Helping people drove Aussie doctor in Middle East
Dr Brandstater shares how science, faith and compassion work together
A PIONEERING CAREER: Dr Bernard Brandstater
Call it kind-heartedness or just good old-fashioned love. But medical pioneer Bernard Brandstater says it was a simple desire to help needy people that motivated him in devising new solutions to medical practice in the Middle East.
Studying medicine at Adelaide University from age 16, retired doctor Bernard Brandstater became a pioneer in anaesthesia practice for surgery in the Middle East, and he was the first to introduce epidural anaesthesia for obstetric deliveries in that part of the world.
Encouraged by his parent's motto that "he can who thinks he can", Bernard was appointed as the youngest chairman and associate professor at the American University of Beirut at age 28, just a year after he, his wife and two infant daughters arrived in Lebanon in 1956.
As he taught and cared for patients in surgery for the next 13 years in Beirut, Bernard introduced several novel technologies, including a multi-orifice epidural catheter, and also a method of prolonged intubation needed by critically ill babies. These innovations were rapidly implemented worldwide. Using prolonged intubation, he managed the care of the first survivors of newborn tetanus recorded anywhere.
Due to his position and his reputation Bernard became an emergency medical consultant to King Saud of Saudi Arabia and other VIPs.
Yet despite these successes and the honours that came to him, Bernard says that his abilities and his attitude to helping people came as a blessing from God. As the son of a church pastor, Bernard says he learned about God from a young age, and read the Bible through while a schoolboy. He made a mature decision to "love Jesus as Lord" when in his teens.
He credits Jesus' example of sympathy for the sick and his relationship with God as what gave him his reason and mindset of compassion for people while working as a doctor.
In the midst of a busy hospital, with tight schedules, Bernard admits it is not always easy to maintain a "warm Christian kind-heartedness in the face of time pressures and the need for efficiency".
A student of history will recall that hospitals all over the world were founded on Christian love for others. One of Europe's earliest hospitals still survives in Lubeck, called the Heilige Geist (Holy Ghost) Hospital. In London in the 1860's, famous Florence Nightingale founded a great hospital, named after Jesus' disciple St. Thomas.
Yet in his early years as a medical student, the contrast between the Bible's historical account and evolution's counter-history was inescapable and brought many details of science into question.
Standing firm on his faith, Bernard maintains and defends his position that Creation as recorded in Genesis is foundational to an accurate knowledge of God.
Bernard notes that unlike hundreds of ancient tribal traditions the Bible story of Earth's beginning does not start with strange monsters or squabbles amongst pagan gods, or with solid matter of any kind. It tells us that God's first creative act was to create not matter but energy: "Let there be light". And that is exactly what today's physics is telling us: vast energy throughout space is fundamental in the cosmos.
The Bible says, "God saw everything that He had made, and it was very good" (Genesis 1: 31).
Bernard believes this means that "the original earth was splendid beyond our imagining, with its variety, its balance, its coherence as a living system".
"With its precise physical laws holding it together, from the immensity of space to the smallest Planck particle, it delighted its Creator. So creation shows us God's character: He is a personal God, worthy of our love and trust and worship."
Bernard says God's character is displayed in His creation of a perfect Garden of Eden, God's original plan for mankind before Adam and Eve chose to disobey.
"The picture we have of the future New Earth tells us how it was in the beginning: 'There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away' (Revelation 21:4). So Eden had not sorrow, pain or misery, and no predatory animals. God gave our first parents a vast potential for a rich unfolding future, as they exercised their dominion over planet Earth (Genesis 1:28)."
Bernard believes that the popular "billions of years" assumption distorts our view of God's universe and of God.
"Considering the Creator's goodness, it is hard to consider that He planned millions of years of savage, competitive evolutionary existence, with death as an ugly reality, supposedly needed to weed out the unfit. God's mode of creating tells us about his mind, his heart.
"In the Bible there is no hint of a long incubation. 'He spoke and it was done', says Psalm 33:9, (NASB).
"That sounds like a finished work, like completion, not an ongoing process. And it was said to be "very good" when the job was finished (Genesis 1:31)."
Although evolution relies on death and the evil of suffering from the beginning, Bernard relies on the Bible's description that they were not part of God's original creation.
"[Death and evil] were the tragic result of the Fall, when our first parents chose their way instead of God's way (Genesis 3, Romans 8).
"The process of creation should fit the character and purposes of a God who does all things well; who is generous and merciful, and who delights in beauty.
"This is the God we can trust, seek to know, and even love."
And it is this love for God and his fellowmen that has driven Bernard to live an extraordinary life, following in obedience to Jesus Christ.
Courtesy Creation Ministries International, creation.com