Question: "Should a Christian consider alternative medicine?"

Answer: There are many different forms of alternative medicine available today. This sometimes leads to confusion among Christians as to whether to consider using alternative forms of medicine in place of or in addition to traditional forms. Many kinds of alternative medicine have their origins in non-Christian religions or anti-Christian philosophies. This leads some Christians to shun alternative medicine altogether. But does the Bible prohibit the use of alternative medicine?

There are two primary issues with this "alternative medicine is always wrong" mindset. First, much of modern traditional medicine also has its roots in non-Christian religions and philosophies. While alternative medicines like acupuncture may have originated in connection with Taoism, many traditional medicines originated in the ancient Greek and Roman cultures, which were just as non-Christian as ancient Taoism. The idea that unless something was invented by a Christian, it is inherently wrong is not biblically supportable. Many inventions and technologies that Christians have no qualms about using were invented by non-Christians. The belief system of the inventor does not necessarily determine whether the invention itself has moral value. The origin of an alternative form of medicine should not be the deciding factor in whether a Christian can consider using it.

Second, there is no standard for determining whether a medicine or treatment is considered "alternative." Is chiropractic treatment considered alternative? Is taking herbal supplements considered alternative? Is a gluten-free diet or eating Brazilian acai berries considered alternative? People are quick to point to some alternative medicines as being wrong, while failing to recognize that they themselves are using alternatives. If anything other than having surgery or swallowing a prescribed pill is considered alternative, then hundreds of millions of people are already knowingly, or unknowingly, using alternative medicine.

Ultimately, the deciding factor in this discussion is whether or not an alternative medicine can be separated from the philosophy associated with the medicine or treatment. If inserting acupuncture needles into a person's body at strategic points results in physical healing or relief from pain, does it matter if the practitioner is wrong about why it works? While a Christian should wholeheartedly reject the Taoist yin-yang philosophy, there is nothing inherently unbiblical about the acupuncture procedure itself.

With the freedom that we have in Christ, decisions like whether or not to use alternative medicine are to be based on our own biblically informed convictions and preferences (1 Corinthians 6:12; 8:9; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 5:1). As with everything, Christians are to be wise and discerning. We are free to follow our convictions as long as they are biblically sound and bathed in prayer. What we are not free to do is to force our own convictions on others, especially in debatable areas such as alternative medicine.