Traditional Chinese Medicine Concepts

Dear BPCWAians, We have discussed a recent cultural performance, Eastern philosophies and ideas, and their religious undertones. Today, we want to consider a popular aspect which we cannot overlook. It is what Encyclopedia Britannica quite rightly points out, that “the significance of Yin- Yang through the centuries has permeated every aspect of Chinese thought, influencing astrology, divination, medicine, art, and government.” We want to specifically look at the area of medicine, because it can be increasingly adopted into the believer’s ideas and life without careful understanding of their background and beliefs. So what is the thinking behind Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)? Is it just traditional or religious? Let us have a closer look.

The basis of TCM. Generally, there are 2 energy forces that are fundamental roots in TCM beliefs – Yin-Yang and Qi. Qi is the vital life force and in effect makes up Yin and Yang energies, according to the TCM department of the University of Minnesota. These are derived from Taoism. As we saw last week, Christians must reject the Taoist belief of Yin-Yang and Qi. It stems from a spiritual basis of a godless impersonal, universal life giving and healing energy. The principal aim of TCM is to create harmony in the Yin Qi and Yang Qi energies for healing and good health. TCM seeks to analyse and facilitate harmony among these 2 opposite yet complementary forces that are in the human body. Its belief is that each internal organ has its own life force or Qi. It is believed that disharmony in these forces results in illnesses and diseases. TCM’s growing acceptance is evidenced by universities researching and promoting it. Some nursing professions have taken interest in it as well. But just like the theory of evolution, it does not mean that it is a true science just because schools teach it. If we reject the Yin-Yang and Qi in Taoism and Eastern religions, then we must also similarly reject them for TCM or any medical philosophies having such beliefs. This is because they hold to the same fundamental mystical belief which teaches that this same Yin-Yang and Qi force of Taoism is the life force which affects the body’s well-being.

The application of TCM beliefs. The aim of TCM is to increase or improve harmony in the energies in the human body. They believe this will improve health, provide healing, and reduce anxiety stress. It teaches that these improvements can be achieved through particular foods, beverages, physical touches or manipulations (eg foot reflexology, acupuncture), meditations, and certain exercises (for example tai chi, qi gong, and yoga). For instance, certain foods or beverages are considered “heaty” (Yang) or “cooling” (Yin). The TCM practitioner’s duty is to find out which energy is higher in you and prescribe the opposite to balance the Yin and Yang in you for better health and healing. In healing massage therapies and reflexologies, the principal concept for restoring Yin-Yang harmony for promoting healing is to locate and release stressful congestions in the body’s organs or nervous system that affect the flow of the life force Qi energy in the body. Certain movements in yoga, tai chi, or qi gong are believed to promote and increase the Qi in the body. Simply put, TCM is basically a system of beliefs in energy therapy to naturally accelerate healing and improve body wellness. Then, there is also Reiki (a spiritually guided life force energy). It is a spiritual technique which does not even require ingestion of food or physical contact massages. It believes different coloured lights shone on the body can alter the energies in the human body, or even laying on of hands can cause this life force energy to flow and promote healing in another person. All these treatments stem from the belief that the body is sustained by energy fields and forces that are constantly in flux and need to be kept balanced by increasing or decreasing Yin Qi or Yang Qi through foods, massages, particular exercises, or meditations. TCM practitioners even believe that all humans have the innate energy to heal others because of the natural existence and interaction of such energies within and between them and other people. Such energies might even increase as they heal more people.

The Biblical perspective.The application of Taoism’s Yin-Yang and Qi energy force theories in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the basis for its applications. Such beliefs stem from the teachings of Eastern religions and have no basis from Holy Scriptures. TCM principles replace God, Who is the Creator and Sustainer (Col 1:16-17) of all life and the Healer of man, with the gods of “vital life energy forces”. The Bible teaches us that we should pray for the sick and provide practical medication and help (Jam 5:14). At Creation, “the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen 2:7). Only God can give life. The thinking that man can enhance his own Qi makes man to be God. God alone holds life (Ps 104:29). Those who think that they have the power to heal themselves, if they can manage these mystical energies in themselves or in others, have not glorified God, but have instead “lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven… and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways.“ (Dan 5:23).

So for some of you reading this article, the question you may have in your mind is – does that mean that I can’t take TCM remedies, eat “heaty” or “cooling” foods and drinks, take any Chinese herbs, or get massages and acupuncture treatments? Can I use TCM without its Yin Yang Qi principles? God willing, we will see the answers in our next Pastoral.

Yours in our Lord’s service