For a long time the pursuit of “natural health” was generally considered counter-cultural, secular, or even pagan. But recently Christians have latched on to it. It’s recognition of the goodness of creation and its encouragement of virtues like prudence and temperance cohere quite nicely with Christian values. But there’s a danger in adopting the natural health mantra — a danger that is often overlooked.
The proponents of the natural health movement often look to Eden as their symbolic model. They recognize the original perfection of creation and then promise a successful return to that perfection. You often hear refrains like “God doesn’t make mistakes,” or “God made women’s bodies to successfully give birth,” thus, if we just abide and cooperate, nothing will go wrong— if we just do things the way they did in Eden everything will be perfect again.
And sometimes they are right. Sometimes our aches and pains are within our control (and may be even our own fault)– something discipline and perseverance can fix. To make our bodies work correctly sometimes we just need to develop better habits, adjust nutrition, or “de-stress.”
But the opposite experience is also common — no matter how much a person may cooperate with nature, nature sometimes refuses to cooperate back. The claim that there is always a “natural” answer to physical pain is naive and often dangerous. It’s one thing to get excited about a natural remedy for hay fever— but what about severe infection or serious injury? Nature may not offer a way to recovery.
It is prudent to always try to address our problems in the most natural way possible. But eventually, there will come some ailment that we cannot fix naturally. I have struggled with various chronic health issues for many years. I’ve tried all sorts of lifestyle changes and dietary changes and natural healing methods– many of them rather extreme and difficult– and while I’ve seen improvement in some areas, some of my issues continue despite anything I do. Like a tornado, some things of nature destroy everything in their path. Sometimes we are powerless.
But this should not cause us anxiety. In the end, we aren’t meant to fix all our physical problems anyway. We aren’t meant to return to Eden. God made this world and these bodies perfect but then everything became imperfect. His solution was not for us to find our own way back but to follow Him forward, onward to another perfection. Our model is not Eden– our model is Heaven.
And so these bodies will wear out, they will fail, and they will die. And we have to remember that there’s only so much we can do about that. An obsession with return to Eden distracts from the end goal of Heaven. It leads us to pride when we do find our cures and possible despair when we don’t.
It takes humility to take care of our bodies with vigor and purpose knowing in the end we are limited and our efforts may be futile. Humility begins with the recognition of what we cannot control and ends with the gratitude for our final consolation, Heaven.
So, Christians, enjoy the backyard vegetable garden, the juicing, and the acupuncture. But don’t buy into the lie that these natural remedies can heal all ills or put off death indefinitely. And don’t spread the lie– only filling others with false hope and leading them to self doubt and unnecessary guilt. After all, we needn’t concern ourselves with defeating death — it has already been defeated.