Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Is Medication Helpful?

Psychiatric medication does "work." The countless stories of suffering people who finally experienced some relief are true. Psychiatric medication is helpful

But another great distinction that must be recognized is that medication helps alleviate the symptoms of psychiatric problems. It is quite a logical leap to conclude that psychiatric medication therefore treats an underlying neurochemical problem. Because medication helps and provides relief doesn't mean that medication should be an end in itself in treating, as a whole, a complex psychiatric problem.

"Contrary to public perception, psychiatric medications are not chemical bullets that target one particular brain chemical. They are more like chemical blizkriegs, strafing chemical sites in the brain and hoping for the best." Dr. Welch, Blame It On The Brain, page 110.

There have been recent advancements (in the last five years or so) in understanding the chemical differences in the brains of some people with psychiatric disorders. As was stated in an earlier post in this series, a biblical understanding of the mind-body relationship points to an expectation of these differences. "Disorders" such as depression, fatigue, disobedience, bi-polar, and many more are all represented on a neurochemical level. This is a fact. Biblically, the findings of research that points to this fact can be accepted and embraced. Because of this, the issue in regards to psychiatric medication is not about its effectiveness, the issue is about pinpointing what exactly is the purpose of medication. The helpfulness of medication does not mean the brain causes chemical imbalances, but the brain expresses spiritual and heart problems in human behavior and at the chemical level.

Tomorrow's post...

Does the Bible permit the use of psychiatric medication? What do you think the answer is?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Psychiatric problems are always spiritual problems

Up to this point I think I've layed a solid foundation in regards to understanding the two substances of man and how they relate to each other - the mind and the body. I turned to scripture as the primary starting point in order to bring clarity and to define the most important key assumptions that apply when thinking about mental health and Christianity.

I ended the last post with "I tend to agree with Welch though in that the research has yielded a very fuzzy picture complicated by various mind-body assumptions that have been driving the conclusions of the research." What does the research look like when you apply Scripture correctly and look at it with biblical lenses? What conclusions can be drawn that science will not point to because science has no room for the soul. Please understand I am not taking on science. The scientific research about the human brain is wonderful, amazing, and God honoring. Where I think things go seriously wrong is how the research is applied to mental health problems. Although science yields grand insights about the brain, it is the conclusions of the findings that lead to very incorrect and faulty application.

Firstly, consider this. Conclusions from a science-only perspective seem to have created and continues to perpetuate the myth that psychiatric problems are strictly medical. If a person is experiencing psychiatric problems it is obvious this person is also experiencing suffering. Scripture is an expert on suffering and so isn't the psychiatric problem now a spiritual problem? God, through His Word, provides hope, compassion, and power to grow in faith and obedience. A person suffering from psychiatric problems and his/her family can turn the Scripture for guidance on how to live, love, and serve in the midst of the trials brought on by psychiatric problems.

Sometimes psychiatric problems are physical. Sometimes they are combinations of physical and spiritual. For example, when a person diagnosed with depression feels guilt and shame over his/her condition the guilt is clearly a spiritual problem that can be dealt with. The depression may be physical in that it manifests itself in a persons energy level, eating habits, etc. I think most psychiatric problems are most of the time hybrids of spiritual and physical problems and this makes them very complex and much harder to deal with and find freedom from. But that is not to say there is no hope of recovery.

A person suffering from a psychiatric problem can benefit greatly from true biblical counsel, directed straight at the heart. It is sad that the Christian church, believing the lie that psychiatric problems are strictly medical and thus much more complicated, has pointed those suffering from such problems to "professionals" outside the church. The church is sitting on a goldmine (so to speak) that could revolutionize the treatment of psychiatric problems.

I will end this post stating that I am not anti-medication. I do believe that sometimes psychiatric disorders do respond to medication and in my next post I will consider this proposition.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Psychiatric Problems and Christianity

Moving on in my series on mental health, I will approach, with Biblical thinking, the conditions the American Psychiatric Association calls "Psychiatric problems". Dr. Edward Welch calls these the "diseases" of this generation:
  • Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • anorexia and bulimia
  • Multiple personality (now called dissociative identity disorder)
  • Borderline personality
  • Infant mental health
  • All the other disorders categorized by the every expanding Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-IV.
Psychiatric problems are unlike traditional medical diseases that are caused by verifiable brain dysfunction (i.e. Alzheimer's) in that you cannot actually see what is wrong with the brain. With conditions such as a head injury, Alzheimer's, brain tumor, etc a brain scan will reveal actual physical evidence of damage in the brain. The problem is clearly identified as different than a normal brain.

The story is different with psychiatric problems though. Even with today's highly advanced understandings of the brain there exists no means to distinguish consistent differences when compared to normal brains.
"There is no such thing as a verifiable chemical imbalance or neuroanatomical abnormality among the psychiatric diagnoses. Blood tests and brain scans are not even used in making a psychiatric diagnosis." Welch, Blame It On The Brain, page 106.
I am surprised! There has got to be tens of thousands of research articles in this area. I tend to agree with Welch though in that the research has yielded a very fuzzy picture complicated by various mind-body assumptions that have been driving the conclusions of the research.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Hockey Fight

Ok, I am a bit reluctant to post this video but frankly it is the best hockey fight I have ever seen, at least in a long time.

WARNING: If you don't like hockey fighting then you need to leave right now.

Last night about half way through the third period in the game between the Minnesota Wild and the Los Angels Kings, the Wild's Boogaard and Kings Ivanans took a typical face off scuffle and crafted one unbelievable hockey fight of old. I happen to click to the game minutes before the fight. Now a days, instead of being skinny, slimy and dirty, the hunters in hockey are gigantic and powerful. My wife got up and left the room right at the time I became glued to the screen and uttered the words..."wow, now that's a fight!"

Pay attention to the quick switch the commentators make from hockey play-by-play to ring side announcers - within a nanosecond the words puck, stick, and icing are exchanged for uppercut, jab, and weight advantage.

Fighting in Hockey - It is what it is, you have to appreciate it for that.

Nothing New Under The Sun: Boy Gets Stuck In Claw Machine

The more things change the more they stay the same, right?

Once again another young boy gets stuck in Claw Machine. Read about it here.

This happened before back in March.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Today I am thinking about futility.

Life is so stinking futile. It seems as though everything in creation leads to no where.

If you are still here, if you haven't left this post because of my negative first words, good. Good for you because I am not going to be negative from this point forward. You are in for a tasty treat.

I have a good friend who likes to lament about how futile life is. What was that? He likes to lament, about futility? Stream, I thought you said you weren't going to be negative in this post. I am not being negative. Thinking about futility draws me closer to God. My friend in his lamenting always points his heart in God's direction...always. I like to hear him lament. It is like reading, or hearing, and Psalm in modern day context. My friend has taught me a lot about futility, lamenting, and living under God's sovereign control. If Jesus is really LORD, then nothing is futile because all futile things of this earth point to God. Or else I am a lost and hopeless soul, for sure!

Is it possible that futility is an act of God? Of His mercy? Without feelings of futility would my heart not turn to him? Is futility itself a means of God to force my wandering heart into submission to his divine will.

Romans 8:20-21, NIV
(20)For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope (21) that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
God, through futility protects me from the things I sometimes pray for that would destroy me. In his love, God, slows me from obtaining what I think I want and worse yet think I need. My attempts at happiness and meaning, which by nature are independent of God, lead to bondage and death. God, with his grace, saves me - he uses futility to do it.

Futility is an act of God's love in that it restrains me from ruining my life (and others) by my own free will.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A big fat birthday kiss goes out to my wife today!!!


Do I need to help you set up another blog?

...Something like "Raising4atFortyOne"

Mystery: The Mind and Body are Dual Yet Totally Unified

Having defined the heart and body biblically in previous posts, I can know move toward more practical applications. This is not to to say that biblical definitions themselves are not practical though, they are and you'll see what I mean.

The body and heart are two distinct substances for sure. But through experience I think you'll agree its necessary to say the two substances interact on such a level that they seem to be one unified (substance.) I believe it is for this reason there is so much misunderstanding and this causes further categorizing of what man is (i.e. heart, mind, soul, spirit, self, etc.) The categorizing attempts to make sense of the complex interaction of body and heart.

The heart and body exist as two parts and yet they are completely unified. To define the two parts as separates is easier to do than to understand them as they interact as one - the interaction is somewhat of a mystery and must be accepted. To seek precise understand or how body and heart interact leads to disappointment.

Speaking of dual and yet unified substances, where in Christianity is this also displayed? Welch gives examples, or rather analogies, from scripture:
  • Marriage between man and woman (Ephesians 5:31-32)
  • Relationship between Christ and the church (1 Corinthians 12)
  • Oneness with Christ through faith (Romans 6)
  • Vine and branches (John 15)
  • The Trinity (entire Scripture)
In all these there is a deep mystery but yet they are all experienced and confirmed by real life.
"These analogies suggest that although we may not fully understand the simultaneous unity and duality of spirit and body, we should be somewhat comfortable with it because God's word is filled with similar mysteries.

These analogies also remind us to be careful not to emphasize our duality over our unity. Heart and body are both two and one. They are two in that body cannot be reduced to heart or spirit, and heart cannot be reduced to body. But they are mutually interdependent. They need each other. Human life cannot even be imagined without both
the inner and outer person."

At the level of the brain, this unity suggests that the heart or spirit will always be represented or expressed in the brain's chemical activity. When we choose good or evil, such decisions will be accompanied by changes in brain activity. When we think about how to disciple our children, there will be unique brain activity. This does not mean that the brain causes these decisions. It simply means the brain renders the desires of the heart in the physical medium. It is as if the heart always leaves its footprints on the brain."
Welch, page 47, Blame It on the Brain.

Knowing this I am now more prepared to deal with scientific research that says the brain of an angry person or depressed person or an alchoholic or a person with bi-polar or with any other psyhcological disorder is different form the brain of a normal person. There is no denying or arguing with scientific research on brain chemicals, I should expect most of its findings. The Bible is clear, what goes on in the heart is represented in the body. But, the brain does not cause behaviors, it is the opposite, brain changes are caused by behavior.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Mind and Body Interaction

I've been blogging about mental health and Christianity. I haven't yet really dove into the mental health aspect of things because there is so much ground work to complete in understanding what the Bible says about the mind and body. I've mentioned this before too but feel like I need to bring it up again, a major source of my information is coming from a book I am processing through by Dr. Edward T. Welch called Blame It on the Brain? Distinquishing Chemical Imbalances, Brain Disorders, and Disobedience.

Mind Body Relationship

Whether the body is healthy or weak, the inner person (the heart) always has a response - this is the essence of the relationship between the two substances. I say this because Paul implies it when he wrote of the body and the heart. Take for example all of chapter 15 in 1 Corinthians. It seems as though Paul couldn't see anything other than the body and heart together making up the whole person. The body and mind work together - the body is the mediator of the mind/heart while at the same the mind/heart responds to the body whether in health or sickness.

Healthy Body

In the last post I said I would take a look at bodily weakness. To start this post out though I want to consider what one's natural tendency is when their body is strong and healthy. Isn't it much easier to praise God when you're feeling good?

I suffer from back pain. I live with some kind of pain or discomfort at least five out of seven days each weak. I know why I have it and its more of a combination of factors. I do what I can to alleviate it but some days there is nothing I can do but to grin and bear it.

But, those days when my muscles are loose and I feel really light on my feet, those are absolutely the best! The best! I pray for God to give me more of those days. So, I guess what I am saying is that it seems obvious and really easy to praise the Lord when the body is experiencing great health. Sometimes though a few weeks could come together and I realize I've had no pain over that time, I find myself praising less, getting a little prideful, and forgetting God's blessing and promise to take care of me. When healthy, it is easier, and more natural to praise God but it just as easy to personal take credit for it as well.

In Weakness

The body through certain weaknesses can set boundaries around the desires of the heart. This weakness is not sinful, it is just part of life as a fallen creature in a fallen world, under the power of the Flesh...the remnants of Adam's rebellion. For example, sitting hear right now typing this blog post I have a major spasm going on in my back. I want to quit and go lay down. My heart is responding to the known comfort of a warm bed after popping some liquid Advil (gel caps.) I know for sure I am having a hard time concentrating and this post is taking me longer than it should. I am probably being a bit too wordy and my already bad grammar and spelling are even worse. My body is slapping me with some serious limitations right now. My heart's desire is to glorify God with this post but the weakness in my body is making it very hard to do at the moment.

Natural Desires

Where things get the most complex, strange, and quite frankly frustrating is when the natural desires of the body come in to play in the war between the heart and sin itself. The body has natural desires that must be met or it will die, like food and water, right? There are other natural desires as well like sleep, sex, etc. Sin preys on the natural desires of the body - in this sense these desires are considered weaknesses. Sin would like nothing more than for a person's heart to give up control, or rather, for it to not exert godly self-control. Whenever a person gives into sin, bodily desires gain control and rule, Satan has forced a reversal of the way things are suppose to be. The heart is suppose to completely control the body, but in sin the body controls the heart. Again, this does not mean the body is evil. It is sin that tries to take advantage of any weakness in the body.

For examples of the body's needs being sought out by sin consider modern day health problems people experience. The fight against obesity is an obvious one. The body needs food. If the need is dominated by sin, the need becomes something where the body rules the heart - eating disorders. Or, consider my example of back pain. If sin rules, my need to lay down and rest can turn into a desire toward laziness. Drug addiction, Alcoholism, and sexual sin are all examples of sin's rule through bodily components.

The Heart Is In Control

Paul in Corinthians 6:12-20 and 9:24;27 speaks to the control that a changed heart has over the power of sin over bodily desires. Although freedom in Christ means everything is permissible, that doesn't mean everything is beneficial. Paul says don't give into bodily desires, but rather beat them into submission through godly self-control. In other words, do not grant bodily needs and desires enough power to control you, otherwise Satan has more places to lurk and prey. Sin will enter in and corrupt the heart through bodily desires and needs.

What is the Body?

So far in my series on mental health, where the posts are scattered about on this blog, I've been making the distinction between body, mind, soul, and spirit. What a critical understanding it is to be able to distinguish and define them all. In summary, in the most simplest sense, man is made up of two substances only - Mind and Body. Even more critical is it to understand how the mind and body work together and interact with each other but first some thinking needs to be layed out in regards to the body itself.

What is the body?

Obviously the body is the actual physical make up of man. What you can see with your own eyes of man is the physical makeup - the hardware so to speak. Of course, the body is also made up of hardware that you can not see like cells, etc.

Biblically, the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Previously I stated the mind is the initiator of moral action. The body itself is the mediator of moral action in the sense that it is the body that carries out what the hearts tells it to do. Biblically, the body takes its cues from the heart. I realize this idea is shaky ground and needs to be fleshed out (no pun intended) but hear me correctly - at this point, I am saying, biblically, as far as moral actions go, the body produces what the heart directs. One implication of this is that the body itself is never sinful. The body can be strong and healthy, weak, dependant, and certainly influence the heart but should never be called sinful. When Paul talks about the body in the Scripture, even though the same English word is used (flesh) he distinguishes between the physical body and the acts of the body (John 6:53, Rom 2:28, Gal 4:13, Eph 2:31, Rom 8:4, Gal 5:17.) The sinful nature Paul speaks of are the acts of the body and he dubs those sinful because they come from a sinful heart, not the body itself.

The Relationship Between Heart(Mind) and Body
Where things get really interesting and very complex, especially when dealing with mental health issues, all start with the relationship between heart (mind) and the body.

With basic definitions of mind and body out of the way it is now time to get arms around the interaction between man's two substances. In the next post I will look at three ideas related to bodily weakness (sickness):
  1. The body's influence on the heart and how the heart must respond to the body.
  2. A weak body imposes boundaries on what the heart desires.
  3. The body has natural desires and is dependent on them.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The at hand kingdom that is to come

This morning I had one of those haven't-see-the-forest-through-the-trees-but-now-I-do moments while participating in a men's bible study/prayer group. Today we started out as one big group and then broke into smaller prayer groups. In the large group discussion we've been working through Matthew 6:9-15 (aka The Lord's Prayer.) Today our leader asked us to key in on the first part of verse 10 "your kingdom come". He asked us what thoughts we had about this verse. It is interesting to hear what others say when they're asked point blank without much chance to reflect.

I remained quite though to reflect. Growing up Catholic I had recited The Lord's prayer many, many times but frankly never stopped to engage my heart and mind fully in order to understand each section of the prayer. Here are my thoughts:
  • Jesus was teaching by example how to pray
  • The entire prayer is about surrendering self to the Father's sovereignty
  • The audience must have understood the kingdom coming as a future thing because it is what they have been promised and waiting for (see the entire Old Testament)
  • But the coming of the kingdom has present day implications as well because the prayer itself is a daily prayer (ie. daily bread)
  • When Jesus says pray like this..."your kingdom come" I believe he is showing his hearers how they should pray for the Father's will (the kingdom) to be displayed in all of life on a daily basis.
  • How is this to be done? What would advance the kingdom of God on a daily basis?
  • This present day emphasis is connected to the first words of Jesus when he started his public ministry (Matt 4:17) He said "Repent. for the kingdom of heaven is near" (or at hand in some other translations.)
  • John the Baptist also preached the same message. "Repent"
  • Jesus spent his ministry commanding people to repent, showing them how to repent, offering forgiveness, and healing the effects of sin in the world.
  • Jesus left this earth commanding his disciples to tell the whole world the good news and to partake in the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
  • The advance of the future kingdom would come about in the present when people repent and seek forgiveness.
  • Fast forward to today. What has changed? Anything? No, the message is still the same.
  • How do I advance the kingdom? When I pray for the kingdom to come do I only think of being in heaven someday? Do I think of the present day kingdom and how to advance it?
  • I don't always have the "opportunity" to advance the kingdom everyday.
  • But that is not right! I do have the opportunity to advance God's kingdom. Through practicing repentance!!! Everyday!
  • When I pray for the kingdom to come like Jesus showed me, I pray for him to show me how to repent and to live in repentance.
  • The kingdom will advance more that way than me preaching to everyone in my life. What it takes to live in repentance is much more attractive to a watchful non-believer than hypocritical preaching is, or bumper stickers, or christian labels on everything, or political affiliations, etc.
  • Isn't this a no brainer? Yep! But it is not always easy to see the forest through the trees.
  • That is why I think Jesus showed us how to pray - everyday.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Happy Birthday Mom!

The only thing worthy of a post today is to declare HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my mother.


I love you and pray for you everyday. Thank you for being my perfect Mom!
May God bless your day with something special.

P.S. I'll call you later too, ok.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Been There, Done That and Sometimes I Still Visit

Big thanks to my friend Tom T for emailing a link this afternoon to the vid below. Those were the days. Something special about Speedwagon, Def, 38 Spec, Squier...and all the rest!

Disclosure: I am not in the video. I don't know the guys in the video. I've never see the video until today.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Blame it on the Brain or Poor Parenting?

My series on mental health gets stalled out every few days (if you haven't noticed) because I just have too many more important things going on (i.e. working, loving my wife, staying sane, etc.)

I will continue to post when I am able about Christianity and Mental Health. I do have much more to report on in this widely misunderstood area of life. Today however, I will post quotes from a great article I read in the Twin Cities Pioneer Press (link to article: Sometime parenting, not chemical imbalance, is the problem)

Please read the article in full, but here are some quotes I pulled and then highlighted certain parts, because I believe they speak right to the misunderstanding real mental health problems and behavioral problems (a.ka. heart problems.)

"temper tantrums of belligerent children are increasingly being characterized as psychiatric illnesses."

"Some psychiatrists speculate that this stunning increase in childhood psychiatric disease is entirely due to improved diagnostic techniques. But setting aside the children with legitimate mental illnesses who must have psychiatric medications to function normally, much of the increase in prescribing such medications to kids is due to the widespread use of psychiatric diagnoses to explain away the results of poor parenting practices."

"According to psychiatrist Jennifer Harris, quoted in the January/February issue of Psychotherapy Networker, "Many clinicians find it easier to tell parents their child has a brain-based disorder than to suggest parenting changes."

"Contributing to this widespread problem is the doctor's willingness to accept, without question, a parent or teacher's assessment."

"These days parents cruise the Internet, take self-administered surveys, diagnose their children and choose a medication before ever setting foot in a psychiatrist's office. If the first doctor doesn't prescribe what you want, the next one will."

"The schools get more state funding for the education of a mentally handicapped student. Teachers have more subdued students in their crowded classrooms. Finally, parents are not forced to examine their poor parenting practices, because they have the perfect excuse: Their child has a chemical imbalance."

"The only loser in this equation is the child, who must endure the side effects of these powerful drugs and be unnecessarily labeled with a mental illness. Medicating a child, based on a misdiagnosis, is a tragic injustice for the child: His or her only advocate is the parent who lacked the courage to apply appropriate discipline."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Losing Lady Thinks Homeschooler Dad Corrupts Public School System

Obscure News from Northwestern Wisconsin

Sour grapes describes one woman's sentiments over losing school board election seat to a homeschooling Dad. Why is she so upset? Let her explain:

"I don't think that he has the best interests of the students in our school district in mind," said Colleen Geisen, who intends to run for a seat on the board. "I think he's maybe on the board for other reasons. I think he's concerned about morals and values in the public school system."
Read the whole article here:
Frederic, Wis.: School board appointment divides town

Monday, October 09, 2006


The weekends most interesting conversation.

My oldest boy is a thinker. He's a questioner. He loves to ask "what if" and his inquires of his old man are much more than the "but why" variety. The young boy has an incredible imagination, praise God. Let me try to explain the depth and range of what I am talking about by letting you in a conversation we had Saturday morning.

Saturday morning I was enjoying making breakfast for my three sons and beautiful daughter while Mom used the weekly grocery shopping trip as a means to "take a break from it all." Josh was in one of his rapid fire successive questions about life at Dad moods. One after another...bam, boom, wing, ding, fling, smack. I am used to it and as long as the effects of sleep deprevation are not in active status I can hold my own. Being that it was morning, the best time of day, and I just finished working out, I was adequately answering all the questions.

Like I said, this boy is good and so my winning record would not last long.

Josh asks, "Dad, do you remember a man known by the name of Popeye?"

I am thinking another easy question, "Sure son, I watched him all the time. He's a cartoon character salior man who's strong because he eats spinach."

I start to sing Popeye's theme song but Josh wants that to stop immediately so he responds to my answer with "Ya'know, I thought he was Buttchin Bill"

"What? Who?" I ask. Now things have become really interesting. "Who is Buttchin Bill? Is he some guy you see in the cartoon's on Saturday mornings?"

Josh says as if I am the stupid one "Dad, the guy you call Popeye is Buttchin Bill."

"Says, who?" I ask.
I am totally curious. He has drawn me in. "Josh, who is this Buttchin Bill guy?"

Now Josh is a little peeved at me because he has to explain himself, "Dad, the guy everbody calls Popeye is Buttchin Bill. I have named him Buttchin Bill. I made up his name."

"But why Buttchin Bill, who is that?" I am perplexed.

"Dad, ya'know...Butt...Chin...Bill. He's got a chin that looks like a butt and I wanted to call him Bill. Get it?"

"I suppose. So, you made this up all by yourself and that is who Popeye is to you, Buttchin Bill?"

"Yep" Josh proclaims.

"What if I told you he is Popeye?"

"Nope, he is Buttchin Bill."

"Ok, Josh. Thanks for the heads up."

"Sure Dad."

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Hope of The Gospel In Mental Health

Just a quick note today. Dealing with mental health issues as Christian requires essential elements that can not be found in secular understandings of the mind. One of those elements: Hope. Do you know where the hope comes from? The answer is not as easy to see at first glance, but think about the real gospel and try not to be influenced by postmodern interpretations of the gospel...that bleed their way into secular psychology.

There is a difference between man's heart (biblical mind) and intellect (brain.) Although one's intellect may be weak, impaired and wasting away, (or even immature), based on the biblical distinction of what the heart/mind is, that person can still glorify God and reflect the light of Christ.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)
The heart can be taught (2 Timothy 3:16) and it must be made new by redemption grace (Ps 51;10) through faith, provided by the Holy Spirit - this is the power behind true knowledge and understanding. In that faith there is hope!


What is it Boy?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Mind is the Moral Helmsman

From yesterday's post, humans live as a joint venture of dual substances - body and spirit. Spirit is the immaterial substance and is also known as mind, heart, and soul. Secular definitions of the mind and the biblical perspective on the mind are the same on the lines of mind-as-self-aware but the biblical view brings much more to the table.

Secular philosophers and scientists hold to a general consensus that the mind is that part of the brain that deals with self-awareness and self-purpose. Brain is matter (e.g. chemical activity) and the mind is self-awareness (e.g. the experience of living.) It should be noted before moving forward with this post that there is broad disagreement however as to how the mind and the brain interact. Are they separate of one in the same? This is material for another post (I suppose.)

Biblically the mind is much more than the secular understanding. In the following scripture passages from the English Standard Version the mind is the initiator of all moral action. "With our minds we are responsible before God, and we respond to him, either for or against (emphasis mine)." (Dr. Edward T. Welch, Blame It On The Brain, 1998, page 36)
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2)

"having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints," (Ephesians 1:18)

They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart." (Ephesians 4:18)

" And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds," (Colossians 1:21)
These passages show how the word heart is a useful synonym for mind. However, it may not be so clear, but biblically mind is not synonymous with intellectual activities. Biblically, because they are not moral functions, intellectual activities like memory, logic and academic abilities are more related to the actual physical brain. I think this is why the bible refers more to the mind as the heart, or the spirit, and even inner man or inner self. The big distinction between secular and biblical views of the mind come down to the moral aspect not to the intellect.

To summarize, biblically, the immaterial substance (the spirit) of man is the moral acting side of man. When I think of Spirit I sometimes get stuck on thinking it is only the non-physical side of things, but what is really important to grasp is the Spirit means mind, heart, soul and these are all one in the same, in the sense that it is through them they we either move toward the Creator or away from Him.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Implications of a Twofold Nature

Continuing the series on mental health, I want to first make sure an incredibly important foundation is poured.

Man is made up of two substances - Spirit and Body. When it comes to understanding the human makeup, history describes debates between monists (matter only), dualists (spirit and body), and tricohtomists (body, soul, and spirit.) And of course there are variations along the whole spectrum that mix elements of all three positions. The bible however is most clear in providing direction toward dualism. Again, man is made up of two substances - body and soul. Genesis 2:7 and 2 Corinthians 5:7 provide good biblical backing for dualism.

But, things get interesting in real life don't they? When real life takes hold of science and philosophy, an array of implications come from out of no where and we are forced to reckon with them. In other words, frankly, when sin enters the picture, dualism is much harder to keep clear and work with.

First off, what exactly is the immaterial side to man, also known as the spirit? Is Spirit synonymous with other seemingly immaterial aspects of man, like mind, soul, and heart?

Dr. Edward Welch in Blame It On the Brain? says:
"In the Bible, "spirit" (pneuma) shares its field of meaning with a number of words. Included are terms such as "heart" (kardia), "mind" (dianoia, phrenes, and nous), "soul" (Greek:psuche. Hebrew:nephesh), "conscience (suneidesis), "inner self" (1 Peter 3:4) and "inner man" (2 Cor 4:16). Even though these words have different emphasis, they can be used almost interchangeably."
When Welch says all these words share in the same field of meaning I think he means they are all connected and related to each other at the highest level of meaning. Welch says, and I am persuaded to agree:
"the basic idea behind all these terms is that every human being lives as a morally responsible creature before the face of God. We have a pervasive Godward orientation. Everything we do is related to the living God."
The foundation, or rather, the presuppositions of dualism and moral agents of God are key in understanding and living with mental health issues in a postmodern culture.

Next in the series...more on understanding what is the Spirit?

Monday, October 02, 2006

eBay Idea

I thought perhaps I could sell something on eBay that has never been done before. I am always thinking of ways to make it "big". In the Interweb's merchandising world, I believe it takes one single idea or product.

What about selling my life long attachment to the Minnesota Vikings? I am not a fanatic. Not at all. Certainly not after the last two games*. But what if I sold my future rights as a fan? I would sell all my future desire that has anything to do with the Vikings. Ya'know, I would even throw all previously purchased merchandise from ticket stubs to sweatshirts, etc - past items would be free.

First things first, must do some market research. Wouldn't ya know, I am not the first to market:
Looks like the going rate is $285 (or so). Net of fees, I could make $250. That is not worth it, I'll give it away. Do you want it?

*I purposely planned to take in a nap during yesterday's second half. Yes, I did want to watch the game, but not to enjoy the sport, I knew I would fall fast asleep after a few series of downs. BORING!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Doggin' It

Lately I've been trucking around my family in the F150 because the minivan coughs too much and I'm afraid it is going to puke. As a result, my oldest Josh gets to sit in the front seat. This last week he enjoyed the freedom of a dog hanging his head out the window. Josh was doggin it! I loved the look on his face, watching him experience life at its fullest. His guard was down and he was really milking the moment. Sometimes, for a nine year old that usually means pushing the boundaries of foolishness. On the same day Josh enjoyed doggin it, he also discovered what happens when you spit into the wind. Think that is funny? It is even funnier when you get to see him try it again because he wasn't quite sure what happened the first time.