[Transcript] – Should Christians Do Yoga? How To Combine Energy Medicine & Religion, Flat Earth Christianity, Transcendental Meditation, Anti-Aging & More With Pastor Toby Sumpter.

Affiliate Disclosure


Podcast from:  https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/should-christians-do-yoga/

[00:00] Introduction/TradeStation/Organifi

[11:45] How Christians Have Been Appropriating Other Traditions and the Difference Between Yoga and Christmas

[29:05] Scripture, Aromatherapy, and Essential Oils

[35:30] Denial of Energy Medicine: A Form of “Flat Earth” Christianity?

[36:59] Molekule/Quip

[42:40] Two Most Important Questions About Any Alternative Health Practice Before You Dive Into Them

[44:05] Is Transcendental Meditation a Form of Idol Worship?

[52:10] Did Jesus Use Energy Healing?

[55:50] Prayer and Emotions on Molecules and Matter

[58:50] Why We Need a Case-by-Case Analysis of Each Therapy, Rather than a Blanket Rejection

[1:06:00] Concept About Vital Energy: Biblical or Not

[1:08:40] “Health Idolatry”

[1:18:29] End of Podcast

Ben:  Hey what’s up, it’s Ben Greenfield and on today’s show, I’ve done it again.  I am taking a dive into a controversial topic; in this case, whether or not Christians should do yoga and how people of a religious background such as Christianity can combine their religious beliefs with the use of modalities like acupuncture and biofeedback and homeopathic medicine, chiropractic energy medicine, Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine and yeah, yoga.  In other words, should Christians do the down-dog; that’s what this podcast is all about, so it might be a little bit controversial but I think you’ll get a lot out of it.  It’s actually super-duper interesting with this guy named Toby Sumpter, a Pastor in Idaho.  So, as if that’s not conservative enough to be a Pastor from Idaho.  You’ll enjoy this one, I think, and I’m curious to hear your feedback on it.

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In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Show:

If we get that wrong or we say, “only living is the crucial thing and yeah, maybe there’s life after death, but I don’t know who’s to say”, you’re gonna end up idolizing this life, and you’re gonna get things in a bad order; you’re gonna get them imbalanced.  The question is, ‘is it lawful, but is it edifying?’ And I think, especially in this area of alternative medicine and so on, questions to ask would be “is my use of this causing me to grow in holiness and godliness?”

Ben:  Hey folks, it’s pretty much not a secret that lately I’ve taken a somewhat deep dive into what a lot of people consider to be “woo-woo”, meaning forms of healing and enhancing the body and brain that involve modalities like acupuncture, yoga, chiropractic medicine, energy medicine, acupuncture, ayuvedic energy points, traditional Chinese medicine, and even this concept of chi, or prana, or chakra, or life force or whatever you want to call it.  And a lot of these things were dismissed for a long time as not just medically questionable but also religiously questionable.  But now it seems that a lot of these once suspect health practices have gained approval and they’ve been recategorized as somewhat non-religious and instead falling into the auspices of health care or fitness or scientifically acceptable modalities.  And they seem to have gained a great deal of cultural legitimacy because people interpret them as science instead of as religion.  And the use of meditation and visualization are commonly prescribed by even physicians to reduce stress and chiropractic medicine which we did a podcast episode on a few weeks ago.  Even though it still gets ridiculed every now and again, it’s actually acquired a decent amount of respectability.

In many cases, spinal adjustments that you might have done are a lot of times combined with energy balancing and chakras and meridian pressure points.  And a lot of these things that frankly, because it is also no secret on this show that I am a professing Christian, I’ve been called out on.  Because I have a strong belief in the power of things like prayer and the ability of God to work miracles and to heal, but I also embrace and personally utilize a lot of these unconventional therapies.  I was doing kundalini yoga in my sauna just this morning, and that’s something that definitely stems from a non-Christian tradition.

Well recently, I was hiking down in Scottsdale, Arizona and while I was hiking, as I’m prone to do, I was listening to a podcast; in this case a sermon from what’s called the Trinity Reformed Church podcast.  And the sermon was by this guy named Toby Sumpter, and in that sermon Toby went into things like how folks used to do things like pray over people and anoint them with oil and he kinda described the link between spiritual health and physical ailments.  And it was really great message especially considering that while I was listening literally, that day I was at a medical conference where there was a ton of discussion among a lot of the world’s top physicians about energy medicine and it’s growing relevance and efficacy.  And so I decided that in an attempt to frame for myself and for you, particularly if you are Christian or if you are trying to discover whether or not these newer forms of alternative medicine that really are based on non-Christian pasts, in many cases, are something that are acceptable for you to be delving into or what the Bible has to say about these things.

And so I invited Toby on to the podcast and he graciously accepted and I’ve actually attended his church in the past.  I used to live in Moscow, Idaho; I’ve met Toby, he’s a great guy.  He’s the Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church in Moscow and he has a master’s degree in Theological Studies from the Erskine, I dunno if I’m pronouncing that properly, the Erskine Theological Seminary and he has a bachelor’s in Liberal Arts and Culture from New Saint Andrew’s College, which by the way if you haven’t heard of that, is a great little literary arts college in Moscow, Idaho.

You can also find Toby on Amazon, he’s the author of the book “Job: Son of Glory” and the book “Blood-Bought World”, and he has four kids along with his wife Jenny down in Moscow.  Now before we delve in and welcome Toby to the show, everything that we talk about including the specific sermon that sparked my desire to record this episode, Toby’s books, his blog which is excellent, the Trinity Reformed Church podcast, and other related episodes that I’ve done on energy medicine, you can all find over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/toby.  That’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/toby; so Toby, with that all said and out of the way, welcome to the show man.

Toby:  Hey, thanks so much Ben, it’s a real pleasure to be with you.

Ben:  Yeah, absolutely.  And kind of a funny story, I think the first time that I met you, I believe you had a pink or purple or blue hair, I think.  Am I remembering that correctly?

Toby:  [laughs] You would bring that up first.

Ben:  [laughs] Gotta break the ice somehow, man.  Did you really, what was it, pink?

Toby:  Well, you know actually, originally it was burgundy.  And then, so I went on a mission trip, my poor dad… I’m a pastor’s kid which explains some of this.

Ben:  Yeah.

Toby:  But I went on a missions trip, my buddy and I thought it’d be cool one night to dye my hair burgundy and my poor father, the next morning said “uh-oh, we gotta take care of that”, took me down to a hair salon in which the lady did her very best to strip it out of my hair, leaving it a rather pinkish color.  And so I think when I arrived in Moscow, probably when you met me, it was maybe almost a year later but that was sort of the color of my hair as it was growing out.

Ben:  Oh okay, gotcha.  See I thought you were just some rebellious punk rock-and-roller but it turns out it was all innocent, huh?

Toby:  [laughs] It was probably some blend of that but… and I would point out we were like 17 or something like that so.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah.  It was a while ago.  Blame it on the youth.

Toby:  [laughs]

Ben:  Hey so, like I mentioned as I was introducing you, it’s kind of a growing phenomenon even among Christians, to be doing things like yoga classes, and meditation, and visualization, and utilizing energy medicine to heal themselves.  And it’s not as though Christians have not been appropriating other religious traditions for centuries, right?  Like Easter for example used to be a fertility ritual; that’s why we have the bunny rabbits and the eggs that you get more babies, but now we celebrate that as a Christian holiday.  And I might be mistaken on my historical interpretation of Easter, but it seems as though that’s one thing that we’ve kinda claimed.  We can say the same thing about Christmas in some cases I believe, as well.  But what’s the difference between doing something like that and something like yoga?

Toby:  So this is a massive topic as you’ve already sketched.

Ben:  We’ve got time.

Toby:  Yeah, so the Christian view of the world, as you know, God created everything.  So at the core, back at the beginning God is the creator of everything and so everything that God made is good.  So, everything in Heaven, in outer space, the Earth, under the Earth; it’s his good creation, you can read about it in Genesis chapter 1.  The problem comes with after God creates the first man, the first woman, Adam and Eve, you know this, but they rebel against God.  Adam sins and the promise was that if Adam was obedient, faithful, trusted God, that he’d be blessed, he would live forever, he would enjoy God’s creation and in communion with God forever.  And in fact, he puts him in this garden in the middle of the world that he’s freshly made and everything in the world and everything in the garden except one tree, everything else is a yes.  Imagine when your kids are little and you have to work hard not to turn everything into a no, right?

Ben:  Right.  Everything except the big apple tree coz we’re all convinced it was an apple, right?

Toby:  Yeah, whatever it was.  But anyways, so everything’s a yes; so everything in the world is good, everything’s blessed, everything’s for the good of his people.  He says “be fruitful, multiply, fill the Earth, find all the cool stuff I put in the world”.  In lessons I talk about Genesis 2 is actually kinda like a treasure map.  You read Genesis 2, God puts them in a garden, he says there’s a river flowing out of this garden and divides into four different rivers and down one river there’s gold and bdellium stones.  You think about God telling this to the very first human being and “what’s gold, how’s he gonna find it?” but God sketches this treasure map and basically he’s telling him the world is full of really cool stuff; amazing stuff, go find it and find out what it’s useful for.  So that’s the backstory, but then Adam does the one thing that God says do not do.  He says that if you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, in the day that you eat of it you will surely die.

The serpent comes in the garden, tempts the woman, she’s deceived, she eats, she gives some to her husband, rather than remaining faithful to God, her husband acquiesces, sins and plunges the world into sin and death.  And so this begins the story of the Bible and the story of the human race, and so from here on out, you have this good creation that God made but now have sin and death that’s contaminated it in some way.  And so even in Genesis 3 as God is confronting the situation, now the ground is gonna fight with you Adam.  So rather than being somewhat easier to work the ground and find all the cool stuff that God put in ground, now there’s gonna be thorns and thistles rolling out of the ground.  It’s gonna fight you, and now the woman is made to bear children and that’s gonna bear children with great pain and agony, God says.  There’s gonna be divisions and enmity and animosity in the world, and ultimately Adam and Eve and their children are going to die.  And so there’s this good world and yet there’s this real brokenness in the world, and there’s death in the world, there’s dying in the world, there’s animosity and division in the world.  So when you ask me…

Ben:  Although we’ve fixed most of that with epidural anesthesia during labor so it’s all good now.

Both:  [laugh]

Toby:  Yeah, and Twitter, right?

Ben:  Right.

Toby:  Sometimes we pretend, and this is really what the issue is: you come to the world and you say something like “what about acupuncture, what about eastern practices?” or stuff like that.  And as a Christian, you come to say “well, anything good in the world is from God, however sin and death has done a number on the world and on people in particular.”  So following this opening episode of sin entering the world, you have this division that develops in the human race and God actually promises this in Genesis 3:15, that the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent are gonna be at odds, but ultimately the seed of the woman is gonna crush the head of the seed of the serpent.  Ultimately, I believe that’s a prophecy of Jesus, and on the cross he is lifted up in order to crush evil, in order to crush sin, in order to destroy the power of death, in order to take away our sins.

Ben:  Basically in order to remedy what happened way back when in the Garden of Eden.

Toby:  Exactly.  So ultimately, Jesus comes in order to break the power of sin and death and that’s what the Gospel is; the New Testament is this gospel that Jesus is God come to rescue the human race from sin, death, and the Devil.

Ben:  Right, and it’s not just the Gospel by the way, for those of you listening in, go listen to my podcast interview with Rob Bell because this is also an amazing story.  Even if you’re listening and you haven’t read the Bible, you aren’t familiar with this story and you might think that some of the stuff is religious gobbledygook, the fact is that it’s actually a pretty cool magical story in the same way that J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is a wonderful story and C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia is a wonderful story.  What Toby is describing is not just religion but it’s also one of, in my opinion, the greatest, coolest stories that exist.

Toby:  It’s funny you say that Ben coz I was just reading the Gospel of Matthew this morning and I got to the section of the betrayal of Jesus, his arrest, his trial, and his crucifixion all at the end of Matthew.  And I was just thinking about that very thing; I thought “of course I believe this and this story is I believe the center of human history”, but at the same time as I was reading it, I was actually thinking “this is just an amazing story.”

Ben:  Yeah.

Toby:  It’s a beautiful story and I thought to myself that even if somebody says, “I’m not a Christian, I’m not a believer that they should still read the gospels” and I think they’ll be compelled by the beauty of the story, if not actually drawn to love Christ.  But, back to your question, long story long, whenever we come into the world and we pick something up and we say “what do I think about this as a Christian?”, we have that backstory which is “good creation, fallen-ness of man, and then the salvation coming through Christ”.  But in the meantime, human history has these two lines: the line of faith, the line that looks to God for salvation, looks to God for forgiveness and ultimately looks to God for redemption from this problem, and then you also have this other line, this line of the serpent, the line of those who continue in their rebellion and hate God and hate one another.  Now, of course because we’re people and because we’re actually still made in the image of God even when we rebel against him, we don’t run around with pitchforks and sneers on our faces cackling wickedly most of the time.

Ben:  Right.

Toby:  In our sin, we like to pretty ourselves up, we like to pat ourselves on the back, we like to justify ourselves because we wanna be right, we wanna be good, we wanna be thought well of.  And so the seed of the serpent doesn’t look like a bunch of Halloween characters; the seed of the serpent is often people who tuck their shirts in then workout at the gym and have nice looking families, but the principle is that they are serving themselves, they want to find a way for themselves in the world to be successful apart from God, and so they’re gonna do things their own way.  And the Bible says that the end of that is ultimately death and it’s rebellion against God because God made them, God loves them, God made this world, God gives them life and health and so on.

So, what we do apart from God is what the Bible says is we make “idols” and we pretty up our rebellion, we give it all kinds of fancy names but ultimately it’s us doing life without God.  It’s us doing life on our own terms, it’s us trying to justify ourselves.

So Ben, you come again to the question; I found this thing in the world and I think a lot depends on “okay, what are you using it for, where did it come from, what is it then used for?”  If it’s something that God made, it’s a tangerine, then I would say it’s by definition part of God’s creation; God made it, it has a basic goodness.  Now just because it’s good, doesn’t mean you can’t do something bad with it.  I can take a tangerine and chuck it at my neighbor’s head, right?  And I can’t justify that by saying it’s part of God’s good creation; no, you can misuse God’s good creation.  The skin’s meant to be peeled and it’s meant to be eaten and enjoyed.  Likewise, we can do that in lots of ways.  We can take things that God made as good and then we can misuse them.  And so when we come into an eastern culture that for example doesn’t know God, we have to be asking questions like “is there something in this that’s part of God’s original good creation when he made the world or is this a way of living life apart from God?”

Ben:  Now if I can interrupt you real quick before you jump into answering that question, you mentioned, and I didn’t want to necessarily skim over this, that the eastern processes or these eastern practices are void of a belief in God or presence of God.  I admittedly am not well versed in the history, but is that indeed the case?  Did most of the stuff arise from pretty much zero background in a belief in the Christian God or any form of historic Christian theology?

Toby:  I would say that’s a really important question and I actually don’t know the thorough answer to that myself.

Ben:  I mean I can tell you I read… I’m reading a book about marma points right now; I’m learning how to massage different parts of the body to elicit certain reactions.  There’s a point on the elbow that you can massage to assist you if you have stomach pain for example or there’s a point towards the top of the head that can reduce nausea or morning sickness.  And I’ve read this book cover to cover; it’s a comprehensive treatise of traditional Chinese medicine and also Ayurvedic medicine, and there is not any discussion of Christianity or God therein when it lays out the historical context of at least those two practices which I know influence a great deal of the modern versions of eastern medicine practice in the US.

Toby:  Right.

Ben:  From what I’ve experienced the answer is no, but I was curious if you’ve come across anything.

Toby:  Yeah, I mean part of the research that would be interesting to do is, and there has been Christianity in the East so at least tradition says that after the ascension of Jesus, the apostles scattered, basically across the world.  Jesus told them go in all the world, baptizing the nations, discipling the nations, teaching them the Gospel, teaching them to walk with God through Jesus.  And so tradition said that some of the early apostles and Christians went east and made it into places like China and so forth.  So a fascinating study would be to say “what kind of influence has Christianity had on the East”, but that’s the key question though.  People need to dig through that carefully and say “what is part of God’s good creation, what is potentially influence that comes from God’s new creation in Christ, and what stuff is part of man’s rebellion against God and trying to hide from God?”  That’s what has to be teased out and I think that’s the really crucial question about these things.  I think we don’t wanna be just utilitarian and say “if it works, it must be fine.”

Ben:  Uh-hmm.

Toby:  Because again, there’s lots of things that either seem to work, might work for different reasons or are working for bad reasons [laughs] and we really need to be careful about that.  I think that one thing that I will say is, as a Christian, I have a supernatural view of the world.  The Bible invites us to believe that the world is more than just matter.

Ben:  Uh-hmm

Toby:  God is immaterial, God the Son became man but we see evidence of miracles, angels, demons, evil spirits, the Holy Spirit, and so one of the things, of course is that I staunchly believe in the supernatural world and in supernatural realities.

Ben:  Now related to that, energetic medicine like meridian therapy, and kinesiology, and therapeutic touch, and a lot of these are really focused on balancing or releasing energy in the body for the advancement of health or the treatment of disease.  And it’s called all sorts of things like bioenergy, and vital force, and life force, and cosmic energy, and chi, but are you saying that when a Christian for example is considering whether or not they’re gonna utilize one of these healing modalities that they don’t necessarily need to be able to scientifically explain the energy because it falls into the category of something spiritual or something supernatural?  Can we say that invisible energy forces are something that would be acceptable or okay in terms of fitting in to a Christian world view?

Toby:  I think the answer would have to be “it depends”.  So the Bible tells us in James 5, for example, that people who are sick should call the elders of the church over and that they should ask the elders to pray over them, to anoint them with oil, and that they should confess their sins and that you should expect that God will be at work in that prayer to bring healing.

Ben:  One that definitely falls into a woo-woo form of healing, right?  Dumping oil on your head and praying.

Toby:  Sure, I don’t know of a medical reason why that should work.

Ben:  Well I take that back though, because you look at essential oils for example or aromatherapy and we definitely do find some examples that there are things like frankincense for example that does indeed have a physical or a physiological effect on the body in terms of both the effect on the brain and the nasal passages and also the effect from an anti-inflammatory standpoint.  Lavender’s another perfect example, right? You take a bath in lavender and it actually increases the activity of your parasympathetic nervous system.  So I suppose the oil seems to make sense, but of course laying your hands on someone and praying for them, we could probably say that that’s a little bit more related to this concept of chi or energy, or life force, or human touch actually causing some kind of a physical healing response without there necessarily being a scientifically explainable phenomenon occurring.

Toby:  Correct, at the same time the thing that I would point out is that the Bible also gives us examples of evil spirits having certain kinds of powers in the world too.  In the book of Acts, for example at one point Paul, and I think one of the other apostles is going through a town and there’s a girl who was able to tell the future.  And she’s apparently able to tell the future with the power of an evil spirit.  And she’s following them around and eventually Paul gets tired of this and casts the demon out of her, and it says that her owner, she’s apparently a slave girl, using her this way are completely enraged because now she can’t tell the future anymore.  And so I do believe that there are spiritual forces in the world, I believe that some of those spiritual forces are evil and wicked and that we should be at war with, and there are also good spiritual forces that work in the world, supremely the Holy Spirit himself, the spirit of the living God.  So it’s not enough I think just to say “can a Christian be open to spiritual forces in the world?” The answer has to be “which ones?” [chuckles]

Ben:  Yeah.

Toby:  And there are warnings in the Bible about, the Israelites in particular in the Old Testament, are warned against not having anything to do with evil spirits.

Ben:  Right.

Toby:  Sorcery, witchcraft.

Ben:  And that’s the tricky part, right?  Coz we look at this concept of energy medicine, and the Hindus have prana, and the Hawaiians have mana, and the Chinese have chi, and Hippocrates called it the “heat oozing out of his hand”, and in Mesmer it’s called the animal magnetism.  And even in Star Wars, right?  It’s called “The Force” and then we see examples of something that seem somewhat like this in Scripture and I guess what I’m trying to figure out is whether they’re all referring to the same invisible energy that is something good that God created and made a part of us.  And some people would even say that that energy is the breath that God breathed into us when he first made man and woman, or whether all of it should kinda be thrown away because its new age-y or it’s not steeped in Christianity or doesn’t have its origin in Christianity.  And so it’s kind of like that argument of whether we should throw the baby out with the bath water or whether we should kind of claim this thing for Christ or claim this energy for Christ.  How do you approach that?

Toby:  Right, so again I think a Christian needs to be someone, who first of all, immersing himself or herself in the Bible.  So the Bible is God’s word and its God’s clearest word to us.  So we learn about God from creation, we learn about God from experience, but our senses can trick us, our experiences can trick us; God’s word is clear, that’s the Bible.  So first of all, let’s just say we need to be people of the Word, not just going off of “how does this make me feel” but then you look at the Bible and again, you find out that there are good spiritual forces and there are evil spiritual forces.  I was thinking as we were talking about the story of the Exodus, you know, it’s famous, the story of Moses leading the people of Israel out of Egypt.  God gives Moses the staff, sends him into Egypt.  Egypt is the greatest civilization in the world at this time, right?  This is like an old man with a stick going up to the door of the White House. [laughs]  “Excuse me, I’ve got some instructions for you” and Pharaoh says, “I dunno who you are and get off my front porch”.  But when he starts to demonstrate that “I’m from God”, initially Pharaoh has magicians who can do magic, right?  Moses throws his staff down, it turns into a serpent.  Pharaoh’s magicians, they throw their staffs down, and their staffs can turn into serpents.

Ben:  Yeah.

Toby:  And of course Moses’ staff eats theirs, which is kinda cool, but it doesn’t stop there.  The first plague, Moses strikes the water in Egypt and it turns to blood, and when he does that, it says that the magicians of Egypt could do the same thing with their secret.  That’s the reason why Pharaoh was like “I don’t care, you can do magic tricks, I can do magic tricks.”  I’m pretty sure the Exodus story says that they were able to make frogs, the second plague as well.  So again, which powers are we using, are we using the powers of the Living God, are you authorized by God to use that power or are you drawing off of evil powers, dark powers in the world.  That really has to be unpacked, it has to be distinguished before you say…  So I agree with you that I don’t think Christians should just say, “that sounds weird therefore it must not be any good”.  By that standard, the Bible is out coz the Bible has a lot of weird stuff in it.

Ben:  Yeah, that’s almost like flat-earth Christianity, right?  It would consider heretical or demonic any theory that doesn’t fit within commonly acceptable traditions or present knowledge.  And so…

Toby:  So for example, Christians who say “I don’t think you should read J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings because Gandalf is a wizard, then you shouldn’t read the book of Exodus because Moses was the first wizard.

Ben:  Yeah, that’s a good point.  Moses was a wizard.

Toby:  Old guy with a staff and all he’s missing is the hat.

Ben:  Right.

Both:  [laugh]

Ben:  And a Hobbit sidekick.

Toby:  [laughs] Right.  So again, there are evil powers in the world, and it’s one of the great things about reading something like Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia.  Lewis and Tolkien and these guys are getting at the fact that “yeah the world is supernatural” but it’s not just enough to say get supernatural power.  Because of course Saruman is gonna tap into darkness and he thinks he can wield it; he thinks he can use it for good but ultimately it’s gonna turn him to the dark side.  And I think we really do have to be careful with that.

Ben:  Right.

Toby:  I don’t think it’s enough just to say spiritual powers; we say which ones are they?

[Music Plays]

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Ben:  Yeah, that’s the tricky part.  It’s almost like Star Wars to a certain extent, right?  As silly of an analogy it may seem, you have this energy, right?  And it can be used for good or be used for evil, and I guess what I’m trying to wrap my head around is there’s this idea of this chi energy in acupuncture, and auras, and chakras, and what I’m trying to decide is whether that is possibly just another part of God’s creation.  And as you mentioned earlier, we’re called to exercise dominion over God’s creation to explore and discover all these amazing capabilities of the human body and the energy inside us.  I dunno if you’ve ever had a Reiki treatment done but you can feel the warmth of someone’s hands watching over you without them actually touching you and they can actually elicit a healing response just from the energy of one human kinda like getting close to the energy of another human.  And what I’m still trying to wrap my head around is whether that form of energy medicine or forms of energy medicine like those forms are something that we can accept as Christians and ethically utilize as Christians or whether we’re tapping into demonic powers and the evil part of the life force.

Toby:  Yeah.  One of the ways to answer that question would be to ask questions about two principles in Scripture.  One is “is it lawful?” and secondarily “is it edifying?”  So those are two principles that the Bible gives us; there’re certain things that God just says off-limits, it’s not lawful.

Ben:  Gotcha, so like?

Toby:  So Ten Commandments-type stuff.  So somebody might say “in my deepest heart of hearts, I believe that I need to have that other man’s wife and I believe that it will bring me peace and oneness with the world if I have that other man’s wife.”  Well the Bible says you may not. [laughs] It’s unlawful, it’s wicked, it’s evil, and it doesn’t matter what you feel about it, it’s not allowed.

Ben:  Right.

Toby:  So adultery is off-limits, fornication, sex outside of marriage is off-limits.  Stealing is off-limits; so these are lying, Ten Commandment stuff.  This is unlawful, so first of all you ask the question “is it lawful?”  Does God prohibit me from doing this, and so in this area I would say any place, where maybe we’re getting close to the first or second commandments, which is you shall have no other gods before me and also you shall not bow down to any graven image.  Do any of these therapies, do any of these practices require you to do anything that would be disobedient to the God of the Bible.

Ben:  Right, and that was actually a situation where I had something really uncomfortable happen to me.  I read up on and did a lot of research on transcendental meditation and its effect on allowing you to get by on less sleep, its effect on being able to replicate a deep map, its decrease in salivary cortisol; all these effects that it had.  So I went and took a TM course, and the very first thing when I walked in was they were like, you bring fruit and flowers and burn incense in front of the photograph of the guy who invented TM.

Toby:  There you go. [laughs]

Ben:  And for me it’s tough because it’s like could I skip that ceremony and still practice TM and get a great deal of benefit out of this thing that involves some form of what we could definitely say would be idolatry or idol worship, but yet still reap all the benefits of TM, you know what I’m saying?

Toby:  Yeah I do.  So I think for example, I would say if somebody asked me “I think I’m gonna take a course in transcendental meditation” I would say, “okay, but you can’t offer incense to somebody’s image”, right?

Ben:  Right, because Scripture doesn’t say “don’t meditate”, it just says “don’t worship idols”.

Toby:  Right, and then there’ll be further questions.  I’m not familiar enough with transcendental meditation but what the Bible does urge us is to meditate on Scripture, for example, it urges us to meditate on the glory of God, on the greatness of God, on the wonderful acts of God, on his mercy, on his grace, on his goodness, on his beauty.  So you read the Psalms, and David loves meditating on God’s greatness, God’s goodness, God’s word.  And so that’s Christian meditation right there, but if transcendental meditation would require you to avoid God or ignore that God exists or, I know some forms of meditations are all about just emptying yourself, and that strikes me as weird from a Christian point of view, because again it depends on what that means.  Because we’re called to be full of fruits of the Spirit, full of the knowledge of the Lord, full of the Holy Spirit.  So if we’re putting away sin, if we’re putting away the works of the flesh and we’re turning to God in meditation, then that seems great.  But if we’re in some way not doing that or turning away from God or trying to live life on our own apart from God, or even just have some kind of peace apart from the presence of God, then that would be wrong and that would be evil.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah.  Well that makes sense, so we need to look at everything, basically it sounds like what you’re saying through the eyes of whether or not something is lawful and the other thing that you said in addition to lawful, what was it?

Toby:  Is it edifying.

Ben:  Is it edifying.

Toby:  Yeah, and we’ve been given freedom as human beings and the Bible teaches that in Christ, we’ve been given sort of this freedom from sin, but the Bible over and over again in the New Testament says that we’re to use this freedom for the building up of others, for the building up of the church, for the building up of the kingdom of God.  We’re called to be people of good works in the world in order to be a blessing to our neighbor and to do good.  So we’re not to use our freedom to serve ourselves and we’re not to use our freedom as a way of doing harm to other people; we’re to use our freedom to build them up to be edifying.  So this kinda goes back to “the thing in itself might be okay or good but are you using it for good or are you misusing it?”  So this is my “chucking a tangerine at my neighbor” analogy; there’s a good use and a misuse.  The Bible teaches for example that God invented the idea of wine, God invented the idea of beer, and he made grapes so that if you smash them and leave them long enough, they turn into this amazing juice, this amazing drink called wine.  But the Bible also prohibits drunkenness.  The Bible says do not be drunk with wine.  Drunkenness is a sin because you’re not in control of yourself, you’re not in a position to be able to protect other people.

Ben:  Right, which actually is almost like a tough call because as you probably know, that glass of wine at the end of the day can relax you and I think that again, you have to be logical about some of these things.  And that sort of the rule I use; the house catch on fire or protect my family analogy where is my consumption of said compound gonna affect my ability to protect or to provide, and if so then I’ve used too much of it.

Toby:  Right.

Ben:  But ultimately it’s kinda tough because some people say you get happy and destressed at the end of the day, have a glass of wine; therefore you are drunk and sinning, I would argue otherwise.  I would say you simply have a glad heart.

Toby:  Yeah, actually that’s what the Bible says.  So the Bible again says it prohibits drunkenness so we may not lose control and we must be in a position to fulfill our responsibilities as you say.  We need to be able to provide and protect those that we’re responsible for, but the Bible also says that God gave wine to make the heart of man glad.  And so there’s an example of a good gift of God to be used for…  The Bible actually, Paul tells Timothy in one place “take a little wine for your stomach”, so apparently maybe Timothy was having some stomach problems and Paul says, “hey, a little bit of wine has medicinal qualities to it as well.”

But again, that doesn’t mean that it’s fine to three sheets to the wind; you’re called to use it responsibly.  So the question is “so is it lawful, but then is it edifying?”  And I think especially in this area of alternative medicine and so on, questions to ask would be “is my use of this causing me to grow in holiness and godliness and in the fruits of the Spirit or is it causing me to sin against God and other people? Is this enabling me to be more forgiving, is this enabling me to love my wife more faithfully, is this allowing me to love my children more faithfully, is this allowing me to give more generously or is this becoming something in which I’m sort of so obsessed with it or it steals so much of my time and energy away from these other responsibilities that now I’m shirking my duties in the name of being healthy and whole, I’m ignoring my wife and my kids.”  Or “in the name of being healthy and whole, I’m not building the kingdom of God, I’m not in church regularly.”

Ben:  Right, like almost a form of health idolatry, which I actually wanna talk to you about.

Toby:  Yeah.

Ben:  But first, I had a couple of questions, returning back to the energy medicine concept.  One clear cut teaching in the Bible is that it’s inherent in God’s nature to heal and throughout the Old Testament you find God healing a lot of people and in the New Testament, Jesus has a ministry of healing.  There are multiple examples especially in the gospel of Matthew and Luke, and you outlined a couple of them already where Jesus heals and the Apostles were anointed as agents of healing, and healing was seen as one of the gifts of the Spirit.  And like you’ve mentioned, James exhorted the Christians to anoint the sick with oil and to pray for healing.  Many people would say then that the Apostles, for example, were using some form of energy healing or energy medicine.  Now do you think that God gives certain people the ability to place their hands on someone and to heal them or to have more chi or more life force or more energy, or that it’s all simply like a completely supernatural healing experience.  Were the apostles using some form of energy healing, do you think?

Toby:  Well the Bible calls it Holy Spirit [laughs] so I dunno if it’s energy healing but I know it was by the power of the Holy Spirit; it was by the name of Jesus.  I do believe that God has, in the history of the world, given that power to specific individuals, and so we see that in the Old Testament in men like Elijah and Elisha, the prophets.  And then we see that again, as you know, in the apostles.  I do believe that gift given to a particular individual ceased with the apostles.  I don’t believe that people are still given that same apostolic power.

Ben:  You mean the ability to just touch people and heal them?

Toby:  Right, on command.  So Peter and Paul and the other apostles, I believe were given a unique gift of the Holy Spirit and the reason was because they were writing the New Testament.  So the way that the Bible says not anybody can write Scripture, not anybody can speak and say “thus sayeth the Lord”, right?  I can’t just randomly say “I got a word from the Lord and Ben you need to sell your house and move to Bermuda.”  The Bible says that if somebody says that, they are required to demonstrate by miracles that they are sent by God.  So in order to speak on behalf of God, with that kind of direct authority from God, God gives those particular individuals miraculous powers to demonstrate that they really are from God.  And if somebody can’t do miracles of healing and so forth, then the Bible says “they’re not from me”, don’t listen to them.

So the apostles were given the job of writing the New Testament and they were Jesus’ authorized spokesmen and they were the foundation of the Christian church, and so God gave those men specific miraculous gifts of power and healing.  Now at the same time, I’m enough of a history nerd, especially a church history nerd to know that that doesn’t mean that I think that miracles have ceased.  I believe in miracles.  I believe miracles still happen, I believe that God still heals people through prayer, through anointing.  I just don’t believe that that gift is given to individual people as a possession anymore.

Ben:  Right.

Toby:  But I do believe that God gives physicians and other people powers of healing, though I don’t think that it’s a supernatural, on-command, “stand up and walk”, “you can have your sight back”…

Ben:  Yeah, well I think God gives humans in general the power of healing simply based on our ability to express certain emotions and yeah, I know it’s controversial but there’s the Masaru Emoto guy, who does studies on water and has found that when you expose water to prayer or love or gratitude or good emotions or what we might call positive vibes, the crystalline structure of the water actually changes under a microscope.  And you can see a more organized lattice-like structure of water that actually results in what’s called an exclusion zone: an area of negative ions towards the interior of the water and positive towards the outside that allows water to better move through plants or human vasculature in the simple act of us expressing a positive emotion or praying over something or someone appears to actually have some kind of a physical effect.  And yeah, we may not be able to just touch somebody and say “cancer begone” but at the same time there is kind of this interesting phenomenon that occurs when humans direct their energy into certain objects or into other humans.

Toby:  Right, so the Bible says that everything is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer, so I don’t think we know exactly what it means for something to be sanctified.  Literally it means that it becomes holy or is set apart for a God-given use.  The marriage bed, for example, is holy and undefiled, Hebrews 13 says.  And so it’s to be honored by all men, but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.  But when a man makes love to his wife, according to God that’s a holy act; it’s sanctified.  It’s given by God, it’s proper use and it’s blessed by God.

Ben:  Right, another example of a work of creation that could be harnessed for good or for evil.

Toby:  Exactly, but the Word of God and prayer sanctifies, the Bible says, all things by the Word of God and prayer, everything is sanctified.  So if we’re obedient to God’s Word and we give thanks for it in prayer, we’re asking God for wisdom in its use, we’re led to believe that all things have holy uses.  And so in principle, I don’t have any problem with saying “that’s very possible that you pray over water and perhaps God is doing more than meets the eye, more than we know.”  I think the issue is are you praying to the Living God through Jesus or are you just thinking thoughts to yourself or to Brahma or to Buddha or to Allah, that’s a different thing entirely.  But if you’re praying to the Living God in the name of Jesus, then the Bible does say that everything is sanctified, everything can be used in a holy way, in a right way, and can be used for the blessing and the building up of other people.

Ben:  Yeah, I think that’s a really good point instead of having a blanket rejection of this concept of energy medicine or rejecting something because it came from a secular eastern mysticism history that simply approaching things on a case by case basis, right?  Like is this something that is not only as you mentioned lawful and ethical but is it something that can be claimed for Christ and done in such a situation or in such a format where there’s not idolatry involved or some form of hero worship.  And there’s also not some form of calling upon some type of power or some type of name or some type of god in many cases in Ayurvedic medicine or some forms of traditional Chinese medicine or even calling on like, the god of Yu which is a lot of times what some of these practices endorse as well.  If it’s instead some beautiful part of creation, this ability of humans to feel invisible energy or to be able to project positive emotions or prayer onto another person, if it’s something like that it sounds like we simply can, as I’ve mentioned a couple of times before, almost claim something for Christ, like claiming Easter for Christ or doing yoga before church.  I think that some of these things can certainly be done by Christians.

Toby:  I think the crucial thing is to actually fully and completely take it for Christ.  I agree completely.  I think the dangerous thing sometimes is we’re naïve; I think some of us can be naïve about things and so for example, I’ll be controversial for a moment on your podcast…

Ben:  We never do that.

Toby:  But if I fly a rainbow flag out my house, it doesn’t matter what I mean by that rainbow flag.  I could say I mean the rainbow in the sky that God put after the flood promising never to destroy the world again, but everybody in the West and in America will see “oh, that guy is LGBT-affirming/welcoming guy.”  It doesn’t matter what I think it means or say it means.  I can’t say I’ve taken it for Christ.  Well, sorry because right now, it’s a sign that means something in our culture and our society.  And so a month or so back, Ken Ham who’s the hardcore six-day creationist, literal flood-guy fundamentalist Christian who has the ark encounter in Kentucky or whatever, lit up his ark with rainbow colors and it was unmistakable what he meant by it and made a bunch of people mad because they said “hey, that’s our sign.  And he was able to use it in a way, I think he totally took it for Christ; he said “I mean it in this way, Noah’s Ark, God judges sin and you need to run to him for salvation.”  I thought that was a glorious moment where somebody took a sign, took a thing and clearly submitted it to the lordship of Jesus Christ.

So I think that’s the key though, back in the day when the missionaries were going out into the boondocks of Europe and one of my favorite stories is Boniface, this badass Christian missionary who goes out into the woods and these Germanic tribes have this holy tree dedicated to Thor.  And so, this holy scared tree and this ancient tree and Boniface one day finds out “oh this is their god, they think this is their sacred tree”.  He gets an axe out and goes out and chops the tree down.  And all the heathen tribes are like “oh no he’s gonna get struck by lightning, Thor’s the storm god, he’s dead, he’s totally dead” and they wait around for Thor to strike him dead, and it never happens.  And because of this courage and bravery, tons of these Germanic tribes turned to Christ because they realized Christ is the more powerful god and Thor is impotent.  I think that when Christians come to things like this, if they’re going to plunder the Egyptians, if they’re gonna take things back for Christ, they have to figure out ways in which they clearly, clearly cut down the tree of idolatry that it’s connected to and clearly identify it with Christ.  I would say one example with this would be make sure that you, as best you can, recognize the power of language, the power of words.  I told you before we started talking that I’m not that familiar with a lot of this alternative medicine stuff but I would say, part of what actually happened is a translation process.

Ben:  You’re gonna need to do a 90-minute Kundalini yoga session before we started recording?

Toby:  You know, Ben, I’m on the other end of this spectrum.  I’m probably just gonna make you sick if you knew the last time I took a jog or something like that, so I’ll spare you the gore-y details.  But I think to the extent that there’s a conquering taking place, you need to figure out how does the Bible say this?  So you wanna submit these things to the Word of God.  That’s how everything is sanctified, by the Word of God and prayer.  So I would be weary of people just getting sucked into the language of these other alternative eastern anti-Christian practices and then thinking “but I’m doing it as a Christian coz I go to church on Sunday or coz I read my Bible everyday.”  Well, you need to take it all the way in.  You can’t just go out there and say I think it’ll be okay coz I’m not gonna do the incense in front of the picture.  That’s good, but you also need to figure out “okay, how does this translate into Biblical categories, what does the Bible say this is called?”  So I’m weary about talking about life force stuff when the Bible doesn’t use that language.  The Bible does talk about God making us living creature, the Bible does talk about the Holy Spirit, God does talk about His power at work in us.  I would wanna translate all those things into Biblical language.

Ben:  Right, or even like the breath of life, right?  We see that type of terminology used in Scripture which I know, there’s this whole concept of vitalism for example which is something that distinguishes a living from a non-living being in that this vital force is the breath of life that God breathed into dust to make a person.  And I know that a lot of these concepts are based around this concept of vital energy, but it could just as easily as you point out, be deemed the breath of life.

One other thing that I was thinking about when you were talking about how people interpret what we’re doing is also this idea… I remember when I was growing up, for the longest time my parents didn’t drink alcohol, and one big reason for that was because they had a couple of friends who were former alcoholics, right?  And so they just didn’t even want to confuse those people or cause them to, as we would say in Christian circles, to stumble, right?  And so they decided “hey, I’m not gonna do alcohol” and I would say the same thing.  If I’ve got a friend or somebody who sees me doing transcendental meditation or hears that I practice that, and all of a sudden they think it’s acceptable to worship an idol or begin to hang paintings of different Indian practitioners around their house and bow down to them and bring them little fruits throughout the day.

Toby:  Right.

Ben:  I would probably reconsider whether or not it’s a good idea for me doing TM or at least allowing that person to see me do it because I’m gonna negatively  influence others or draw others into a scenario that might actually be a sinful scenario for them.  So that’s another thing that I think we should consider as well is how we’re appearing to other people; we’re doing some of these things, whether we’re explaining it thoroughly to them versus just letting them think that we’re steeped in these eastern mysticism practices and accepting them for everything that they are.

Toby:  Right, and that’s the whole point of edification again.  So edification is building people up, it’s causing them to understand God, to understand the gospel, to grow in holiness and godliness and wisdom.  And so we wanna be building one another up, urging one another on to follow Christ, to put off the works of the flesh, to put on the works of righteousness.  But yeah, if we’re sending mixed signals, then we’re not building one another up.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah.  There’s this concept that I mentioned earlier, and this probably one of the last things I wanna touch on Toby, of health idolatry.  The idea that Christians do a lot of us, especially in America, we spend a lot of time focusing on health, on our bodies and even for me, I’ve had a really distinct focus lately and a really big interest in anti-aging and longevity; how do we enhance our happiness and our quality of life and how we feel when we’re 80 or 90 or 100.  How could we even perhaps live to 150 and do so in a manner in which we’re not just cold and hungry and sick all the time.  I’m curious what your perspective is, especially for Christians, on where it becomes something like health idolatry or body idolatry.

Toby:  Right, so again back to the original creation and fall, death is an enemy and the effects of sin and the fall and death are enemies in the Christian world view.  And this is why Jesus came, why he lived, why he died, and of course Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; that he conquered sin, death and the Devil and set us free.  So, big picture is that death is an enemy, and to the extent that healing and medicine and technology are gifts of God for sort of pushing back the conquest of death, if you will, and to the extent that God gives us those gifts and enables us to live longer, fruitful lives; that’s all to the good.  Every breath we’re given is a gift of God and it’s to be used to glorify him and again, to be a blessing to other people.  So all things being equal, longer life, healthier life is more opportunity to praise God, to worship God, to draw others to God and to be a blessing to our neighbor and to the world around us; so that’s all things being equal and good.  At the same time, Paul says “for me, to live is Christ but to die is gain”, and so what he means by that is after the resurrection of Jesus, because death is not the last word anymore, because our sins are taken away in the death of Jesus, Jesus says that all those who trust in him will live forever; all those who trust in him will never die, he says.  But what he means by that is that those who trust in him, though you die, yet you will live and what that means, and this is the promise of life in Christ, is resurrection.

Just as Jesus died and he rose again, all those who trust in Christ, who find their identity in him, they’re promised not only life in Christ now but death and life again, resurrection life in him.  Which means that, I think the crucial thing to distinguish then is we should love life, celebrate life, and use the opportunities and the abilities and gifts God gives us to extend life and at the same time I think if we don’t have the same attitude as Paul and say “but to die is gain”, living is a win and dying is a win because of Christ.  If we get that wrong and say “only living is really the crucial thing, and maybe there’s life after death but I don’t know who’s to say”, we’re gonna end up idolizing this life.  You’re gonna end up putting things in a bad order, you’re gonna get them imbalanced.  And so St. Augustine, this famous church father from the 5th century A.D. is famous for talking about one of the effects of sin in our lives is that we have disordered loves.  So our loves are sort of all disordered out of whack.  We love certain things more than we should and we don’t love other things as much as we should.  Our loves are out of whack, they’re disordered.  This is what sin does and so I think we have to make sure that when we’re thinking about life and health and energy and things like that, that we’re ordering our loves rightly.

For example, for a Christian, the longing of our hearts is to see Jesus, is to be with Jesus forever.  And he’s our hero, he’s our savior, he’s our God, and to see Jesus face to face is the longing of our hearts.  It’s what we want, and so that has to be our first love and that’s only gonna come through death.  Every one of us is gonna die unless Jesus returns soon, every one of us is gonna die and then we will meet Jesus face to face.  Which means there is a certain kind of eager anticipation to get there.  That has to be our first love, to see Christ face to face.

Ben:  Yeah.

Toby:  For the resurrection, for Heaven, for glory.  Now, does that mean then that I just smoke a pack a day and sit on my couch like a slob?  No, of course not, because that’s squandering the gift of life that Jesus has given me now, right?  So Jesus has given me life now to glorify him, to get ready to be with him and to draw other people to him with me to the extent, again, that I can extend my life, I can have more energy, I can have good health and be a blessing to my neighbor; that’s all to the good.  As long as that’s ordered rightly underneath the greatest goal of glorifying God and enjoying Him forever, of wanting to serve His purposes and longing to be with Him.  Does that make sense?

Ben:  In makes sense, and actually another really good book that I recommend for any of you listening in right now that you should read about kind of this idea, not just behind Christians and taking care of our bodies but Christians and the way we view the food, the energy that we put into our bodies in terms of how that energy, if it was an animal, was treated and also what it’s doing to our bodies in terms of allowing us to share the gift of God’s creation or to enjoy the life that we have here on Earth to the fullest, is a book called The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs: Respecting and Caring for All God’s Creation”.  It’s a relatively new book by this guy named Joel Salatin.  It’s a really great book, as a matter of fact by the time I release this podcast with you Toby, I may have an interview with Joel that’s already been released.  And for those of you listening in, I’ll put a link to that book too in the show notes called “The Pigness of Pigs”.  Just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/toby and I’ll have that in there.

Toby:  That’s a great title, regardless.

Ben:  I know, yeah.  You should definitely give it a read.  I think you’d get a kick out of this guy.  It’s a really great book that goes into why we shouldn’t have GMO corn and twinkies at church potlucks. [chuckles] Anyways though, I know we’ve been going on for a while and this has been incredibly eye-opening and real thought-provoking discussion, I think.  Ultimately, I would say that if you were listening in and you wanna pipe in, you have something to say, or you have a question, or you have your own comment, there’s an area we didn’t cover that you wish we would’ve, just go to the show notes.  Go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/toby, leave your question, leave your comment and I’ll jump in and reply and try to point you in the right direction.

And in the meantime also, check out Toby’s podcast; again, I listen to a few sermons each week and that’s one of the ones I tune in to, so it’s a great show.  It’s called the Trinity Reformed Church podcast, and then also he’s got some great books on Amazon and a wonderful blog; I’ll link to all of that.  Just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/toby.

So Toby, in the meantime, thank you man for coming on the show and sharing all this stuff with us.

Toby:  Yeah, well thanks for being willing to talk to a flat-earther like me.

Both:  [laugh]

Ben:  Now you gotta go for a jog, alright?

Toby:  I uhh, okay.  [laughs]

Ben:  Alright folks, well I’m Ben Greenfield along with Toby Sumpter, signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com; have a healthy week.



It’s absolutely no secret that I, of late, have taken a deep dive into what many would consider to be “woo-woo” forms of healing and enhancing the human body and brain, including the use of modalities such as acupuncture, biofeedback, yoga, homeopathic medicine, chiropractic medicine, energy medicine, acupuncture, ayurvedic “energy points” and traditional Chinese medicine…

…along with a developed growing interest in the concept of chi, Prana, chakra and life force.

Before the 1960s, most of these practices such as sound healing, yoga, chiropractic, acupuncture, Reiki, therapeutic touch, meditation, martial arts, homeopathy, alternative anticancer diets, etc. were dismissed as medically and religiously questionable. But now that these once-suspect health practices have gained approval and been re-categorized as somewhat non-religious and instead of falling under the auspices of healthcare, fitness, or scientific modalities, they seem to have gained a great deal of cultural legitimacy because people interpret them as science instead of religion. Therapies such as acupuncture, biofeedback, and “Therapeutic Touch” (the laying on of hands to channel “Universal Life Energy” to the patient) are increasingly accepted and utilized by physicians, hospitals, and clinics across the country. The use of meditation and visualization are commonly prescribed to reduce stress. Chiropractic, long considered anathema by orthodox medicine, has recently acquired a new respectability, and spinal adjustments are not infrequently combined with more exotic forms of “energy balancing.”

And yet I’ve certainly been called out many times about the fact that I am a professing Christian who – despite having a strong belief in the power of prayer and the ability of God to spontaneously work miracles and heal – also embraces many of these so-called unconventional therapies that stem from non-Christian traditions.

Recently, I was listening to a sermon by pastor Toby Sumpter, in which Toby describes the link between spiritual health and physical ailments. It was a really great message, especially considering that while listening, I was attending a medical conference where there was a lot of chat among some of the world’s top physicians about energy medicine and it’s growing relevance and efficacy. So in an attempt to frame for myself (and you) how energy medicine and alternative healing modalities can best be presented from a Christian standpoint, I invited Toby onto the podcast.

Toby is the Pastor of Preaching at Trinity Reformed Church in Moscow, Idaho. He has an M.A. in Theological Studies from Erskine Theological Seminary and a B.A. in Liberal Arts and Culture from New St. Andrews College. He’s the author of Job: A Son for Glory and Blood-Bought World and the host of the “CrossPolitic” show. He and his wife Jenny have four kids.

During our discussion, you’ll discover:

-How Christians have been appropriating other religious traditions for centuries (such as Easter, which used to be a fertility ritual; you have bunny rabbits and eggs so that you’ll get more babies) and the difference between yoga and Christmas…[11:45]

-What Scripture has to say about things like aromatherapy and essential oils…[29:05]

-If denial of energy medicine is a form of  “flat earth” Christianity…[35:30]

-The two most important questions you must ask yourself about any alternative health practice before you dive into them…[42:40]

-Whether transcendental meditation (and other forms of meditation) is a form of idol worship or a practice Christians shouldn’t do…[44:05]

-Whether Jesus and the apostles were using some form of energy healing…[52:10]

-The amazing effects that prayer and positive emotions can have upon molecules and matter…[55:50]

-Why we need a case-by-case analysis of each therapy, rather than a blanket rejection, before accepting or rejecting them…[58:50]

-The idea that these forms of energy involved the breath of life that God breathed into man, and whether this vital energy needs to be manipulated in our bodies to promote health as the basis of energetic medicine is essentially a pantheistic view and cannot be conformed to biblical theology…[66:00]

-Whether invisible energy forces are the common denominator of creation is not scripturally heretical and it’s only offensive to our traditionally accepted worldview…[67:20]

-If Christians these days spend an unhealthy amount of time focusing on health and engaging in “health idolatry”…[68:40]

-And much more…

Resources from this episode:

Toby Sumpter’s blog

Toby Sumpter’s books on Amazon

Trinity Reformed Church podcast

Toby’s new “CrossPolitic” podcast

–The specific podcast episode on healing/energy medicine that Toby and Ben discuss

-Podcast: Healing Your Body From The Inside-Out, Repairing Relationships, Eliminating Digital Addictions & More: Key Highlights From The 4 Most Life-Transforming Books I Recently Read.

-Podcast: What Is The Bible? How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything.

Books by Monte Kline about how to combine energy medicine, health and Christianity

The Marma Points book Ben mentions about Ayurvedic Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Joel Salatin’s book the Pigness of Pigs

Show Sponsors:

-TradeStation – Active military and veterans, as well as First Responders, get to trade commission free. TradeStation is dedicated to helping everyone who has invested so much into this country. Learn more and sign up today at TradeStation.com/Greenfield.

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-Quip – Go to GetQuip.com/ben to get your first refill pack FREE with purchasing a Quip electric toothbrush.


Ask Ben a Podcast Question

4 thoughts on “[Transcript] – Should Christians Do Yoga? How To Combine Energy Medicine & Religion, Flat Earth Christianity, Transcendental Meditation, Anti-Aging & More With Pastor Toby Sumpter.

  1. Sara says:

    If you are looking at this episode, you should also hear this YouTube conversation. Ben, maybe you should interview this woman! https://youtu.be/OMgDnitTQzE
    Rae Darabont on the Becket Cook show

  2. Jeannine Lane says:

    “if they’re going to plunder the Egyptians, if they’re gonna take things back for Christ, they have to figure out ways in which they clearly, clearly cut down the tree of idolatry that it’s connected to and clearly identify it with Christ.” When it comes to Easter and Christmas, Christians like to believe they have claimed it for the Christ. Problem is, nowhere in the Bible is God cool with that. In fact, he got pretty pissed when the Israelites made a golden calf and tried to “claim it” as a festival to the Lord. How you gonna claim Easter and Christmas for Jesus when God says to touch no unclean thing? You can’t claim something pagans still haven’t given up. Easter and Christmas are NOT clearly identified with the Christ. These holidays are now, at best, a mishmash of pagan and Christian-based lies. Which, last I checked, he ain’t too find of lies either. Besides, God didn’t say to claim anything for him. He says things like “get out of her”, “separate yourselves”, and that there’s “no sharing dark and light.”

    Same goes for these other practices. You’re right that we can’t just blanket condemn something just because it SEEMS woo. We gotta thoroughly investigate not just the origins, but whether they are tied to spiritism or pagan religion. It’s not enough to polish it up and claim it.

  3. Amanda says:

    I found this fascinating as I have been asking myself many of these same questions. The one question that jumped out at me during the discussion, though, was whether western medicine, or science based medicine, can really be considered strictly from God either. Many of the same points that would turn someone off to eastern medicine can be made in this argument. Many of today’s doctor’s have faith only in science and not in our divine creator and much of the pharmaceutical culture is money driven. I agree we must find what God has created for us to assist us in the care of the vessels we were given to house his Holy Spirit. This can only be done through prayer and seeking his guidance. Thank you for advancing this topic. There is much good in this world that was discovered long before the invention of the telescope and I believe much of it has a place today, while still being loving, caring, and faithful Christians.

    1. Steve says:

      I like your comment, Amanda. You make some very intelligent points. I like that you’re not biased. You realize that it’s erroneous to assume that the eastern practices are bad and the western practices are good. I agree that one can argue that western practices, not just eastern practices, could be apart from God.

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