Re: Alternative Medicine (was Re: Skepticism - its uses and abuses)

From: Mervin Bitikofer <>
Date: Thu Dec 22 2005 - 07:53:16 EST

I think we [Christians] fear the associations with other religions. So
something like Yoga immediately raises "new age" red flags. It may be
appropriate for Christians to avoid some practices, but "mind-emptying"
disciplines and meditations that some eastern religions promote might
actually be a beneficial thing if Christians can couple it with the
Biblical wisdom that an empty mind is an invitation to spirits even more
wicked than the original inhabitants. Perhaps some eastern style
meditations can teach us how to "clean house", and then the Bible can
teach us how to furnish and fill it with good things. I think a good
many of us would probably benefit for such practices. Richard
Foster's "Celebration of Discipline" is an excellent Christian work
dealing with some of this. (Christian traditions already have many
'in-house' disciplines such as fasting that can help accomplish some of
the same things.)

The only criteria we see in the Bible regarding the merits of various
religions is how well the tongue is bridled or whether or not the
orphans and widows are looked after. (western Christianity as a
'religion' doesn't always fare so well on these judgments). Of course
James doesn't seem to be assuming that faith in Christ is 'just another
religion'. This faith (I think) is implied to be the cohesive matrix
(the entire 'world view') within which other religious or cultural
practices can be accepted or discouraged based on their utility in
helping us restrain our sensual self-indulgences. (Also Paul's apparent
criteria: Colossians 2:23) It seems to me that fearing something
merely for its associations with non-Christian religions is not
well-founded. Of course there are those practices such as witchcraft
that are specifically forbidden for us.

A bit of Steven Wright humor: I have a friend who practices both
voodoo and acupuncture. You'll just be walking down the street, and
then... ahhhhh!

(a more recent criteria for evaluating a religion suggested: "It is the
test of a good religion whether you can joke about it." --G.K. Chesterton)

One other comment: "the Undergrowth of Science" by Walter Gratzer is
an excellent work for the history of what we now (with hindsight)
recognize as all the quackery. Somebody previously had mentioned N-rays
-- one of the fascinating stories in that book. Gratzer essentially
makes the case that the science we value as 'solid' has flourished, in
major part, as a beneficiary of all the nutrient supplying 'undergrowth'
that, by itself is derided as the manure. Somebody also mentioned in
these posts that some of what we call 'quackery' may end up
substantially enhancing the established medical sciences in the end. I
think there is something to that.


jack syme wrote:

>> On chinese medicine I am convinced by acupuncture. I have a bad neck
>> - I can hear grinding when
>> I turn my head! It's been stretched massaged but acupuncture helped.
>> I only tried it as nothing worked. However there are good reasons why
>> it works.
> This is exactly the issue I struggle with. Yes acupuncture can work.
> But why does it work? What are the good reasons why it works? As far
> as I know there is no anatomical correlate for meridians, and no
> physiological correlate for qi.
> My professional opinion of acupuncture is that it works by some
> mechanism that is not at all well understood. And most likely has
> nothing to do with qi and meridians. There might be a real effect on
> neuropeptides, some unkown effect on nervous system function, or it
> might all be placebo effect. But, the risk of being needled is very
> small. So if someone can find relief from a chronic ailment such as
> headaches, neck and back pain, without side effects then just because
> its mechanism is not well understood is no reason not to recommend it.
> But, is the fact that the underlying philosophy of acupuncture Taoist
> a reason not to recommend it to Christians? And should I as a
> Christian physician not recommend it for those reasons? Similar
> questions can be raised about kundalini yoga, vedic medicine,
> meditation techniques, etc. I have up to this point taken the
> approach that the underlying worldview that acupuncture is based on is
> so far removed from the practice of it, that there is little reason to
> believe that undergoing acupuncture was sinful. And it is likely that
> the traditional explanation of how acupuncture works, is in fact false.
Received on Thu Dec 22 08:00:33 2005

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