Alternative medicine as a whole is not rooted in any particular religious tradition, but some therapies are. A number of healing rituals and traditions are part of the Wiccan religion (also called “white witchcraft”). Eastern religions often view healing as dependent on the movement of “life energy” through nonphysical channels that coincide with the physical body. Native-American religion uses herbs as part of its healing rituals. In a number of nature religions, shamans contact spirit beings or guides to get advice on how to treat and heal those under their care. Should Christians be concerned about these practices?
The current interest in holistic healing includes concern for spirituality, the meaning of which can be whatever the individual wants it to mean. What is important, this new approach says, is that a person be on some spiritual path.
Many believe that any therapy can be pursued for its potential healing benefits. All that matters, they believe, is whether it works.
And if others claim it works, it’s worth a try. This leads to a strong emphasis on “personal experience” being the deciding factor.
As the developer of Therapeutic Touch stated, “Therapeutic Touch works. . . . You can do it; everyone who is willing to undertake the discipline to learn Therapeutic Touch can do it. You need only try in order to determine the truth of this statement for yourself. So, I invite you: TRY.”
The problem that Christians should have with this approach is that the Bible tells us not to engage in certain practices.
Certain forms of healing are always wrong because they are accomplished via prohibited methods and have been consistently condemned by God in the Bible.
Many of these practices have been incorporated into certain alternative therapies. The most complete list of prohibitions is found in Deuteronomy 18:9–14, although each practice is prohibited in many other passages (see also 1 Corinthians 10:18–21).
Prohibited are divination, necromancy (channeling), mediumship, spiritualism, witchcraft, magic, and sorcery.
These practices are all condemned because they lead people away from the true God and entrap people in false ways. The use of magic and charms to influence the future reflects a lack of trust in the goodness of God to bring about what is best in a situation.
Instead of trying to manipulate the future, we are called to trust in God’s trustworthiness.
The Bible clearly teaches that good and evil spiritual forces exist. Many today deny or ignore this teaching. Performing spiritual acts with good intentions and getting good results does not excuse being unaware of the source of the power behind those acts.
Scripture states that evil spiritual forces are powerful and dangerous and should not be dabbled with (Ephesians 6:12; 1 Peter 5:8; 1 John 4:4).
In our opinion, it is naïve and unsafe to think or teach that Satan would not use his powers to heal people, especially since healing is such an important sign of the Messiah.
Satan will resort to “good deeds” to deceive people and draw them away from God. Jesus warned us, “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive even the elect — if that were possible” (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22).
Clearly, great discernment must be exercised before dabbling in alternative therapies with spiritual backgrounds.
It is never appropriate to use therapies that involve magic, contact with spirit guides or the spirits of the dead, or any attempt to manipulate spiritual powers.
You can read more on this topic in my book, co-written with Donal O’Mathuna, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook. You can find it here.
Also, citations to all of the studies quoted in this blog are found in the book.
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