Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
John 12:34-36; 1 John 4:1-6; Job 16; Ezekiel 30-31
There is great interest these days in spirituality. This is often poorly defined and viewed as something very personal for someone to explore. With all the variety, a common claim is that the spiritual realm is positive and empowering. Spirituality brings peace and enlightenment, and contact with spirits that only have our good in mind. The Bible views spirituality very differently. It claims there is good and bad in the spiritual world. As John puts it here, there is a spirit of truth and one of falsehood; some spirits are from the world and acknowledge the antichrist, others are from God and acknowledge the life and work of Jesus Christ. Because of this, we need spiritual discernment. As John puts it, we need to test the spirits, not just assume every spirit or good or benign.
Sometimes the need for discernment is obvious. As I write this, December 2012 is approaching. Some are claiming the world will end on December 21, or 12/21/12 (or is it 12/12/12?). The predictions are positive, with the end signalling the dawn of a new spiritual age for humanity. The claims are tied to the Mayan calendar which is said to have predicted the end thousands of years ago. Most people are exercising discernment and preparing for Christmas, not the end of the world. Careful examination of the prediction itself reveals flimsy links with the Mayan calendar and origins that a lot more recent. Testing the spirits sometimes involves simply checking the sources and details of spiritual claims.
People are inclined to be discerning about apocalyptic claims, but the same cannot be said about claims for ways to promote health and healing. The proliferation of complementary therapies includes some that have spiritual roots and call for spiritual healing. Energy medicine is a general term for practices based on what is called ‘life energy.’ These include Reiki and Therapeutic Touch, while some (but not all) practitioners incorporate energy ideas into reflexology, acupuncture and other therapies. This energy is nonphysical or spiritual, known in different cultures as prana, chi, ki or orgone. Our health and well-being is believed to be determined by the flow of this energy. When this is unbalanced or blocked, illness results. True health results from a balanced flow of this energy throughout the body which the various energy therapies are said to promote.
Because ‘life energy’ is nonphysical, it cannot be detected by instruments. Practitioners must train to become sensitive to it, which usually requires being in a meditative state. When ‘centred’ practitioners can detect and rebalance people’s energy fields or auras. Such therapies and practices have their origins in Eastern mysticism, occult religions and New Age belief systems. They are growing in popularity among some healthcare professions and even with some Christians. Such therapies, practices and beliefs require careful testing as John advocates. At their roots, they are not based on acknowledging that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Some claim life energy is the Holy Spirit and therefore acceptable for Christians. Only a superficial examination of both the therapies and the claims of Christ could lead someone to accept this. We don’t easily accept claims about 12/12/12, so why would we about our spiritual health? The origin and nature of these energies, and the way practitioners control and use them, are contrary to how we should approach the Spirit of God. He is a person, not a force.
Many complementary therapies are natural and not spiritual. We need to test the claims about whether they are effective or safe. When a therapy invokes nonphysical energies and spiritual ideas, we need to test the spirits that underlie them.