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Guest Post: I asked Pat Quinn, our Director of Counseling Ministries, if he had any thoughts on the latest exchange between David Murray and Heath Lambert (both friends of mine) on the topic of mental illness. Pat’s reflections struck me as wise, balanced, and Christ-centered. So I thought it would be good to share them.


Between services last Sunday Kevin briefed me on a recent blog controversy between two men who both care deeply about effective Christian counseling. Heath Lambert, professor of Biblical Counseling at Southern Baptist Seminary and Executive Director of The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, wrote two recent blogs under the title “Can Jesus Heal Mental Illness?” David Murray, pastor, author (Christians Get Depressed Too), and professor at Puritan Theological Seminary, took strong exception to part two of Lambert’s blog in a blog entitled “Dashed Hopes for Biblical Counseling.” Murray’s response to Lambert highlights ongoing differences between those who identify themselves as biblical counselors and those who would favor more integration between secular psychology and biblical theology.

In Murray’s response to Lambert he asks some good questions for biblical counselors. I would like to briefly respond to some of Murray’s questions in the interest of clarifying the issues and suggesting how one biblical counselor (myself) tries to think through them.

Here are a few of the lines from Lambert that Murray found troubling:

  • “Christians ought to understand mental illness in terms of spiritual issues. If mental illnesses are spiritual issues then we need to ask whether Jesus can bring healing to these things.”
  • “…we need to carefully explain that mental illness is atheistic language for problems that have to do with life lived before the God of heaven and earth.”
  • “We need to further explain that it is Jesus alone who can deal with these problems.”
  • “Our culture believes that mental illnesses point to biology and require medical intervention. Those of us in the biblical counseling movement are the only ones who know that the construct of mental illness actually has to do with problems of the heart and require the gospel of God’s grace for healing.”

Murray’s Questions

In noting lines like these from Lambert’s blog, Murray asks a number of questions. What follows is my attempt to provide answers. I’ve grouped together some questions that seem related for convenience.

1. Only spiritual issues? No other dimension of understanding? Everything depends on how you define “spiritual issues” here. If “spiritual issues” is defined more narrowly to refer to what we would call the “religious” dimension of life (e.g. we are physical, rational, emotional, relational, and spiritual beings) or to refer to overt sin (e.g. your depression is only to be understood as sin), then Lambert’s statement is reductionistic. But if “spiritual issues” means how we interpret and respond to everything that we experience in God’s world, good or bad—either in faith or unbelief, humility or pride, sacrificial love or self-preoccupation—then Lambert’s statement makes perfect sense.

Another issue here is how we understand the impact of nature and nurture on people.Secular psychology typically makes some combination of nature and nurture determinative—they actually cause our behavior: “Nature loads the gun and nurture pulls the trigger.” Biblical counselors understand nature and nurture to be influential but not determinative. The Confessional Statement of the Biblical Counseling Coalition says, “We recognize the complexity of the relationship between the body and soul (i.e. nature)…the complexity of the relationship between people and their social environment (i.e. nurture).”  Biblical counseling would seek to be very attentive to any and all the “other dimensions of understanding” that Murray alludes to. However, biblical counseling would locate the ultimate issues of good and evil, wholeness and brokenness, in the heart—the inner man who desires, thinks, believes, purposes, feels, speaks, and acts either for or against God. In this sense all counseling problems are spiritual problems. Perhaps a better way to refer to mental illness would be that it is ultimately about spiritual issues rather than only about spiritual issues.

2. Atheistic language? Can you explain what is atheistic about it? Murray dislikes Lambert calling the term mental illness “atheistic language.” Perhaps calling it “secular language” would have been less inflammatory, but I believe Lambert is concerned that, once again, secular psychology has no place for God in diagnosing or curing human dysfunctions. Actually, Lambert echoes Paul’s language about godless (atheistic) thinking in Ephesians 4: 17-18 when he refers to “futility of their minds,” darkened understanding,” “ignorance,” and “hardness of heart.” These godless ways of interpreting and responding to life truly characterize many who are diagnosed as mentally ill.

While I don’t believe it’s wrong for biblical counselors to use the term mental illness (after all, we talk about depression all the time and that is a secular term), two points should be made. First, as Lambert said in his blog, it is a very hard term to define. A secular definition would be something like, “mental disorders caused by a medical condition that affect thinking, mood, and behaviors.”  These disorders could range from depression to bi-polar disorder to schizophrenia to closed head injuries. The term is vague and elastic and merely descriptive. It is helpful as a general description of troubled thinking, emotions, and behaviors, but it doesn’t really explain the causes. And to imply that all mental disorders are medical conditions is misleading.  Second, it is sadly true that behind the idea of mental illness in our psychologized culture is often a functional atheism that removes the God-relational context of all our responses to life.

3. Mental illness is purely about a defective relationship to God that Jesus alone can heal? Jesus alone? No other solution than the gospel? To answer Murray’s questions we need to consider who Jesus is and what the gospel accomplishes. The Bible consistently describes the Messiah as the Ultimate Healer of all that afflicts us.

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.  – Malachi 4: 2

That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”  – Matthew 8: 16-17

…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.   – Acts 10: 38

Jesus is also described as the Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9: 6). He is the One who ultimately heals our sick bodies, chemically imbalanced brains, wrong ways of thinking, false beliefs, chaotic emotions, broken relationships, and corrupted environment. So in the ultimate sense it is Jesus alone who heals us. However, biblical counselors affirm and embrace that he uses many different instruments to do his healing work. He uses doctors and medications, counselors and social workers, lawyers and judges, pastors and teachers, and any number of common and saving grace resources.

The gospel of Jesus provides a comprehensive salvation of body (Romans 8: 23-25) and soul (1 Peter 1: 9) that ultimately leads to life in a new heaven and earth free from all “death…mourning, crying or pain” (Revelation 21: 4). It’s important to keep the final state of blessedness in mind because, while it’s true that Jesus heals all our sorrows, sicknesses, and sufferings, we now live in the time of the “already and not yet.” Some troubles will not be healed until the final Day. But they will be healed!

4. No biological component? Ever? No medication? Ever? First of all, I’m not sure Lambert actually said that in his blog. Most responsible biblical counselors would affirm a place for medications in dealing with things like depression. Author and faculty member of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, Ed Welch, spoke to this issue in a post entitled “Can We Be Positive About Psychiatric Medications?”

If medication is helping, even a little, here is what we would say, ‘That’s great.’ If you feel like a spiritual failure because you are taking medication, we would say, ‘No way. Why do you even think that?’ Then we would try to reason how Scripture itself is not giving you a reason to feel like a failure.

The caution biblical counselors would add to what Welch said is that there is a danger that the medication could be given more power than it actually has. Medication can be helpful for treating physical symptoms in things like depression or anxiety but medications cannot transform the heart, empower trust in God, break through hostilities, or impart a “Blessed Hope.” I look at medications as blood-bought graces that can be used wisely in relieving pain. But no medication ever died for our sins, conquered death, or brought about eternal life.

These issues are complex and won’t be resolved through blogs (including this one!). But the issues are important and deserve our best thinking, humblest prayer, and most gracious conversations. I believe a nuanced and robust biblical counseling model and methodology best allow Jesus to bring comprehensive hope and healing to all the brokenness of sin and suffering. I pray this blog shines a small ray of light on the issues.

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83 thoughts on “Guest Post: The Gospel and Mental Illness”

  1. Michael Smith says:

    I have a son in law who is schizophrenic. He gets the gospel and to my mind is a believer. But he constantly has outbursts which are clearly not according to the gospel. When challenged he will doggedly hang onto his non Christian positions only to speak solid gospel truth minutes later. Is he really saved?

    Please leave your thoughts as this is a great concern to me.

    Kind regards in Christ,

  2. Norman Andresen says:

    To suggest that mental illness is a spiritual issue may only be applicable in a certain subset of cases. An example from my extended family that happened a number of years ago and is still happening. A person was a pastor and suffered from a mental condition known as Dissociative Identity Disorder. This condition has caused much suffering for parents, sibling, wife, children and grandchildren. All the while the afflicted person maintains strong conservative religious devotion and believes they have done nothing wrong rather things were done to this person. This person disobeyed (Christian) counseling to return to what he believed his calling and thereby was not able to be “cured” and I will leave it at that.

  3. This was a well-though-out and helpful post. Thank you for considering both “sides” of the issue and providing clarification of terms and issues without going into attack mode. I’ll be Evernoting this for future reference.

    P.S. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed hearing you at CROSS!

  4. EricP says:

    @Lori, well said.

    @Michael Smith, you can’t judge him by what he says when he is having an episode.

    @Norman, Can you clarify your last statement? Did the pastor disobey by returning to pastoring or disobey by not returning?

    @Jon S, I think the use of sin or spiritual is causing confusion. At least I’m confused.

    The secular world sees these symptoms (low serotonin levels, for example) as the “ultimate” problem. The Christian should see them as a symptom of a much deeper issue. And like anything else spiritual, it effects the physical in ways we won’t understand this side of glory.

    Do you mean the problem is original sin – we live in a fallen world? Or do you mean the problem is personal sin – the individual needs to repent?

    All, let’s use the example of financial health instead of mental or physical health. Someone could lose their job through their own fault or no fault at all. If someone in your church family lost their job, what would you do? Would you say unemployment is a secular term that means nothing and that the root cause is spiritual? Would you tell them to avoid secular job fairs or secular headhunters?

    I admit it’s not a perfect analogy. But think about how your response would vary between mental health, physical health, and financial health. I’m afraid we do a good job avoiding the prosperity gospel for physical and financial needs, but not for mental needs.

  5. Sola Fidd says:

    At the risk of introducing some biblical content to a discussion that has not, on the whole, been characterised by much helpful reference to Scripture:

    John 9 implicitly warns about making the erroneous and pastorally insensitive assumption that an illness is a direct result of sin.

    Matthew 4:24 distinguishes at least one form of mental illness from various diseases and demon possession – suggesting that simplistic, blanket statements about the causes of mental illness are, at the very least, unwise.

    Interesting that the only time that confession of sin is linked to healing by Jesus in the gospels is in the healing of the paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12, Luke 15:17-26). In context, there is nothing there to suggest that confession is being made necessary to healing. Rather, Jesus’ authority to heal is being used to prove the legitimacy of his authority to forgive sins. The one can, and often does, exist without the other.

    When Elijah reached a suicidal low point (2 Kings 19:4) The Lord himself fed him and put him to sleep, non-judgementally caring for the physical need BEFORE gently correcting and re-confirming Elijah’s calling as a good and faithful servant.

    The Christian hope is for a future resurrection into a new body (1 Corinthians 15) and the anticipated arrival in heaven where every tear will be wiped away (Rev3) NOT for any sort of present day perfection. What a comfort that is to those genuinely Christian people (I.e. who are relying on Christ alone for their complete salvation and future perfection) whose minds, more than their bodies, bear evidence of the universal corrupting influence of the fall.

    Isn’t it wonderful that The Lord is too gentle to break bruised reeds? (Is 42:3)

  6. Sola Fidd says:

    Is it just me, or is the whole premise of Lambert’s first post based on false logic?

    His argument seems to be something like this:
    (A) Before you can discuss whether Jesus can heal mental illness you have to define mental illness.
    (B) Mental illness cannot be defined.
    Therefore (C) mental illness is ‘not really a thing’
    and (D)Christians ought to give the category their own meaning I.e. Write their own definition.
    (E) The meaning giving to the category ‘mental illness’ is derived from Mark 7:14-23.
    (F) Therefore whatever emotional disturbance we observe it has to be explained by some aspect of a defiled heart.
    (G) Jesus can deliver from those things described in Mark 7.

    (A) Ok.

    (B) Perhaps. However, before the advent of modern genetics it was impossible to define certain kinds of cancer which are now distinguishable (e.g. Different kinds of breast cancer caused by mutations in different specific genes). The fact that it has not yet been adequately defined does not mean that it never will be defined.

    (C) this is where it begins to go wrong. The existence of a thing does not depend on the human ability to define it. It exists regardless of whether we can adequately put it into words. For example, it is impossible for us to adequately define God but that does not cause God to not exist. Or another psychological example, how do you define ‘stupid’? Surprisingly difficult because it is based on cultural and contextual concepts of intelligence. However, the fact remains that not everyone can get into MIT.

    (D) Are ‘Christians’ qualified to write their own definition? Which Christians are qualified to do that? Whose Christian definition should we accept? Are non-Christian definitions inherently wrong because they are not written by Christians? How far does the wrong-ness of non-Christian definitions extend – should I burn my Oxford English Dictionary because the definitions are not Christian? Or do non-Christians have something to contribute because of things like common grace?

    (E) Mark 7 is talking about Jesus attitude to Jewish ceremonial cleansing in relation to issues of heart righteousness or morality. How did this come to be the sole basis of a Christian definition of mental illness as it is not even talking about that subject? Are there no other relevant biblical passages to draw on? Are Christians allowed to bring scientific observation into their definition or are we constrained to use only Mark 7?

    (F) This is circular reasoning. Having defined mental illness as a heart defilement (or sin) all cases of mental illness must stem from heart defilement (or sin).

    (G) Praise God that Jesus can save from a defiled heart! This is not a surprising conclusion: Lambert defines mental illness in terms of sin and then (I am glad to say) he says that Jesus can heal it. However, the foundations of his argument are so flimsy that many are left wondering whether his own definition of mental illness is any more sustainable than the ever changing medical definitions he rejects at the start of his article.

  7. Dave says:

    Sola Fidd, Thank you for taking us back to where we should have stayed.

  8. Dave says:

    Sola Fidd, unmask yourself or provide your blog/website, if you have one. I did a search and found other posts. I would like to hear/read more from you

  9. chris says:

    Sola, so you just made-up a bunch of premises and then tore them down. Congrats! That was impressive.

  10. Rachael Starke says:

    Usually when comment threads go on this long, the helpfulness declines as it lengthens. But Sola Fidd, that analysis was the exception that proves the rule. Bless you, brother.

  11. Dave says:

    John Reisinger wrote an article titiled When a Christian should leave a church. There Reisinger refers to Alexander Whyte’ Bunyan’ Caracters. Whyte introduces the king’s Officers. These Officers are Help, Evangelist, Greatheart and Goodwill and so on….[ some of these are pastors and preachers and evangelists that hurt pilgrims. ](my summary.).

    I fullheartedly believe that Kevin DeYoung, TGC and the King’s other blogers do great work. There is at one point as Whyte states these Pastors etc, are better at pushing the pilgrim down than pulling them up.

    The format of this type of blog is one of those pushing the pilgrim down occasion. A controversy is presented and thrown open for comment not for the Officers or even for them to guided the pilgrims.
    No, it the pilgrims traveling the way who make well intended comments. Soon others join in with just as good intended but a bit off base like all the other comments.

    Soon the Pilgrims are sinking into the slough and no where to be seen are the King’s Officers named above.
    I wonder the purpose of TGC and the individual bloger to watch the Pilgrims as they act this way, no way of telling who speaks with wisdom and talks from ignorance, stupidity or intentionally to misguide. With no officers of the King along the way some are sure to get lost.

    This Pilgrim has begun to wonder are these types of forums helping me along the way?

    This comment is not on the issue presented. However, it is relivant. For that reason I ask your indulgence so I may get this off my mind and to sleep. TGC please think about this.


  12. EricP says:

    Chris, Sola Fid’s point F is the key. Lambert in this post and previous post has said mental illness is synonymous with sin.

    From (it’s another series, quotes are from all 4 posts)

    People aren’t messed up because they are abnormal. They are messed up because they are wrong.

    Whatever we say about the biological and medical element of the various mental illnesses, we will say that no treatment for them is complete without a proclamation of the gospel, which alone brings the requisite changes in each of these problems.

    Consider a few examples of extreme spiritual problems . . . [King Saul, Job, Nebuchadnezzar]…None of these issues involved any expressly medical problem.

    Again and again, Lambert says the cure for mental illness is the gospel, which is odd considering that believers are mentally ill. He uses 3 examples for the OT. Job and King Saul don’t work and Nebuchadnezzar was specifically cursed by God. Job was not depressed. He was justifiable sad. A week of grieving over losing everything is relatively short. King Saul was not bipolar, he had a problem with anger and jealousy.

    Then Lambert makes 3 complaints against psychiatrists that he thinks disqualifies them as experts. (post 4)

    1. decidedly un-medical meetings, none of the medical testing you would expect with other diagnoses, a level of ignorance that would be unacceptable with other diagnoses.
    2. not sure if [the treatment] will work, how it will work, or whether something else might work more effectively.
    3. psychiatrists do not do psychotherapy, because [they] cannot do psychotherapy.

    1&2 are exactly the scientific approach to a problem that is not well known. Migraines, fibromyalgia, TMJ, epilepsy, seizures are currently in that state. At some point, mumps, measles, chickenpox and infection were at a state where the mechanism wasn’t well known. Instead of using the full power of the Gospel, scientists discovered that cow pox prevents measles and mold kills bacteria.
    3 is purely for financial reasons. Insurance will not pay psychiatrists to do counseling. Social works do counseling at a much lower rate. That means a counselor should work hand in hand with a psychiatrist not against them.

    Dave, I agree with you. Author’s silence could be because they are busy or because they don’t want to engage an informed audience. I’d like to think it’s the first, but the consistency of the silence makes me think it’s the second.

  13. Karen Butler says:

    At the risk of repeating myself, some of you are being as hasty and uncharitable as Murray in this discussion. Lambert is developing a nuanced discussion as carefully as he can in short blog bites. Goodness gracious! Give him a break?

    “Lambert in this post and previous post has said mental illness is synonymous with sin.”

    Where was that said? Pretty broad brush. Probably he would agree with you, as I do, a former sufferer of crippling anxiety, that wrong patterns of thinking are not *always* idolatrous thinking, which *necessarily is* sin. But the mechanisms and gears by which we change wrong or idolatrous thinking is the same, a painful and laborious process of taking thoughts captive to the authority of Christ. You already agreed with Lori about this, Eric.

    “At some point, mumps, measles, chickenpox and infection were at a state where the mechanism wasn’t well known.”

    These diseases offered biomarkers that enabled researchers to trace the mechanism. Find the biomarkers for schizophrenia and bipolar and depression and I’ll dance a little dance for you and wait for those silver bullets of targeting drugs which will afford great benefits, and do less harm! But for now I am in full agreement with Dr. Thomas Szasz –who wrote the book Lambert is probably afraid to quote because of Szasz’ polarizing Libertartian philosophies, “The Myth of Mental Illness” — that “mental illness” is a linguistic construct that priveleges those in power to control behavior that they are uncomfortable or disagree with.

    Drapetomania, anyone? Your trusty sword of division cuts sometimes in uncomfortable ways. Will “homophobia” be the next irrational behavior to be controlled by coercive psychiatry? Forced drugging for those fundies who still put up a fight? Think carefully about this issue, fellow Christians, because when they can forcibly lock up a little girl like Justina Pelletier for a year in a psych ward and tell her her symptoms are all in her head, you too could be next. I can say “Thank God for lawyers” finally:) Thank you Lord, that Dershowitz is on it!

    Sola Fidd, you ask some wonderful questions. I would love to engage with all of them, but it is a beautiful day here in foggy S.F., and I prefer to garden! I agree with you that Lambert’s blogpost could more profitably be located in much juicier Bible passages than Matthew 7. I’d like to start my discussion with the story of Legion in 8:30. But this passage tends to frighten the horses and old ladies, so we can understand why Lambert might have not wanted to go there.

    But I’ll go there, because I totally understand my role in This Conversation about ‘Mental Illness’ — and I go where the Lord tells me to go! So — have at me, guys! I hope you are as charitable to me as you are to Lambert.

    Isn’t it interesting that the Lord always gives naming rights to those whose brains are actually involved? But sometimes he tells individuals to just shut up, and I like to speculate that the demons might have babbled on about the latest tool in Dr. Lukes’ medical kit at the time, the currently fashionable “lunar imbalance” theory of ‘mental illnes’ — so Lord mecifully silenced them. That’s what amuses me, anyway.

    I have thought a lot about this matter of names, and naming rights. And I like the pattern of our Lord, and it is well past time for you to give back to the sufferers the rights to name our condition — and if some of you want the labels the world offers, fine. I’ll take the label that the Magdalene wore. At least I’m free, and have been for fifteen years. And my pastor vouches for me — he told me to tell you that he lets this former ‘psychotic’ watch his kids!

    I am fascinated by this issue, the ontological reasoning for names and our fear of some names. The church has become so afraid of naming things evil. Why is that? I have my thoughts, but first, it is important to ask the questions. And here I do, in a blogpost that examines what happens when the biblical descriptions collide with modern science, as demonstrated in the fascinating story of the woman with a “brain on fire” — classic-seeming demon possession diagnosed by medicine, she had ‘anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis’ and was treated successfully with plasma.

    I ask in this blogpost:

    “For when Legion comes, piteously crying and running naked through our graveyards, cutting himself with stones while he demands, “What have you to do with me?”– will we ask him his name? Of course we will like it better when he answers, ‘Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis’! So neat and tidily settled — just give him a pill!

    But when he says, ” Legion!” , will we respond like Jesus? With a stern, “Come out of him!” Or will we listen for fifteen minutes to his ravings, identify him as a paranoid schizophrenic who is clearly a danger to himself, and then force him into emergency treatment with neuroleptics? With a diagnosis of a lifetime disorder hopelessly intractable, and difficult to treat without a course of many different drugs, each drug responding to the other’s iatrogenic effect? No wonder so many sufferers commit suicide upon receiving such a diagnoses.”

    I think all of you in power, you Thought Leaders and Mental Health Professionals, need to give the survivors and sufferers back our naming rights. I would rather be a Magdalene slapped forever with the notorious label “she from whom seven demons were delivered”, than your own stigmatizing and dehumanizing ‘mentally ill’ — at least there is hope for a demoniac that they will be always free of torment, if they keep their house clean and well ordered. Your mentally ill are permanently crippled with defective brains.

    I refuse your atheistic names.

  14. Sola Fidd says:

    Chris – on the issue of straw men, I will bow to your evident superior knowledge, reasoning skills and graciousness. God bless you brother.

    Dave – Thanks for your encouraging words. If you don’t mind, I will keep my mask and my obscurity! Having PD, and associated a depression, must be a real challenge. Isn’t it wonderful that as Christians with up-and-down emotions, our salvation is not dependant on our moods but on the unchanging love of God and the historic, once-for-all sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not perfect yet but we are forgiven and – oh Lord, come quickly! Your last post expresses what many of us feel when reading these theological free-for-all’s. I hope the insensitive responses you received above have not sunk you too far in the slough. Don’t take the opinions of men too seriously – especially internet strangers who may or may not know what they are talking about and cannot walk with you, pray with you, or love you through the challenges God has put on your plate. Time to fix your eyes back on our ever-loving, ever-understanding, ever-present Saviour, Jesus, knowing that nothing – not even the depths of depression or developed PD – can separate us from the love of God in him.

    God bless you brother.

    I would suggest that, as we have reached something like a positive, gospel-centred conclusion, this might be a good place to end the discussion.

  15. Karen Butler says:

    With all due respect Sola Fidd, just as I believe the naming rights to these afflictions belong to those whose brains are tormented, so I also believe we are the ones who should be properly listened to, and consulted as to whether we are satisfied that the conversation about us is finished. As one who identifies with that community I think there are too many questions that you yourself have asked that I do not feel have been satisfactorily answered, and I would like to try, and also I would like to make a request of pastors who disagree with my answers.

    But first, Sola Fidd, you ask some wonderful questions. We can’t shut down the discussion now! But don’t worry, I will keep the discussion equally collegial. I am most interested in these two points –by whose authority shall those who suffer be named? And where can we more profitably locate this discussion in the Bible? I think it is interesting that Jesus always gives first naming rights to those whose brains are involved. I think the churches should follow his example.

    So I would zero in on Luke 8:30, because it is such a juicy passage, although it terrifies some. I suspect it is why my first comment on this subject was moderated. Notice that Legion is never named at all in the church’s Conversation about Mental Illness? Nor, lest some become too alarmed, should he be *always* named in these discussions. As Sam Storms says on this issue “Some are not healed because the demonic cause of the affliction has not been addressed. Please do not jump to unwarranted conclusions. I am not suggesting that all physical disease is demonically induced. It is interesting, is it not, that in Paul’s case God used “a messenger of Satan” to inflict the thorn?”

    I am fascinated by the reasoning behind names and our fear of some names. The church has become so afraid of naming things ‘evil’. Why are we so afraid of saying Legions name? I have some ideas about that. I wrote a blogpost that examines what happens when the biblical descriptions collide with modern science, as demonstrated in the fascinating story of the woman with a “brain on fire” — classic-seeming demon possession diagnosed by medicine — she had ‘anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis’ and was treated successfully with plasma. Very interesting questions are raised.

    But for all practical purposes I think those with current power who make up the names, you Thought Leaders and Mental Health Professionals, you really need to give the survivors and sufferers back our naming rights. I would so much rather be a Magdalene slapped forever with the notorious label “she from whom seven demons were delivered”, than be left with your own stigmatizing and dehumanizing diagnosis of ‘schizoaffective disorder’– at least there is hope for a demoniac that they will be always free of torment, if they keep their house clean and well ordered. Those you name ‘mentally ill’ and ” incurable”, for purposes that privilege those in power — think Szasz’ example of Drapetomania, everyone? — are then left often permanently crippled by your defective drugs, and certainly stigmatized by your permanent label of a defective brain. Except those living as schizophrenics in a third world country, without any medical treatment — we know their outcome of recovery without relapse is far better, according to two World Health Organization studies.

    I myself refuse your atheistic names. It is not all about me, however. It is not even about your ‘worried well’ — they can have all the Ativan they imagine will aid them. I am sorry they are so deluded. But Jesus said, it is the sick who need a physician.

    I read about all these kind of hurting people in the secular blog “Mad in America”, which is unique in that it levels the playing field and gives away the naming rights to all those parties who are interested in the issues surrounding Critical Psychiatry, and listens especially respectfully to those who actually Hear Voices.

    MIA does a wonderful job in offering hospitality to those who suffer the terrifying ravages of a disintegrating psyche. I am going to find out if they will be equally hospitable to me, a Christian with similar lived experience. I want to try to reach out to them, to listen to them, and to encourage them with my own story of complete recovery. I think you all should listen to these kinds of voices too. If you are interested, here is a basic primer of the language of the traumatized. I have borrowed from Dr. Karen Purvis’ helpful axiom: “When a[person] looks crazy, he’s scared. When a [person] looks angry, he’s sad.” That’s enough to know for now, so you don’t scare my friends off the church completely.

    I know if you spoke to them the way that Jesus did, and let them name their own infirmities, they would listen to you. I can assure you, many of the afflicted at Mad in America would rather fall into the arms of Jesus — who touched agonized people like them with authority, and then set them free–I am so sure they would rather be treated with such compassion than fall into the hands men who might force them into psych wards. Their name for those places is ” torture chambers.” Remember, they have been there. You have not.

    I believe that field is white with harvest. You Thought Leaders think the world will be scared off if we tell them the story of Legion, and connect his case to any real condition. I think it just depends on what world you want to reach. I am going deeper into the world of Mad in America — I think they will appreciate my writing more than many of you do. Please don’t frighten my friends if they visit your churches — allow them to give you *their* name. Please don’t force drugging on them, even if they are a harm to themselves, or to others. If they are going to harm themselves, they need friends who listen closely, and they need hope for the future. If they have harmed others, the place for them is called a jail.

    I would like to set up networks of churches with those distinctions, so that my friends who are critical of psychiatry can easily identify where the agency they desire over their own bodies will be respected, and where they will feel safe– kind of like a “Joni and Friends” network — providing respite for their souls. But that is a discussion for another day. Already I have gone over a thousand words.

    Thanks for listening, those who have read this far!

  16. Karen Butler says:

    Oh my goodness, Kevin De Young! You allow this lack of accountability on your blog, after wringing your hands about the loss of moral language in our culture! And its replacement with therapeutic categories of being. You talked then about how much it mattered. How about the loss of integrity on the Christian Internet when we are just beginning an interesting discussion about who should have the power to name these things, and you? You shut it down! But perhaps my taxonomy of treachery is not appropriate — you, the reader, I give you the power to decide.

    But to Whomever moderates comments, and has shut down this potentially profitable dialogue between me and ‘Not a Sole Fib’ — this moniker I call the anonymous commenter at The Gospel Coalition on Kevin DeYoungs guestblog discussing The Gospel and ‘Mentally Illness’ who has the tremendous power to discontinue discussions, and to let his assertions remain unchallenged. Yes, he called himself ” Sole Fidd” but I have tweaked his name a little bit. Because he has masked his identity, this moniker is meaningless — he might as well have claimed to be Jesus Christ Come From on High to Adjudicate This Debate. That would be at least a hilariously appropriate identity that would have power to quiet any lunatics’ objections to being silenced! But his name is not connected to flesh so it is a waxed nose I may manipulate to suit my purposes, like Psychiatry’s bible, the DSM-5 — when there are no biomarkers for supposed diseases, there is no logic and no accountability around the diagnoses. It is rabbits from hats, It is not Real.

    We are considering deep questions of Knowing and Being that are certainly above my limited understanding of philosophy, and I will show you later how it is going to be very meaningful to you in my next blogpost, but here is where it Gets Real. There are good reasons to have but limited respect for anonymous commenters on the Internet. A friend of mine named Ian Vincent, equally harmed by anonymity on the Internet, wrote these wise words about what an assumed name means:

    It does mean that they don’t want any real fellowship, which means, at best, they are very immature and not qualified to teach the Body of Christ or function as an Elder. It does mean they are avoiding being accountable, therefore they are emboldened to say wrong things bcos they think that no one will find out who they really are. It very likely means they are hiding something. It could mean their spiritual life is more fantasy than reality. It could mean that they think that if you found out they are just a normal Christian like you, with all the normal faults, imperfections and struggles, then you would not be interested in them nor honor them as a great spiritual giant.”

    And because anonymous commenters do not leave a trail, they can adjust the truth and even their historical record to suit their purposes — events are their own waxed nose. Not a Sole Fib says, “Don’t take the opinions of men too seriously – especially internet strangers who may or may not know what they are talking about and cannot walk with you, pray with you, or love you through the challenges God has put on your plate.” The irony of this comment is so rich: where does this Internet Stranger, who was asked to unmask himself but politely declined, get off by calling me “insensitive” — and what does he know of my real life?

    So who will you trust, dear reader — ‘Not a Sole Fib’ — or me? I at least cite my sources, and my pastor said he will vouch for my character, he said, “I let let you watch my kids”. But Not a Sole Fib has informed the world at TGC that they cannot trust me as a source of reliable information — and reader these are not trivial issues we are discussing — life and death are literally at stake. What does ‘Not a Sole Fib’ know of how I love or pray for those Schizophrenics who die twenty years earlier than average, and this rate has doubled since the introduction of the newer atypical antipsychotics.

    And since no one gets exercised about the deaths of crazy people, here’s a fact to affect your taxpaying life, and give you an idea of the corrupt world you are dealing with: the old drugs average $10 a prescription now. The newer atypicals average cost is $600 a bottle!

    (On my blog I print the full text of the comment The Powers That Be Have moderated, and of course I freshened it up a bit, and it has the missing links to real facts. It is better! And you all should listen better.)

  17. Sola Fidd says:

    Feel free to carry on, Karen. I made the SUGGESTION that it MIGHT be a good place to end on the basis that the discussion was becoming discouraging rather than edifying for at least one Christian brother who had featured prominently. As I cannot supply him with psycho-active drugs over the internet, the next best thing seemed to be pointing him back to Jesus and leaving it there. As someone who disapproves of modern psychiatric drugs but also loves and prays for people who suffer with psychiatric illness, what would you do?!

    I do not need to divert the discussion any further by stopping to defend my use of a pen name.

  18. Sola Fidd says:

    Karen, thanks for the link to your blog. I did take the time to read to the bottom of several articles although the ‘if you have read this far comments’ suggest you don’t expect that of many people.

    We probably share more common ground than you are allowing for. For example, you raise the possibility of demonic involvement as a neglected factor in ‘mental illness’. Is this not just saying that we as Christians are not free to define mental illness as we choose (cf point D above) because there is a variety of biblical and scientific data which must be included in a Christian understanding of mental illness (cf point E above)? In setting Mark 7 as the exclusive biblical start point for a definition of mental illness, as Lambert does in his first blog post, other biblically plausible factors are ignored.

    If a person’s ‘heart’ is the cause of mental illness (which is the main thrust of Lambert’s inappropriate use of Mark 7) then the person is morally responsible for whatever behavioural and emotional symptoms that come along with their ‘illness’. This excludes the possibility of the involvement of other moral agents, for example, demonic influences or people who are abusers, and non-moral agents, for example, biological, nutritional, medical factors. Having defined the problem as a moral or spiritual issue, only moral or spiritual solutions can be offered in response. Assigning guilt where there is none is condemned by Scripture and pastorally indefensible.

    My argument is that Lambert’s definition of mental illness is flawed by being too narrow, therefore his presentation of the solution is also flawed. Like others here I am arguing that ‘mental illness’ is an umbrella term for a variety of complex traumatic phenomena associated with the mind. Because ‘mental distress’ could have multiple possible causes – moral, spiritual, neurological, psychological, sociological etc. – I believe in tailoring the response to the specific cause. This is not one size fits all! Therefore, I am open, in principle, to the possibility of there being drugs which can help medical problems – which is NOT the same as condoning the corruption of a financially driven medical industry or ignoring the horrendous experiences that SOME people have been through at the hands of psychiatrists.

    Please don’t take my word for it. I am an internet stranger and you have no reason to trust me any more than the next guy. But I am not asking you to trust me, I am asking you to consider whether my argument regarding the flaw in Lambert’s argument and the need for more engagement with Scripture are sound. Not everyone who uses a pen name does so in order to abuse other people: some of us do it so that what we say is judged on the strength of argument rather than any celebrity status we may or may not have.

  19. Karen Butler says:

    Oh, Dr. of Dred Scott, the Drug Company Shill –quick, remember my central thesis! — drawn from atheistic psychiatry’s logic and methodologies, that absent any biomarkers, they can alter your true identity, judge your motivations, deprive you of agency over your very own body *all for your own good!* So I can make you up as I go along, I too can propose you are in denial over your delusional belief that you are a Thought Leader who holds tremendous sway over many hapless Christians who lack true informed consent about the drugs they are ingesting. But *everyone* lacks informed consent when the average test when they were bringing an anti-depressant to market was 6-8 weeks before they got the FDA’s stamp of approval for ghostwritten reports and massaged data! Everyone is a human guinea pig here! Perhaps a Cymbalta — I have one here I found in your sample bag, it’s good for everything that ails you, even urinary incontinence! Never mind that unfortunate girl who hanged herself in the lab when undergoing testing for such purposes, I am sure she had an underlying condition — Not Otherwise Specified is such a helpful category in the DSM-5! But I digress. I have an inkling of who you are, Dr. of Dred Scott, because you have * such* a distinctive voice! :)

    Patient readers will profit from that linked article above, about Psychiatry’s past and present abuses of its powers. You must stay informed, because the Powers That Be are on a dangerous mission creep, they had Drapetomania at their disposal, they forced lobotomies on hapless PTSD sufferers during WWII, and *right now* they are accusing Justina Pelletier’s parents of Medical Child Abuse and issuing a gag order to mute their cries of unfair! What’s next? Religious Child Abuse? Homophobia?

    I am glad we can achieve some detente about many of these issues, Doctor of Dred Scott, but I fear you maximize the benefits of psychotropics, and minimize the benefits of your so-called ‘mental illnesses.’ You read me right. I’ll say it louder, *benefits!*

    Remember Rachel Starke’s distress that we did not know that Heliobacter Pylori was responsible for ulcers? Well, it turns out most healthy people have this bacteria in their gut, and they do just fine! In fact, they have recently discovered that this heinous bacteria offers some benefits to children, protecting them from the onset of asthma and allergy!

    Now can we see similar benefits from your “mental illnesses?” Clinical Psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jameison wrote a book, “Touched With Fire”, in which she traces the artistic temperament to Depression and Bipolar diagnoses. Some Internet startups value Aspbergers for their obsessive gifts for debugging and coding. And can it be that we are chemically lobotomizing some of our most valued creatives, the Prophets and Seers, those who hear voices, those you label “schizophrenics?’

    Because not all voices are Bad Voices! Look at Elanor Longdon,, whose ‘psychic civil war’ was treated to psychiatric malpractice. She learned to discern the good from the evil, and has become a powerful voice speaking the truth to psychiatric power on behalf of the survivor movement.

    And as one with live experience I don’t want ANYONE medicalizing my mental illnesses. The voice I heard was JESUS and he saved my life! some of you cessationists will indeed agree with the psychiatrists that I was hallucinating. If I was there was So. Much.Love. in that voice. I desperately want to ‘hallucinate’ again! Listen to it, yet one more time.

    You must listen too, to these voices. I highly recommend it! It changes your life. And listen with greater skill to those who are hearing them, and try not to be afraid of them. They might be speaking the ‘tongues of angels’ — or of devils. But we can’t know until we have patiently listened, and interpreted their words and their bodies own distinctive language, perhaps of spiritual distress. Those in the Critical Psychiatry movement understand these things better than we do, and that is why I am going outside this camp and listen to them more and more.

    And talk to them about how Jesus saved me from certain death. Because I would have been a raving bag lady on the street today if he hadn’t — but a poetic one!

  20. Karen Butler says:

    the link is broken on that post where I share my ‘lived experience’ of a psychotic period before I was saved, in which I had an ‘hallucination’ that Jesus spoke audibly to me, it is here:

  21. Sola Fidd says:

    Dear Karen, what a horrible experience you describe – but how gracious of The Lord to comfort you in it. As anyone who reads them will see, the links you have shared really help to clarify where you are coming from. They demonstrate the need for much prayer and wisdom in relation to the things we have been discussing.
    Responding in detail will not add anything to the discussion so I’ll wish you every blessing and hope you have a good day.

    Best Wishes, Sola

  22. EricP says:

    “Lambert in this post and previous post has said mental illness is synonymous with sin.”

    In Post 3, where it looks like he backtracks a little, he still holds the mentally ill accountable for their sin. He gives grace to physical ailments like thyroid levels that cause depression, but not mental ailments.

    Welch argues that spiritual issues will show up as moral categories that the Bible endorses or condemns. Physical issues show up as amoral categories that the Bible doesn’t pronounce an ethical verdict on

    I asked him to clarify if sin and mental illness are synonymous and he declined.

    Cymbalta — It’s the only medicine that turns down the volume of my hypersensitive ears. Without it, I end up in the ER on morphine.

    Benefits of mental illness — What you say is true. But most bipolar people trade productivity and creativity for life longevity and no depression. OCD can make people very productive but enslaved to their obsessions.

    Justina Peletier is a horrible case, but it’s more about the power of DSS to break up families than mental illness.

    It’s fine that you don’t want to get medical treatment. I have no interest in forcing you. My interest is the ability of the mentally ill to share their mental health burdens with the church family without being judged, told to repent, and potentially being kicked out for “habitual sin”.

  23. chris says:

    Karen, I don’t think you understand. We like pseudo-science here. We like the philosophies of man. We don’t like actual scientific facts. You can post scientific facts all you want, but it will not change anything. If we had scientific facts to back-up “mental illness” as commonly used, we would post them, but we don’t – so we don’t like real medical science. So please, you can post all the evidence you like, we’ll stick with the pseudo-science that allows us to be not be responsible for our sins.

  24. Karen Butler says:

    “the pseudo-science that allows us to be not be responsible for our sins.”

    But all you pastors and Thought Leaders *might* be held responsible for all their reckless counsel: I wrote this in the above linked post about drugging poets and prophets and little children and soldiers, all of them miserably dying *without true informed consent* You are *all* human guinea pigs, and your pastors are giving you very unsound counsel when they blithely minimize the risks of SSRI’s: I write:

    “Now a lawsuit has been quietly settled against Eli Lily — when are they going to hold the legal drug pushers accountable, Oh, Dr. of Dred Scott Who Diagnosed Drapetomania? Or those Thought Leaders among Christian communities, and their pastors, like John MacArthur sued for wrong counsel in a psychiatric crisis? Will the situations be reversed, and the pastors be sued for following outdated methods of soulcare? I don’t know, I just feel dizzy from all this spin control, and the lawyers are circling.

    This lawyer puts you all on notice: Guys like him are my new BFF’s — and though dread went through my heart when one of my sons said he wanted to be a lawyer — because a newly minted J.D. is practically unemployable –now I cheer for the few professions who still have the power to keep these kinds of unchecked powers still accountable:

    “We’ve reached the point where almost every week there’s a new revelation of the shortcomings of psychiatric drugs and practices. Any psychiatrist, particularly in the involuntary system, who is not seriously reevaluating his or her practices is seriously neglecting his or her professional and moral responsibilities.”

    Jack Maccoullough, lawyer and commenter on a thread at MIA reporting the sobering results of a study on the newest, and more expensive!, atypical antipsychotics.

  25. Karen Butler says:

    “Justina Peletier is a horrible case, but it’s more about the power of DSS to break up families than mental illness”

    You are right, EricP, and I added even more facts in that post about Psychiatry’s astonishing incompetence and mission creep:

    …and I have decided that you are in denial over your delusional belief that you are a Thought Leader who holds tremendous sway over many hapless Christians who lack true informed consent about the drugs they are ingesting. Instead you are one of that interestesting breed of psychiatrists, those KOL’s who have sold their souls to BigPharma. While those poor runaway slaves just got forty lashes as his treatment for his irrational desire to escape his kind masters, your dosage of your psychiatric slave’s drugs will increase until his symptoms agree with your diagnoses or dies. Or no longer asks questions of your incompetence.

    Like 23 year-old Marine Corporal Andrew White, who was simultaneously grieving his soldier brother’s death, and suffering his own PTSD, who was dosed with the typical polypharmacy of Paxil, Seroquel and Klonopin until the Seroquel alone reached a whopping 1600 mg per day, and he died in his sleep. Like many soldiers are doing, and suiciding at record rates too. We are driving our soldiers crazy with psychiatric drugs, they have always been the governments guinea pigs, but these kinds of stories die in their sleep, too. Because you all just shake your heads, when another soldier runs amok on a base. Must have gone off his meds, you say. Those amongst Critical Psychiatry would argue that the Fort Hood Shooter et al have gone off on their meds.

    The most egregious case of human guinea pigs is BigPharmas’s own Medical Child Abuse. Do I need to remind you of Rebecca Riley? I thought not, you are trembling now. Here are chief editor for twenty years of The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Marcia Angell’s searing words in the New York Review of Books, as she recounts the gross malpractice the psychiatrists at Tufts still defend. Sadly this kind of reckless polypharmacy is still common and even increasing among foster children even today.

    In December 2006 a four-year-old child named Rebecca Riley died in a small town near Boston from a combination of Clonidine and Depakote, which she had been prescribed, along with Seroquel, to treat “ADHD” and “bipolar disorder”—diagnoses she received when she was two years old. Clonidine was approved by the FDA for treating high blood pressure. Depakote was approved for treating epilepsy and acute mania in bipolar disorder. Seroquel was approved for treating schizophrenia and acute mania. None of the three was approved to treat ADHD or for long-term use in bipolar disorder, and none was approved for children Rebecca’s age. Rebecca’s two older siblings had been given the same diagnoses and were each taking three psychoactive drugs. The parents had obtained SSI benefits for the siblings and for themselves, and were applying for benefits for Rebecca when she died. The family’s total income from SSI was about $30,000 per year.


  26. chris says:

    “like John MacArthur sued for wrong counsel in a psychiatric crisis”

    Is there something specific you are referring to that you think he should be sued for? Dr MacArthur was sued and it went all the way to the California State Supreme Court.

    You are aware that Dr MacArthur is one of the leader proponents of the nouthetic counseling movement, right?

  27. Karen Butler says:

    Moderator: thank you so much for allowing my comments. Please delete the above entry that begins with a similar quote by Eric P like this. Thank you!

    “Justina Peletier is a horrible case, but it’s more about the power of DSS to break up families than mental illness.

    It’s fine that you don’t want to get medical treatment. I have no interest in forcing you.”

    Well, unfortunately EricP, the government is expressing plenty of interest in forcing me to medicate whatever they determine is distressing to them, and thus all the passion and exclamation points in the post above

    which, thanks to your comment! I have strengthened with even more examples of Psychiatry’s specious categories of mental illness that absent biomarkers allow for abuse and disease-mongering and mission creep on an unbelievable scale: Our proverbial Doctor of Dred Scott trembles when he hears the name of Rebecca Riley, and any rumors of the legions of soldiers who are suiciding and dying in their sleep because of the polypharmacy they are given for their trauma and pain.

    But about the governments interest in forced drugging — clearly you have not heard of the Murphy Bill, HR 3717. What an auspicious occasion for me to introduce you to this violation of human rights on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act:

    A quote from the overview of this heinous legislation: “the criteria proposed for coercing people into treatment, especially mandated medication usage, will bring a new level of government intrusion and control. Finally, HR 3717 completely ignores emerging scientific research regarding long-term outcomes and the negative impacts of forced treatment.

    Increased discrimination and stigma will be the result of several of the bill’s provisions.”

    EricP, I think it is well past time for you to educate yourself on this sweeping legislation!

    And, on a more personal note, those clinical researchers who review the risks of psychotropics say they have had more risks and adverse advents reported for Cymbalta than for *any* other medication. That is why I highlighted in my post *because I care about you*, we have interacted before on these issues on the internet, and I truly care about your future — which is grim if you stubbornly continue on to be blind about this dangerous drug. But you *must* educate yourself about how to taper and get support. These MIA forums, and especially ‘BenzoBuddies’ offer that kind of crucial education and encouragement.

    Ideally for you, a doctor who understands would help as well. Please learn about withdrawal syndrome so you know what you are in for if you do decide to go for it. The woman here is withdrawing from polypharmacy, but Benzos in particular and she clutches her Bible and prays, and I don’t know if she is a Christian at all from this. So sad!:

    So, Lawyers have become extremely interested in Cymbalta’s adverse effects. Taperers off of it report the absolutely worst side effects — including terrifyingly vivid dreams that sound like “Night of the Living Dead.” Those who do it tend to taper bead by bead. The clinical psychiatrist, Dr. David Healy helps run a website “Risk” that enables the guinea pigs — excuse me, consumers of the drugs — to report their own adverse effects. You will find the link here:

    Dr. Peter Gotszche, co-founder of the Clinical research powerhouse Cochrane Collaboration, responds there in that post to criticism of incendiary testimony he has provided. He has said,“My studies in this area lead me to a very uncomfortable conclusion: Our citizens would be far better off if we removed all the psychotropic drugs from the market, as doctors are unable to handle them. It is inescapable that their availability creates more harm than good.”

  28. Karen Butler says:

    Chris, it was because of Nouthetic counseling that he was sued. They called it “malpractice.”

    *The Authorities* declared what he did wrong counsel. Now it is clearly *wrong counsel* to advise psychotropics –ALL psychotropics, as Dr. Peter Gotszche declares. When he talks, the medical authorities listen. Google his name. His research was responsible for reversing guidelines for mammograms — do you remember that turnaround years ago? That was him!

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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