Psychopathology or Sin?

By: Dr. W.P. “Ab” AbercrombieSnake and Apple

For decades, modern culture has struggled to define and categorize psychological and/or psychiatric conditions. Experts have created hundreds of diagnostic categories that attempt to isolate and classify specific conditions or illnesses so that they can be effectively treated. This has given rise to the term psychopathology, which refers to an illness or dysfunction in the psyche or mind of an individual.

Medical doctors tend to see the disturbance as organic; Behaviorists often describe the issue as a learned or conditioned dysfunction; Psychoanalysts believe psychological problems are due to parental failures, disappointments, and frustrated psychosexual development; Family Therapists view emotional disturbance as a consequence of unhealthy family structure.

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Circumstantial Spirituality

By W.P. “Ab” Abercrombie, Ph.D.Intense man dark

Recently I have noticed a trend in my counseling ministry I refer to as; “circumstantial spirituality.” In other words, many counselees become very spiritual at the time their sins are uncovered, only to return to the secular life when the crisis has passed. These are individuals who seek support because of exposure rather than conviction of conscience.

The challenge for the biblical counselor comes in helping this briefly spiritual person, stay in the light long enough for the true heart condition to be revealed. But such counselees are often intolerant of the glare of this heavenly illumination. Jesus spoke of this reality stating:

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Biblical Sleight of Hand: The Homosexual Lie

Dr. Ab AbercrombieTeen depressed fence

 A powerful political voice has developed within the ranks of an extremely small minority of citizens.  The homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgendered persons have proven to be a force to be reckoned with.  Representing perhaps one to two percent of the population, this group of vocal and determined advocates have found great influence in the court systems of this country, the congress, the entertainment and news media, and unfortunately, the church.

 Their long-term plan has been to normalize an abnormal sexual and relational life, while winning the sympathy and support of Americans through the promotion of themselves as a disenfranchised minority.  Now the airways are literally flooded with sitcoms, news reports, and documentaries that hammer out a very consistent message: “We are a legitimate expression of love and relationship and deserve not only equal treatment, but preferential treatment.”

Hence this organized group is seeking the right to marry (already granted in several States), the right to adopt children (common in many areas), the right to spousal and family benefits provided through employers (growing in acceptance), along with special considerations due them because of their “minority” status.

For example, the group is gaining success promoting hate crime legislation that makes the injury or murder of someone from this class of people a more serious crime with greater punishment.  They also are pursuing hate crime legislation that could eventually restrict free speech and even the reading of God’s Word by punishing anyone (including a pastor) who speaks against the practice of homosexuality or associated activities.

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False gods and the Sacrifice of Children

Dr. Ab Abercrombie

Blonde girl smiling

 After receiving God’s magnificent grace and abundant supply throughout the generations, the Jewish nation was quick to forget and ultimately reject the God of their salvation. Frequently following God’s rescue and provision, His people would attach themselves to foreign nations for support and protection. In doing so Israel would adopt the traditions, culture, and gods common to the nation upon which they depended.

An excellent account of this occurs in Ezekiel 16 where God, through the prophet, describes how He rescued a lost, despised, and hopeless people (Israel), giving them life and identity as His own children. Using the parable of an abandoned newborn, God illustrates how He rescued and raised the rejected infant to maturity, only to have the child devote its heart to a foreign god (Ezk 16:1-19). In their idolatry, God’s people turned even to the literal sacrifice of their children.

“Moreover, you took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me and sacrificed them to idols to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter? You slaughtered My children and offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire” (Ezk 16:20-21).

 When New Testament Christians read of such abominations in Scripture, we often have difficulty relating and fail to see its application. After all we no longer witness children placed in the sacrificial fire to honor Molech or Ashtoreth. But as a biblical counselor I would suggest that idolatry is alive and well and children are indeed offered on the altar of countless “high places.”

The worship of self is primary and has fragmented the biblical home into pockets of individual gratification, personal goals, rights and entitlements. Biblical order is often abandoned because God’s structure interrupts one’s selfish ambition (Phil 2:3-4), calling instead for the glory and magnification of God above all else (Mark 12:30).

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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.

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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?

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Whatever Became of Sin?

Dr. Ab AbercrombieSnake and Apple

In 1973, the world-renowned psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote a book entitled: Whatever Became of Sin? In his book the doctor projected the day would come when sin would no longer be an element of the human vernacular. He speculated that the explanation of sin and wrongdoing would be replaced by rationalizations excusing individual accountability.

Menninger predicted the term sin would be replaced with words like illness, disorder, dysfunction, syndrome, etc. The human condition would be excused as a product of biochemistry, environment, experience, and trauma. He projected that even crime would go unpunished as criminal activity would be justified and minimized as the result of some medical abnormality for which one could not be held responsible.

According to Menninger’s prognostication, the day was approaching when practically everyone would be considered sick and their conduct pardonable. No longer would there be any liability for human error, choice, and willful conduct. Everyone would be innocent, vindicated through biology, psychiatry, and humanistic reasoning.

Aren’t we just about there? The good doctor was a pretty good prophet!

Humanism has become the dominant theology of our day, embraced increasingly throughout society and regrettably, in the Church. Humanism teaches that everything is relative and there are no absolutes. As a result there can be no sin because there are no fixed guidelines of morality. Under this doctrine, man is considered good and deserving of everything it he wants.

Furthermore, humanism assumes there is no God. Man is his own sovereign ruler; wise, competent, and capable of making decisions that are best for him. Salvation then is the pleasure and gratification of the human experience. Humanism is individually focused without regard to others and it seeks immediate gain without consideration of its long-term or eternal impact.

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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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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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