Be informed. Be challenged. Be inspired.


DAVID ADAMS reads Ross Clifford and Philip Johnson’s guide to everything from yoga to energy healing and even Christian blessings for pets… 

Taboo or To Do

Ross Clifford and Philip Johnson
Taboo or To Do? Is Christianity complementary with yoga, martial arts, Hallowe’en, mindfulness, and other alternative practices?
Darton, Longman & Todd, London, 2016
ISBN-13: 978-0232532531

Taboo or To Do

“It will challenge some of your pre-conceived ideas and possibly identify new mission opportunities, enabling you to do both from an informed foundation.”

It’s a common enough thing these days for churches to rent out their premises to other community groups during the week, both as a means to raise extra income and also as a way of connecting with the neighbourhood in which they are located.

And while a mothers’ group or dance ensemble might not raise any concerns among congregants, the same might not be said of martial arts groups or those practicing Eastern disciplines such as Tai Chi.

How to decide what’s going to compromise your faith in Christ and what’s not? Ross Clifford, and Philip Johnson, founders of the Community of Hope which pioneered ministry into mind, body and spirit lifestyle festivals, have written a helpful book, Taboo or To Do? to guide you through the sorts of issues you may want to consider to ensure you don’t end up compromising faith or being needlessly alarmist while also recognising the potential such practices offer for outreach.

“In this book we want to honestly start a conversation about these matters,” Clifford, a former president of the Baptist Union of Australia and principal of Morling Theological College, and Johnson, an adjunct lecturer at the college, write in the introduction.

“We want to do so by opening up each chapter on a given practice like yoga, to sort out the relevant historical background and matters of origins. We want to tease out the issues for critical spiritual discernment, and to further illustrate matters by describing some case studies that involve different responses.”

Noting that Christians sometimes prohibit things, sometimes Christianise them and other times embrace them wholeheartedly, the authors say there are no “easy answers” to the issues examined in the book but invite the reader to join them on a “journey of exploration”.

Divided into 10 chapters, the book examines practices ranging from yoga, tarot card readings, energy healing to astrology and even the Christian practice of blessing pets. Each chapter outlines the history and practice of the particular discipline as well as possible points of contact for Christians to engage upon.

There is also a section in each chapter on ‘discernment’ – which weighs up the strengths and weaknesses of the practice from a Christian perspective, particularly with regard to six different ways Christians tend to approach such subjects: the ‘heresy’ approach, the ‘spiritual warfare’ approach, the ‘testimony’ approach, the ‘end-times conspiracy’ approach, and the ‘cultural’ approach as well as the ‘incarnational approach’, which differs from the first five in that “it is prepared to venture into the marketplace and is not restricted to a purely defensive stance”.

The book also includes case studies which provide some fascinating and insightful stories on how Christians are engaging with such practices in a missional way and sections on ‘things to do’ – actions to take to further engage with the issue – and ‘conversation starters’, both of which are perfect if you’re looking at the issues as a small group.

A great resource for individuals or families to use in weighing up what they should or shouldn’t get involved with as well as for churches, particularly those wanting to engage in a greater way with the communities in which they are hosted whether that’s allowing different groups into the church or heading out into the ‘marketplace’. It will challenge some of your pre-conceived ideas and possibly identify new mission opportunities, enabling you to do both from an informed foundation.

As the authors say: “By creating the dialogue on the religious practices and traditions explored in this book, we not only inform and empower ourselves, we open the door to broader conversations in our neighbourhoods.”

Follow this link to buy this book – Taboo Or To Do?: Is Christianity complementary with yoga, martial arts, Hallowe’en, mindfulness and other alternative practices?


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