Holism was first coined by Jan Christiaan Smuts (1926) Prime Minister of South Africa in his book "Holism and Evolution", from which holistic medicine derives its name. To Smuts, holism is a way of comprehending the whole organism and biological systems as entities greater than and different from the sum of their parts which was an antidote to the reductionism of contemporary science.

In Christian beliefs, a man is viewed as a whole person consisting of three different parts of his own being: they are the spirit (Hebrew “ruah”, Greek “pneuma”), the soul (Hebrew “nepes”, Greek “psyche”), and the body (only in the New Testament Greek “soma”). However, they must not be regarded as separate or separable parts that go to make up what man is (Douglas et al., 1984, p. 731). Spirit is referred to the immaterial part of man whereby relationship with God is possible (Douglas et al., 1984, p. 1137). Soul is referred to the immaterial part of man concerning the emotion, will and moral action (Douglas et al., 1984, p. 1135). Body denotes the principal constituent of the body, human or animal (Douglas et al., 1984, pp. 145, 379). With a strong Christian heritage in western countries, the nature of man is always conceived of having the body, mind and spirit. Hence, one of the common definition of holism adopted by medical professionals especially with Christian background is a condition in which the human body, mind and spirit are united in accomplishing health and well-being for the individual (Thompson, 1984).