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In recent years, I've experienced increasing, vague somatic symptoms: sleep changes, headaches, trouble concentrating, numbness and tingling in my left leg. (My husband and children might add moodiness and irritability). I've discussed these problems with my primary health care provider, and at this point there is nothing conventional medicine can offer, so I'm trying natural remedies. It turns out that women like me are turning to alternative therapies in droves.

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As nurses, we need to ask: Are these therapies safe? Under what conditions? If a therapy is safe, does it work? How? Are there situations where it does not work? Physical and psychosocial safety and efficacy for almost any therapy, conventional or alternative, can be researched through the exhaustive resources available to health professionals.


But what about spiritual safety and efficacy? How do we know if, or how, a treatment impacts spiritual health?


The Bible provides important insights about health-physical, psychosocial and spiritual. It reveals the true nature of the universe and all creation. It addresses holistic health, lifestyle issues and personal responsibility for health choices. For a therapy to be safe and effective, it must be consistent with the truth revealed by God in Scripture.


For example, Scripture teaches that humans are made in the image of God and exist as multidimensional, whole persons (Gen 1:26-29; 1 Thess 5:23). Any effective treatment must address physical, psychosocial and spiritual dimensions, as this reflects a true understanding of people as revealed in Scripture. Historically, conventional Western medicine (allopathy) has focused on the physical body and pathophysiology, overlooking the biblical, holistic and health-promoting view of the person. This approach is effective for some problems (i.e., acute illness, trauma, symptom relief, replacement therapy, such as insulin) but falls short of achieving true health. In recent decades allopathic medicine has acknowledged psychosocial and spiritual components to illness (mind-body medicine), but this has happened more as a result of embracing Eastern thinking than a biblical perspective.


Eastern medicine focuses on the spiritual dimension; however, the belief system underlying Eastern medical treatment contradicts the biblical view of the world. Eastern philosophy says all is spiritual, divine and one with the universe. Physical matter is only an illusion. Everything can be controlled by the mind. Traditional Chinese Medicine, Therapeutic or Healing Touch, Reiki, etc., rely on belief in a universal energy force referred to as chi, prana, qi or life force. Believers in this force say it is a spiritual energy present everywhere all the time, and it influences health-illness states. The energy is impersonal (not a deity or entity) and can be manipulated, even controlled. Some energy therapists (especially Christian ones) believe this universal energy force is God, but this assumption is inconsistent with Scripture.


The Bible states that everything was made by God (Gen 1:1;Jn 1:1-3) and is sustained and guided by Jesus Christ (Col 1:17; Heb 1:2-3). Genesis teaches that God spoke matter into existence and that creation is not an illusion but real, totally separate from God and the spirit world. There exists, however, a seen (physical) world and an unseen (spiritual) world (2 Cor 4:18). Two forces are present in the unseen world: God (Rom 1:20) and Satan (Gen 3:1-7;Job 1:6-7). God is the ultimate, more powerful source (Lk 10:18; Jn 12:31). Although God is universal (Ps 139), he is neither impersonal (Is 57:15) nor can he be manipulated (Is 45:9; Rom 9:20). Scripture teaches that our contact with the unseen world should be through a relationship with God and nothing else (Ex 20:3-6; Col 2:8-10).


Evaluating energy therapies through Scripture, it becomes clear that the biblical view of the universe and the belief in universal energy portray very different views of reality. Given what we know from Scripture about the unseen world, along with the occult influences found in energy therapies, participating in these modalities could involve opening ourselves to evil spirits (2 Cor 11:13-14; Eph 2:1-3,6:12).


Jesus said the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth (Jn 16:12-15). As Christian nurses, we must learn to evaluate therapies through God's truth found in the Bible.-KSS