A discussion on medicine and spirituality

The Biblical Guide to Alternative Medicine - Neil T. Anderson, Michael Jacobson

I guess this book is useful to those Christians who are interested in trying out some of the less westernised medicines and does a great job of exploring the many alternative therapies that are available. This book is really only for Christians who are exploring areas of health and wanting to understand the spiritual implications of the various practices. Having worked in the insurance industry for quite a while I have been exposed to a few of them, particularly reflexology, where apparently the practitioner can tell all about your health by simply looking at your foot and attempting to cure various ailments by playing with your feet. I remember reading one of these reports once and was somewhat surprised about what the practitioner was saying.

My exposure to medicine though has been in a very specific field, and that is of personal injury. Health can be very subjective at times, and I still believe that the mind has a lot to do with it. There is a story of an ancient Roman that I read in Montaigne who had a dream that he was blind and he woke up blind, and I am sure all of us have attempted to will ourselves sick because we simply did not want to go to school (or work). The other reason I say that it is subjective is that doctors can only go on what we tell them and they can only measure certain symptoms. For instance, there is no way (short of a lie detector test) to be able to tell is somebody is being truthful about having a headache (not tonight darling, I have a headache). Further, when money is involved (or a chance to get off work) people are going to be tempted to exaggerate their symptoms, and it is not always a doctor's prerogative to call a patient a liar (though some simply will not give you a medical certificate, despite the fact that you come crawling into their rooms and can barely stand up).

As for spiritual aspects of medicine and health we have biblical accounts where people suffer ailments simply because they are possessed by demons, however we must remember that this is not true for all of the ailments. Leprosy, for instance, is never mentioned as being connected with demons, and the prophecy in Isaiah about the messiah bearing our sicknesses does in fact refer to physical illness (as opposed to spiritual oppression).

I remember once reading two different accounts from mid 19th century Europe about two people suffering from a similar condition (ironically the same condition that the man possessed by the demon Legion that is mentioned in the gospels). One of them came from the Bethlahem Asylum (Bedlam) in London and the other from the back mountains of Bavaria. The London report talks about how this person was diagnosed with madness, the condition incurable, and was pretty much locked up. The Bavarian account talked about how he was demon possessed, and the victim was prayed for by the people, and surprise, surprise, he was cured (I wish I could remember where they were, but I believe they are somewhere amongst my law school notes).

Finally, I wish to make a comment about what some Christians have said about illegal drugs (marijuana, ecstasy, etc). They have generally referred to them as being associated with witchcraft, which is why they are bad. While the Greek word Pharmacia means to practice sorcery it also means to administer drugs. This is interesting because it suggests that sorcery and medicine back in those days were inextricably linked, which is not surprising because the power to heal sickness and the knowledge of drugs was a gift from the gods. Note that this is a common theme around the world, including in Christianity where Christ heals people simply by his word (or his touch, though sometimes it was a little more involved). However, taking note of this rather narrow minded view of pharmaceuticals that these Christians take it is not surprising that they will take one aspect of the word and twist it for their own purposes. However, it also makes me laugh since everytime I walk past a pharmacy, especially one owned by a Greek in a suburb with a large Greek population (it is always spelt in Greek) and I automatically translate it as 'witchdoctor'.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/500899500