The Expository Files.

"Even Science Says Religion Could Be Good For You!" 


I really don't know quite what to make of it. One part of me says, "Of course it would be this way." The other part says, "I can guess the false conclusion people will draw from this."

In the Chicago Tribune, Wednesday, December 4th, 1996 there was an article in the Tempo section on page one. The title was "Can Faith Heal?" The caption beneath the title said, "Even science is beginning to support the idea that religion is good for you."

A psychiatrist by the name of Dr. David Larson seems to have devoted a great deal of time to studying the effects of religion on health and has found the effect to be very favorable. The article said 95% of Americans believe in God, and more than 75% believe that God sometimes cures people. 73 % believe that praying for the sick can sometimes bring speedier recovery and 64% believe doctors should join them in prayer if requested. At the same time, an overwhelming percentage of doctors (90%) are reluctant to mix medicine and prayer.

Doctor Larson says the data is available to show that this reluctance is hurtful. Faith in God, or "some higher being" can be "strong medicine" the article says. It goes on to cite statistics from research done in several locations by different researchers which all indicate less depression, fewer medical complications, lower blood pressure, higher chances of surviving a heart attack, longer survivability after heart surgery and so forth among those who had strong religious faith than those who had little or none.

Of course, the article makes the point that the most important thing in all this is to have a strong "belief system." Why would this be? Many suggest it is because God doesn't care how we worship or what our belief system is. He just wants us to be good, moral people and worship Him in some way and by some name.

But the Scriptures say that these things do matter. God desires us to worship Him "in spirit and in truth" (see Jesus' conversation with the woman at the well in John 4:1-ff). His word is filled with worshipers who thought it didn't much matter how they worshipped only to find their offerings rejected by God. So, what does all this mean?

A few things:

First, that God created us with certain needs that are fulfilled in worship. Now, we can still derive some emotional benefits through worshiping false gods and be caused to feel confident and secure, and this is good for us health-wise. But it is still foolish to exchange the glory of the true and living God for an idol (Romans 1:18-23). It is not surprising creatures who bear God's image are so strongly attached to Him that they are healthier if they at least are practicing some faith.

Second, though we may live longer practicing any faith sincerely, whether it includes Jesus or not, we will not go to heaven apart from the Redeemer (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). The longest lived man in the Bible, Noah's grandfather Methuselah, was a wicked man. He died in the same year that Noah began his boat ride. Whether he died in the flood, or earlier that year I do not know, but I do know that it was said that the whole world, excepting those who got on the ark, was wicked.

Third, there are prayers that are effective for more reasons than just their psychological effect. "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." (James 5:16b). Hezekiah's life was prolonged due to his prayer. But, on the other hand, sometimes prayer for healing is not answered with a "yes" from God (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). There are higher purposes at work of which we may not be aware. Our prayers need to recognize and allow for God's will to be done first. For people of faith, healing or not, that will be enough.

If your goal is to live longer, practice any faith you wish. If your goal is eternal life in heaven, obey Jesus.

By Jon W, Quinn
  The Final Page  
From Expository Files 4.1; January 1997