Qigong is a health practice which originates in China. It is a very easy discipline to take up and thus, it can be appealing to many people who don’t want the physical exertion of a full martial art, but is this practice compatible with Christian living?
Is it a sin for a Christian to practice qigong? As long as the discipline does not interfere with Christian beliefs, it should not be a sin for a Christian to practice qigong. Although some religious leaders are cautious, qigong is not a religion and can therefore co-exist with an actual religion without sinning.
In such complex and intimate matters, you should always consult a religious leader that you trust. Many Christians are OK with qigong but many others are not. Let’s take an honest look at these opinions.
What Is Qigong?
Before we go into more detail about the practice of Qigong, it’s important to understand what it is and why it might conflict with Christian teachings.
Qigong means “life energy cultivation” in Chinese. It has been practiced for a substantial period of time in China and combines meditation, breathing exercises, movement and specific postures to develop martial-arts skills, spiritual awareness and good health.
Practitioners of qigong claim many different benefits resulting from the practice but, at this moment in time, there is no hard evidence for these claims over and above the benefits brought about from any individual component of the practice. (So, for example, meditation does have specific benefits, but qigong meditation has not been shown to have any extra benefits over meditation not associated with qigong).
The word “Qi” means “life energy” and it is this concept that leads to many Christians believing that qigong is incompatible with their faith. It is important to note, however, that “Qi” in qigong is not the same as “Chi” in Tai Chi. The two disciplines may appear similar on the surface but they have different motivations and spiritual roots.
Thus, this discussion here is limited to qigong and does not extend to Tai Chi.
The idea of qi as a life energy comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM promotes the idea that qi must be in harmony within the body in order to be healthy. It is worth noting that despite many scientific enquiries into qi – such an energy has never been detected in the body.
Related article: Can You See Chi Energy?
Can A Christian Practice Qigong?
As we said earlier, this is up to the individual and possibly in consultation with their own religious leaders.
It is, of course, physically possible for any Christian to practice qigong. It’s a very simple discipline to learn and it is not heavily demanding on the body. Anyone could learn qigong from the earliest age to the latest stages in life.
What Does The Bible Say About Qigong?
The Bible does not mention qigong directly and thus, it is up to individuals and their religious leaders to interpret The Bible and to see if they can connect the dots. There are two camps when it comes to qigong – Christians in favor of it and Christians against it.
The Arguments In Favor Of Christians And Qigong
The first and possibly clearest argument is that qigong is not a religion. It does have influences from the three major religions/philosophies of Chinese life; Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism but you would expect any long-standing practice in any country to draw some influence from the dominant religions of the region they were derived in.
This means that there is no contravention, as some have suggested, of the First Commandment, “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me, you shall not make for yourself an idol”
In traditional China, qigong was concerned with philosophy, folklore and spiritual practice but in the modern era the focus of most practitioners is simply on health benefits. In fact, it was the communist (and staunchly anti-religious) Chinese government of the 1950s to 1999 which promoted the use of qigong for health and nearly 200 million Chinese people took up the discipline during this time.
Sylvia Sim, writing for Medium, observes that Genesis 1:26 — Then God said.” Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” v27 — So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female.”
She says that this is a demonstration that God gave us “qi” in the form of his own energy and thus it is god’s intention that we use qigong to promote better health.
Lindsay Boyer, on the other hand, says that John 3:8 is clear that the Holy Spirit “blows where it chooses” and thus, it is clear that qi cannot be confused with the Holy Spirit and therefore they feel that it’s safe to incorporate qigong into your daily practice.
Gerald Chan sums this up; “Should Christians practise qigong and the internal martial arts? Yes, why not, I think, if it is done for the right reasons – health, fitness and as a form of self defence. Should they delve deeper into the philosophy of taichi and bagua? Yes, why not, if not just from a purely academic point of view, then at least to learn more about a culture, its peoples and their customs.”
The Arguments Against Christians Practicing Qigong
OK, so now we know that there are Christians in favor of Qigong, it’s time to acknowledge that many Christians are not so enthusiastic and they say that the practice of this discipline can lead to serious conflicts with the Christian faith.
The La Vista Church of Christ says that I Timothy 4:8 says, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
And they suggest that it is the perception of qigong as a metaphysical discipline, which oddly it was not originally but has become in recent years, where there is a perception that breathing can “influence the fundamental forces of the universe”, that stands in contradiction to the godliness of life.
However, they also acknowledge that such claims for qigong have been thoroughly debunked and are thus, not entirely sure if this contravention still stands.
The site “Don’t ask that in church” is rather less charitably inclined towards the practice of qigong. They cite Deuteronomy 18:10-12, “For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering. And do not let your people practice fortune-telling or sorcery, or allow them to interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead.
Anyone who does these things is an object of horror and disgust to the LORD. It is because the other nations have done these things that the LORD your God will drive them out ahead of you.”
They say that the use of qi is a plain and simple use of magic. They say that this amounts to witchcraft and thus, is completely forbidden to Christians.
Teaching Humble Hearts refers to Ephesians 1:13-14 “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
They say that the original Hebrew word for “Holy Spirit” is “Ruach” and they say that this can also translate as “life force”. They therefore feel that “qi” (also “life force”) must therefore be the Holy Spirit and thus, it is not acceptable to use this force as they note that qigong is not a religion and therefore this is “the Holy Spirit but exclusive of god”.
Qigong and The Christian Faith: Where Does This Leave Us?
So is it a sin for a Christian to practice qigong? The first recommendation is to speak to your religious leader, someone that is entrusted with your spiritual guidance. Have an honest discussion with them and see where it leads.
Know that qigong is neither a religion nor an attempt at black magic, it is simply a meditative discipline with a lot of health benefits. There are no supernatural properties to it. As long as your intentions are good and you practice qigong for your well-being, it should be compatible with your Christian faith.