A Little (Psychological) Leaven…Leavens the Whole Lump of Dough

Dr. Ab AbercrombiePsychology text

The Southern Baptist Convention seems compelled to adopt annual resolutions designed to shape and direct its nearly 16 million members toward informed opinions and appropriate conduct. Their latest offering is a Resolution on Mental Health Concerns and the Heart of God. On the surface the proclamation appears compassionate, but in full context it contradicts scriptural truth while sanctioning psychological explanations and psychiatric treatment for “mental illness.”

The resolution speaks out against prejudice and stigmatization, and encourages ministry outreach to suffering individuals and their families. Few could find argument with this intent. But the document goes far beyond the needed expression of compassion, promoting questionable and potentially harmful positions that will forever alter the church’s view of human suffering. In the resolution, Southern Baptists declare and affirm that:

  • Mental illness, as defined by psychology and psychiatry, is a valid medical condition needing specialized medical care.
  • Conditions like “autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, clinical depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, and eating disorders” are medical illnesses present in our world as a consequence of “the Fall.”
  • The “wise use of medical intervention for mental health concerns” is an “appropriate” remedy for such problems.

Why are preachers and theologians making these proclamations and what is their source of authority on the issues of depression, instability, anxiety, fear, anger, suicide, and madness? Clearly they have sacrificed the Bible and scriptural sufficiency in favor of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the unscientific reasoning of man. Point in fact, the original resolution had two amendments attached which stated:

  • Scripture is the “final authority” on all mental health issues, and
  • Scripture is “sufficient for counseling all phases of the human condition.”

Both amendments were “overwhelmingly defeated” by those attending the convention and therefore were removed from the final resolution (Steffan, 2014). It is a fearful day when Southern Baptists publicly proclaim that Scripture is insufficient and lacking in authority for matters of “life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:2-3).

Even if Baptist leadership gives credence to the pseudoscientific claim that “mental illness” is caused by a medical condition, how can they reject the reality that our truest battle is spiritual (Eph 6:12)? And yet with the power of the pen and the affirmation of a vote, an entire denomination is potentially deceived. Citing their leadership’s endorsement, Southern Baptists now have permission to seek medical remedies without spiritual inquiry or biblical accountability.

It seems Baptist leadership has lost their biblical worldview concerning suffering. They give no consideration that many within the church are unsaved while others are in need of spiritual repentance and restoration. Rather than caution its members to first make a scriptural examination, mental suffering is flatly labeled physiological and medication is tendered as an answer.

Yet Scripture points to suffering as a product of sin (Ps 32:3-4, Jas 1:15), godly discipline (Jn 15:1-2, Heb 12:6), spiritual attack (Matt 17:14-16, Mk 7:26), and providence (Job 1:6-7, Lk 22:31). Should not Christians first (if not exclusively) look to Scripture in order to understand suffering? How can the Christian discern his/her true spiritual condition except through God’s Word (Heb 4:12).

This resolution conveys how deeply humanism has infected the core of Southern Baptist life, provoking mislabeled compassion and pursuit of relief over the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. If allowed to advance, this poison will defile and distort the practice of ministry, biblical counseling, discipline, teaching, and preaching within the church. If comfort becomes the goal, then every aspect of church order and action stands at risk. Paul wrote:

You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is (Gal 5:7-10).

Southern Baptists have always been known for their devotion to God’s Word and for the proclamation of the Gospel. As a denomination they were “running well.” But they are increasingly “hindered” by psychological and humanistic principles that seek to undermine truth. This persuasion (influence) did not come from “Him who calls you” but rather it is a product of human experience and bias. This trend has long been present, but now it is spreading from the top downward. Soon the “whole lump” will be tainted and the foundation of Southern Baptist doctrine will be compromised. God’s Church will not fail; even the “gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matt 16:18). But those who create a disturbance will “bear his judgment, whoever he is.”

Regardless of their credentials, status, and power, false teachers “will incur a stricter judgment” (Jas 3:1) because of their influence in the world. Southern Baptists must be careful to “adopt no other view” and recognize deception regardless of its source. As an ordained Southern Baptist minister and biblical counselor, I beg the SBC to repent, retract, and be restored to the fundamental truth of scriptural sufficiency and biblical authority over all aspects of life.

For more information concerning a biblical view of mental illness, please these articles by Dr. Ab Abercrombie:

A Biblical Response to Mental Illness and Suicide

Suicide in the Church: Part II

The Danger of Experiential Theology

References

Abercrombie, A., 2013, A Biblical Response to Mental Illness and Suicide: What Should We Conclude, http://bcinstitute.com/a-biblical-response-to-mental-illness-and-suicide-what-should-we-conclude/

Abercrombie, A, 2013, Suicide in the Church: Part II, http://bcinstitute.com/suicide-in-the-church-part-ii-why-do-we-believe-what-we-believe/

Abercrombie, A., 2014, The Danger of Experiential Theology, http://bcinstitute.com/danger-experiential-theology/

Steffan, M. Three Interesting Conclusions Made Today By Southern Baptist Leaders, Gleanings a publication of Christianity Today, June 12, 2014.

Comments

  1. Shirley Filar says:

    “The resolution speaks out against prejudice and stigmatization, and encourages ministry outreach to suffering individuals and their families.”
    What greater prejudice and can a branch of Christ carry around day by day than to be a child of the King living in a pig pen in a foreign kingdom, with no one able or willing to remind him of the mercy and lovingkindness of his Father and his Redeemer?
    What greater stigmatization and demoralization can the vilest of sinners bear than to be “labeled” a mental, or emotional cripples condemned to the misery of their debilitatingly sinful thoughts and habits with their only hope in their own ability to control the very thoughts, feelings, and habits that caused them to need and seek help outside of themselves in the first place?

    Psalm 73: 21-28 says,
    “When my heart was embittered
    And I was pierced within,

    Then I was senseless and ignorant;
    I was like a beast before You.

    NEVERTHELESS I am continually with You;
    YOU have taken hold of my right hand.

    With YOUR counsel YOU will guide me,
    And afterward receive me to glory.

    Whom have I in heaven but YOU?
    And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.

    My flesh and my heart may fail,
    But God is the strength of my heart
    And my portion forever.

    For, behold, those who are
    far from You will perish;
    You have destroyed all those
    who are far from You.

    But as for me, the nearness
    of God is my good;
    I have made the LORD GOD
    my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.”
    Psalm 73: 21-28

  2. jeff sutherland says:

    Ab,
    You nailed it this time! I have sent this article to all my ‘friends’ who have rejected my repeated efforts to allow Scripture to influence their thinking and hearts.
    Jeff

  3. Ab Abercrombie says:

    Jim,
    Your comment expresses the contradiction I address in my article. You say, “Scripture is sufficient but…” That’s the problem. Scripture is either sufficient for the counseling task or not. Clearly you do not believe it is, hence your reference to “medical advancements as a tool” Christians should embrace. But be careful what you ascribe to God as an expression of “His many ways.” Psychiatric medication, as it currently exists, has no biblical or scientific credibility. By your own judgment and authority you say there are “real disorders that are medical problems.” You should look at how you arrived at this conclusion. Does Scripture support this view? Does even science confirm your claim? The answer to both questions is no! I expect your opinion is grounded in some other source…perhaps your own experience or the experience of someone close to you.
    The SBC leadership gave no reference to “sinful choices” as an element of human suffering but only proclaimed mental illness to be physiological and medication as appropriate. My contention is with leadership, not with “all people” in the SBC. And as for judgment, I believe the Bible instructs us to discern and confront false teaching. When we don’t confront error, we are accountable for its influence. Regarding false teachers, Jesus said:
    “You will know them by their fruits.Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit” (Matt 7:16-18).

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