This is my third post on the healing practice known as Reiki and 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 guides in Reiki. I am opposed to both these things. But they are also not essential parts of Reiki. Some Christian practitioners of Reiki also reject the use of spirit guides. So I would like to get back more to the core of Reiki and ask what the biblical text has to say about it. My main source in all this for what the opposition thinks is going to be Christianreiki.org. If there are other big sources about what Christian Reiki is, I just haven’t run across them. But if any one reading this know of others and thinks I am misrepresenting what Christians who do Reiki belive, I am happy to hear other opinions on what it is.
The Defense of Christian Reiki
Christian practitioners of Reiki make a couple of claims, that the references to laying on of hands in the Bible justify Reiki and that Jesus Himself may have done Reiki and passed the knowledge of it on to His successors:
“Scripture clearly indicates that healing is something appropriate for Christians to be involved with. Christians who have a solid foundation in their faith know that God will always protect and guide them. Those Christians who practice Reiki do so within the guidance and protection of God secure in the belief that they have been guided to follow Jesus’ example to be a healer.” (Marcia Backos, “Should Christians Practice Reiki?” from ChristianReiki.org)
While I agree that healing is an appropriate thing for Christians to be involved in (very much s0!), Reiki is just one means of healing and we must still ask if Reiki itself is appropriate. The latter half of this quote makes me very nervous. Yes, if one is truly saved, God will ultimately always protect them. His people cannot be lost from His hand. But there is always the possibility that one is not really saved; Jesus says many who call “Lord, Lord” will perish. And He also does not promise that even those who are truly His will not fall into grievous sin (think David) and suffer the temporal consequences of that sin. We cannot say “I am a Christian and therefore if I choose to do X, it is the right thing to do and God will back me up.” It just doesn’t work that way.
But I don’t want to sell Christian Reiki short. They do refer to a lot of biblical passages:
‘As Christians seek ways to increase and strengthen their spiritual moments, many have adopted practices to develop the “Gifts of the Spirit.” In I Corinthians 12:4-12, Paul speaks of the gifts to including speaking wisdom and knowledge and the power to heal. Also Paul describes people within the church having roles as apostles, prophets, teachers, those who perform miracles, those who heal, those who direct others and those who speak in strange tongues (I Corinthians 12:28-31).
Because one of the spiritual gifts is healing, devoted Christians who take direction from the above scripture have looked into the laying on of hands and more recently, the practice of Reiki. In addition, many Christian seekers have found John 14:12 an important source of guidance as well as reassurance that becoming healers it is not only possible, but also something we as Christians should develop if we feel spiritually guided to do so: “I am telling you the truth: whoever believes in me will do what I do-yes, he will do even greater things because I am going to the Father” (TEV)
Within that quotation is both instruction and challenge. As Christians search for ways to follow more fully Jesus’ teachings and examples in order to draw closer to God, it is important to be aware of the examples Jesus set for us. Many of these focused on healing others (Matt: 14:14, Mark 3:10, Luke 4:38-39). And much of his healing was done by laying on hands. Here are a few examples: In Matthew 8:14-15, Jesus uses touch to heal Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever. In Mark 1:40-42 Jesus uses his hands to heal a man with leprosy. This is also mentioned in Luke 5:12-13. Matthew 20:29-34 describes how Jesus healed two blind men by touching their eyes and in Mark 8:22-25 Jesus uses his hands to heal another blind man. In Mark 7:32 35 he uses touch to heal a man who is deaf and can’t speak. In Luke 7:12-15, Jesus raises a dead man by touching his coffin and in Luke 8:49-55 Jesus uses touch to return a dead girl to life.’ (Marcia Backos, “Should Christians Practice Reiki?” from ChristianReiki.org)
If I am understanding correctly, the argument for Christian Reiki boils down to:
1. Healing is good and is a spiritual gift God gives to certain believers. We should seek out such gifts.
2. Laying on of hands is connected with healing in the Bible.
3. Reiki also heals through the use of hands.
4. Therefore it is okay, and even desirable, for Christians to use their hands to heal through the practice of Reiki.
5. In doing so, they are more closely following the example of Jesus (which can only be good, right?).
The Spiritual Gift of Healing
Let us go through these one by one. The first has to do with healing in general. As I said above, I agree that healing is a noble calling. But let us keep in mind that there are many ways to heal. If one wishes as a Christian to pursue a career in healing, one has lots of options. Why Reiki and not becoming a doctor or a nurse or an acupuncturist or a homeopath or a chiropractor or a dentist or one of the many, many other options open to one? Reiki is not the only way to heal.
There is also the issue of spiritual gifts in general and how we view them today. My church is not big on spiritual gifts. It would say that the extraordinary gifts like tongues and prophecy ceased with the apostolic age. That is, that they were used by God when He was building His church and before His written Word was complete, but that He no longer ordinarily uses them. Personally, I would not say that they have necessarily ceased altogether. I do think one is more likely to see them in developing societies where the Bible is not yet available. And I do not want to say God cannot use these things here and now, but I do not think He ordinarily chooses to do so. And I think we need to not scorn the ordinary means God has given us — His Word read and preached, the sacraments — these things may often not seem grand enough for us but they are the means God has given us and they are very powerful. We should not scorn them. Neither should we scorn the “normal” means of healing. I believe all wisdom comes from God and He has set in place the laws of the physical universe. So when my daughter uses insulin, a discovery of western medicine, to stay alive every day and when my son was helped out of his two-year headache through acupuncture, a part of traditional Chinese medicine, I know that it is still God who heals them and that He has set up the mechanisms which the doctors and acupuncturists use to provide healing. My point being, let us not scorn the ordinary things. It is great to engage in healing, but that doesn’t mean we necessarily need awesome, impressive ways of doing it. So I guess ultimately, I am not willing to say that God no longer gives the gift of healing, but at the same time I am very skeptical of those who pursue extraordinary spiritual gifts. I think God is often far more glorified when we seek to worship and serve Him through the ordinary means He has provided.
Reiki and the Laying on of Hands
The second and third points, about the laying on of hands, go together. I cannot deny that Jesus often used His hands to heal people. It kinds of strikes me as an odd thing to say, actually. We humans do most things with our hands. Acupuncturists, chiropractors all use their hands. When I give my daughter insulin, I use my hands. I am hard pressed to think of a means of healing in which one does not use their hands. So I guess I don’t find the verses that show Jesus using His hands to heal as particularly indicative of anything.
Nor does it seem to me that the use of hands in Reiki is the same as what Jesus did. My understanding is that in Reiki the practitioner does not actually touch the patient; they only let their hands hover over various parts of the body. But Jesus was clearly hands-on in a very literal way. He touched people. That was actually a very important aspect of His healing because He touched His society’s untouchables.” So again I do not see that Jesus use of His hands is the same as the use of hands in Reiki. Given that people use their hands for so many things, I need a little more evidence of a clear connection than I have yet seen.
But to be thorough, I would like to look more closely at what “laying hand on” means in the Bible. There are so many individual examples that it is hard to list them all, but here are the main uses of this phrase that I found:
1. In the Old Testament, hands are laid on animals to be sacrificed.
2. Hands are laid on people who are being set apart for a certain office or ministry.
3. Witnesses lay hands on an accused man before he is stoned to death (see Lev. 24:14).
4. Hands are laid on for healing purposes.
5. People lay hands on each other in a violent way, i.e. they try to capture or arrest them.
6. One lays hands on another person he is blessing.
7. The Holy Spirit is conveyed through the laying on of hands.
There is no doubt that in the Bible something is transferred through the laying on of hands; this is seen in points 1, 2, 4, 6, and 7 above. This transfer is not always a positive thing, of course. In the first case, it is the people’s sins which are transferred to the sacrificial animal.
But in four of the above uses, there is some positive transfer that happens through the laying on of hands. Issues of authority also come into play here. In numbers 2, 6, and 7, the party laying his hands on another person has some sort of God-given authority. It is the apostles, and I believe only the apostles, who can impart the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands in the book of Acts. And in a blessing, the greater, usually a father or father-figure, must bless the lesser. Similarly, when one is set apart for a certain office (kingship or priesthood in the Old Testament, eldership or deaconhood in the New), others who already have authority do the laying on of hands. This is in contrast to Reiki which boasts that anyone can learn to do it after just a brief period of instruction. Nor do I see any indication that those teaching Reiki need have any standing or authority within the body of Christ. And it is also pointed out that Reiki does not depend on the person doing it, but in the Bible what is happening depends very much on who is doing it.
But there is still point four, healing through the laying on of hands. I can see that there is a similarity to Reiki in which some sort of spiritual life-force is said to be at work through the hands, using the practitioner as a conduit. I also think that this idea, that one is a conduit, is different from what is happening in the Bible. I don’t think God ever uses people as conduits. Such a notion does not value the personhood of the individual. In Reiki, they say that it does not matter who does the Reiki because it is some spiritual power working through them. But I think in God’s world, the who matters very much. Even in the writing of the various biblical books, I do not think the authors were mere conduits. The result is 100% God’s Word and yet He, in His infinite wisdom, also manages to use the unique personalities of His authors. God is able to do such things so that while no word of Scripture is less than perfect or inspired, yet neither is it all just a dictation that the person wrote down without the full engagement of their own intelligence.
A more important aspect, I think, is that these things are meant to accompany the gospel message. They are not done in their own right but as proofs of the veracity of the message. They are to back up the preaching. While some do do Reiki as part of worship (addressed in my previous post) and I suppose in that context it may accompany the preaching of the Word, this is not how most Reiki is done. But healings and other miracles cannot point to the truth of God’s message unless they are an accompaniment to the presentation of the gospel.
Jesus and Reiki
While I think I have already at least partially addressed this in my discussion of the laying on of hands, Reiki does really emphasize its connection to Jesus so I want to spend a little more time on the issue.
Christians who practice Reiki see themselves following the example of Jesus. Apart from the specifics of the laying on of hands, which as I have said doesn’t seem to be quite the same to me, Jesus healed and they heal. They would say they are not only following His example but surpassing it as He tells His disciples they will in John 14:12 (see above quote).
We must, however, take this verse in the context of the rest of Scripture. Yes, the disciples will do miracles in Jesus’ name. But if we also read the rest of the passage, we must be convinced that if Reiki is done in any other name, then it is false (another reason to reject the use of spirit guides, even if they are called angels or saints). I would be interested to know how Christian practitioners view non-Christian Reiki. Do they reject it? Jesus is very clear in this chapter that He is the only way to the Father and that no one can know the Father who does not come to Him through Jesus.
It is also clear from this passage that the purpose of the works done in Jesus’ name, whatever they may be, it to further glorify the Father and the Son. This is perhaps subjective, but I do not get the impression as I read Christian Reiki.org that the glory of God is their goal. As I said in my discussion of spiritual gifts, any gifts or miracles God gives or does are designed to point back to Him. They are to give legitimacy to His Word (as Jesus also says in John 14, if you do not believe me, believe the works I do). So if such miracles, whether Reiki or otherwise, are separated from the Word of God and from the call to follow Him, then they are at the very least not worth our time and at worst detrimental in that they steer us away from the path we should be on.
Now I have said before that there is not just one view of what Christian Reiki is and how it should be done. I find divergent opinions even on this one website as the various articles were written by different people, some Catholic, some Protestant, some who use Spirit guides, some who don’t. But overall, I would say that the picture given of Jesus does not ring true with the Jesus I know from the Bible. We find for instance, statements like this:
“One of the outstanding aspects of Jesus’ life was the miracles he worked.
. . . However, the most meaningful of his miracles were the healings he
performed.” (William Lee Rand, “Similarities between the Healing of Jesus and Reiki,” from ChristianReiki.org)
And in another article:
“From an examination of his life, I have gleaned the values and principles that shaped His ministry: the sacredness of all life, the need for forgiveness and compassion, the practice of kindness, the understanding that God is always with us, and an openness to and enjoyment of the presence of God within each person.” (Marita Aicher-Swartz, “Reiki and the Teachings and Values of Jesus,” from ChristianReiki.org)
Jesus did come to heal the world. But He makes clear that the primary healing that humanity needs is not physical but spiritual. Now to give Reki its due, it never promises that it alone will heal specific diseases. Rather it promises to realign one and to provide a sense of peace:
“Reiki is a method of stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. . . . When your life energy is high, you’ll feel strong and confident, be more relaxed and centered and less likely to get sick.” (“What is Reiki?” from Christian Reiki.org)
But Jesus did not just give a sense of relaxation but forgiveness of sins. This is seen, for instance, in Matthew 9:1-3 in which Jesus does not immediately heal a paralytic’s body but first tells him that his sins are forgiven. The Pharisees rightly understood this as blasphemy because only God can forgive sins.
True peace comes only through a right relationship with God. Any such restoration is only possible through repentance and the forgiveness of one’s sins. And forgiveness of sins comes only through the work of Christ who was the perfect sacrifice, the only one capable of atoning for our sins.
Jesus’ healings were astounding. But the defenders of Reiki seem to focus on them to the exclusion of His much more important work, His atonement for our sins through His death on the cross. I am also very wary of any practice which claims to provide peace or a feeling of closeness with God without providing the real forgiveness and restoration that the human soul needs.
As I near the end of this article, I will admit that I don’t feel I have made an air-tight argument against Reiki. Of course, I also do not feel that the other side has made an air-tight argument for it. The Bible does not mention Reiki by name so neither of us is going to be able to point to one passage and say “here is the proof of my position.” Rather, we each bring forward arguments on our side in the hope that their combined evidence is overwhelming. For my part, here are the points I would like to emphasize for any Christians who may be considering (or already are) practicing Reiki:
1. The Bible does talk about healing and healing is good and is a sign of God’s kingdom. But there are lots of ways to heal. That does not mean they are all necessarily right or justifiable. We must still ask if Reki itself is biblical.
2. Reiki uses hands. The Bible talks a lot about healing through the laying on of hands. I am not convinced that these two are done in the same way nor that there is a significant connection made here. There are also many other ways to heal with one’s hands. The major differences I see are:
a. Hands are not usually actually laid on in Reiki.
b. The laying on of hands requires some sort of God-given, delegated authority in the
c. I don’t believe God uses people as conduits.
d. Healings in the Bible point to the legitimacy of the gospel message. I do not see
that Reiki is used in this way as an accompaniment ot the Word of God or with
the main goal of bringing glory to Him.
In addition, I think that there are also some very good reasons for Christians to avoid Reiki which are:
3. There is a danger of branching off into necromancy. Some may protest that this is not a part of proper Reiki and that is no doubt true but my own experience is that one of the people I know who is engaged in Reiki is also engaged in trying to contact the dead. This is specifically forbidden by Scripture and is of such danger that we should be wary of anything that tends in that direction.
4. The use of spirit guides, even ones that are supposed to be good angels or saints, also is very dangerous. We may not be able to discern good spirits from evil ones. A proper angel is a messenger of God and only works at is bidding and never accepts glory or praise for himself. Contacting the saints really borders on necromancy for me too. Good dead people are still dead people. King Saul was condemned for contacting Samuel though the latter was a prophet and man of God.
5. A last reason I am very wary of Reiki is that is promises as sense of relaxation or fulfillment without addressing the real reason people need healing (their sin and consequent broken relationship with God) and the only way they can get it (forgiveness of sins bought by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus). While healing the body is a good thing, I am skeptical of a practice that seems to elevate it without pointing to the real need the human soul has. It reminds me of the leaders in Jeremiah’s day to whom the prophet said:
“They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 8:11; ESV)
Sometimes healing the body without healing the soul may be worse than doing nothing. Which will lead me nicely into the next post in this series in which I plan to discuss the question: How can Reiki be bad if it does good?