When the Texas-based publication, The Baptist Standard, published an article on the predominately raw food, vegan Hallelujah Dietsm, letters to the editor decried The Baptist Standard for promoting New Age philosophy. Rev. George Malkmus, the creator of the Hallelujah Dietsm, answers this criticism by asserting that those in the New Age movement are simply using a diet that God Himself instituted in the Bible (Genesis 1:29), and that the New Agers are healthy because of it, just like Christians would be if they followed the diet.
But nonetheless this issue should be expounded on, as it contains a frequent criticism of the raw food movement and other important health-related issues. Admittedly, those involved in a health-based approach to healing are an eclectic group of people and to say they cover a broad range of the religious spectrum is an understatement.
The main question on this: Is it unchristian for a Christian to participate in something simply because there are some fringe elements of society involved in its promotion? Since the origin of the vegan movement is Biblical — Genesis 1:29 “Then God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you.'” — it is not unchristian to participate in it simply because it has been hijacked by the cults. Furthermore, it is not biblical to say that eating meat is a sin, however, since God did introduce meat into our diet at a later date in the Bible (Gen 9:2-4). Eating meat should be treated as a health issue, not a moral issue.
Invariably someone investigating the raw-food and natural-healing movements is going to find it intersecting with Eastern philosophy at some point. For example, Dr. Norman Walker, a Christian who promoted the eating of natural, raw food, also practiced foot reflexology — a practice related to acupuncture that can be traced back to Eastern medicine. Another example of this intersection of traditional Christian and Eastern ideas is the YMCA, which promotes itself as a Christian organization, yet offers classes in yoga and Tai Chi, both of which are easily traced back to Eastern origins.
If a Christian believes it is wrong to participate in these practices simply because of their unchristian origins, he commits what is known as a “genetic fallacy.” This error happens when someone is arguing to dismiss an idea simply because of where it originated. However, as B.J. Oropeza commented in an article for the Christian Research Institute, “If we were consistent in applying this kind of logic, we should also abandon astronomy because its roots are in the practice of astrology.”
While alternative medicine may owe a great deal to Eastern medicine, the Easterners actually owe a great deal to God the Creator whether they realize or acknowledge Him. The fundamental problem with Eastern medicine for Christians is its concept of “chi,” which is also sometimes referred to as a “life force.” The New Age, metaphysical terms “Innate Intelligence” or “God Within” are also related to chi in concept. Chi is considered an invisible energy that runs through everything in the universe, including the body, and Eastern medicine teaches that this energy can be “tapped into” for health benefits.
While it may be possible, such as is the case with martial arts or yoga, to practice just the physical aspects and totally reject the spiritual aspects of these practices, keep in mind that whether it be purely physical or purely spiritual, chi applies equally to both for those who espouse Eastern philosophy. In general, orthodox Christianity considers chi to be unbiblical at best and cultic or demonic at worst. Elliot Miller, writing on the “chi” involved with meridian therapy (e.g., acupuncture, acupressure), Applied Kinesiology, homeopathy, reflexology, polarity therapy, Therapeutic Touch, and (at least in its original theory) chiropractic, for an article for the Christian Research Institute, wrote:
While bioenergy has resisted the scrutiny of hard science, it is not difficult to classify it in terms of the sociological setting in which it has historically appeared: it is a fundamental feature of spiritistic paganism. Parapsychologist Thelma Moss, who has extensively researched healing energies, provides a few examples: “Is there a common thread that can be discerned through these various phenomena of healing? I believe so. The Hindus call it ‘prana,’ the Hawaiians ‘mana,’ the Chinese ‘ch’i,’ and Hippocrates called it the ‘heat oozing out of my hand.’ Mesmer ‘animal magnetism,’ and Quimby ‘mind force.’ I believe they were all referring to the same invisible energy.”
Wherever it has appeared — in ancient paganism, modern occultism, or parapsychological research — this “life force” has been accompanied by altered states of consciousness, psychic phenomena, and contact with spirits. Additionally, those who are capable of perceiving, and adept at manipulating, this force invariably are shamans (e.g., witch doctors), “sensitives,” or psychics, thoroughly immersed in the pagan/occult world.
What Mr. Miller failed to point out, however, is that while some methods of healing have failed the scrutiny of science, these methods of healing, at least to some extent, have been practiced successfully in totally secular environments which did not involve shamans, psychics, or witch doctors. Chiropractic, for example, was founded by Dr. Daniel David Palmer, who considered himself a “Magnetic Healer,” which is a cross-between massage and meridian therapies (related to acupuncture and Chinese medicine), but a very large percentage of chiropractic doctors approach their practice from a purely physical aspect and offer good results in the process.
The Chinese spent a great deal of time studying the effects of herbs and mapping out physical nerve paths in the body. Rather than seeing this as part of Eastern philosophy, another option here is that it was a purely secular science onto which the Chinese built a religious system. Therefore, rather than automatically being demonic or pagan, it could be that some practices do run counter to Christian beliefs and others are simply medicine practiced in the name of false philosophy and counterfeit religion. And for a Christian, the latter issue could be somewhat analogous to the issue of a Christian eating meat that had been offered to idols, which is considered acceptable for Christians as long as it does not cause a weaker brother to fall (1 Cor 8:1-13).
For those unfamiliar with this issue, meat offered to idols encompassed most of the meat sold at market for the Christians of Corinth to eat. Some Christians ate freely of the meat, while others abstained because they thought to eat meat offered to idols would involve them in pagan rituals — the debate over the issue between the two groups was becoming heated and divisive. In his letter to the Corinthians addressing the matter, the Apostle Paul’s opinion was basically, “Meat offered to these make-believe gods has no effect on you. You are free to eat this meat.” Paule went on to say, again paraphrased, “However, do not allow your freedom to become a stumbling block for other, younger and weaker brothers and sisters.”
In general, the therapies that seem acceptable for Christians should be ones that involve specific nerve energy paths, such as foot reflexology and other “zone” or meridian therapies. Despite the fact that those who practice Eastern medicine would call this energy “chi,” it is a physical therapy, as any doctor of chiropractic could attest to. The therapies that should be avoided by Christians are ones that involve any type of “energy” that comes from outside the body, such as shamans who claim to be “harnessing” energy from the universe. Also problematic for Christians is the practice of meditation, or clearing the mind of all thought, usually with the goal of reaching an “altered state” of consciousness.
The issue of causing a weaker Christian to be led astray is a real issue. For example, Yoga Journal magazine offers several excellent sections on the medical benefits of physical stretching and also offers good information on the medicinal uses of herbs, but the rest of the magazine offers Eastern and New Age philosophy and questionable advertising at every turn of the page. It would be wise, even though the physical aspects of yoga could benefit a person, not to give the magazine as a gift to someone who may be led astray by doing so.
The Christian Research Institute recommends “Christians not to go to holistic healers, even in such widely-accepted and sometimes innocuous practices as chiropractic, without first inquiring as to their beliefs and practices.” While this is something more Christians should consider, be it for a health practitioner or a car mechanic, why is there no call to also inquire of the beliefs of AMA-approved medical doctors? The implication is that unbelieving medical doctors, who prescribe drugs, including dangerous drugs such as Prozac, Ritalin and other mood-altering drugs with little or no provocation are fine since they have passed the test of “hard” science, but if a doctor of chiropractic holds to an unbiblical belief system, a Christian’s salvation suddenly comes into jeopardy? However, ungodliness is ungodliness, no matter the umbrella.
Isn’t it also interesting that the standard used by Christians in a position of authority to judge non-conventional fields of medicine is whether or not these fields have been accepted by science, which itself is often at odds with Christian beliefs. Western medicine, which long ago abandoned its creed of “First do no harm,” instead worships at the alter of money, employing ungodly but lucrative methods of health “care,” including surgery, poisonous medications, and radiation, in place of much safer, less invasive forms of treatment that are not as profitable.
And even if the above examples of ungodliness in orthodox medicine could somehow be reconciled with Christianity, there are still many unbiblical facets to it. For example, there is nothing Christian about its alliance with socialistic state and federal governments, which it uses to unfairly discriminate against alternatives in health care; to force vaccination programs onto the unwilling; to force treatments onto minors over the objections of their parents; to use its monopoly standing to maintain artificially high prices; and to attempt to regulate vitamins and supplements in an attempt to eliminate competition. Remember also, it was secular science which gave us the the unchristian theory of evolution and which uses the same godless worldview to justify abortion.
In reality, a Christian would be much more blessed to have effective foot reflexology done on him by an unchristian doctor than to visit a so-called Christian medical doctor who elevates profit over safety to the point that it has become pure idolatry. Which of the two doctors would be honoring God and His creative work? But a Christian would be even more blessed to find a Christian doctor like Dr. Norman Walker or Dr. Lorraine Day, who employ natural healing methods that helps the body heal itself, just as God designed it to do.
Before Christians take a hard-line stance against everything Eastern, consider the practices of yoga and fasting. The testimony from those who water-fast and those who practice yoga could almost be interchangeable. Both claim medical benefits that so-called “hard” science have rejected. Both claim spiritual benefits also immeasurable by science. Both have been traced back to Ayurvedic medicine, the ancient Hindu science of health and medicine, with fasting being mentioned in ancient Hindu texts that predate written manuscripts of our Bible by thousands of years. Had fasting not been mentioned favorably in the Bible itself, it almost certainly would be identified by orthodox Christianity today as originating from false religions or regarded as New Age movement pseudo-science.
In the end, these issues should be tested against scripture, just as all issues should be, to discern right from wrong and avoid deception (2 Timothy 3:16-17), with certain medical practices evaluated on a case by case basis, rather than with blanketed rejection of entire fields of health care simply because of their origin.