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Why Adam is Foundational to Medicine

We have all heard about the story of Adam and Eve from the Bible. God creates Adam, then Eve, then they sin, and the whole world falls apart. All creation groans. A great flood rips the world apart. Humanity is left broken in a broken world.

This story is derided by many people in the modern world as being a fantasy, or, at best, an epic tail from an ancient people. They say that if it serves any purpose at all, it is as a morality tale or as a theological allegory about the nature of God.

However, it is interesting how much modern medicine relies on the story of Adam and Eve. Now, most people practicing medicine would deny this. I would argue that they rely on the reality of Adam without realizing it in almost every decision they make.

Jason Lisle has argued that people misunderstand the difference between "shared ground" and "neutral ground" when it comes to our basic assumptions. Christians and non-Christians do indeed have a whole lot of "shared ground" with unbelievers with regard to  our basic assumptions. However, while the ground is shared with non-believers, it is definitely not neutral. The base assumptions of medicine are grounded in a Christian conception of humanity, founded upon the history of Adam and the fall. Even if a medical practitioner does not believe in Adam and Eve, his practice of medicine is grounded on them.

How so?

Medicine (and in fact all of biology) operates on the assumption that there is a regularized biological design behind humanity. The categories "sick" and "well" are only meaningful in reference to an ideal of perfection. Without that ideal, there is no "sick" and no "well,” and certainly no such thing as "healing.” The idea of "healing" is a return to wholeness. What is wholeness or wellness if we do not have a referent for what being whole is? How would we determine sickness if there were not some ideal we were seeking?

Those who have thrown off their Christian heritage more fully might say that medicine is not about "healing" per se, but rather about making us feel better or perform better. It is a simply a case of doctors helping us achieve our personal goals, without any reference to a perfected ideal. However, if that were the case, then we would expect our doctors to prescribe us steroids if we wanted to play baseball, cocaine if we wanted to work at all hours of the night, and vodka if we were depressed.

Why are these behaviors criticized by doctors? Because wellness is not about just getting what we want, it is about returning to the original wholeness that God designed. Steroids enhance performance, but they do  so at opposing angles to God's design. Cocaine will certainly help us stay awake, but it leads to a life out-of-balance with our nature. Vodka might make us forget our worries, but it does so by removing the faculties with which God blessed us.

Therefore, medicine is coherent as an enterprise because of the notion that there was, at one time, an Adam—a perfect human archetype. In addition, we are not models of this perfection ourselves because of the biblical fall. Therefore, medicine attempts to restore, as closely as possible, each person into the originally designed wholeness of life. That only makes sense if there is an original design in which we are not fully participating.

Therefore, whether doctors believe in Adam or not, the way that they approach their medical vocation demonstrates their reliance upon Adam. The worldview which undergirds the entire enterprise of medicine is not the lab tests and medical guidelines, but rather the yearning of God's creation to return to the system which He designed for us, and against which we first rebelled.

CATEGORIES: Classical Christian Education

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