Health, Healing and the Church's Mission: Biblical Perspectives and Moral Priorities, By Willard M. Swartley

Health, Healing and the Church's Mission

Biblical Perspectives and Moral Priorities

by Willard M. Swartley

Health, Healing and the Church's Mission
  • Length: 268 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: July 19, 2012
  • Item Code: 3974
  • ISBN: 978-0-8308-3974-2

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Does the Christian community have the resources to develop a coherent response to health care challenges today?

Accounting for biblical, theological and church-historical streams, Willard Swartley divulges a long tradition of healing and health care inherited by Christians today. Beginning with in-depth studies of Old and New Testament understandings of healing, the book surveys three millennia of biblical and theological teaching and practice in congregational life and mission. Along the way Swartley uncovers how Christians have understood the role of the church and other institutions in providing health and healing.

The book concludes with an attempt to synthesize these biblical, historical and moral perspectives to help all Christians, including those in health care professions, respond to our current health care challenges.

"Swartley's holistic approach to the issue of health gives fresh perspectives on both healing in the Christian tradition and current issues of health care reform. Readers who are looking for ways to integrate contemporary questions about health care with a biblical and theological perspective that moves from text to tradition will find many valuable resources in Swartley's work."

Mary Veeneman, Ph.D., assistant professor of biblical and theological studies, North Park University

"With an eloquent, rational approach, Willard Swartley critiques the current health care industry and persuasively offers a substantive alternative insight into health and healing by incorporating insights from Scripture, varied cultures, historic and religious practices, and contemporary trends. Swartley advances and amplifies the concept of shalom that embodies holistic health and reflects the biblical view of health. This vital and important volume will be valued by health care workers who aspire to experience how Christian faith can meaningfully transform their understanding and practice. I look forward to using this resource as a textbook for students in our biomedicine program."

Roman J. Miller, Ph.D., Daniel B. Suter Endowed Professor of Biology and director of the M.A. in Biomedicine Graduate Program at Eastern Mennonite University

"Willard Swartley has done the Christian community a huge service by writing a comprehensive, thoughtful and lucid discussion on our biblical and moral responsibility to promote healing and to advocate for a just health care system. His argument goes beyond the usual economic, political and medical arenas by focusing on Christian healing, community and mission."

Mary J. McDonough, author of Can A Health Care Market Be Moral? A Catholic Vision

"Health, Healing and the Church's Mission is a unique and refreshing contribution to the discussion of health, healing and the provision of health care. Its comprehensive look at the biblical perspectives and discussion of the moral dilemmas it awakens for all of us is much appreciated. An important read for any person of faith seeking for a biblical grounding on these issues."

Christine Sine, author and executive director of Mustard Seed Associates

"Dr. Swartley clearly articulates the profound moral challenges facing the Christian church in response to many of the dilemmas of health care services in America. He does so through the lenses of a thoughtful treatment of biblical and theological perspectives and the rich history of Judeo-Christian engagement in health ministries of many forms. He highlights various alternative models of health services that may offer hope. This book is must reading for religious and institutional health care leaders who are willing to examine and are open to reclaiming the essence of God's reconciling and healing work in this world."

Rick Stiffney, president/CEO, Mennonite Health Services Alliance

"Sometimes the very best contribution that Christians can make to contemporary public policy disputes is to refuse to engage them according to the terms available in the culture, but instead to return to the riches of our own tradition. That is what Willard Swartley has done so splendidly in this new book. Grounded in personal as well as ecclesial experiences, Swartley engages Scripture, Christian history and mission, and the vexatious problems associated with health care in our own context to offer sober, mature and constructive treatment of a critical issue that has been obscured by being caught up in the partisan vortex. Highly recommended as a work at the intersection of Scripture, mission and Christian ethics."

David P. Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics, director, Center for Theology and Public Life, Mercer University

"Finally a resource to reflect biblically, theologically and morally about the pressing need for health care reform in the United States. Health, Healing and the Church's Mission offers us hopeful and grace-filled ways to think about the extension of Jesus' healing ministry through the practices and commitments of the church. Professor Swartley reminds us these conversations cannot be abstract and aloof. People's lives are at stake."

Wyndy Corbin Reuschling, professor of ethics and theology, Ashland Theological Seminary

"Willard Swartley has produced a fine book that will serve students, teachers, pastors and practitioners remarkably well as they consider the role of God and the church in human health care."

Frederick J. Gaiser, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 68 (3)

"Any Christian providing health care or seeking healing could benefit from the first three quarters of Swartley's book. Those involved with US health care would especially benefit from the final quarter."

Steven D. H. Rasmussen, Missiology, 42 (1)

". . . a fine and comprehensive book."

Aaron W. Klink, Religious Studies Review, volume 39, number 3, September 2013

"This book merits discussion within churches, especially those interested in missional approaches to ministry."

W. Rodman MacIlvaine III and D. Scott Barfoot, Bibliotheca Sacra, January-March 2014

"I deeply appreciate the work Willard Swartley has done to help the church catch a vision for our participation in the health and healing of the world."

Tracy Taylor, Englewood Review of Books, Advent 2012


Part 1: Healing
1. Seven Theses: From Scripture to Today
2. Healing in the Old Testament
3. Healing in the New Testament and the Church?s Practice
4. Biblical and Theological Analysis of Healing
5. The Church as Healing Community
Part 2: Health Care: Biblical, Moral and Theological Perspectives
6. Health and Health Care in Biblical-Theological Perspective
7. Biblical and Theological (Anabaptist) Foundations of Health Care Through Mutual Aid
8. Health Care in Christian History and Mission
9. Disability, God's Two Hands of Love: Internal Care, External Witness
Part 3: Toward New Paradigms
10. Health Care Reform: Evaluation and Prospects
11. From High-Tech and Triage to Shalom and Service
12. Living Toward Sustainable Health Care
Summary and Concluding Reflections
Appendix 1. Mennonites, Brethren and Related Groups in Health Care
Appendix 2. Center for Healing and Hope: Its Mission and Contribution
Name Index
Scripture Index


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Willard M. Swartley

Willard M. Swartley (1936–2019) was professor emeritus of New Testament at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. He had served as its dean and acting president and was an ordained minister in the Mennonite Church. Swartley received a PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary and is the author of several books and numerous academic articles and reviews.

Read a tribute to his life and work from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary.