Friday, April 20, 2012

James 5:14-20 and Unconventional or Alternative Medicine

As we discovered in previous posts on James 5:14-20 (this is the fifth post on the passage; part one is here), James 5 requires the use of medicine in its commendation of oil.  Nobody has been led by the Holy Spirit to reject medicine and the best available human means through which God heals the body.  Christians should thank God for and use the best available resources that medical science makes available. Medical science is based upon the Biblical principle of subduing the earth and having dominion over it, as affirmed in Genesis 1, by studying it through the use of the scientific method.  Unfortunately, many believers are not pleasing God by employing the best resources medical science has discovered in our created world, but instead employ a variety of unconventional medical techniques that do not fit within Scriptural principles.

Christians should not employ, recommend, or do anything other than oppose and warn against all New Age "medicine."  Several articles warning God's people about New Age medicine are available on my website here. New Age "medical" practices at times engaged in, sinfully, by the people of God, include Reiki, Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Reflexology, Iridology, Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Macrobiotics, Naturopathy, Rolfing, Applied Kinesiology, Neuro-Emotional Techniques, Touch for Health, and Behavioral Kinesiology.  All of these pagan practices are exposed in an excellent article by David Cloud here.  Note that "chiropractic" is listed in this list.  It is true that a minority of chiropractors practice medical science, but, unfortunately, it is a small minority. One can learn the distinction between the minority of chiropractors that employ medical science and the majority that employ New Age "medicine" and other quackery here.  Another article, this one also by Bro Cloud, exposing the dangers of New Age chiropractic is available here..  A fine book exposing New Age medicine, available here, is Can You Trust Your Doctor? by Ankerberg & Weldon.  If you are uninformed on these issues, the book could help you both honor the Lord and possibly save your life or the life of loved ones, and live longer and be a better steward of your body.

Christan leaders and workers should be aware of the New Age practices that are infiltrating churches all over the country, and the people of God should be warned about such errors.  Usually New Age medical practices are advanced and advocated using the same sorts of techniques as other sorts of quackery.  A reliable source (albeit by non-Christians), recommended by the Christian Medical Association, to distinguish between real medicine supported by science and quackery is Quackwatch, the website here.  Apart from the evolution, I have found the information on Quackwatch to be extremely accurate, although, as they step on a lot of toes, they make those who endorse quackery their enemies.  The articles on ways to spot quackery (here are some more ways) are not a bad place to start.  The articles on how quackery sells, with the "related topics" link at the bottom of the page, is also very valuable.  For the cost of one visit to a quack practicioner, you can also get the course Medical Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths: What We Think We Know May Be Hurting Us, taught by a professor at the Yale school of medicine (note the 70% off retail price coupon code.)

I have found that too often men in church leadership, and men leading their families, fail to take charge of protecting their families and churches from New Age and quack medicine, and what the Bible calls "old wives tales" spread as ladies, who are more easily deceived (1 Timothy 2), accept quack or New Age ideas, told to them without any genuine factual basis by other ladies who have themselves adopted ideas without any real factual basis, or from New Agers or quacks directly.  Rather than men exercising godly leadership and discernment, they just roll over and allow New Age and quack ideas into their families and churches.  Brethren, this ought not so to be.

God is dishonored and displeased when His people disobey James 5 and follow New Age or quack techniques instead.  Furthermore, since He is the One who heals, healing in answer to prayer is less likely to come when God's people disobey James 5 and, instead of seeking the best of medical science, follow New Age or quack "medical" ideas instead.  Nor is it being a good steward of one's body, or of the physical bodies of one's family, when the saints of God die earlier than they should have because of following New Age or inaccurate "medicine."

Christian leader--and men in general who lead their familes--be warned.  Get informed.  Reject all New Age "medicine."  Reject all quack "medicine."  Follow James 5, and, to care for your physical body when sick, pray and trust the Lord, and employ the best means of medical science God has made available.



David said...

While I agree that we should do more than just pray when faced with illnesses, the article fails to take into consideration the many dangers of modern medicine and the benefits of natural methods that have been used by thousands of years (oil in the verse is natural). While we should not reject medical help, we also should be careful of fully embracing modern medicine. We would be naive to say that the medical field is not heavily influenced by money and the pharmaceutical companies and politics. The percentage of people admitted to the hospital due to problems with prescription medication (conflicts, reactions, etc.) does not increase my faith in the modern medical field.

The issues are not in regards to medicine, but the philosophy behind modern medicine. Many times, symptoms are sought to be relieved without resolving the source of the problem. For example, my wife was having serious acid reflux and stomach issues. The doctor put her on prescription for it that she was going to have to take on a permanent basis. After hearing about aloe vera juice's affect on the same problem, she tried it. It actually cured the problem. Her sister was previously on the same type of medicine and was able to get off of it after trying the aloe vera juice. There are more and more doctors reconsidering the philosophy behind modern med and looking into the scientific support for more natural alternatives.

The news is also filled with concerns of superbugs due to an overuse of antibiotics and even certain vaccinations (like the flu).

While there are numerous health care practices that may be tied in to the occult, we are foolish to ignore the plants and herbs and things that God gave us on the earth to use for medicinal purposes. The Quackwatch website seems very biased against any questioning as to the safety of modern medical philosophy.

I'm just wanting to put in my 2 cents for balance. While Bro. Brandenburg did not specifically attack or nullify natural remedies or medicines, I wanted to also make sure we do our homework on modern medicine and not blindly follow the doctor. Balance is important here. The James passage does not validate modern medicine in its entirety, nor does it invalidate natural medicine either.

Kent Brandenburg said...


This post came from Thomas Ross. He signs all his TDR.

So I think he'll probably comment to this.

Kent Brandenburg

Thomas Ross said...

Dear David,

Thanks for your comment.

Since God tells us to subdue the earth and have dominion over it, we can investigate how laws He has put in place in nature actually work, using the scientific method. There is no conspiracy in medical science for people to get sick and die from disease. Furthermore, money is involved in all sorts of ways; people that push unconventional therapies are as likely to be very heavily invested financially in their products as anyone else. There is a big difference, though, between what medical science and unconventional medicine do to promote their claims. Medical science says we do double-blind, placebo controlled trials to get objective evidence. Unconventional medicine relies upon testimonials, personal experience, and other nonobjective means. Modern medicine also requires clear disclosure of any financial ties, etc. and seeks to control and eliminate such influence as it does its testing of claims, while unconventional medicine does not.

Medical science is all for dealing with the sources of disease. The question is whether the source is something objectively testable and verifiable, or whether it is something unverifiable or unscientific. Medical science wants us to verify things through actual clinical trials and evidence, while unconventional means say we have chi energy, mystical energy fields, etc. that cannot be proven, and that not having balance in such things are the reason for sickness, the real "source."

I am sure that people that have millions of dollars to employ promoting unconventional therapies can spend the rather small amounts to verify product claims. All they need to do is get people with some particular symptom to take their product in a controlled way, get others a placebo that they don't know is a placebo, and then see if what they claim is actually objectively verifiable. If they actually are able to do this, they will sell a lot more of their product. Medical science is all for this. When clinical trials are not done, and testimonies of what happened to person X or Y are relied upon instead, then perhaps the Biblical basis for the scientific method is being rejected.

Medical science does not ignore plants. Many modern medicines come from plants. The difference between medical science and unconventional medicine on the use of plants is that medical science isolates the compounds that are actually beneficial in the plant, verifies that the compound is doing what it does, and then finds out what doses, etc. are most beneficial through clinical trials, while unconventional medicine just has someone take the entire plant, with its many thousands of compounds, not knowing which does what, not testing to find out what does what, and then not finding out objectively if benefits take place. Whether something has been done for thousands of years does not prove or disprove its value. American Indians using some herb for this or that is all well and good, but they also use drugs that are known to be harmful, and have done that for thousands of years.

Thomas Ross said...

Medical science seeks to use nature as God commanded us in Genesis 1. It is not "unnatural," nor is inherently more natural to employ unconventional medicine.

By the way, when evidence comes in for a claim, it goes mainsteam and becomes part of medical science. It does not stay unconventional. We should be careful of claims that cures for cancer, AIDS, etc. are being suppressed by a grand conspiracy (worldwide?) by American drug companies that can't even prevent generic copies of their products being sold in India for cents on the dollar, and can't prevent unconventional advocates from making many millions in the USA and promoting their products all over the place.

If we want to affirm Quackwatch is biased, we will need to have actual instances of factual error on the website. Apart from evolution, I am not aware of actual factual error, at least as far as our current state of knowledge is concerned.

By the way, I'm not assuming, David, that you would disagree with much or all of what I've written above. Thanks again for commenting.

Thomas Ross said...

By the way, when someone falls off a motorcycle and goes to a hospital all scraped up, and antiseptics are put into his scrapes to prevent infection, and then other things are applied to help heal the wounds, we are doing what first century people did with oil and honey. Unconventional medicine does not have a corner on James 5 by any means, unless it is a corner on the use of oil to cure cancer, AIDS, etc., in which case the lack of support from Scripture and scientific evidence explains the reason for having the corner all to itself.

Steve Rogers said...

David and Bro. Ross,

I think there is some truth in both your comments. I think you should realize, Bro. Ross, that there is much unBiblical in the "conventional" medical field, ad there is New Age in the unconventional. As a pastor, I deal a lot with adults and children who are "treated" with the "conventional" medicine of anti-depressants and Ritalin. They treat the symptom and worse yet, ignore the Biblical treatment of the Word and it's wisdom. My brother has lifelong affects from prescription meds. As long as a treatment is not antiBiblical it is not unBiblical. The Bible is full of "natural" treatments like honey, oil, etc. The point of James is remembering God is the great physician and heals or not according to His divine will, using honey, Tylenol or neither.

Steve Rogers said...

Bro. Ross,
I'd also add that evolution on a website should cause a believer to question their discernment and bias in the medical field discussion. Case and point is, as you have rightly pointed out, the dominion mandate is found in Genesis. I imagine that if you questioned quack watch regarding the Genesis account with a literal creationist interpretation, YOU'D be put on the quack watch! Someone who believes the lie of evolution and promotes it on their website should be considered a false teacher and God denier by Bible believers, as much as the God denying new ager. The medical field and human body go back to Genesis, and the great Creator, who also happens to be the great Physician!

Thomas Ross said...

Dear Bro Rodgers,

Thanks for the comment. I would point out that much of the
anti-depressent overkill is a product of psychology, which is not
based on the scientific method, or on placebo controlled double-blind
trials, but on untested ideas by people like Freud. Furthermore, many
proponents of medical science agree that such meds are overprescribed,
and they certainly are.

Also, evolution certainly is pagan. However, if one is evaluating
claims for, say, whether drinking some kind of tea cures heart
disease, or evaluating another medical claim, evolution has very
little to do with the way evidence is obtained. Double-blind trials,
or the lack thereof, have nothing to do with evolutionary theory. In
fact, assuming the regularity of nature, as evolutionists do, is based
upon the fact that the Creator designed the world to run with laws
that we can test and verify, as we are commanded to do in Genesis 1.
Thus, while evolution is taught on Quackwatch, I do not believe it
compromises the factual material it sets forth on various
unconventional ideas, which either have or do not have actual
scientific evidence for them, regardless of whether one has the
Biblical and true theory of origins or the evolutionary theory. I
believe that is one reason the Christian Medical Assocation recommends
the site.

Joshua said...

Amen to Steve's comments