The Bible, Medicine, and Medical Problems, ACBC’s 2017 Winter Webinar did an excellent job to clear up misconceptions of the biblical counseling movement being anti-medicine, simplistic, or cold when approaching medical problems. Instead what you will find in the biblical counseling movement is a convictional, committed, thoughtful approach to the Bible and medicine. In the first session of the webinar, Dr. Heath Lambert asks the question: What does the future hold for the biblical counseling movement with the cultural presence of mental illness? With the sessions that followed, each speaker helped to answer this question with zeal, wisdom, and biblical faithfulness.
With the therapeutic labels thrown at us, it is understandable that the church comes with questions. As biblical counselors, we must help communicate a godly alternative to worldly wisdom through faithful, biblical teaching. It is undeniable that secular models seek to help and truly care, which is why a list of about 300 disorders are proposed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Descriptions and observations found here can be useful in understanding patterns of behavior. However, the answer to the cause of human pain and the solution towards everlasting joy lies not in a secular model, but in a biblical one. This webinar brought informative, gracious sharpening, and motivation to see clearly once again God’s power to bring change.
Here are some of the key points given in each of the sessions. Dr. Charles Hodges clearly defined pathology for us as an observable change at the cell level. Good medicine usually includes a pathology for any medical condition. He urged us to cling to a few rules of thumb in:
- Never call sin a disease.
- Never call anything sin the Bible does not clearly identify as sin.
- Always look for pathology if you are going to label something a disease.
Next, Dr. Daniel Wickert laid down foundational principles that we must keep in mind as we approach conversations about mental illness. He emphasized kindness, respect, the importance of godliness even when we disagree, compassion, humility, encouraging counselees to receive a medical evaluation, and the importance of salvation. He helped to point out a distinction between mental illness and mental disorders and gave additional questions and guidelines when counseling someone with a psychological diagnosis. One key thing to remember is to never instruct anyone to stop taking their medication. This is the job of whoever prescribed the medication.
Afterwards, two sessions were taught by Dr. Dan and Pam Gannon on Drugs and Dillusions and Depression and Bipolar. In their first session, they were able to give a summary of various drugs and what psychological conditions they are being used to treat. A helpful reminder I gained is that our physical conditions surely tempt us to sin and may even expose sin in our hearts, but they are not the root cause of our sin. Instead, Dan and Pam continually reminded us to aim for the heart and to re-label psychological terms with biblical ones. When we do this, there is abundant hope to be found in the solutions that God offers in his word. They pointed to the truth that as we believe right, we will think right, and as a result, do right, and feel right.
Dr. John Street followed with a survey of OCD and perfectionism. He described outward behaviors of these conditions and gave a biblical foundation for its causes. When exerting an inordinate amount of effort to control various situations in our lives, Dr. Street wisely taught that we are succumbing to a fear driven set of obsessive thoughts and behaviors fueled by presumptions of self-importance and self-righteousness. Instead of being enslaved to such behavior, Dr. Street gave hope in that we can repent of our pride, re-labeling our thoughts as sin, re-attributing our lives to God, and re-focusing upon loving God and others away from self-love.
The last general session before the question and answer portion brought Dr. Charles Hodges back to give important advice in Counseling End of Life Issues. In dealing with this sensitive topic, Dr. Hodges pointed out the elements needed for a good ending.
In closing, as Dr. Lambert enthusiastically instructed, we must strive to do better than a therapeutic model. We must be committed to superior wisdom, superior care of both body and soul, and to superior skill in counseling. This includes areas of common grace found in the medical field. Because we are both body and soul, it is imperative that we point people to medical doctors for their medical problems. In any situation both medical and spiritual, the biblical counselor does well to help their counselee respond in a way that glorifies God. Our charge is to emulate the Apostle Paul so that we can say with him, “my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Cor. 2:4-5).”
For more information about medical issues and the Bible, you can purchase the winter webinar sessions in the ACBC store.