Friday, November 11, 2016

God’s Word and Mental Illness

Being I focus on psychology, and law, quite a bit at school, they sometimes cross over into my study of God’s word. Is there mention of mental illness in the scriptures? Luke 8:2 mentions Mary Magdalene and seven demons that had “gone out” of her. Could that be a reference to mental illness? Or, is mental illness the answer we give now days in reference to individuals who are possessed by demons? Or, are the two completely unrelated?
2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, (Luke 8:2. ESV.)
1 Samuel 21:13-15 mentions David pretending to be “insane”. It says,
13 So he changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard. 14 Then Achish said to his servants, "Behold, you see the man is mad. Why then have you brought him to me? 15 Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to behave as a madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?"

When I looked up “mental illness” in Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, which I use as secondary authority to God’s word which is primary authority, I found the following explanation,
Yet we must remember that even fallen, sinful man has the status of being in God’s image. Every single human being, no matter how much the image of God is marred by sin, or illness, or weakness, or age, or any other disability, still has the status of being in God’s image and therefore must be treated with the dignity and respect that is due to God’s image-bearer. This has profound implications for our conduct toward others. It means that people of every race deserve equal dignity and rights. It means that elderly people, those seriously ill, the mentally retarded, and children yet unborn, deserve full protection and honor as human beings. If we ever deny our unique status in creation as God’s only image-bearers, we will soon begin to depreciate the value of human life, will tend to see humans as merely a higher form of animal, and will begin to treat others as such. We will also lose much of our sense of meaning in life. (1994. Grand Rapids, MI. p. 450.)

Now, according to psychiatric medicine, there are all kinds of mental illness that range in behavior, treatment, etc. There are neurodevelopmental disorders, schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders, bipolar and related disorders, depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive and related disorders, trauma - and stressor - related disorders, dissociative disorders, somatic symptom and related disorders, feeding and eating disorders, elimination disorders, sleep-wake disorders, sexual dysfunctions, gender dysphoria, disruptive, impulse-control, and conduct disorders, substance-related and addictive disorders, neurocognitive disorders, personality disorders, paraphilic disorders, other mental disorders, medication-induced movement disorders and other adverse effects of medication, and other conditions that may be a focus of clinical attention (American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition. Arlington, VA. American Psychiatric Association. 2013.)

Some are not fans of psychiatric medicine, but I personally put some weight in it...or, at the very least, ask questions and search for answers. The body and brain are insanely complex and I believe we, as human beings, need answers to some pretty difficult questions that may be best explained by psychiatric medicine. I feel God, and His Son, gave us things to help us in our walk. He gave us His word, the Holy Spirit, authority, doctors, etc. He provided things to us so we can serve Him the best, possible. “Humans think in categories….Categories are essential for our daily functioning in the world.” (Bonds-Raacke, Jennifer. Thinking Critically About Social Psychology. Dubuque, IA. 2016. p.164.) Now, there are many reasons ranging from genetics, to diet, to environment, to upbringing/ childhood, to toxins, to brain damage, etc. to explain why someone might struggle with certain behaviors. Today, though, I am going to try and stay focused on mental illness and God’s word. As I research this, it looks as though there is quite a bit of debate about it.

The question that got me started with this research is, along the lines of, “Why are there many, if not most, behaviors that improve with implementing and following God’s word and instructions yet there are other behaviors that only get worse when God’s word is applied?” An example of this are certain personality disorders. When a follower of Christ interacts with and serves individuals afflicted with distinctive personality disorders, like sociopathy and psychopathy, the one struggling with the disorder becomes more aggressive and even violent which places the follower of Christ in danger. Side Note: First and foremost, I truly believe God can heal all things whether it is a physical illness or disability, like cancer, or a mental one.

An example in the bible that comes to mind when I think about the question above is when King Saul decided to kill David (1 Samuel 18-26).
10 The next day a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand. 11 And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, 'I will pin David to the wall.' But David evaded him twice…. (1 Samuel 18: 10-11. ESV.)

1 And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. But Jonathan, Saul's son, delighted much in David. 2 And Jonathan told David, ‘Saul my father seeks to kill you. Therefore be on your guard in the morning. Stay in a secret place and hide yourself’…. (1 Samuel 19:1-2. ESV.)

6 And Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan. Saul swore, ‘As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.’ 7 And Jonathan called David, and Jonathan reported to him all these things. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before…. (1 Samuel 19:6-7. ESV.)

9 Then a harmful spirit from the Lord came upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand. And David was playing the lyre. 10 And Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he eluded Saul, so that he struck the spear into the wall. And David fled and escaped that night…. (1 Samuel 19:9-10. ESV.)

15 David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. (1 Samuel 23:15. ESV.)

25 And Saul and his men went to seek him. And David was told, so he went down to the rock and lived in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon. 26 Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain. And David was hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them, 27 a messenger came to Saul, saying, ‘Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land.’ 28 So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. Therefore that place was called the Rock of Escape. 29 And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of Engedi…. (1 Samuel 23:25-29. ESV.)

2 Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats' Rocks. 3 And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave, and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave. 4 And the men of David said to him, ‘Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, “Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.”’ Then David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul's robe…. (1 Samuel 24:2-4. ESV.)

8 Afterward David also arose and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, ‘My lord the king!’ And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage…. (1 Samuel 24:8. ESV.)

10 Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, 'I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord's anointed.' 11 See, my father, see the corner of your robe in my hand. For by the fact that I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it…. (1 Samuel 24:10-11. ESV.)

2 So Saul arose and went down to the wilderness of Ziph with three thousand chosen men of Israel to seek David in the wilderness of Ziph. 3 And Saul encamped on the hill of Hachilah, which is beside the road on the east of Jeshimon. But David remained in the wilderness. When he saw that Saul came after him into the wilderness, 4 David sent out spies and learned that Saul had indeed come…. (1 Samuel: 26:2-4. ESV.)

17 Saul recognized David's voice and said, ‘Is this your voice, my son David?’ And David said, ‘It is my voice, my lord, O king.’ 18 And he said, ‘Why does my lord pursue after his servant? For what have I done? What evil is on my hands?’... (1 Samuel 26:17-18. ESV.)

21 Then Saul said, ‘I have sinned. Return, my son David, for I will no more do you harm, because my life was precious in your eyes this day. Behold, I have acted foolishly, and have made a great mistake’…. (1 Samuel 26:21. ESV.)

25 Then Saul said to David, ‘Blessed be you, my son David! You will do many things and will succeed in them.’ So David went his way, and Saul returned to his place. (1 Samuel 26:25. ESV.)

In the above descriptions of events from the bible, it is clear to see King Saul is struggling with something. It is described as “a harmful spirit from God” but what is it, exactly? Is it jealousy? Pride? Or is it much worse than that? Is it a mental illness like psychopathy? And though David has done nothing to provoke the king, Saul is out to murder him. I want to take a moment here and focus on David. Here is a guy who loves Saul, dearly. He serves him well, is best friends with his son, and marries his daughter. He is family and has nothing but the highest regard for Saul. Yet, Saul sins against David and chases him into hiding. So, I believe it is fair to say, if you or someone you know is being threatened or harmed by a loved one, it is best to do as David did and get as far away from that individual as possible. Saul, who called David son on a couple different occasions, was like a father to David...and in fact became David’s father-in-law. Of those who are attacked and/or have a crime committed against them, MOST of them know their attacker/ the perpetrator. Get far away from the person who threatens and/or harms you and hide, even if they come after you as Saul did to David. It is far better to be safe than sorry and hopefully you, or the one in danger, will have a good friend like Jonathan who loves you dearly and advises you to, “Stay in a secret place and hide yourself.”

(Photo information.)

You can also view this paper on Scribd:

Theology and Psychology: Mental Illness and Scripture by Brook Elaine on Scribd

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