Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Is It Okay For A Christian To See Psychologists or Psychiatrists?

Psychology. Psychiatry. Mental health. Mental illness. These are controversial in the Christian community.

The Controversy

I'm aware of the Christian mental health books that have been written and the Christian mental health clinics that have opened up and have been operating, at least in the US. I know that many use these services. Yet I know of others in some Christian circles who frown on seeing any mental health professionals, even when these professionals profess a faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Why? They believe that the study of mental health is "psuedo-scientific" and when combined with the Scriptures, undermines and undercuts reliance on the all-sufficiency of Scriptures. The concern with it all? The Scriptures diagnose the root of our mental, emotional and spiritual problems as wrapped up in one nasty three-letter word called S-I-N. Psychology and psychiatry have renamed many of those things that were once labeled as "sin" and that need repentance. In modern psychology and psychiatry, many of these have today been categorized as "illnesses" in need of "treatment" and their "victims" are in need of "healing." Both psychology and Biblical Christianity are hostile to each other because their diagnosis of the root of man's problems are opposed. They are opposed to each other especially because their solutions to man's problems are dramatically different. From my research, those in the Body of Christ who differ with each other on this differ on how all-sufficient for our every need Scripture actually and whether it should have a part in counseling or should be all that is used in the counseling process. Nouthetic counselors are counselors who depend totally on Scriptures in addressing people's problems, referring to professionals only to "rule out" any organic problems; these counselors label many problems as "sin" and call their "counselees" to repentance. While I commend this approach in many ways in this age of "victimism," I am still not comfortable with this approach that smacks of spiritual behavioral modification. Yes, Nouthetic counselors will deny that it is any such thing, and that they care about the heart and hold that behavior is what should be the focus in counseling. They rightly realize the God, the Creator of the human mind, is the One Who would best know how to approach all emotional or spiritual problems. When Scripture was written, people did not know many things that we know today. Yes, we can study the people in Scripture who did not know of modern psychology or many modern medical discoveries. Many of them, especially God's people, appeared to manage, without the benefit of many diagnoses that exist now. But did they really?

The Sufficiency of Scripture; Does It Eliminate Psychology Altogether?

Certainly God and His word are all-sufficient to meet our every need. God is all-powerful, all-knowing and makes promises that, if we comply with their conditions (His promises always have conditions) are meant to meet our every need. All of us, as followers of Jesus, agree that we are to trust Jesus with every area of our lives. Where we differ is in what this means and how it is applied in every situation. One huge example is whether followers of Jesus should contact mental health professionals for mental health conditions, even taking medications as a partial solution to tackle these conditions. Those in the Body of Christ, who object to medication to address mental health conditions, do so on the grounds that such medications often are no more than a cover-up for what is going on inside the person. Medications, they reason correctly, cannot address the sin issue. Also, most psychiatric medications have potentially serious side effects. I know this by personal experience. When I was a teen, back in the 1970's, I was diagnosed with "anxiety disorder," which psychiatrists addressed by prescribing depressants, like Valium, Haldol, Darvon, and others. These were in combination with another, unrelated prescription drug, along with a home remedy for constipation. All of this, taken together, resulted in profane, exhibitionist, shameful behavior that I cringe to even think about. I became severely depressed, despondent, even suicidal as a result of this "drug cocktail." But these medications are recognized, today, to be unsafe to use in children and teens today. However, may in the Body of Christ object the the anti-depressants that have, in many cases, become over-prescribed. I personally wonder, and others have also pointed out, that so often mental health professionals are often contacted because many of us in the Body of Christ do not feel safe being real in our local congregations. Church leadership adds to this problem by letting the culture make them believe that only mental health professionals are qualified to counsel. But isn't Jesus our Counselor, and hasn't He delegated this role to the Holy Spirit? And don't we in the Body of Christ have the Holy Spirit inside us? While we should look to God as our ultimate Source, it does not seem wrong to contact mental health professionals for conditions that are organic or chemical in nature. That is, as long as we are also depending on Jesus as our ultimate Source and Helper.

Let's Agree To Disagree

The night before He went to the cross to die for us, Jesus prayed for our unity. That was and is His main desire for us as His Body. He wants this to happen because only when we are united despite our differences do we gain credibility with the world. We are to stand united on the basics of the faith, such as Creation, Holy Trinity, the Diety/humanity of Christ, His crucifixion, His resurrection and His Second Coming, salvation by grace alone and by faith alone and based on Scripture alone and the world to come. We are to unite on these things. But on many matters, we are free to differ, as long as we do so without criticizing each other and judging each other for differing. In other words, we are to "have unity in diversity."

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