We both love how Matthew has taken the concept of sin and given a breath of fresh air to the topic. You must read this book because in its pages you will finally gain a biblical perspective on sin and what it takes to free yourself from the bonds that so easily entangle!

Gary and Michael Smalley
Smalley Relationship Center
When mental illness afflicts a loved one, how can we understand what is happening and respond appropriately? This biblically-literate and scientifically-informed book offers helpful insight, encouragement, and practical advice. For pastors and for those who hurt for those who hurt, Matthew Stanford offers sensitive and welcome guidance.

David G. Myers, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology, Hope College and author of Psychology Through the Eyes of Faith.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Bible and Madness

What we call mental illness was not always treated as a medical problem. In the not too distant past the abnormal thoughts, feelings and behaviors often associated with these disorders were suggested to be signs of personal weakness and something to be ashamed of. Unfortunately, this is still a far too common perception in the Church today and has resulted in the alienation of thousands who desperately need the spiritual support that only the body of Christ can provide.

Some have said that mental illness did not exist in biblical times and is just a modern invention to legitimize sinful behavior. I once read an author that based his argument on the fact that you cannot find the terms mental illness or mental disorder in the Scriptures. He is correct of course, you cannot find those terms in the Bible but you do see the related terms madness and insanity used often. These terms are used to describe a set of thoughts and behaviors recognized to be extreme, debilitating and abnormal in nature. The existence of madness and insanity in biblical times is clear:

Some References to Madness and Insanity in the Bible

Old Testament
A punishment for violating the covenant (Deuteronomy 28:28)
Feigned by David to escape capture (1 Samuel 21:13-15)
Prophet’s servant is thought mad (2 Kings 9:11)
Madness compared to foolish behavior (Proverbs 26:18)
Madness is the opposite of wisdom (Ecclesiastes 1:17; 7:7)
Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment (Daniel 4:32-34)

New Testament
Jesus is thought to be insane by His family (Mark 3:21; John 10:20)
Jesus heals a lunatic (Matthew 17:15)
Festus suggests that Paul is mad (Acts 26:24-25)
Believers could be thought to be mad (1 Corinthians 14:23)
Paul’s ideas so extreme as to be thought insane (2 Corinthians 11:23)

So individuals displaying abnormal thoughts and behaviors, the mentally ill, were clearly known throughout biblical history. Today those same abnormal thoughts and behaviors have been categorized into a set of specific mental disorders for which many effective interventions and treatments have been developed. Mental health research and practice have made significant strides in relieving the mental and physical suffering of those afflicted with mental illness. Yet there continues to be a high level of suspicion, distrust and even fear in the Church when it comes to psychology and psychiatry. The simple fact is that Christians develop mental illness at the same rates seen in the general population and suggestions such as “you need to pray more” or “this is just the result of weak faith” are ineffective in dealing with these serious medical conditions.

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