The debate about Health Service funding continues since Gordon Brown's statement. We're quite right to be worried about patients queuing inside and outside hospital, and obviously need resources for improvement. But I think there's a deeper problem, harder to address. It is that in our high-tech age we've built up enormous dependency on health professionals. We've put our faith in medical technology, in doctors and equipment. Then we feel let-down when the system fails us.
Faith in technology distorts our perspective on healing. For it's not through hospitals, Health Centres, or chemists that most of our healing occurs. It's inside us.
Healing mechanisms are sophisticated: processes of detection, identifying the problem; processes of transformation: adult stem cells changing into a variety of cells and functions as the body needs them. Most of us know this. We cut our knee and a crowd of little agents turns up with a puncture repair outfit. We break a bone, drink milk and slowly it knits back together. We catch German measles, and find the body has developed a new immunity system. When all else fails, we go to sleep, and wake up better in the morning.
This God-given design for healing is built into our very creation, and this is the basis, nothing else, on which the Health Service works.
Faith in technology misses much of this and, incidentally, leads us to believe we can do what we like with our bodies, and the professionals will sort it out. So we line our lungs with tar, deprive ourselves of sleep, strain our heart with over-eating and drinking, and drive recklessly, and still expect the medics to deliver good health. But though the healing mechanisms cope, abuse was not part of the creation plan, and takes its toll.
I think faith in technology has produced extraordinarily high expectations of health provision in the West. And most of us do live reasonably healthy lives, with occasional accidents and illnesses. But, sadly, we also grow sick, grow old and die. And for many people this is simply unacceptable. We want to live healthy lives for ever. In fact the biggest danger is that, in a secularised society, we load our need for immortality on to the health service. Life-instead-of-death replaces the hope of life-after-death. And so our doctors will ultimately always fail us. So will the Health Service, though it works so well with the Creator's design to produce healing and good health.
But, even with extra tax money, it can't deliver immortality. For that we have to go direct to God. Faith in any other area stays rooted in the creation. And only God our Creator and Redeemer can give us any guarantee of good health in eternity.