- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1 edition (January 10, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1421412160
- ISBN-13: 978-1421412160
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #772,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Medicine and Religion: A Historical Introduction 1st Edition
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"This book is highly recommended to anyone who is interested in the intersection of religion and medicine... I expect this book to become required reading for many clinical health care and bioethics classes (as well as history classes)."(Sharon Packer Metapsychology)
"Medicine and Religion will serve as a useful introduction to anyone ― which means everyone ― who will experience its twin themes."(William Whyte Church Times)
"This book is quite wonderful... It covers a large amount of history in the setting of a relatively short book, but the information that is contained in the eight chapters and epilogue is incredibly well presented in an easy-to-read manner."(John F. Pohl Perspectives in Science and Christian Faith)
"Gary B. Ferngren is familiar with the often volatile, always interesting intersections of science and religion. His Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction (2002) and Medicine and Healthcare in Early Christianity (2009), both published by Johns Hopkins University Press, made important contributions to the field. At last, instructors who wanted relatively succinct but authoritative treatments of these subjects had excellent additions to their classroom syllabi. This new book is no exception."(Michael A. Flannery Medical History)
"[Ferngren's book] will be particularly useful for students in divinity and religious studies and all those qualifying for social health care who might find themselves in search of new perspectives in caring for the sick and the dying in today's all too often spiritually deprived, cost-benefit-based health care institutions."(Bulletin of the History of Medicine)
About the Author
Gary B. Ferngren is a professor of history at Oregon State University, editor of Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction, and author of Medicine and Health Care in Early Christianity, both published by Johns Hopkins.
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This book challenges the prevailing idea that strongly religious societies necessarily saw medicine through the lens of religion, showing instead how these two fields intersected in much more complex ways than is commonly believed. Ferngren's discussion extends from atheistic physicians to exorcists and physician-priests, from religious persecution to church hospitals and burial organizations, and from the preservation of medical texts to faith-based healing and vision-inspired physical therapy.
Beginning in the early middle east, this book traces the development of medicine and the changing religious regimes through medieval Europe and into the twentieth century, examining how religion, particularly the Christian church, has created the medical practices of today and fundamentally altered the way that our culture responds to and succors the poor, the ill, and the mentally challenged. Along the way we learn about changes in religious practices, view medical discoveries, and explore the church's role in and reaction to scientific discoveries and changes in medical and secular thought. Well-researched and easy to read, this book provides an excellent introduction to both religious and medical history, and has something to offer to more established scholars in its challenges to popular scholarship.
In the introduction, Ferngren explains the critical need to interpret medical and religious history in context. We cannot read modern discoveries into the past to try to prove how advanced a culture was (such as some Christian groups do today), nor are we at liberty to assume a discipline like medical science remained static throughout the ages. Rather, we need “contextualism,” writes Ferngren, “an approach that recognizes that all medical ideas and practices, including our own, are shaped by their cultural context” (3).
Moving into the body of Medicine & Religion Ferngren plants the reader in the Near East to consider medical practices in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Hebrews and Israel, and Hellenistic Judaism. He then surveys Greece, starting the reader in the archaic period, moving to the father of medicine Hippocrates in the classical age, the origin of humoral medicine, the devastating plague of Athens described by Thucydides, and concludes with the famed healing cult and temple of the god Asclepius. Ferngren notes concerning Asclepius, “It is no wonder that Asclepius was called the most philanthropic of the gods and was regarded by early Christians as Christ’s chief competitor” (54).
In the next chapter, the reader visits Rome to see the transformation of Greek medicine into Greco-Roman medicine and Asclepius into Aesculapius. After a consideration of how medicine and religion run tandem with one another in Greco-Roman culture (and they will up until the twentieth century), Ferngren introduces Galen, the next great figure in Western medicine. After a consideration of Galen, Ferngren introduces Christianity.
In “Early Christianity,” Ferngren discusses how the New Testament and early church saw disease and healing in relation to Jesus’ saving work. “The early Christian understanding of disease combined both theological and medical elements. Christians regarded disease as merely one aspect of the material (rather than the moral) evil that had arisen from the Fall. Within the context of disease and healing that they had inherited from Judaism, Christians looked on illness as the result of natural, if providential, causes that could be treated by physicians or other healers, of whom a broad spectrum existed in the ‘medical marketplace’ of the classical world.” Ferngren goes on to say, “When medical or natural means of healing were not available, [Christians] might seek healing by prayer. But in cases for which no relief was possible, Christians were advised to submit patiently to God’s will. Early Christian writers repeatedly speak of suffering as one of God’s means of producing spiritual maturity. Faith and trust in God could transform suffering into a positive experience and produce Christian graces such as humility, patience, and dependence on Christ” (78). In this important chapter, Ferngren also corrects the popular misconception that the early Christians believed all sickness and disease were the result of demonic activity. This is simply not the cause, notes Ferngren, “In most reported instances of illness, Jesus is said physically to have healed the sick person rather than to have expelled demons” (80). As far as miraculous healing, Ferngren sees it occurring during Jesus’ ministry to testify to his divine authority and to assist in the expansion of the apostolic church, but notes its decline in the ancient church era. It would not be until the third century AD with the rising of the veneration of martyrs and saints that a revival of “miraculous healing” will occur.
Moving into “The Middle Ages,” Ferngren discusses the institutionalization of the church, founding and development of hospitals, pilgrimages to sacred sights, the crusading Hospitallers, Black Plague, and the increasing emphasis on healing miracles via saint’s relics and tombs. The next chapter is dedicated to the influence of Islam in the western medical tradition, most notably, aside from Avicenna, its translations of Galen and Hippocrates, and other important philosophers to make them accessible to a wider readership.
Chapter 7 invites the reader to “The Early Modern Period,” the Reformation, and to the beginning transformation of medicine from homeopathy to empirical science. The Martin Luther of medicine is Paracelsus, who challenged Hippocrates and Galen’s humoral approach to the human body, and the application of logic to diseases by medical scholastics. William Harvey discovered the circulatory system, and Nicholas Culpeper “attacked the learned medicine of physicians and relied, as he wrote, on ‘my two brothers Dr. Reason and Dr. Experience’ to make medical knowledge available to all” (143). During the Reformation, there was also an improvement in beneficence, charity work, and hospitals, which declined because of papal greed. “Protestant countries limited or abolished begging for alms and replaced it with poor relief that was provided by municipal authorities in connection with the churches, in a joint effort in which overseers worked together with deacons,” writes Ferngren (144). With a new understanding of the body, an important shift to eradicate sickness and disease started to occur as well (which has become a difficult struggle today with modern life-saving technology). Ferngren writes, “The goal was cure rather than long-term care so that the sick could return to a productive life” (147). Moving into the Enlightenment, a professionalization of medicine started to occur, and a peeling away of a Christian worldview followed.
The final chapter considers the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in America, looking at the first and second Great Awakenings, the rise of Pentecostalism and faith healing, other religious groups in the US, and the nursing and hospice movements. Ferngren then moves on to reflect on the emergence of Darwianism and the radical shift medicine took as it first moved toward theistic evolution in a Christian worldview, to naturalistic evolution in secular worldview. Ferngren then paints the picture of medicine in America with broad strokes, concluding the chapter with the sections “Secularization and Alternative Healing” and “The Modern Era.”
The last two paragraphs in Ferngren’s epilogue sum up powerfully the present state of medicine and religion in the West today. He writes, “The modern spirit in medicine, whatever else may be credited to it, does not necessarily foster compassion. The best that medicine offers today grows out of the values that nonreligious world-view encourages: medical positivism and the research that has provided us with our understanding of disease and its cure; and egalitarian health care, which strives to ensure that the finest medical attention is available to all without regard to gender or to social or economic distinction. I do not in the least deprecate these contributions to medical care when I say that an unintentional but perhaps inevitable result of religious values from health care has been to cut it off from the very source from which compassion springs. . . . Compassion is a quality that is fully compatible with scientific medicine and with progress in medical technology, but it is not one that grows naturally out of either. It is the desire to treat the sick person, not in a medically competent and professional manner alone, which was the Greek practice, but lovingly and tenderly as a human being who bears the image of God” (213).