Can There Be Christian Reiki? (Part 1)

Dear Reader,

This is my second post on the alternative healing practice known as Reiki. In the first one, I discussed Reiki in general and why I believe it is very dangerous. The short version is that it opens one up to unknown spiritual powers which are probably evil.

But there are Christians who claim to do Reiki in a Christian way. As you might imagine, they would say the power behind what they do is the Holy Spirit, that it comes from God Himself. So the question I would like to ask now is: Is this possible? Can we redeem Reiki and make it Christian?

Personally, I don’t really see why we would want to. Though there seems to be some debate on the point, Reiki has its roots in Buddhism, or at least in Buddhist thought. There is nothing innately Christian here to reclaim. I think we would be far better to leave it alone altogether.

But since some Christians choose to try to incorporate Reiki into their lives and worship (yes, it becomes a part of public worship), I will address the issue. My main (silent) opponent in this discussion is going to be the website ChristianReiki.org. The front page of this site presents the stories of different Christians who have come to Reiki and why they were attracted to it or initially struggled with it. It urges us to engage in serious thought and prayer on the topic:

“Each new idea or change in our world challenges us to adjust to the new
knowledge and experience. Sometimes new knowledge has bearing on our religious values and beliefs. Those who take their spiritual lives seriously will often take time to gather information on the new subject, think about it and pray for guidance. After this process, a decision can be made about if or how those new thoughts or practices might be incorporated into their daily lives. This is a spiritually mature way to deal with things of this nature.”

(Marcia Backos, “Should Christians Practice Reiki?” from ChristianReiki.org)

While I agree with the basic premise that we must pray and use our intellect concerning such things, it is notable to me that one major tool of the Christian, that is comparing what we read with God’s infallible Word, is omitted here. As Christians, the Bible is our standard of all truth. While our feelings and our reasoning have all been affected by the Fall and may lead us astray, God’s Word is indisputable. So we must always come back to it, especially when judging things like this.

There are a lot of issues to discuss here. Part of the problem I find is that there is not one unified view of what Reiki involves. A good example of this would be the use of spirit guides. Some include them even in a Christian context; some don’t. I am going to take multiple posts to cover this topic. In this one, I will discuss the use of Reiki in public worship and the use of spirit guides. In the next one, I will look at how Reiki’s defenders interpret the Bible, and in the last I will get to the core of the matter and ask if something good can ever be bad.

Reiki in Worship

I would also like to at the outset reject the argument made in the following paragraph:

“Christian churches have a long tradition of adopting practices that enhance the spiritual life of its members based on examples of Jesus’ actions described in the Bible. Some churches use music and liturgy; others use silence and inspired prayer; some worship on Saturday (7th Day Adventists) and others on Sunday; some use dance and others sit throughout much of the service; some baptize by  emersion (sic) and others by sprinkling water on the head; some honor saints and seek their help while others seek angelic experiences. In Christian worship, the cross is used as a focus of worship complemented by candles, music, prayer beads, bells, incense, and other ritual items. These many and varied practices indicate the range of methods that different Christian groups incorporate to follow the teachings of the Bible and to come closer to God. While they are different, they all fall within the definition of Christianity.” (Marcia Backos, “Should Christians Practice Reiki?” from ChristianReiki.org)

The gist of this seems to be that Christianity has incorporated all sorts of things and that this is no different; that there is room in our worship for many different practices. To me, this only serves to highlight why we need some standards for worship. There are two main schools of thought on what is acceptable in worship: Either we allow everything the Bible does not expressly forbid (think idols and sacrificing one’s children) or else we allow only those things which Scripture says should be part of worship. The latter position is the Regulative Principle and the one to which my church adheres. Practically speaking, what you would notice about my church is that we sing only the Psalms and we do so a cappella. Though depending on what background you come from, you might notice the lack of candles and incense and other such things.

But my point here is that if we adhere to the Regulative Principle, it is easy. Not only is Reiki inappropriate in worship, so are most of the other things Backos mentions. If we take the more liberal stance, and allow anything the Bible doesn’t specifically forbid, we do have to struggle with Reiki and ask why it is inappropriate in worship. If we take Reiki in its most basic form, as healing without the use of spirit guides, then one may well ask why not in worship? Healing is something that was clearly done by the apostles though I see no evidence they did so as a part of worship. And in either case, we are left with the question of what about Reiki outside of public worship? Because even as a very uptight Reformed Presbyterian, there are lots of things we do outside of worship that we would not allow in worship (like Christmas trees).

Spirit Guides

The most disturbing part of Reiki to me is the use of spirit guides. I discussed this in my previous post on the topic. Basically, at a more advanced level, Reiki practitioners begin to ask spirits who are out there into themselves to do the Reiki through them. A significant part of this to me is that the spirits must be invited in. This sounds a lot like demon activity to me. It is very dangerous. There also seems to be some connection between Reiki and contacting the deceased. I know that my children’s art teacher who is now into Reiki also engages in this and I can see how when one once begins trying to make contact with spirits, it is not a big step to try to contact specific spirits.

Contacting the dead is specifically forbidden by scripture:

“And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isa. 8:19; ESV; see also Lev. 19:31; Deut. 18:9-12)

Now I understand that this is not an integral part of Reiki. It is possible to practice Reiki without falling into necromancy and even without using spirit guides. But the fact that Reiki lends itself to these things should be a big warning to Christians that this may be the beginning of a slippery slope and is a very dangerous path to be on.

When Christians practicing Reiki use spirit guides, they call these guides angels:

“The idea of Reiki guides is not actually part of the original Reiki teaching,
but was added later by Western practitioners. Therefore, one doesn’t have to contact a spirit guide to use Reiki as Reiki energy comes directly from God and spirit guides are not necessary. However, it is possible as a Christian to use a similar concept when practicing Reiki. Keep in mind that Jesus, Mary and other Biblical figures received help from spiritual beings in the form of angels. Angels are spiritual beings that God has created to be his messengers and it is possible for Christian Reiki practitioners to make use of their help. God’s angels can help heal and also provide guidance. It is also possible to call on God directly and especially Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to be present and provide healing energy directly from them, but sometimes God will send an angel to do this also. Remember, the entire book of Revelations was given to John by an angel – indicating the responsiblity God sometimes gives to angels to act as spiritual guides.” (“Frequently Asked Questions” from ChristianReiki.org)

There is a lot packed in here to deal with. Do I believe God had angels who do His bidding and have appeared to various people? Yes, absolutely. But I cannot think of a time in the Bible when people initiated that contact or asked the angels to come. Nor do angels possess or come into people in any way. In Reiki, the practitioner is a channel through which the spiritual power works. That is not how angels in the Bible work. I also cannot think of a single example in which an angel provided healing or was in any way active in the healing process. Generally in the Bible, angels come with messages from God. The above quote says they “provide  guidance” but the only example given is John in the book of Revelation. There are times angels say things like “don’t let the boy drink wine or cut his hair” (said to Samson’s parents), but I would  not take this as spiritual guidance, just an instruction from God that the angel is passing on. In fact, the word “angel” in Hebrew just means “messenger” and this is what they most frequently seem to be. The examples I can think of when they do God’s work in other ways, it is often negative. For instance, God’s angel flies over Egypt at the first Passover and kills all the first-borns among the Egyptians. In Daniel, an angel seems to be in the fiery furnace protecting Daniel’s friends. But never are they shown doing healing. And always their primary concern is to bring glory to God. They reject the worship of people and point them instead to the Lord.

But to return to John and Revelation, I am not sure I would call the angel a guide here either. He again delivers the Word of God which in my book makes him a messenger. Revelation begins:

“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John.” (Rev. 1:1; ESV)

The way I read this, the emphasis is on the fact that this message comes from God Himself and not on the work of the angel.

So my conclusion is that I do not see any evidence that angels in the Bible act in the way they do in Reiki. People do not make first contact as they do in Reiki; in the Bible, the angels come to the people at the command of God. They do not provide healing. They do not really provide guidance either; they only communicate the words of God. And they certainly never come into people or work through people in any way. Furthermore, there is the very real possibility of one inviting in, either deliberately or not, spirits which are not from the good side.

To anticipate part 2 of this series, I think the defenders of Reiki have taken some vague similarities between what they already do and what appears in the biblical text (the example here being the angel appearing to John) and have used them to justify what they do without really asking if these two are the same beyond surface similarities. It is sloppy biblical interpretation. In the argument over Reiki in worship, their main point seems to be “everything else is okay so why not Reiki too?” which is a fine argument if you accept the premise that most everything else is okay too. But it ignores the very real ideological issues surrounding how we worship. All they have done is convince me further that we really do need to have strict standards about what is allowed in worship, not because we are legalists but because God Himself shows many times in the Bible that He cares greatly about how He is worshipped and is offended when His worship is not as He proscribes.

Next time I will take the arguments that Jesus practiced Reiki and that Reiki is equivalent to the laying on of hands in the Bible.

Nebby

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5 responses to this post.

  1. […] my second on Christian Reiki specifically. I expect there to be one more after this as well. In my previous post, I discussed the use of Reiki in worship and the appeal of some Christians to angels as spiritual […]

    Reply

  2. […] post, I discussed Reiki in general, ignoring for the moment the Christianized varieties of it. In the second, I touched on two somewhat peripheral issues, Reiki in worship and the use of spirit guides, and in […]

    Reply

  3. […] time I really think this is my last post on Reiki (see previous ones here, here, here and here). There are just a few more claims on ChristianReiki.org that I want to address. […]

    Reply

  4. […] and it has helped further clarify my thoughts on the subject of Reiki (see earlier posts here, here, here and here) and the possible influence of […]

    Reply

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