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3 Reasons Chiropractic isn’t “New Age Medicine” – Part 1. 

 December 22, 2009

By  Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

It is not unusual in our day to see a mixing of health care and new age thought.  Many practitioners and authors have made an imprint on the health care landscape.  Two that come to mind are Deepak Chopra and Andrew Weil.  Millions of books have been sold between the two.  But our society was ready and waiting for them to come along.  Starting at least in the 60’s and counter-cultural revolution, there has been much interest in personal, individualistic, anti-establishment spiritualities.  They fit our mindset.

Then came very well credentialed men and women with research, at times, to back them up.  Now my intent is not to point out problems with the new age spiritualities or even new age medicine, but to defend Chiropractic and demonstrate how well it describes the reality, in regards to health and healing in the human body.

So how did we chiropractors get ourselves in this mess?  If you are new to chiropractic, it has been around since 1895.  On that day D. D. Palmer gave what we consider to be, the first chiropractic adjustment.  However, at that time he didn’t fully grasp what he was on to.  For the next 15 or so years, he and his son, B. J. Palmer, developed and articulated their understanding of chiropractic as a new approach to helping people heal and live healthier lives.  In 1927, R. W. Stephenson, a professor at the Palmer School of Chiropractic, wrote Chiropractic Textbook.  It is an amazing text.  In it he wrote a section called “List of Thirty-three principles, numbered and named,” which articulated his ideas of discussion topics.  David B. Koch, D.C., D.Ph.C.S., makes the point in his wonderful book Contemporary Chiropractic Philosophy: An Introduction, that Stephenson could not have known how chiropractors would take his principles and turn them into minimally, a logical progressive argument, or at worst, make them a sort of Ten Commandments.

Now for years, it really aggravated me that these principles where out there!  As a Christian, who tries to maintain a life and career consistent with the Christian worldview, I found some of the principles blurred the line between Christian and new age.  As I understood the two.  But as time has gone on, and with the help of authors like, David Koch, Joseph Strauss, J. P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, Michael Horton, and Greg Koukl, I’ve become better able to see where chiropractic starts and stops.  Less blurred lines.

It took me a while to get here and it is easy to be confused if one is listening to the wrong people in my opinion.  The first major problem is a result of the first two of Stephenson’s principles.  The first is known as “The Major Premise” and goes as follows: A Universal Intelligence is in all matter and continually gives to it all its properties and actions, thus maintaining it in existence.  The second is titled “The Chiropractic Meaning of Life” and goes as follows: The expression of intelligence through matter is the Chiropractic meaning of life.

Now if these principles are taken the wrong way it can slip into a fuzzy pantheistic view of life or reality.  But it is important to notice what isn’t said.  Namely, the universal intelligence isn’t overtly personalized or expounded on.  Earlier in his text Stephenson describes chiropractic as a philosophy, science and art of things natural…  So we can be confident he was not trying to comment on God or his understanding of the supernatural.  Joseph Srauss, D.C. makes a helpful observation in his book, Toward a Better Understanding of The Philosophy of Chiropractic on page 18:

It is true that one could deduce our Major Premise from something else but that “something else” would take us out of the realm of chiropractic philosophy.  Specifically, if you were to accept the existence of deity, you could deduce that universal intelligence was one of its characteristics or attributes.  However, this is outside the realm of chiropractic philosophy.  It should be noted from a historical standpoint that when the Palmers wrote about universal intelligence, they considered it to be either synonymous with God or an attribute of God.  Since we cannot know what the Palmers’ perception of God was, modern chiropractic philosophy begins one step lower than God with the inductively derived concept of universal intelligence.  Consequently, no matter what religious understanding a person has he can accept the major premise and subsequently deduce and accept all the rest of the chiropractic philosophy.

Though I want to be careful to emphasize chiropractic is working in the natural realm according to natural laws, it is important to me that we have always acknowledged the human is more than the sum of his parts.  There is something other than, beyond, and before, matter.  Pure physicalism or naturalism cannot account for everything we see in the natural world, and it is wonderful to be a part of a profession that realized this early on.

David Koch has modified the Major Premise and the Chiropractic Meaning of Life so they carefully communicate as much as they should while not blurring lines between a theistic worldview and a pantheistic worldview.  He recommends they be written as such:

  1. There is a universal intelligence in all matter, continuously giving to it all its properties and actions, thus maintaining it in existence, and giving this intelligence its expression.
  2. The expression of this innate intelligence through matter is the chiropractic meaning of “life.”

We now have two statements that do not allow for accidental commentary on the meaning of human life and where it came from.  They remain definitional.

So the first reason chiropractic is not “new age medicine” is it has never tried to help a person improve health by acknowledging or manipulating spiritual laws, forces, or agents.

Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.


Dr. Stover grew up in Richmond. He has been married to his wife Andrea since 2000 and they make their home in Mechanicsville with their children, Avery and Garnett.

Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

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