Alternative Medicine – Important Questions

Over the past 15 to 20 years alternative forms of health care have gone from being on the fringe to being main stream. Years ago when we had sickness, we relied on family remedies that had been passed on from generation to generation and, if these failed, we had conventional Western medicine. Today, in many ways, we are less likely to be satisfied with our age old family remedies, and we are increasingly suspicious of conventional Western medicine. (Our suspicion of traditional Western medicine play a smaller role when we are faced with very severe problems, such as a major car accident) Instead of trusting in traditional Western medicine, we are increasingly looking to alternatives such as:

acupuncture, tai chai, homeopathy, chiropractic, reflexology, cranial sacral therapy, bioenergetics, yoga, therapeutic touch, message therapy, etc., etc.

Alternative therapies are many and varied, and from a lot of different sources. Some of them work well, some of them do very little, and some can cause harm. From a Christian perspective, the harm can be physical harm, but it may also include spiritual harm. How does one go about weighing the risks and benefits of various therapies?

The need to consider the risks and benefits is also true with therapies used in traditional Western medicine. It seems to me, many people are more inclined to seek out the truth about risks and benefits of traditional Western medicine than they are with alternative therapies. This may be because one of the principles of traditional Western medicine is to seek out the truth about risks and benefits of what is done.

Many alternative therapies claim to be “holistic,” meaning that they claim to take into account the whole person, including mind, body and soul. This means that many of these alternative therapies propose to deal with more than just the physical body but to deal also with the soul or spirit. What one practitioner means by spirit or spirituality and what another person means can be quite different depending on the underlying belief system or world view that they hold to. What a Christian understands and accepts about spirituality is likely to be different than one whose spirituality is from a non-Christian source. This will make some alternative therapies unacceptable to some people.

Some alternative therapies have originated from non-Christian or pagan belief systems, but seem to no longer be connected to their pagan origins. This is also true of traditional Western medicine, whose roots can be traced back to Greek philosophies. To what extent do the origins of a particular therapy matter? How do we decide?

I believe aspects of some alternative therapies, as with some traditional Western medicine, can be used without compromising or denying biblical Christian beliefs, while other aspects should be used only cautiously, if at all. There are some alternative therapies that require the patient to “buy into” anti-Christian philosophies. These should be avoided.  Again, the question arises, how do we decide?

When seeking out advice from any source, it is important to ask if the advice is good? Should it be followed? How do we decide?

I hope in future blog postings, under the heading of alternative medicine, to try to outline some principles to help one decide. I may, as well, comment on a few specific therapies..

-this blog posting is part of a series – the next in the series,
Alternative Medicine – Testimonials, Natural History and Secondary Gain

-For all postings on  Alternative Medicine – Alternative Medicine Postings Page


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