6 February 2023

Why Christians should celebrate medical research

Many Christian scientists see their research as fulfilling God’s mandates in Genesis. Picture: iStock

By Peter Corney  

7 January 2022

As a Christian, I have been disturbed during the recent pandemic by the number of fellow Christians who have questioned or sown doubts in the value and safety of the recent national vaccination program. This has included pastors of some congregations. 

Sadly, this reveals a very shallow or faulty theology, and inadequate understanding of the Bible and our responsibility as stewards of the God given creation. 

In our foundation story in Genesis 1:26-27 Christians learn that we are created in “the image and likeness of God”. We also learn that God has given us authority over creation and entrusted us with the stewardship and care of it, and the discovery and unfolding of its wonders. 

Read more: How to persuade the vaccine hesitant among us

One of the roles of scientists such as biomedical researchers is to fulfill that mandate. This is particularly so in their work of preserving life, in aiding the healing of the sick, and in preventing disease. 

For many Christian scientists this is seen as a sacred privilege, duty, and vocation in which they engage with great dedication and care. They are also aware of the great tradition in which they stand of the Church’s long commitment to compassion for, caring for, and the healing of the sick. In this they follow the example of Jesus in the gospels, for instance see Mark 1:29-42. I had the privilege of serving a congregation for several years whose members included many in senior roles in the medical and scientific community, who all saw their work in this light. 

This tradition has greatly influenced the medical community in general. For example, many of our public hospitals have their origins in Christian foundations.  

Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research is among the many medical bodies doing exceptional work in Australia. The institute is presently conducting extraordinarily creative research in a variety of cutting-edge areas, such as strokes in babies, immunology, brain cancer, inflammatory disorders, infectious diseases, and biologic therapies. Such research bodies also now have at their disposal amazing technological tools created by other researchers in other fields such as microscopy techniques. The combination of these areas of creative research will lead to the extension of preventative and interventionist healing for thousands of people. 

Read more: Australian aid vital in Pacific COVID-19 fight: Anglican Overseas Aid

Today all medical research is subject to strict controls and supervision, such as peer review, rigorous testing, government boards of review, and international, long-term reviews among the medical community. 

In the present case of an international pandemic the information from these multiple layers of testing and control are widely shared and so greatly enhance the levels of safety. 

Genesis also teaches us that we are now flawed and “fallen” images of God (chapter three), and so our creativity can be used for good or ill. That is why we have created the controls and supervision mentioned above and why we should support and affirm them, and in our democratic tradition keep watch over them in our elected parliamentary governance. 

Peter Corney is the Vicar Emeritus of St Hilary’s Kew. 

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