By Brian Lowther
When defining disease, many people naturally think of a microbiological explanation, such as: an abnormal condition affecting the body of an organism. But the concept of disease is broader than the microscopic world. Disease can also be social (cultural injustice); it can be structural (political oppression); it can be personal (relational breakdown); it can be spiritual (demonic activity). A response to disease can be specifically microbiological. But that response might be greatly augmented if it grew out of a larger frame of understanding. Perhaps the best way to define disease is to define its opposite: health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health in their constitution as: “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Their definition is a good one, given the WHO’s secular constraints. But perhaps something could be added to acknowledge the spiritual dimension of our existence. Dr. Dan Fountain may have said it best in his book From Health, the Bible and the Church (Wheaton, IL, EMIS/Billy Graham Center 1989):
In the Bible, health signifies a functional wholeness which includes the person, the full spectrum of social relationships involving the person, and how the person relates to God and to the physical environment. The goal of healing is to restore strength and function to all dimensions of this wholeness.