"[T]he DSM-5 lowers the thresholds for many diagnoses, and broadens the definitions of existing mental illnesses."

Controversial update to “bible” of psychiatry fuels debate over foundations of mental health: one book raises big questions

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Aaron Blumer's picture

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The controversy over the DSM V may well mark the end of a period of relative metal illness consensus (though there has never really been a whole lot of consensus!). This could be a really good thing, not only for the study of mental illness but for the biblical counseling movement. In the case of the latter, I continually see these good people unhelpfully broad-brushing mental illness professionals... this will be harder to do if there is a highly public rift over the causes and diagnoses of mental disorders. And one result might be that Christians concerned with the "soul" and biblical remedies will develop a more complete and robust model for dealing with, to put it the language of ordinary life, "folks who just can't seem to think right."

To say it another way, I'm sort of hoping to see an era where people who take the Bible seriously not only move past the botched integrationism (of Bible and psychology) of the mid 20th century, but also past the somewhat botched anti-integrationism of the later 20th century and early 21st.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Aaron wrote:

I'm sort of hoping to see an era where people who take the Bible seriously not only move past the botched integrationism (of Bible and psychology) of the mid 20th century, but also past the somewhat botched anti-integrationism of the later 20th century and early 21st.

Are you advocating past the Jay Adams' view of nouthetic counseling? What do you see as the goal? I am not trying to stir up controversy - honest! I have been taught Adam's views view from Seminary and am interested in different perspectives. I believe there is a line somewhere. Adams himself suggests referring counselees to a physician for what he terms "organic" problems, for instance. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Tyler,

I practice nouthetic counseling myself. The issue I have seen is the half-backed followers who don't fully grasp what Adams presents. He clearly accepts mental illness caused by biological issues, but too many self-annointed Christian counselors reject all forms of mental illness and find a spiritual cause and solution for every problem. Perhaps these crackpots are Aaron's focus.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

TylerR's picture

Editor

too many self-annointed Christian counselors reject all forms of mental illness and find a spiritual cause and solution for every problem.

You're correct - that is a definite misconception! I suspect many secular psychologists believe this is what nouthetic counseling is. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Aaron Blumer's picture

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What I've often found is that there does not yet seem to be an approach to counseling that truly exhausts the biblical instruction available to believers while simultaneously truly exhausting the "organic" possibilities. That is, the Nouthetic school acknowledges that there can be organic causes, but it--so far as I've seen--does not have a strategy for biblical counselors to fully investigate those possibilities and/or pursue remedies (either themselves or in concert with medical or psychological professionals).

Why should they do this? Because if we acknowledge that (a) there truly is a mind-body connection and (b) that there are body causes (and complications) to some of these "mental"/behavior problems, we should not expect to be able to solve all the problems we encounter solely by spiritual means. To put it another way, if the human being is a body-spirit union, and if both body and spirit influence eachother in a dynamic that Scripture does not fully reveal, we need to approach the whole endeavor more meekly and with more interest in physical/experiential factors.

To be clear, I believe Scripture clearly teaches that the "heart" is influenced by the body and vice versa. That man is a body-spirit union is also quite clear.

So what is a pastor, for example, to do if a counselee appears to have "issues" that normal discipleship principles cannot adequately explain or remedy (yet there is no obvious physical cause either)?

There is much work to be done in this area by people with (a) a strong commitment to Scripture and 100% of the sufficiency that it claims to have and (b) a strong conviction that all truth agrees with all other truth and there is value in studying the parts of human thought and behavior that are not known to us by special revelation.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

There is much work to be done in this area by people with (a) a strong commitment to Scripture and 100% of the sufficiency that it claims to have and (b) a strong conviction that all truth agrees with all other truth and there is value in studying the parts of human thought and behavior that are not known to us by special revelation.

Ditto.

Science is one of those touchy subjects, I think. But since God is the author of the universe, why wouldn't we study creation, even down to the subatomic level? However, science is seductive and can draw a person away from the obviously supernatural workings of God in our hearts and minds. 

On a side note, for some enjoyable reading about neurology that doesn't feel like reading a glorified textbook, I recommend Oliver Sacks. Also a fun read- Sleights of Mind, What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptions. This was one of those books that I handed to my son Noah at the beginning of the school year and said "Shut up, you'll love it." And he did. Biggrin

 

Aaron Blumer's picture

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Wish I had more time to read up on Christian theology/philosophy of science. But part of the problem for those of us who want to be biblical about things is figuring out what science is good for and what it isn't--and getting some boundaries clear. Seems like we do better with what science isn't good for than we do with what it is good for. But I'm not sure we do all that well with either one.

On the former: we know science has no means at all for arriving at values, meaning, morals. It can tell us all day that A works better than B but can't tell us why "better" is better than not better.... if you follow what I mean. So science is great--I think even the soft sciences--at studying what causes tend to produce what effects. It just can't tell us why one effect is better than another, much less why it matters that one is better than another--what it all means.

But Christians do not need science to tell us what it all means. We have that by revelation.

So, in simple terms (over simplified? probably)...

  • What the Bible is good for: both practical and Ultimate information
  • What science is good for: additional practical information

"Practical" doesn't seem like an adequate word, but I don't have a better one handy. When it comes to human behavior and mental health, etc., though, I think we have not yet gleaned all we can from science in the "practical" category. (And of course, lots of folks haven't gleaned all that's available in both the practical and Ultimate categories in the Bible)