This theme seems to represent an emerging consensus that CAM is appropriate for Christians with adaption and superior to not practicing CAM. CAM provides additional healing support beyond psychopharmacology. The emerging field of neuroscience is validating the bottom-up approach to healing complex trauma. Brown (2013) argued that efficacy does not merit theological appropriateness. Yet, it appears that the previous warnings that yoga is from the devil are become replaced with the scientific validity of its healing potential. In regard to Pentecostal healing, can demons heal (Matthew 12:22-32)? Can a kingdom stand divided? Do Bethel church and the charismatic renewal owe Brown and others empirical evidence for their worldwide ministry impact? The bigger question seems to be Jain’s (2012) point, “Why do these consumers have to justify their power to choose?” Does it ultimately matter if these practices work, or if people are wasting their money on them? Brown (2013) requested informed consent, but consumers choose to pay out of pocket for CAM services. People are acting on their power to choose and make informed choices. The church does not have to support religious multiplicity to embrace the third and fourth waves of behavioral therapy. Instead, it appears that Brown is correct in advocating for informed consent regarding CAM for Christian clients. This study’s findings support education as a paramount component to adapting a Christian use of CAM.
The study suggested that healthy spiritual seeking can be embraced as a natural part of differentiating in a family system. The Church can then stop placing external limits of control on congregants (you can only practice meditation if . . . X, Y, Z) or I feel convicted about X, so you are not allowed to practice X. Instead, the Church can teach congregants how to critically evaluate any tool (meditation, mindfulness, acupuncture, etc.) from a Christian worldview.
Moreover, the belief that the new age is simply a fad is contradicted by the study findings. Instead, these practices contain substantial biblical support and budding empirical efficacy. They are also backed by neuroscience and neurotheology as superior to abstaining from the practices. However, it would be an oversimplification to adopt all new age spiritual practices as suitable for Christian use without adaption. Instead, the study suggests a shift in how American culture is approaching spirituality as a society. Most of the time, conservative pastors are simply protecting their congregants from theological fallacies of traditional new-age thinking. Yet, a healthy faith questions itself in the face of the challenges of navigating CAM and faith. This is the nature of healthy faith, in contrast to unquestioned faith in the face of corrupted power systems. It is a general human sin to control what one is unfamiliar with. It is therefore wise to challenge the power structures and injustices of a culture without throwing the theological baby out with the modern-day bathwater.
A surprising insight emerged in the study regarding the yoga debate. It became evident that chakras, yoga, biofields, and meditation are interconnected through spiritual new age classification across the board. This connects with Knabb et al. (2021), who nuanced that meditation appears to work as the mechanism of action. Therefore, it is superior to not practicing it so long as there are no contraindications such as psychosis or disassociation. Yet, they articulated this pro and anti-CAM dynamic succinctly in regard to the oxymoron of Christian-Buddhism. Jain (2012) pointed out that the roots of yoga are elusive. Therefore, the study results suggest it might be wise for this debate to shift the argument from, “Is Yoga Hindu and Meditation Buddhist” to “What needs adapting and how?” It appears that these implications regarding meditation can be applied to their connected components of chakras, biofields, and subtle energy healing. The study findings do not support the idea that yoga, astrology, energy healing, or meditation are the intellectual property of any one religion and, therefore, an unredeemable oxymoron like Christian Hinduism. The study does not support religious multiplicity as a solution either. Instead, the study seems to present a consensus among the researchers regarding better education regarding how and what needs adapting. It appears to be an overreach to categorize all CAM practices in the same category as Ouija boards, seances, and witchcraft.
Viola and Barna (2012) asserted that most of our modern church practices are adapted from pagan culture contrary to the popular idea that they are modeled after the apostles. The use of a sermon was an adaption of the Socratic teaching method. Although evangelicals hope to protect Christian culture from non-Christian influences, there appears to be a slippery cultural slope regarding where to draw that line regarding what has been adapted in modern culture. Technically, a return to Jewish culture might be the closest theologically sound attempt to do so. Some Christians, wary of CAM pagan roots, have opted to return to Messianic Christian practices for this reason. This includes the celebration of Jewish rituals and practices instead of the celebration of pagan-rooted Easter and Christmas.
In traditional Christian theological culture, missions and outreach are a primary focus when working with other religions. Matthew 28:19 stated, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (New International Version). However, it appears that Christians have been negligent in adequately addressing this emerging ministry culture group present in the new age. Specifically, the Church has failed to have adequate leadership in the fourth wave transpersonal psychology movement. It could behoove the Church at large to shift its stance from abstaining from all potentially Eastern-rooted practices to correctly understanding them in order to minister to the lost and broken. The study found that Christian-adapted contemplative methods are powerful tools for healing. Perhaps they could also serve as tools of evangelism that can be used in the service of outreach in an age and culture of religious multiplicity and moral relativity. They are also essential bridges into the conversation regarding this new age of spirituality in America. Perhaps more people would return to their Judeo-Christian roots once we as a community can better engage with this emerging spiritual demographic.
Therefore, it would be logical to apply the conclusions regarding the mechanism of action to Hindu-adapted yoga meditation and Buddhist-adapted mindfulness to other spiritual ambiguous practices rooted in meditation and energy healing such as Reiki. All share a commitment to healing the human Spirit and biofield by bringing one back into Union with God. The study suggested that perhaps this process seems to be more of a phenomenon of common grace available to all creatures. Tan (2011) defined common grace as a theological term used to describe benefits that God has given all of humanity regardless of their salvation status. It does not mean the person is saved or unsaved in itself. It appears to be a rewiring of the neural pathways that brings some sort of spiritual enlightenment back to our original state of union with God. Jesus is the exemplification of what that redeemed state might look and function like on earth.
This process stands in contrast to the Hindu goal of realizing that the self is God. Without succumbing to Hinduphobia, Christians can remain discerning regarding the different intentions of Christian meditation. Neurotheology is proving that the benefits of Christian contemplation parallel the benefits of mindfulness. Additional education would be important for pastors. Pastoral counselors are uniquely equipped to provide education to pastors regarding the subtleties of Christian-adaption of complementary therapies in light of the findings regarding efficacy. The study found emerging evidence for the efficacy of Christian-adapted CTs, but much room still exists for gaining additional empirical support.
However, it appears that the majority of Christian thought leaders agree with the utility of meditation for Christians regardless of the clinical efficacy findings. The argument seems to be more regarding what and how to adapt CTs. The study suggested that meditation seems to be the most well-studied CAM approach in the clinical literature on integration, especially in BT’s third and fourth waves. Reiki, yoga, and meditation share a joint emphasis on general, non-religious manipulation of life force and biofields. The efficacy of biofield therapies is emerging but not yet fully substantiated. Nonetheless, a cultural phenomenon exists regarding the integration of these methods.
Surrender is the shared goal of Hindu and Christian yoga and meditation. Namaste roughly translates as: “The image of God in me honors the image of God in you.” Modern Ashtanga yoga’s final limb is surrender (limb 8). It appears that ancient yoga is more of an indigenous shamanic practice focused on meditation. This distinction might help pastors understand the roots of yoga as a sort of shamanic spiritual practice of the ancient world which seems to parallel the supernatural power and abilities of the biblical prophets. Granted, most practitioners of modern yoga are still focused on meditation as the end goal of yoga, but the introduction of postures does not appear to merit the worship of Hindu gods. Yet, discernment is needed. Certain Ayurvedic remedies and Hindu-adapted yoga practices are certainly present in western modern yoga. Lad (2009) classifies yoga as a sister science of astrology and Ayurveda. He described Ayurveda as the ancient healing system of Indian culture. It uses astrological remedies to mediate the impact of negative karmic imbalances. The use of physical asana postures is secondary. Ironically, organizations such as the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) do not fully seem to acknowledge the spiritual practices of yoga, and instead prefer to focus on the practice of modern asana for therapy. It appears that the IAYT promotes more of a physical or massage-therapy parallel than an ancient shamanic practice reflected in teachers such as Lad. This is consistent with the study’s findings that a common objection of evangelicals is that sun salutations seek to bow to the Hindu solar deity in Sri Namaskar. This would be an example of a Hindu-adaption Hindus used in a yoga practice that Christians should adapt and be aware of. Yet, the mechanism itself appears to be redeemable. According to the study, this specific set of sun salutations was modeled after British soldiers performing burpees. Yet, Yoga Alliance requires students to read Hindu texts such as Bhagavad Gita for certification. To say that Hindu-adaption of yoga is not present in American culture would be inaccurate. Instead, it appears that these governing bodies such as IAYT and Yoga Alliance are somewhat arbitrarily deciding which spiritual parts of yoga to keep and which parts to sanitize into a more postural and mechanical western model of healing.
Mindfulness is a central part of yoga teacher certification. Special focus is placed on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s secular mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program. IAYT appears to be focusing on a need to legitimize itself as an empirically-based form of therapy which necessitates conversations regarding whether to license yoga therapists. It also introduces the scope of practice issues among psychotherapists hoping to integrate yoga into therapy given its proven efficacy in healing trauma. The complication is that yoga training in America focuses on modern yoga with some Hindu and Buddhist adaption required for training. Ironically, Yoga Alliance does not currently certify Holy Yoga. This is a major hurdle for Christian evangelicals who find themselves left to navigate Yoga Alliance and IAYT’s spiritual yoga and meditation domains.
Miller (2015) is a prominent thought leader in the yoga training field. He has worked with the VA to validate iRest yoga Nidra for the treatment of PTSD. Miller and others advocate that these techniques are spiritual and compatible with any religion. The study findings suggest that evangelicals need a voice within these unfolding spiritual conversations about the development of mindfulness, meditation, and yoga training in the West. Given the number of Christians that exist in America, it seems pertinent for evangelicals to engage such organizations in the development and unfolding of the place Christian-adapted embodied mindfulness practices exist. Perhaps, Christians could create a clearer path for Christian yoga’s presence in American culture.
First, I propose that current evangelical researchers, clinicians, and thought-leaders work as a team to formalize the third wave Christian healing method that mirrors itself after MBCT, ACT, and DBT methods and theory. I propose calling this modality something to the effect of Christian contemplative behavioral therapy (CCBT). This method would be essentially a Christian-adapted and sensitive version of the existing transpersonal psychologies and third-wave behavioral interventions that follows the history and process of DBT as a template. Yet, it would be focused on the emerging field of familial trauma more than the predecessors that have come before. This change would involve considerable leadership from clinicians and researchers. Still, the payoff would be that Christian therapists could implement contemplative practices that align with their faith tradition.
Second, I propose these same evangelical professionals band together to develop and implement an evangelical Christian oversight board that models itself after organizations like the International Association of Yoga Therapy or Worldwide Community for Christian Meditation. I suggest that this executive board develop formal doctrinal statements and standards for Christian CT healing practitioners and offer ordination credentialing legally and spiritually ordained to Christians called to lay a professional healing ministry similar to the River Revival Network. They could provide pastoral oversight and guidance for Christian churches, pastors, and clinicians hoping to adapt CTs for use in therapeutic and ministry settings. I suggest that such a board would diverge from the first suggested group by engaging the transpersonal psychology fourth wave conversation regarding the integration of spirituality and healing. This group could advocate for distinctly evangelical theology alongside Christian contemplative healing therapies. This advisory board could be called something to the Christian Contemplative Healing Association (CCHA).
This organization could provide a ministerial home for evangelical CT providers to register their training in the same way yoga schools register their yoga teacher training programs with Yoga Alliance. It could credential the training of lay ministers and healers. It could act as a continuing education and research organization for Christian CTs for healing. It could provide protestant evangelical oversight to the certification process of distinctly Christian CT practitioners, clinicians, and pastors worldwide. This organization could also offer outreach and missional direction to those seeking to minister to the new age in their communities. This organization could act as a theological home to Christian healers. It could also serve as a missional sending organization to assist CCT practitioners in ministering to the new age community in their sphere of influence. Finally, of most importance to this dissertation would be the possibility of sponsoring and obtaining funding for research on the empirical efficacy and training in CCTs.
A thorough explanation of the Bible’s perspective on healing ministry and new age practices is beyond the scope of this paper. That said, a pastoral counseling discussion on the indication of complementary healing therapies would be incomplete without a brief overview of what the Bible has to say on the topics at hand. Therefore, this section will offer one perspective on the complex topic of Christian-adapted CTs for healing. In the following section, an abundance of biblical text is presented in hopes of allowing scripture to speak for itself. It should be noted that this section is simply addressing many new age practices. It does not imply that any new age practice is therefore also efficacious in treating trauma by association.
It might be easy for modern western readers of the Bible to overlook specific new age themes. Wise men and prophets often walked in parallel power and spiritual capabilities as the other spiritual practitioners of their day. Specifically, in Exodus 5:1-21, Pharaoh’s magicians were able to replicate the initial miracles Moses performed. In these stories, Christians in America sometimes overlook that the prophets were performing the same feats as the magicians of their day. This power and ability to operate in the supernatural was standard in biblical times and culminated in the myriad of miracles Jesus performed in his lifetime and ministry on earth. It seems that the issue is not whether or not it is possible to operate in the supernatural or spiritual realms in ways that might appear new age, but rather the Spirit that the practitioners use. It seems that the mechanism of the action itself was not on trial but rather the source the wise men used to source their supernatural power and healing gifts.
In Genesis 41:1-57, Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream. In 1 Kings 18:20-40, Elijah calls on the power of God to outperform the prophets of Baal. In 1 Samuel 28:15-20, Samuel returns from the dead to confront Saul about his actions. In 1 Kings 17:17-24, Elijah raised the widow’s son. In 2 Kings 4:32-37, Elisha raised another person from the dead. In Ezekiel 1, Ezekiel has a vision of God’s glory, and in Daniel 2:26-45, Daniel recounts and interprets King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. In 1 Kings 3:3-28,
God gave Solomon wisdom—the deepest of understanding and the largest of hearts. There was nothing beyond him, nothing he couldn’t handle. Solomon’s wisdom outclassed the vaunted wisdom of wise men of the East, outshone the famous
wisdom of Egypt.
According to Geisler (1992), there are nearly 250 supernatural miracles to this effect chronicled in the Bible. Contrary to cessationist views of the Bible, miracles, healing, and operating in the spiritual realm far surpass the life of Jesus and the apostles to legitimize Christianity initially. Instead, these themes have been woven throughout the entire canon of scripture.
Yet, so often, those who end up overly spiritual are deemed heretical at worst or ungrounded at best. There appears to be a lack of biblical evidence for the cessation of the miracles that have been present long before and epitomized in the life of Jesus. Instead, he said, “The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing” (John 14:12, The Message). Although the new age presents a seemingly new set of spiritual and theological problems for pastors, many practices are pretty old. On some occasions, they even turn up in the Bible.
Deuteronomy 18:10 stated, “Don’t practice divination, sorcery, fortunetelling, witchery, casting spells, holding seances, or channeling with the dead. People who do these things are an abomination to God.” Yet, in Genesis 30, divine inquiry is used. In Deuteronomy 33, Levi was advised to use the Thummim and Urim. In Numbers 27, Eleazar used the oracle Urim and Thummim to advise someone in the presence of God prayerfully. In 1 Samuel 14, Urim and Thummim are used to cast lots. In Joshua 18, they cast lots in the presence of God. In 1 Samuel 23, David uses the Ephod (with 12 crystals) to hear God speak. Moving in the prophetic and using biblical means of connecting with the spiritual realm itself seems permissible. Yet, discernment is needed to refrain from operating in the exaltation of the human will above God’s will. This misuse of our God-given innate abilities to walk in the supernatural seems to be a perversion of the tools God gave us.
In 1 Kings 22, it says, “But before you do anything, ask God for guidance.” Deuteronomy 28 stated, “If you listen obediently to the Voice of God, and heartily obey all his commandments that I have commanded you today, God, your God, will place you on high, high above all the nations of the world.” Deuteronomy 10:14 stated, “Look around you: Everything you see is God’s—the heavens above and beyond, the Earth, and everything in it.” Believers are commanded to listen to God’s voice in their lives. This command would be relevant to listening to God’s direction about supernatural spiritual practices. Yet, God made everything in creation. Therefore, the tools that God made in creation can be redeemed for his glory and purposes. This distinction would include tools like meditation, crystals, herbs, astrology, and yoga.
God spoke through the prophets to humanity throughout the Old and New testaments and used them to channel the word of God through the Holy Spirit: “Going through a long line of prophets, God has been addressing our ancestors in different ways for centuries. Recently he spoke to us directly through his Son (Hebrews 1:1). 2 Timothy 3:16, it said, “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed.” The prophets parallel the wise men of the ancient world in their command and use of God-inspired giftings and power. These esoteric practices could easily be misconstrued as fortunetelling, which is strictly prohibited. Instead, there seems to be some line of distinction available for Christian mystical practices that fall outside of demonic and evil prohibitions in Leviticus 20. This section commands believers not to dabble in the occult, traffic mediums, practice divination, or utilize sorcery. It also commands them not to tattoo themselves, trim their beards, eat meat with blood in it, or wear mixed fabrics. Shamans historically attempt to control weather patterns. Ironically, navigating droughts is also a role of the prophets, “As surely as the Lord lives, no rain or dew will fall during the next few years unless I command it” (1 Kings 17:1, New Century Version).
Although laws of morality are eternal, whereas some of these practices were cultural, all new age practices have historically been lumped into this section and broadly interpreted to fit these categories. Yet, the following complementary therapies and common new age practices are not mentioned here: Meditation, astrology, new moons, crystals, yoga, herbs, essential oils, Reiki, and shamanism. These modalities have biblical support and use in worship and may not use manipulation of the will to serve the self. This distinction clarifies the prohibited practices: these expressly prohibited spiritual practices attempt to worship the self without regard to God’s will. This misuse of choice is the same problem Christians have with Hindu and Buddhist practices. The intention, or telos, of these practices, is in service of the self.
A Christian worldview views the self as subservient to the will and image of God and in need of redemption through Jesus’ work on the cross. This problem was exemplified during the fall of Eden when humans attempted to give in to this old temptation to become God or believe the self is God. Instead, the fall represents our need to awaken to our actual identity as sons and daughters of God in need of his grace and guidance to shape our broken will by eating from the tree of life. Without this free will, and the ability to choose right or wrong, we would be existential robots without a genuine ability to love God and one another through healthy attachment.
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Brees, Amanda Lynne, “The New Age of Christian Healing Ministry and Spirituality: A Meta-Synthesis Exploring the Efficacy of Christian-Adapted Complementary Therapies for Adult Survivors of Familial Trauma” (2021). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 3168.