Christian Psychology and Mental IllnessQUESTION: Christian Psychology – What is Mental Illness?ANSWER:
Modern secular psychologists often speak of mental illness.
Yet many Christian psychologists deny the existence of a large proportion of mental illnesses. Jay Adams writes, “Organic malfunctions affecting the brain that are caused by brain damage, tumors, gene inheritance, glandular or chemical disorders validly may be termed mental illnesses. But at the same time a vast number of other human problems have been classified as mental illnesses for which there is no evidence that they have been engendered by disease or illness at all.”1
Why is Adams so suspicious of problems that cannot be directly linked to organic causes being termed mental illness?
“The fundamental bent of fallen human nature is away from God . . . Apart from organically generated difficulties, the ‘mentally ill’ are really people with unsolved personal problems.”2Christian Psychology – Human Nature and Rebellion
This view follows logically from the Christian perception of human nature: we have rebelled against God, we have real guilt feelings about this rebellion, and so we must reconcile ourselves with God or face unsolved personal problems. Lawrence Crabb, Jr. explains, “An appreciation of the reality of sin is a critically necessary beginning point for an understanding of the Christian view of anything. A psychology worthy of the adjective ‘Christian’ must not set the problem of sin in parallel line with other problems or redefine it into a neurosis or psychological kink.”3Notes:
Rendered with permission from the book,Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews
ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry
at Summit Ministries
. All rights reserved in the original.1
Jay E. Adams, Competent to Counsel
(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1970), 28.2
Karl Menninger, Whatever Became of Sin?
(New York, NY: Hawthorn Books, 1974), 48.