David Murray, an unusually wise teacher and the author of Christians Get Depressed Too, addresses 7 Questions about Suicide and Christians. He writes, “As well-publicized suicides tend to increase the suicide rate quite dramatically, I thought it would be good to address seven of the questions that arise in our minds at times like this.” Here are the seven questions he answers:

  1. How common is suicide?
  2. How do I know if someone is thinking about suicide?
  3. What should I do if I’m worried someone I know is going to commit suicide?
  4. Do Christians who commit suicide go to hell?
  5. Who is to blame?
  6. What if I’m thinking of suicide myself?
  7. What can the church do to prevent suicide?

See also Ed Welch’s wise counsel on how to answer the question, “Do People Who Commit Suicide Go to Heaven?

Here is a sermon by John Piper (2007) for a young member of his church, the son of an elder, who committed suicide after a long struggle with depression.

Michael Patton writes an incredibly painful post about Matthew Warren, with no easy answers, about the torture of those who cannot clearly see the light and suffer the asphyxiation of hope.

Ed Stetzer has a piece at CNN’s religion blog on mental illness and the church, arguing the following points:

  • There are people in the pews every week—ministers, too—struggling with mental illness or depression.
  • People of faith know that God has freed them to love others, and that love extends to everyone, even (and sometimes especially) those we don’t understand.
  • Christians need to affirm the value of medical treatment for mental illness.
  • Compassion and care can go a long way in helping people know they don’t have to hide.
  • Mental illness has nothing to do with you or your family’s beliefs. It can impact anyone.

Here are some resources on battling depression and ministering to those who do:

For those in ministry, the writings by and about Charles Spurgeon on depression may be particularly valuable:

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Comments:


71 thoughts on “Suicide, Mental Illness, Depression, and the Church”

  1. Bill Patton says:

    One of my pastors, graciously and carefully instructing parents of teens on the this topic.

    http://www.covfel.org/sermon/march-2013-extra-point/

  2. Bruce Russell says:

    “Be given to hospitality”

    Do not assume that Church small groups, teen meetings, young adult programs will take care of this problem.

    1. Karen Butler says:

      When I was a suicidal from post-partum depression, it was the heroic hospitality of my best friend that saved my life. God told her I needed rest, and so she took all my five kids to stay with her, save the newborn, and so I got the bedrest and reflective time I needed. She interceded for me. I also journalled and prayed, and God delivered me.

      She did this ministry to me at great cost to herself, as she was grieving the loss of her own stillborn son, just three months earlier.

      I think hospitality, this kind of selfless service, to those who are lonely, to those suffering mental disorder, are the *real* single biggest thing the church can do to reduce the suicide rate. It is why I have revived that discipline in my own life, and I am rediscovering the truth, that “he who refreshes others, refreshes himself.” (Proverbs 11:25)

      Because sometimes it is this feeling that we are cut off from the body that is at the heart of our pain, we who struggle with depression must war against that feeling, and do what seems counter-intuitive: Seek out fellowship. Stop avoiding and hiding from people. Open up, and be transparent, and share the truth about your struggle. It was not till I called my friend, and told her the truth about my suicidal thoughts, that there was finally relief from their demonic torments.

      1. Bruce Russell says:

        Karen:

        Pass it on! 2 Corinthians 1:9

        1. Karen Butler says:

          Amen, and Amen! I will.

          1. Karen Butler says:

            I wrote this blogpage two years ago, about hospitality and its place in the care of the orphans of God, those down and out and depressed: http://thenface2face.wordpress.com/what-walking-in-the-spirit-looks-like/

  3. Amy J. says:

    “The single biggest thing the church can do to reduce the suicide rate is to admit there is such a thing as mental illness. The second biggest thing we could do is for pastors to admit they need professional help from other disciplines and caring professions to minister to all the complex needs of those suffering such indescribable agonies.” -David Murray

    Thank you for speaking truth.

  4. John Dunn says:

    I have sadly observed in my local area that severe depression reigns among those who attend strict law-preaching Reformed churches.

    Answer: Stop beating the sheep with the Law! Do not bring the redeemed saints back under perpetual condemnation and guilt of the Law that has been once and for all extinguished at Calvary. Instead, ravish them with the unsearchable glories Christ and lead them to understand their freedom from all condemnation!

    1. anaquaduck says:

      I would of thought Reformed Theology also included Grace. The law actually helps us see our sin & Grace allows us to know it has been dealt with. It is a wonderful relationship in the eqation of everlasting hope.

      With so much depression around there must be a lot of strict law preaching going on…Some sublime hymns have been produced through the saints suffering depression. The Psalmists also had their dark moments but also hope in God. It is a real battle for sure, lets not forget evil in all of this too.

      Kumbaya

    2. MF says:

      That is a HUGE leap and even huger assumption. Could it be that those of us struggling with depression seek out Christ more because of it? Could it be the churches are filled with the despairing because that is who Jesus came for? That seems a likelier explanation to me. Been walking with the Lord for quite a few years, and still struggle from time to time. My church is one of grace, most definitely, and it isn’t the Law that depresses people. It’s the curse, and it will go on until the blessed day Christ returns.

      1. John Dunn says:

        I once had the sad experience of accompanying the elders on their “home visits” within the local church flock and seeing, firsthand, the deepest forms misery and despair in those who have no hope, no assurance of salvation whatsoever, precisely because they have been so beaten down with the Law and made to feel that that they do not possess sufficient “marks of grace” to consider themselves as being a true believers.

        This is the saddest form of depression I know. And it is real. And it is diabolical. And it still goes on. And it is not acknowledged or talked about in Reformed circles.

        1. It sounds like you are equating legalism with Reformed teaching. There’s a reason we call them the “Doctrines of Grace”. Your experience of Reformed teaching is backwards. I don’t know if you have some legalistic preachers who call themselves Reformed in your area or if they haven’t been very good at teaching Reformed theology, but legalism is the opposite of Reformed theology.

          1. John Dunn says:

            If there is one clear distinction I have learned in Reformed circles it is this . . .

            Knowing, loving, and being zealous for the “Doctrines of Grace” is an altogether different thing from being supernaturally filled and controlled by Gospel-grace so as to actually walk graciously, by the Spirit of Grace.

            1. Bruce Russell says:

              John:

              The doctrines of grace are important, but a subsidiary message in the Biblical narrative. Making them too prominent is a clue that we are missing the actual narrative of the Biblical Covenants.

              Bruce

              1. John Dunn says:

                Bruce, I wholeheartedly agree. In much of the Reformed world the redemptive narrative of the Biblical Covenants is obscured and ignored because of the artificial covenantal constructs of the academy that are championed.

                I am unashamedly a New Covenant believer now.

                How many Reformed and/or Evangelical Christians would know how to define what the New Covenant is? And how it gloriously supersedes the Old?

  5. Larry says:

    I was worried this tragedy would bring calls to jump on the psychiatric and pharmaceutical community’s very lucrative mental illness bandwagon. I’ll be glad to admit mental illness exists when the psychiatric community stops creating “diseases” to add to the DSM by majority vote and actually provides some objective medical evidence to back up their claim that these are true diseases. Virtually all “anti-depressant” drugs carry a “black box” warning for side effects, among which is suicidality. Perhaps one of the best things we could do to reduce suicide is get people off the chemicals that are handed out like candy in this country to treat all these “diseases” the psychiatric community keeps coming up with.

    1. F. T. says:

      Hello, As discussion, this is just to share with you that when I’m not on my chemicals, I eventually lose reality and get hospitalized. Jesus has me. He is my identity since 2007. But I also have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder; so would you suggest I get off my medication?
      I’ve been prayed over many times. And at my conversion I was released from demonic possession. My mania is no longer dark. I’m no longer using occult practices. I’m a born again Christian.
      When I stopped taking medication, as a form of trusting our Lord, I was fine for awhile but then went to a place that praise God He eventually brought me out of. Madness.

      1. Jon says:

        God bless you!

    2. Autumn says:

      Do you have any experience with someone who struggles with Schizophrenia? Manic depressive disorder? Severe OCD? I certainly do… and I can tell you that medication works MIRACLES with individuals suffering from these conditions. You demonstrate a complete lack of understanding or compassion for people who have these diagnosis…. Very sad….

      1. Autumn says:

        I was of course directing my reply to Larry……

        1. Karen Butler says:

          Autumn,

          I am one with lived experience of depression/anxiety and also a psychotic break. My mother was Schizo-affective. Some I love struggle with ‘hearing voices’ and OCD. I have nothing but compassion for those who wage heroic ongoing battles against mental disorders.

          But I agree one hundred percent with Larry’s statement, and wish more in the Christian community were as aware of Psychiatry’s epic failures. The discipline is pure quackery, as amply demonstrated by the scandal of the latest edition of their manual, and you can read the criticisms of it by its former editor, Dr. Allen Frances,here:http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dsm5-in-distress/201212/dsm-5-is-guide-not-bible-ignore-its-ten-worst-changes

          1. Michael Hedrick says:

            It’s important to distinguish between the people behind the DSM and the broader community of mental health professionals.

            Many MHPs are frustrated with the way that the DSM committee works. Many MHPs are also frustrated with the tendency to “medicate first, ask questions later.” As strange as it may seem, the DSM is not the result of a broad agreement among all MHPs but rather a tiny group who often have conflicting interests.

            Unfortunately, many uninformed and uneducated Christians use the errors of a few within the mental health community as an excuse to write off the entire concept of mental healthcare as a whole. This is not only logically indefensible, but morally questionable, as it places many patients at risk by urging them to stop taking medication and/or seeking treatment that is effective in addressing their symptoms and underlying issues.

            1. Karen Butler says:

              It is sort of irrelevant how many psychiatrists were involved in the travesty of the DSM-V. The function of this diagnostic manual is to serve as the gatekeeper of information — sort of like the way this blog article does, with its interesting moderation of comments– and disseminate it to the actual dispensers of medication — the general practioners most depressed people see. Or the Christian counselors and pastors who were very recently surprised to hear that the chemical balance theory has been scrapped, perhaps for another pet theory like neurogenesis.

              Whatever! As long as Big Pharma can keep dispensing its happy pills — and keep those Key Opinion Leaders happy too, with perks, like prestige and authority. It is not always money that is the motivator behind the decisions some researchers make, to publish corrupt data.

              1. Karen Butler says:

                I would like to add that I have no problem with neurogenesis, except if this new paradigm prompted even more drug treatments that would prove as useless and harmful as their SSRI’s and atypical antipsychotics. Especially if they make children their guinea pigs, the way the explosion of diagnoses for bi-polar disorder and ADHD has done.

                I think I am reasonably informed and educated. I learned all about tardive dyskinesia and akathesia watching the side effects of these meds in my own children. They educated me about the incestuous relationship between Big Pharma and Psychiatry. My biggest regret is the emergency holds I placed on them that gave them these crippling grimaces and unbearable restlessness. And that is what makes them at risk for suicide. That is why I am unbearably afraid to open doors sometimes, for what body I might find inside.

                So spare me your patronizing attitude, Mr. MHP! I would rather you penned a letter like this one by Dr. Mickey Nardo, who regrets not speaking out more forcefully against Big Pharma’s pernicious influence on his field, and spends his days since his resignation from the APA combing the literature for faulty studies, like the gem he discovered about Dr.Robert Gibbons, who wanted to reverse the black box warnings on SSRI’s about risks to youth and suicidality with them. Google “Anatomy of a Deciet” at 1 Boring Old Man, or use the link below to search his site. A must read for anyone giving their kid Prozac still. Or Respiridol. Or Zoloft. Or….

                Here’s Dr. Nardo’s eloquent letter:

                I think it’s time for the body of Psychiatry to look back on the last thirty years, particularly the last twenty, and acknowledge that there has been a lot of just outright wrong: producing and accepting lousy science; signing on to lousy science produced by others; colluding with the Pharmaceutical Industry in recommendations and prescriptions; corruption involving ghost-writing, guest authoring, conflicts of interest, direct drug promotion, downplaying or ignoring adverse effects. And then there were some really big sins – TMAP comes to mind. It’s a great big collective blemish, maybe more like an open festering wound. And yet I can’t really seem to talk about it without laying the blame elsewhere – PHARMA, Managed Care, KOLs, Neuroscientists, Psychopharmacologists, the Analysts [before I became one], the DSM committees, the APA. And it’s hard to say I’m sorry to patients harmed, without quickly adding, “but I didn’t do that with my patients.”

                Even though that last comment is true in so far as I know it, it still doesn’t help with a background discomfort that lingers, transcending any disavowals that pass through my mind.” More here: http://1boringoldman.com/index.php/2012/02/20/no-further-comment/

                How I wish we had Dr. Nardo’s compassionate care for our daughters when they were spinning out of control, instead of the greedy quacks we had, like the one who charged this family living on the edge of bankruptcy because of their failed therapies $100 for every missed appointment.

        2. Larry says:

          My personal experience is irrelevant as to whether or not what I said is true.

      2. Tim says:

        Autumn,
        It seems like you are assuming the validity of these labels on the basis of the positive results of medication? Is this a fair representation of what you are saying?

        If I sit on a tack and take pain medication I will certainly feel better but I haven’t addressed the actual problem but only the symptoms. The real solution would be to remove the tack.

        As a result, some may be suspicious of your argument and find it less than adequate. In short, I don’t think it proves what you think it proves.

        1. “If I sit on a tack and take pain medication I will certainly feel better but I haven’t addressed the actual problem but only the symptoms. The real solution would be to remove the tack.”

          It seems like you are asserting that these medications cover over the problem rather than addressing the problem. Actually, most of the meds help rectify the problem rather than simply cover it over. Conditions that disrupt the delicate balance of chemicals in the brain exist. Many drugs have been developed to help restore the balance.

          If you think, as I’ve heard it argued before, that the answer is to address the spiritual problem rather than take a medication, then what spiritual answer do you have for removing a tack from your backside? How do you adjust brain chemistry spiritually?

          1. Tim says:

            Hey Jim,
            Perhaps it would be helpful to speak in terms of specific examples due to the fact that mental illness is such a broad category?

            Is this your basic argument?
            1) Chemical imbalances exist
            2) Therefore medication seeks to correct a physical organic problem by restoring a proper balance
            3) As a result, medication is addressing cause not symptoms?

            If I have heard you correctly I would respond this way:
            I reject premise 1. I would therefore ask you to prove premise 1. How would someone demonstrate the existence of a chemical imbalance?

            1. Sure. I certainly agree that science has its epistemological limitations. Science also has its uses. Medical scientists have been studying neurochemistry for some time now. Just a smattering of what can be found online, if it doesn’t blow the spam filter up:

              http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00213-002-1154-7
              http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/2569180/reload=0;jsessionid=F6JkeZ7lVOUK7GDKgnon.4
              http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/009130579290635S
              http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=search.displayRecord&UID=1983-25238-001
              http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/(SICI)1098-1063(1998)8:6%3C566::AID-HIPO2%3E3.0.CO;2-W/abstract;jsessionid=67E2516A3A02E451C48550A063F261B2.d03t03?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false
              http://jpet.aspetjournals.org/content/316/1/440.short
              http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1471-4159.1990.tb13277.x/abstract?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false
              http://schizophreniabulletin.oxfordjournals.org/content/19/2/371.short
              http://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/106715

              Note: most of the journal material online requires a membership to view more than the abstract of a paper.

              Now, it’s fair to argue that science doesn’t know everything. This area of research doesn’t contradict what’s in the Bible. It also doesn’t contradict genuine demon possessons or disorders of a purely sinful nature.

              (Demon possessions require casting out according to the counsel of scripture. Thought and behavioral problems that are a result of sin require biblical counseling and discipleship.)

              However, scientists have demonstrated a high liklihood of coorelation between brain chemistry and mood or other mental disorders. Therefore, drugs have been developed tat alter chemistry in controlled ways that have been demonstrated to help assuage specific disorders. You can argue that the research isn’t certain enough and I can argue that the research is. But you can’t argue that the research hasn’t demonstrated the liklihoods of various correlations between measurable brain chemistry and measurable disorders. You also can’t argue that the medications (and some medical procedures) haven’t been effective to a large degree in correcting the disorder.

              We have minds that use our brains to function with our bodies. When our brains are compromised, that connection is compormised. In my case, depression was like a hurricane that backed my conscious ability to influence my thinking into a corner. If it had gotten larger, I would not have been able to control my thoughts. It was all I could do to counter the visceral lies imported by the mood disorder. Any more and I wouldn’t have been able to. The drugs prescribed by my Christian doctor worked therepeutically over a period of time to “reset” my system (by conditioning neurochemical responses between my amygdala and hyppocampus, etc.). Then I was able to successfully go off the drugs and resume a normal life. What do you think was really wrong with me?

              1. Tim says:

                Hmm,
                I’m not sure what to make of your response. It appears as if you are using categories in a bit of a different way than I am.

                Let me be clear. I believe in organic illness. As a result, I have no problem with Alzheimers or Dementia, nor do I have a problem with Cancer. In all the above cases, one can observe tissue damage.

                My issue has to do with “mental illness,” not brain damage/deterioration.

                As a result, I am honestly scratching my head. I am not sure you have answered my questions in a satisfactory way, perhaps I could be more specific.

                What are normal serotonin levels in the brain?
                How does one measure a patients serotonin levels?
                Is there a way to currently prove that a person’s problems are the result of a chemical imbalance in the same way one might prove that a person’s cancer is a result of overproduction of cells? In other words, what medical tests are being preformed to determine that a person has a chemical imbalance?

                Perhaps I need to listen more carefully, but it appears that your arguments are circular. I am asking for objective scientific tests that show a chemical imbalance, as one would expect to find in other diseases such as cancer. I am not asking for faith that a chemical imbalance is the answer to mental illness a category I reject.

                We could take up the depression issue if you like. I wouldn’t attempt to counsel someone with so little information however. Depression is another one of those terms that is not exactly self evident.

              2. I’ll agree that “mental illness” isn’t the most accurate term to use. However, people generally know what is commonly meant by it, that is according to common knowledge which isn’t much. It seems like you are asking about diagnosis rather than development. The cost and invasiveness of testing specific neurochemical levels in the brain (as opposed to the rest of the body) for most patients is costly and largely unnecessary.

                The reason it’s unnecessary is that most other common causes, such as a thyroid problem, of clinical mood and psychiatric disorders can be tested more cheaply and effectively. Additionally, laboratory testing has identified an array of indicators discovered by interviewing the patient. Are these a bit subjective? Sure. For most of the meds one could get out of it, there’s very little reason for a patient to be dishonest. For that matter, pain management is likewise subjective and abused far more than the kind of psychotropic drugs we are talking about. What do I know, though? I wouldn’t have thought people could make methamphetamines out of Sudafed. But for the vast majority of patients, it is enough to identify clinical depression, for example, by eliminating other possibilities and adjusting meds until the best one is discovered.

                Could there be a placebo effect? Sure. If someone is imagining an illness and the drug really doesn’t help them, but they believe they experience healing through it, then the patient is treated anyway.

                Could there be a spiritual issue like sin or possession? Absolutely. That’s why I go to a Christian physician. My doctor is a deacon and Sunday School teacher in my church and one of the godliest men I know. My therapist is also one of the two we have on staff in our church. So I have accountability both ways. The thing is that demon-possessed people don’t seek help for it and sinners looking to justify their sin in their church usually go see the pastor.

              3. Tim says:

                Jim,
                I am really not trying to appear cranky :) I simply have some basic concerns and I do not think you are actually engaging my argument. Either that, or I am not listening very well.

                In many of these discussions, there is an argument that is brought to bear, that many think to be a good argument, that I do not believe to be a very good argument.

                The argument goes something like this:
                If you give a person chemicals and those chemicals influence their behavior in a positive way, that must be an indication that the person is suffering from a chemical deficiency.

                I believe this is circular reasoning.

                Chemical imbalances exists. Why do they exist? Because if you give a person more of the chemical, they respond better. Therefore, they are suffering from a chemical deficiency.

                You see, you haven’t actually proved that they exist, you have just stated something that is axiomatic, i.e. chemicals influence behavior, and smuggled in your theory of causation.

                If you haven’t yet accepted the theory as fact, you might scratch your head and ask someone to explain anew.

                So why should I believe that chemical imbalances are the cause of “mental disorders?”

                If I were to ask the question why should I believe that Alzheimer’s is the cause of forgetfulness, how would you respond? You would say something along the lines of, we can do an MRI and see evidence of brain damage correct?

                So why should I believe that chemical imbalances are the cause of some mental problems?

              4. “If you give a person chemicals and those chemicals influence their behavior in a positive way, that must be an indication that the person is suffering from a chemical deficiency.”

                If someone is making that argument, they are mistaken. I’m not making that argument, and that’s not what informs the method physicians use.

                You must be assuming that no one has done the lab work that measures amounts of neurochemicals in the brain relative to particular psychological patterns. Actually, phrmaceutical companies wouldn’t be able to develop drugs that influence particular neurochemicals if they couldn’t measure the differences in neurochemicals in the brain. That’s part of what the list of links I provided above was there to demonstrate. Not only is it being done, but many schools, independent labs, and pharmaceutical companies are doing it.

                It’s simply not cost-effective for doctors to do it for their patients. That kind of testing isn’t normally covered under insurance. So the doctor uses a method that is informed by the published results of that kind of research. (S)He starts with a quick and simple process of elimination that involves a physical examination and blood work. A urine or saliva test could be used to measure hormonal levels, but those kind of tests don’t specify what of those hormones are being produced in the brain. So they aren’t worth using to test neurochemical levels in the brain. it usually doesn’t take too long using hit-and-miss to find out what drugs work the best.

                So don’t confuse the method for the medical research behind it.

                On the other hand, the researchers don’t know everything. They are working to nail down the causes of things like Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia. They don’t entire understand the cause of depression, but they do know the primary neurotransmitters at play and can successfully treat the vast majority of patients with medications and treatments like electroshock therapy in conjunction with counseling to help a patient learn techniques to manage their depression. That they have been successful in so many cases is a testimony, not proof, to the relative accuracy of the research to date. For proof, one would have to pore through the research analyzing it for assumptions, repeatability, thoroughness, etc., to determine if it was done well. The testimony of the successful treatments is an indicator that the researchers have probably done a pretty good job.

              5. Tim says:

                Jim,
                Sorry for the delayed response. I am typing on a phone. So I can’t quote very well. I’ll just try to paraphrase.
                I think you would acknowledge that being diagnosed with mental illness is not exactly parallel to being diagnosed with cancer. You use words like subjective and probable, and deacribe science as having its epistemological limitations. Yet, you still believe that you were diagnosed.correctly, and that medication helped you.

                I would prefer to not have this type of discussion online. Yet, you keep asking questions about what I think was wrong with you and how I would have approached a situation like yours.

                So here goes:
                I really don’t have much concern with you using chemicals to help stabalize yourself so that you could better fight the lies you were tempted to believe with the truth. I do have a problem with you saying that you were unable to fight the lies without medication. I believe you are denying the sufficiency of scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit. I believe you are saying that God’s word is not enough. I believe that you are telling 1900 years of Christians that they had no hope or ability to fight sin until now. That is a staggering declaration to make.

              6. Tim says:

                I am really not trying to be rude or offensive when I say this. I am nottrying to be mean. I am just speaking from scriptural convictions which could be mistaken. I really think you should be down and worship your savior, the chemicals. This is what I hear you communicating, and I’m open to the fact that my hearing could be wrong.

              7. Tim says:

                *bow down

              8. Tim, you’re moving the goalposts. What you are saying now is equivalent to saying that we shouldn’t set a broken bone and if we do we are worshiping the cast as a god; unless you want to go back and address how I didn’t answer your original issue, which is the presuppositional issue behind this sort of equivocation.

              9. Tim says:

                If a person says without this cast, I would be unable to keep from complaining, that cast has become his functional God.

              10. Certainly anything other than God can be sinfully idolized, but unless you are willing to say that we should use no tool because it could be sinfully idolized, then you have no case. Medicine is like any other tool.

              11. Tim says:

                Brother please reread my responses. I think you are putting words in my mouth. Did I say that I was anti chemicals? I said that whether or not a person uses chemicals is really not the big issue. Just don’t say that you would be forced to sin without them.

              12. “…don’t say that you would be forced to sin without them.”

                Re-read my comments. Nowhere did I make that claim.

              13. Actually, looking back, I can see where you might have gotten that idea. Let me make another equivocation to explain the difference: we don’t worship clothing because wearing it helps keep us from sinning. Apparently, the drugs only helped Matthew Warren to a point. On this end of it, however, I’m not going to condemn him for it. I’ll leave any judgment or grace up to God and minister to the family. Someone who happens to see naked people and commit the sin of lust could also lust with someone fully clothed. However, modest clothing clothing helps to a degree. But clothing also protects us against the elements. Medicine helps heal some from illness. That’s all I’m claiming.

              14. Tim says:

                Perhaps you can use another analogy because I’m not sure how your equivocation helps.
                From my perspective a person would be sinning to not wear clothes, provided that he has them. And if he does not, he should do his very best to avoid being seen by a woman who is not his wife.

            2. sockpuppet says:

              ugh Tim, sorry, but you are representative of everything that’s wrong with the Christian community regarding mental illness. It’s REAL. It’s a living hell for those who suffer from the various forms of it, and frankly it’s a living hell for those around them. I am quite sure you do not truly know anyone with a SERIOUS mental illness or you would BEG them to take their medication.

              1. Tim says:

                I would encouage you to engage my questions. I believe them to be legitimate questions one should ask Doctors or those who pretend to be doctors.
                If a doctor determined to amputate your leg on the basis of a diagnosis made through observations of your thoughts, behaviors, and actions, I am sure you would ask questions like these. What is the medical basis behind this decision?
                Please engage questions. Notice I have not made any statements about when it is impropriate to use chemicals to influence behavior.

              2. Karen Butler says:

                Sockpuppet,

                Some have argued quite effectively that the medications themselves are iatrogenic. Have you read Robert Whittaker’s book “Anatomy of an Epidemic”? He reminds us that in the past someone would have a nervous breakdown, and recover, and could live a relatively productive life. As I have done.

                Now, “with long-term use of psychoactive drugs, the result is, in the words of Steve Hyman, a former director of the NIMH and until recently provost of Harvard University, “substantial and long-lasting alterations in neural function.” As quoted by Whitaker, the brain, Hyman wrote, begins to function in a manner “qualitatively as well as quantitatively different from the normal state.” After several weeks on psychoactive drugs, the brain’s compensatory efforts begin to fail, and side effects emerge that reflect the mechanism of action of the drugs. For example, the SSRIs may cause episodes of mania, because of the excess of serotonin. Antipsychotics cause side effects that resemble Parkinson’s disease, because of the depletion of dopamine (which is also depleted in Parkinson’s disease). As side effects emerge, they are often treated by other drugs, and many patients end up on a cocktail of psychoactive drugs prescribed for a cocktail of diagnoses. The episodes of mania caused by antidepressants may lead to a new diagnosis of “bipolar disorder” and treatment with a “mood stabilizer,” such as Depokote (an anticonvulsant) plus one of the newer antipsychotic drugs. And so on.”

                From http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/jun/23/epidemic-mental-illness-why/?page=2

            3. sockpuppet says:

              so which mental illnesses are actually real to you, or are they all a product of sin? Is it just depression that you take issue with, or schizophrenia, OCD, bipolar, etc etc? Do you yourself suffer from any mental illnesses and reject their validity? I’m just tired out with the denial by Christians of mental illnesses as something other than a “state of mind” or something caused by their own “sin”. I’ve heard the implications before and I am just about done with it. Recently in my Bible study a senior woman dismissed the fact that my child has a mental illness and basically stated that if we as parents had anointed her with oil and just had faith in Christ’s promises, she would be healed.

              1. Tim says:

                Sockpuppet,
                You do believe that humans are sinners don’t you? You do believe that man’s basic problem is sin? Romans 1 is a good chapter to study on the issue of mental illness. The bible says that when man refuses to worship God, he is given over to a debased mind. A debased mind is a mind that is no mind. In short, rebellion against God is the definition of mental illness. So I believe we should look to the Bible for answers as to why people do the things that they do.

                Non Christians also want to explain why people act the way the act. They do not believe that there is a God whom we are accountable to. So they have to explain why a person worries. They don’t believe in God and they don’t believe in sin. So they conclude that worry is a disorder which people suffer from. They call worry illness. The Bible calls worry sin. The secular solution is medication. The Biblical solutions are different.

                How do you help someone who worries about money? You get them to repent of it and start trusting in God. You teach them to manage their money better. You teach them to value hard work and savings. You teach them to be generous. You address idols in their hearts such as success and the fear of man. You teach them to delight in God. Etc.

                This sort of thing only works with Christians. If you aren’t a Christian, you give them medication and try to manage their condition. You may help them cope, but you won’t help them glorify their Maker.

                So I do believe is biblical mental illness.

        2. Karen Butler says:

          One hopes that our patient consumes an *effective* pain reliever after his misfortune with the tack. Sadly, the same cannot be said of anti-depressants — the studies Irving Kirsch did fourteen years ago clearly show they perform no better than a placebo. This is finally being reported in the mainstream media, with 60 Minutes’ expose last year: http://www.madinamerica.com/2012/02/60-minutes-the-ssris-and-the-dirty-little-secret-2/ Anyone who still argues for these toxic drug’s effectiveness as a treatment for depression has not been paying attention to the debate. Or is working for Big Pharma.

          And given the risks of these medications, you are far better off taking an aspirin for your psychic pain than a Zoloft. Remember the black box warnings? One of the very real effects of antidepressants is an increased risk of *suicidal ideation*, especially among youth. Or take good old St. John’s Wort, which was among the drugs pooh-poohed in Kirsch’s study a decade ago — and we all heard about that particular performance against placebo, interestingly enough! But at least that cheap herbal remedy doesn’t come with such a scary label when you buy it at the health food store.

          1. sockpuppet says:

            I guess I just imagine the effectiveness of antidepressants on myself, and somehow that placebo effect doesn’t kick in when I’ve tried St John’s Wort.

            1. Karen Butler says:

              The St. John’s Wort probably wasn’t given to you by a kindly authority figure who listened to your troubles, reassured you about the drug’s effectiveness for your pain, and downplayed your fears about any side effects.

              And if you took your pills the way this very confused woman did, with a sacral expectation of transformation, you can bet it was the placebo effect at work:http://deeperstory.com/finding-god-in-a-little-white-pill/

    3. Tim says:

      It certainly is a horrible situation, yet I also wonder at the wisdom of seemingly? validating the category “mental illness.” In the abscence of demonstrable scientific evidence of organic illness, why not stick to biblical descriptions of human behavior? Why retreat to dubious category?

      1. Nick says:

        Hi Tim

        I posted a comment elsewhere on this thread about Jay Adams’ ‘Competent to Counsel’. It seems from reading your comments that there is at least some overlap between Adams’ ideas re ‘mental illness’ and your own, so may I ask you the following?

        It is proven by medical science that there are physical diseases and conditions which impair the functioning of the brain. These organic conditions can affect thoughts/memories/emotions/behaviors.

        It is also proven by Scripture that if we adopt sinful attitudes or behaviors, and get into an unrepented habit of them, that can impact our lives in many negative ways, including causing further thoughts/emotions/behaviors which are disturbed or disturbing – to us and/or to others.

        If someone is physically ill, they need medical help.

        If someone is indulging some sinful attitude/behaviour, they need to repent.

        My problem with a hardline application of Adams’ ideas as I understand them, is that how can we be sure which category someone is in, if the physical cause of their genuinely organic condition has not (yet) been discovered by medical science?

        It may be there is a genuine organic cause, yet to be discovered. In which case it would be inappropriate to rebuke the person and tell them to repent – if they are physically ill, then they can’t help it.

        Or it may be that the reason medical science has not yet discovered an organic cause for their condition is because there isn’t one – and the root of their problems is their sin. They need to repent.

        Take Alzheimers as an example. The cause of Alzheimers was unknown until the German neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer discovered it’s organic cause in 1906. If we apply Jay Adams’ thinking to the condition prior to 1906, we would have been saying to the sufferer: ‘there’s no organic cause – you need to stop acting out – you can control it so do so.’

        The discovery made by Alzheimer himself makes clear how wrong we would have been to respond so heartlessly to someone genuinely physically ill.

        What about Schizophrenia, for which an organic cause has not (yet) been discovered (as far as I am aware), and which is classed as a functional rather than organic condition. Adams seems to deny it exists, and seems to favour responding with rebuke to people diagnosed with it, because he seems to be convinced that they are merely acting out. What if he is wrong, and a physical cause is discovered in the future?

        How can we know whether someone diagnosed as ‘mentally ill’ is genuinely physically ill with something the organic cause of which has not yet been discovered, or whether they are sinfully ‘acting out’ and need to be rebuked and told to repent?

        1. Nick says:

          P.S. to add a further complexity, it is also proven from Scripture that sinful attitudes/behaviors can sometimes (I emphasize ‘sometimes’) be the cause of physical/organic diseases and illnesses.

          So even if an organic or physical cause for a condition is identified, this doesn’t rule out (or in) whether sin is the root.

          1. Tim says:

            Hey Nick,
            I appreciate the question.

            Is this a fair representation of your thought process?

            1) Organic problems affect thoughts/memories/emotions/behaviors, the same is true of Spiritual problems
            2) Adam’s logic is that we should confront sin unless an organic cause is demonstrated through science
            3) If we would have applied this logic before the discovery of Alzheimer’s, we would have confronted Alzheimer’s as sin in an unrighteous way
            4) Therefore, shouldn’t we be more open to the possibility that Science will one day discover Schizophrenia, (or many other currently classified mental illnesses), to have organic causes?

            Which leads to the question
            5) How can we know whether someone diagnosed as ‘mentally ill’ is genuinely physically ill with something the organic cause of which has not yet been discovered, or whether they are sinfully ‘acting out’ and need to be rebuked and told to repent?

            My Response
            Why don’t we let Adam’s speak for himself and I’ll just speak for me? I have read a ton of Adam’s and no doubt been influenced by him, but I am really not interested in defending Adam’s but the Scriptures.

            In terms of your reasoning process, assuming I have understood it, I would respond in this way:

            I would simply challenge the second point I listed.
            2) Adam’s logic is that we should confront sin unless an organic cause is demonstrated through science

            I don’t believe that this statement would be a fair representation of what Adam’s is saying. Regardless, I would push back at the second half of the statement and say, we should confront sin, period. One would need to do a whole Bible theology on what that looks like.

            Yet, we must never allow secular scientific interpretations to overturn a biblical anthropology. I want to say very clearly, the Alzheimer’s didn’t make him sin. The sin comes from somewhere, but it doesn’t come from brain deterioration. There is an assumption in these sorts of conversations that if a person is found to have an organic illness they receive permission to sin in an almost entirely unqualified way. Just because a person has cancer, this does not give them permission to be self-centered, mopey, irritable, bitter, or angry at God. A person still has a responsibility to glorify God through cancer. The same is true of all disorder.

            How do you argue with a sodomite who says I was born this way, it’s genetic? You may grant him the possibility of a genetic predisposition towards sodomy. Science may one day find a gay gene right? Who knows? Let’s say you grant him this point. Does this make sodomy any less wrong? Does this make sodomy any less evil? Does this give him license to commit sodomy? I think you would probably say no. However you chose to continue the discussion, what you don’t do is determine to never confront sin, until science discovers the gene. Furthermore, what if science finds a chemical that would help reduce temptations towards sodomy and could actually produce desire for the opposite sex. Would you unreservedly recommend that Christians who struggle with SSA use such a chemical? Sure it sounds nice, but then, you don’t change the heart do you? Surely it’s a little more complicated than that. Problems don’t just occur in a vacuum. After all what virtue is there in replacing homosexual lust with heterosexual lust?

            As a result, a Christian who is seeking to be biblical, confronts sin even when there are organic influences. I am very aware that there are thyroid problems that can result in depressed feelings. Does that mean that the Bible has nothing to say to a person who has thyroid problems. Go get some medical help. At the same time, just because you feel depressed, does not mean that you are entitled to not work to provide for your family. Just because you feel down, does not mean that you can’t give thanks, or be loving to your family, or go to church, or forgive your Father.

            Let’s say that one day, science discovers organic components to mental illness, this still begs the question, is the chemical imbalance a result of the sin, or does the sin result in the chemical imbalance.

            Whatever we do, let’s not overturn a biblical anthropology. The biblical answer to sin, is not medication, but the gospel. Let’s be very courageous about this at least. In saying this I am not denying that there could possibly be some wise use of medication.

            To put it all simply:
            If you stick to a biblical anthropology, you confront sin with the gospel wherever you see it. This does not mean that you ignore physical/organic influences, this just means that you don’t sanctify those influences as excuses to sin. Deal with the sin issues with the gospel and deal with the physical issues with physical means. Yet, there has been only one person who did not have spiritual issues, and we should not add to that number.

            1. Nick says:

              Tim, thank you for your detailed response. However, I don’t think you’ve understood quite what I meant, which is my fault for not being clear enough.

              I completely agree with you that there is no excuse for sin, that being ill does not give someone licence to sin. So I agree with your examples on the application of that.

              But point 2) in your proposed summary of my argument is not what I am saying at all. You wrote:

              “2) Adams’ logic is that we should confront sin unless an organic cause is demonstrated through science”

              This makes it sound like I am saying there are situations (with organic causes) where we should not confront sin. Not at all.

              I do believe we should always confront sin, period.

              My contention is that sometimes, due to a genuinely physical illness affecting the brain, a person’s rational capacity may be so reduced or affected that the behavior they might be confronted over is not actually sin at all. Yet a hardline application of Adams’ beliefs regarding “mental illness” will assume (wrongly) that the person is feigning the condition, is quite able to stop “acting out” if they really wanted to, and they are sinning in their behavior and should be confronted over it.

              Some examples might help explain what I mean.

              If I see a man drop a wallet full of money, and I walk over and pick it up, pleased that the man obviously doesn’t realise he has dropped it, and intending to keep it for myself, then I do believe I am guilty of stealing. It would be sin.

              If I go over and pick it up, intending to catch up with the man and hand it back to him, or find the man’s address from the wallet so I can get it returned to him, there is no sin in my picking up of the wallet. It’s a modern application of Exodus 23:4.

              In other words, whether my appropriation of the wallet in picking it up is a dishonest appropriation (and therefore the sin of stealing) depends upon my intention when I pick it up.

              Suppose it is an 80 year old Alzheimers sufferer who sees the man drop the wallet. Suppose that, due to his confused mental state, the Alzheimers sufferer thinks it was his father (who actually died 60 years ago) who dropped the wallet, and the Alzheimers sufferer picks up the wallet and takes it home, thinking how pleased his father will be to have his wallet returned when he comes home from work that evening. So the wallet sits on the Alzheimer sufferers’ table at home, never to be reunited with it’s owner, because the Alzheimer sufferer is waiting for his father to return home from work. His intention is an honest one, and a commendable one, he his trying to apply Ex23:4 as best he knows how, but his problem is his very confused mental state.

              Now swap the Alzheimers sufferer in the scenario with a person who is fully aware of the true facts of what has happened, but who pretends to believe the same ‘facts’ about the situation as the Alzheimer sufferer, but with the crucial difference that he is not really confused at all, he knows just as well as you or I what has really happened, and is just pretending to be “mad”. His behavior would be sin, and should be confronted. He cannot hide behind the explanation that the Alzheimer sufferer might give, because unlike the Alzheimer sufferer, he knows it to be false.

              Jay Adams makes clear in chapter 3 of ‘Competent to Counsel’ that he regards all people diagnosed as “mentally ill” as, quote, “hiding behind the guise of illness”. He cites ‘Mary’ and ‘Steve’ as examples of people whose “mental illness” and related behavior is all contrived, feigned, and should be confronted and rebuked.

              Now in the cases Adams cites, it appears he was correct, that ‘Mary’ and ‘Steve’ were pretending. But Adams logic is that this is what lies behind all cases of supposed “mental illness”.

              This is what I take issue with. In my scenario re the dropped wallet, the man who is genuinely confused about the facts has not committed the sin of stealing. But the man who knows full well the true facts yet keeps the wallet, is guilty of sinning. So whether one regards the behavior as sin depends upon whether the man is genuinely confused, or feigning the condition.

              Adams seems heartless to me in his assumption that all “mental illness” and related behaviour is feigned. If there is a genuine organic cause, as with Alzheimers, then the confused state of mind of the sufferer is not something they can help and is not something they should be blamed for. This is what I meant when I wrote: “if they are physically ill, then they can’t help it.”

              1. Tim says:

                Well I definitely appreciate the clarification and I am glad to see that we have so much agreement.

                I would caution you from describing Adams as heartless for coming to the convictions that he has adopted. Someone can have a heart and still believe that in the absence of clear scientific data proving organic illness a person is responsible for his actions. Once again I’m really not all that interested in defending everything Adams has said. Though I am pretty sure that he is not saying that all people described as mentally ill are faking it, I’m pretty sure that he would also say that some are demon possessed or humbled by Divine wrath and caused to act like an animal until they repent. I’m also pretty sure that he wouldn’t think that all people are consciously faking it, but would understand things such as spiritual blindness.

                In trying to interact with your basic argument I would reapond this way.

                I’m not sure that we need science all that much. I am quite confident that Christians have done just fine with their Bibles for the first 1900 years and will do quite fine with their Bibles until the Lord returns. When I read your comments it seems like you are scared that one day science will prove that there really was something to those mental illnesses after all and then we will look a little silly for trying the whole time to assert the sufficiency of Scriptures to apply to physical issues. We will look kind of like a person looks who holds an Alzheimers victim responsible stealing when he really just mistakenly took a wallet. Is this correct?

                The problem is that I believe a biblically informed Christian, who knew nothing about Alzheimers, could determine that the poor old man made an honest mistake. The Bible describes beautifully the effects of old age on the body in the last chapter of ecclesiastes. Moses was an old man who did not lose his sight or vigor.

                I do believe the Bible is adequate to address claims of mental illness now, in the future, and since the start of the church.

                I would believe the Bible puts forth several categories:
                1) lunatic – jesus described as one by the pharisees and David pretending to be one
                2) animal like behavior as a result of divine judgement
                3) demon possession
                4) gradual deterioration of the thinking process as a result of old age
                5) Debased mind – general madness of unbiblical creation centered thiniking

                I believe the vast majority of claims of mental illness fall under the fifth category. If you spend a significant amount of time attempting to help people turn from sin, I think you’d agree. All you hear is excuse after excuse as to why people don’t have to obey the bible. And you may reapond by saying, hmm… You’re obviously not a lunatic.

              2. Tim says:

                Your basic argument seems to be something along the lines of
                1) always confront sin
                2) recent scientific discoveries have given us sufficient evidence to remove culpability for otherwise sinful actions
                3) therefore how can we be so confident that science won’t find new reasons to remove culpability

                My response would be to respond to 2) and say if we stick to biblical categories I think a Christian could have know exactly how to respond to a person with alzheimers before the discovery of alzheimers. Furthermore, if we stick to biblical categories/examples and believe the Bible is sufficient, then I don’t think we need fear new scientific discoveries.

                Hope I understood you and that this isn’t another swing and a miss :)

              3. Nick says:

                Tim, I’m responding to your comment of
                April 11, 2013 at 7:34 pm
                I couldn’t see a reply button next to that comment.

                I appreciate you engaging me on this.

                It seems you agree that in my wallet scenario the Alzheimers sufferer made an honest mistake. You also assert that this would be obvious to a biblically informed Christian who knew nothing about Alzheimers.

                You accept then that the honest mistake is only an honest mistake if the person genuinely believes it to be true? So the person who is feigning or pretending but actually knows and understands the true facts could not be regarded as making an honest mistake?

                My difficulty would then be that I have interacted with both Alzheimer patients and those diagnosed with schizophrenia, and the disordered thought processes and bizarre beliefs can be similar. Also, don’t make the mistake of thinking the Azlheimer sufferer is always the stereotypical very elderly person. They could be younger.

                So you then have the problem that as far as the person in front of you is concerned, you can’t know whether their mistake is an honest one, or whether they are lying to you (e.g. feigning madness like David did).

                This has nothing to do with doubting the sufficiency of Scripture.

                When you meet someone who is going through something difficult, sometimes you have to say, as Elisha wisely did, “she is in bitter distress, and the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me.” Elisha did not rebuke the Shunammite woman for ‘acting out’ – he recognised that there was a problem, but wisely admitted he did not know why. In that case, he later found out why. But we do not always know.

                You can and must present the gospel to all. But, regarding those who are diagnosed ‘mentally ill’, you cannot know whether their apparent failure to comprehend the circumstances surrounding some actions of theirs is a genuine failure to comprehend, producing an honest mistake, or is all feigned, is a pretense. There are some issues you have to leave with God.

                But not if you are Jay Adams, apparently, because he is convinced (judging by ‘Competent to Counsel’) that the ‘mentally ill’ are pretending, I will quote him (sorry, I know you’ve said you’re not interested in defending Adams’ words, but he is an important and well known source in this debate, which has been going on since long before you and I started discussing it):

                “…much bizarre behaviour must be interpreted as camouflage intended to divert attention from one’s otherwise deviate behaviour. The explanation of much behaviour as coverup or camouflage runs something like this: bizarre behaviour in the past (perhaps far back in the past) was rewarded positively when it succeeded in deflecting attention from one’s deviant behaviour. Therefore, on succeeding occasions the client again attempted to hide behind bizarre actions and discovered that frequently this ruse worked. If this occurred frequently enough a pattern of such action was established. Bizarre behavior then became the natural (habitual) means to which he resorted whenever he sinned.” p30, ‘Competent to Counsel’.

                It is this assumption that lies behind Adams giving the example of a counsellor responding to someone with, “O be quiet! Unless you stop this kind of nonsense and get down to business we simply can’t help you!” p34, ibid.

                Now this IS heartless if or when the person ‘acting out’ is not in the category of the person who is pretending, but is in the Alzheimers’ category (or similar).

                To justify a default position of assuming that everyone diagnosed as ‘mentally ill’ is in the ‘faking it, so rebuke them!’ category unless there is “clear scientific data proving organic illness” is not an intelligent way to proceed, for it assumes that science has made all the discoveries that can be made, and if science does not know of an organic cause, then there isn’t one.

                Again, nothing to do with doubting sufficiency of Scripture, for the Bible is not given to us as a complete medical textbook.

                What we should do is proclaim the gospel to all, but not presume to know where the other person stands with God, nor whether the other person is truly confused or just pretending. That’s not ducking out of sufficiency of Scripture, it is being humble enough to admit that sometimes you don’t know, because God has hidden it from you.

                I’m not in the slightest convinced by your assertion that a ‘biblically informed Christian’ who applied Adams ideas before 1906 would excuse the Alzheimer sufferer for an honest mistake.

                It seems to me that if he followed Adams thinking, the hypothetical pre-1906 Christian applying Adams’ ideas would say of the man with Alzheimers:

                1 There is no scientific data to support the notion that there is any organic cause for his confusion

                2 Therefore the man is hiding behind a pretence of being confused in order to divert attention from his sin

                3 Therefore, rebuke him

              4. Tim says:

                Nick,
                Once again thanks for the very interesting conversation. I have foundit very helpful.

                One thing to keep in mind I would love to have a conversation about how Christians should interact with the “mentally ill.” I am not as interested in being Adams defense attorney. I do believe that Adams had many important things to say. I also realize that not all of them were worded as carefully as what they could have been. Competent to Counsel was written in a historcal context and it is not an exhaustive summary of Adam’s teaching. Therefore, I am happy to interact with the hard line application that someone might take from Adam’s teaching. But, prefer not to have a back and forth exchange about Adam’s teaching, because I don’t have the time to dig through other books.

                That said, here is how I would respond, myself that is, to the discussion we are having about what to do in these cases, if that is the discussion we are having:

                1) I do think it is unfortunate that one is unable to have a discussion about how to counsel people today using strictly biblical categories of thought. This is reflective of a scientific imperialism that has crept into our thinking. In this respect, I believe Adam’s is probably engaged in a polemic which is attempting to show the difference between actual science and that which postures itself as such. On some level I think this is helpful but not necessarily the ultimate goal, and is perhaps confusing to the real goal. In my mind, the real goal, for someone who believes in the Sufficiency of Scripture, is to assert that nothing remarkably important has happened in the past hundred years that is so essential to counseling that without which it’s discovery, a Christian would not be able to counsel with faithfulness. In this respect, I am quite willing to be ENTIRELY dismissive of the past hundred years of human thought. I say this because I believe that Christians have been given everything that they NEED for life and godliness. We have the necessary answers. Would you agree?

                That being said, I am not asserting that a biblically informed Christian who applies the hard line application of Adam’s ideas before 1906 would excuse an Alzheimer’s sufferer for making an honest mistake. The argument that you listed lacks nuance. My argument was that a biblically informed Christian could come to the right decision on the matter of stealing by appealing to legal definitions of stealing shown in the Mosaic law, as you did, definitions which include intent, and see an obviously factually confused man, with a history of being factually confused, and think the best of him, and declare him to be factually confused, not a thief. As a result, modern scientific discoveries may be helpful, but not exactly necessary.

                In short, I do think that might have painted a caricature of Adam’s thought, through selective appeals to the evidence. But, I could be entirely wrong. It’s really little concern to me if I am. Needless to say, the argument presented the way that you presented it, is not entirely helpful I agree.

                That being said, let me ask this question:
                It seems like your argument goes in this direction
                1) an honest mistake removed culpability
                2) the honest mistake is only an honest mistake if a.person believes it to be true
                3) therefore, if someone believes something is true, which is not true, they are not culpable for their actions.

                Is this a fair summary? If so, how does it account for spiritual blindness? The Bible does seem to consider spiritual blindness a culpability issue.

                Last thing, I do not believe the heartless accusation is fair. We have as much responsibly to try to think the best of Adams as we have to try to think the best of schizophrenics. If Adams is right and we should rebuke… Then it would be heartless to not rebuke. I’m not sure the issue involves being heartless or not, it involves being faithful today in a post scientific time.

              5. Tim says:

                Maybe this will help:
                I do think there is much value in trying to be clear as to what we mean by mental illness. This is certainly a very broad category which lumps many different things which are not exactly parallel under the same heading. I think there is wisdom in pointing this out. Everything that falls under this heading is not able to be currently demonstrated to be the result of organic causes, yet we are to all conclude that it is obvious that they should be. This is strange.

              6. Tim says:

                One more clarification
                I agree that the best way to proceed in helping a schizophrenic, is not to develop an argument that says, until science proves an organic cause, I am going to assume they are knowingly faking it. Because that would mean someone would be eating a lot of crow if one day it were to happen. I think there is much more to what Adams is saying than this, but I haven’t read his book recently and do not want to be his prosecutor or his defender.

                The better way to proceed involves a different starting point. My basic presupposition is that nothing significant has happened in the past 100 years that should fundamentally change the way a Christian must counsel. Therefore, let’s have a discussion that does not assume scientific imperialism, which answers the question of how a Christian should counsel someone diagnosed with schizophrenia. My contention is that a faithful Christian, with his Bible, would have faithful answers in 1800 to give to someone who would today be considered a schizophrenic, and that if God chose to bless his word and regenerate/sanctify the person, he could, without modern medical help.

  6. Justin, this is a wealth of valuable information you have linked together here. I pray many will avail themselves of it.

  7. Nick says:

    Justin – I’m curious – have you read Jay Adams’ “Competent to Counsel”? If so, you’ll know that Adams, seen as a pioneer of “Biblical Counseling” or “Nouthetic Counseling”, argues that “mental illness” does not exist.

    He argues that a person diagnosed as ‘mentally ill’ either:

    1 has a physical illness/condition (NOT a ‘mental’ illness), which is impairing the proper functioning of their brain and hence their mind and thoughts/behaviors, or,

    2 the person is experiencing and expressing patterns of thoughts/emotions/behaviors which are bizarre or disturbed not because they are genuinely ill, but because they are responding to the pressures of life in sinful ways, and they need to be told to repent and stop sinning.

    Adams is Reformed and Evangelical. Many Reformed pastors refer to him and quote from him with approval.

    What do you make of his argument Justin that a person diagnosed as ‘mentally ill’ either has a genuine physical illness (e.g.Alzheimer’s), or, if there is no physical cause, then they are basically opting out of living as they should do, and should be rebuked?

    Adams takes the view that pastors who regard such people as ‘mentally ill’ instead of rebuking them for their sin are complicit in making the problem worse for the person. Any thoughts on that?

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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