November 23, 2014

The Christian and Mental Illness II: Is There Such A Thing As Mental Illness?

Because the Bible is authoritative in Christianity, it is often difficult to come to terms with forms of knowledge that ignore the Bible, and especially difficult to deal with systems of knowledge that threaten to transcend or neutralize the Bible. In America, this tension did not fully dawn until the fundamentalist-modernist controversies of the early twentieth century. While Darwin continues to get most of the attention, it is more likely Freud who has created the most perplexing tensions for Christian believers.

Psychology does not appear to be an immediate frontal assault on the Christian view of truth. Many Christians, especially in more moderate communions, have been open to psychology as a way of compassionately understanding human beings. More recently, however, psychology has met with sterner opposition from many evangelicals, who have become aware that the discipline was atheistic, even religiously hostile, from the outset, and that its ways of explaining, understanding and helping human beings have potentially dire consequences for the Christian view of truth.

Any student of Freud will realize that the founder of psychology bequeathed a view of religion to the discipline that can quickly begin treating religion itself as an aspect of mental illness, and God as a manifestation of human wishful thinking. While responding to Freud’s critiques of religion isn’t difficult, the basic tension is there, and doesn’t go away by putting the word “Christian” somewhere in the sentence, as in “Christian psychology doesn’t have these tensions.”

Today, many serious Christians often reject any and all reference to psychology. (This varies enormously and is an admitted generalization.) A minister may practice Christian counseling, but let him claim to be a Christian psychologist and fully half or more of the Christian community will refuse his assistance. Christian counseling has developed its own alternative approach to dealing with mental, emotional and behavioral problems, with dependence on scripture at the center and a rejection of psychology as mandatory.

This shift has brought the entire concept of mental illness into question for many Christians. Should we be using the categories, vocabulary, diagnoses and treatments of psychology to describe and treat human beings? Many conservative Christians say “no,” and will refuse to recognize common conclusions and approaches of the psychological disciplines. When psychiatric treatment is recommended, these Christians are even more resistant, and often refuse recognized and accepted treatments for mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. As enamored as our culture is with the authority and insights of psychology, many Christians are unconvinced and even belligerent.

This creates conflicts and tensions in the lives of many Christians. Psychology, in various forms, exists everywhere in our culture. It is part of the cultural imagination of any semi-educated, semi-literate western person. “Pop-psychology” is an entire phenomenon that exists on the casual acceptance of psychology as authoritative in our culture. If a crisis occurs or an answer is needed, our culture brings on the psychologists. They are, in many ways, the secular chaplains of the American religious/cultural mileau.

What is a young Christian in college to do? The courses are required and the concepts are everywhere. Is a graduate education in psychology a betrayal of the Bible? Is a family seeking help for a depressed, acting out or suicidal loved one sinning when they resort to the help of psychology or psychiatry? Is it wrong to take medications if you believe in God? Can a Christian choose psychology or school counseling as a vocation? These are important questions that defy simplistic solutions.

I believe Christians cannot–and should not–entirely reject or escape the “knowledge base” that exists within their culture, including psychology and the concept of mental illness. These concepts and “namings” of human conditions can, if appropriated correctly, be useful and compassionately helpful.

Psychology, as science, is a discipline largely based on conclusions developed from repeated, careful observations. From observing, listening to and treating millions of individuals over time, a descriptive approach is acquired. These various descriptions are what we refer to as mental and emotional illness, and Christians committed to the idea that truth is the greatest friend to a hurting family or person should always embrace truthful observations, even if they come to us from other sources of understanding the world than our own.

For example, my wife and I love the CBS show, “Criminal Minds.” The FBI profilers in the show know the various kinds of mental illness so well that, once a person is diagnosed, they can anticipate his/her thoughts, actions and reactions. This is not mystical or about intelligence or insight particularly. It is statistics. Repeated observations create categories like “paranoia” and “psychosis.” These are described in detail, and over time, treatment options are developed that alter or solve the problems observed.

Imagine that Toyota manufactures a car, a Camry. Over time, the flaws and problems of that particular car become evident. While it may have any and all problems, in actual fact it tends to have a particular set of problems, which are labelled and “treated” based on repeated observation and methods of treatment. The car may develop an unknown problem, but statistically, that’s unlikely. The squeaking noise in the front brake will be the same thing 98% of the time, and the solution will be the same each time, with minimal variation.

The observations of human beings by psychologists are where we get the language of mental and emotional illness. We should be cautious and careful in appropriating this language, but as much as it is descriptively accurate, Christians should have no fear of it. Calling depression “depression” is not surrendering to the worst assumptions of psychology. Depression is a set of observations. They allow a set of responses. They help us build a plan for treatment. And so on with many many kinds of mental illness.

The persons exist, and their problems exist. It is not wise to reject what repeated observation and treatment have yielded in the quest to help people.

At this point, many Christians will point out that the psychological concept of depression does not contain the Biblical content necessary for a true solution. “Depression,” they will say, is not a disease, but simply a manifestation of sin or loss. This may be quite true in many cases. The Christian vocabulary may be the most meaningful way to approach and respond to an individual case, but when we look at the culture as a whole, this is not going to work. If we insist on refusing the diagnostic language of psychology and using the language of faith, we will have to limit our involvement with people to the Christian community and control the problem so that whatever response we make is understandable.

Mental illness, as a descriptive tool and category, does functionally exist for persons in any culture. Becoming conversant with how a culture describes mental illness is far more useful than rejecting the concept, and it allows the resources of truthful observation to come into the picture.

It is also important to note that the concept of “normal” mental health is another tension. Human beings present a wide array of behavior and personalities. Who is empowered to say person A is mentally ill and person B is merely irritating or quirky? Society does “hold the keys,” so to speak, and the “key keepers” have been known to be capricious in what they label or unlabel as mental illness. For instance, homosexuality is no longer listed as a psychiatric disorder. One day homosexuality was mental illness. The next it was not. (BTW–I consider this an appropriate move. Labelling immoral or unpopular behavior as mental illness is something Christians should always oppose.)

There is no doubt that there is a particularly insidious aspect to the ability to label anyone mentally ill. For example, is a person who wants to kill himself mentally ill? Should this be “in his folder” for the rest of his life? I work and teach many people who have had serious suicidal episodes. Many healthy adults have been so unhappy or despondent about an event in their lives that they have verbalized suicidal thoughts. Is this mental illness? Is a person desiring death rather than a year of cancer treatments mentally ill? Is a person who emotes strongly at particular times, but functions normally in all areas of life, mentally ill?

Is depression mental illness? Yes, but at the same time, many healthy people have depressive symptoms. A recent article in The Atlantic recounted how Abraham’s Lincoln’s depressive side probably contributed to his effective presidential leadership. Thousands of gifted people have been “melancholy,” from Paul in Philippians 1 to Charles Spurgeon to presidents like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. (I wonder what Spurgeon might have written in a journal during his depressive periods? Let’s be glad his modern-day fan club doesn’t have to digest Spurgeon saying he hated the ministry or wished he’d never been born.)

Is Manny Ramierez mentally ill? “Normal” for Manny is a world uniquely his own, but should he be treated? Medicated? Made “normal?” Would you want Manny to be something other than Manny? Is J.D. Salinger mentally ill? Is a person covered with tattos “mental?” Is a young man who quits law school to go live in the woods in need of “help?” Are eccentric artists “crazy?” Do you consider those who take viewpoints strongly different from yours to be “mentally ill?” Would you act on that conviction if you had the chance?

I meet hundreds of students who are diagnosed with disorders such as ADD, ADHD, Oppositional-Defiant and so on. Many are the subjects of counseling, hospitalization and medication. Yet, the “normal” from which they have deviated is defined by public schools and middle-class American suburban values. In these cases, “normal” is a kind of social/behavioral conformity forced upon the young by experts and educators. (See “Girl Interrupted.”) The wonderfully diverse and non-conformist side of human beings is the enemy in this definition of normal.

I will admit that it is not always pleasing or helpful to me as a Christian to be told that Johnny-who-can’t-do-anything-in-school has a syndrome or disorder. This approach seems to shift some of what is needed for Johnny to change into an arena outside of his control. Medication-based treatments have a tendency to minimize responsibility for seeing our emotions, behavior and mental state as part of our own human stewardship. But in the vast majority of cases where mental illness or behavior disorders are diagnosed, these issues do exist, and the diagnosis and the treatment suggested by psychology will most likely be rational and reasonable enough that help can be offered and expected.

Still, even with these observations, I believe the category of mental illness is useful, even essential for Christians in western culture. With a generous allowance for our manifold humanity, we still can look at “collections” of observed behavior revealing to us something that can be called–and treated–as mental illness. My young friend who thought he was God could not function. Psychiatric drugs and counseling gave him back his life and a future. To have ignored this would have been foolish.

Because the Bible’s description of mental/emotional illness comes in the package of its own culture, Christians have to decide if they are going to reject the contemporary language of psychology and resort to the language of ancient culture, or if they are going to “read” contemporary culture with the Gospel at the center. Can the concept of mental/emotional illness be transformed through the Gospel to be of useful service to Christian compassion?

This same question is present for physical illness as well. The Bible is a prescientific book, and most of contemporary understanding of human biology and physiology is absent. Science has given us tremendous tools to use in treating disease, and if we reject these in favor of the understanding of disease in the Bible, there is going to be a lot of suffering and death that could have been prevented.

The entire question of accepting contemporary ways of thinking about studying, labeling, analyzing and treating human beings for their mental/physical and emotional illnesses is a question that calls upon Christians to contemplate their view of the Bible and its proper use. If their view of the Bible’s truthfulness includes the assumption that it is a book providing a specific plan for treating illnesses of body and mind, then that commitment will, I believe, take the Christian down a road that is ultimately less compassionate than the acceptace of some form of accomodating the knowledge and insights of science, medicine and psychology.

The Bible is about Christ, and is not a manual for treating mental and emotional illness. The Biblical presentation of the Christian story stands in judgement over psychology and every other form of knowledge because CHRIST IS LORD AND JUDGE, not because the book of Proverbs is the best manual for dealing with emotional illness.

Now that I have concluded that mental illness does exist, and we can–prudently and cautiously–accept the language and treatments of psychology as potentially helpful, I will move on to “Is mental illness a manifestation of spiritual forces (demons) or the results of personal sin?”

Comments

  1. See, I disagree. Throughout scripture there is a solid difference between the way that the church is to be treated and the way that the world is to be treated, and it seems as if mental problems would most certainly fall within that umbrella.

    For example, yes we are not to judge the world, for all have sinned and if they don’t have Jesus, then they are all in the same boat as we would be without him. That said, Paul is very clear that we are to judge the church. If someone is acting contrary to scripture, then we need to come alongside them. Not to rebuke them, but for correction and restoration.

    Likewise, it is quite clear that Christians have no business bringing lawsuits before secular judges.

    The church is to deal with these issues itself, and the way in which it deals with these issues is very different than the way that the world does. While Christians try to help each other unto restoration, the world pretends that sin isn’t a problem. While Christians should be able to resolve their differences, the world is endlessly mired in legal battles.

    I don’t see how ‘mental illness’ is any different. Beyond that, especially in recent years, they are starting to refer to almost anything as a mental issue. Anything outside of their prescribed ‘normal’, that is.

    Now, we know that people have a proclivity toward certain types of sin. So if you want to use psychology in that sense, and say that different types of sin are a mental illness, then in some ways that actually works and makes sense. But to then give the world’s solution makes no sense. The fact is that our God is bigger than that.

    We can look at the guy who is a classic case for extreme manic-depression and say “he has a mental disorder”. And while that may be true, the fact is that the drugs are not your cure, not if you have Christ. I know, I was that guy.

    After trying to kill myself several different times, and finally ending up in the hospital. While there I actually managed to get their nurses to agree that, to some degree at least, suicide was a viable option (after which, each time, they yanked them out of the room and gave me someone else’s mind to play with). When I left the hospital I was forced to see a shrink and was told that I was medically dependant if I wanted to continue living, without killing myself.

    Sure I took their poison for a bit but it wasn’t until I came to an understanding of the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ that I realized what it all was.

    It is selfishness. I was always thinking about me first. And in the end, I have yet to meet someone who had ‘mental problems’ who wasn’t in the exact situation. It is all an extreme focus on the self.

    Well the Bible does have a cure for that. Once you realize that you are to die daily to your flesh, that you are too esteam others above yourself, and that you are to live for Christ and others first, and not yourself. That you don’t need to love yourself in order to love others, that we are just to love them, that is a cure. Once you get the focus off yourself and put it where it belongs, there is a cure.

    But I was that guy. I was so absorbed in myself that I didn’t care that there were other people who loved me. I didn’t care that what I did to myself affected them. I can happily say that I am NOT that guy now, and it is only by the power of Jesus that I can claim that. If you knew me then and met me now, you would never believe that I am the same person. And I’m not.

    Now, naturally I am not talking about cases where there is something physically wrong. And you are right, God did give us the tools to treat medical illnesses, and we should make use of them. There are serious mental problems out there, such as Tourettes, Multiple Sclerosis, and others, where someone might be miss-wired in their brain. And for these a medical treatment is necessary, and you are not going to find the treatment for these in the Bible, unless God does decide to divinely heal the patient.

    But to say that the Bible is not a manual for treating mental and emotional illness is just flat-out wrong. Yes it is about Christ, but how can someone say that and not see that it being about Christ IS the manual for treating mental and emotional illness? The Bible is all about reaching the heart and the mind, and yes, I do mean the mind. If someone comes to that saving knowledge, and can look past themselves, then how can they not be made whole? Or do they not know of God’s promise to us, that God has not given to use a spirit of fear; but of power, and love, and of a sound mind (II Tim. 1:7).

    But your last paragraph, at least the second half of it that you move onto, I agree with whole heartedly. Not saying all, but many.

    That said, I find it curious that you then pose that question. After all, if mental illness is a manifestation of it (maybe not all, but some), then how could it ever be truly cured with worldly methods, or apart from the power of Jesus Christ?

    It couldn’t.

  2. >But to say that the Bible is not a manual for treating mental and emotional illness is just flat-out wrong.

    I have respected your view enough to publish your comment, even though I consider it to be seriously mistaken.

    Your assumption that the Bible is an adequate guide to the treatment of mental illness is something I disagree with so severely that I don’t want to really get into it. But I do disagree in the strongest possible way, and I don’t want anyone to thing that, by publishing your comment, I agree with that view.

    The future posts will address much your premise.

  3. Michael,

    I won’t deny that there are chemical imbalances in the brain that lead to mental instability. A semester of neuroscience at a major university was enough to throughly convince me that such disorders are real, with real physical causes. That said, far, far too much emphasis is placed on every little thing being imbalance related (particularly for kids) and then out comes the prozac.

    Our sin enters the picture here, and I am very suspicious that much of the imbalaces that are caused have spiritual roots to them well beyond the current scope of science. If sin is described as having an effect on the conscience and heart, then it leads to reason that there are imbalances that have causes greater than just chemical misalignments of the mind. This is to say, our thought life and how we live has an impact – at least that is my unprofessional opinion.

    Brad

  4. That is OK, but again, I find it funny that you say my assumption. Do you count the word of God a lie? I quoted the verse exactly as it is:

    God has not given to use a spirit of fear; but of power, and love, and of a sound mind (II Tim. 1:7)

    God’s word says that he has given us, those of us who believe in him a sound mind. If you disagree with that, you aren’t disagreeing with me, but with the Word of God. Another version says self control, as opposed to sound mind. In either case, both mitigate directly against any ‘mental disorder’ overtaking a Christian, or do you not know that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world?

    That said, I guess the following is very telling:

    [QUOTE]
    This same question is present for physical illness as well. The Bible is a prescientific book, and most of contemporary understanding of human biology and physiology is absent. Science has given us tremendous tools to use in treating disease, and if we reject these in favor of the understanding of disease in the Bible, there is going to be a lot of suffering and death that could have been prevented.
    The entire question of accepting contemporary ways of thinking about studying, labeling, analyzing and treating human beings for their mental/physical and emotional illnesses is a question that calls upon Christians to contemplate their view of the Bible and its proper use. If their view of the Bible’s truthfulness includes the assumption that it is a book providing a specific plan for treating illnesses of body and mind, then that commitment will, I believe, take the Christian down a road that is ultimately less compassionate than the acceptace of some form of accomodating the knowledge and insights of science, medicine and psychology.
    [/QUOTE]

    I guess that it comes down to this. Do you believe that the bible is the inerrant Word of God? If you don’t, then I understand how you could write those two paragraphs. If, however, you do, then those two paragraphs make absolutely no sense. God moved the prophets and writers of the bible to speak, and do you think that he is learning new things as our science advances?

    Yes, we have doctors, and they can heal. And some things are medical, such as some sort of a chemical imbalance, though I do not believe that our medical understanding has yet reached a point as to where they truly understand the chemical reactions of the brain, but that is another matter. I do know that they tried to treat me, and it only ever made the situation worse, and so I can only speak from my personal experience with that.

    That said, your belief that the Bible does not have a specific plan for treating the mind is one that I just cannot fathom. Especially when the Bible deals directly with the mind, beyond just the quote from II Tim.

    Mark 5:15 – And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.

    Yes, this would be an example of posession. But notice, he was healed. He was clensed, by Jesus. Why believe that he cannot do that now?

    Romans 1:28 – And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
    Romans 7:23 – But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
    2 Thessalonians 2:2 – That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

    These three verses are quite clear. If you turn your back on God, if you, even as a Christian, decide to cease being vigilant, to decide to entertain sin for a day, then that does war against your mind. You can decide to walk away from God and entertain all kinds of perverse pleasures, whether that be something like partaking in various lusts, or something as simple as deciding to never obey your parents or those in authority over you, as with little Johnny. That said, there is a cure.

    Romans 12:2 – And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
    2 Timothy 1:7 – For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

    We can turn our minds to God and let him renew them. He will give us a sound mind, He will renew our minds. That is one of the things that I love about my church, and that is that some of the people who are pastors now who doctors said had fried their brains with drugs long ago. People who were absolutely lost and would be held up as examples of a mental disorder have been fully restored by the power of God. If he can do it for them, why would you think that he wouldn’t do it for someone else?

    And finally, the last part of your quote is something that, again, makes absolutely no sense to me:

    [QUOTE]
    If their view of the Bible’s truthfulness includes the assumption that it is a book providing a specific plan for treating illnesses of body and mind, then that commitment will, I believe, take the Christian down a road that is ultimately less compassionate than the acceptace of some form of accomodating the knowledge and insights of science, medicine and psychology.
    [/QUOTE]

    The only way that it could ever lead someone to be less compassionate is if they did not realize what God did for them. We say it so often we sometimes forget what it means, but ALL have sinned and ALL have fallen short of the glory of God. Paul takes that one step better and says that he was the chiefest of all sinners. Was he really? Is Paul saying that no one in the history of the world has committed more sin? Maybe yes, I have to take him at his word. And yet at the same time Paul knew that if you break one part of the law you have broken it all, just as well as anyone, so maybe it was more of a mindset?

    If you stop and realize all of the crap the God saved you from, how can any one of us look down on anyone else, or be less compassionate to them in their struggles? Maybe Paul thinks that he was, and maybe he is right, but then again maybe it is better for me to look at life as if I was the chiefest of all sinners. After all, with that mindset, how could I ever forget that it is ONLY by the grace of God that I am anything else anymore?

    Giving into one sin is the same as giving into another. If you are giving into a deranged or depraved mind, it is no different than giving into homosexuality, or giving into lust, or giving into murder, or giving into lies. All of them are giving into something that God has commanded us not to. It is abjactly absurd to think that, because God is the cure for something, that if someone is having problems that it will cause me to be less compassionate toward them.

    No, before I was a Christian, the depression was the least of my problems. The sexual immorality and the proclivity to hang out with people who drank other people’s blood were probably worse. Does that mean that I am free from all my struggles? Absolutely not, but because I am not I know that I have to run to the cross every time, for that is the only thing that will save me. So if I keep that perspective, keep an understanding of just where I was before Christ saved me, then how can I do anything but have absolute compassion for another human who is struggling with their worldly struggles?

    No, instead you come alongside, you point them to the Cross, and you let them know that they are loved, because, and it should never become a cliche because it is so very true, but for God so loved the world, that he sent His son to die for us. And you know, he didn’t do that when you were a shiny example of the model ‘Christian’ on this world.

    No, he did that when you were mired in your sin–immorality, covetiousness, lying, or other mental disorderly state– that you were in.

    If he can’t save you from that too, then what was the point of coming for us at all?

  5. >

    You can’t be serious. Before I was a Christian, like many women, I had depressive episodes. After I was a Christian, I still had depressive episodes. After I got pregnant and had a baby, the depression stopped completely. A friend of mine–a psychiatrist as well as a devout Catholic Christian–told me this was a not uncommon pattern for women with occasional depression. It never occurred to him, or to me, to think that there was anything more spiritual at work than hormonal changes. Because there wasn’t.

    So, what, lots of women who think they’re Christians haven’t really given their lives to Jesus, because they suffer from depression? Did I not really believe in Christ before I was pregnant? But after carrying a child to term, I’ve coincidentally stopped committing whatever sin doomed me to depressive episodes?

  6. No, I never said any such thing. In fact, I clearly said the following:

    [QUOTE]
    Does that mean that I am free from all my struggles? Absolutely not, but because I am not I know that I have to run to the cross every time, for that is the only thing that will save me.
    [/QUOTE]

    I am still an absolute failure. There is nothing in me that is good but Him, but then again why should that be a surprise, the Bible states quite clearly that he chose the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.

    All I said was that He would take it away, because he works to make all of us perfect in his image. But since I haven’t died yet, I obviously haven’t reached that point. If giving you a child was the means by which He helped you, then praise to God for that.

    As with me, as I stated, before I was a Christian I hung out with people who drank blood. Now, I had dabbled in that a bit before hand, but thank God, that is one of the things that he cured me of very quickly. I also stated that I struggled with depression myself, that is not something that immediately went away, and unfortunately I struggled with that for some time afterward. In your case He gave you the baby. In my case it took me realizing that depression is an absolute form of self-absorbtion, because I was always thinking about myself.

    I had to learn the hard way that we are to have joy. In fact, there are quite a few verses that talk about having joy:

    Romans 5:11 – And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
    Romans 14:17 – For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
    Romans 15:13 – Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
    Galatians 5:22 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
    1 Peter 4:13 – But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
    1 John 1:4 – And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

    Now, is it instantaneous? For me it wasn’t, I failed greatly in this, so how could I ever begrudge someone else who has the same problem now? No, instead it is better to have great compassion for them, to pray for and with them, and to keep pointing them to Christ. No one can take the joy that Christ gives you away from you, but you can give it up by looking to yourself, and that is what I was doing in my depression. It was a long hard road for me to learn to look away from myself for that, but I am grateful that I had to go through that, because I learned a lot through it.

    The fun thing is that every time it seems that I overcome something in Christ, there is something else to overcome. He begins to point out something else to me in my life, and so the process never seems complete. Though in the end, I wish that it was as you thought I had meant before, that by coming to Christ I was made instantly perfect, instead of just positionally perfect thanks to his blood. It would save me from a lot of hard lessons. Instead, I get to go through the lessons, but after you are through them, they don’t seem so bad anymore, until the next one.

  7. Hey, I read the main post, and am reserving comment on it until I get a view of the full thing. I just wanted to offer up a cool resource that one might want to read in thinking about this topic. It’s a book called “The Question of God: C.S.Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the meaning of life” By Armand M. Nicholi Jr. You can find it here:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/074324785X/103-1922875-4948600?v=glance&n=283155&s=books&v=glance

    I am about half way through it and it is helping in some small ways to mold my thinking in reference to what you are talking about Michael.

  8. Read it. An outstanding book.

  9. Windaria,

    I’m very glad to know that I’ve misunderstood you. What concerned me was statements such as this:

    “God’s word says that he has given us, those of us who believe in him a sound mind. If you disagree with that, you aren’t disagreeing with me, but with the Word of God. Another version says self control, as opposed to sound mind. In either case, both mitigate directly against any ‘mental disorder’ overtaking a Christian, or do you not know that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world?”

    and

    “It is selfishness. I was always thinking about me first. And in the end, I have yet to meet someone who had ‘mental problems’ who wasn’t in the exact situation. It is all an extreme focus on the self.”

    These and similar remarks read very much as if you are saying that those who believe will always be free from pathological mental, psychological, and/or emotional affliction, and that such disorders cannot be suffered by a Christian; and that such disorders are consequences of sin and selfishness. I’m keeping in mind that I have misunderstood your posts somehow, so I’m not accusing you of saying these things; only that I find it difficult to understand your posts to be saying something else. Maybe further explanation would help.

  10. No… those comments are my hope, in that we can always be free from such things, if we turn to Christ. That said, since we are all so very flawed (me maybe more than you, who knows), we will still sin. I mean even Peter, the apostle to the Jews, having received the Holy Spirit, when God was directly telling him to go, kill and eat, he was telling God no! God had to tell him 3 different times for him to finally realize and respond as God wanted.

    If he is still falible, after having been forgiven and saved, how much more so than I? And yet, it provides great hope to know:

    2 Timothy 1:7 – For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

    Now, he gives you the sound mind, as he gives it to me. That doesn’t mean that occasionally I may, if by nothing else than my actions, respond “No, that’s OK God, I think I’ll just be crazy for a bit here”, but it is something that he Has given, and is, therefore, something that I can always return to.

    It is just like those people who swear. The Bible is quite clear that the tongue is evil, so why should it surprise us that God says quite clearly:

    James 3:8 – But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

    And yet, at the same time, it also says:

    1 Peter 3:10 – For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:

    But wait, I thought no man can tame it, so how then are we supposed to refrain it from evil? Because it isn’t us that does it, it is God that works in us. We can still slip sometimes, and we all will for we are all sinners, but He is always right there, ready to restore us.

    I mean heck, I have outlined enough of my own faults here. I had the same struggle that you did. Yet that said, I don’t believe that such disorders (aside from those that are medical in nature, mind you, such as MS and other such mental aflictions) are just the results or consequences of sin, but that giving into them is sin. Just like the people who were homosexual that get saved. They may stop committing the acts, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t, sometimes at least, feel the same way. But giving into them is sin.

    We don’t stop sinning when we were saved, though how I hope that it was true… we’re merely forgiven, and that is why grace is so very important. God’s grace to us, but also our grace toward others, for even if we didn’t struggle with the same thing as someone else, we all do have our struggles, and you never know, they may not share yours. So if we all struggle, then just have grace toward them.

  11. I thank God for physchology and psychiatry; I was suicidal off and on
    since I was 11, and finally was diagnosed with type II bi-polar
    depression. I took medication for a few years, and got it under control,
    and no longer have to take medication. I’m lucky: most people with
    bi-polar do have to stay on medication, but I can generally manage my
    moods with diet, self-talk, and philosophy. (Yeah, a weird combination, I
    know.)

    Yes, medication is a wonderful thing. It can give lives back. It’s also
    often not enough (and most psychologists, secular or Christian, will say
    so). I had to go through a long period of teaching myself different
    thought patterns, and not letting myself talk me into a depressive state.
    I learned to monitor my moods, and recognize when a mood was just
    chemicals going crazy in my head, and when it was real and relevant.

    Not sure where I was going with all this, but…yeah. Psychology, like any
    field of science, has brought great beneifts, and while it can be
    misused–and often is–we shouldn’t draw back from it in fear.

  12. I’ve just found this blog, and this entry, by way of some friends. I apologize for jumping in a month late, but I just thought I’d throw a couple thoughts in.

    First, psychology is not psychiatry. They have some overlap, but they are distinctly different fields, and one often covers areas the other totally ignores.

    That said, I agree with Michael for the most part. The DSM-IV-TR criteria are more often than not a constellation of signs and symptoms that are grouped together and named.

    It can, and should be, useful for Christians to know such categories, and respect them for what they are – clinical terms used to describe discrete groups of signs and symptoms.

    Now as for the use of such terms among laypeople, I do think that it is wise to be careful about how we talk about such things, and possible root causes for someone feeling “depressed.” Depression may be purely a physiological derangement due to funky neurotransmitters and receptors, or it may be purely an emotional problem, or (more likely), it is some combination of physiologic, emotional, social, and other factors which have come together to “cause” a person to be in a sitution where they feel a certain way, exhibit certain symptoms, etc.

    This doesn’t necessarily apply to ALL DSM-IV dignoses, either, as there are relatively larger and smaller bodies of knowledge regarding the causes of various disorders. We know some are more likely mostly physiologic, or mostly emotional, and other things that we have no clue, and all sorts of stuff in between.

  13. lucilledot says:

    I recently discovered your website and read you series on Mental illness. I am a professional therapist and find your series very interesting and insightful. I work with several christians , and Pastors in my comunity,and would like to share with them about your website and refer to your series on mental illness as a point of reference to consider when working with member’s in their church who have mental illness. I am asking you permission to copy the article on The Church and the Mentally Ill for them to read, or contact you for more information, etc.

  14. Permission granted. Please send me the url.

  15. Sheila Miller says:

    Hi everybody,

    I would like to tell my testamony. I have had ongoing mental and emotional health issues since I was younger. I am 39 years old now. I was very depressed and lonely. I lived with guilt, fear, and condemnation because of bad things that happened to me and because of my own failures. I’ve gone through a lot of rejection and stigma because of how I was. I was so stuck in the past that my whole entire life ended up in a rut.

    I want to say that there is a Help for mental problems without worldly methods. The Lord knows, I’ve tried every worldly method to no avail. I even tried self-help and reasoning with myself about my issues and what I thought “I” needed to do to get well. I escaped into all kinds of weird things to cope ’cause I hated myself and how my life was. Though I’ve gone to church often while I was growing up, I really got saved in 2004 but was still struggling with my issues up until very recently.

    Until I surrendered myself completely to Jesus Christ and got my mind off of my own pride and selfishness,I was fighting a losing battle with myself. All of my issues came from trying to live without God, and riding on my own pride and selfishness,even after I got saved.I was lost within myself. I had to let go, turn myself around and completely embrace the whole Gospel.

    I had to learn to turn to Jesus,alone for help. Not just the bible, not just religion WITHOUT God or any of my own plans. I had to be born again for real! Without an intimate relationship with Jesus, we can never really understand the bible or live an effective christian lifestyle. Once we get saved and get in relationship with Jesus, He helps us with our religion and everything else in our lives. Including our mental and emotional health. Jesus has a special place in His heart for the “poor in spirit.”

    Read 3John 1:2, Matt 5:3

    I also had to learn that we humans are products of how we think, and whatever we cherish in our hearts is what we will eventually do.I was all messed up because I was viewing life from the wrong perspective: MINE!!! And I had all kinds of wicked desires in my heart that I didn’t even know were there until Jesus freed me from them.I was in the wrong place spiritually. That is why I was messed up mentally! I had to shift my focus from myself to Him.

    I had to learn how to forgive everybody who mistreated me. I was very hurt, angry and bitter because of things that I went through.I had to learn to own up to my own responsibilities in life, too. I used to blame everybody else for my problems and thought that the world owed me something because of my miseries. My heart was so hard and I thought everything was all about ME.

    I WAS MY OWN WORST ENEMY!!!

    As I was reading some of the other comments, I noticed that many of you who are in church but still are having issues. My heart goes out to you all, but here’s the thing. Many of you are dealing with doubt and unbelief. That means that you may think that you are believing but you are really NOT believing Him all the way. I used to be like that, too. You all MUST really believe that Jesus helps mental problems as well as everything else! You must believe it even BEFORE He does anything for you! DO NOT BELIEVE THE LIES THAT THE WORLD SAYS ABOUT THERE NOT BEING A “CURE” FOR MENTAL ILLNESS! “ONCE A NUT, ALWAYS A NUT” DOES NOT HOLD WATER WITH JESUS CHRIST! JESUS CHRIST IS THE CURE!YOU MUST WANT HELP AND BELIEVE THAT YOU CAN BE HELPED IF YOU WANT TO BE FREE. I HAD TO UNDERSTAND THIS FOR MYSELF!

    At one time, I had not learned to fully trust Jesus for myself. I had not really recieved His love, grace, and forgiveness for myself. I thougt I was too hopeless and too crazy for Him to reach me. I did not think I deserved Jesus because of my craziness. I had to learn that He loves me and accepts me anyway, whether I deserve it or not. I was going by what I could do in my own strength instead of resting by faith in His grace. I thank Jesus loving me unconditionally.

    Jesus payed for my sins when He died on the cross, so I do not have to keep punishing myself for my failures. Jesus took care of EVERYTHING for me. He forgave me! He cleansed me! He gave me a sound mind and a new heart! He gave me a second chance to live! I really had to understand that!!I just lay hold to Him and ALL of His promises. He will do the same thing for everybody who will just simply BELIEVE Him all the way.
    Read Isaiah 53:4-6, James 1:5-8

    Thanks and God Bless You All,
    Sheila