North America

Is Science Alone Our Guide?

I have heard that science has become our main health guide, replacing the Adventist health message. Is this true?

Peter N. Landless & Zeno L. Charles-Marcel
Is Science Alone Our Guide?
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

The Adventist health message has most certainly not been replaced by health science.

General Conference Working Policy affirms Scripture as foundational to our church’s health ministry and practice, stating that “practices without a firm evidence-base and not based on the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy should be discouraged.”1

It emphasizes the illuminating blessing of the Spirit of Prophecy through the writings of Ellen White. Bearing in mind the counsel that “rightly understood, science and the written Word agree, and each sheds light on the other,”2 peer-reviewed, evidence-based health science has been included as an additional guide together with biblical and Spirit of Prophecy principles, not in place of.

This policy including the role of peer-reviewed, evidence-based health science was voted at Annual Council in 2008 with overwhelming support. It has been very helpful, especially when questionable and even dangerous treatments and fringe philosophies masquerade as best practices and are promoted at times. (Peer review is the process of assessing the validity, accuracy, and integrity of research by experts working in the same field.)

Why include health science in our evaluation of optimal and safe health practices, education, and principles? Harmful and untested practices based on anecdotal evidence regarding dangerous traditional custom(s) have been promoted in various situations around the world. Lives have been lost, and the church has also been exposed to risk of litigation when unfounded and dangerous practices are promoted and taught as part of Adventist health ministry and education.

The health principles we teach and share in Health Ministries, and practice at every level of health care in our health institutions, should be safe and tested. The value of peer-reviewed, evidence-based health science is included to strongly encourage our health institutions and health initiatives to have proven and clear scientific guidelines that inform safe and best practices.

Documenting and sharing experiences, including adverse events and failures, leads to withdrawal of unsafe or dangerous approaches, safer practice, better outcomes, and quality of life for all. Ongoing research and review have proved the many benefits of devices, surgeries, interventions, and medications, which save lives and even enhance longevity. Artificial heart valves, replacement insulin, pacemakers, corrective surgery for congenital heart disease, implantable lenses for cataracts, joint replacements, cancer treatments, and supplemental fluoride to prevent tooth decay are just a few examples. The Seventh-day Adventist Church celebrates the blessing of the Adventist health style God has given us through His Word, amplified by His modern-day prophet, Ellen White, and confirmed by health science. How sad that many members are loath to embrace this grace-filled and effective blueprint for wholeness, despite our inevitable brokenness, as we await and proclaim His soon coming. May He “help our unbelief” (see Mark 9:24).

1 General Conference Working Policy, 2021/2022, p. 385

2 Ellen G. White, Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1913), p. 426.

Peter N. Landless & Zeno L. Charles-Marcel