What do you think about Reiki, especially with its Buddhist component? Is Reiki okay for Christians, or is this idolatrous?


Is it wrong for a Christian to engage in a Reiki massage, an intervention intended to balance one's chakras?

Before I offer a reply, let me clarify that I am open to alternative medicine in principle. The last word on medicine wasn't spoken with Hippocrates of Cos, Galen, or the medieval physicians! Medicine has a frontier, and good doctors need to keep current. Some eastern practices seem to contradict the biblical world view regarding God, spirits, and health.

I view Reiki as pseudoscience. Reiki claims legitimacy – but is it legit? There's little evidence it works—apart from anecdotes of success. Most people experience no real long-term change, and those who improve probably would have gotten better anyway. I certainly don't believe that there's some qi interpenetrating all living beings. No "life force." The Buddhist angle isn't an issue, unless you're asked to think like a Buddhist. That wouldn't be smart for a Christian to do. Although in this case, I think it’s more Taoist than Buddhist (the two sometimes fuse in Japan). Nor do I consider chakras as real.

I suspect a placebo effect. Anything we focus on, especially when we are hopeful, is more likely to go in a good direction. Now if I were, you I'd ask an experienced medical doctor -- ideally someone involved in research. Wish I could be more helpful, but this is way outside my métier. A much better known alternative medicine is acupuncture. At my first university I attended a class on alternative medicine—especially acupuncture, which was gaining in popularity and acceptance through the course of the '70s. That was certainly thought-provoking.

I conclude my response to your question with the following piece on acupuncture. My friend John Clayton recently published this short piece, which I reproduce in full (used with permission).

Acupuncture is based on the concept of “qi,” a life-force that advocates say flows through the  body along 20 distinct meridians. Blocked meridians are said to cause disease and pain. Putting a needle at specific points along the meridians are said to clear the blockages. Hundreds of thousands of Americans undergo acupuncture every year, and the U.S. government has poured over 100 million dollars into acupuncture programs since 2008. Acupuncture was identified as a superstition in the 1600s and abandoned by Chinese scholars in the 1800s. Mao Zedong revived it in the 1950s, and it has since been incorporated into many eastern religions. Several new scientific studies are reported in Scientific American, August 2016, page 24. Their conclusion is that there “is no evidence that acupuncture is anything more than a theatrical placebo.” Eastern religions and medical treatments may be interesting, but they are not good alternatives to modern American medicine. “THE ACUPUNCTURE MYTH,” in Does God Exist? Nov/Dec 2016.