Looking through this list you may find some scientifically acceptable methods like breathing techniques, fasting, use of herbs, hydrotherapy, Kneipp therapy, classic massage and nutrition counseling, but most of the rest are questionable and in disagreement with the biblical ideology.
Some methods may not be clearly mystical or pantheistic, nor have a physiologically valid explanation. They may not harm nor cure. We need to use sound judgement in the selection of healing methods.
Criteria for Identification
There are hundreds of alternative methods on the market, continuously appearing new ones or modifications of the existing. Each world region and culture has its own preferences. It is therefore impossible to make a complete and infallible list of non-acceptable methods. One way would be to analyze the origin of the method. However, some Christian practitioners say that they only use the method separated from its philosophy. This may not really be possible because usually the philosophy explains the supposed mechanism of action. For example, if you belief that a certain disease is caused by bacteria, you may want to combat these bacteria using antiseptics or antibiotics. If you belief that some disease is caused by the bad will of spirits, you may wish to calm the anger of the spirits with some pertinent method. If you believe that a certain disease is caused by cosmic energies not flowing correctly through the body, you may wish to correct this situation using methods that supposedly can restore the pathways of energy flow. But, if you believe that disease is caused by a wrong lifestyle, you will strive to correct the wrong habits and implement a healthy lifestyle.
Here are some questions that can be of help:
- Does the effect base on known laws of physiology?
- Does the philosophy behind agree with the Biblical world view?
The Energy Concept
Another basic concept that appears as a common denominator of many alternative healing methods is the concept of a superior power or some form of an (intelligent) energy. In fact, for the Swiss Union of Natural Healing, “to control health means to control the flow of energy.” “Thoughts, feelings and actions influence the energy flow.” Also the “chakras” (Hinduism) are considered to be centers of energy transformation, which are in relation with the hormonal organs. Here you have a good example of how oriental pantheistic philosophies mingle with western medical concepts. With some experience you will recognize the pantheistic background.
There are numerous methods that claim to manipulate some kind of unknown energy. It could be the supposed energy flow between yin and yang, or energies flowing through imaginary meridians, or crystals that impart energy to sick organs, injections into old scars to unblock the energy flow, or any other means to foster the energy flow from the universe (macro cosmos) to the body (micro cosmos). The fantasy knows no limits!
The lack of consideration given in the past to emotional factors and spiritual needs of the patients is now being amended by using other healing methods that claim to be holistic and to act upon the regulating forces of man. Instead of looking towards Christ as the true healer for body and soul, many healers believe in “natural” or cosmic energies. Do you need examples? Yoga, crystal therapy, Bach flowers, Reiki, etc. They all are supposed to act upon the character and spiritual dimensions of man.
Christians should know that “The mighty power that works through all nature and sustains all things is not, as some men of science claim, merely an all-pervading principle, an actuating energy. God is a spirit; yet He is a personal being, for man was made in His image. As a personal being, God has revealed Himself in His Son.” (Education, p. 131-132)
“Today there are coming into educational institutions and into the churches everywhere spiritualistic teachings that undermine faith in God and in His word. The theory that God is an essence pervading all nature is received by many who profess to believe the Scriptures; but, however beautifully clothed, this theory is a most dangerous deception….
“If God is an essence pervading all nature, then He dwells in all men; and in order to attain holiness, man has only to develop the power within him.
“These theories, followed to their logical conclusion, sweep away the whole Christian economy. They do away with the necessity for the atonement and make man his own savior.” (Ministry of Healing, p. 428, 429)
“The apostles of nearly all forms of spiritism claim to have the power to cure the diseased. They attribute their power to electricity, magnetism, the so-called ‘sympathetic remedies’, or to latent forces within the mind of man. And there are not a few, even in this Christian age, who go to these healers, instead of trusting in the power of the living God and the skill of well-qualified Christian physicians.” (Evangelism, p. 606)
“These Satanic agents claim to cure disease. They attribute their power to electricity, magnetism, or the so-called ‘sympathetic remedies’, while in truth they are but channels for Satan’s electric currents.” (Evangelism, p. 609)
It must be mentioned that technology also entered into the mystical healing world. There are all sorts of computerized devices that claim to detect, interpret, and repair wrong currents or cellular oscillations. Some methods even claim to be able to predict the risk for developing diseases or cancer in the future. May I ask, “Who is not at risk with our modern lifestyle?”
Some methods are visibly mystical. Others look like being scientific and use some pseudo-scientific vocabulary. Words like “vital”, “energetic”, “dynamic”, “bio”, “regulation”, and similar are usual. Since the importance of the immune system became part of common knowledge, it is frequent to read that a certain method or a medication “aids” or “strengthens” the immune system. And who can disprove it?
We should also be cautious with the following situations:
- Therapies which claim to manipulate “unknown energy”.
- Alternative therapists, who seem to utilize psychic knowledge and/or power.
- Practitioner who has a therapy with which no one else is familiar.
- Omnipotent cures.
- Explanations that don’t make sense.
- Casuistics based on all success-testimonials.
- Therapies which rely heavily on altered states of consciousness.
- Therapists who claim to be on pure Christian ground but use strange “ceremonies”.
The Christian physician considers disease as the ultimate result of sin (Romans 5:12 and 6:23), not as an imbalance of cosmic energy, and directs his patients to Christ as the only true savior and healer. Then he asks for obedience to God’s laws: physical laws (healthy lifestyle), and moral laws (10 commandments). The Christian physician also believes in the existence of supernatural powers – Christ versus Satan – and prays for divine help in this invisible battle between good and evil. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the world’s rulers, of the darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12).
“Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.” (James 5:14, 15)
What Means Holistic Medicine?
Holistic is a term used to suggest that a practitioner treats the “whole person”, with due attention to emotional factors as well as to the person’s lifestyle. Europeans affirm that “holistic” treatments (most of the unconventional methods claim to be holistic) act upon the “regulating forces”. How to prove this? The German consumer service links “holistic” to the New Age philosophy aiming at the harmony between man and cosmos (nature). It tries to unite contrasts and promotes a “new conscience” of reality taking all human knowledge to a higher system.
We prefer the term “wholistic” that refers to the concept of “whole”, which means entire, complete, and healthy. “When Jesus saw him [the invalid] lying, and knowing that he had spent much time, He said to him, ‘Do you desire to be made whole?’” (John 5:6, Modern King James). Or, “Do you want to be healed?” (Revised Standard Version)
The Bible supports fully the concept of wholeness, but it differs from the New Age. The apostle Paul says: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
In the practical application, however, there are great differences in the methods about how to achieve this wholeness, according to the healer’s personal world view.
In articles or lectures about holistic medicine it is consistently emphasized that the conventional medicine (which is taught at the medical schools) is almost exclusively concerned with the physical aspect of the human being, whereas the alternative medicine (sometimes mistakenly called “natural”) takes care of the whole person, that means body, mind and soul. These two statements should be examined carefully.
Is it true that the conventional medicine is concerned only with the physical needs of the human being? In many cases, yes. Is it therefore wrong? Should a bandage, a necessary medication or a dental treatment be rejected only because the spiritual aspect is not included?
The fact, that many patients who come to the general medical consultation suffer from problems which have their cause in the mind or are the consequence of a wrong lifestyle, is becoming progressively clear to regular practitioners. Increasing efforts are being made to respond to these needs by referring the patient to a psychotherapist, if needed, or utilizing the services of a chaplain or pastoral care. Fortunately, there is a growing number of physicians who spent more time for considering mental, social and lifestyle aspects in the patient’s history. This must be commended. Unfortunately, according to the actual cost of medical care, it is not expected that the additional time spent in such efforts may be remunerated by the medical insurance companies.
Let us examine now the side of the alternative methods of healing. Can the ingestion of a homeopathic pill or of an herbal tea, the implantation of acupuncture needles or a reflexology massage be considered as “holistic” without further questions? Where is the spiritual aspect of these treatments? If the practitioner takes time to discuss lifestyle aspects with his patients, this can be commended. But, if the diagnosis of the physical and/or spiritual ailments of the patient is made by analyzing a drop of saliva, using a pendulum, a black box, an electronic detector or by pressure on the sole of the foot, one can only question: Where lies the wholeness of these methods?
Dr. Hecht, specialist in classical homeopathy, describes the therapeutic mechanism of the homeopathic medicine in the following way: “Homeopathy is a therapy of the whole person. Each person is treated individually in his wholeness. By shaking and rubbing (dynamizing), which is the usual way to prepare the homeopathic medication, forces are liberated which do not exist in a substance which is only ‘diluted’. The chemical-material substance acts upon the chemical-material part of the human being, his body. The non-chemical, non-material part acts upon the non-material part of the human being, which is his soul, the forces that guide the body, the so-called force of life.”
It must be acknowledged that for a non-medical person it is not always easy to distinguish truth from error, especially when the methods are practiced by physicians with valid diplomas. And the number of such is increasing! Even more bewildering is the fact that some health insurance companies recognize mystical treatments as part of their repertoire. Although not all information in the Internet is reliable, there are some recommendable sites that may be of help: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine www.pcrm.org and also www.wikipedia.org.