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Books: Taking the Bible cure

Books | The Word of God as diet book, alternative medicine manual, and your own personal HMO

Issue: "Y2K: Binary blowout?," Aug. 22, 1998

The Bible Cure, a recent addition to the ranks of Christian bestsellers, is the kind of book that gives me a headache. This well-meaning title from Creation House has as its premise: "Within the Bible's holy writ are all the principles needed by each of us to find the healing for body, soul, and spirit." Soul and spirit, yes-but does the Bible give us the cure for all the physical ailments that came into the world through original sin? Reginald Cherry, a medical doctor in Houston, claims "the principles of The Bible Cure include deciphering the ancient Jewish dietary laws; understanding how Jesus anointed natural substances to heal; and how we can pray specifically for healing and overcoming the mountain of our illness." Dr. Cherry begins with the dietary laws, which medical science has confirmed as healthy. Eat fruit, it's good for you. Eat grains, they're good for you. Don't eat pork, it's full of nasty things. Cook with olive oil, not animal fat, or you'll clog your arteries. Granted. But there's a world of difference between a valid principle for good health and a cure. And although eating right may help ward off some kinds of disease, that's not the same thing as curing cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, fatigue, or genetic defects (!), among other things. Does he, in fact, claim to have cures for these diseases? His chapter and subchapter titles say so: "A Bible Cure for Heart Disease"; "A Bible Cure for Diabetes"; "A Bible Cure for Ovarian Cancer"; "A Bible Cure for Stomach Cancer"; and so on. But the chapters and sections themselves are a bit more conservative. The section on breast cancer, for example, describes a woman's medical treatment that included prayer, surgery, chemotherapy, and nutrition. All this is apt to leave the reader confused. Is Dr. Cherry claiming to have found actual, effective treatment programs-"cures"-in the Bible? It depends on how the reader-or the author-defines the word "cure." For at the heart, that's what's wrong with this book. Dr. Cherry is not a quack; he's just not careful with language. For example, he relates the story of a patient who came in to him with diabetes. "We pointed out to this lady that she too would be healed, in fact, that she was healed two thousand years ago by the blood of Jesus. What we were really praying for now was the full manifestation of that healing in her body." Note the various uses of the word "heal." Christ's blood redeemed her soul (which she was already confident of), not her body (which is why she was in a doctor's office). But what does "the full manifestation" of that act "in her body" mean? Something else, obviously, for Paul (who was physically afflicted) and for that thief on the cross next to Jesus. Neither experienced bodily health as a result of salvation. At times, health-and-wealth theology pops up in the book. "God has a pathway just for you," Dr. Cherry writes. "Let the stories in this chapter bring you fresh hope as you read how ten individuals learned to use God's principles to overcome the attack of the enemy against their physical bodies. They were victorious, and today they are finishing the course with joy. YOU CAN, TOO!"But obviously, there are going to be cases in which "victory" over an illness will mean praising God even as the cancer kills you. This isn't to say that God can't heal the sick. I've seen it happen. And it's not to say that a Mediterranean diet won't add a few years to our lives. It probably will, if we can live with all that garlic. Too bad Dr. Cherry goes too far beyond those principles for his book to be anything but confusing.

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