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C. Everett Koop (1916-2013)
Born in Brooklyn, he earned the A.B. degree from Dartmouth (1937) and his medical degree from Cornell (1941). Just a year after receiving the Doctor of Science (Medicine) from the University of Pennsylvania (1947), he became Surgeon-in-Chief of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
It was there that he met Francis and Edith Schaeffer (1948). In his new book Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality, William Edgar tells the story:
[The Schaeffers’ daughter] Priscilla contracted a strange illness, causing her to vomit violently. At the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital the doctors were baffled. A thirty-two-year-old physician named C. Everett Koop walked into the room, examined Priscilla, and diagnosed her with “mesenteric adenitis,” a disease he had just been studying. He had learned that most often the condition could be cured by the removal of the appendix, for reasons not clear to medical science. Edith mentioned to Dr. Koop that they were moving to Switzerland to become missionaries. Koop had just become a believer through the ministry of Tenth Presbyterian Church on Seventeenth and Spruce Streets. He performed the operation himself. Just before he wheeled Priscilla into the operating room, a telegram came in from Fran, who was traveling in Nashville, saying, “Dear Priscilla, Remember underneath are the everlasting arms. Love, Daddy.” Dr. Koop was deeply moved by the marvel of this kind of faith. Later, Fran [i.e., Francis Schaeffer] and he would meet and forge a friendship that led, among other things, to casting the film Whatever Happened to the Human Race?
Years later Dr. Koop explained during a Wheaton interview the way in which he would bring his Christian worldview to bear upon his own view of surgery and care for the family. He would always tell the families:
Let me assure you that if I thought that I was walking into that operating room in my own steam, my own power, my own knowledge and was going to operate upon your child—and its survival depended upon me—I wouldn’t open the door. I believe that I am a servant of the Lord and that I am going to that operating room with gifts that he has given me. But your child is in his hands, and he will guide me, and I will let you know everything I can about the future of your child.
Koop himself lost a child, David, who was a junior at Dartmouth when he died during a mountain climbing accident.
Dr. Koop became Professor of Pediatric Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine in 1959 and Professor of Pediatrics in 1971.
Jon Walker in his book, In Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work: Life Together writes in chapter 30 about how confession is a break-through in the community of believers, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote…
In confession the break-through to community takes place. Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation.
Walker writes that The Big Idea of the chapter is…
Our sin hides in the darkness and whispers to us that it should remain unknown. And when we keep it in the darkness, it spreads within us like a toxin, and because we are a part of the Body of Christ, it seeps into our fellowship, eating away at obedience to Jesus. Even those who are spiritually mature can stumble into sin, and then be tempted to keep it in the dark.
…Bonhoeffer notes that when our sin is brought to light, it loses power over us–and over the community.
…we belong to a fellowship of sinners who live within the grace of God and so we should not fear confession because, in a community submitted to Jesus, confession brings us back in to alignment with God and one another. Our confession should, in a community submitted to Jesus, bring us in to great intimacy with each other because we are able to remove the final mask that keeps us truly knowing one another.
…To be like Jesus…
We must walk in the Light in faithful obedience to the truth that confession reduces the power of sin.
…In confession, we reveal, but God heals!
The peace of Jesus is the cross. But the cross is the sword God wields on earth. It creates division. The son against the father, the daughter against the mother, the member of the house against the head–all this will happen in the name of God’s kingdom and his peace.
The time is short, Eternity is long, It is the time of decision. Those who are true to the word and confession on earth will find Jesus Christ standing by their side in the hour of judgment. He will acknowledge them and come to their aid when the accuser demands his rights.
Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886–1968) rocked the world of theology when he published his commentary on Romans in 1919. His focus on God as truly God and his return to Scripture “destroyed the older liberalism,” in one scholar’s words. Later, Barth helped draft the Barmen Declaration (1934) that declared the true German church could never give ultimate allegiance to the Nazi state.
How much did Barth influence Bonhoeffer, who was twenty years younger?
Bonhoeffer studied theology at the great liberal faculties of Tübingen and Berlin. At the University of Berlin, he was especially stimulated by his study of Martin Luther. But the greatest theological influence on Bonhoeffer came from the writings of a Swiss theologian who was then teaching in Germany—Karl Barth.
Bonhoeffer never studied with Barth, but he devoured his writings. Barth led the new “dialectical theology” movement that was rediscovering the great themes of the Reformation and the “strange new world” within the Bible.
Like Barth, Bonhoeffer rejected the nineteenth century’s liberal theology, with its focus on human religion. He embraced Barth’s theology of grace revealed in Jesus Christ as the Word of God, attested by Scripture and proclaimed by the church. Barth’s battle cry, “Revelation, not religion!” would remain a fundament of Bonhoeffer’s theology to the end. (But, like Luther, Bonhoeffer would stress that God’s revelation is deeply hidden “in the likeness of sinful flesh.”)
Bonhoeffer finally met Barth in the summer of 1931. “I was even more impressed by his discussion than by his writings and lectures,” Bonhoeffer said. The two remained friends, and they became allies, especially in the struggle against the “German Christian” theology that tried to amalgamate Christianity and Nazism.
But Bonhoeffer was an independent thinker. Quite early he criticized Barth for interpreting God’s freedom as more a freedom from the world than a freedom for the world.
As is the master, so shall the disciple be, and as the Lord, so the servant. If they called Jesus a devil, how much more shall they call the servants of his household devils. Thus Jesus will be with them, and they will be in all things like unto him.