Archive for the ‘Chronic Illness’ Category

The High Cost of Holistic Healing (part 3)

Dear Reader,

This is my third post on the book The High Cost of Holistic Healing by Dr. Nolan Byler. You can read the previous ones here and here.

In this post I would like to look more specifically at what Byler has to say about the various alternative medical practices he reviews. There are some here I have never heard of and others I have little knowledge of or experience with. But there are a couple that I or my children have used or considered, particularly acupuncture and homeopathy. So I will not treat all of them equally. By the way, the practice which I spent so many posts discussing, Reiki, is not mentioned here (though he does mention “hand healers” which may be something similar; see p. 25).

One technique which Byler is willing to allow in some cases is the chiropractic manipulation of joints. He warns that chiropractors often also use occult methods so one should be wary, but the simple physical manipulation he says has “been shown scientifically” (p. 19). This, as I have said in earlier posts, is a big thing for him. He seems more often than not to rest everything on whether it can be proven scientifically which, again as  I have said before, is not the be-all and end-all for me. Personally, despite the repeated urging of certain Christian friends, I stayed away from chiropractic for my son. Manipulating one’s delicate neck bones and muscles, especially in a child, seemed way too risky to me.

Byler briefly mentions techniques which include “visualisation and uncovering of the unconscious” (p. 17). As I mentioned in my previous post, I tend to agree with him that anything which involves losing one’s consciousness and coming under the control of another is highly suspect and should be avoided. He mentions in this category biofeedback, however, which is one of the techniques my son’s second neurologist had recommended for his headaches (though they also recommended Reiki so I am not at all sure I trust them). We never pursued biofeedback and I know little about it but I am surprised to see it named here. If anyone knows more about how it actually works, I would be interested. Byler spends comparatively little time of these methods.

Not so with acupuncture (and the related acupressure). Acupuncture is part of what is called Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It involves sticking needles in the body at various points (it’s a lot less painful than it sounds; one barely feels it) and can be used to treat a myriad of illnesses including pain, nausea, infertility and more. Sometimes heat is applied to these points as well. Over the years we saw an acupuncturist for my son and occasionally for myself, here is what I learned from her about the theory behind it:

  • There is an energy called chi which flows through the body. There is good chi and bad chi (when one releases gas, she says “that is the bad chi coming out”).
  • There are two opposing forces called yin and yang which must be balanced in the body. They are not one good and one bad; both are needed but in the right balance.
  • It can get out of whack.
  • Over time TCM practitioners found through trial and error which points in the body helped which ailments,
  • They were able to map out meridians which travel through the body and connect to various organs or functions.

Herbs are also a part of Chinese medicine though my acupuncturist was not trained in them and did not dispense them. She only does acupuncture and actually does the Japanese version though I am not clear on all the differences.

Byler adds to the above some information which my acupuncturist never mentioned:

“These meridians go out of your body at an acupuncture point, through the universe, and back into your body at another acupuncture point, bringing energy from the universe . . . they are traveling to the prince of the power of the air, That is where the supposed energy is coming from.” (p. 30)

The last sentence of this, attributing the power to Satan, is Byler’s interpretation. But if practitioners of TCM do believe the meridians connect to outside forces, I will confess that that makes me a lot more wary of the whole thing because it smacks of the kind of spiritualism which says we are all connected to the universe. However, my acupuncturist never spoke of such things. I have not at this time looked deeply into the issue but I would ask the following questions:

  • Is the idea that the meridians connect to outside forces part of the original theory behind acupuncture?
  • Is it inherent in acupuncture or can one believe in and practice it without this idea?
  • Does my acupuncturist believe it?

With regard to the use of herbs in TCM, Byler says that “some herbs cannot be recommended because of their occultic uses” (p. 30) and “if they are ‘blessed’ or ‘cursed’ by someone do not ingest them” (p. 31). Here I am reminded of Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians regarding the eating of meat sacrificed to idols. Some Christians, especially those from pagan backgrounds, were bothered that others were consuming such meat. Paul’s response is that since the idols are nothing then the meat itself is fine to eat unless it causes one’s brother to stumble:

“However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” (I Cor. 8:7-9; ESV)

Similarly, I see no reason to avoid herbs just because they may have occultic uses in other contexts or because someone says they are blessed or cursed. However, like Paul, I would agree that if someone’s conscience is bothered they should not participate in such things. The real point of contention, I think, between myself and Dr. Byler is whether such things are a matter of conscience and whether it is ever okay for Christians to be engaged in them or if they are always wrong. He seems to come from a place in which he has seen a lot of believers injure their health, both physical and spiritual, through such things, and he takes a strict stance against them. I am more inclined to say that if the spiritual aspect is not integral to the practice as it stands today then it can be a matter of conscience.

The issue of what one believes comes up again with homeopathy. Homeopathy is a form of medicine in which a minute dose of a substance is given on the theory that like cures like. For example, if one has a stomach ache then a substance that produces stomach pain will be given in a very small, even miniscule, amount. The homeopath we used was a medical doctor (a psychiatrist) but switched to homeopathy because he was so frustrated with giving his patients partial or temporary solutions and he wanted something that would really produce cures that last. He felt he had found this in homeopathy. (As a side note, this once again illustrates to me that alternative providers tend to be more compassionate towards their patients and more interested in real solutions; at least that has been my experience.) Homeopathy was founded by  a man named Samuel Hahnemann. According to Byler, “he believed the body had a vital force that controlled the order of the body and its defenses against disease. He thought that when this vital force or energy was disturbed, it would cause an illness. To him, the symptoms of disease were not bad; they were just the body trying to heal itself . . . Hahnemann used that theory to develop a system of treatment that nudged the body to heal itself by worsening the symptoms instead of suppressing symptoms” (p. 31). There is nothing here that seems outrageous to me. It is really fairly recently that western medicine has had a proper understanding of disease and its causes, The fact that some 18th century German had this theory actually seems to have a lot of merit in my eyes. He may not have been 100% on target but he is correct that the symptoms are not the main problem. Fever for instance is the body’s response to germs to try and burn them off. One must remember that in Hahnemann’s time most people did not understand viruses and bacteria and the role they played. Nor am I put off by the idea that there might be some sort of vital force in the body. I tend to think things are more connected in our bodies than Byler seems to give them credit for. Byler goes on to argue that there is n logic to how homeopathy works. Hahnemann apparently did attribute its effectiveness to a spirit-like power (p. 32). But the fact that we do not know how something works does not put me off it. This is not unique to alternative medicine; such things can be found in western medicine as well. Byler again and again says that if we do not understand fully how something works it must be occultic and the power behind it must be from Satan. I just don’t agree with this.

There is one final quote about homeopathy which Byler includes and which I want to address. He quotes The Complete Book of Homeopathy which says that homeopathy can save souls (p. 32). I have not read the original but even in the short citation Byler gives it is clear that there is a Christian context. The millennial reign of Christ is referred to. I would want to know more about the context before committing myself fully but it sounds to me like this is coming from a post-millennialist view of the end times in which the world is supposed to see a 1000 year period of peace before Christ’s return. This was a common view in the early 20th century. Many Christians saw human progress and expected the world to get better and better through human means such as technology and medicine. My point here is that taken out of context this quote seems daunting — of course homeopathy cannot save souls! But there may be an intellectual context which helps explain it and there does seem at least to be a Christian context in which it was said so I am not willing to throw aside homeopathy altogether based on  this one quote.

It is interesting to me that in one area at least Byler is willing to acknowledge that the history of a practice does not necessarily have bearing on how it is viewed today. As I said above, he is favorable to chiropractors so long as they stick to the physical and do not mix it with other occultic practices. Later on when discussing the Palmer theory he says that “many chiropractors still believe in the Innate Intelligence proposed by D.D. Palmer, the founder of chiropractic” (p. 42). The implication here is that some chiropractors do not believe in this theory though it is part of the origin of their practice and that those who have moved on are acceptable to receive treatment from. So my question for Dr. Byler would be why is it okay to say that chiropractors can practice without subscribing to all the original theory behind it all, but when it comes to other things like acupuncture and homeopathy he dismisses them outright because of their histories?

To sum up, as with most things there is a spectrum of belief. Some might accept most if not all alternative practices; some would rule them all out. Byler tends to be on the strict end of the spectrum and gives only a very few which he accepts under certain circumstances. This is no doubt because he has seen Christians go so wrong with them in his own medical practice. I, on the other hand, would rule out certain alternative practices entirely but others I am willing to accept and make use of. I would say that one should always follow one’s conscience if it is leading away from certain practices. If you are uncomfortable with acupuncture or homeopathy, please do not use them because I said they are okay.

In terms of how we evaluate each individual practice, Byler is very focused on whether something can be proven scientifically. If he cannot explain how it works, he dismisses is as occultic and assumes the powers behind it must be evil. And though he is willing to concede that some chiropractic is okay, for the  most part if there is any hint of spiritualism in the history of a practice he also dismisses it. He is also opposed to anything which seems to see  deeper connection between the physical and the spiritual or any sort of “life force”, whatever one may call it, pervading the body.

My own criteria for evaluating a practice would be slightly different. I do not care much about scientific validation. I do not care much about the history of a practice. Though I would consider such things, they are not the final arbiter for me. I would care about what my own practitioner believes. I would be very wary if they claim to be channeling or tapping  into any sort of larger spiritual power. This is why I rejected and wrote so many posts against Reiki. Another key difference in my mind between Reiki and acupuncture or homeopathy is that something real and physical happens in the latter two. Acupuncture uses needles; homeopathy uses medicines. Both of these are much more real and likely to produce results to me than Reiki which is about the laying on of hands (and actually not usually laying on but just hovering over). This is a somewhat subjective criterion by in my mind there is a real difference here.

Whew! That’s a long post, and I hope I have explained myself well enough, but I am sure there are fuzzy parts. There are still some fuzzy parts in my own head. Any questions?

Nebby

 

 

The High Cost of Holistic Healing (part 2)

Dear Reader,

This is my second post on Dr. Nolan Byler’s book The High Cost of Holistic Healing. In my first post I looked at my own background with regard to medical issues so you would know where I as a reviewer am coming from and also what I can discern of Dr. Byler’s own background and presuppositions.

Now I would like to look more closely at how Dr. Byler evaluates the various forms of alternative medicine. In this post we will look at general principles; in the next we will look at specific practices.

Dr. Byler lists his criteria in two categories, positive and negative ones (pp. 26-27). The positive ones (the ones to which one wants to be able to say yes) are:

  • Is it consistent with biblical teaching?
  • Does it harmonize with what God says about health and healing?
  • Does it make sense scientifically?
  • Is it an act of faith in God? (like anointing with oil)

And the negative ones are:

  • Is it mystical with no credit given to God?
  • Does my spirit have reservations concerning this treatment?
  • Are there powers of darkness involved?
  • Does it involve entering an altered state of consciousness?
  • Does the practitioner rely on healing energy passing through him to me?
  • Does the practitioner refer to a mysterious energy that must be blocked or balanced?
  • Is it based on New Age philosophies?
  • Does it promote that the body as the total healer?

I will not go through each of these, but I would like to make comments on a number of them.

In the first group, the positive questions, my only issue would be with the third one: Does it make sense scientifically? Not that I have a problem with doing things that can be scientifically proven to work. But I am not sure I would use this as a distinguishing criterion. My own very unscientific observation is that there is still quite a lot western medicine does not know. They don’t know what causes migraines. They don’t know what causes a woman to go into labor. They don’t know why my type 1 daughter’s blood sugar rises eight hours after she eats a high fat meal. There may be theories about some of these things but they have changed within my memory. There are not definitive answers. And when it comes to treating illnesses, there seems to be a lot of just poking around trying things till they find the one that works. This was my experience with my son’s headaches. They didn’t know what to do for him; they just tried a bunch of things that had worked for some people previously, but there really was no effort to fit a specific cure to the specific illness. It was no more scientific than what his acupuncturist and homeopath did and perhaps less so. But I am okay with not knowing all the answers. We never will. I don’t have to be able to explain why something works to make use of it.

Turning to the negative questions, those to which one wants to be able to answer no, a number of them deal with the source of healing. And a lot of the issues that I had with Reiki would echo these concerns. The biggest problem I had with it was that it sees healing energy as coming through the practitioner from particular spirit guides. This strikes me as nothing less than voluntary possession by demons and I cannot accept it. So I would second some of these questions. I would add though that western medicine does not seem to me to be inherently more holy on this point. I have a wonderful godly pediatrician for my kids but most doctors I have known are not Christians themselves and I do not think they would attribute any healing to God. On the other hand, my acupuncturist did seem to attribute my son’s healing to God. Byler’s last question asks “Does it promote the body as the total healer?” I know that all healing comes from God but my understanding is that most doctors would attribute healing to very mundane earthly forces, whether the body heals itself or the medicine they give does.  If the practitioners’ beliefs about where healing comes from are so important, I think there are going to be just as many western doctors who fail the test.

Which brings me to another but related issue: to what extent does the practitioner’s belief or the origin of the alternative practices matter? For comparison, I believe that all wisdom comes from God. Your child and mine, when we educate them, learn everything they learn through the power of the Holy Spirit. But if you disagree and do not attribute their learning to God, that doesn’t affect where it comes from. Great scientific breakthroughs and new innovations have come through non-believers, but their ultimate source is always God. I don’t want to take this too far and argue that any healing practices are okay a long as they work. That is not what I believe. As I tried to show in my posts on Reiki, Satan often does do “good” things like healing for his own evil ends. In fact, I would go so far as to say healing is a pretty common way for him to draw people in. If your alternative medicine provider is talking about being some sort of spiritual channel or if he seems to rely on larger, non-personal spiritual forces at work, then I would definitely agree with Byler that you should be wary and probably walk away very quickly.

On the other hand, my own experience with acupuncture and homeopathy did not include such things. I would say the homeopath had a very scientific mindset. He was trained as a medical doctor as well and I don’t think he ever refered to higher energies or anything I would call “New Age”-y. My acupuncturist spoke of the energy chi that is in the body but she did not speak of it being connected to things outside the body and to the extent that she attributed healing to anything beyond herself she seemed to be speaking of one, personal (meaning a Person, not a force) God. We will look more at these specific practices in the next post.

Which brings me to one last point, Dr. Byler seems to have a very mundane view of the body and of healing which brings everything back to physiological forces which we can quantify and measure. He mentions at one point the role of stress in ulcers, but for the most part he seems to reject any connection between our physical bodies and larger emotional or spiritual forces. At one point he says that:

“The idea behind holistic healing is that if one part become sill, then all the other parts become ill as well. It actually relates to New Age thinking.” (p. 16)

I don’t know a lot about New Age thinking but this actually sounds pretty biblical to me. Does Paul not compare the church to a body and say that when one part becomes ill it affects the whole body? He is speaking of spiritual things but the analogy depends upon the physical being true.

Though out physical bodies will die and our spirits live on (till we get resurrected bodies, that is), I do not think that the biblical picture is to view our physical natures as so separate from our spiritual ones. While we are here, they are bound close together and I do think the one can affect the other. I would still be very wary of practitioners who claim to heal the spirit, but I do tend to think that there can be greater forces at work in our bodies than we can quantify with western scientific studies. and I am not willing to say that when Chinese medicine, for instance, speaks of the chi which flows throughout the body that they are not onto something that we have yet to discover. This does not require to believe everything they teach; truth is often hidden among falsehoods and they too may have some measure of truth.

To sum up this far (and I tend to think as I write so I can’t promise that my thoughts won’t change as this series progresses), I would agree with a lot of Byler’s criteria as at least questions to ask oneself. Here are the ones I have no problem with: Is it consistent with biblical teaching? Does it harmonize with what God says about health and healing? Is it mystical with no credit given to God? Does it involve entering an altered state of consciousness? (I haven’t discussed this one but I agree that one should not subject oneself to such things) Does the practitioner rely on healing energy passing through him to me?

As for the others, “Does my spirit have reservations concerning this treatment?” is very subjective but if you have reservations you should certainly at least look into it more before proceeding.  “Are there powers of darkness involved?” almost seems too obvious. I think that is what we are trying to determine, but if you know there are such powers involved, yes, run the other direction. “Does it promote that the body as the total healer?” — I am not sure this doesn’t apply to western medicine as well. And as for “Does the practitioner refer to a mysterious energy that must be blocked or balanced?” and “Is it based on New Age philosophies?” I think we need to return to these two. They have to do with the ideas behind things and I think we may end up needing to evaluate them on a case by case basis. As a kind of preview of what my thought may be in that next post (in which I will look at individual practices more specifically) I wonder if some of these things are not a bit like meat sacrificed to idols in New Testament times. To those who have a background in such things, it does seem like idolatry and by extension demon-activity are definitely involved. But for others the idols behind them really don’t matter; it is meat and it is okay to eat it. So too I plan to ask if the theory and history behind these alternative practices really matters or not.

Until then

Nebby

 

The High Cost of Holistic Healing (part 1)

Dear Reader,

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.

Nebby

Christian Reiki (Part 3!)

Dear Reader,

This is my fourth post on Reiki and my third on Christian Reiki specifically. In the first 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 the most recent, I laid out the reasons I think Reiki is not really very much like the healing and laying on of hands which happens in the Bible and is rather dangerous for Christians to be involved in.

But I would like to wrap up this series by asking one more question: If Reiki does good, how can it be bad?

The main arguments for Christian Reiki seem to fall in two camps. The first looks at things that happen in the Bible and basically says “Reiki is similar to such-and-such so it is okay too.” These are the arguments I looked at in part two of this series.

But the second set of arguments looks at the results of Reiki and argues for it based on its (alleged) positive outcomes. This is based largely on Matthew 7:

‘ “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.'” (Matt. 7:15-20; ESV)

The argument here is that Reiki bears good fruit and therefore is good and from God.

In order to analyze this argument, I think we must first ask if the passage is being properly applied. If Reiki does good, is this enough to justify it? Secondly, we must ask if Reiki really does good or not.

In its immediate context, Jesus is in this passage giving some criteria for recognizing false prophets. I don’t see that this necessarily applies to Reiki. Are its practitioners claiming to be prophets? Not that I have heard thus far. We may still ask if the criteria holds true in a broader environment. Is doing good as sign that one is good? Scripture must interpret Scripture and in this case, I think that we have evidence from elsewhere in the Bible that what seems good on the surface does not always betray good beneath. Things are often turned upside down in God’s world. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery but he told them that though they meant it for evil, God meant it for good. (This is of course a case of God using man’s evil for His good which is the opposite of what we are talking about here.) In the book of Isaiah God calls the Persian King Cyrus His servant (Isa. 44:28; 45:1). He does not mean that Cyrus worshipped Him; there is no evidence of this; but that He in His providence had Cyrus do good for the Israelites (allowing them to return from exile).

I think it is true on one level that good trees produce good fruit, but I also think we must view things from God’s more long-term perspective. Often what seems good to us here and now will prove itself false in the end. It is very similar to the question of why the wicked seem to prosper in this life. Proverbs in particular seems to promise long life and blessings and prosperity to those who are godly and pursue wisdom. And yet Ecclesiastes is all about man’s struggle with the reality of his world: that the wicked seem to prosper while the good perish. The psalmists also often struggled with this reality that does not seem to fit the promises. But the answer they always come to is to persevere in godliness and to trust one’s Creator because God will work it all out in the end so that His promises come true.

I hope I do not seem to drift too far off topic here My point is that I think this statement about the trees and the fruit is similar. Things often for a time do not seem to work out as promised but we must trust that in the end, in God’s time, we will see that they do.

Indeed, the very next paragraph in Matthew 7 seems to imply that there are some who will appear to be doing God’s work who will not be accepted into His kingdom:

““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matt. 7:21-23; ESV)

These people apparently did mighty works like prophesying and casting out demons (and perhaps healing??) and yet they are not counted among God’s people. So I do not think that we can automatically conclude that because something appears good that the person or practice behind it is good.

And then we may also ask what the good Reiki claims to do is. It does not claim to heal specific diseases. It is designed to complement other forms of healing by promoting stress reduction and relaxation. “Reiki treats the whole person including body, emotions, mind and spirit creating many beneficial effects that include relaxation and feelings of peace, security and wellbeing” (“What is Reiki?” from Reiki.org). In Christian Reiki specifically, it is claimed that one’s relationship with God is affected. From ChristianReiki.org, I find the following anecdotal evidence:

“My Christian clients have reported intense experiences of the Holy
Spirit revealing God’s presence and Love during their Reiki sessions.” (“Christian Reiki” by Judith White)

“Personally, I have found that Reiki greatly benefits my prayer life in the peace that I have myself and in the confidence I have in the Lord to hear my prayers for others. Something about the fact that I cannot control Reiki and make it do what I want it to do for a person has deepened my ability to ‘let go and let God’. Less and less do I tell God what I think He should do and how He should do it. More and more I simply take a person or situation before Him in prayer and trust that He knows far better than I what is best.” (“Christian Reiki” by Judith White)

“Some clients report feeling Jesus’ presence and the touch of his hands; others tell about being held and embraced in love. There are accounts from others of diminished physical pain, tumors shrinking, surgeries postponed or not needed at all. Emotional growth and healing of relationships as well as spiritual changes are common place! People come to understand more deeply that their God loves them and separation from God is not truth.” (“Reiki and the Teachings and Values of Jesus” by Marita Aicher-Swartz)

It is interesting to me that Christian Reiki here claims to actually heal disease whereas it seems that secular Reiki (for lack of a better designation) does not. I don’t know quite what to make of that aspect of it.

But at any rate the most broadly made claim for Christian Reiki is that it provides s sense of closeness to God. It is very hard to evaluate another’s spiritual experience and I hesitate to do so, but let me make some general observations:

I quoted Jeremiah 8 last time in which the prophet criticizes the priests who say “peace, peace” when there is no peace (this passage also appears in Jer. 6). So too we must be very wary of giving people a false sense of peace when there is no peace. The true peace that all of us need is to be reconciled to God through the forgiveness of our sins. This is something only Jesus could do and only He can give. Which is not to say giving people physical relief is bad. But it is not the only or the most important thing. And I am concerned that Reiki may give people a feeling of closeness to the divine without giving them the real restoration they need, in which case they are really worse off than before because they are not in a position to see their need of God clearly.

All of which is to say I suppose that I don’t doubt the feelings that these people who have done or had Reiki done to them have. I believe they have the feelings they say. But our feelings like the rest of our human natures are fallen and capable of being easily led astray (see this post on reason being led astray too). We always need to judge ourselves and our experiences by the Word of God.

Another reason I tend to think that the things people experience through Reiki are not genuine is that the picture of Jesus that Reiki’s proponents give does not seem to me to be accurate or well-rounded. That is, the Jesus they describe is different in certain key ways from the Jesus I know and whom I believe to be shown in the Bible. He is a healing Jesus, but there is little talk of Him being a saving Jesus. There is lots of talk about following His example, but little mention of the things he has done for us that we are forever incapable of doing for ourselves.

One example of this, in my opinion, wrong understanding of who Jesus is is here:

“Where did his values come from? I believe they spring from a deep understanding of his Oneness with God, being a “beloved Son” which was the focal point of his entire life. His was a realization and embodiment of a God who was close, personal, and intimately present within human beings.”  (“Reiki and the Teachings and Values of Jesus” by Marita Aicher-Swartz)

The author claims in this article to be Roman Catholic, or at least heavily influenced by the Catholic church, but this is not the Catholic understanding of who Jesus is. He is not an embodiment of God. He is God.

In another article, it says:

“It is not known whether Jesus was born with the ability to heal through touch or if this was something he acquired. His activities between age twelve and thirty are not mentioned in the Bible. It has been suggested by several researchers that during this time Jesus traveled to the East and was schooled in many of the mystical teachings of India, Tibet and China. If this is so, it is possible that Jesus was initiated into a healing technique, during this time.

On the other hand, it is possible that Jesus was taught directly by God or the Holy Spirit or simply had these abilities from birth.” (William Lee Rand, “Similarities between the Healing of Jesus and Reiki,” from ChristianReiki.org)

This is again not a biblical understanding of who Jesus is. Jesus did not learn to heal nor was he taught by God or the Holy Spirit. Orthodox Christianity states that Jesus was and is One with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

I could go on with many more examples but let me just say that if the articles on ChristianReiki.org are any indication, the practitioners of Reiki do not hold to orthodox views of who Jesus is. He is God. He is not just a good example to us though he certainly is that. He is much more. He is the only way to the Father.

Which brings me to one last quote which I think sums up the picture I get of Reiki’s good as its Christian practitioners see it:

“In the words on one student ‘Reiki brings you closer to God.'” (John Curtin, “Reiki Strengthens Connection to God” from ChristianReiki.org)

What is wrong with this? Surely closer to God is good and is what we all strive for? Yes, it is. But we are also told that there is only one way to God, through the death and resurrection of his Son. Reiki cannot save and if it provides a sense of peace where there is no real salvation, it puts souls in jeopardy and its practitioners should be very wary as they may be calling the wrath of God down upon themselves. Are there things which provide peace? Yes, they are the sacraments given us in the Bible, baptism and the Lord’s supper, as well as the Word of God itself (read and preached) and prayer. These are the means God has given us both to draw closer to Him and to find peace.

I think I have one more post in me which will touch on Reiki but it is again on more peripheral subjects. So as a conclusion to this series, let me say that I do not see any clear, definitive connections between Reiki and any of the practices we see in the Bible. There are surface similarities but I think Reiki’s proponents have not delved deeply enough to ask if these are really the same thing. It is not enough to justify a practice to say “look, it is vaguely similar to something we see in God’s Word.” And there is much on the opposite side to make us wary and to caution us that if we pursue Reiki we are entering into very dangerous ground. I do not think it is responsible of Christian people to do so. They put their very souls, and those of others, in jeopardy.

Nebby

Christian Reiki (Part 2)

Dear Reader,

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.

Conclusions

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

                Bible.

           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?

Until then,

Nebby

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

Concerns about Reiki

Dear Reader,

I have come across Reiki recently in three different ways (which I will tell you in a minute). It is something that disturbs me greatly and so I suppose my aim here is to do my little part to argue against it. My own internet searches produced a lot of pro-Reiki sites but not a ton of information from a critical or neutral perspective. The Catholic church does have a position on it which I recommend reading whether you are Catholic or not.

To let you know where I am coming from, I am a Christian, specifically a reformed Christian (or Calvinist of you prefer). I am also a mother of four children. For some reason, God has brought  a lot of medical issues into our lives over the years. My older daughter has type 1 diabetes. My older son had a chronic headache that lasted 2 years and was finally cured through a combination of acupuncture and homeopathy. My younger daughter has bad eczema which at this point we treat through diet and frequent bathing. I am not opposed to alternative medicine. In fact, I think I often like it better than traditional western medicine. My daughter with diabetes needs to take insulin which is a product of western medicine. Without it she would quickly die. But for our other problems, I have found that alternative medicine has provided better answers with fewer side effects. And its practitioners seem to really care about us and our problems and view it as their personal mission to find the solutions we need. I haven’t found that in most medical doctors. So my objection to Reiki has nothing to do with its being alternative.

But before I get to that, these are the ways in which I have encountered Reiki:

1. It was recommended to me as part of a longer list of possible therapies to try when my son, now 12, was having his constant headache which ended up lasting two years. This recommendation came form his neurologist at the headache clinic of Boston Children’s Hospital. This is a very prestigious hospital in the area. While Reiki was nor recommended over other approaches, like acupuncture and physical therapy, it was one for which I was told “Oh, and we offer that here.” Though I knew nothing about it at the time and never ended up looking into it for my son, there is a certain legitimacy that one assumes when it is not just recommended by a respected hospital but it is actually performed at their facility. This seeming endorsement by the medical establishment is one of the things that has me very concerned about Reiki.

2. More recently, I met a woman who is a Reiki master. This means that she teaches others to do Reiki as well as performing it herself. We had one conversation about Reiki and what it is, but she seems to have fallen out of my life for the time being.

3. Very recently, I found out that my children’s beloved art teacher who has been instructing my older daughter for 4 years, is going with her friend to be offering Reiki and other healing arts at her studio.

I don’t know if God is just making me aware of this at this time or if it is truly increasing in prominence, but it sure seems to me like Reiki is becoming popular. So why do I care? And what is Reiki?

Here is the “brief overview” from Reiki.org:

“Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.”

The part of this that concerns me is the “unseen ‘life force energy.'” This is not a neutral life force. The Reiki master I had a conversation with explained to me that it is “a force . . . whatever you want to call it . . .the Unconditional Love . . .” that flows through her to provide healing.

Reiki.org provides a little more on the “life-force” behind Reiki:

“Reiki master and allows the student to tap into an unlimited supply of “life force energy” to improve one’s health and enhance the quality of life.

Its use is not dependent on one’s intellectual capacity or spiritual development and therefore is available to everyone . . .

Because Reiki comes from God, many people find that using Reiki puts them more in touch with the experience of their religion rather than having only an intellectual concept of it.”

The key points for me here are:

1. The practitioner is a conduit. Reiki is not dependent upon their capacity or knowledge.

2. There is a spiritual force which flows through the healer and does the healing.

3. While in the above quote Reiki.org calls this force “God,” this is not meant in the sense of the one, true, Christian God. It seems to be rather an impersonal “life-force.” This seems to be a kind of pantheism.

In his article “Reiki Energy,” William Lee Rand gives a longer definition of what the power behind Reiki is. The word itself is a combination of two words, Rei and Ki. The latter is the same chi which is active in acupuncture. It is the more physical part of Reiki though it is not physical in the sense that it can be located in one place in the body. While it is not something I fully understand, I know that acupuncture, which relies upon the concept of chi, has helped my son.

Rei, on the other hand, seems to be the more spiritual component. Rand says,

“Rei can be defined as the Higher Intelligence that guides the creation and functioning of the universe. Rei is a subtle wisdom that permeates everything, both animate and inanimate. This subtle wisdom guides the evolution of all creation ranging from the unfolding of galaxies to the development of life. On a human level, it is available to help us in times of need and to act as a source of guidance in our lives. Because of its infinite nature, it is all knowing. Rei is also called God and has many other names depending on the culture that has named it.” (William Lee Rand, “Reiki Energy” from Reiki.org)

The combination of these two aspects is what defines Reiki energy. Rand says that

“Reiki can be defined as a non-physical healing energy made up of life force energy that is guided by the Higher Intelligence, or spiritually guided life force energy.” (William Lee Rand, “Reiki Energy” from Reiki.org)

[I could say more here about why this force, though Reiki calls is God, is not the Christian God. There is a whole school of Christian Reiki which seeks to reconcile the two, but because it is a large topic, I will leave it for a follow-up post.]

What does Reiki claim to do?

Reiki does not claim to heal certain physical conditions. Rather, it balances one spiritually and thereby allows healing to occur. Where there is a particular physical illness, it is often recommended in combination with more traditional treatments. IARP, the International Association of Reiki Professionals, says that “A Reiki session may help ease tension and stress and may help support the body to facilitate an environment for healing on all levels- physical, emotional and spiritual” (“Learn about Reiki” from iarp.org).

I am not sure if this is a widespread belief in Reiki, but one site I found focuses on the power that Reiki enables one to have in one’s own life:

“The energy of Reiki works by gently opening you up to the understanding that you are the creator of your own reality – that there is no greater power than you. With this knowing comes the realisation that everything that happens in your life happens because youwant it to…

There are no accidents.

You make what happens happen.

With this awareness comes the realisation that every event in your life, including that of illness, is brought to you, by you – and that it can, therefore, be taken away by you as well.

So the short answer to how Reiki works, therefore, is the energy of Reiki works by bringing your power back to…

YOU”

(“What is Reiki” from Chikara-Reiki-Do.com)

As a Christian, I see this as pretty much the definition of sin – to desire to have all the power in one’s own life rather than to rely upon God Himself.

My problems with Reiki have nothing to do with its effectiveness. It may indeed do a lot of what it claims and enable healing on some levels. I am not saying to avoid it because it is ineffective. Rather, I am mainly concerned that there really is something going on here and that it is not good.

So what I am concerned about?

My concern here goes beyond “people believe something I don’t believe.” Obviously, that is true of a lot of people whether they are monotheists or polytheists or pantheists or other.  My concern is that people I know and care about are playing around with something that I think is really dangerous.

I believe that there are spiritual powers at work in the world. Reiki assumes that these powers are good and that what happens through them is good. But the Bible tells us that there are evil powers out there:

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12; ESV)

In Reiki, the primary force at work is assumed to be good:

“Because Reiki is guided by the higher power, it cannot do harm and always works  for the positive benefit of the client.” (William Lee Rand, “The Nature of Reiki Energy,” from Reiki.org)

It is important to remember that this life-force is also what does the work in Reiki. The practitioner seems to be little more than  a conduit. Which brings me to my major concern — those  evil forces in the world would love for us to be their conduits. They want to be invited in and they don’t need much of an invitation. If you even crack the door in your life to let them in, they will take advantage of that.  We don’t tend to see much demon possession in our country, or perhaps we just don’t recognize it when we do, but there is no reason to think that it ended with New Testament times. Missionaries to other lands still report seeing it, and I see no reason why it can’t happen here and now. Though I suspect that often the demons do not make people foam at the mouth but use far more subtle methods so that we will ignore them and their work can continue.

So this is my concern, that the practitioners of Reiki are inviting into themselves spiritual forces that they cannot control and really know nothing about and whose purpose, I believe is evil and not good, and that the patients who undergo Reiki are also laying themselves open to the activity of demons and unknowingly making themselves more vulnerable to demon activity as well.

But if Reiki heals (which is good) how can it be evil? Doesn’t the very nature of Reiki, accomplishing a good end, show us that this is not the work of evil spiritual forces?

My short answer is no. I just don’t buy the argument that because good may happen through Reiki, that that means good powers are behind it. Sometimes a good God does things that seem evil to us because they serve some role in His good plan. An example would be the trials Job suffered. Clearly, losing his children and wealth were not good things. But God used them to teach Job a lesson and to sanctify him. So too evil powers may at times do things we deem good but that doesn’t mean they are good. What better way to get people to let you in then to pretend to be good? If we saw them for what they are, we would not be asking them into our lives.

And there does seem to be a point at which practitioners of Reiki ask specific spiritual “guides” into their lives. It is not at all clear to me at what point Reiki guides become a part of the equation. I know that they say one can learn to do Reiki through just a few simple lessons (this is largely because it is not the practitioner but the life-force that does the work; so little real training is needed). From what I can gather, one may at some point as one advances come into contact with specific spiritual guides, also sometimes called angels. It is interesting to me that one Reiki site at least says that “One of the first things that I learned is that we cannot receive non-emergency, angelic, or spiritual assistance unless we ask” (Laurelle Shanti Gaia, “An Interview with Reiki Guides and Angels” from ReikiClasses.com). In other words, one has to ask a Reiki guide into their life (see also “Sensing Your Reiki Guides” from Chikara-Reiki-Do.com) just as I would say one may open the door to evil powers to enter.

So again I am left asking, how does one know is the power at work is good or evil? Gaia also asks this question also: “‘How can I be certain that the guides that are working with me are good and are of the light, rather than a negative influence?'”  Her answer is that “The greatest test of discernment is the level of peace in your heart when advice
or direction is offered to you”  (Laurelle Shanti Gaia, “An Interview with Reiki Guides and Angels” from ReikiClasses.com). In other words, it all come down to feelings. Though apparently at times guides will also be seen or heard, just feeling them there seems to be the main way of both sensing their presence and of evaluating them (“Sensing Your Reiki Guides” from Chikara-Reiki-Do.com).

As a Christian, my immediate response is that our feelings too have been affected by the Fall. We cannot inherently trust them. And the more we indulge in practices which mute our consciences and diverge from what God has commanded, the more likely we are to have our feelings be corrupted, to not have them function for us as they were originally supposed to pre-Fall. So while the Reiki practitioner says tat because they have much experience, they can tell from the sense of peace they get that their guide is good, I would say that they have so blunted what their feelings and minds were created for by their practice of Reiki that they can no longer recognize evil (or true good).

We are I suspect at an impasse here. I can only add that Christianity has a set standard by which to measure our feelings and thoughts. We have God’s specific revelation in the form of His Word, the Bible, which corrects us when our own sinful hearts and minds threaten to lead us astray.

Which is a nice segway into the second post on this that I want to do: What about Christian Reiki?

Nebby

Divine Inspiration and Impulse Purchases

Dear Reader,

I just checked the “chronic illness” box in my categories list which I haven’t done in a while. Previously, any posts in this category would have been about my daughter’s type 1 diabetes or perhaps my son’s chronic headache which lasted 2 years but thankfully seems to be over now.

But now we have a new chronic illness to talk about. My mom who lives 600 miles away was up here visiting for the holidays and had a stroke. As I write this she is in the ICU. I don’t tend to post a lot of personal details on this blog. I don’t know if that will change now but if you do read regularly and notice that I get less regular about posting, you will know why. It is hard to say at this point whether I will be able to keep up with blogging or not. I could be too busy. Or it could be a nice diversion. I would like to finish my series on Charlotte Mason’s books and that still has quite a bit to go.

Anyway, I think there will be lots of things I could say about how God has worked/is working in this situation. There is already a lot we are grateful for in terms of timing. Like that my mom wasn’t at home when this happened because she lives (or lived) alone. And that the big stroke came when she was in the hospital already and not in my house or in front of the kids.

But in the realm of really trivial things to be thankful for, I am glad that I made an impulse purchase of  new crockpot about a week ago. I already had a perfectly good crockpot but this new one was $10 and it has a timer so I can set it to cook for a certain number of hours and then go off. At the time I really debated getting it and felt a little silly about it. What do I need two crockpots for? But now that life is a lot more hectic, I am using the crockpot a lot and it is nice to know that there is  a back-up if I don’t wash one before the next day and the timer feature is nice too. So maybe the whole thing wasn’t my impulsive spending as a little divine inspiration from One who knew what He was sending my way.

Nebby

Frustration

Dear Reader,

You may have noticed my posting has been sporadic lately. And a lot of it has been on our medical issues. This one will be no different I’m afraid.

My son had been having some remarkable success with his chronic headache through acupuncture. Unfortunately, last week his acupuncturist got  a bad cold. So she has been unavailable. So we are looking at 15 days between appointments (praying that she will be up to his next scheduled appointment on Wednesday). And his headache is back to being a 3 out of 10 every morning.

And for some reason I feel even more frustrated to have felt like a cure was in our grasp and now we must regress a little. I know in my head that we are way better off that we had been for months and months to at least have something that has worked in the past and presumably will continue to do so. But it is hard to feel so close and then have to come to a grinding halt. I feel like Jonah under his broom tree (was it a broom tree?). It is when God gives me respite and then takes it away that I feel the most frustration.

It does not help that October 19th will make 1 year since this current headache began. One year of headache! Yikes! I can scarcely believe it. I did not even know people could have headaches for so long. I am very glad we are approaching that point with at least some hope in sight. But I want to be able to hold onto that relief. And God seems to be holding it just out of my reach instead.

Interestingly enough, one week later, October 26th, will have 8 years since my daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Octobers don’t seem to be good months for us.

Nebby

Thoughts on Acupuncture

Dear Reader,

Acupuncture has really been helping my son with chronic headaches. To sum up, he has basically had a headache for 11 months now. After 2 neurologists, lots of tests, and too many prescription meds, and physical therapy, acupuncture is the only thing that has made a difference. It hasn’t gotten rid of the headaches all together but it is definitely helping and each time shows a little more success.

I was sharing this with some old friends this weekend whom I don’t see often. In a couple of different conversations with medically trained people the attitude was “that’s great that acupuncture is working” But then when I would go on to talk about our acupuncturist’s diagnosis that my son has what is called in Chinese medicine “dampness,” these friends completely turned off. They seemed to think it was all crazy. And I have to admit that it sounds a little crazy to me. It is foreign to my thinking. But the acupuncturist is able to say, I think he has dampness. This is how we treat it. And then she does the treatment and it gets rid of the headache (just not permanently yet; it will come back the next day to varying degrees). So how is that any crazier than the neurologist who says “I think he has migraine (or tension headache or new persistent daily headache; they didn’t agree on his diagnosis), here is how we treat it” and they give prescription meds which not only have side effects but don’t do anything for his head. So if one works and the other doesn’t, who’s to say that it is not the western medicine which is crazy here? Why should I expect that these strong medicines which are always designed originally for some other problem like depression or seizures should be a better choice for my son than needles with no side effects? And if the dampness treatment works, doesn’t that give some confirmation to the diagnosis as well as the reliability of Chinese medicine?

Now, I am not completely sold that Chinese medicine is the way to go for everything. I think it probably has some things right and western medicine probably has some right (and I am very grateful for the insulin that keeps my daughter alive). And there is probably a lot neither really knows enough about yet. My objection is to people, particularly medical personnel, who dismiss what works out of hand in  favor of what they are more familiar with.

Nebby

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