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Christian Doctors Digest

Posted by MDViews on September 24, 2013

To any of you who are interested, David Stevens, MD of the Christian Medical Dental Association interviewed me on my dismissal from Fairview Health Services three years ago. I’ve much of the story here in my blog for anyone who wants to read about it, including the talk which my former employer found so offensive.

The link of the interview is here.

Hope you enjoy the interview.

Matt Anderson

Posted in Doctoring, Faith and the Glory of God, Personal | 2 Comments »

Protestant OB/GYN and Birth Control

Posted by MDViews on April 15, 2013

Is artificial birth control moral for protestants? If it’s moral, why oppose the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)? If artificial birth control is morally OK, isn’t the contraceptive mandate is just politics?

I’m a Christian OB/GYN doctor who has practiced now more than 30 years. OB/GYN doctors more than any other group, in my observation, view birth control as a “right.” By that, I mean birth control should not be just available, but should be available and free paid by insurance or the government. Pro-contraception OB/GYN’s and their allies along with liberal politicians fuel the contraceptive mandate debate promulgated by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Catholics generally oppose this mandate on moral, pro-life and religious freedom grounds and conservative Protestants generally on religious freedom, pro-life and anti-socialized medicine grounds.

90% of OB/GYN doctors are so-called “pro-choice” when it comes to abortion. I can’t give you a statistic on pro-birth control OB/GYN’s, but during my 30+ years as an OB/GYN doctor, I’ve seen near universal support for artificial birth control by OB/GYN doctors for any woman who is sexually active, including the unmarried and very young. That includes most Catholic OB/GYN doctors I’ve known as well.

I can count two hands the number of doctors I know who do not prescribe birth control and only three are OB/GYN physicians. (All three are Catholic.)

So, what’s the deal? Why oppose birth control morally? As a protestant Christian, the popes decrees against artificial birth control do not carry weight with me.

Historically, the church including Protestant churches after the Reformation opposed birth control especially after the decimation of Europe’s population by the plague in the 1400’s. Martin Luther said, “The purpose of marriage is not to have pleasure and to be idle but to procreate and bring up children, to support a household. Those who have no love for children are swine, stocks, and logs unworthy of being called men or women; for they despise the blessings of God, the Creator and Author of marriage.” Other Protestant leaders who opposed birth control included John Calvin, John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, Cotton Mather, Matthew Henry, and John Machen.1 Religious objections continued until the Church of England (Anglican/Episcopal) approved artificial birth control at the Seventh Lambeth Conference in 1930.2

So, after 410 years of opposing birth control on moral grounds, Protestant churches followed the lead of the Anglicans embracing birth control the last 83 years. Eighty-three years is not very long. And what artificial birth control did they embrace? The birth control pill (BCP) wasn’t available until 1962. The intrauterine devise (IUD) was invented just before WW2, but was not in common use until the late 1950’s. So the birth control that was so controversial was…condoms. Condoms had been available for several centuries, but modern manufacturing made them more popular in the early 20th century.

Pope Pious XI, in response to the Anglicans, stated the Catholic Church’s position on the issue thusly:

“Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.” 3
Pope John Paul VI in his treatise on The Theology of the Body, Humana Vitae, redefined this objection from “all” birth control, to “artificial” birth control, and required Catholics to uphold natural law and not thwart the procreative purpose of the act except by abstinence during fertile times of the cycle.

He also predicted what would happen if artificial birth control were universally available, stating in effect, that we would see an increase in “conjugal infidelity” and a “lowering of moral standards.” He further posited that “the man…may finally lose respect for the woman and…consider[ing] her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment…” Finally, regarding government, he wrote, “Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.”4 His words were prophetic. I just hope his last prediction does not come true!

Protestant believers depend on the Bible as the arbiter of God’s design for man. The Bible speaks well of family and children, stating in Genesis 1:28a (ESV) “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it,” and in Psalm 127: 3-5a (ESV) “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!”

The Bible does not mention birth control, but gives the example of Onan. Onan did not wish to impregnate Tamar, the wife of his deceased brother as was required by the custom of the day and so, Genesis 38:9 (ESV) tells us, “…Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother’s wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother. And what he did was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also.”

Some protestant groups oppose birth control because they want to be open to however many children God would give them. They also generally do not practice natural family planning (NFP).5 Dr. John Piper, a Baptist preacher, author and theologian states, “We should make our decisions on Kingdom purposes. If—for Kingdom reasons, gospel reasons, advancement reasons, and radical service reasons—having another child would be unwise then I think we have the right and the freedom to regulate that. But such regulation must presuppose that we’re not doing anything like abortion to measure out when and how many children we have.”6

What about modern artificial birth control methods? Are they safe? Do they cause abortion?

Pro-contraception professionals are quick to point out that, when compared to the risks of childbirth, all the birth control methods are safe(r).

But not completely safe.

BCP’s have a risk of blood clots, strokes and heart attacks. A subgroup of young women who take the pill have a higher risk of breast cancer. Cervix cancer which is caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) is more prevalent in BCP users possibly because of the license it provides for sex with many partners without the risk of pregnancy. IUD’s can cause infections, pain, sterility, hysterectomy and death, although uncommonly. The implants and shots cause abnormal bleeding. Women ovulate and can conceive with the IUD in which case the hostile uterine environment created by the IUD causes abortion of an early embryo. The package insert states it like this: “It [the ParaGard® IUD] may also prevent the egg from attaching to the uterus.”7 (Huh? The egg?) Likewise, some women will ovulate while on hormone shots, implants or pills and may conceive with the hostile uterine environment causing the early embryo to abort. (Ovulation is quite infrequent on the BCP.) Plan B or “the morning-after pill” works primarily by creating a hostile uterine environment so that an early embryo will not implant and pass through, an early abortion.

Pro-contraception professionals state, “ An abortion happens when an early embryo that is implanted is removed from a woman. It is only AFTER [emphasis theirs] implantation, that a woman is considered to be pregnant.”8 I’ve been told just that by other OB/GYN’s with whom I’ve worked. That’s how they can say with a straight face these methods of birth control do not cause abortion, including the “morning after pill.”

Sorry, an embryo before implantation is a new human life for us pro-life folks. If an early embryo passes through the uterus without implanting because of a hostile uterine environment created by artificial birth control, then that is an abortion.

Every year I served as a member of the board of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, someone would propose the group take a stand against birth control as abortifacients. Every year, we concluded the data was not solid enough to make such a recommendation and that each doctor had to decide on his or her own whether or not to prescribe birth control.

I’ve searched out the history, the scripture and my own attitude toward birth control. Two years ago, I adopted a more historic protestant view of birth control and quit prescribing birth control to my patients. I believe not prescribing birth control for the above reasons is more honoring to God, will bring more glory to Him and is therefore the morally correct thing for me to do.

My decision has had consequences. I see fewer patients, make less money and have had trouble finding other doctors to cover my practice if I am gone. Also, I’m the only protestant OB/GYN I know not prescribing birth control which puts me in a confusing category for many of my patients as most (but not all) disagree with me.

I realize that committed Christians, both patients and doctors, can and do disagree with me. I pray that whatever decision about birth control a committed Christian makes, it will be serious, thoughtful, scriptural and intended to bring honor and glory to God.

Matt Anderson, MD

End Notes:

1. http://www.missionariestopreborn.com/birth_control.html
2. http://www.churchofengland.org/our-views/medical-ethics-health-social-care-policy/contraception.aspx
3. http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius11/P11CASTI.HTM
4. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html
5. http://quiverfull.com/index.php, http://www.missionariestopreborn.com/
6. http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/is-it-wrong-to-use-birth-control
7. http://hcp.paragard.com/About-Paragard/How-it-Works.aspx
8. http://www.managingcontraception.com/qa/questions.php?questionid=3206

Posted in Abortion, Doctoring, Faith and the Glory of God, Personal | 13 Comments »

The Happiness Canard

Posted by MDViews on January 31, 2013

Many times have I had a patient, or friend or acquaintance speak of their wayward adult/teen/adolescent children through tears saying, “I just wanted him (or her) to be happy,” As in, “What a simple request I’ve made of them. I’ve demanded nothing of them. I’ve paved the way for them. I’ve not insisted they be a sport star, or a straight “A” student, or have a perfect room, or do chores day and night.” But then something happened to disappoint them and their poor offspring was in trouble with the law/divorcing/on drugs/flunking out of school/ and on the list goes.

Few goals a parent may have for a child lack parental insight more than “Be happy.” It’s an easy trap to fall into, but one we should avoid.

First, you are their parent, the authority figure, the one in control of the car keys, the money, the house and the schedule. You are not entertainment, a bank, a car dealer, an endless chauffeur, a video game dealer or a social calendar organizer. You must make decisions for your child and discipline your child which leads to great unhappiness with tears and raised voices and angst. Now, you can try to be their buddy and best friend, but it isn’t what they want and certainly is not what they need. Be the disciplinarian you need to be. Study it. Buy Christian books on it. Read the Bible and pray for your child. Be good at parenting. But don’t think leniency will lead to a happy adult child. A child raised with loving but firm boundaries will fare much better in the world.

Second, once your child is an adult, you can offer advise or counsel, but your adult child can refuse it, listen to it and reject it or just get really angry you are butting into his or her life. MYOB, may be the reply. But whether or not they are “happy” by that time is up to them, not you. Don’t sweat it. In fact, unhappiness, trials and torment can be a great teacher. Don’t try to relieve them of such a valuable teacher.

Third, what is the source of happiness? More stuff? Better sex? Bigger bank account? Better advanced degree? Dying with the most toys? Is the source of happiness random acts of kindness? Serving turkey at a shelter on Thanksgiving? Helping others? Is the source of happiness being “true to yourself?” Looking out for #1? Following eastern religion by meditation and navel gazing? Getting your piece of the pie, whatever it takes? If you, dear parent, can’t answer that question with a resounding confidence, how can you expect your child to find this elusive “happiness” state of mind?

I would posit the ultimate source of happiness is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The first question of the protestant catechism wasted no time or words in getting right to the point of the most important question faced by man. The question? “What is the chief end of man?” The answer? “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” John Piper would change the “and” to “by” making the answer read “To glorify God by enjoying Him forever,” meaning enjoying God, taking pleasure in God, making God your ultimate goal and satisfaction is accomplished by glorifying Him forever. Our ultimate joy comes from God and the realization that we are depraved individuals, dead in our sin and unable to see God’s glory and beauty and desirability unless He awaken in us that desire. We deserve Hell and eternal torment. Thus our commitment to Christ, our walk with Him, our joy in making much of God and worshiping Him is totally His wonderful gift. We didn’t “clean ourselves up” to be acceptable to God. We didn’t choose God because we were so smart and good and upstanding. Even our best is as filthy rags to him. It’s only through the cross and God looking at us through the beauty of his son who is perfect and blameless and who presents us as perfect and blameless to God that we have this joy.

Thus the source of our joy.

Knowing God is sovereign and in control and has chosen us to spend eternal bliss with him one day is more than “pie in the sky in the sweet by and by.” It’s our rock, our fortress, our stronghold, our strength. It’s a promise in which we can always take hope.

Does that mean Christians are bubbly happy, always smiling, “chipper” (John Piper’s word!), never down, always trying to prove to the world that “we Christians are happy and have fun, too!” like I seem to hear again and again on some Christian radio stations? No, of course not. Those bubbly, chipper sorts are play-acting in my book. How can we “bubble” when so many in the world are bound for hell? How “chipper” can you be knowing that in the congregation each week sits someone wondering if the cancer has spread, wondering if their husband will file for divorce, wondering if their teenage son is drunk again, wondering if they will miscarry again, wondering how to deal with the guilt of having had an abortion? Church is not “chipper.” Church is a serious time of serious worship to the creator of the universe, the one who hung and named each star, the one who grants the next breath I will take, the one who provides my purpose for living.

Such Christians are joyfully sorrowful–joyful in the service and worship of the King, but sorrowful for all the reasons above. In other words, Christians face the world as it is knowing and recognizing the hurting and pain and suffering that eventually visits all of us in one terrible form or another, but recognizing the Blessed Hope of our dear Savior and the promise to spend eternity with Him one day. Thus our unending joy when surrounded by tragedy, poverty, pain, hurting and death. And, more importantly, our unending joy when tragedy, poverty, pain, hurting and death visit us personally.

I have a hard time imagining how the sprightly, vivacious and chipper Christians handle bad news–really bad news–without going to pieces and denying their faith. Because, if being a follower of Christ is supposed to make you upbeat, bubbly and chipper–then, if you are not upbeat, bubbly and chipper because of the terrible calamity visited upon you–what do you have left? Nothing but questions without answers.

Not that joy in Christ is a slam-dunk. We must fight for joy. How? By staying as close to God as we can through worship, prayer and study. By realizing these trials are temporary and the best is yet to come. By realizing this is not our home, we are just passing through. By associating with like-minded Christians for love, encouragement and support. By serving God with all our hearts, an activity sure to take your eyes off of ourselves and onto Christ, the source of joy.

So, please, don’t tell me “I only want my child to be happy.” It’s an unachievable goal sure to disappoint you and frustrate your child. Rather wish for them commitment to Christ in all His glory. The “happiness” will take care of itself.

Posted in Faith and the Glory of God, Family | 4 Comments »

Fighting Goliath

Posted by MDViews on August 2, 2012

I’m asking for prayer, especially the week of September 10-14, from those who may know me and my situation.

I formerly worked for a large healthcare company in Minnesota. In August of 2010, I gave a presentation to the medical staff (called grand rounds) on the Oath of Hippocrates. My talk so offended the sensibilities of some of the doctors and staff at my company that two weeks later I was dismissed. No warning.

I’m now in a legal dispute with them over my departure–binding arbitration, actually. The hearing is September 11-14.

Through the process of this action, I’ve learned that they contend I was also a bad doctor (not so!) and I’ve learned that my dismissal was actually the decision of one of my former partners who didn’t hear or read my talk. I’ve also learned that my pro-life views and moral stand on issues of patient care were a determining factor in my departure.

That’s about as much as I want to say about this issue now. I intend to write about this after it’s all over, win or lose. And, of course, I could lose.

God, in His providence, promises in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” I rest on that promise–not that I think I must win in order for “all things [to] work together for good”–but I know that if I lose, the loss will be God’s “good” for me. I pray I can rejoice and accept such an outcome should it occur.

My life verses are from Habakkuk 3:17-18 which read, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (ESV) It’s one of the clearest explanations of what my attitude should be toward suffering as part of God’s family. I have great peace in knowing my God is in control and, win or lose, my response will be the same. “…I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

And, win or lose, I pray I can bring glory to His name.

Posted in Doctoring, Faith and the Glory of God, Personal | 9 Comments »