When It Comes to Mental Illness, Should Christians Look to Scripture, Science, or Both?

FILLMORE PHOTOGRAPHY / FLICKR
FILLMORE PHOTOGRAPHY / FLICKR

Recently, a church member shared two stories on mental health that I thought were fascinating and worth considering.

I have written frequently on mental illness (and medication) as of late. In addition, LifeWay Research is currently engaged in some significant research on the church and mental illness, which will be completely finished this fall.

If you are interested, here are some articles I have written on the topic:

But today, I want to address the two helpful articles from Heath Lambert, executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (formerly the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors or NANC), one of several biblical counseling organizations.

In the articles, Dr. Lambert refers to myths about what the ACBC believes.

First, he addressed the myth that the ACBC is against the use of medication.

Taking psychiatric medications is controversial. Many people have legitimate questions about their use and effectiveness. Such questions and controversies are not unique to Christian conversations, either. Plenty of secular and medical professionals are writing book-length critiques of the use psychoactive medications.

My job here is not to argue that the use of psychiatric medications is uncomplicated. My job is instead to state that the decision to use them is outside the professional purview of most counselors. Most people doing counseling today—of the biblical or secular variety—lack the medical licensing required to authorize the use of prescription medications. This means that most counselors lack the training and permission to be able to put people on or take people off of these medications.

The reason we teach our counselees to handle the issue of medication this way does not only have to do with their lack of a medical degree. The reasons also have to do with loving others well. When someone comes off these medications it can have a very serious effect on the body. A person’s life can be threatened. These kinds of medical decisions where the health and safety of a human being are at stake must be left to medical professionals.

Does this mean that it has never happened that a NANC counselor somewhere has told somebody to quit taking their medication. No. In fact, I’m relatively confident that it has happened. I am also confident that there is a cashier or two at the grocery store down the street that has stolen money from their register. When they steal the money, however, I don’t think they do it because the manager told them to. I also don’t think that if the manager found out about it that they would be awarded employee of the month.

Second, he addresses the myth that the ACBC is against science.

If it is true that the Bible teaches the importance of care for your physical body, and if it is true that NANC counselors believe and practice the Bible . . . then why the myth?

Well, as I said before, I’m really not sure. Perhaps it is like the myths Arminians spread about Calvinists that they don’t share the gospel. Maybe it is like the myths Calvinists spread about Arminians that they don’t really trust God’s sovereignty. It is all too easy to spread a caricature of someone’s position instead of engaging the real thing.

It is a myth that NANC counselors don’t care about medical science. We care a great deal about it. We show that care in leaving the practice of medicine to those who know how to do it as a part of their vocational setting. We also show that care by refusing to prescribe physical remedies to spiritual problems that Jesus wants to heal.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Christianity Today
Ed Stetzer

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