Tag: medicine

Interesting Conversation, part 4

This is the last post that I’ll give based directly off of the emails that I have talked about in the last 3 posts.  You can read about this conversation here, here, and here.  It’s been helpful for me to think through these psychology issues and offer what I believe to be a God-honoring response to these, though I know they can be very personal.  I know that some of this hits very close to home for many of you, and I invite you to comment below.

Here’s the email I sent to the licensed psychologist that I have been having the ongoing conversation with:
Good thoughts.  Thanks for even being a bit self-disclosing.

I do think that medication is helpful and maybe even warranted.  Take, for example, the schizophrenic (schizoid/typal personality disorder, schizophrenia, etc.).  Many, if not all, have to be on varying dosages/levels of medication.  Life is likely intolerable for them and those around them if they are not treated physically.  But if we as humans are comprised of both body and soul, the meds only treat the body side.  We, as soul-care providers (I tried to use a generic enough term to lump  us both into), have a responsibility to look at both aspects.  This schizophrenic, though on medications, still has responsibilities in society, even if “society” for him is in the mental hospital.  From a biblical standpoint, I think that he still has a responsibility before God as well.  God will hold him accountable for his actions done on earth.  God holds all people accountable for their actions, even when the issue is completely biological.  Take, for example, Type I diabetes, which is clearly a physiological issue.  Though there was not a specific sin that lead to this, we still have a responsibility to God for how we respond to it.  Holiness may more difficult in certain psychological problems, but holiness is still the requirement for all men (Leviticus 19:2).  God is full of grace and mercy, but His requirements are the same for everybody.  Obedience will likely be more difficult for some, but not impossible.  Think about someone who is mentally handicapped, but functions at a high level.  They are held responsible for some tasks, right?  Obeying their parents may be tough, but it’s possible.

Medication doesn’t negate anybody’s responsibility before God.  “Sorry I was short with you today…I’ve just got a headache.”  Our impatience and anger are not justified because there are physical issues present.  We need to realize where our weaknesses are and address them biblically.  There are over 40 places in Scripture where we are commanded to do things to “one-another”: love one another, serve one another, submit to, encourage, admonish, be kind to, be devoted to, think of them better than yourself, prefer, build up, accept, care for, envy not, be truthful to, etc.  God is pleased when we take even small steps in the right direction.

Hardships in life, no matter what the cause or what the suggested treatment, are a chance for our true hearts to be revealed.  We are all sinners living in a fallen world.  And what do sinners do?  Sin against one another…lots.  God will not judge us based on how people have sinned against us, but based on our response to being sinned against.  For those who have been scarred more deeply by the effects of sin, obedience may be so difficult that we, humans, cannot see how it would even be possible.  Good thing others’ obedience is not placed on our shoulders!  We serve a big God, who is able to change the vilest hearts and the most corrupt souls.  Lest we think ourselves prideful, I put us both in that category as well!  We serve a God who can cure cancer, heal headaches, mend broken relationships, heal crazy people (see Mark 5:1-20), and, biggest of all, save sinners.  “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)


Interesting Conversation, part 3

Here is the third post from a series of conversations that I had with a psychologist.  You can read the other conversations here, where it all started, then here, the response that he had to my post, then my response to him here.  Just so you know, we have a good friendship.  Neither of us is mad at the other in the least.  In fact, we both enjoy the discussion.  It keeps us thinking about why we do what we do.

So, what kind of counsel are you giving today?  We’re all giving some sort of counsel to almost everybody we come in contact with, even if it’s no counsel at all.  Is your counsel (or lack thereof) honoring God?

“I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another…the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (Romans 15:14, 1 Timothy 1:5)

Here’s his response.  Mine will follow, tomorrow.

“I do not think our conversation is confrontational and enjoy the topic. I think it is a rare opportunity when we as Christians get to have real discussions about important issues. I value your thoughts.

I agree with everything you said but would add one thing. Diagnosis is not actually the problem though it is not always clear cut, you get a fair bit of agreement between professionals. The diagnostic criteria are pretty well accepted. I think what you are getting at is that we don’t know the cause. Was it biological? (testable through blood work or something) Faith based? Maybe poor parenting?  Living a life apart from God? I think we can say they are depressed but how then do we treat it? I think your example is right on. We use the medicine God gave us to heal the broken leg (i.e. we use what we know about treating depression e.g. improve sleep, decrease negative thoughts, engage in positive behaviors and thoughts, etc) and we look at the root cause. How is the person’s Faith? What is their lifestyle like? Do they attend Church, voluteer, pray, etc? We also of course look at familial patterns and history. An example that may illustrate both ways of approaching a situation (caution: self disclosure coming up) My mother, raised in faith, raised our family in faith, prays all the time, attends Church, yadda yadda yadda, but is completely co-dependent with my Alcoholic brother. Does she enable him out of a lack of faith in God’s power or could we approach her in terms of behavior modification (just stop doing those things that support his drinking). I think both are true and necessary ways of intervening.

Final note,  have your read “The road less traveled” by M. Scott Peck. I think it is very valuable for its attempt at merging Faith and Psychiatry. He talks about anxiety developing when people don’t do something out of fear. It is usually something they know they should or shouldn’t do but they continue to act out of fear. This idea of anxiety developing when we don’t do what we know we should to me is true of many people I see. They act in selfish ways and they are anxious because of the situation that develops. E.g. they know their boss wants something done but they disagree so they don’t do it and live in fear of being found out.

Anyways… Good discussion. I look forward to more.”


Interesting Conversation, part 2

This is the second part of a conversation that I had with a licensed psychologist.  I’ll keep his name anonymous, but suffice it to say that we share basic biblical/theological foundations, but approach counseling with a different methodology.  We are able to maintain a solid friendship, though we disagree on some points, as you’ll see below.  If you haven’t been following along, I wrote this blog post about psychology and faith (and how they aren’t going together all too well), he responded here, and the following is what I said as a response.  Feel free to agree or disagree with me.  Here I go:

“Thanks for the response ______(I’ll keep him anonymous)!  I appreciate the wisdom that you bring and the expertise in psychology that you have.  You see it through a biblical worldview as well, and I appreciate that.

I agree with the follow-up blog that you said.  I agree that not all mental health crises are issues of ‘faith’, but it’s so hard to detect and diagnose those issues (depression, bi-polar, PTSD, etc.) empirically, right?  To diagnose somebody as a diabetic, you can do blood work, but not so for depression.  I don’t mean to say that we then abandon all search for an empirical test.  But I will throw out this as an idea, that it would only be, at best, a diagnosis and not a prescription.  For many of those same issues, could it not be a ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg?’  If we do find a blood test that can prove definitively that a person has anxiety disorder, who is to say that it was brought on by purely physical (bodily) problems, as in the case of diabetes.  To further my example, lets say that a person comes into the ER with a broken leg.  We can perform X-rays to confirm, CAT scans to check head injuries, etc., and prescribe medications to dull the pain.  In fact, we can even set the leg and cast it so that it will heal.  Having a broken leg is a problem, for sure.  But maybe the real problem is that this guy can’t see well at all.  He walks out in the middle of the road when traffic is heavy because he can’t see the cars coming (I know, it’s a stretch, just hang with me…I probably could’ve come up with a more realistic example, and I will someday).  That’s what broke his leg the first time, and it will break his leg the next time he walks out of his house.  Medication can’t do anything about this…he needs glasses.  His leg needs to be fixed, but his real problem is that he can’t see.  Could it be like this for mental illnesses?  I make a blanket statement here, but I don’t deny purely bodily-induced illnesses, as in post-pardum depression, thyroid-induced depression, and others that I can’t think of off the cuff.  Medicine may take the edge off of mental illnesses, but the real issue that the illnesses came up is not addressed by medications.

I think that often (not always, though) mental illnesses are a result of (sometimes years, and even decades) responding sinfully to life.  Instead of appropriately grieving, a person spirals into depression.  Instead of handling fear in a God-honoring way, a person develops a myriad of phobias.  Instead of building God-honoring relationships, a person develops habits of retracting from people and society, and it becomes so bad that they can’t function, and are labeled with social anxiety disorder.  When the person presents to their psychologist/counselor, it’s way, way out of control.  Telling them to turn to God doesn’t “fix” their problem, because they’re trying to overcome so many years of developing sinful ways of responding to life (but ultimately the problem rests in their deficient relationship with God).  This is why I hate ‘Biblical’ counseling that consists of quoting a verse at somebody and telling them to ‘obey the Word of the Lord.’  It’s not quite that easy.  They have to be shown, over time, how to life life in a God-honoring way.  Medications may help this person take the edge off of their ______, but doesn’t necessarily help them to live a godly life.”

I welcome comments.


Interesting Conversation

I’ve been having what is to me a fascinating conversation with someone who sees things a bit differently than I do.  We are both counselors in the broad meaning of the term, though our jobs look vastly different on a daily basis.  We see eye-to-eye on many, many things theologically, and though we haven’t discussed all of the foundations of Christianity, I can say with almost 100% confidence that we agree on the major doctrines and a vast number of the minor doctrines.  In fact, I’ve learned a lot from him concerning the Christian life as we’ve been in the same small group for about 6 months now.   We both have a heart to love and care for people who are hurting and spend lots of time and effort at becoming increasingly skilled at doing so.  I will quickly say that I have a lot of learning and growing to do as a counselor, and am grateful for his many years of counseling experience that I can benefit from.

That all said, I am going to post a series of email correspondences that we have shared.  I’ll post only one side of the email first, let you read and think through the issue, respond if you’d like, then later post the reply.  Here’s the first one.  This is actually a response from him to my blog post, Psychology and Man’s Need:

I appreciate your interest and while I don’t have the references, I
believe that the link you make with higher education and faith in God is
true. I think there is a negative correlation between years of education
and belief. I also agree with your rationale. I think that the more that
we believe we can explain our human experience, the less we see a need
for God, however, I think that this path leads to despair.  I was
recently reading a book called the “Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn
Evil.” It is obviously written from a Humanistic perspective with the
main assumption that people are basically good or at worst neutral and
it is the situations we are placed in that cause us to act in evil ways.
I was struck by the author’s worldview in terms of his degradation of
people who aspire to live by moral principles and absolutes yet he is
then amazed that some people who have strong moral values can withstand
situational pressures and do the right thing. On a side note, one of his
principles that he espouses for withstanding situational pressure is to
never sacrifice personal freedom for security. This is a common
libertarian type view that is often put forth by NRA types who want to
keep their guns so it is odd to be coming from this West Coast liberal,
but the interesting thing to me was that while he was addressing things
like allowing wire taps and such for national security his example was
that of traditional marriage and that we sacrifice personal freedom for
security and that is a bad thing according to him! I say all of this to
say that when we take God and his laws for us out of the equation, life
becomes a relativistic swamp with faith in human nature as our only
hope. Given the horrible things that people do to eachother when
unchecked, I think that is a scary place to be.

The one addition that I would make to your blog if you write a follow up
is that just like traditional medicine, Psychology still has something
to offer. I think it is a mistake to ignore God’s revelation to us
through science and say only that we need to build our relationship with
Him. While the latter is always true, mental health issues are not all
crises of Faith and I think this needs to be made clear. In the same way
one would not recommend that if you have chest pain and weakness in your
left arm you should just pray about it and not seek medical attention,
one should also not give the message that if you struggle emotionally
that you should only seek spiritual guidance and not seek the knowledge
of our mind that science can provide. That is why the flip side of those
statistics is important. Nearly 70% of psychologist believe in God and
over 20% feel that God is very important. We can seek out those
psychologists to integrate Faith and science for a wholistic solution.

Can you comment to this?


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