Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Chemical Imbalance, Brain Disorder, or Disobedience

In regards to my previously stated intentions of allocating a few upcoming posts to thoughts on Christianity and Mental Health, The Christian Mind has posted an incredibly timely article: Christians and the Psychiatric Culture. Please click the aforementioned link and read the whole posting. Here are a couple of quotes that speak directly to my own thoughts:
"...modern psychiatry frequently operates on the premise that human beings are reducible to our biochemical components. Intense emotional pain is therefore concluded to be the result of physical disease. They contrast this materialistic perspective with a biblical view of the person as consisting of the uniting of the outer man (the physical body including the brain) and the inner man which is referred to biblically by terms like the heart, mind, spirit, and/or soul. Fitzpatrick and Hendrickson acknowledge that the body can affect and influence the heart and vice versa. They also concede that there are real, empirically verifiable diseases of the brain (as well as brain injuries) that can have negative effects on oneÂ’s perception, cognition, and moods. However, they point out that there are no tests for so-called imbalances in brain chemistry for which antidepressants are said to be correctives. They also claim that emotional pain is intended to inform us what is going on in our hearts so that we might avail ourselves of the resources that are ours in Christ to experience heart transformation (emphasis mine)." (The Christian Mind)
"When one takes into consideration that the disorders the psychiatric community labels people with, are not scientifically validated, there is much cause for both alarm and caution. I‚Â’m especially concerned because I know numerous Christians who have bought the well-publicized line that taking antidepressants is analogous to taking insulin or other medication designed to treat biologically detectable illnesses. (emphasis mine)" (The Christian Mind)
In order to fully appreciate how Mental Health fits into Christianity, a thorough and frank discussion needs to be had regarding the facts and implications about our culture's current knowledge of the body (namely the brain) and soul. Simply, there needs to be a complete answer to the question of whether one can blame their behavior on the brain (i.e. chemical imbalance) or on disobedience (i.e. sin). The path to the answer brings forth many complex issues because of tremendous advances in brain sciences in recent years. Frankly though, I believe, man's upsetting and negative behavior is as a result of disobedience and thus flat out sin. But I also believe, because of the nature of the unity between body and soul, that sinful behavior itself produces the chemical imbalances that are symptomatic of psychiatric disorders such as depression, bipolar, seasonal affective, etc.

The article also quotes from David Powlison's Seeing With New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition Through the Lens of Scripture. I read this book about a year ago. It is fantastic in that it shows how scripture can be used in the most practical ways to restore relationships, heal painful emotions, and honor our Lord in all of life.

For the record, I am not opposed to psychiatric drugs as a whole. These drugs are a gift to those who suffer from scientifically verifiable brain disorders, like Alzheimers and the most extremes cases of psychosis. But I can't reconcile complete dependence on them as being the cure to the broad range of "disorders".

Lastly, another excellent book on this issue is Blame It On The Brain? by Edward T. Welch.

1 comment:

Joey said...

Excellent post Pat. I couldn't agree with you more!