Truth for Today

More Truth for Today articles from past issues of the Presbyterian Standard are available online here.

Old Truths for a New Age (4)

Rev. Brian Garrard

Continued from the previous issues. A prominent aspect of the New Age phenomenon is the interest in innovative healing therapies. In this further article Mr Garrard indicates what these are, why we should be wary of them, and the Biblical teachings which are important here.

First published in the Presbyterian Standard, Issue 23, July-September 2001.

The Healing Boom

THE various alternatives to traditional medicine have now reached epidemic proportions. It is impossible to list them all, but a few can be mentioned. For example:

(i) Acupuncture: This is the treatment that uses needles to heal a whole host of conditions and not merely pain.

(ii) Reflexology: Massaging the feet and other so-called pressure points.

(iii) Homoeopathy: Administering substances in minute doses that in a healthy person would produce symptoms not unlike the disease.

(iv) Iridology: Diagnosing illness from an observation of the eyes.

(v) Radiesthesia: The belief that cancer etc. is caused by radiations coming up from the ground. As a result various protective devices are sold.

(vi) Herbal medicine: There are possible benefits to be obtained from herbal remedies yet it should be noted that despite the herbologists who refuse to use occult practices there are many who do.

Added to this others employ psychic powers.

Besides these we could mention meditation and several others.

A Problem

Although some of these practices have their good points (as in the case of herbal medicines for certain conditions) the vast majority of practitioners operate using a non-Christian world view (e.g. hinduism and buddhism). Nearly all use occult and psychic practices, influences and inspirations.

A further difficulty presents itself to those who seek to assess these phenomena: some at least appear to work, although we should add that there is a great deal of 'quackery' to be encountered.

A Disturbing Trend

Many professing Christians are involved in these practices either as patients or as professionals. This raises questions:

(i) Should Christians partake in something that often draws its basic ideas from the occult, witchcraft and non-Christian ideas and philosophies?

(ii) Is it wise to partake in something that could be harmful to the soul?

(iii) Ought anyone to be involved in questionable activities?

Some Underlying Biblical Principles

1. The believer in the Lord Jesus Christ should have no involvement in pagan and heathen ideas. A complete spiritual separation needs to be made.

2. There should be a refusal to make contact with the occult or any dubious thing however tenuous it might be. We ought to have nothing to do with the works of darkness, but rather reprove them. This rules out the 'New Age' entirely.

3. We are the Lord's. As such he calls us his bride and body and therefore we are reserved for him alone. God forbid that our hearts should be divided in any way.


1. In 2 Corinthians 12:9 we read: "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." In this verse, the great Apostle was submitting to the providence of an all wise God.

2. What do we mean by Providence? In answer: God is the creator of all things. In his sovereignty he wisely governs every part of his creation especially humans. In particular this government extends to the church where God lavishes his love and care upon his own dear people. Thus we can say: providence is the ordering, governing, preserving work of God on our behalf and in all our ways. Consider the words of the Assembly of Divines who sat at Westminster 300 years ago: "God's works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures; ordering them, and all their actions, to his own glory."(1) Another writer speaks of God "preserving all that he has made. He upholds all things by the word of his power... ." He later adds: "In governing all that he has made. First, he restrains the creature.... Secondly, he guides his creatures. It is his voice that rolls the stars along, and marshals all the host of heaven, and works wonders among the inhabitants of the earth. Without him atoms and planets, angels and devils, saints and sinners can do nothing... ."(2)

3. This providence springs from God's sovereignty, that is, his kingship over all he has made. In addition, it also flows from his decree, for God has decreed all that comes to pass. With him there are no mistakes, accidents, chances or coincidences. In love our heavenly Father is planning, working, willing everything for our good and to his ultimate glory. With the writer quoted above we are forced to exclaim: "God's providence results from his nature - it is holy, just, benevolent, wise, supreme and sovereign, sure and stable, powerful and irresistible."(3)

Submission to the Will of God

(a) In 2 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul speaks of a "thorn in the flesh" (v.7). It is now fashionable to say that this was some 'spiritual' affliction or even a troublesome church member! No doubt the apostle suffered from these, but here in the text the clear understanding is that Paul had a physical malady. Although he prayed and asked for healing three times, God refused to restore him.

(b) There was no murmuring or bitter complaining against God.

(c) He accepted the 'thorn' as God's will for his life and saw it as part of divine providence.

(d) The apostle recognised that this was a means of sanctification and thus he was able to rejoice. Verses 9 & 10: "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities therefore I take pleasure in infirmities."

A Better Way

The apostle prayed (v.8): "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me." It is right to pray that God would restore us when we are ill. Every confidence is given us that God will hear. When such a restoration is granted we should be careful to thank him for his goodness in raising us up again. What is to be done, however, when healing is denied either through medicine, surgery, the body's natural processes or God's providences?

1. View the affliction in a positive light. God has permitted it, so it is for our eternal good.

2. It glorifies God. Difficult for us to understand perhaps, yet we do not see as God sees.

3. Here is an opportunity for the power of God to be manifested in a life that never murmurs or complains at God's decree.

4. With such a submissive attitude on the part of the sufferer the world can be witnessed to in ways that were not possible when we were fit and well.

5. The illness can have the effect of drawing us nearer to the Lord, weaning us from the world and causing us to love the Lord in deeper ways.

6. We learn that God and his grace can meet us in our greatest need. "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

IN THE NEW AGE there is a mad rush for healing, self-improvement and an extreme clinging to life. Far better and wiser that we submit to providence. If God sends restoration all well and good. If he does not then rest in his loving hands, looking beyond the present scene to our eternal inheritance.

(To be continued, D.V.)


1. The Larger Catechism, Q & A 18.

2. Jehovah-Jireh: A Treatise on Providence, William S. Plumer, pp.14,15.

3. Ibid., p.16.