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Informed evangelicals are both
passionately for and against alternative
therapies, that’s why we need to
carefully examine the multitude of
available practices.
By Dr Stanley Arumugam

There is a category of alternative healing known as

‘complementary medicine’ which can work effectively with
conventional medicine. Certain practices are forbidden
in the Bible, including divination and consulting psychic
mediums (see Leviticus 20:27) but the majority of
alternative therapies fall into the third broad category of
the “new age’ which is quite blurry and requires handling
with care.

Applying Two Tests

Test 1: Science; this is the foundation of modern
medical practice and suggests that any practice that is not
open to rigorous research and verification is unconvincing
and at worse quackery. This test is a good way to provide
protection to patients through clinical trials before any
practice or drug therapy is approved.
However, the problem arises when practices that fall
outside of rational science are rejected as though science
is the ultimate test of credibility. Many alternative therapies
fall into this category and are subject to this scientific bias.
Christian prayer is also scientifically unverifiable and often
issues of faith are discarded by scientific rationalism. We
would argue that science is not required to prove the Bible.
Similarly we have to be careful not to make a blanket
rejection of alternative therapies because they cannot be
rationalised by science.
Test 2: The Bible; what is the worldview Alternative Healing Category Core Features
of the alternative therapy and how does it
guide an understanding of illness, healing 1. Complementary medicine Provide sound advice in
and God? We know that healing is not just e.g. naturopathy, ayurvedic lifestyle issues of diet, exercise

a function of the medication prescribed medicine and stress.
by the doctor or the therapy model used
by psychologists or the oils used by a
therapist. Healing is a function of the 2. Scientifically unverified Mixed reports of effectiveness.
relationship between practitioner and e.g. herbal remedies, Chinese Practitioners not making overt
patient; it’s the shared understanding of acupuncture spiritual linkages.
healing (belief system) and the experience
of care and compassion.
I remember as a child when I had a 3. Life energy therapies ‘New Age Healing is essentially balancing
fever, my mother would usually give me Healing’ e.g. Reiki, therapeutic energies in the human being and
an aspirin always with a prayer for my touch, psychic healing universe – spiritual roots inform
healing. My healing was a combination practice (Taoist and Hinduism)
of the pharmacological properties of
the tablet and more importantly it was A critical look Buddhist founder passed down. Recently
an acknowledgment of Jesus Christ Of all the alternative practices, life one of my Christian friends joined a Reiki
as the real source of healing. In using energy therapies need to be considered class wanting to learn to become a healing
conventional and alternative therapies we with great care and caution. Defining practitioner. She was initially welcomed in
need to ask who the source of healing is. Is features include: the eclectic group of new age seekers but
it Jesus Christ, a universal energy or self? 1. Practitioners believe that life energy soon was criticised for her faith in Christ.
Genuine healing is from God and always flows throughout the universe with She also experienced spiritual discomfort
leads us to God. different names such as ‘Chi’ (Chinese) in the group as classes progressed and
Most alternative therapists are caring, and ‘Prana’ (Indian). This is NOT the she eventually dropped out.
sincere and concerned about your whole energy of the Holy Spirit. Of all alternative therapies the US
being – body, mind and soul unlike 2. Human beings are composed of Catholic Bishop’s Conference on Doctrine
practitioners of conventional medicine. energy systems. in May 2009 made a clear pronouncement
However, check the label before you buy! 3. Disease is believed to be the result of that Reiki is not compatible with either
This applies to alternative therapies just imbalance or blockage in the energy flow Christian teaching or scientific evidence
as it does to conventional medicine. between the universe and the individual. and should not be promoted or provided in
Dr Robina Coker (Alternative Medicine, 4. Life energy can be directed to the any Catholic institution.
Monarch) suggests the following questions offending illness and bring healing.
as a starting point for investigating a New Age adherents believe that life Call for Discernment
therapy: energy is in essence God. Many ideas that Indiscriminate use of alternative
• Do the claims for this therapy fit the are the roots of energy therapies are based therapies which are clearly incompatible
facts? on pantheism or Eastern mysticism. The with Christianity may leave a person
• Is there a rational scientific basis for the reality of Christ as the ultimate source of vulnerable to spiritual, emotional or
therapy? healing and as a distinct Divine being (not physical harm. To help you examine
• Is the method or the principle behind an extension of the universe) is rejected. specific therapies carefully, I highly
the therapy effective? recommend a free internet resource
• Does the therapy involve the occult? What about Reiki? prepared by the Evangelical Christian
• What is the therapist’s world view? One of the most popular life energy Alliance Handle with Care. A Christian
therapies is Reiki. To become a Reiki Introduction to Alternative Medicine.
Three Categories Master, the student needs attunement or May God grant us the wisdom to choose
There are so many practices and some fall initiation. This requires a spiritual transfer carefully, leading those in need to the
into more than one group making biblical from the Master to the student, the ultimate Healer of our body, mind and soul
discernment more necessary. same energy from the 1800’s Japanese – our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.