Archive for the ‘Diet and Health’ 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?




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



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.


THM Recipe: Peanut Butter Muffins (S)

Dear Reader,

Looking for something a little more indulgent? I have a new variant of these muffins with chocolate . . .mmmm . . .  Check it out here.

Here once again is a Trim Healthy Mama recipe. These muffins are dense but tasty. They make a nice breakfast or snack.

Peanut Butter Muffins (S):


1/2 c flax seed meal

1/2 c defatted peanut flour

1/3 c xylitol

stevia to taste (optional)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 c peanut butter

1 c almond milk

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs or 1/3 c egg whites


Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients well (Gluten-free flours can take  a few minutes to absorb the moisture so if it seems liquid let it sit  a bit and then stir again before adding more dry ingredients). Divide batter among greased muffin cups. Bake 30 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins.

Peanut Butter Muffins (S)

Peanut Butter Muffins (S)




Trim Healthy Mama and the Bible

Dear Reader,

Until recently I had been keeping to a (very) modified paleo diet, essentially a  low grain diet. And it had initially been doing what I wanted it to, which is not so much weight loss as relieving other symptoms. But I was never convinced by the premise of the paleo life-style which is basically that we should do things as our cavemen ancestors did. While I am rather agnostic on the topic of evolution, I imagine the reasoning behind this diet doesn’t sit well with a lot of Christians.

So I was intrigued to run across the book Trim Healthy Mama which is by two sisters and Christians and claims to have much more of a biblical basis. There is a lot I could say about the diet overall, but I want to stick in this post to its biblical basis and how the book uses Scripture.

I did not get the impression that the book’s authors, Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett, are saying this is the only, biblical way to eat though they do clearly reject some other approaches as not adhering to biblical principles. The basic argument of this book is that to be as healthy as possible (and, yes, to lose weight if necessary) one should not eat fat and carbs together. Their position rests on scientific studies which show how the body uses different sources of fuel. But it also rests on at least one theological plank: the belief that no foods given us by God should be entirely excluded from our diet. Thus, they reject paleo with its lack of all grains, legumes, etc. They also reject vegetarianism and diets like Atkins which eliminate all carbs. Their approach is about when and how to eat the different groups but they are very clear that no one group should be entirely excluded from the diet.

I like this presupposition. I do think it is biblical. The verse that comes to mind for me is “Let no man call unclean what God has declared clean” (I am paraphrasing off the top of my head here as I can’t immediately find the reference). I will admit that while eliminating gluten, it has always seemed very odd to me that we should get rid of a food (bread) which has been such a staple in the Bible and even bears a large theological significance (Jesus being the bread of life; the bread representing His body in communion). Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that my one daughter gets bad eczema from gluten (among other things) or that it seems to make me mildly sick. But it is still nice to feel that such essential foods are in some measure redeemed.

In terms of the diet’s theological basis, this one principle seems to be the main guiding idea. But the authors also refer to other biblical passages at times to bolster their position. And it is when they get to these that I tend to get frustrated. They spend quite a while discussing the meal Abraham fed to his angelic visitors in Genesis 18. They make much of the fact that he seems to have fed them only one small cake of bread each but much meat. And it does seem like that is what they were given, but one must ask is this a prescriptive or a descriptive passage? Sometimes God is telling us what to do, either directly (“Thou shalt . . .”) or indirectly; these are prescriptive passages.But sometimes the Bible is just telling what people did. There are certainly many things biblical characters, even basically good ones, do that we are not supposed to emulate. So one must ask, are we supposed to copy Abraham in how he fed his visitors? I don’t think so. Basically, Serene and Pearl seem to have substituted for the paleo question “How would the cavemen have done it?” their own new question “How would the patriarchs have done it?” Though to be fair, while they do seem to focus on Abraham a lot, I don’t think they limit their reasoning to him or even to the Old Testament. It is more like “How would Bible people have done it?”

And I am just not convinced that this is a legitimate question. I do believe the Bible is the only infallible rule for faith and life. But it is not our only guide nor does it tell us everything about everything. Just as I don’t believe the Bible tells us all the answers about how to educate our kids, I also don’t believe it tells us how and what to eat. I like the book’s use of the general principle of not eliminating food groups unnecessarily, and also enjoying the foods God has given us, but I think the authors push their argument too far when they look for specifics.

And they do not do so consistently. The use the example of Abraham when it suits their purpose (“Look, we aren’t supposed to eat too much bread at once and need lots of protein!”), but they reject other passages which do not suit their needs. For example, honey is mentioned frequently in the Bible and is clearly viewed as wonderful delicacy, but the Trim Healthy Mama diet rejects the use of honey and uses only sweeteners like Stevia and Xylitol. Their argument in this case is that because our lifestyles have changed and we are so much more sedentary we no longer need or should use such calorie-packed foods. But could we not make similar arguments about Abraham’s meal? Why not say his visitors were going no a journey and therefore needed more protein but we who have cars to take us everywhere no longer do? Their application of biblical passages is inconsistent and seems to be used only to serve their purposes and back up decisions they have already made (“protein good, bread limited, honey never”).

Furthermore, while one sister, Serene, is more of a food purist, the book itself advocates a lot of foods which simply did not exist in Bible times, like low carb pita bread and the sweeteners mentioned above. Nor do they take into account that the Bible itself spans thousands of years and includes many different kinds of people. Abraham was pretty wealthy; presumably most Israelites ate far less meat.

Before closing, I just want to add that there is one chapter in this book on . . . . ahem . . . marital relations . . . which uses another very sketchy bit of exegesis which I don’t buy at all. If you are a mature married person, you can read it for yourself and see what I mean.

So my conclusion on Trim Healthy Mama is that I do agree in principle with their basic theological premises, but I do not like how they use the Bible beyond that. Nor do I think it is necessary to their argument. I would say this diet is based far more upon scientific studies and what they have found works in their own lives, and that is fine. I think they would be better off if they stuck to that and did not try to incorporate more Bible in their dietary advice.

Another time, perhaps, I will discuss the diet itself.


Reiki, Holistic Healing, Demonolgy

Concerns about Reiki

Christian Reiki parts 1, 2, and 3

Reiki, Gnosticism and Jesus

Satan Cast Out book review

Two books on demonolgy

Charlotte Mason on Reiki

High Cost of Holistic Healing: part 1, part 2, and part 3

Thoughts of Charlotte Mason which Relate to Reiki

Dear Reader,

I suppose it is just a matter of me thinking about something so much that I begin to see it everywhere. How else can I explain that the passage I read for a Charlotte Mason blog carnival seems to relate to the arguments I have been making against Reiki? Surely, Charlotte knew nothing of Reiki itself, and yet I find her making some of the points I have been trying to make.

One such point is that we must not scorn the small, ordinary miracles God gives us. There is much attraction in spiritual gifts and the idea that I can do some sort of miraculous healing. But God most often works through the ordinary means He has given us. And there is great spiritual value in being able to perceive Him working in these small ways. here is how Charlotte puts it:

“Children should be brought up, too, to perceive that a miracle is not less a miracle because it occurs so constantly and regularly that we call it a law; that sap rises in a tree, that a boy is born with his uncle’s eyes, that an answer that we can perceive comes to our serious prayers; these things are not the less miracles because they happen frequently or invariably, and because we have ceased to wonder about them. No doubt so did the people of Jerusalem when our Lord performed many miracles in their streets.” (“The Way of Reason” from Towards a Philosophy of Education, p.148)

The second point, from this same chapter of Charlotte’s, is that we do not always need to be freed from our discomforts. Reiki claims to do good by providing a sense of peace and perhaps a feeling of closeness to the divine. But my point has been that such feelings cam lead us astray b giving us a false sense of peace and that God does not always will to provide us with relief and comfort in life. Charlotte says:

“Again, if we wish children to keep clear of all the religious clamours in the air, we must help them to understand what religion is––[What Religion Is, by Bernard Bosanquet, D.C.L.]

“Will religion guarantee me my private and personal happiness? To this on the whole I think we must answer, No; and if we approach it with a view to such happiness, then most certainly and absolutely No.”

Here is a final and emphatic answer to the quasi religious offers which are being clamourously pressed upon hesitating souls. Ease of body is offered to these, relief of mind, reparation of loss, even of the final loss when those they love pass away. We may call upon mediums, converse through table-rappings, be healed by faith,––faith, that is, in the power of a Healer who manipulates us. Sin is not for us, nor sorrow for sin. We may live in continual odious self-complacency, remote from the anxious struggling souls about us, because, forsooth, there is no sin, sorrow, anxiety or pain, if we will that these things shall not be. That is to say, religion will “guarantee me my private and personal happiness,” will make me immune from every distress and misery of life; and this happy immunity is all a matter within the power of my own will; the person that matters in my religion is myself only. The office of religion for me in such a case is to remove all uneasiness, bodily and spiritual, and to float me into a Nirvana of undisturbed self-complacency. But we must answer with Professor Bosanquet, “absolutely NO.” True religion will not do this for me because the final form of the religion that will do these things is idolatry, self-worship, with no intention beyond self.”

To go on with our quotation,––

“Well, but if not that then what? We esteem the thing as good and great, but if it simply does nothing for us, how is it to be anything to us? But the answer was the answer to the question and it might be that to a question sounding but slightly different, a very different answer would be returned. We might ask, for instance, ‘does it make my life more worth living?’ And the answer to this might be,––’It is the only thing that makes life worth living at all.'”

In a word, “I want, am made for and must have a God.”” (pp.149-150)

Charlotte may not have known Reiki, but it seems people were into “table-rapping” and the like in her day, and she too saw that these things often provide a sense of false complacency. All of which makes me think that there really is nothing new under the sun.


Reiki, Gnosticism, and Jesus

Dear Reader,

This time I really think this is my last post on Reiki (see previous ones here, here, here and here). There are just a few more claims on that I want to address. Really it is one long passage from the article entitles “Similarities between the Healing of Jesus and Reiki” by William Lee Rand:

“The fact that Jesus had secret teachings he gave only to those who he had given healing power is clearly indicated in Matthew 13:10-11 and Mark 4:10-12 & 34. Secret knowledge is also part of the Reiki teachings in that the symbols as well as the process of doing attunements are traditionally kept secret and only made available to those who take a Reiki class.

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. There is some good information indicating that the healing methods of Jesus were preserved by the Church of the East and passed on by it’s missionaries who traveled along the Silk Road and other trade routes to India, Tibet and China. It is possible that this information on healing could have been incorporated into the religious teachings of the East and therefore could have been the original source of the Reiki techniques that were used by Dr. Usui.

The early followers of Jesus’ teachings were made up of several groups including the Docetists, the Marcionites, the Ebionites, the Thomasines, the Carpocratians and the Gnostics. The Gnostics and some of the other groups practiced laying on of hands and professed to have a secret knowledge that had been passed on to them by Jesus and his disciples. They were united by their core beliefs which included: a personal experience of Jesus or the “kingdom of heaven within,” their freedom and lack of rules, guidelines or creeds and their reliance on inspiration and inner guidance. Their existence is attested to by the Gnostic gospels which are part of the Nag Hammadi Library which was discovered in Egypt in 1945. The fact that Jesus had additional teachings not recorded in the Bible is attested to in a letter written in the second century AD by the early Church father, Clement of Alexandria. In Clement’s letter, he spoke of a secret gospel of Mark which was based on the normal canonical one but with additions for special followers of Jesus, referred to as “those who were being perfected” and “those who are being initiated into the great mysteries.”

When Christianity became organized after the second century, its teachings were centered around faith and the official teachings of the church, rather than healing or “good works” and inner guidance as practiced by the Gnostics. At this time, those promoting the organization of the church began subduing and banishing those Gnostics and others who would not conform to the authority of the newly developing Church. In addition they tried to destroy the Gnostic gospels. With the elimination of the Gnostics and the establishment of the Official Christian Church, the practice of laying on hands by lay Christians was mostly forgotten.

Jesus possessed great confidence in his ability and was able to heal in an instantaneous way with spectacular results. It is clear that he had perfected many skills and used them in conjunction to get the results he created. Clearly the Bible indicates that he did healing by laying on hands and also indicated that we could do the same. The teachings of Jesus, as well as the example he set are a great inspiration for us.”

There is a lot in here to unpack and I am not sure I am going to get to it all. All the stuff about Jesus possibly going to place like China and Tibet is pure speculation with no evidence behind it. You notice Mr. Rand says “its has been suggested by several researchers” but there is no indication of who these people are or what their qualifications are. I doubt that they are serious New Testament scholars.  The indication from the biblical texts is rather that Jesus grew up, lived, and worked in Nazareth in Galilee. The people there apparently knew him, recognized him as a Galilean, and were quite surprised when he began his ministry among them.

Mr. Rand also speaks of Jesus perfecting his skills at healing. As I discussed in my most recent post on this, such language shows a false understanding of who Jesus is. He is not merely a human who learned certain skills. He was and is God. He did not have to learn to heal. Nor did he have a “method” that he could pass along.

There is also much made of supposed secret knowledge which Christ passed on to his disciples. Once again, the interpretive technique of Reiki’s proponents seems to be “look, something vaguely similar to Reiki; that gives Reiki legitimacy.” But Mr. Rand is not actually saying that the knowledge Jesus gave his disciples is Reiki because based on the context, he can’t. The “secret” knowledge that Matthew and Mark mention is simply the interpretation of the parable of the sower which is secret not because it is unavailable to others but because they fail to understand it at the time. For that matter, the disciples also do not understand it until Jesus explains.

All this is then linked to Gnosticism. In case you don’t know, Gnosticism was a heresy (actually not just Christian there were also Gnostic schools of thought in Judaism and other religions) which spurned the material world and the body and elevated the spiritual. This could play out in two ways. On one hand, it might lead to licentiousness if one believed that since the body doesn’t matter we can do whatever we like with it. More often, however, it leads to an extreme asceticism as one spurns the physical world in favor of the spiritual. There are also many more aspects of Gnosticism. For example, since the physical world is evil, they believed the supreme God who is good could not have created it and therefore they posit a lesser god who is basically a bumbling fool and created our world. They also did not believe that Jesus was really man, because if the body is evil, why would God stoop to take it on? His humanity was only an illusion.

Frankly, other than their desire to see secret knowledge passed on somehow, I don’t see why Gnosticism appeals to practitioners of Reiki. As healers, they are very focused on the body and they even make a big deal of using a physical means, their hands, to accomplish it. But Gnosticism rejects the physical world. I think a real Gnostic would say that if your body is suffering it does not matter since the physical world is all evil anyway and one should rise above it. These are people who often sought out suffering through extreme physical rigor; they did not seek relief from it.

And then there is the matter of how this supposedly secret knowledge is handled today. If Reiki is a form of secret knowledge passed down through the millenia from Jesus on, how do its proponents handle that knowledge today? They say that anyone can learn it by simply signing up, paying, and taking a weekend seminar. Gnostics were Gnostics because they wanted to feel special and think that they had knowledge not everyone could get. If Reiki is that knowledge, it is now being sold to anyone who wants it. One of the chief selling points of Reiki is that anyone can do it with only a little training.

And then there is the whole issue of money. Why must I pay for a seminar to learn Reiki? If this is secret knowledge passed down from Jesus, how can money be charged for it? Do you know who else tried to buy the power to do miracles and to heal? Simon Magnus, the magician in Acts 8. He was severely rebuked by Peter for this and of course was not able to buy such power. Legend has it that he went on to be the founder of Christian Gnosticism. Interesting connection, huh? The power by which Jesus and his followers healed was the power of the Holy Spirit. Acts shows us that one cannot buy this power, nor can one acquire it through a weekend seminar.

The short story here is what Mr. Rand says himself — groups such as the Gnostics, whom he wishes to connect Reiki to, base their beliefs on “a personal experience of Jesus or the ‘kingdom of heaven within,’ their freedom and lack of rules, guidelines or creeds and their reliance on inspiration and inner guidance.” In other words, their beliefs, and those of Reiki’s modern proponents as well, are based upon their own feelings. They do not rely upon or accept any external standard of what is right and wrong. They do not defer to the absolute standard found in the Word of God. They do not care about the historic creeds of the church and who they say Jesus is.

I asked many posts ago “Can there be Christian Reiki?” The answer is here: no, not if by Christian we mean that it is in line with the Bible or adheres to the historic creeds of the church and who they say Jesus is. They may call themselves Christian but if you are considering getting involved in Reiki you should know that what they present as “Christian” Reiki is not in line with the beliefs of orthodox Christianity.


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 In Christian Reiki specifically, it is claimed that one’s relationship with God is affected. From, 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

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 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

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.


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 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

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

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 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

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

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

But Jesus did not just give a sense of relaxation but forgiveness of sins. This is seen, for instance, in Matthew 9:1-3 in which Jesus does not immediately heal a paralytic’s body but first tells him that his sins are forgiven. The Pharisees rightly understood this as blasphemy because only God can forgive sins.

True peace comes only through a right relationship with God. Any such restoration is only possible through repentance and the forgiveness of one’s sins. And forgiveness of sins comes only through the work of Christ who was the perfect sacrifice, the only one capable of atoning for our sins.

Jesus’ healings were astounding. But the defenders of  Reiki seem to focus on them to the exclusion of His much more important work, His atonement for our sins through His death on the cross. I am also very wary of any practice which claims to provide peace or  a feeling of closeness with God without providing the real forgiveness and restoration that the human soul needs.


As I near the end of this article, I will admit that I don’t feel I have made an air-tight argument against Reiki. Of course, I also do not feel that the other side has made an air-tight argument for it. The Bible does not mention Reiki by name so neither of us is going to be able to point to one passage and say “here is the proof of my position.” Rather, we each bring forward arguments on our side in the hope that their combined evidence is overwhelming. For my part, here are the points I would like to emphasize for any Christians who may be considering (or already are) practicing Reiki:

1. The Bible does talk about healing and healing is good and is a sign of God’s kingdom. But there are lots of ways to heal. That does not mean they are all necessarily right or justifiable. We must still ask if Reki itself is biblical.

2. Reiki uses hands. The Bible talks a lot about healing through the laying on of hands. I am not convinced that these two are done in the same way nor that there is a significant connection made here. There are also many other ways to heal with one’s hands. The major differences I see are:

           a. Hands are not usually actually laid on in Reiki.

           b. The laying on of hands requires some sort of God-given, delegated authority in the


           c. I don’t believe God uses people as conduits.

           d. Healings in the Bible point to the legitimacy of the gospel message. I do not see

                  that Reiki is used in this way as an accompaniment ot the Word of God or with

                  the main goal of bringing glory to Him.

In addition, I think that there are also some very good reasons for Christians to avoid Reiki which are:

3. There is a danger of branching off into necromancy. Some may protest that this is not a part of proper Reiki and that is  no doubt true but my own experience is that one of the people I know who is engaged in Reiki is also engaged in trying to contact the dead. This is specifically forbidden by Scripture and is of such danger that we should be wary of anything that tends in that direction.

4. The use of spirit guides, even ones that are supposed to be good angels or saints, also is very dangerous. We may not be able to discern good spirits from evil ones. A proper angel is a messenger of God and only works at is bidding and never accepts glory or praise for himself. Contacting the saints really borders on necromancy for me too. Good dead people are still dead people. King Saul was condemned for contacting Samuel though the latter was a prophet and man of God.

5. A last reason I am very wary of Reiki is that is promises as sense of relaxation or fulfillment without addressing the real reason people need healing (their sin and consequent broken relationship with God) and the only way they can get it (forgiveness of sins bought by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus). While healing the body is a good thing, I am skeptical of a practice that seems to elevate it without pointing to the real need the human soul has. It reminds me of the leaders in Jeremiah’s day to whom the prophet said:

“They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 8:11; ESV)

Sometimes healing the body without healing the soul may be worse than doing nothing. Which will lead me nicely into the next post in this series in which I plan to discuss the question: How can Reiki be bad if it does good?

Until then,