By Lewis Willis
There is something unique and peculiar about every religious organization that you encounter. The peculiarity is usually the thing that becomes the basic appeal of that organization. For instance, the basic peculiarity about the Catholic church is their claim that the pope is the mouthpiece of God today. Some of the Pentecostal sects are unique for claiming that only one personage – not three – possesses the nature of Deity. The Seventh-Day Adventists are peculiar because they worship on Saturday instead of the first day of the week.
Not every unique or peculiar thing is bad. In Churches of Christ, we are unique in contending that “we speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent.” Unlike these other groups of people and their peculiar assertions, we in the Lord’s church can prove from the Scriptures that for which we contend (1 Pet. 4:11).
Nonetheless, some of the ideas that become the “reason” for the existence for some of these religious organizations are silly and dangerous. As an example, there is an organization in Warsaw, Indiana called Faith Assembly and it has recently gained acclaim in the press as the church that teaches its members not to seek medical treatment when they are sick. Instead, they are taught to depend on faith healing. As a result, some of their members and their preacher have gotten themselves into legal trouble because they have withheld treatment from their children. Last November, a six-week-old baby was permitted to die of pneumonia because his parents would not take him to a doctor. A grand jury indicted the child’s mother for reckless homicide, criminal recklessness and neglect of a dependent (Akron Beacon Journal, 12/19/84).
The leader of this religious sect, the “Rev. Hobart Freeman,” was indicted in November on charges of “aiding or inducing the death of an untreated child. ” In fact, Freeman was charged with three felony charges for his part in teaching these people to withhold treatment from their children.
Ironically, those who have been led by this blind guide are the ones who are going to have to suffer the legal consequences of their deeds. The reason for this is, the Rev. Freeman died on December 8, 1984 of “severe cardiovascular disease, coupled with mild bronchopneumonia.” Because he taught that medicine is evil, he had shunned medical care during his illness just as he had taught his followers to do. The press reported him to have said he could not die – but, he did (Akron Beacon Journal, 12/11/84)!
There is a certain justice in this. This man had become famous for his silly doctrine and innocent children were being swept to their deaths because of its practice. It seems somewhat fitting that he should have met the same fate. Of course, his problems are not over because of his death. They have just begun. The word of God teaches that we are all going to give account to God for what we’ve done and said (2 Cor. 5:10).
A little closer to home, in June of last year, a judge in Coshocton County, Ohio, dismissed involuntary manslaughter charges against some parents who allowed their one-year-old son to die of pneumonia while withholding treatment from him. The judge ruled that Ohio law protected the Coshocton couple. Current Ohio law says that parents who withhold medical care from their children risk being prosecuted for child neglect except in cases where the parents “provide spiritual treatment” to their children instead of medical care. The judge ruled this exception applied in this case but he criticized the law. He argued that Ohio law violates a 1944 Supreme Court decision which says “parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow that they are free . . . to make martyrs of their children” (Akron Beacon Journal, 12/13/84).
In the last session of the State Legislature, Rep. Paul Jones of Ravenna tried to introduce regulation that would have deleted the above referred to exception from Ohio law. William Evans, a lobbyist for the Christian Scientists, had legislators flooded with letters protesting Mr. Jones’ amendment and the matter was dropped. Jones said he would make a second attempt to change the law in 1985. His view is, “Surely we can come up with a law that allows people to follow their religion but does not force the State to stand by helplessly while innocent children die without medical treatment.”
Courts and legislatures have to grapple with such problems because some religious zealot has to have some weird idea around which to build his religious movement. And there are enough of these religious weirdos that they are able to change the thinking of an august body such as a State Legislature. One would think that the Lord had never said anything at all that would deal with this silly phenomenon. Jesus once said, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Matt. 9:12). It would be difficult to misunderstand what the Lord said sick people need a doctor! There is no violation of any principle of truth when somebody who is sick goes to a doctor. And everybody can see this except those who don’t want to see it.
Miraculous healing established faith in Jesus as the Son of God (Jn. 20:30-31). It was also used to establish the credentials of the apostles in preaching the truth (Heb. 2:4). But it was a temporary arrangement intended to be used until “that which is perfect is come” (1 Cor. 13: 10). That which is perfect – the perfect law of liberty – has come and miraculous healing is no longer being practiced (Jas. 1:25). An awful lot of deception is being practiced in the name of faith healing but no healing is being done like that which was done in the days of the New Testament. Do not allow yourself to be confused by modern faith healing claims.
So, nowhere has Jesus forbidden believers seeking medical treatment for their diseases. I was just thinkin’. if you are sick, go to the doctor!
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 7, pp. 198, 217
April 4, 1985