David Quinn, Belfast Telegraph, UK: Christians have been warned about the dangers of using a whole range of increasingly popular ‘New Age’ therapies, including reflexology, reiki, yoga, transcendental meditation, and ‘charms and cures’. The Presbyterian Church issued the warning in a report that was approved yesterday at its annual General Assembly in Belfast.
The report says that ‘alternative therapies’ can lead believers away from God and Jesus because they “have their roots in either Eastern religion (Taoism or Hinduism) or vital life force or energy”, which implies the existence of “an impersonal god”.
However, the report was criticised as too negative by one Presbyterian clergyman who addressed yesterday’s assembly meeting.
Rev Jim Campbell told delegates: “Too often resistance to change, to the new, has been a feature of Presbyterianism and I fear that the report on alternative medicine and therapies fits into this category.
“If you read the comments . . . on a whole range of therapies, nothing is commended and some negative feature is always found.”
He stressed that a therapy could be accepted for its practical value without having to accept the religious beliefs associated with it.
“Many of us have difficulty separating a particular medicine or therapy from the primitive understanding of how it actually works,” he said. “I believe that, as Christians, we must not limit God by claiming that He can only reveal the mysteries of the workings of his creation through the discoveries of Western science.”
However, Martin Ford, a naturopath with Tony Quinn Health Stores, which has popularised many alternative therapies in Ireland, said that even the Bible acknowledges the existence of ‘vital energies’.
He stated: “All of these therapies listed by the Presbyterians do acknowledge energy of some sort. The Bible makes reference to these energies when Jesus says ‘power has gone from me’ after a woman touches his cloak and is cured.”
Mr Ford said: “No religious person need worry that these therapies will take people away from religion. Quite the opposite, in fact. All holistic therapy expands people’s awareness of life. It encourages people to expand out of a narrow point of view.”
Alternative therapies are now thought to be availed of by tens of thousands of Irish people each year. A ‘Mind, Body, Spirit’ seminar held annually at the RDS draws an estimated 6,000 people.
Alternative therapy courses are offered nationwide, including in many Catholic institutes.
Our Lady’s Hospice in Dublin has hosted a course offering the chance to learn about shamanism, chakras, and ‘dancing the rainbow’.
Courses such as the Enneagram, aimed at self-understanding, are hugely popular, including with nuns and priests.
The specific therapies which the Presbyterian report warned against yesterday were: reflexology; acupuncture; yoga and transcendental meditation; reiki; aromatherapy; homoeopathy; and charms and cures.
The report said: “We need to be careful before, as Christians, we take part in any of these therapies and their belief in ‘other gods’.”
“There is clearly a search for a deeper spiritual reality going on in society. However, we need to be clear that not all spirituality is good.”
The Presbyterian General Assembly ends today.
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