporosis, and neuropathy.
Because we have engaged in a ministry for over 40 years designed to show people that belief in God and in the Bible is scientifically credible, we have had massive amounts of mail about faith, chronic illness, and medical and alternative cures. We have always considered these treatments, and in many cases have found they would be destructive. My favorite line is that poison ivy is natural. Some of the alternative cures and materials people recommended to us would have caused damage to the kidneys. Others would cause skin problems, and others would have caused stomach damage. These cures were from well-intentioned folks who wanted to help us deal with the diabetes. They felt that natural materials were from God and would be superior to the modern medical methods we were relying on.
We also had numerous letters over the years from atheists and skeptics suggesting that my wife's diabetic condition was proof that God does not exist. They suggested that a loving God would not allow His children to be inflicted with such an insidious and destructive disease as diabetes. This view assumes a totally mechanistic view of human life. It assumes that our physical survival is the number-one priority in our existence. This view is consistent with atheism, but it is not consistent with what the Bible says about the purpose of our existence. Survival of the fittest is not a part of the discussions that Job had with his friends and is not consistent with the teachings of Ephesians 6:12-13 where the purpose of our existence is discussed. God did not cause my wife's diabetes, but how we deal with it, how we allow it to impact our lives, and what we do with our lives is the issue. Romans 8:28 tells us that God can take any afflictions that come our way, and make something positive from them. Some things happen because Satan is alive and well on planet earth and natural things just happen in the physical world in which we live.
Some believers in God make the same kind of argument as the atheists. Their approach is that diabetes and all other ailments of mankind are the direct result of sin. The concept is that man's sin, his failure to eat the right foods, his use of modern medicine, modern chemistry, and modern agriculture have caused impurities to build up in our bodies leading to all of our chronic ailments. There is no question that various ailments of mankind are due to pollution and the injudicious use of certain materials. Asbestos, mercury, lead, and many organic compounds have been proven to be the direct cause of many serious ailments and disabilities. Cancer has been linked to a variety of man-made chemicals, and new studies raise questions about psychological disorders and physical diseases that may have their roots in the synthetic materials that mankind has carelessly discharged into the atmosphere, water, and soil. The fact remains however, that not all ailments of mankind fall into this category.
Many alternative cure proponents suggest that impurities of all kinds are stored in the human body. My wife was told on one occasion that if she could get rid of the impurities in her body her diabetes would be cured. Many processes like chelation, magnets, skin salves, and a variety of tonics are said to take away the impurities causing the disease and flush them from the body. A good example is an alternative cure that involves an enema. The idea is that the intestines are full of chemicals and industrial wastes that cause a variety of ailments, and if you wash out the intestines with a special natural wash, the diabetes, or whatever ailment a person might have, will be cured.
David made a famous statement in Psalm 139:14, "I will praise thee Lord, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made ... ." The human body is designed to withstand incredible abuse and handle a variety of environmental conditions. The intestinal tract is one of those wonderfully-made parts of our body. When a doctor does a colonoscopy in which he sends a camera up the colon and through the intestines, what does the doctor see? Are there chemical materials and chunks of industrial waste attached to the colon? Most of us who have had a colonoscopy have been given a picture of it, or have actually watched it being done. The intestines are designed to shed any material that might stick to them. All waste material is sent out of the body, so no damaging material remains. The idea that a man-made, artificial means is needed to cleanse the intestinal tract is simply a case of not realizing how wonderfully made our intestinal tract is.
So called "filtering treatments" are an example of failing to understand how well God designed our bodies. Chelation and similar treatments have been held out as a means of cleansing the blood of undesirable ions, chemicals, and substances. Blood and the organs that produce, cleanse, and circulate it are incredibly well designed. The process of putting oxygen into the blood by the lungs and then removing it by cells in the muscles is so complex that chemists struggle to find materials to duplicate it. The body has an elaborate filtering system that removes impurities from the blood. This system is so good that all attempts by modern science to equal it have been unsuccessful. Kidney dialysis has come a long way in the past 50 years, but it still cannot do as good a job as the original equipment. Invasive attempts to filter or oxidize the blood are frequently dangerous and always less effective than what God has designed. The system that controls the rate of breathing and the heart's ability to speed up with exercise without accumulating wastes while providing enough energy, is an amazing feat of engineering.
The most critical area for all of us to consider is the area of nutrition, but even here there is a need to be careful about extreme claims and exaggerated concerns. In Genesis 1:29 God told Adam and Eve that He had given them all kinds of plants to eat. In Acts 10:13-15 Peter was told to kill and eat, and that what God had cleansed he was not to call unclean. The message is that God designed the human digestive system to be able to handle a wide range of foods, and implied is the notion that man's dietary needs could be met by those foods. Today we have people telling us that the foods we eat are nutrient-deficient, and that we need to supplement our diets with massive amounts of the nutrients, which cost a lot of money. God's design is not that inefficient. In fact, adding certain natural chemicals can be dangerous. A natural chemical like vitamin A can be concentrated so much it can do physical damage to the body. Even soluble vitamins like vitamin C can be detrimental in massive doses--leading to hemorrhoid problems in some people. Recent studies have shown that vitamin E and some natural supplements can be a catalyst to cancer and other physical problems. It is important not to denigrate God's design and the wisdom in what He has created to nourish us.
The one area where there seems to be valid concern is in cases where pesticides, growth hormones, fungicides, and herbicides have been used in excess. I have a friend who raises apples commercially, but will not eat any himself because he says he knows what the trees are sprayed with. Man-made chemicals can be hazardous, and there is some wisdom in growing your own fruits and vegetables, in peeling things like apples before you eat them, and in keeping abreast of recent studies on various crops to know the hazards. Our bodies are very resilient, but man-made chemicals can be a risk and we need to use common sense to avoid problems.
We urge our readers not to be swept up in extreme claims of natural foods and supplements. God designed us with intelligence and purpose, and we should eat healthy foods that we know have been grown with care. We have farmer's markets, roadside stands, and our own back yards where we can get healthy foods. Avoid extreme claims about herbs and special tonics, and avoid invasive medical procedures that may be dangerous and, at best, are likely to be ineffective. Trust God's design of our bodies to provide a good level of health. When there are problems, go to a reputable doctor who is trained in the area of concern, and not to someone who makes bold claims but lacks the training to effectively help us in our infirmities.
Finally, remember that "it is appointed unto man once to die" (Hebrews 9:27). This physical body is not all there is. My wife died after 60 years of type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes, but she had 59 years of good health and enjoyed marriage, births, grandchildren, and an effective ministry blessed by God. I am thankful for modern medicine, and how doctors used the design of the human body to give her a good quality of life in spite of the diabetes. She is now free of all the negatives her physical body endured and is with the Great Physician, free of pain and the encumbrances of this life.
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, MayJun09.