Illness and healing evangelical aspects

For every birthday we wish good health. A long life in good health – that is the dream of many people. However, illness and health are also among the basic themes of Christian theology. What does it have to contribute to this ie in Corona times?

The ecclesiastical and theological discussion of illness and health was inspired by the biblical texts with their narratives of illness and healing. Individual motifs such as sickness as a consequence of sin characterized the ecclesiastical for many centuries. Theological interpretation of illness with sometimes tragic consequences for those affected. At the same time, the biblical message inspired the church's care for the sick. The associated establishment of hospitals. With the development of modern medicine in the 19th century. and 20. In the sixteenth century, medicine took over the therapeutic competence previously attributed mainly to the church. Theology took on the role of a critical companion of medicine.

The biblical paradigm of "sickness and healing

In the texts of the Old and New Testaments there is a multitude of narratives of sickness and healing. These are designed as theological texts. Do not pursue the interest of a medical case presentation. The reduction to the question of miracles is also a shortcut.

The Old Testament reports numerous cases of illness and healing. It is u.a. Healings of the blind, the deaf, the lepers, and the mobility impaired (z.B. foot sickness) tells. It is characteristic in the statements about illness that the illnesses are described with a few external characteristics and are not differentiated in more detail. There are only very imprecise ideas about the internal organs, since dissections were not performed for cultic reasons. The human being is described in its entirety through the disease and healing typologies of locomotor disorders, blindness, communication disorders and leprosy.

The state of illness is basically interpreted as a state of weakness. Sickness is thus grasped as an existence near death. On the basis of the Old Testament textual findings, no more than folk medical measures are known from Israel's healing practice. An example is the indication of the fig plaster (Is 38, 21). The activity of the physician was thus limited to the exterior of the body, often remained unsuccessful according to the testimony of the Old Testament texts, and was on the whole judged very critically (cf. Job 13:4).

According to Old Testament interpretation, Yahweh alone is responsible for the totality of human life. He is the author of the illness. At the same time the savior from the existence on the brink of death. In Israel, the phenomenon of illness was not only the fate of the individual, but always had far-reaching consequences for the position of the sick person in the community. Sickness becomes a sign of a fundamental crisis of the whole people. In many situations, the Old Testament presents the illness. The sin of man in a context. Ps 38:3 speaks of the hand of God striking the worshipper with sickness for his folly and sin. The sin consists of the disobedience of the individual or the whole people towards God. However, sin is not always the cause of illness. Often the cause is not named.

Sickness and healing in the New Testament

The New Testament healing narratives can be divided into two groups: Exorcisms and Therapies. In contrast to the exorcisms, demonological motives recede almost completely in the therapies. The illness is characterized here as a state of weakness, which is removed by a healing transmission of power. The existence of a sick person corresponds to a humanly hopeless situation, which is characterized by a radical reduction of life. Jesus performs healings even on the Sabbath in case of emergency. The commandment to save life is above the Sabbath commandment.

The social situation of the sick is considered on the background of the Old Testament horizon. The hemophiliac woman is z.B. The sick woman is cultically unclean due to her years of illness and lives marginalized on the fringes of society (Lk 8:43-49). In the New Testament, there are no statements about collective suffering of the whole people to be discovered.

The author of the Gospel of Luke uses the image of the "finger of God" for the power of Jesus, through which he also casts out demons (cf. Lk 11:20). Healings are thus identified as acts of God. The healing monopoly of God, which the Old Testament states, is thus in no way touched from the perspective of the evangelists. Jesus commissions the disciples to care for the sick. Their healing in his name.

The illness is understood in the Old Testament texts partly as a consequence of sin. Jesus fundamentally resists the self-evident religious statement that people who are victims of misfortune are to be condemned as sinners (Lk 13, 4). He sees in this prejudice the danger of self-righteousness, because the condemner thereby absolves himself of sin, and exhorts to radical repentance in view of the approaching judgment (Lk 13:1-5). On the other hand, the New Testament healing texts, in the correlation of sickness-sin, interpret the phenomenon of sickness as a suffering of the whole person, pointing to a disturbed relationship with God. Sickness is the expression of man's comprehensive need for redemption.

Illness is an expression of man's comprehensive need for redemption.

Faith is described in many cases as a prerequisite for healing (cf. Lk 8:48). As a situation that cannot be overcome humanly, the sick person is left with the only hope of salvation through God.

In the course of healing, the sick person experiences emancipation as an independent person. The moment of initiation is often the communication between Jesus and the sick person. Emancipation means a restoration of the physical abilities and the capacity for action. It implies, however, not only a relegation to a former "healthy" state, but at the same time a new way of being of the human being.

Health is defined in the context of sickness and healing as vitality, vitality and integrity of the body. The emergence of health requires the conversion of the person, his own initiative and attitude or the appropriate cooperation of his social environment. Against the background of the four healing typologies, human health has the following dimensions according to biblical understanding: the restoration of vitality (healing of the paralyzed), the ability to perceive reality (healing of the blind), the ability to acquire and exchange knowledge through communication (healing of the deaf and dumb), and the attainment of social integrity and identity (healing of leprosy), as well as the intact relationship with God as a fundamental category.

The significance of the biblical paradigm for a current theological understanding

In historical retrospect, it is evident that the biblical texts on illness and health have been widely received in theology, church teaching and practice and have triggered a wide variety of initiatives. Care for the sick and dying became a distinctive characteristic of Christianity. On the other hand, the sin motif was instrumentalized. Misused as an instrument of power for centuries.

According to biblical understanding, the disease corresponds to an acute or. chronic life crisis of the human person. This drastic portrayal can certainly not be directly applied to the experience of illness of today's sufferers. Not every illness represents an acute life crisis or ends with social discrimination. Nevertheless, the biblical texts show numerous facets of how people can experience their individual sickness. This gives rise to points of reference for hospital pastoral care. It has to start with the subjective perspective and situation of the person and his perception of the illness.

The biblical texts reflect that illness always affects and influences the whole person.

The biblical texts reflect that the disease is not an event of individual organic subsystems, but always affects and influences the whole person. The biblical concept of illness thus paints a counter-image to concepts of illness in modern medicine, which reduce illnesses to a purely somatic local or. Reduce partial. Through the multitude of illness narratives, experiences of illness in the Bible are seen as typical. described situations belonging to human existence. Without glorifying illness, this presents illness as an unavoidable facet of being human. Such an understanding contradicts utopian goals of certain present trends, to avoid every form of suffering resp. to prevent. At the same time, the biblical texts always have the intention of healing. A variety of ways are shown to achieve this. This perspective contradicts a theological or. ecclesiastical mystification resp. Exaggeration of suffering and illness.

The basic feature of numerous biblical texts is first of all the object description of the sick person. This aspect again corresponds to the perception of many patients. For example, they feel like the object of a therapy and have the impression that they are not being taken into account in their own person.

In the Bible, a person's illness and healing are always attributed to God. The biblical explanatory model for the origin of disease and healing is not tenable for a modern medical and scientific rationality. According to the Bible, healing does not take place without the cooperation of the patient or his environment. It is made possible by the attitude and initiative of the sick person or his companions. Healing is therefore a process that does not happen without the patient, but demands his participation. This approach offers important approaches for therapy, but also for the "self-care" of the patient.

Biblical healing ends with a new identity of the healed person. Biblical healing thus has the character of a physical healing. Subjective emancipation of the human being. It ends with a new identity of the healed person. This makes illness. Healing valued as a positive experience. Some patients evaluate own illness-. Experiences of healing in this sense. However, this interpretation must not be generalized from a theological point of view. The Psalms in particular also articulate the meaninglessness that people experience in the situation of suffering and illness.

The therapeutic competence of theology resp. a therapeutic theology

A basic aspect of theological reflection on illness and health is the question of whether faith can heal. According to biblical understanding, faith is a prerequisite, component and consequence of healing. Ultimately, however, healing in the biblical context is left to God. Through experiences in faith people can be healed or healed in a positive way. Finding salvation in a comprehensive sense. Sickness and health can be moments of encounter with God, but also experiences of existential abandonment, fear and confrontation with death. The therapeutic function of faith can be the encounter with the God who overcomes the limits of death and has himself gone to the limits and brokenness of human existence.

Theology has the task of reflecting on and developing the various aspects of illness and health that are unfolded in the biblical texts, among others. In its reflection on the history of theology and the church, it also has to work out the tragic consequences of its own interpretations. It is challenged to ask about the disease situations of people today, to analyze social and structural causes for disease and health and to advocate for just social conditions. Church health care services and facilities must be reflected upon from a theological perspective. Theology can only perform these tasks within the theological context. Master interdisciplinary discussion.

Especially in the Corona pandemic as well as in its reappraisal theology should use and contribute its therapeutic competence. Because the pandemic touches on many existential questions that are named in the biblical texts on illness and healing. The Bible did not know about viral diseases, but the texts deal with the question of meaning, the relationship with God and the search for healing. They are not a medical or social therapy approach, but offer many impulses for a religious and theological examination of the pandemic and central life questions and social challenges.

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