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Friday, August 5, 2011

Christians and Alternative Medicine

Holistic Healing, Herbalism, Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Balance, Native American Medicine, Ancient European Medicine ~ what do they mean?  What do they have in common and how do they differ?  There are countless books that deal with these questions so I'll just leave you to find the answers.  Let's just say that these and many other cultures have influenced Western Herbalism.

A fellow VR student/sister believer recently asked a public question concerning opinions about a Christian's involvement in alternative medicine and eastern practices.  After taking a course from a well known yogi and herbalist on Ayurveda's use of food and herbs for healing, I've been pondering that question lately myself and I had kinda formulated an answer in my head.  Her question forced me to actually put it into words.  I edited my reply a few times until I was happy that what I'd written truly conveyed my opinion.  Here's what I wrote:

"I believe we, as Christians, can use all that God has created for our health to His glory if we are able to separate the method from opposing belief systems. Of course, we have to take into account the image we are giving to others and be open about where our faith lies. If what we're practicing becomes a stumbling block to someone influenced by our actions, it's time to reconsider our approach."

The line becomes blurry when wisdom and religious practices interact.   Can we follow the wisdom without being influenced by the spiritual practices?  Maybe the question could be rephrased.  Can we follow the healing wisdom of other cultures and maintain our right relationship with the God of the Bible?   I think through diligent prayer and proper focus on the Creator of all things, we can.  But, I don't think this is true for everyone.  Now I'm talking in circles, right?

The reason I say that is because we may be able to participate in a healing practice without even considering an opposing religious view that might have a negative affect on our faith or to effectively separate the two.  But another believer may not.  Or more importantly, an unbeliever.  The Bible is very clear about not being responsible for leading some one down a path that would draw them away from God.

There are so many different views on using foods and plants, energy and mantras (could we substitute prayer or a hymn or a praise?), manipulation and chi, and the list goes on, that I think we'd be foolish and not very good stewards if we were too quick to "throw the baby out with the bath water", so to speak, by completely avoiding the wisdom of other cultures.  Once an alternative practice is examined, it often becomes clear that it is effective, not because of the spiritual rituals included in it but because of the way our bodies are designed to work.  So we can use these things to heal our temple to God's glory.  

It kinda reminds me of the story of the talents.  If we stick our heads in the sand rather than stand firm in our convictions, we're missing out on multiplying the gifts we've been given to further the kingdom.

What do you think?

Much herbal love,


  1. I think you are on the right track. There are plenty of christians who are celebrating holidays, holidays which use to be pagan holidays. Nothing to do with Christ, but we have turned them into a christian celebration. Most aternative medicine is simply using the natural world that God Himself made. Anything can be used to glorify God or to bring him dishonor.

  2. @Mark, Robin, and Maddie, Naomi, and Titus I like this statement... "Anything can be used to glorify God or to bring him dishonor." Even if we stay on the "safe" side and avoid other spiritual influences, there are a lot of actions that can turn something we say we're doing to honor God into a stumbling block for someone else. Thanks for visiting!

  3. Hmm . . . I've often wondered about this especially where Yoga is concerned. I'd never get into the breathing/trance and whatnot side of it, but often wondered if the exercise could be separated from the other non-Christian aspects.

    You have made some good point here, thank you!

  4. Soooo good, Sharon. You are so right that we need to be mindful about what our testimony speaks to other Christians as well as standing for our convictions. There can be such a fine line sometimes.

  5. @Q
    I have found a couple of great books that have been really great for just this issue! "Yoga for Christians" is a great book (that comes with a DVD) and while you are getting such a great time of breathing and stretching, you are also getting an amazing time with God because you are focused on scripture and prayer, rather than the sun and the moon... I highly recommend them. We could all use a little more oxygen and a little more God! =)

  6. @Megan Steele My daughter likes "Stretch and Pray" a lot.

  7. Wow. This is definitely food for thought.

    I've never actually delved into this...I am a big fan of naturopathic healing and have used other things like acupuncture in the past.

  8. Nope, have never been into naturopathic healing...I had a brother in law that sure was, tho.

    I enjoyed your post very much.

  9. As I sit here sipping ginger tea to tame my cold (and am currently without med coverage), I am very grateful for herbal remedies.

    I don't see a conflict with religion except when parents deny their children life-saving procedures in the name of religion. This happens so infrequently, though.

    Ancient remedies are much more tried and true than modern medicine.

    Thanks for visiting, and for this thought-provoking post.


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