On pins and needles: faith and acupuncture

If you visit this blog regularly, you know that I believe in the authority of the Bible as the final voice regarding what God has to say about our world, where it came from, what’s wrong with it, where history is headed, and how humankind can be restored to God.  You know, too, that I believe in the uniqueness and centrality of Christ, and preach that He is indeed, the door, the way, the truth, and the life – the single door through which all must walk for eternal life.  I agree with my most conservative friends on all these things.

But I part ways with those same friends, sometimes, when it comes to an understanding of how we live these things out in the real world.  In my last post, I began a conversation which I’ll continue next week regarding creation, science, and how we read the first chapters of Genesis.  Today, I ponder another challenging issue, namely how Christ followers relate to the cultural practices of non-Christian cultures.  For example, today I visited my friend, the acupuncture doctor, for the 2nd day in a row.  This man, born and raised in China, lives and works very close to the church I pastor and has, in fact, visited a few times in the past.  We became friends, and as a result, I visited him five years ago when I had a stubborn cough that was slow to heal.  After two visits the cough was gone.

And yet, there are Christians who are concerned that somehow, visiting an acupuncture doctor will be spiritually damaging.

Last night, after my first visit to treat this cough, I slept through the night for the first time in nearly three weeks.  This morning I rose, had my coffee with God as usual, felt no disdain for Christ or the centrality of His work on the cross.  The only difference in my spirit this morning, compared with the previous twenty mornings?  I was well rested and hence more alert.

Discernment is important.  The centrality of Christ is critical and foundational for we who live in His name.  But this is different from presuming that all things western are baptized in God’s goodness, and all things from other places are inherently demonic (consider the length of this list, which blends overtly demonic practices with things like reading the Bible slowly) Over the years I’ve heard people tell me that worship music invoking drums is inherently demonic because animism is an issue in Africa.  I’ve heard people tell me that Yoga (but strangely, not Mixed Martial Arts) is a problem, because of it’s Eastern Origins.  It’s as if Democracy (in its reduction of ‘the best’ to the lowest common will of the people), Capitalism (in its survivalist mentality), Football (with all its violence) are all somehow OK, but things ‘not from USA’ are inherently tainted.  That kind of thinking isn’t discernment; it’s cultural imperialism.

In some cases the problem isn’t the thing, it’s what we bring to it, and what we make of it.  If a Yoga class is stretching for me, and on the inhale I quote Psalm 23:1, continuing to v.2 on the exhale, isn’t that true worship?  If I’m healed from affliction by the use of eastern medicine rather than western medicine, and give thanks to God, who is ultimately the source of all healing, does it matter if the means was needles rather than pharmaceuticals?

My conclusion is that these kinds of things fall into the category of I Corinthians 8, which declares that not everyone has the same kind of liberty to practice these things for various reasons – and as a result, we need to give each other grace and avoid judging, both those who abstain, and those who indulge, recognizing that its neither abstinence nor indulgence that ultimately matters.  What matters is Christ being formed in us – a point I’m eager to preach about this weekend after being silenced by that nasty cough most of last Sunday.

Enjoy your weekend… I’ll enjoy mine better for having been to the doctor.

 

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.

  • http://pastorstevecraig.com Steve Craig

    Agree with you wholeheartedly. Thanks.

  • fluger

    Well said.

  • http://brokentelegraph.com Ian

    Yes Richard! Great post. And advocating for the benefits of Eastern medicine. Bonus.

  • JenB

    Wow, that master list is some kind of crazy conglomeration. Thanks for your wise discernment & faithful witness. Pray you’re feeling 100% very soon!

  • http://eliseloraine.blogspot.com elise

    Thank you for this. As someone who is a Christian, and also trained in Yoga Instruction, I find myself explaining these issues on a reasonably regular basis. I appreciate your eloquence, and I agree with you on every point!

  • Erin M

    Richard, I really enjoyed your blog on this subject. Curious-I recently saw a counselor who mentioned Mona Lisa Schultz. Dr. Mona Lisa Schulz is a physician, practicing psychiatrist and holds a PH.D in neuroanatomy and behavioral science’the study of the brain and intelligence. Beyond this, she is also a respected medical intuitive, providing psychic health readings to clients by phone, using only the vibration of the client’s name as her source of information. Does seeing a counselor who espouses such teachings border on the occult?

    • Jordan

      I would caution you going to this therapist. I wouldn’t consider the practising of psychic medical readings borderline occult. I would call it OCCULT.

      Seeing this doctor as a patient may prove to be harmless if going for professional medical help. Participating in these “fringe” activities which are outside of mainstream medical science will undoubtedly put you at risk for negative spiritual influences.

      Personally if I knew a certain medical practitioner participated in certain things, I would avoid pursuing them in doctor/patient related circumstances.

      • Shana

        Agreed. I just recently met the sweetest gal. A self-described “intuitive healer”. Loves her work, passionately. But unfortunately, without Christ it can’t be anything other than an occult practice. …and satan loves to make things appear full of light, doesn’t he? (the apparent joy on her face, the “good” of healing someone.) I imagine it wouldn’t take long to discover the true source of her very limited power. I pray for her, but would not recommend anyone seeing her for medical/spiritual care.

  • Megan

    Glad to hear you’re feeling better. Nice post. And it reminds me of the early church as it spread beyond the Jewish world. There were big “discernments” to make. Could the uncircumsised be Christian? What about the dietary laws — are pork and shell fish OK? Traditional sacrifices to idols not OK. etc.

  • katie kilgore

    excellent post.

  • Karen Neben

    May I congratulate you on taking a stand where it comes to Yoga. For years I have practiced Hatha Yoga, and reaped the many benefits it affords. My experience has been that I do worship during the practice, and am disheartened by many who tell me I am opening the door to spirits by virtue of doing the poses. Though I maintain that it is not the case for me, it doesn’t seem to matter…folks make up their (closed) minds, even before hearing my view.


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