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Health, Healing and The Church's Mission: Biblical Perspectives and Moral Priorities.

HEALTH, HEALING AND THE CHURCH'S MISSION: Biblical Perspectives and Moral Priorities by Willard M. Swartley. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012. 268 pages, bibliography, name index and scripture index. Paperback; $24.00. ISBN: 9780830839742.

The United States healthcare system is burdened with overwhelming expectations. Patients expect high-quality care, but at reduced cost. Providers want to deliver high-quality care, but they find themselves increasingly burdened by administrative and regulatory limitations, which increase cost. The result is decreasing job satisfaction among doctors and an unsatisfied patient population. Professor of New Testament at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Willard Swartley, has written Health, Healing and the Church's Mission to bring fresh perspectives on these very concerns.

This book is broad in its coverage, being broken down into three parts. Part I, Healing, describes biblical and theological perspectives on healing, including the role of the church as a healing community. Part II, Health Care, addresses how health care is delivered currently in the United States, with critique from a biblical perspective, and an introduction to the role the church can play in health care. This section gives a brief history of the role of health care in church and missions history. The last chapter in this section on disability is well written, but seems out of place. Part III, Toward New Paradigms, evaluates health care reform in the United States, including recommendations for the role of the church in providing health care services as an expression of shalom. Two appendices introduce ways in which Mennonite and Brethren churches are actively involved in health care.

Despite my enthusiasm for the importance of this issue and the excellent material Swartley has brought together, the book has two significant shortcomings. The author uses poor diction and the organization of the book is inconsistent. Words are used incorrectly and many sentences are awkward. The author uses several Venn diagrams (Figure 2.1, 2.2, 7.1), none of which are clear or used correctly. Errors like this are frequent in this book and interrupt the flow of thought. Furthermore, the book lacks an integrative intellectual argument. For example, in some places the author endorses miracle healings as normative, but he does not explain how to reconcile this position with a more scientific description of healing.

The flow of the material is also inconsistent. For example, on page 160 the author jumps from the founding of the Christian Medical and Dental Society (founded in 1931), to Roman Catholic medical missions in the nineteenth century and then on to Protestant medical missions in the twentieth century. The entire book is rich with excellent information, but it is not well organized. Its literary niche is probably as a course textbook. The author uses footnotes and a bibliography to good effect, and opens up discussion on extremely important issues.

Few would dispute that the church has stood by and done relatively little to make its unique contribution to health care in recent decades. Swartley's burden to see churches reengage and do their part to care for the health needs of people in their communities is long overdue. This book gives the church at large a much-needed challenge to get more involved in health care as an extension of its ministry, and provides practical examples of how to do it.

Reviewed by Mark A. Strand, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58103.
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Author:Strand, Mark A.
Publication:Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2013
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