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What is this image?

Your answer is dependent upon your knowledge base, your life experience, and on what you believe to be true.

The formation of any answer will first pass through these filters before you assert your most plausible explanation. Your presuppositions are these filters, these primal assumptions, through which you interpret life and assign meaning to it.

Presuppositions are deeply rooted in us, they vary from person to person, and undergo change as we travel through life. They underpin our values and ethics, and constitute the core foundation of all that we are and do; they are the fountain of what we believe ought to be and what ought not to be. They are so fundamental we often don’t recognize them, but they direct our thinking and doing every moment.

What did you decide? Abstract art? Computer bit-map? Microscopic cellular disease cluster? Electron microscope photo? Satellite photo? Enlarged pixels?

This image is a satellite photo of irrigation circles in southwest Kansas. Each white dot is a harvested circle, and each red dot an unharvested circle. Each circle is generally 1/2 mile diameter (4 per square mile = 1 section = 640 acres), though they can be up to a mile diameter.

How you answered was contingent on your presuppositions. Indeed, all of philosophy is grounded in presuppositions. For nursing philosophy to be useful, our presuppositions about human nature and the world must be accurate.

There exists a curious absence of presuppositional frameworks in nursing philosophy that I want to identify and wrestle with over the next several years. I am of the opinion that our best chance of a global definition of nursing lies in the secret room of presuppositions.

(This is a slight modification of my comments posted on my son’s blog regarding giving to the poor as a part of ministry.)

The bigger picture, as I see it, is that we make a false dichotomy between the physical and the spiritual, which leads us to “formulas” and “plans” for evangelism, and then if we don’t “share the gospel” we somehow failed. This is a product of modern evangelical churches that is rooted in the last one hundred year history or so of the Protestant church. A more helpful conceptualization is one of holistic ethic in which all of being is ethic, and all of ethic is being; all of doing is ethic, and all of ethic is doing; all of being is doing, and all of doing is being.  Ethic = Being = Doing*

We cannot separate our daily life from ethics or from ministry (doing). It is a way of being, that while manifested by doing, does not consist materially of doing.  We almost would have been better off without the word “ministry” as it implies something we add to our daily to-do list.

 When churches emphasize and teach how to be the right person and grow into deeper union with Christ, then “ministry” is spontaneous. The flip side of the coin is that meeting physical needs IS gospel, IS ministry, IS love, and needs no specific “preaching” until such time as God leads. There is a profoundly deep experience of healing in a soul as a need is met by us, that IS Christ in us and IS Christ through us.  It is not a dichotomous process of being and doing.

Rare are you if verbal messages from others constitute the pinnacle touchpoints in your life.  I venture to speculate it is more likely that your touchpoints were experiences of proclamation of deep gratitude in the abyss of your soul as you marvelled at the grace shown to you by another as your physical or spiritual need was met. In other words, meeting needs in any context IS totally spiritual.  In this framework, then, ministry can never be something “added in” to our lives.

Nurses understand this better than anyone. The physical is inseparable from the spiritual. So as I get older I find such a distinction in these discussions is sometimes not that helpful and perhaps we should view ourselves through a different pair of glasses so that we see the totality of our redemptive existence in proper perspective.

*(I had envisioned this model in rudimentary form in 2006 as a framework for nusing philosophy/ontology. Much to my delight, John M. Frame had created and exposited this same perspectival model. His book, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (1987, P&R Publishing), is a philosophical and theological argument for the inseparability of ethic (normative), being (existential), and doing (situational). I am indebted to Dr. Frame for allowing me to adapt this model for nursing philosophy. E-mail correspondence 01-23-08.)

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