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Last year I endeavored to give reasons for why I do not use physicians. I fairly strictly confined that article upon scriptural grounds, avoiding the historical, political, and scientific arguments. I had hoped even then for an opportunity to demonstrate that the beliefs some of us hold, of medicine and faith healing, was in fact the overwhelming practice of the early believers. If faith healing was only for the Apostles to perform, then once they vanished from the scene the Church would not have made use of these gifts, and returned to medical intervention.
The importance of the historical argument has not gone unnoticed by those opposing, supposing that history sides on their part. In 2009, in anticipation of the Worthington trial, a writer for the Oregonian interviewed a professor concerning the history of medical usage in the first centuries after Christ. He claimed, “Christians were no different from the Greeks and the Romans. They used the methods of healing that their neighbors used. They accepted a naturalistic cause of disease. They employed medicine because of its cultural authority. “ He explained “cultural authority” as “something that an educated person should know about.” He did admit that the 2d century Origen recommended “that those who wanted to rely on God alone should seek healing by prayer and spiritual means. “ And that “there have always been some Christians who did that.” He also unfortunately used the same Origen to claim that most Christians at that time used physicians and medicine. (http://www.oregonlive.com/living/index.ssf/2009/06/osu_professor_early_christians.html)
I say unfortunately because in Origen's works I find he examples the use of physicians but never claims they were used by the church. In fact he was arguing against the heathen philosopher Celsus on his own terms. For example in one place was written, “IF recovery from disease is to be accomplished by means of the healing art, of necessity the physician is summoned, and it is therefore false to say that "in vain do you call in a physician." We have brought forward all these illustrations on account of the assertion of this learned Celsus.” (Origen, Against Celsus, Book II Chapter 20) In the same work Origen maintained that signs and wonders were still being seen among those that lived by the gospel. (Book I, Ch. 2)
Origen's life ended near the middle of the 3d century and so I thought I would produce some testimony from those before him, who lived immediately after the age of the Apostles.
Justin Martyr , writing about 140 AD a defense of the Christian way, explained what drew him to the Christians:
“For I myself, too, when I was delighting in the doctrines of Plato, and heard the Christians slandered, and saw them fearless of death, and of all other-things which are counted fearful, perceived that it was impossible that they could be living in wickedness and pleasure. For what sensual or intemperate man, or who that counts it good to feast on human flesh, could welcome death that he might be deprived of his enjoyments, and would not rather continue always the present life, and attempt to escape the observation of the rulers; and much less would he denounce himself when the consequence would be death?” (1st Apology) He also confirmed that the signs still followed the believers at that time. “Many of our Christian men exorcising them[demons] in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, have healed and do heal, rendering helpless and driving the possessing devils out of the men, though they could not be cured by all the other exorcists, and those who used incantations and drugs.”
2nd Apology, Ch. 6
His disciple Tatian, in Address to the Greeks c.155 AD gave even clearer depictions of the faith delivered to the saints. He ridicules the philosopher Heraclitus who died of his own cure, despite being a supposed top notch medical doctor (Chap. 3) , and makes pronouncements against medicines. “ How is it becoming to ascribe to matter the relief of the insane, and not to God? For by their art they turn men aside from the pious acknowledgment of God, leading them to place confidence in herbs and roots. But God, if He had prepared these things to effect just what men wish, would be a Producer of evil things; whereas He Himself produced everything which has good qualities, but the profligacy of the demons has made use of the productions of nature for evil purposes, and the appearance of evil which these wear is from them, and not from the perfect God.” (Chap. 17) “But medicine and everything included in it is an invention of the same kind. If any one is healed by matter, through trusting to it, much more will he be healed by having recourse to the power of God. As noxious preparations arc material compounds, so are curatives of the same nature. If, however, we reject the baser matter, some persons often endeavour to heal by a union of one of these bad things with some other, and will make use of the bad to attain the good. But, just as he who dines with a robber, though he may not be a robber himself, partakes of the punishment on account of his intimacy with him, so he who is not bad but associates with the bad, having dealings with them for some supposed good, will be punished by God the Judge for partnership in the same object. Why is he who trusts in the system of matter not willing to trust in God? For what reason do you not approach the more powerful Lord, but rather seek to cure yourself, like the dog with grass, or the stag with a viper, or the hog with river-crabs, or the lion with apes? Why you deify the objects of nature? And why, when you cure your neighbor are you called a benefactor? Yield to the power of the Logos! “ (Chap. 18)
Tatian assuringly exhorts his readers “with us there is no desire of vainglory, nor do we indulge in a variety of opinions. For having renounced the popular and earthly, and obeying the commands of God, and following the law of the Father of immortality, we reject everything which rests upon human opinion. Not only do the rich among us pursue our philosophy, but the poor enjoy instruction gratuitously; for the things which come from God surpass the requital of worldly gifts. Thus we admit all who desire to hear, even old women and striplings; and, in short, persons of every age are treated by us with respect, but every kind of licentiousness is kept at a distance. And in speaking we do not utter falsehood. It would be an excellent thing if your continuance in unbelief should receive a check; but, however that may be, let our cause remain confirmed by the judgment pronounced by God.” (Chap. 23)
Eusebius, who wrote a history of the Church in the early 4th century, quoted one Irenaeus who was a bishop in the late second century. “ True disciples, receiving grace from him, perform such works in his Name for the benefit of other men, as each has received the gift from him. For some of them drive out demons effectually and truly, so that those who have been cleansed from evil spirits frequently believe and unite with the Church. Others have a foreknowledge of future events, and visions, and prophetic revelations. Still others heal the sick by the laying on of hands, and restore them to health. And, as we have said, even dead persons have been raised, and remained with us many years. But why should we say more? It is not possible to recount the number of gifts which the Church, throughout all the world, has received from God in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and exercises every day for the benefit of the heathen, never deceiving any nor doing it for money. For as she has received freely from God, freely also does she minister. “ This Irenaeus was taught by Polycarp who learned the faith at the feet of Apostle John.
Tertullian who lived in the generation after Irenaeus and of the one preceding Origen gave us some nice examples of healings, and how they were brought about. “All this might be officially brought under your notice, and by the very advocates, who are themselves also under obligations to us, although in court they give their voice as it suits them. The clerk of one of them who was liable to be thrown upon the ground by an evil spirit, was set free from his affliction; and was also the relative of another, and the little boy of a third. How many men of rank (to say nothing of common people) have been delivered from devils, and healed of diseases! Even Severus himself [he was the Roman Emporer who died in 211AD-DR] , the father of Antonine, was graciously mindful of the Christians; for he sought out the Christian Proculus, surnamed Torpacion, the steward of Euodias, and in gratitude for his having once cured him by anointing, he kept him in his palace till the day of his death’(To Scapula, Chap. 5).
There are many other quotes that could be added to these, but I feel the point has been made. History shows that for the first few centuries the Church did not use doctors, but waited faithfully for their healing. They practised it upon unbelievers as well, as a testimony to the goodness of Christ. The professor interviewed by the Oregonian, seems to have been clearly wrong in many of his statements.