From the Editor—Friday Reflections

Diagnosis Doubtful

The Friday Reflection by James M. Kushiner

February 5th, 2021

The Doctor by Sir Luke Fildes (1891)


tarting in 2014, I've spent much time (not in writing but in medical facilities) addressing physical ailments. I still consider myself to be in good health. Even so, I've had just too many tests, pokes, injections, incisions, and sutures, to not ponder often the practice of medicine and the human body. I hope the wee thorns in my flesh have prodded me to useful thoughts.

In medicine, diagnosis is everything. Or rather, the diagnosis must be correct to even get started toward a cure. More is needed. There are three steps—diagnosis, prescription, and application. They are Idea, Word, and Act. (This is very suggestive, but I won't wander into Trinitarian fields here.)

There are exceptions to this three-step pattern: a miraculous healing. Or, a doctor may not know the underlying cause of your symptoms but may make them disappear by the right prescription, even if it was only a guess. Even physicians sometimes see through a glass darkly.

When it comes to the Great Physician, however, diagnosis and remedy are infallible. We do not even need to understand the diagnosis or how the cure works; we just need to take it, which is the third step of the three. A doctor can tell us we have a specific ailment, prescribe treatment, but it is up to us to implement or submit to the treatment.

In Scripture, the Lord God makes it clear that man stands stripped of his life-sustaining fellowship with God because of his sin, and that the result of this is death. The Lord intervened in the history of man, creating a nation by prescriptive means: Decalogue, Torah, and Covenant. God, of course, knew that the Law would not be kept, but it was a preparatory treatment leading up to the true cure for sin, Christ, who "nailed to the cross the sin which rebellious Adam committed in paradise" and "by His precious cross destroyed the writing of our sins, thereby triumphing over the source and power of darkness." (Orthodox prayers at the Sixth Hour)

Jesus' invitation to take up our Cross and follow him is not a requirement by which we pay up for our cure—it is part of the cure itself, to get our wayward souls to follow in His steps on the path from earthly human life to human life in heaven at the right hand of the Father, where we are also seated "with Christ." Too often, we're seated elsewhere.

Modern man believes that health requires self-expression of desire, while all manner of desires are stoked and juiced up by incessant messages about what you deserve, crave, or hunger for in food, stimulation, mental games, or sexual experience. Money is made by those urging self-control to get into the closet.

The prescription of Christ's church, East and West, is Christocentric, which requires self-control and may be experienced and reinforced by attentive worship in older traditions of the church. From an Orthodox Prayer I've quoted before from the noon prayer offered each day:

"Nail our flesh to the fear of You, and do not incline our hearts to words or thoughts of guile. But wound our souls with Your love, that ever looking to You, and guided by You in the light, and beholding You, the Light ineffable and everlasting, we may offer ceaseless praise and thanksgiving to You."

To experience God's love is to be wounded by it—for it cuts, like His Word, which is "living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." (Heb. 4:12-13)

The clear diagnosis is Sin. The remedy: Christ's life in us. The life in Christ is manifested by our ceaseless praise and thanksgiving and obedience to his Words.

When we need medical help, we must submit our bodies to being laid bare. But modern man is like ancient Adam, still hiding from full disclosure.

As with the human body, so with society and its ills. Diagnosis must be correct. If sin is not allowed as a cause, the treatment is just make-believe quackery at best, at worst, diabolical and lethal lying. Our nation needs full disclosure and diagnosis—and Christ.

Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,

James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James

—James M. Kushiner is Executive Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and Executive Director of The Fellowship of St. James.