"[N]early half of evangelical, fundamentalist, or born-again... believe prayer and Bible study alone can overcome serious mental illness."

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jimcarwest's picture

In secular psychology mental illness is any emotional disorder or anomaly that deviates widely from the norm.  In biblical psychology mental illness relates only to physical disorders of the brain or nervous system.  We need to get our definitions correct in order to have a good discussion.  Biblical counselors hold that emotional disorders have to do with spiritual problems.  Spiritual problems have solutions based upon righting relational difficulties between God and man and between man and man.  Prayer and Bible study alone may not correct certain types of emotional/spiritual problems.  This is where a counselor who is trained in the art of addressing relational difficulties from a biblical perspective may assist an individual in applying biblical principles to personality disorders.  The secular approach relies heavily on blame-shifting, shock therapy, and psychotropic drugs -- a method that holds out little promise for long-term healing.  The Apostle Paul says in Rom. 15:14: "I am persuaded of you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with fall knowledge, able also to admonish (counsel) one another."  For nineteen centuries counseling was effectively done by believers who helped one aother s to apply spiritual truth to everyday problems.  Unfortunately,  of late some Christians have bought into the concept of needing psychotherapy to address emotional problems.  What is really needed are more Christian leaders who understand the use of the Scriptures in dealing with mankind's problems.

Donn R Arms's picture

The mind is not a physical organ. It cannot have a disease or illness except in a metaphorical sense as in a sick economy or a sick joke.

Typhoid fever -- disease

Spring fever -- not a disease

Scarlet fever -- disease

Bieber fever -- not a disease

Donn R Arms

Donn R Arms's picture

Jim wrote:

Would you agree that the brain can have a disease & illness?

Of course, but we don't call encephalitis, tumors, trauma, or concussion "mental" illnesses.

Donn R Arms

dgszweda's picture

Donn R Arms wrote:

The mind is not a physical organ. It cannot have a disease or illness except in a metaphorical sense as in a sick economy or a sick joke.

Typhoid fever -- disease

Spring fever -- not a disease

Scarlet fever -- disease

Bieber fever -- not a disease

 

But the mind can be impacted by physical issues.

ChrisC's picture

Donn R Arms wrote:
The mind is not a physical organ. It cannot have a disease or illness except in a metaphorical sense as in a sick economy or a sick joke.
can we just start out by saying that the words "disease" and "illness" mean something different than you think? you might want to start with some real medical text like:

TylerR's picture

Editor

Beyond the matter of God's providence in healing people, the matter of definitions is very important here. I echo what jimcarwest said above, and wanted to pass along Jay Adams' definition in Competent to Counsel:

The fact is that the words "mental illness" are often used quite ambiguously . . . Organic malfunctions affecting the brain that are caused by brain damage, tumors, gene inheritance, glandular or chemical disorders, validly may be termed mental illnesses. But at the same time a vast number of other human problems have been classified as mental illnesses for which there is no evidence that they have been engendered by disease or illness at all. As a description of many of these problem, the term mental illness is nothing more than a figure of speech, and in most cases a poor one at that," (28).

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?

John Paul's picture

I agree with the posts but I am not a huge fan of Biblical counseling. I, of course, agree with the Bible but I do not think a Biblical response to our therapeutic culture is let us have our counselors too. Biblical counseling for many has turned into the same parody of the Bible and science as is  Christian psychology but certainly not all and certainly not without it contributions and not without my appeal to avoid a distracting debate and knowing that any effort can grow stronger by criticism which has inspired this forum. 

My son was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and my brother in-law, a believer has been in and out of mental hospitals for decades with severe depression.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made but anything that can go wrong in our biology that effects cognition has gone wrong for some and there are many known and yet unknown physical contributors to how we think act and relate to others. Ministry should not negate physical contributing factors or causes. It takes a high degree of humility in helping the hurting.

We could actually use a Christian psychology but certainly not as it is currently known and the Biblical counseling movement has never been too comfortable with mental illness as is reflected throughout their literature. There is a mental health version of a type of prosperity health and wealth gospel that negates or neglects physical contributing causes that turns the already suffering into a spiritual suspect. We all may be prone to this type of judging and we should be aware of our tendency.  At the same time we own our own behavior and treating behaviors as the result of amoral otherwise presumed intrinsic righteousness of man in; lacking a positive self imagine or unconscious motivation or ill defined manliness deficiencies, or conceding to secular definitions ad nausea should not be described as in any way Christian.

Actually to this point, I could use another set of eyes before I finish my book and I am copying an unedited version of the preface here if anyone had the time.  Let me know.  Thanks,  John         jsweeney184@yahhoo.com

 

You'll have to excuse the roughness of this draft, I tell my friends that my writing is a test of freindship.

 

A Roaring Lion - Seeking Whom He May Devour

Draft Preface/Disclaimer

 

One need not be “into” recovery issues to benefit from this tremendous end days lesson and the story of alcohol and drug recovery which is one of the most fascinating stories of the 20th and 21st centuries.  The Christian church at large, actual or otherwise, has accepted an incoherent system of belief of alcoholism and drug recovery.  A story where the church is often found an unwitting accomplice in propagating a deception of recovery or being culpably silent of recovery beliefs which are in actuality more telling of the sinful nature than are the behaviors which they attempt to treat. Intrinsic to this heresy is the emergence of an eclectic deception referred to as Christian Psychology.  A corrupting therapeutic influence that has so influenced the church it cannot be an effective voice of reason and therefore cannot question the conceptual mess of a recovery industry due to its own: entrepreneurial self interests, loss of doctrine and loss of a proper exposition of their faith.
“Treatment” as popularly conceived is really education which attempts to empower a choice to abstain. A choice is not consistent with disease.  A choice to abstain more often invoking a “higher power” for help and vehemently denying any moral underpinnings while simultaneously believing a behavior stems from  a biochemical disease and competing hypothetical mechanisms and then instilling a twelve step moralistic character development is an incoherent system of belief.   Physical dependence is a medical consequence of long term heavy abuse and it involves a minority of those considered alcoholic.  A Christian perspective cannot be added since a secular approach denies any moral considerations, which is foundational to their treatment and a disease model for the Christian redefines how God works and the meaning of sin.

Recovery and Christian Psychology meet the definition of what would constitute another Gospel.  It is unavoidable even as reluctantly as one would make what is among the most serious charge one could bring against a Christian or a ministry. The gospel is the; birth, death and resurrection of our Lord who came to save mankind from their sins. Therefore, any system of belief that changes the definition of; God and His transforming power, sin or man, would constitute another gospel, to which Christian psychology is guilty of all three heresies and typically guilty of all three within each psychological construct.  The A.A. philosophy which is often endorsed by those of a theorized Christian(ized) Psychology are guilty of promoting another gospel and propagating a multifarious deception.   Christ was not beaten unrecognizable and hung on a cross between heaven and earth only to conceive of another program in the 1930’s America that left choosing Him optional, renamed sin as disease and omitted His Gospel.  A.A. is simply not of God and could only exist and thrive in relativistic post Christian culture.
The just shall live by faith (Romans 1:17) The righteousness of faith is, to say, our right standing with God which is both birthed in us and sustained by God.  The righteousness of man or man’s autonomy that would deny God, is man’s sin.  Man’s autonomy, the sinful nature, lives for itself. The cross of Christ crucifies those who would believe.   The living crucified called His church witnesses of God’s transformative power through the cross/gospel. The sinful nature continues in the believer and must be continually put to death. It is more deceitful than is usually credited and inherent in the sinful nature is a self righteousness that is always looking for vindication of its own existence.
The righteousness of faith is not a transformation of self discovery as conceived by pop psychology.  It is not the same as what is offered in A.A. nor is A.A. close enough. It is not through the rules of religion.  It is not merely a good way to live or a morality.  It is a living death of self, in His death and resurrection we discover Christ.  

The righteousness of faith is more than a theological concept that exonerates the guilty, it is where we live in a life hidden in Christ.  The world would appear to have us at such a disadvantage since we are unable to explain behavior as they are in unending systems of contradictions.  Christians under the world’s influence Christian(ized) what should never have been attempted. They promise liberty while they themselves are slaves of corruption.

We struggle to communicate feelings of joy and sorrow mingling of Him as we share communion of His broken body unable to adequately explain what the heart holds and the mind believes. His mercy extends to the week and ignorant, of those who would believe but cannot comprehend, since whom among us can make that claim of fully knowing such a love displayed. We fear more dread to those who would twist and pervert as the millstone’s being hung around their necks. Who can know for sure which fate each will face, so, we warn all earnestly to contend for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints.

We live in these perilous days of the last deception that uses love and Christianity as a means to preserve man’s autonomy by changing the definitions of man, sin and God.  Sin is no longer sin, man is no longer fallen but is to love himself and God transforms by the wisdom of man. 

Cowards and the undiscerning say their obligation is only to share the Gospel and have missed an obvious equal calling of defending the Gospel and ignores Christians struggling to make the gospel connection that would expose the celebration of self and the deceptive nature of a Christianize psychology.

Those who dismiss this indictment of the church out-of -hand merely validate that their indoctrination is complete. If this is your inclination, I would ask that you please reconsider the weight of the accumulative evidence.  Psychologies obstinacy to correction punctuates the very problem.

This manuscript spans a 20+ year experience is a series of letters written from a demonic perspective in the style of CS Lewis’ Screw Tape Letters . The second half of the book switches to nonfiction and is supportive evidence from science, jurisprudence and theology.  Psychological zealots are unlikely impressed by theological arguments against their integration since they were obviously not disciplined in the Word to begin with.  They are held captive with themselves and superficial or deceptive use of words, explanations such as I was recently written; Gods creative power is bestowed in His common grace as seen in; science, chemistry, physics, the arts, sociology and psychology. None are inherently bad and can be restored to creational wholeness. You see how this seems: wonderfully clear, assured, prophetic, the reality being anything but with the resultant: self righteousness, the captivating faddish psychological malady, the quenching of the Spirit, the tearing down of the family, the Orwellian governmental reeducation, personal failure and societal collapse is cleverly disguised in man restoring what God created.   Man is not bright enough to achieve this level of deception, he has had help. 
It’s sort of a strange chronology; I wrote this manuscript thinking the deception of recovery is more man’s fault than that of demonic inspiration. Admittedly there is a certain wry satisfaction in making fun of modern day Christian-dumb by pretending to be a devil and my attempt at redeeming hundreds of conversations where I was frustrated by rationalizations that were not the least bit compelling. Any sense of gratification is quickly tempered by those expressing an inability to learn by satire, by facts or even resultant consequences. While there is ample evidence to support my thesis of the gullibility, deceitfulness of man it was not until later did I really take stock in the likelihood of demonic inspiration.   How this dynamic works I am not preoccupied or even ironically that interested in and I would caution there is probably little value in sorting out man versus the demonic.  However, there is great value in knowing they are often indistinguishable where error and evil are often perpetuated in the name of helping the hurting.
Given the angel visitation in Bill Wilson’s (AA founder) hospital room and the specific warnings in scripture about a fallen spiritual being that masquerades as an angel of light and being a minister of righteousness, I believe I was wrong, I see his hand in this more clearly now, but curiously that was a recent post writing conclusion.   Man’s clamor about free will, particularly in the American setting of the self ascribed rugged individualist,   turns out his will is not as free as he would like to believe.

I am a sinner saved by grace.  The insights are well earned and I hope people can learn from them.  I only ask that those who are enamored with psychology or recovery would consider how the church was structured, empowered and the difference between psychology/recovery and the gospel.  It is true that the person in (Alcoholics Anonymous) A.A. has said no to a destructive behavior and they are standing for sobriety.  The church should be committed to the gospel. There are similarities that could be shared between the gospel and recovery but love does not preclude talking about how the analogy fails and how it fails dramatically.  Love does exactly that and the charge of being unloving is more appropriately applied to those who have a woeful lack of discernment and use love as an excuse to accommodate error. 

The attitude that says I am not willing to learn anything that would come against what I want to do is the very heart of the problem and error on so many levels. Why error is prevalent and persistent is one of the main themes of this work. Obviously those who are deceived do not know it, so, we should not be obstinate to correction and consider carefully those who also profess faith in Christ but yet object to some modern day out-workings of what constitutes being His follower. 
The scope of the problem of a psychological plunder of Christianity is so great as to overwhelm the senses where you can certainly sympathize with those who are hearing of the dissent for the first time. However, to dismiss accumulative evidence of: citing the consequences to date, the theology of repeated impassioned warnings and the missing cross, the science and legal precedent that questions practice, the now growing voice of pastors, theologians, books available all to be dismissed or to limit the problem to a mere result of a “few bad apples” within counseling is an almost envious self delusion that misses the scope of the crisis of the corruption of the church.  Not to be aware of problems associated with Christian psychology and having missed so many examples to date as we are enveloped in error does not speak well of one’s discernment, to say the least.
There are now several books and growing written on this subject.  If you do not care for this one please consider works that are listed at the end of the book, the importance of these issues cannot be overstated.
Our statement of faith should drive our practices and not the other way around. The same who lament the condition of the church may very well be guilty of perpetuating error that has led to its deteriorated condition.  I tend to think people and too many Christians are not seekers of truth in yielding to truths demands.  Our reasoning will matter not in judgment for works that are not based on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

We witness in the situations we find ourselves and no amount of political and social activism can Christianize our current system and the church itself is largely corrupt unable to articulate an outworking of faith.  Jacta alea est, the die is cast, and our societal solutions are to be more feared than our problems. We live in perilous times, question everything and stay at the foot of the cross.

 

 

 

 

 

 

JD Miller's picture

I recently heard how even secular psychiatrists are referring patients to a specialized field called psychopharmacology.  In the strictest sense it is the study of how the brain interacts with drugs, but the field has expended to study how the brain reacts to hormone levels etc.  For example, the problem may be caused by a blood sugar issue in a diabetic or a hormone issue in someone with thyroid disease.  Many psychiatrists are recognizing that a lot of their patents cannot be helped because it is simply a physical issue.

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not suggesting that the psychiatrist would be of much help anyway- other than sometimes it helps people just to have someone to talk to.  But those that give spiritual council may also benefit from utilizing the tools of a psychopharmacologist who can analyze physical data to pinpoint a possible problem. 

A good book to look at on recognizing the physical issues that affect the mind is Blame it on the Brain by Edward T. Welch.  He deals with the subject from a Christian perspective.

jimcarwest's picture

Biblical counseling recognizes the mind-body connection.  For this reason all good counselors try to rule out the physical causes of emotional/spiritual problems before proceeding to focus on the spiritual causes of a person's problems.  And notice the importance of seeking to get to the root of a person's problems and not simply resorting to pharmaceutical treatments. 

SamH's picture

Biblical counseling is scriptural discipleship (a form of it, or subset of it, whatever). Its heart is the radical idea that a Christian as a Spirit-indwelt being, with a regenerate heart, possessing or being influenced by all the other Divine spiritual realities by which God affects ever-increasing holiness in His children--this one has all that is necessary for life and godliness--that these ones are best helped in this progressive Christlike journey by the means of grace laid out in Scripture. This is what Christians have always understood to be the path of a true disciple of Christ.

Perhaps we should pity those poor shlubs from before our modern age (who had all the benefits of Rom 8:28-30, etc.) but did not have Paxil, Freud, Rogers, Ritalin, Maslow, intermingled with the Spirit's truth...

SamH

Ed Vasicek's picture

Tyler wrote:

 

Beyond the matter of God's providence in healing people, the matter of definitions is very important here. I echo what jimcarwest said above, and wanted to pass along Jay Adams' definition in Competent to Counsel:

 

The fact is that the words "mental illness" are often used quite ambiguously . . . Organic malfunctions affecting the brain that are caused by brain damage, tumors, gene inheritance, glandular or chemical disorders, validly may be termed mental illnesses. But at the same time a vast number of other human problems have been classified as mental illnesses for which there is no evidence that they have been engendered by disease or illness at all. As a description of many of these problem, the term mental illness is nothing more than a figure of speech, and in most cases a poor one at that," (28).
 

 

That is the point. Because we have not proven a problem GENETIC or a result of brain damage, infection, handicap (like autism), we need to keep an open mind.  We see symptoms, but can only postulate causes, even personal sin.  It is arrogant to say most of these problems are caused by personal sin (the curse following the sin of Adam, of course, messed up the physical and the spiritual; that's why I use the term "personal sin.):).

 

From my paper http://www.highlandpc.com/studies/nouthetic.php:

Imagine this scenario: Let’s suppose Nouthetic counseling made its debut in 1850. A man we now describe as bipolar comes in for help. In our day and age, Jay Adams (founder of Nouthetic counseling) recognizes that (at least some) bipolar individuals have an organic problem, a lack of lithium; we recognize that they cannot always help their problem without medication.
But would Nouthetic counselors have known that in 1850? Or would the counselor have lectured the counselee about being conformed to the image of Christ, given him some Bible verses, set up an accountability system, and advocated "godliness through discipline?" When counseling failed, the counselor would merely write it off as another case of an excuse maker not taking responsibility for himself. A scene like that could have happened in 1850. But people in 1850 knew there were a lot of mysteries involving the human brain and body, so they left room for the unknown and did the best they could. And this humility is what modern Nouthetic counseling lacks.
How do we know that a similar situation is not happening today? Perhaps a man is depressed, and that depression is caused by body and brain chemistry we do not yet understand. True, many depressed people are indeed depressed because of sinful patterns, but are they all? Adams leaves plenty of room for women experiencing PMS (because we can document hormone and chemical causes), but what about room for chemistry we have yet to discover? How do we really know what is organic (or genetic) and what is not?
All women are people. Are all people, therefore, women? Just because many counseling issues are sin-related, that does not mean there can be no other factors. In the sin-cursed world around us, there is not necessarily a correlation between a specific sin and tragedy, for example. All our problems can be traced to the Fall (and the curse), but not necessarily to a particular sin on our part.
Nouthetic counseling downplays the graduation of responsibility. Fear, for example, can sometimes be described as a lack of trust in God. But a woman, who, as a girl, was molested every time it stormed, is going to have more of a problem being afraid during a storm than someone who has not had such a traumatic background.
So if this woman learns to be less afraid during a storm (but still afraid), is she less godly than the woman who has never feared a storm? Not necessarily. When bottom line behavior becomes the main issue, we lose sight of where a person is coming from and how far he and she have come.
Let us postulate this story further. Let us suppose this traumatized woman has come to know Christ, repented of obvious sin, and is memorizing Scripture, praying, and serving in all sorts of ways. Let us introduce a second woman does not know Christ. The first woman is partaking of the Divine Nature while the second is not. The first woman is finding the courage to go on because she clings to the promises of God, but storms still bring out fear. Her problems are not all solved; they may never be; but she has put 2 Peter 1:3-4 to work. Yet the second woman never fears a storm. Is this lost second woman therefore more spiritually mature?
So is there a difference between the spiritual and what we might call the psychological? I think so. The spiritual undoubtedly affects the psychological. But I believe it is possible to excel spiritually while still not being completely "normal" psychologically. And it is very possible—no, I might say common—to be "normal" psychologically (or behaviorally) while being unsaved and thus dead spiritually.
If the way to address all psychological problems was to put the Word of God to practice, then we should expect those who ignore the Word to be much more psychologically messed up than those who are into the Word. And the way to measure this is by Christian standards (as demonstrated in 1 Timothy 3): the husband of one wife, rearing children well, not given to argument, etc. We soon discover that we have more divorces (and, in my opinion, more messed up people) with evangelicalism (where the Word is somewhat emphasized—admittedly not enough) than we do without. What this implies is monumental: the Word is not enough to make some messed up people normal, and the lack of God's Word does not necessarily make normal people messed up (except in the spiritual realm, a realm which could be defined as that difference between a decent lost person and a decent dedicated godly person).

 

"The Midrash Detective"

TylerR's picture

Editor

I hear and appreciate a lot of what you're saying. Adams does indeed stress the personal responsibility for sin in Competent to Counsel, which I admittedly haven't finished yet! I think, though, that is is too simplistic to paint nouthetic counseling as "personal sin" oriented. Moving beyond Adams himself, I think we'd all agree that Biblical counseling is about sanctification. The root of the problem may not be personal sin, but surely the solution is sanctification - growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

In fact, I would classify nouthetic counseling as sanctification oriented, rather than fixated on personal sin. We'd also probably agree that, in many cases, the term "mental illness" is a term that is abused. There is a lot of personal responsibility for problems that needs to be shouldered, either as a direct result of personal sin or a need to acknowledge the imperative to grow in Christ. I actually hate the term "Biblical counseling," too. It implies that it is a form of Christian psychology, and I think it confuses many people. It is really, at it's core, about applying Scripture in a practical way in people's lives in response to specific problems. It is practical theology.

Until I saw the thread linking to Adams' Institute of Nouthetic Counseling on SI a week or so ago, I didn't realize that there are increasing differences of opinion between NANC, CCEF and INC. At Maranatha, my courses have generally followed CCEF and the "idols of the heart" concept. Jay Adams is honored and heartily recommended, but his works are not used as textbooks. I have benefit enormously from his works, however. His Theology of Christian Counseling and How to Help People Change are excellent.

What a disappointment it is to peruse the works of Christian integrationists like H. Norman Wright! He actually has the nerve to say his end goal in counseling is to restore self-esteem and increase self-reliance in the counselee. So much for sanctification!

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?