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Bibles, Botox, and BBLs | Can Christians get Cosmetic Surgery?

By: Atticus Nguyen

Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Borba via Pexels

Cosmetic Surgery Today

If you have paid attention to social media over the past few years, you've probably seen the explosion of people undergoing cosmetic procedures of various forms. It seems like errybody (not everybody, errybody) and their momma has gotten cosmetic surgery or is planning on getting cosmetic surgery to alter their appearance or conduct preventative care for the aging process. In the US, cosmetic surgery is becoming increasingly affordable, and what was once "reserved" for the elites of places like Beverly Hills, New York, and Miami can now be experienced by everyday people. In our modern world, it would be spiritual malpractice to not address this.

I myself am not new to what the world of cosmetic surgery is about. My dad is a cosmetic surgeon, and I've worked in his practice since I was in middle school. I've seen hundreds, if not thousands, of procedures and surgeries as I've observed the confines of my father's practice. There is the occasional quip by myself and some of my long-time friends that I have more surgical experience than many surgery resident physicians, which isn't too far from the truth so to speak. Even though I, as of right now, do not see myself following in my father's footsteps as a cosmetic surgeon, I can appreciate the time I've spent with him in our weird version of father-son bonding time in his operating room. I also appreciate the time that the Lord allotted to me as I've pondered Biblical principles for believers considering cosmetic surgery.


What is cosmetic surgery?

It drives me bonkers when people use cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery interchangeably, but I can't point at anyone without remembering that there are also three fingers pointing back at me (unless I use a knife hand). I must say that because I'm using this space to admit that, to my shame, I too used to use these terms interchangeably. This blog will probably not end the incorrect usage of these two terms, but I will try to bring clarity.

Plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery do have much overlap, but the training process and the spectrum of care are different for each specialty. The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS) succinctly explains the difference in their website. Cosmetic surgery focuses on aesthetic changes, while plastic surgery focuses on reconstruction of the body. I think the ABCS provides a great example when they show that if an individual is seeking breast reconstruction, then they go to a plastic surgeon since they would have extensive training on how to reconstruct that bodily region. If an individual is seeking breast enhancement in the form of augmentation (implants), lift, or reduction, then a cosmetic surgeon would be sufficient to conduct that procedure.

Plastic surgeons have to go through their own residency program or fellowship after medical school, and they have other treatment modalities separate from cosmetic procedures. That brings me to my side note: plastic surgeons can certainly do cosmetic surgery, and many have aesthetic practices of their own. Cosmetic surgeons do not have their own residency program, and any doctor from any specialty can become a cosmetic surgeon as long as they undergo proper training through a fellowship or other training programs available. I'm not here to discuss the issues that may bring, but there are plenty of reputable aesthetic doctors I know that have not undergone a plastic surgery residency.


Biblical Considerations for Cosmetic Surgery

First off, let me make this clear: cosmetic surgery is not sinful. I am not a legalist, and I don't use that term lightly. Now that everyone considering cosmetic surgery has taken a breath of relief, I now need to make sure everyone holds their (probably) proverbial horses before they whip out wads of cash and find the closest surgeon. Side note: I would actually pay to see someone "roll up" to a cosmetic surgery clinic on horseback.

There are three considerations I want to share, but they are not comprehensive.

  1. Why do you want to pursue this specific procedure?

  2. Do you ascribe to the Biblical concepts of beauty and modesty?

  3. Can this bring God glory?

Heart Posture

I bring up the first question because this is borrowing from Matthew 15:11-20 in that it is not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes from his heart is what defiles him. To change up the wording to fit the context of this blog post, it is not the scalpel or needle or cannula that defiles you, but it is the heart of the patient on the operating table that defiles them. In a hypothetical situation where I was your cosmetic surgeon, I would want you to explain to me your heart posture/desire for going under anesthesia and the knife.

Now, I don't want to stretch this hypothetical situation too far because I would have to deviate the topic to talk about Biblical principles for practicing medicine, but there would be a necessity for you, my patient, to be completely honest with me. If you want to get a cosmetic procedure to support a lifestyle that deviates from the Biblical sexual ethic, then I would not operate on you. Let's face it, many young women get BBLs (Brazilian Butt Lifts) and breast implants for unbiblical reasons. In an attempt to find fulfillment in their soul, they want to adjust parts of their curvature to snag lustful attention to bring them happiness, and they become a byproduct of the therapeutic worldview. Another grasp for fulfillment is to appeal to a potential male mate, turning them from daughters of God and image bearers to mere byproducts of the evolutionary worldview. In this, their sole purpose is to produce offspring that have the best possible genetics. Neither of these brings hope for the Christian, who should be solely rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Can cosmetic surgery be used to help marital intimacy? I'm sure that can be the case, but I, as the hypothetical physician, would need to address any outside influences who might be pressuring you to undergo surgery. Ladies, if your husband is pressuring you to go under the knife in order to make himself happy, then I will be bold enough to say that he is doing a horrendous job at being a husband. Instead of dying to himself and choosing to love you Biblically so that you may be conformed more to the image of Christ, he is choosing to conform you more into the image of whatever the machinations of his flesh is producing.

It does pain me incredibly that I cannot address every single scenario regarding a prospective cosmetic patient's heart posture, but I hope my points lead readers in the right direction.


Biblical Beauty and Modesty

The second question might make some raise their eyebrows because we love the word beauty, but when I say the "m-word" (modesty), then people start labeling me a fundamentalist, legalist, etc. Let me be fair to the ladies, dudes need to be modest too. I myself have been convicted of the way that I've dressed the first two years of college, where I cared more about showing off my musculature rather than showing Christlikeness. In the Biblical view of modesty, it is more than clothing. It is the heart posture of the individuals who wear those clothes. We can laugh at jokes about English colonists showing their ankles to attract a suitor, but there is a reality of how a promiscuous heart can lead us to live as though God is not omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. Modesty, at the end of the day, is the outward expression of a humble heart that is sensitive to bringing glory to God and not oneself (see 1 Timothy 2:9-10 & 1 Peter 3:3-4).

Beauty can be physical, and let us not ever shame physical beauty in each of the ways that God had gifted us respectively in this aspect. However, let us also keep in mind that physical beauty fades over time (see Proverbs 31:30). Aging derives from the fall in the garden, and there is nothing we can truly do about it because all of us will die unless we get raptured soon. Even though I'm 20 as of writing this, I think I'm beginning to see more wrinkles on my forehead, and my mother has noticed that I have way more grey hairs than what a young man should have. When we try to maintain the physical aspect of our beauty at all costs, we are proverbially trying to use a stick to stop an avalanche. As Pastor David Marvin put it one time in one of The Porch's seemingly unlimited dating sermons, "There's only so much botox you can do."

Beauty also is not always tied to sensuality. Sensuality is not bad since God designed the marriage bed between a husband and wife to be sensual and glorious when undefiled, Sensuality becomes sinful when it falls, once again, into a heart posture of promiscuity. True beauty is based on an inward reality of a heart of stone turned into one of flesh by the sovereign power of God, and when all physical attractiveness fades, only the Christian can have true beauty because of who their God is and what He has done in their lives.


Glory to God Alone

This is the shortest section, and as I was writing this while on a work trip with my dad to attend a ZO Skin Health meeting and the World Congress of Dermatology Conference in Singapore, I didn't imagine that my blog post would be this long. I will let the question reverberate in our minds once again: Can this [cosmetic procedure] bring God glory? Meditate on and pray through 1 Corinthians 10:31, and allow God to lead you towards the proper decision on cosmetic surgery with His Spirit indwelling you.


The Gospel Call for Cosmetic Patients

To those who have fallen into idolizing physical beauty and/or living a promiscuous lifestyle with your beauty, you have not exhausted the love and grace of God. Turn from your sin and believe in the gospel. As some of my favorite hymns, "My Worth Is Not In What I Own" and "What Love, My God," go: rejoice in your redeemer, greatest treasure, wellspring of your soul! Trust in Him, no other! Let your soul be satisfied in Him alone! Let us never forget that Jesus came down to Earth to sleep beneath the very stars that he had made. He lived the life we could not live! He knows the weakness we possess! He died in our place by facing the wrath of the Father that we deserved, and He rose again on the third day! Live no more for earthly treasures, but store treasures for yourself in heaven. The Lord shall return one day to make all things new, and you will have a glorified body that will have no blemish or fault as you spend eternity worshipping Him!

 

REFERENCES

  1. Cosmetic Surgery vs. Plastic Surgery. (2022, February 1). ABCS. https://www.americanboardcosmeticsurgery.org/patient-resources/cosmetic-surgery-vs-plastic-surgery/


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