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Health and Human Flourishing: Religion, Medicine, and Moral Anthropology.

HEALTH AND HUMAN FLOURISHING: Religion, Medicine, and Moral Anthropology by Carol R. Taylor and Roberto Dell'oro, eds. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2006. 284 pages. Paperback; $29.95. ISBN: 1589010795.

Taylor is director of the Center for Clinical Bioethics, a senior research scholar at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, and an assistant professor of nursing at Georgetown University. Dell'oro is assistant professor in the Bioethics Institute and the graduate director of the Master of Arts Program in Bioethics at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. The fifteen contributors come mainly from secular and Roman Catholic universities. Each chapter has endnotes and the book concludes with a detailed index.

The book's five sections define theological anthropology, bioethics, and the human person; address human dignity and integrity; speak about human vulnerability, especially with respect to health issues; deal with gender and relationality; and discuss the practice of theological anthropology in health care, health policy, and science.

Part 3 was the most helpful, as it moved from theory and addressed the real experience of people living with disease and chronic illness. Chapter 7 by S. Kay Toombs described her experience with multiple sclerosis and the value of living in a Christian community. She spoke of the robust spiritual community shared by these quite physically disabled people.

Part 3 also contained a chapter on the practice of anointing the sick with oil. It was a beautiful synthesis of the theological (the power of God to heal) and the anthropological (the symbolic value of rituals like anointing with oil). Toombs described the role anointing plays in reminding the entire body of Christ that a believer is sick and needs help from the Christian community. One of the ways to extend this help is by placing our hands on the sick person's body.

The editors took on a very large task, hoping to explain what humanity is, and then to use this definition to guide bioethics. The book is innovative and covers material that is new to me. Some of the chapters are effective on their own. However, the complexity of the book results in the chapters not always leading to a unified and coherent argument.

Evangelical Christians take sin seriously, in both its general and specific effects to bring about disease, pain, and suffering. James 5:13-16 indicates the value of prayer in healing the body and forgiving sin. Sin was not presented as substantive to the issue. Therefore, it was given short shift and only mentioned four times in passing.

This book would be of interest to chaplains, ethicists, medical anthropologists and Roman Catholic philosophers. As an evangelical Protestant trained in biochemistry and public health, I found many of the chapters difficult reading. In the Conclusion, the author made an appeal for universities to train up "gray zone" people who are practicing scientists but theologically trained so they can speak competently in both fields. This is a goal affirmed by the ASA. This book is such an attempt, but the theological content is not as robust or evangelical as what I am accustomed to find in ASA publications and discussions.

Reviewed by Mark A. Strand, Shanxi Evergreen Service, Yuci, Shanxi, China 030600.
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Author:Strand, Mark A.
Publication:Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2007
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