One of you, my dear readers, recommended to me a while back a book called The High Cost of Holistic Healing by Dr. Nolan Byler. This is a slim volume and I zipped right through it, but along the way I made quite a number of notes so this is likely to require a few posts for me to get through. In fact, my comments altogether might end up being longer than the book itself.
I would like to start in this first post by talking about presuppositions, mine and Dr. Byler’s. So you know where I am coming from, here are some things about myself which seem relevant:
- I am a conservative, reformed Christian and I do take the Bible literally and also take seriously its injunctions against spiritualists, mediums, and the like.
- My daughter has type 1 diabetes. Without daily insulin, which was discovered by Canadian scientists, she would die. So I am quite dependent on western medicine and also quiet grateful for it.
- My son had a headache which lasted two years. It was never too severe in intensity but it was just constant for two years. We saw two neurologists for him and tried a bunch of medicines. At age 10, he was taking 12 pills a day. Your number of pills should never exceed your age. The things these practitioners of western medicine did for him never helped in the least. I also never got the idea that they a) cared for my son in particular or b) knew what would help him. They would just try the next medicine down on their list, usually ones designed to treat other ailments like high blood pressure and seizures. And these medicines had side effects.
- He finally got relief through a combination of acupuncture and homeopathic medicine. These practitioners were both kind, caring people who viewed my son’s problems as their personal mission to solve. They also had to proceed by trial and error but they did so like people on a quest for answers, not like people checking off the next medicine on the list.
- I never perceived anything spiritually off in either our acupuncturist or our homeopathic doctor. They aren’t Christians but neither were the neurologists (as far as I know). They neither did nor said things which seemed unbiblical to me. Neither my son or I suffered any spiritually adverse events in the time we saw them. In fact, I would say he and I both grew in our faith over those years.
- I have in recent years met a couple of people who are practitioners of Reiki. I spent some time reading up on Reiki and ended up doing a long series of posts on it and on demonology which you can access here. The short story is that I find Reiki quite un-Christian and dangerous and do belive it has to do with demonic spirits.
So to sum up, I am open to alternative medicine, but I also see limits to it. I would not accept all of it unquestioningly and I do believe some of the things that call themselves medicine are demonic. But I also have found its practitioners to behave in a lot more godly way and to have more godly attitudes than many western doctors. That is where I am coming from. I admit that I am predisposed to absolve both acupuncture and homeopathy of any demonism. And I do think that I have an open mind in general about alternative practices. But at the same time I can see the evil in some of them.
The author of this book, Dr. Byler, is a physician of the traditional western mold. He is also a Christian and identifies himself as “Mennonite” and “anabaptist” and a few times speaks of the “plain folk” he treats. (If you are unaware, “plain folk” refers to Mennonites, Amish and other Christians of that variety.) Based on what he says in his book, he has had the experience a number of times that his patients have ignored his advice in favor of the prophecies they have received through alternative practices, something which he views (probably often correctly) as detrimental to their health. It is news to me that the Amish and other plain folk should be particularly attracted to such things but based on what he says it is so. The two beliefs that jumped out at me as perhaps his guiding principles in this area are:
- If it can’t be proven scientifically, it is bad. This may be an oversimplification, but it seems to be his stance. Here are some quotes:
Defining “allopathic”: “The use of conventional medicine and surgery that can, for the most part, be scientifically explained. Results are consistent and can be reproduced . . . It makes physiological sense.” (p. 15)
And again, when listing the criteria needed to evaluate an approach: “Does it make sense scientifically? This is a supporting criterion.” (p. 26)
- If it claims to heal not just the body but the spirit or if it involves healing energy of some sort, it is bad:
“One of the things I notice in almost all these alternatives that I feel we should avoid as Christians is a common connection of special energy.” (p. 22)
That’s the background in terms of where Dr. Byler is coming from and where I am. Next time we will begin to look more closely at what he has to say, both in general and about specific forms of alternative medicine.