Biofeedback: A Brief Examination

Biofeedback is an alternative therapy whereby electronic monitoring of a normally automatic bodily function is used to train someone to acquire voluntary control of that function. Functions like heart rate, skin temperature, breathing, etc. are controlled by your nervous system. Changes in these functions occur when your environment changes; when you're stressed, excited, happy, sad, depressed, etc. Biofeedback is designed to help manage those emotional responses, as well as the normally automatic responses of our biology. People using it have claimed healing from migraines, high blood pressure, chronic pain, anxiety attacks, and other ailments. According to Web MD, researchers aren't really sure of the exact reasons biofeedback seems to work for some users, and avoid making claims of healing on its behalf, but do say that it promotes relaxation, which does relieve symptoms of stress. The questions arises whether Christians can use biofeedback.

There are, not surprisingly, varying opinions on the issue. Focus on the Family, in their brief response to the query, write, "We see no reason to regard biofeedback as "evil" or "dangerous" in and of itself." They note that, while many Christians do tend to regard anything "holistic" as New Age, and therefore suspect, that in this case such a response has little to support it.They quote author Doug Groothius:

"Not all practices somehow associated with holistic health should be shunned. Biofeedback, for example, may simply be used to gain voluntary control of some bodily function. But when it is used as a tool to raise one's consciousness to the divine level, it should be rejected."1

My personal position is in agreement with that of Focus on the Family with a bit of a caveat. I would echo Groothius' caution. Some holistic health practitioners use biofeedback as a doorway to introduce their clients to other troublesome practices that carry with them occult/pagan practices and beliefs. Such alternative therapies as Reiki lead to some very biblically antithetical beliefs. Alternative health practitioners who speak of "energy" define it in terms of Chi, Prana, Chakras, etc. All of these are key concepts of non-Christian and, frankly, occult practices. If a Christian is to be involved in any sort of energetic healing or therapy, it must be a natural explainable energy that medicine and science recognize. All too often they speak of "psychic energy", "universal life force", and other terms, which are not in any sense measurable scientific energies, but purely occult concepts. I'm not objecting to invisible energies, since electricity is technically invisible as are radio waves. The difference is, these energies are indeed tangible as they exist as part of the time-space-matter continuum, operate according to known natural laws, and can be measured and demonstrated. Not so with the occult energies of some holistic health practitioners, though they argue that all energy is divine and from the same source. As Elliot Miller writes:

"If devilish (not to mention divine) supernatural energy is operative in the world (and Scriptures like 2 Thess. 2:7-9 compel us to affirm that it is), then it is not true that all energetic phenomena have a scientific explanation and are among those parts of God’s creation that we are to “take dominion” over. We therefore cannot afford to assume that all phenomena are spiritually safe for us to explore — even if certain good effects are associated with them (2 Cor. 11:14)." 2

2. Article: The Christian Energetic Medicine/New Age Paranoia