I have been watching Grey’s Anatomy, the medical series filmed to explore the history of developing medical interns at a Seattle hospital. I keep wondering what it would look like to have trinitarian theologians develop a teaching hospital that would develop leaders who were committed to the life of God in the world, communities, and the church.
The purpose of a hospital is to save lives, meaning the physical bodies of human persons. A hospital is committed to hospitality, creating a place of caring for persons who suffer in some way. A trinitarian hospital could focus on the health of bodies at several levels, the bodies of groups in relationship—the church is a prime example.
God so loved the world that he gave His Son. There could be an international university that was committed to the whole of the world. Its research concern would be the health of international relations, the diagnosis of what is missing or malfunctioning in those relations, and what it means to think restoratively at that global level—thinking from the point of view of the Living God.
God also loves nations and calls for Christen involvement in every country. Each country could have a research hospital that focused on “the body of that country” and its unique challenges and opportunities. How the country operated as a whole and whether it lived in a way that represents a body of people who need to be held together in healthy ways would be it focus. God cares for the uniqueness of people groups.
God also loves cities and communities. Each of the major urban areas of the world (875 in the world today over 500,000) could have a research hospital committed to thinking about that body of people from the point of view of the Triune God who brings life to particular cities in the Bible.
God also wants healthy faith communities. We need hospitals who are close enough to specific bodies that they can diagnose, bring a vision of health that is born from the Trinity, and act in ways that bring that community to health as a whole, not a collection of individuals or a business.
We also need research hospitals for families and households. These hospitals could fulfil the role that Jesus and the disciples played in restoring relationships, binding up broken hearts, setting captives free, and so much more. This level of a research hospital needs to explore how human and divine relations function, what threatens them, and what restoration/reconciliation could look like.
There may also be a need for hospitals that work with individuals. This would be a safe place for those who are traumatised as relational, spiritual, emotional, and personal beings could find help to deal with suffering in its many forms.
These hospitals would need to be research facilities to find language and develop the sub-disciplines to study what causes people to suffer when they are alienated and disconnected from God and one another. In addition to research, there would need to be a serious teaching component that was not just a set of courses on beliefs in church history, biblical studies, theology, and so on. There needs to be an ability to take a history of relations at each level proposed about as pertains to that body of persons. There would need to be committed persons, faculty to embody the ongoing development of that research hospital’s task of bringing health. There would need to be a chief, attending doctors, fellowships, residents and interns, as well as students who are learning patient care at the level of the hospital’s focus (for the world, their country, their city, their community, their families, or their personal relations). Finally, there would need to be departments to study the many elements of the “body” that is trying to be saved or brought to health. That would include the history of its traumas, attachment to land and people in the place, restorative practices, leadership practices, developmental issues, and sense of purpose or lack thereof.
The Triune God is the great Physician. At a foundational level, this tri-personal God is the chief who calls His staff to know how to care for His people in the places where they are found. We have made theological education about training individuals to lead a franchise in a business that creates experiences and brings conformity in thinking. But God cares about the life of relationships at every level—that appears to be missing from most agendas. There are great universities, but they are caring for the body and brains and missing the care of relationships that are the central concern of God’s actions in the world. We are not just decades behind as the church, we are centuries behind in thinking about the practical outworking of the life of God for the wholeness of the world.
In Australia in 2019, it is listed that there are 64 teaching hospitals. There are 1,100 teaching hospitals in the USA. These are schools that are doing research, developing practitioners, and shaping the future of caring for the persons of the world. Do any of the universities, seminaries, or Bible Colleges in these countries ask questions, perform research, develop health-care professionals, etc. that are capable of moving the active life of the Triune God forward in the world? What is a healthy country, city, church, family, relationship? We do not need a legalistic definition here, just enough clarity to address the serious issues of apathy, loneliness, self-hatred, prejudice, addiction, polarisation, and the list goes on. These are theological issues with practical implications. I believe that the doctors are not being trained to deal with them. We are training individuals to teach subjects in separate classrooms, not building faculties to bring the love of God that heals and restores to the obvious levels of “body life” in human fields of relating. But those fields are created, sustained, and given hope by God’s action and hope. Unfortunately, we are not attuned to what Jesus did as the One who came to heal the sick, or sick churches, communities, and nations.
The big question that comes to mind could be where the funding would come from for this endeavour. Ironically, hospitals and universities once started because of the life of the church was extended to the life of the body and mind—as a function of theology in action. Remove the church from history and you lose most of its great institutions. If you remove theology and the life of the church today, what would be lost? Much has already been excluded. But the great commission could take on this level of seriousness again. We could create these new paradigm hospitals that do not even exist yet. But there were no universities and hospitals in the first place until someone recognized the need. The church needs to recommit funds to the life of the world.
This is not a question of following the world in its agenda. The Triune God started the mission to care for a broken humanity long ago. The Church started the institutions that have come to set the standards of care. I am calling for a return to the central task of knowing God and acting like it in a manner that is consistent with the complexity of challenges in the world. I believe in prayer, theology, Bible Study, and worship. But they are not living up to the challenge in how they are done. I do not think we see a serious form of human service in the world that translates these activities into caring for the crises that we are engulfed in. I will write some further blogs to develop this theme, hopefully to inspire the possibility of having hospitals for what is really amiss in the world. This is a theological task in an embodied way of being.