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40 harmful effects of Christianity – #8

“Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.” James 5:14-15

This post is the eighth in a series that addresses a list of “40 harmful effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #8: People dying – and letting their children die – because their religion forbids accepting medical help.

The Christian theologian and reformer Martin Luther once said, “Take your medicine and put your trust in God.” I see no reason to contradict this advice.  This is because I have a biblical worldview. I agree with contemporary theologian Albert R. Mohler who has stated, “The Bible never commands any refusal of legitimate medical treatment.”

So from where does item #8 on this list come?  It hardly comes from any form of Christianity that could be considered normative and it certainly doesn’t come from the Bible.  In his epistle to the church, the Apostle James advocates anointing the sick with oil.  Taken in a first century context, this scripture is prescribing how to go about medical treatment.  At that time, oils were used for medicinal purposes.  Note that the sick were to be anointed with oil by the elders of the church. Rather than forbidding medical assistance, the Bible teaches that leaders should help administer such assistance in the prayerful hope that God will restore the sick person.

In modern times, hospital visitation is a part and parcel to the life of a church elder (or pastor, to use the more familiar term).  Elders generally no longer anoint the sick with oil for medical purposes because such activity is not common to modern medicine.  Rather, medical care is handled by trained and licensed doctors and nurses, while elders (and oftentimes hospital chaplains) apply spiritual care.

In no way are Christians called to eschew medical help for themselves or their loved ones.  To the contrary, they are compelled to provide it.  Countless hospitals are (at least culturally) Christian causes and have words such as “Baptist”, “Presbyterian” and “Methodist” in their names.  I was born in a Catholic** hospital in Chattanooga and treated for stroke-like systems in another Catholic hospital in Atlanta. Monks and nuns have been providing care for the sick for ages.  To say that “People dying – and letting their children die – because their religion forbids accepting medical help” is a harmful effect of Christianity is patently absurd.

It should be kept in mind that, no matter the medical treatment received or denied, everyone eventually dies.  Jesus promises Christians eternal life.  This is the blessed hope of Christianity and I am thankful for it.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #9: People choked, starved, poisoned, or beaten to death during exorcisms.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.  

**I do not consider the Roman Catholic Church to be a Christian one.  It is an apostate entity with many false doctrines.  It is certainly culturally Christian and does, however, affirm some primary Christian doctrines.

Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Member of the Evangelical Theological Society Certified Public Accountant