The Gospel Coalition (TGC) is a hugely successful, influential, US movement and network of Churches and Christians, headed up by some very big hitters. They also host a multi-author blogging platform.
They have been variously described as: missionary passionate, Gospel focused, Reformed, conservative evangelical, Calvinist leaning, ecclesiastically restrictive, exclusivist, complementarian, dogmatists.
In view of this I was somewhat intrigued to note TGC engaging the topic of Psychiatric medication in a blog post entitled: Psychiatric Medication and the Image of God
The article is written by Jeremy Pierre, an assistant professor of biblical counseling at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
I’ve read the article several times now and fully acknowledge that this may be a failing on my part, but rarely have I read something so confused and generally baffling.
The question is posed at the beginning of the article:
How should Christians think about psychiatric medication?
And the answer to this is to be derived by looking at two aspects of what it means for people to be made in the image of God.
It continous with a brief look at psychosomatic unity followed by our God-given position of dominion over the created order.
But then it gets a little odd as the next section is headed up:
First, psychiatric medication does not address the main dilemma in human trouble: sin.
….Medication cannot produce the obedience of faith.
Psychiatric medication should never been used in hopes of producing behavior that Scripture calls obedience, because obedience flows from faith.
And bringing in the ‘dominion’ theme:
Thus, dominion with regard to the human brain and psychiatric medication is not bringing about the coming of the kingdom through chemically perfected people.
I have never heard any Christian ever suggest that psychiatric medication be used as an agent against sin, nor for the bringing forth of obedience through faith, nor for bringing about the Kingdom.
Is this bizarre or what?
I had to smile at the “chemically perfected people” comment.
Is this what the author suspects Christian folk believe about psychiatric medication?
There follows a small treatise on the connection of the physical and spiritual and we are duly advised to consider how the physical is affecting the spiritual, and vice versa. In the next section we’re alerted to the fact that the brain has a possible hindering effect on the soul.
I had occasion to speak with my learned friend Tim on this topic and this is his comment:
My experience together with the things I have learned tell me that the mind and the body (of which the brain is a part) are two separate things. I know that there are those that disagree with me but I am absolutely set on that score, and the evidence supports me. So when I look at things that go wrong with the body, whether it be in the brain or anywhere else in the body, that is where doctors can help us out. I look at it this way. The body is the car and the mind is the driver. Sometimes the car breaks down and things in it don’t work properly. That is where the mechanic i.e. the doctor, steps in to try and fix things. For example if the steering breaks down then no matter what the driver wants to do the car simply will not/cannot do it. Then the steering gets fixed, or not as the case may be. The time comes when the driver no longer needs the car and he/she is free. Do you see what I mean? So as far as medication is concerned then I support it, as our brains, imperfect and part of an imperfect body, do not always function as they should do, no matter what your mind is telling it to do. After all, we’d do the same thing for any other part of the body that didn’t work properly i.e. go to the doctor, wouldn’t we?
I’ll leave off now with the conclusion of the article:
Scripture is sufficient for solving man’s ultimate need for redemption in Christ, peace with God, and the future renewal of the entire created order. And proclaiming the gospel is the primary way we exercise dominion. Psychiatric medication may be understood as a legitimate outworking of the dominion function, but merely as an imperfect attempt to mitigate sin’s effects on the present physical order. It cannot solve mankind’s primary problem of sin.
Applying this teaching practically is no simple matter. The psychiatric medication industry is largely driven by naturalistic assumptions and compelled by profit margins, and mental illness has been stigmatized in many of our churches. Thinking about how to navigate the process practically would require a discussion beyond the present one.
I’m left with no doubt in my mind that the author is not a fan of the psychiatric world. He either totally misunderstands psychiatric medication and serious mental illness, or presumes his readers do.
I find it highly ironic he finishes the piece with a cursury mention of mental illness stigma within the church, whilst the premise of the article is generally negative about the very medication these same folk rely upon.
Very odd indeed.