Holistic Health Author:
Russ Wise Date:6/12/2003 4:20:53 PM
Medicine with a Soul
The way we “do” medicine is changing. Holistic or alternative health practices have given rise to a growing number of questions in the medical community.
Holism as a competing world-view causes new concerns for the Christian. It opens the window of change – from a medical perspective grounded in science and diagnosis to one that may utilize occult philosophy as a diagnostic tool.1
Marilyn Ferguson, a new age sociologist, claims that “the impending transformation of medicine is a window to the transformation of all our institutions.”2This new paradigm is not only a shift in how we do medicine but a shift in consciousness on the spiritual level.
Holistic health encompasses a very broad spectrum of therapies that are used in the healing arts. Treatment is based on the recognition that each of us is a whole person made up of the interacting elements of body, mind, and spirit.3
A Time magazine article reports that 62% of individuals who had not been helped by conventional medicine would consider alternative medicine for help. Eighty-four percent said that they would go back to an alternative doctor.4 The momentum is clearly in the holistic therapist’s favor. A growing number of people are disturbed by the inability of conventional practices to bring relief to their suffering. As a result, we find ourselves being exposed to religious ideas that are contrary to the Judeo-Christian worldview.
According to Harvard scholar Diana Eck, this spiritual makeup is largely due to the fact that America is no longer Protestant, Jewish, and Catholic. America is increasingly influenced by Eastern cultures ¾ namely, Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu, and other faiths that embrace alternative methodologies.5
Holistic medicine is founded in ancient medical practices with its roots deep in religious ideas. Whereas holistic therapies are grounded in religious practices, traditionally western medicine is not.
There are several categories of holistic medical therapies that we need to understand.6
Natural therapies are those which are not man-made or technological in nature.
¾ Ayurveda - an ancient healing methodology from India that blends herbal treatments with Hindu religious teachings. An Ayurvedic Proverb states, “without proper diet, medicines are of no use, with proper diet, medicines are of no need.”7 Ayurveda prescribes vegetarianism exclusively.
¾ Chiropractic - the use of the inherent healing properties within the body by the manipulation of the spine and muscles to treat disease. Chiropractic work is an open door for many into a new age world-view. It is important to note, however, that this treatment is legitimately practiced by Christians.
¾ Homeopathy - a system of diagnosis and treatment founded on the belief that “like cures like” in minimum dosage. This practice implies that universal energy is the foundation of health.
¾ Macrobiotics - a rigid diet and lifestyle. The diet consists primarily of whole grains and vegetables. Macrobiotics becomes an all-consuming life-style that pulls the individual into Oriental philosophy where meditative altered states of consciousness are encouraged.
Mind therapies are those practices that put the power of the mind over illness. The real work is done in the mind. The inner self brings about whatever results the conscious mind desires. As a result man creates his experience (healing or health) through his beliefs about himself and the nature of reality. In other words, one creates his own reality or health.
¾ Biofeedback - a technique to gain control over bodily functions by the use of visual or auditory practices. This practice can open one up to other methodologies that use the mind as a tool in the healing process which, in reality, use occultic mind over matter therapies.
¾ Yoga - a meditative technique to establish a union between the practitioner and the Hindu god, Brahma. Yoga is an entryway into the occult world.
Energy Manipulation Therapies
Energy therapies are those practices that use universal or life energy (chi or prana) to strengthen the weakened body. These therapies encourage a belief in the oneness of all life, including plant, animal, and human.
¾ Acupuncture - a Chinese system of treatment where needles are inserted into specific points of one’s body to manipulate energy (chi or prana) and restore proper flow of chi to maximize one’s health.
¾ Applied Kinesiology - a form of chiropractic treatment that tests muscle strength or weakness to diagnose illness. The manipulation of chi is primary for wellness.
¾ Iridology - a system of diagnosis where the iris of the eye is read to identify disease and establish treatment.
¾ Crystal Work - a shamanistic technique to manipulate chi. Crystals are used to diagnose and treat illness. Crystals are traditionally used in muscle testing, dream work, visualization, divination, and spirit channeling.
¾ Reiki - the manipulation of the life force, chi, to bring healing and well- being to the individual. It is a precise way of using ‘light energy’ to restore and balance your own vital energy - physically, emotionally, and mentally - and to connect with your inner self - your spirit.
¾ Therapeutic Touch - the channeling of psychic energy from the practitioner to patient to bring about healing.
Supernatural therapies are those therapies that employ psychic practices and spiritism to treat the patient.
¾ Channeling - the employment of spirit guides to diagnose and treat disease using a psychic source.
¾ Psychic Surgery - often practiced by a novice who works under the influence of a spirit guide. The surgery is most often done without the use of a sterile medical environment or anesthesia.
¾ Spirit Guides - an entity that guides the practitioner during diagnosis and treatment. The guide is summoned while the individual is in an altered state of consciousness.
Medicines have traditionally been herbal-based compounds.8 Whereas Eastern cultures have exclusively used herbs for medicinal purposes, Western medicine evolved into synthetic compounds utilizing chemicals. Synthetic compounds allowed pharmacists to regulate dosage and set standards, thereby protecting the patient.
The use of herbs, however, created a problem in that quality and potency varied greatly. Varro Tyler, former dean of Pharmacy at PurdueUniversity and author of The Honest Herbal, says that those who use herbs must take care that “they are using a good product, because quality varies.”9
As a result of the growing interest in alternative medical practices there is likewise growing concerns about the use of holistic methods.10 The following represent some of the concerns shared by many in the medical community.
¾ Uses an unscientific approach.
¾ Claims to manipulate energy to bring about healing.
¾ Attempts to make the patient solely responsible for his or her health.11
¾ Uses therapies unknown to the medical establishment.
¾ Claims that the therapy is a cure-all.
¾ Claims an extremely high cure rate.
¾ Uses Christian language or adherents to gain credibility.
¾ The practitioner’s qualifications are questionable.
¾ The primary proof of healing is totally from testimonials.
Along with the above concerns about holistic medical practices there are dangers (that have become a reality) which the medical community is beginning to see:12
¾ The failure to properly diagnose.13
¾ The failure to adequately treat.
¾ The possibility of emotional harm (guilt, depression, or lack of faith).
¾ The waste of resources - the spending of thousands of dollars on bogus treatment.
¾ The increase of toxic effects on the body.
¾ The loss of reality by becoming totally absorbed in one’s treatment.
Dr. David Sneed in his book, Hidden Agenda: A Critical View of Alternative Medical Therapies, mentions the process of reality testing. This process was introduced by Richard Ofshe, a University of California at Berkeley professor. He suggests asking one of these questions when considering any medical treatment.
¾ What is the theory behind the program or technique?
¾ How do the procedures relate to the theory?
¾ Are there objective criteria for evaluation?
The Holistic Trap
When scientific methodology is declared nothing more than a cultural bias almost anything can gain credibility. Once the basic premise of good health becomes“if it works it must be good,” then one is only a short step from being drawn into the new age snare. “In pragmatism, every concern is bypassed except whether or not something works. Whenever pragmatism influences the church, discernment evaporates and new age practices and therapies become acceptable methods of spiritual practice or healing.”14
John Weldon, co-author of the Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, makes the following observations regarding false approaches to New Age medicine: First, an unwillingness to research a practice before adopting it. Second, the will to believe in a practice in spite of contrary scientific data. Third, a rationalizing and legitimizing of the mystical and the occult on the basis of entirely unknown factors. Fourth, a personal bias in favor of the method merely because it worked.15
There are legitimate concerns that many patients have voiced regarding Western medicine. They range from the overuse of drugs and surgery, to the high cost, iatrogenic illnesses (doctor or treatment caused), and the lack of doctor/patient relationship. In the minds of many individuals holistic treatment offers a more hospitable way of healing that does not erode one’s bank account. However, in the long run, alternative therapies are more likely to cost the individual his well-being.
Robert Hager, of MSNBC news, reported that “an Institute of Medicine panel . . . once estimated up to 98,000 U.S. hospital patients a year are killed by errors.”16As a result, a growing number of individuals are looking to alternative practices to alleviate such concerns.
In defense of conventional medicine the use of proven methods ranks high among the reasons for one to seek such help. Another positive aspect of conventional medicine is that one is not seduced by a false worldview or spiritual deception.
There is a new philosophical option for us. Western medicine was founded in a modernist worldview or naturalism. This view held that science ruled supreme. Science defined how health was achieved and treatment was implemented.
However, a new age or pantheistic view of truth left us with an eroding foundation upon which we had built our hope for wholeness. New age philosophy had taught us that science was unable to answer all of our needs. Our mental and physical well-being were dependent on an alternative methodology. The answer was to be found within ourselves, not in the laboratory.
This eroding of the scientific method, as man’s foundation to better health, opened the door for postmodernism. Postmodernism simply states that we cannot know anything apart from our prejudices and cultural bias. There are no absolute truths. Reality or truth is in the mind of the beholder. Man’s reason is unreliable and deceptive. Relativism is the key to man’s rightful understanding of himself and all that surrounds him.
“In the absence of objective truth, there is no final bar of appeal to determine truth and reality when cultures view the world in different or mutually exclusive ways.”17As a result we are left with relativism as our only recourse. This new paradigm skews how one understands medical realities.
Postmodernism rejects many of the ways by which a world-view ¾ or a therapy ¾ can be assessed and judged.18 It is without doubt difficult to rightly assess a therapy when one cannot fully agree on what is true or if one can even know truth.
Once this methodology for discerning truth gains credibility our ability to rightly make a judgment becomes fruitless. Experience has truly overtaken reason as the final arbiter of truth. “Postmodernists interpret this to mean that the content of our beliefs isn’t important. Any belief works!”19
This rejection of all forms of authority leads to an ultimate rejection, by the alternative medicine proponent, of accountability for their own therapies.
Wholeness: Spiritually & Scripturally
In light of all the information and evidence cited above it is my opinion that the lack of proper diagnosis and treatment is not the most dangerous concern one should have regarding alternative therapies, although they are substantial. The most harmful of all the dangers that the holistic therapist opens one up to is the subtle nature of spiritual disciplines that are rooted in the occult without revealing their true nature.
Dean Ornish, an internist at the University of California at San Francisco, says, “I’ve become increasingly convinced that we are dealing here with emotional and spiritual dimensions.”20 Healing for the Christian doctor or the holistic therapist is a spiritual exercise. For the patient the issue is which spiritual road-sign will lead him to true wholeness.
The Scripture offers the individual direction at this point. “Jesus recognized the importance of doctors. He said the sick needed physicians (Mark ).”21 However, it is instructive to us to recognize that God’s foremost desire may not necessarily be for us to remain healthy. Remember, Christ came primarily to seek and save the lost (Luke ). I am not saying that He cannot heal. I am saying that He may have a higher purpose for His inaction, especially as it relates to our personal time-table.
The Bible offers us many examples of God’s purposes. Job is perhaps the most significant example (Job 2:3). The Apostle Paul serves as another example (2 Corinthians 12:7). It is important for us to understand that sickness is not a result of sin in our lives (1 Corinthians -30, John. 9:3).
God may have reasons beyond our understanding for not healing an individual in accordance with our time frame. Our sickness may be used to emphasize God’s divine nature. Job’s sickness caused him to receive a fresh appreciation of God (Job 42:5,6). Our sickness glorifies God. When Jesus heard that Lazarus fell ill He commented that “this sickness will not end in death, No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).
Another way our infirmity serves our Creator is that it displays His work. God is able to show His glory through the healing of our body. The resulting testimony brings Him glory. The trials of life bring spiritual maturity in the believer. James recounts that the testing of our faith brings endurance (James 1:2-4). Illness is but one of many ways that God may choose to test one’s faith.
Infirmity helps us keep a sober perspective on life. Paul’s thorn in his flesh kept him in humility rather than boastful pride (2 Corinthians 12:7). God may be preparing you, through your illness, to become His comforter to those who suffer (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
Ultimately we must recognize that God alone is sovereign. He is the healer. He is the creator. He is the one who orders our lives and to whom we are subject. We have salvation in no other.
The way we practice medicine is changing. The holistic health movement has dramatically changed how we see ourselves, the universe, and ultimately the supernatural.
The traditional way of viewing medicine as a business and treating only the physical body is now seen as being negative. The treatment of mind, body, and spirit is the new norm. Individuals desire caregivers who have an overall concern about the whole person. However, the patient must be aware of the methodology used in treatment and its accompanying dangers, not only for physical and emotional well-being but for one’s spiritual life as well.
The patient and the caregiver must realize that true wholeness comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Healing comes in its fullness when the patient and the doctor draw on their faith in God and their combined faith is in the center of His will.22
The spiritual aspect of the alternative health movement has raised the need for Christians to critically assess and rightly discern the spirit behind such practices. In the end, the individual must moderate any alternative practice with a proven scientific analysis regarding diagnosis and treatment.
Be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
1.Randall N. Baer, Inside The New Age Nightmare (Lafayette, LA,: Huntington House, 1989), 154, 159. Jane D. Gumprecht, M. D., Holistic Health (Moscow, ID,: Ransom Press, 1986), 153
2.Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy (Los Angeles, CA,: J. P. Tarcher, Inc., 1980), 241, 257. The American Association of Medical Colleges says 76 of the USA’s 125 medical schools offer courses in complementary and alternative medicine as part of required curriculum, up from 46 schools just five years ago, Anita Manning, “The rhythms of life” USA Today, (4/18/2001), Life
3.David and Sharon Sneed, The Hidden Agenda (Nashville, TN,: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1991), 6
4.Claudia Wallis, “Why New Age Medicine Is Catching On”TIME, (11/4/1991), 75. A 1998 study published in JAMA found that 46% of Americans had visited an alternative medicine practitioner in the previous year, up from 36% in 1991, Anita Manning, “The rhythms of life” USA Today, (4/18/2001), Life
5.Robert Owens Scott, Spirituality & Health Magazine, Direct Mail piece on file
7Robert Engelman, “Ancient medicine becomes a new thing” The Dallas Morning News, (4/12/1987), 4F
8Revelation 22:2, Ezekiel 47:12
9Nanci Hellmich, “How effective are herbs?” USA Today, (5/9/2001), Life.
11Dennis McCallum, The Death of Truth (Minneapolis, MN,: Bethany House, 1996), 74
12Sneed, 21-38, John Ankerberg & John Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs (Eugene, OR,: Harvest House, 1996), 489-490
13Manning, “The rhythms of life” USA Today. Ralph Snyderman, dean of Duke University School of Medicine, says “the use of alternative therapies outside the doctor’s office ‘can lead to potentially harmful effects and keep people away from forms of therapy that can help them.’”
14John Ankerberg & John Weldon, Can You Trust Your Doctor (Brentwood, TN.,: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991), 5
15Ankerberg, Encyclopedia, 503
16Robert Hager, “Hospital errors common in kids” msnbc.com/news, (4/24/2001)
21Richard Mayhue, “Does God Still Heal?” Moody Monthly, (3/1989), 38
22Doug Podolsky, ‘A new age of healing hands” U.S.NEWS & WORLD REPORT, (2/5/1996), 74. “In a review of 27 studies one researcher reported that in 22 of them, religious involvement had a positive effect on good health.”
For Further Reading
Groothuis, Douglas, Unmasking The new Age, IVP, Chapter 3
Hocking, David, What The Bible Says About Healing, Multnomah