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.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Global Missional Community

I’d like to draw your attention to a new online mission minded community. The global missional community is a place to find thoughts, insights and wisdom from global voices struggling to be and live missional and incarnational lives for God's glory among all peoples. Founder Mike Dworak will be managing a blog themissionalmind.blogspot.com and a monthly newsletter along with free mission e-books can be obtained by going here. I am very supportive of Mike and his vision and will be contributing some of my own writing to the newsletter from time to time.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lust and Adultery

As a scientist, it never ceases to amaze me just how accurate and complete the scriptures are in their description of natural phenomena. The neurobiological processes related to attraction and attachment can clearly be seen in verses discussing marriage and adultery throughout the Bible. For instance, the sex drive is seen as a God-given biological instinct that must be controlled in order to avoid sin (1 Corinthians 7:5, 9; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). Descriptions of this sexual drive causing an individual to “burn with desire” or have “lustful passion” appear to be rather colorful metaphors for surging testosterone levels. The marital relationship is seen as the only place that this drive can be brought under control and expressed in a Godly manner (Proverbs 5:15-19; 1 Corinthians 7:1-5; Hebrews 13:4).

The scriptures also suggest that a sexual relationship physically alters a couple in such a way that they become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6; 1 Corinthians 6:16). This reference can be understood and explained by increased levels of oxytocin and vasopressin in the brain that bring about emotional bonding. When a sexual relationship is sinful (such as in adultery or fornication), the scriptures imply that the adverse effects can be both physical and long-term (1 Corinthians 6:18). Paul writes that sexually immoral practices such as these cause us to “sin against our own body”. This references neurochemical changes that occur during the act of adultery or fornication which alter the individual’s brain in such a way that their other intimate relationships are damaged. In Christ, we have been spiritually transformed, but sin still has a physical strangle-hold on our bodies (Romans 7:22-25). It is only through the power of the indwelling Spirit that sin can be mastered (Genesis 4:7).

We were created for relationship with one another (Genesis 2:18). God made us male and female so that we might be involved in the creative process of conception through physical intimacy. He designed within each of us a set of biological systems that prompt us to seek out a companion and form long-term emotional connections. Unfortunately, our bodies have been scarred by original sin and we live in a fallen world. Our sinful state has resulted in an epidemic of problems related to lust. Men and women that are dissatisfied with their lives and seek fulfillment through adulterous sexual relationships or others who seek comfort and control through sexual fantasies and self-gratification find that sexual sin comes at the expense of real intimacy.

All men (and many women) struggle with lust. Our “feel good” culture tells us to follow our primal impulses with little thought of the consequences. Stephen Arterburn describes it this way, “our society helps condition us toward addictive sex. The media have helped make the unusual appear to be norm. Multiple sex partners, repeated affairs, sex on every first date: these behaviors no longer shock the regular viewer of primetime television. Many who grow up in such an environment will be predisposed to sex addiction …” The sinful culture we live in takes our normal, God-given biological drives, and turns them against us.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Unlike like depression or anxiety the Bible says nothing specific about schizophrenia. However, in Daniel chapter 4 there is a description of a psychotic disorder with symptoms very similar to schizophrenia. This disorder is called boanthropy.

You are most likely familiar with the story. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, has a dream about a great tree being cut down that he is unable to understand. He calls the magicians, diviners and wise men of his kingdom together but they are unable to explain the dream to him. Finally, the prophet Daniel appears on the scene and interprets the dream for the King. Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that because of his sin, God is going to remove his kingdom from him for seven years. He will do this by changing Nebuchadnezzar’s mind from that of a man to that of a beast, specifically an ox. The King will be driven away from mankind, eating grass and living out in the elements. And that is exactly what happens. For seven years, Nebuchadnezzar believes himself to be an animal. In the seventh year of his delusional state, Daniel 4:34 tells us that Nebuchadnezzar’s “reason returned” to him and he blessed, praised and honored the Most High.

Now you may have never thought that this was a mental illness, but it is and it still occurs today. As I said above, it is called boanthropy when the person, in a delusional state, believes themselves to be an ox or cow. It is called lycanthropy when they think they are a wolf (this may be where we get our werewolf legends). There are many other variations depending on the animal. But the basic symptom is a delusional state such that the person believes themselves to be an animal and begins to live and behave that way. In this particular instance God used the mental illness as discipline, but we should not generalized that to every case of mental illness. While God certainly could choose to bring mental illness into our lives as discipline (Deuteronomy 28:28), if we were to mistakenly generalize that it is always the result of God’s discipline then we would also have to consider common problems such as boils, scabs, itching (Deuteronomy 28:27) and tumors in the groin (hemorrhoids; 1 Samuel 5:9) to always be signs of God’s discipline.

While Nebuchadnezzar’s boanthropy is not the same as schizophrenia, it is a great example of a delusional state which can be a symptom of schizophrenia. As people of faith, what can we learn from this story about delusions? I believe that Daniel 4:34 gives us an amazing truth that we can apply to those with delusions. Nebuchadnezzar was not able to bless and praise the Most High until his “reason returned” to him. In other words, until his hallucinations and delusional state were removed. Hallucinations and delusions can disconnect an individual from the reality of acknowledging God. As those ministering to schizophrenics with hallucinations and delusions we should guide them towards treatments (e.g., antipsychotic medication) that will effectively minimize or remove these symptoms so that the individual, through pastoral care, can re-connect with the Father.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


The topic of uncontrolled anger is common throughout the scriptures. One needs to look no further than the Wisdom books (Job, Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes) to find a detailed description of the rageful person and the dire consequences of this sinful behavior. These verses describe the impulsive aggressive individual as a “fool”. In the scriptures, foolishness is often contrasted with wisdom. The “fool” is one who is self-sufficient and does not truly know God for life (Psalm 14:1; Proverbs 17:1) while the “wise” man is dependent on God and knows Him intimately (Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10). The explosive individual is also described as having no honor, hated by others, one who exalts sin and causes harm to all those he encounters. Ultimately, uncontrolled anger leads to death, both spiritually and physically.

We feel anger when we perceive an injustice or see evil. God’s purpose for human anger is “to motivate us to take positive, loving action … to set the wrong right.” Human anger was created in the image of God’s anger (Genesis 1:26). As author Gary Chapman writes “when God sees evil, He experiences anger. Anger is His logical response to injustice or unrighteousness.” God’s righteous anger is an overt expression of His holiness and justice which are attributes of His glory. Righteous anger is slow to develop (Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3), fully controlled (Psalm 78:38; 85:3), limited in duration (Psalm 30:5; Micah 7:18) and always fulfills its intended purpose which is transformation (Psalm 90:7). Human anger, while originally created in the image of God’s anger, has been tainted by sin.

Rather than expressing righteous anger towards injustice and evil we display anger when we believe that our selfish wants and desires are not being fully satisfied. This is the definition of flesh, selfishly trying to meet our wants and desires rather than depending on God for our provision. Add to this a lack of behavioral control (possibly resulting from a brain dysfunction) and you have an individual who lives at the mercy of his fleshly feelings and emotions (Galatians 5:19-21). Feel angry, explode! Feel anxious, blow up! Feel fearful, lash out! Rage then is the exact opposite of godly righteous anger. It develops quickly, is uncontrolled, lacks purpose, and because of its selfish nature results in long-lasting fear and anxiety.