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Ethics and Religion Talk: Who Needs Doctors When You have God?, part 1

Several months ago, Ethics and Religion Talk responded to a question on prayer and healing. One of our readers, John, responded to that column with his own thoughts on the efficacy of medicine, inviting our panel to respond. He wrote:

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at More recent columns can be found on by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

For more resources on interfaith dialogue and understanding, see the Kaufman Interfaith Institute page and their weekly Interfaith Insight column at

“I read something you talked about use of medicine. To me, God is able to heal without medicines. I live without any medicine and whenever I get sick, I pray to God and He answers my prayers, including a non-curable disease that He healed me from last year.

“See what God told Moses (Deuteronomy 32:39) - ‘I wounded and I will heal.’
-How can one treat what God has injured as a punishment?
-If the disease is meant as the means of one’s death by God, how can doctors protect from God's decision?

I cannot take medicine because I believe in the Power of the most High God who gave His son power over everything including diseases as He (Jesus) did in the New Testament. Even when sending His disciples, He (Jesus) gave them power over all diseases as they preach free salvation to all nations. He did this despite of having doctors full of knowledge. Finally, if doctors can heal, why do we have mortuary next to all hospitals?”

The Ethics and Religion Talk panel enthusiastically responded to John’s challenge. We will share three responses this week, and an additional three responses next week.

In addition, Ethics and Religion Talk welcomes a new panelist this week, Imam Kip Curnutt, Director of Religious Education and Associate Imam of Masjid At-Tawheed in Grand Rapids. He studied the Islamic sciences and Arabic from Cambridge Islamic College, Qasid Institute, in Amman Jordan, and with traditional religious scholars in Bani Sweif, Egypt. He served as the Imam of the Islamic Center of Morgantown, West Virginia, from 2015 to 2021 before moving to Grand Rapids with his wife and two children in September 2021. He responds:

“According to my tradition, all things in the universe are at all times under the power of God and everything that takes place does so according to his will and power. The only difference between any normal daily event and what we would consider a miracle is that a miracle is something that God causes to take place in a way different than the process we are normally used to, for example causing healing to take place without any medical treatment. So in this case it is not about the difference between being healed by God or being healed by a doctor. In both cases the person is healed by God. Rather, it is a question of being healed by the process that God normally causes healing to take place through or for Him to break that norm and cause healing without that process. There is no question that the second is within God's power but it could at times be considered presumptious for someone to expect such special treatment from God. Another factor to consider is that we are morally accountable beings who are judged by God according to our actions. So even though healing is ultimately through Him alone we may be held accountable for not taking the actions ourselves that normally lead to God's healing, i.e. seeking needed medical treatment, and God knows best.”

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

“The Roman Catholic Church teaches ‘the sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ as a true and proper sacrament’ (cf. Mark 6:13, James 5:14-15, Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 378). Besides healing on the physical level, there is also emotional, mental, and spiritual healing.

“I believe that God is the source of all truth and knowledge. I believe human beings have an intellect that mirrors creation in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, I also have faith in the ability of humans to develop healing practices that include medicine to be a part of God’s healing power.

“God did not create evil in the world but allows it to happen. As a result, sometimes humans are gifted with the struggle of addressing a terminal disease. As a plaque in a friend’s house reads, ‘I don’t believe in miracles, I depend on them,’ I do believe that God intervenes with powerful healing at times. At other moments, God may be teaching an individual to let go. That God is the source of all life is not a question I ask. That God is the source of all healing is why I live life to the fullest each day of my life.”

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

“Unitarian Universalists are strong believers in medical science. When we are sick, we would, generally speaking, turn to our doctors first. Some UUs may also use prayer but more likely as a way to calm our concerns. We do not see the medical establishment to be in competition with the healing powers of God. That being said, I think it would be very rare for a UU to rely solely on prayers for healing or health.

“Recently I have seen where some believers are trusting solely in God to protect them from Covid. As the death toll rises above 700,000 in this country alone, do these same believers think God ignored the suffering of 700,000 people? I also wonder why these believers do not see the vaccine as a gift from God.

“I, for one, am incredibly grateful for the dedication and care given by all our medical care providers. I think it is wrong to see a mortuary placed next to the hospital as a sign of failures of the medical community. The human body is a fabulously complexed system of many delicate parts working together to keep us alive. But as in all life forms it was never made to last forever. The mortuaries are next to the hospitals because sometimes the patient does not survive. Most UUs would see this as a natural occurrence of life, and not blame the doctor or God for the loss.”


This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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