Biblical Psychopathology Redux

I have a RSS feed set up where my blog posts here shows up on my facebook account as a Note.  Well, this time around, my post found here caused a little bit of discussion.  I decided to put it up for the whole blogosphere to enjoy.  So . .  enjoy.

this is almost too smart for me to understand. you learned that much that quick? soon, we won’t even be speaking the same language.

If I don’t let kids eating ice cream into pools, the deaths from drowning will not change significantly. If I give an SSRI to people who constantly battle depressive thoughts, a significant number of them will improve. This will not show causality of course, but it definitely indicates a very close connection between what the SSRI does and how we feel. There are other methods as well for determining how certain chemicals affect our body which you know.

While I agree generally agree with you, I think it takes a limited understanding of sin. As you would agree, sin has corrupted not only our souls, but our bodies and all of creation. Just as someone may be born with clubbed feet, someone also may be born with chemical imbalance. While God can heal both of them, to suggest Christian counseling against mental cases would necessitate the same Christian counseling against those with external or more obvious physical maladies. I am not prepared to tell a person with clubbed feet, or with Crohn’s disease, or with cancer that they need to repent as part of the curing process. Jesus definitely makes no promise to us about healing and as Mark Driscoll said in a sermon I listened to today: If you think Christians should not be sick, then you don’t want to be like Jesus. If you think Christians should not have anxiety, then you don’t want to be like Jesus. If you think Christians should not be poor, then you don’t want to be like Jesus.

I couldn’t agree with you more. The human tendency to chop problems up into little pieces that seemingly do not affect each other has caused more harm than good.

Now what I would like to see, is some human physicians acting in concord with the Great Physician, being vessels of *His* cure, the helping hands of God outstretched to those who are afflicted, using all of the reason that God has given them in a balanced measure along with their faith.

If anyone has the tenacity and “brainheadedness” to pull this off. It would be you. I’m looking forward to seeing great things done through you!

Paul, I think you make some very acute observations here. However, I do not understand how the verse you are using in Luke relates to psychopathology. I am not trying to comparmentalize Luke 6, but when Scripture speaks of the “heart” it is not addressing anything inherently psychological or cognitive. The heart is most often a reference to one’s “spirit,”, intrinsically different from that of the “psyche,” or mind. Galatians 5, in further unfolding Luke 6, addresses “the fruit of the Spirit” and “the works of the sinful nature”–both of which are spiritual in nature and are to be spiritually discerned with the help of the Holy Spirit. The tree is indeed known by its fruit, but if you look unyieldingly & singularly at the cognitive/psychopathological dysfunctions in order to assess a person’s overall condition, I would suggest that you are, so to speak,”barking up the wrong tree.”

I am not trying to disagree with you… just make a suggestion.

My Response:
wow. how to respond to so much in such a little space. sorry for the delay in response, by the way.

First, i need to make it clear, this post was never intended to be a comprehensive reflection of my views of psychopathology in their entirety. On a whole, my views are much more nuanced and full of exceptions and considerations than what this post contains. Also, I find it interesting that every disagreement someone has brought up was already mentioned in my “possible misconceptions” section. I fear I didn’t communicate myself well enough. I’m sorry.

Andrew: the more research is done, the more inadequate the whole post-enlightenment biological model of mental disorders is found to be. You say to give SSRI’s to depressed people and the will “improve.” How does the Christian define “improve”? Are they freed from many of the effects of Depression? Amazingly, yes! But is that the end of the battle? Is there perhaps an additional component that led this person with these chemical imbalances to depression that did not lead another person with the SAME chemical imbalances to something else – not depression? What is that component? I say it’s our nature – which is deeper than our biology. Natures which are corrupted by sin and expressed primarily through our psychologies rather than our physical properties. This addresses your deformity analogy. As I told you in class, the more proper analogy following those lines is closer to mental retardation (physical structures), not psychopathology (chemical levels). So the chemical imbalances are not a result of personal sin (most of the time), just like the genetic component of alcoholism, BUT whatever that “extra” thing is that causes it to show itself in this person at this time under these circumstances may be. I’m trying to give a theological causal framework to an already well established idea that christian counseling helps deeper issues and causes longer term change than just drugs. The same cannot be said about Crohn’s, cancer, or deformities. They belong in completely different spheres of research and discussion. Lastly, will Christians have anxiety? Yes. But even Driscoll goes on to say this is still sin and should be addressed and fought. Just because poverty, sickness, and anxiety will always exist in both Christians and Non-, doesn’t mean we stop giving, seeing doctors, and seeking counseling. Nay, we should find their roots and seek to apply the Gospel to those situations and see change towards that which is to come. Did I address everything?

Justin: thanks for reading and giving your response. first, the “heart” is described in the new testament as the seat of our mind, will, and affections. it’s referred to as “thinking,” “willing,” “deceiving,” “acting,” “desiring,” so on and so forth. it very much describes the whole psychology of the person. in my view, that IS our soul.

i say that not to disagree with you, but to give the foundation for where i completely agree with you and did not communicate myself well enough. i don’t think psychopathology defines a person or their soul. people are image bearers of God. we are defined by our Maker, not our corruptions. no one’s overall state is defined by mental well-being. people far more passionate about Christ and walk closer to Him than i ever will, have and do struggle with depression and other disorders (read Psalms).

next, the Bible differentiates between the “heart” and “the Spirit.” they both bear different kinds of fruit. the flesh and the Spirit still wage war in my soul, so in the same person, and out of the same heart (and mouth), I will express fruit of the Spirit and fruit of the sinful nature- sometimes seemingly simultaneously (Romans 7, anyone?). Oh what a wretched man indeed I am!

this post was meant to show that there’s hope for psychopathology. that the substitutionary atonement of Christ even extends to our psychology. hope that our minds are more dynamic than our bodies. that most physical renewal is to come, but spiritual renewal is ours now and it can have psychological implications and effects because the Spirit expresses itself primarily through our “hearts” (the source of all will, thoughts, and affections).

So no, Luke 6 isn’t fundamentally talking about psychopathology. It’s saying that EVERYTHING that is expressed by us comes FIRST (but not only) from within our souls. One of these things can possibly sometimes in some people be psychopathology. And for those occasions, I wrote this post. I hope this helps.

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