In the growth of complimentary medicine over the past few decades acupuncture has become a fairly standard practice that many Christians ask me about. My first exposure to this practice led me to assume that acupuncture might have a lot to do with New Age religion and non-Christian spirituality. I decided to investigate this assumption and eventually came to an entirely different conclusion.
The first Christian question to be asked here is quite pragmatic. “Does acupuncture actually bring relief from pain?” If it does then it can be a good thing. Any procedure that can help a person recover health and well-being is good unless it inherently teaches one to deny the faith. We should avoid superstition and silly practices but acupuncture is neither of these if you carefully study it.
The general medical opinion about acupuncture has changed over the years. It was first opposed in the West because science did not have a way of explaining how it could create any positive benefit for the patient. Today the common opinion seems to be that acupuncture may work in three ways. First, it releases endorphins which are the body’s natural pain-control systems. Second, it stimulates nerves in the spinal cord that release pain-suppressing neurotransmitters. Third, it naturally increases blood flow in the needle-puncture area which in turn removes toxic substances.
Most acupuncture is rooted in Taoism and the concept of the yin and the yang. It is commonly understood in Taoism that we should become one with the forces in the universe through various means of meditation. I reject this simple understanding of acupuncture. Acupuncture itself is not religious. Chinese acupuncture is established on a belief system that is not compatible with Christian teaching but the Christian can use any medical help so long as he receives the help “with prayer and thanksgiving.” I am persuaded that the assumption that every medical contribution that comes from non-Christian systems and practices is false fails to grapple with the doctrine of common grace adequately. I have found that acupuncture helps me with some types of pain management and physical recovery from injury. In other cases it has done me little or no good at all. I think my experience mirrors that of most people I know who have used this method to help their general health.