A Biblical Response to Mental Illness and Suicide: What Should We Conclude…

Dr. Ab AbercrombieSad Teen Boy

Practically everyone in the Christian community has been affected by the suicide of Rick Warren’s son Matthew. The Body grieves with this influential pastor and his family as they face the unfathomable process of coping with this unimaginable loss.

Matthew’s death has also prompted the Church to examine our views on mental illness, psychiatric/psychological treatment, and medication. Many prominent Christian leaders have not only offered public statements of support for the Warrens, but are taking this opportunity to express opinions about an extremely sensitive subject that impacts a growing number of believers.

Most leaders are encouraging the Church to acknowledge that matters of depression and suicide are medical in nature and should be addressed no differently than other physical illnesses. They imply that to do otherwise promotes stigma and shame and restricts the believer’s access to appropriate care.

Ed Stetzer, president of Lifeway Research, is stressing the need for the Church to address “mental illness.” In an article entitled “Christians Should Not Be Afraid of Medicine,” Stetzer acknowledges that the topic is a source of debate and that medication should be used with caution, but states that “…many mental health issues are physiological.”

Another article on the Internet, “Death of Rick Warren’s Son a Call to Address Mental Illness,” offers a similar view. According to Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, “Christians struggle with depression and even suicidal thoughts. It does not make you less of a Christian.” He further states: “Suffering from mental illness is not a sin. Yet, not addressing it, may very well be.”

The statements made by Stetzer and Rodriquez seem impulsive at best, and potentially dangerous. Both esteemed leaders make very definitive statements that many in the Christian community will embrace as factual, when in fact they are not. In reality these matters are questions requiring study and biblical discourse. To suggest that these matters have been settled in Scripture, or even in science, is absolutely untrue.

Read MoreA Biblical Response to Mental Illness and Suicide: What Should We Conclude…

Suicide In The Church Part II: Why Do We Believe What We Believe…

Dr. Ab AbercrombieBible 10 Commandments

My first article on suicide in the Church entitled, “A Biblical Response To Mental Illness and Suicide In The Church: What Should We Conclude…” garnered a lot of attention and I am grateful for your response and comments. To say that this is a controversial issue is a great understatement, as readers have expressed very strong opinions on the matter.

Beth wrote:

I agree that lots of mental illness is the result of guilt, unconfessed sin, rebellion, bitterness, anger, etc. However, that doesn’t mean that there are not true physiological reasons behind mental illness. We must be careful not to blanket all mental illness in either one camp or the other. The very reason some Christians have not sought medical help is because of the belief that if they were ‘Christian’ enough, they shouldn’t really have these problems. That is just not true. As I said, there are many factors contributing to mental illness and unless you have personally suffered with it, you cannot understand.

DeDe countered:

We must FIRST seek our help in the Lord! The danger is “explaining away” sin. Again, not all depression is rooted in sin, but often times it is simply falling into discouragement – a heart and mind that has dropped its guard, fallen away from fixing on Truth.” That is a danger.

Denise commented:

I believe that some mental problems can and are Biblical. BUT there IS messed up Chemicals in the brain. I am a strong Christian who knows the Word. I KNOW sometimes I am depressed cause I have disobeyed, but then I repent and am better. BUT there are times when I am so depressed for NO GOOD REASON. AND I get suicidal at times. My medicines have helped me tremendously.

And finally, Brian had this to say:

Thank you for writing so clearly and concisely. I was deeply perturbed when I read the articles you are responding to. I am deeply grieved by the Warren’s devastating loss and then was angry over the ill informed articles I also read and to which you refer to. Men of such influence need to think more biblically before they put pen to paper and not be swayed by pop culture.

Many others answered the article with resounding support and others with harsh criticism. After reviewing the responses I was left with one burning question: Why do we (Christians) believe what we believe?

Read MoreSuicide In The Church Part II: Why Do We Believe What We Believe…

Evil Strikes A Blow: God’s Answer For Boston

Dr. Ab AbercrombieMan face in hands

This week evil asserted itself on the streets of Boston. Some individual, group, organization, or political force executed and maimed numerous innocent people and struck fear into the hearts of a city and threatened the security of a nation. Parents, spouses, family members, friends, and America are left with questions that are all too familiar.

Why did this happen? 

What is the purpose of it all? 

What should we have done to prevent it? 

How will we prevent it the next time? 

Where was God and why did He allow this to occur?

These are among the questions heard from believers and non-believers. They are similar to the inquiries made after natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. We heard them after Newtown, Virginia Tech, 911, the Oklahoma bombing, and Columbine. There seems to always be a part of man that is surprised, and shocked, by the presence of evil and the devastation it can wield.

Many today feel frightened, angry, and uncertain. We turn to one another for support and call out to supposed experts for answers. But the world and all of its wisdom can offer no answer for willful, violent sin. The field of medicine cannot explain it; psychology does not interpret it; and law enforcement will never completely contain it.

Yet, Scripture provides a word of encouragement—a word of assurance—a word of promise and sufficiency.

God Almighty reigns eternal (Ps 47:8). He is sovereign and perfect (1 Tim 6:13-16). He is merciful and long-suffering (Ps 86:15). He is a God of order and purpose (1 Cor 14:33, Prov 16:4). His love endures forever and ever (Ps 89:2) and His judgment is righteous (Gen 18:25).

Satan, Scripture tells us, is the ruler of this world (Jn 14:30); but his reign is brief.  He is a mocker of God, a liar and deceiver, and the truth is not in him (Jn 8:44).  He loves destruction, he deals in chaos, and he rages against this world because his time is short (1 Pet 5:8).  His power is a counterfeit imitation—it will not prevail! (Rev 17:14).

Even so, how do we explain the murder and destruction, the bloodshed and chaos? How do we answer the questions of the grief-stricken and give reason to madness?

Read MoreEvil Strikes A Blow: God’s Answer For Boston

“Catch Me Daddy…”

Dr. Ab AbercrombieCatch me Daddy

Recently my daughter came to visit from college…only this time she was accompanied by her fiancé. When exactly did my “baby” become this beautiful, 21 year-old, young woman?  Sarah’s unbalanced toddle has been replaced by a determined, self-directed gait. Her moments of uncertainty and hesitation have long yielded to a spirited confidence and an independent mind. And her ready compliance to her father’s authority now struggles, resists, and even rebels, as she tries to work out who she is and where she is headed.

I love her energy, zest, and spirit for life. I am grateful for her poise. But I would be less than truthful if I said I didn’t miss the soft, submissive two-year-old who held tightly to my finger as we walked down the street; who called for me when she was unsure; who trusted every word I spoke as truth and brilliance; and who believed Daddy could do anything!

So many times we played together in the bay behind our house as she freely explored the water, fish and hermit crabs? Hundreds of times she stood on the pier and shouted, “Catch me Daddy” as she jumped into the water, supported and protected by my waiting arms. I am proud to report that I never dropped her, not even once! She was fearless because I was there, overseeing her every move. I was vigilant in my watch for anything that would harm her, and she knew she was safe in my care.

Today, as a burgeoning adult, Sarah is nearing the end of her college career and the beginning of married life. As she has grown, she has become confident in her own care and is convinced that my abilities have been previously overrated!  It’s a struggle watching my baby grow up…painful really. Sometimes it is especially difficult when I know she needs me, but refuses to call.

As a young adult her signals are harder to read. Instead of asking permission, she asks for forgiveness; instead of seeking my approval, she demands my agreement; and rather than holding tight she is pulling free. But in the midst of all the turmoil and confusion, if I listen really hard, I can still hear her cry: “Catch me Daddy.”

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Hurricane Katrina: What is God Doing?

Dr. Ab AbercrombieHurricane aftermath

Michael and Angela share the first mattress on the left as you enter the shelter.  Both in their mid-twenties, are trying to occupy their three daughters in the midst of the chaos around them.  There is a panicky energy about them; the kind of uneasy tension that comes when one is lost and without direction, running low on hope.  They are stranded in a small rural shelter in Alabama, over 175 miles from their home in New Orleans; a home that is no longer standing.

“We were hoping to leave New Orleans anyway” says Michael, trying to find an upside to his situation.  “I just want to find work and get a place for my family to live.  I’m a good carpenter and I’ll work hard.”

Myrna is across the shelter on the opposite wall.  She is a single mother with two daughters: a twelve-year-old, basketball star/honor student and a two-year-old toddler, who isn’t quite sure where she is and why she can’t go home.  “This is the third shelter we’ve been in since the storm” Myna said.  “Every time they move us we get farther from home.”  Home is Pascagoula, MS about 50 miles away.  Myrna and her children were awakened by the rush of water rising against their front door.  The hurricane they thought was far enough west had made a last second jog to the east, and now the storm surge threatened her family’s survival.  Kicking out a window, Myrna and her children escaped by foot to a near by fire station where they rode out the storm huddled together on the second floor.

Myrna starts to cry quietly.  “I try not to let the children see me upset.  My twelve-year-old is already so hurt.  Every time it rains or she sees lightning, she starts to panic.”  Myrna works in housekeeping for a hotel that no longer exists.  She has no vehicle, no clothes, no money.  “I don’t know where I am going from here.  I have family in Atlanta so I guess I’ll go there for a while.  I want to get away from the coast.  I don’t want my babies to go through any of this again.”

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The Homosexual Gospel: According to Rob Bell

Dr. Ab AbercrombieGrapes red on the vine

I think Rob Bell has been eating some bad fruit. As a self-proclaimed spokesman for God and the Christian faith, Bell bears evidence of poor nutrition that has defiled his heart and mind. As Christians we all must be discerning of where we acquire our spiritual food.

When God created the Garden of Eden He planted two types of trees:

The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:8-9).

Satan encourages us to reject the “tree of life” (Christ) and feast upon the forbidden “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” In the garden, the serpent tempted Eve to doubt and question God’s Word concerning sin:

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate (Gen 3:4-6).

Eve’s desire soon became her truth. She, and her husband, answered their craving for beauty, taste, and wisdom rather than heed God’s instruction. How could something so appealing to the flesh be sinful? As Satan had whispered… “You surely will not die!” With the ingestion of the illicit fruit, the spirit of the antichrist (1 Jn 4:2-3) advanced its position and has been offering a counterfeit version of “truth” ever since.

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“It’s Not My Job…”

Dr. Ab Abercrombieshutterstock_137708114

In the Book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul wrote about the importance of sanctification and maturity in the Christian life:

As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…(Eph 4:14-15).

“As a result” of preaching, teaching, evangelism, and biblical care, the saints are to be unified and equipped with knowledge, maturity, and unity, moving collectively toward the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:11-13). Therefore the unified, mature, and prepared Body of Christ should be growing in stability, with correct doctrine, not subject to false teaching and deception, and capable of expressing “truth in love” to one another, so that all grow up into the likeness of Christ.

Truth in love is the foundational work of biblical counseling. In its truest application, biblical counseling should occur constantly within the normal day-to-day discourse between believers, as we focus our intent and movement toward the goals of the Kingdom. Unfortunately, this piece of biblical care is typically left to the pastoral staff or trained counselors, and often occurs only when spiritual issues have grown into urgent crises.

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Love Her Into Submission…

Dr. Ab Abercrombie  Pre-marriage young couple embrace

Christian men everywhere unite! It is time to help our wives toward biblical obedience once and for all! Women everywhere should answer their scriptural mandate:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord (Eph 5:22).

I know you have done everything to get these “weaker vessels” (1 Pet 3:7) in line. But in your frustration you have  abdicated your responsibilities. In response the women were left to dictate the order in your home, define the family’s spiritual focus, work long, tiring hours away from the children, and run the churches you attend. No matter how much you complain, criticize, yell, sulk, or withdraw, those women just keep assuming control and overriding your authority.

But while you believe that you have exhausted your options, I bring one last hope for turning this mayhem around. It is a tricky maneuver to be sure; they will never see it coming…Let’s love them into submission!

Yes it is challenging and no it won’t happen overnight. But take heart…if we persevere these unique creatures can be transformed into wonderful helpers designed just for us! (Gen 2:18).

Step 1…Become a man under authority…

Submission conveys love, trust, and respect for authority. It depicts a willingness to sacrifice one’s desires in service to another. I know it has been a long time, but think back to high school physics class and recall the most basic physical law: “Every action yields an equal and opposite reaction.”

According to God’s Word, when you learn to submit (conveying love, trust, and respect), your wife will be compelled to do the same. Speaking of Christ, Paul wrote:

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Eph 1:22-23).

All authority belongs to Christ. A submitted man recognizes and honors this truth first and foremost. Seeking surrender and humility before the Lord presents a model for the wife to follow. An obedient man is a trustworthy and reliable leader because his motivations are not selfish, but rather his existence and aim is to the glory of God.

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A Bitter Heart: The Newest Psychiatric Disorder

Depressed Man

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has once again provided explanation and relief for the ailing psyche. In the newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Volume V) the APA has introduced a new psychiatric diagnosis sure to bring justification and absolution to everyone who feels he/she has been unfairly wronged: Post-traumatic Embitterment Disorder (PTED).

German Psychiatrist Michael Linden, describes PTED as “an emotion encompassing persistent feelings of being let down, insulted, or being a loser, and of being revengeful but helpless” (Quoted in Sensky, 2010). This embitterment is said to arise from “a single exceptional negative life event” (Sensky, 2010).

Please understand Linden is not speaking of veterans of war, abuse victims, or individuals who were severely injured in industrial or auto accidents. No one could debate such matters as traumatic and having impact in a person’s life.

But instead Linden is writing about the unexpected disappointments of life; situations perceived as unfair, unjust, and personally offensive. In other words, the “negative life event” would not universally be considered traumatic…but if the event is perceived as traumatic, the impact is considered the same.

Therefore reality is determined by the emotion and experience of the embittered person. In this determination comes reason and justification to continue in unresolved emotion that corrupts the heart and eventually one’s perspective of life and relationships.

The Bible warns that bitterness, wrath, malice, and unforgiveness are problematic conditions. These matters are much more than emotional states. Given enough time and meditation, they come to defile and distort one’s discernment, conduct, relationships, and conscience. More importantly, they create division from Christ and leave the sufferer with no resource for resolution.

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The Wall Is Broken Down: Homosexuality and the Church

Broken Wall

The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is in crisis and the enemy is gaining force. The biblical foundation of our faith has been ruptured by a secular assault, the likes of which, we have not seen. And while victory is assured and even the “gates of Hades” will not overpower Christ’s Church (Matt 16:18); the wall is broken down and believers are being devoured (1 Pet 5:8). We need soldiers who will “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3).

The Book of Nehemiah provides a historical reference from which to draw. When Hanani and his fellow countrymen came into Susa, they gave Nehemiah the following report concerning the status of the Holy City of God:

“The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire” (Neh 1:3).

With the wall of Jerusalem “broken down” there was no longer protection from the enemy. God’s people were without refuge, stricken of hope. The rampart, which divided them from the world, had been breached. The Bible records Nehemiah’s response:

“When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Neh 1:4).

The news we are receiving today is much the same. The Body of Christ has been overtaken with a brutal onslaught. The walls and foundation of our faith are falling under the powerful attack of the enemy and I submit it is time for mourning, repentance, fasting, and prayer “before the God of heaven!”

The weapons of the enemy include emotion, experience, intellectualism, and bias, each challenging the veracity of Scripture as the foundation for life and eternity. Christians are dropping and surrendering in alarming numbers, yielding to secular pressures and the demands of unbelievers.

Recently we see two prominent issues taking center stage in the church: mental illness/suicide and the homosexual agenda. The church is being bombarded with pressure calling for the abandonment of scriptural order and the acceptance of public opinion. Increasingly the church is chided as lacking compassion whenever it references scriptural teachings in these areas. And regrettably the assault has weakened our stance and is eroding the boundaries of truth.

Read MoreThe Wall Is Broken Down: Homosexuality and the Church