Western vs. Eastern Paradigms

   When we look at the history of the world we perceive many themes. One way of viewing progress is that Western Civilization has been mostly concerned with the discovery of the outside world, while Oriental Civilizations have busied themselves with the internal exploration of the human person. The Europeans conquered continents while the Chinese built the Great Wall. Amerigo Vespucci mapped the Atlantic coast while Buddhist monks mapped the body. Galileo observed the heavens while the Japanese explored man’s mortal weaknesses.

   These are broad strokes, but they paint a picture worth considering. If the Orientals spent millennia observing the human body-soul composite, do we really assume they have nothing valuable to contribute to our dialogue about what constitutes health and wellness? On the other hand, do we undiscerningly embrace Hindu-Buddhist philosophical and religious explanations for how things work in the universe – especial the intricate cosmos we call man (humans)?

   In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis reminds us of an important fact: “Christians do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all the way through.” This is an important point. If God created us in his image and likeness, with reason, free-will, and conscience, and if he made us good from the beginning, all of the other religions must contain at least some hint of truth. The devil is a good liar but even a lie is a twisted truth. It is our duty as Christians to untwist the lies. Following the wisdom of Paul (Phil 4:8), true Christians embrace everything that is good, beautiful, and true. All true ideas belong to us because we are God’s people and He is Good, Beautiful, and True.


   Of course, when two ideas necessarily conflict, Christians must believe that Christianity is right and the other religious view is wrong. 2+2=4. I am not here to debate relativism. If you can’t accept that people are simply, flat-out wrong sometimes, I can’t help you. Either plants are divine or they are not, but they cannot be both divine and not divine at the same time and in the same respect – but we touch more on that later.

   As C.S. Lewis points out, it is not the theory of the thing that is important but the thing itself.  I love my wife, not the theories of why my wife is lovable. I use essential oils because they work, which is to say that their benefits are apparent to me and I recognize something wholesome in them – something God put in them out of love for us, something that speaks of His providence and master design for our wellbeing. C.S. Lewis explains:

The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work. 

I will tell you what I think it is like. All sensible people know that if you are tired and hungry a meal will do you good. But the modern theory of nourishment – all about vitamins and proteins – is a different thing. People ate their dinners and felt better long before the theory of vitamins was ever heard of: and if the theory of vitamins is someday abandoned they will go on eating their dinners just the same. Theories about Christ’s death are not Christianity: they are explanations about how it works. . .

The theories are not themselves the thing you are asked to accept. . . You may ask what good it will be to us if we do not understand it. But that is easily answered. A man can eat his dinner without understanding exactly how food nourishes him. A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works: indeed he certainly would not know how it works until he has accepted it.

- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

   Where does this lead us to, practically speaking? One take-away is that natural medicine is not the boogeyman. Essential oils are not inseparably related to New Age principles.  I believe the devil wants us to think natural medicine belongs to him. No way! Plants were created by God for our health and nourishment. What needs to be articulated better is the unity between body and soul in a Christian vision of healing.

   Christians ought to be on the forefront of natural medicine. Modern allopathic medicine, for all of its benefits, is not the only Christian way to seek healing.  In fact, I tend to think that natural medicine is much more along the lines of what God desires for us, but both alternative and allopathic medicine have a legitimate place in our Christian philosophy of healing. It is time to re-examine the entire health and wellness field from a Christian worldview.

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