Illustration

The story of the ten lepers in Luke's Gospel makes important links between faith and practice that have wider implications for society at large. The explicit connection between the final "your faith has made you well" and the healing has already been noted (albeit with some ambiguity). However, there is also an implicit connection with a notion of "care" that has been highly influential within the caring professions. Within this healing story, as in many other, an initial plea for "mercy" is met with an immediate response from Jesus. Compassion or love is typically accompanied by action and even by a call to "show yourselves to the priest." This closely fits the claim of liberation theology that praxis is crucial.

Again, applied theologians are likely to see an implicit concern for the vulnerable and oppressed within this story. A strong feature of the early healing stories in Mark's Gospel is that they involve Jesus deliberately flouting traditional Jewish attitudes toward impurity and Sabbath-keeping in order to heal those who are sick. Applied theologians themselves soon divide, though, on whether they see such healing in terms primarily of challenging and changing social conventions or whether they see it rather in terms of personal and individual acts.

Finally there is a deep and ongoing division among different Christian communities about the implications of the Synoptic healing stories for health care today. The most radical position is taken by groups such as Christian Scientists and some conservative evangelical groups who argue for "covenanted healing" - according to which God has covenanted to heal all those who are prayed for in faith. Taken literally such theological positions make conventional modern medicine (even for diseases such as leprosy in its modern sense) irrelevant or even sinful. In contrast, other Christians effectively believe with Luther that "the day of miracles is past" and that all disease should be treated by modern medicine alone. Between these two positions are some who argue that religious faith can still be relevant (even complementary) to modern medicine. They might even cite leprosy in the ancient sense - often involving psychosomatic skin complaints and a strong sense of pollution - as an obvious example.

Bibliography

Barton, J. ed. 2001. The Cambridge Companion to Biblical Interpretation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ford, D. and Hardy, D. eds. 1989. The Modern Theologians, Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Gill, R. ed. 1995. Readings in Modern Theology, London: SPCK.

Gill, R. ed. 2001. The Cambridge Companion to Christian Ethics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gunton, C. ed. 199 7. The Cambridge Companion to Christian Doctrine, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hodgson, P. and King, R. eds. 1985. Readings in Christian Theology, Philadelphia, PA: Fortress

Press; London: SPCK. Loades, A. ed. 1990. Feminist Theology, London: SPCK. McGrath, A. E. ed. 1995. The Christian Theology Reader, Oxford: Blackwell. Rowland, C. ed. 2001. The Cambridge Companion to Liberation Theology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Woodward, J. and Pattison, S. eds. 2000. The Blackwell Reader in Pastoral and Practical Theology, Oxford: Blackwell.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment