Alternative therapies – right or wrong?

  • Question 122, from CB, United Kingdom

    Why do Christians think alternative therapies are wrong? ie Acupuncture, Reiki, Reflexology, Chinese medicine, herbal remedies etc?

    The reluctance of many Christians to engage in ‘alternative medicine’ stems from a number of different sources, the most basic of which is a distrust for witchcraft and sorcery. There are, however, definite differences of opinion on whether alternative medicine is harmful, or ‘un-Christian’.

    Theologically there is little to warn against in alternative medicine, and certainly any comments on non-Christian alternative medicine would also apply to Christian claims of healing, or the efficacy of prayer. There is considerable doubt about whether these treatments work, although some such as acupuncture do seem to have some evidence-based research to prove their effectiveness.

    To understand why some Christians object to it requires an understanding of the Christian worldview. In its formative years, Christianity struggled to define itself against both a ‘parent religion’ (Judaism) and a surrounding culture which was predominantly heterodox pagan (ie there were many forms of paganism). The result is a religious tradition, which is both wary of the ideas of other religions and cautious about unorthodox ideas. Christianity is not alone in having this limiting outlook; it is a common feature of most large religions.

    Christians may disregard alternative remedies because they are often linked to Eastern religions such as Buddhism, or draw on ideas found in Eastern religions, such as the ‘chi’ life force. In addition there are strong Biblical admonitions against divination and soothsaying, which rules out several practices such as astrology.

    The various ‘charismatic’ movements of the twentieth century have also raised interest in ‘spiritual warfare’, a catch-all term for demonology, prayer, exorcism and charismatic gifts such as prophecy. Christians who believe in demons and demon-possession frequently link alternative therapies with demonic activity. From an objective point of view, it is interesting how ‘Satanism’ as a cultural occurrence really only established itself in the late 1970s and early 1980s, some two decades after Christian revivalists began preaching on demonic activity. It may be the two are sociologically linked, with the interest in demons among religious adherents preceding the use of demonic imagery among people who wanted to define themselves against the religious majority.

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