Is Anxiety A Sin?

"...not every negative effect finds its specific cause in a specific sin on the part of the person experiencing it. That is to say, mental health is not a sin issue. And while there may be individual sins that contribute to the relative health or malady of a person, the level of health itself is not ipso facto a moral issue." - Kainos

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

This is another one where it's so easy to over-correct. 

Moreover, Christian leaders need to also understand when they are out of their depth when it comes to matters of mental health and defer to mental health professionals, encouraging fellow Christians to consult trained clinicians and counselors. 

He's not wrong, but we need tension on the other side also. In particular, we have to acknowledge clearly and often that we live in a society that is deeply confused about human nature, though still (common grace) getting a lot of things right as well. In a culture that is trying to be passionately secular and passionately multi-cultural and passionately spiritual all at the same time, one result is that many conditions of the soul are going to be over-clinicalized or over-mysticalized or both (because we don't feel as much need to be coherent as we used to)... if you'll forgive the neologisms. The secularism drive wants to reduce everything to chemicals or perhaps behavioral patterns--but still empirical data driven. So to that mindset humans are wonderfully complex biological machines, but still machines. The mystical/"spiritual" drive wants to give lots of space to the non-material aspects of the human being, but not with any commitment to the idea that there is such a thing as truth and that it matters. Then those trying to have it both ways see humans as complex machines with magical bits... pretty much.

I'm not for tossing out the study of human mind and behavior or any other study. Science is a gift of God. But while we try to carve out appropriate space for mental illness in a biblical view of human nature, we have to be careful that we're not whittling away Scripture. At the same time, while we're rejecting mainstream thinking on human nature in favor of Scripture, we have to be careful not to despise truth God has put in other places. (I think if we love truth more than we love certainty and easy cataloging, it's a good start.)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Dan Miller's picture

Among biblical counseling’s ill-formed ideas about the human condition is the notion that anxiety is not a vast umbrella term that includes conditions with mild to severe symptoms, of which life circumstances, family history and hereditary factors, and even diet and physical activity are all contributing factors. Rather, anxiety is simply a sin that can and must be immediately repented of.

Wait - who ever said that "sin" means something is "simply a sin"? Or that it can be "immediately repented of"?

In Mark 9, Jesus encountered a man struggling to take him up on that invitation to faith. He came to Jesus with his son who was deeply ill, asking Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“If I can? All things are possible to the one who believes,” Jesus said, to which the man replied, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

In this moment, Jesus did not rebuke or condemn the man’s lack of belief or his outright admission of it. Instead, he compassionately demonstrated to the man exactly why he could believe. He healed the man’s son.

If Jesus did not condemn or threaten divine disapproval on people who struggled to believe or who were anxious about the future, what would give us the right to do so?

 This does not follow. Jesus had a similar non-condemning attitude for the woman caught in adultery (John 8).

Donn R Arms's picture

There is so much wrong with this article it is breathtaking.

  • The drive-by shooting of the entire biblical counseling (BC) movement
  • The wholesale categorizing BC as rejectors of “humanities studies”
  • Overriding the clear meaning of Scripture in light of perceived “tone”
  • The uncritical embrace of the “Mental Health” metaphor

Worry (anxiety, he uses the words interchangeably) IS sin. Philippians 4 makes that clear. Paul’s words, “Be anxious for nothing, but instead in everything. . .” are absolutes. No hedging for “tone” allowed. Happily, he goes on to explain how this can be achieved by the believer. No psychotherapy necessary!

Donn R Arms

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

There's no quick easy way to define a sharp boundaries between someone who is sinning, someone who has a medical problem, and someone who is some of both.

But a couple of things might help a bit. Scripture is clear that human beings are both physical and spiritual. We are characterized as sinners but also simply as weak. Figuring out when a person's problems are mostly one or the other of the two is a matter for wisdom.

Second, "madness" is a Bible word. It's a complex one though. For example, in Ecc 10:13, madness can also be "evil" (though there's quite a bit of wiggle room on what the meaning of the Hebrew word for 'evil' there... it can mean simply "bad").

In 2 Peter 2:16, Balaam is clearly depicted as mostly if not entirely responsible for his "madness" (paraphronia)

In Deut 28:34, "mad" is not a culpable condition, though it happens as a more or less natural result of experiencing judgment.

Out of time, but it's an interesting study. The short version is that "madness" as a category does exist in Scripture, but doesn't clearly align with the modern concept of mental illness. But I hasten to add that there really isn't a single "modern concept of mental illness," and professionals in the field have been known to say that having a 'disorder' doesn't necessarily absolve you from responsibility for your actions.

 

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.