Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Depression (bi-polar and otherwise) and jerkiness

I don't really have a feel for Mike Adams as a writer. He alludes to attending church; his bio says he's an ex-atheist and has an MA in Psychology; he publishes on Townhall, so he's some kind of conservative... but that's about it.

Adams just wrote You Aren't Bipolar, You're Just a Jerk! If you're interested in the topics of depression in general, or bipolar illness in particular, give it a read, then come back. If neither interests you, feel free to give this post a pass. But please read Adams first if you mean to read on here. (And btw, if you start, try to finish it — I think he takes a few unexpected turns.)

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All done? Welcome back.

I find Adams' post a maddening mix of the brilliant and the irresponsible. There are countless folks who really do need to read it, take it to heart, stop hiding themselves behind lame excuses, get the heck over themselves, and grow the heck up. They might also read this post, and get a clue.

But equally there are others who would read it, and simply be crushed and broken by his uncaring, ham-fisted, over-simplistic over-generalizations.

Remember: "Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda" (Proverbs 25:20).

Also remember: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15).

Bipolar? I don't understand "bipolar illness," the current name for what used to be called manic-depression. But I knew a sufferer very well, years ago, and weathered several cycles with this poor soul. I could not for the life of me draw the line between the "OK-(s)he-can-do-something-about-this" and the "only-medication-can-help." I'm pretty confident both are there — given the catatonic state I witnessed on the one hand, and the frenetic, days-without-sleep, on-cocaine-without-the-cocaine behavior.

Depression? I know depression a little better, more's the pity, because I've been there. I was there deeply, and for years. That was years ago, thank God, but the memory is as vivid as the monitor in front of my eyes. And I'm still more inclined to melancholy than its reverse. ("Full of angst" was a startlingly on-target observation a dear friend once made.)

During one particular extended period, I did everything Adams said. I gave myself for others, again and again and again. It made me feel more depressed and alone. I exercised, every day, sweat pouring off me. I prayed. I memorized.

Now, I can also tell you things I should have done differently. My point is neither that I was the helpless victim of an external force, nor that I even really fully understand what happened.

My point is that simplistic, hand-dusting, "There-that-ought-to-fix-it" formulas (when presented in that manner) probably do more harm than good.

People are different. (Deep, eh? I'm full of stuff like that. It just flows.)

I can prove it.

Look at Ezekiel and Jeremiah. Totally different temperaments.

Look at Nehemiah and Ezra. Totally different temperaments. (Further, check this post.)

Look at Johns MacArthur and Piper. These worthy, productive, God-loving gents were being interviewed at a conference. Piper mentioned a period of depression he had gone through that had lasted years.


"Years?" came MacArthur's incredulous question.

See, these men are just put together different. MacArthur simply cannot imagine being down or blue for that long. It isn't in his makeup.

But obviously Piper can. And obviously I can. For myself, I wish I were more like MacArthur than Piper in this regard. But ah, well. I am what I am, and that's what I need to deal with.

Obviously this could be a very long post, and it isn't going to be. I'll just close with a few thoughts.
  1. A depressed person should talk with his pastor. He should read Scripture. He might check out Lloyd-Jones' Spiritual Depression. He could try what Adams suggests, all of which are good ideas as far as they go.
  2. If those measures, undertaken seriously and prayerfully and with persistence, don't address it, maybe it's something else.
  3. People trying to help depressed people should study Scriptures about patience, longsuffering, and compassion. They should eschew simplistic quick-fixes. What worked for you may not work for someone else; if it doesn't, it doesn't mean you're better than someone else.
  4. Remember, identical symptoms can have totally different causes. Here's Bob. Bob says he is a Christian. Bob is plagued with guilt. What to do? Simple, right? Tell him the blood of Jesus covers all his sins, he's saved by grace, leave it at the Cross, and move on, right? Right — unless Bob is plagued with guilt because he is walking in known, unrepented sin; unless Bob is shaking his fist in God's face every day. In that case, Bob doesn't need comfort. He needs repentance. He may even need to become a Christian.
So, was this post everything I can say about depression?

No sir, no ma'am.

It was just a few thoughts provoked by Adams' column.

Now, discuss.

UPDATE: there is now a re-posted companion-piece over at Pyro.


Kim said...

It is my understanding that full blown bi-polar disorder is far worse than simple depression. I think many people go through depression, but bi-polar is not as common.

I like your suggestions for dealing with someone who is depressed, i.e. being longsuffering and patient. Some people really need help getting themselves out of that dark hole.

A book I read about depression that was excellent was Wayne Mack's book Out of the Blues. It was balanced, I thought.

LeeC said...

Yeah, tough, tough subject. But regaredless of any of our views on the validity of the diagnoses, or how we see best to help or cure it the main thing we seem to drop the ball on is just plain listening patiently.

No matter what your stance, it just doens't hurt, and can do a lot.

The most helpful book for me was Richard Gantz and his book Psychobabble. As Christians we need toi invest in each others lives more. Too many lonely, or just feeling alone brothers and sisters out there.

Doug Hibbard said...

If you want to be confused more about Mike Adams, he's very anti-homosexual political/social agenda. And he goes to an Episcopal church, based on what I've read from him.

I think his column was a rant about people that try to hide their own bad behavior under the cover of 'mental/emotional illness.' I would say he did fail to acknowledge that such things are still real in many people, and you can't just snap out of it.

But, I've been tempted to smack a few preachers I know who claimed to be bi-polar when they really were just jerks.

Looks like to broad of a brush used in this case.

Anonymous said...

FYI, Mike Adams also has a PhD in Sociology/Criminology.

Great post! I think you covered the bases pretty well.

I suffered from major depression from about 6th grade until I was about thirty-five. Medication did it for me. Thus, my email address includes prozacstan.

My wife had been begging me for years to see a doctor but I thought it was simply a sin issue and refused to consider that the body could somehow be involved.

Several things came together to change my mind:
1) Working with Special Olympics I saw a kid who had been in a car accident. He was unable to roll the bocci ball in the directed he wanted. There was a disconnect of sorts between his brain and his arm.
2) The father of a lady I worked with had a heart attack. My friend told me his behavior changed overnight. He had been one of the nicest, most thoughtful people imaginable. After the heart attack he became mean.
3) I had witnessed a couple of people with alzheimer's go from being nice to being mean.
4) I heard about a study which looked at a certain chemical in the brain that diminishes as people age. The study found that old people have a drop in this chemical similar to that of a young person who is sleep deprived. Losing sleep can make one grumpy. The researchers think the drop in the chemical might explain to some degree the grumpiness in many of the elderly.

After these observations I considered that my extreme irritability could have a physical cause and told my doctor I was willing to try medication.

I have been much better. I still desire from time to time to hit somebody but I'm a redneck and that's what we do. ;)

The medication, as you know, is not a happy pill. It has put me on neutral ground (emotionally) if you will. From there I can react to external stimuli in a proper manner.

Anonymous said...

I want to add that I recently purchased Lloyd-Jones' Spiritual Depression but have only read the first few pages. Looks like a good book.

chopstickschan said...

Written by a man whose experience of depression has given him grace for the comfort and profit of others. And Lloyd-Jones is a great recommedation.

I had ante-partum and post-partum depression for a long time. It hit every night about the same time, descending like a curtain of darkness and horror, so thick it was nearly tangible. And it was during these times I learned something more of prayer. When the terror came on, I began praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer persecution, for others who have depression, for those who are in terrible, inescapable situations throughout the world. Something startling began to happen. I found myself looking forward to these times, but not out of some twisted psychology. They became a call to arms, if you will, because I knew I would pray with a fervency and focus, under the Holy Spirit, I otherwise did not usually feel. The pain only served to sharpen the weapon of prayer. And I understood that this was only a momentary thing in this life that I felt; it did not reflect the true nature of my situation in Christ Jesus. And now I apply the same thing when I have other trials. I pray about things regularly, but I do think that our trials can especially be put to good use, not only from the lessons the Lord is teaching us, but in interceding for others in a deeper way. Now I understand the line from the hymn, He will "sanctify to thee thy deepest distress." Thanks, Dan, for sharing not only as a discussion, but a glimpse into your own trials.

Fred Butler said...

I would think that if we say we have a total Christian perspective on the fallen nature of man, such would also include his mind and emotions and how a person manifests those things.

Where as I don't want to automatically excuse away a person's stupid, jerky behavior as being a mental "disorder" of some sort, at the same time I don't want to dismiss genuine depression or any other psychological disorder as being a means to enable personal sin. There has to be a fully formed understanding of biblical sanctification working itself out in a person's life and the allowance of time for that process to work itself out in the life of the person.

I will say that of the folks I have spoken with and attempted to encourage in the past (I can rightly say I have never "counseled" a person in these issues over a long period of time), it has been my observation that a lot of their struggle does come from an unbiblical or misinformed theology -- their understanding of God.

Where as I would never say a person just needs to read the Psalms over and over again until he or she "gets it," or maybe the first 2/3 of Robert Reymond's systematic theology, I have seen that where the person gets him or herself immersed in solid doctrine, it sure helps with taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and making the sanctification process go much smoother, if you know what I mean.

Joe W. said...

Your point is well taken. I also identify more with Piper than MacArthur regarding melancholy and depression (although I respect them both). I’ve also had days of deep darkness that I hope I’ve seen the last of.

I am completely unfamiliar with Mike Adams, but he did tag his piece with a brief caveat. "The truth is that changing one’s behavior with an exercise in other-absorption, rather than self-absorption, will cure what most people label as depression. If that fails they should talk to a professional. If that also fails they should consider an experiment with prescribed medication."

To go too far with the caveats and the exceptions would rob the piece of its needed punch. I would say the same thing about your "Dumb Question" post at Pyro. If you had filled it with caveats, it would have lost its punch. Should a pastor never preach a strong sermon about guilt and sin for fear that someone with manic-depression might be in the congregation?

I think when you consider our society as a whole, it is full of self-absorbed, over medicated people. They could use a sharp elbow or two. In fact, I could use a sharp elbow or two. However, there are also people dealing with real issues. They need help, love and compassion - no sharp elbows for them.

DJP said...

Yes, I think so. And it gives me an opportunity to try to say something more crisply:

Insofar as anyone is using a diagnosis of a behavior-pattern over which he bears some responsibility and has some control as a badge of pride, or a pretext for irresponsibility and/or sin, Adams is on-target.


Insofar as Adams appears to be mocking and belitting the misery of people suffering from distressing mind-frames, emotions, thoughts and so fort over which they bears little or no responsibility and have little or no control, then perhaps he's the one who's being a jerk.

DJP said...

My previous was to Fred.

To JTW: fair enough.

I just am always mindful of the genuinely fragile, roughed-up, on-the-edge soul who's already more down on himself/herself than any Job's comforter could be - who then reads something like that... and how it could hit.

Herding Grasshoppers said...


Good analysis/summar, Dan.

I found myself agreeing with Adams' opinion of people who use their "label" as an excuse... an entitlement. But that isn't always the case, is it?

In my experience it's wretchedly difficult to disentangle what the sufferer can or cannot be held accountable for. (Ack. Don't check my grammar there!)

One of my sons could be the poster child for ADHD. We struggled for years to manage him. (Well, we still struggle...) I had no desire to drug my child! By golly, we were going to manage.

I read, I studied, I planned. We disciplined, we trained, we prayed, we cried, and then we prayed and cried some more.

It didn't work. Wait. I don't mean prayer "didn't work". But my idea that I could conquer this thing didn't work.

Finally, our doctor (a Christian, and not one who tosses out prescriptions left and right,) said something to the effect of, "Look. You've got all your other ducks in a row. You have your faith. You have supportive family. You have a consistent, structured environment... It's time to try medication."

Wow. Night and day difference.

I know, I know, ADHD isn't what you were talking about, but I do understand that tension of trying to discern what is just plain SIN, and what is a physical or physiological malfunction.

And it's usually both. At least in our experience.

And, honestly, many of the people in our (former) church, and I mean many of the ones who worked with children, were the hardest to deal with. The least understanding or compassionate.

Wish I had perfect wisdom, to know how to respond to all my kids, but especially this one.

And Stan... thanks for the chuckle :0) I thought for a moment that perhaps "prozacstan" was a new Eastern European breakaway country!

Thanks for letting me vent a bit...


JSA said...

Beautiful post. Having been close to people with bipolar disorder and depression, seeing some of them get better and some not, and having a close family member commit suicide after years of depression; I concur with your observations. Helping someone out of that twisted maze is an incredibly delicate and complicated process, and not always successful. One learns humility, and to thank God for the ones who make it.

Kay said...

I'd like to give my uncensored opinion, but I'd have to use my mental health to excuse me. Give me a sharp elbow or Mark Adams 'jerk' appellation if you will, but it's not going to make much of a difference when I'm struggling with the delusion that I can fly.

I greatly appreciated Dan's post on being honest with oneself about wanting to be well. Opinionistas who think they can create a comment buzz by dismissing those with a real illness just make me even more horribly embarrassed and ashamed of my illness.

Like I say, I'd call him a wally, but that wouldn't be nice.

Jay said...

Doug, Adams goes to a large non-denominational Christian church here in Wilmington. It's fairly Bible-believing, as far as most mega-churches go.

As for Adams, we've chatted a few times before. He's a professor at my school and I see him around campus every now and then, and I'm friends of his on Facebook. He seems like a decent enough guy, but he's prone to sometimes inappropriate humor and often puts references to female celebrities who he finds attractive in his columns, without seemingly much shame or guilt about it.

Anonymous said...

Julie, If I am ever (mis)fortunate enough to rule (with an iron fist, of courst) my own country I will definitely be naming in Prozacstac with a nice Eastern European pronunciation.

GrammaMack said...

Well, it brought me to the edge of tears. The last thing needed in a society that already denigrates those with mental illnesses is this: "Just about everyone who really suffers from some form of depression (manic or otherwise) has something in common: He is engaged in self-centered conduct, which either a) actually caused the disorder (real or perceived), or b) greatly exacerbates the disorder (real or perceived)."

We have been through the wringer with the mental-health-care system here in Canada the past four years, and many of the health-care providers we've had to deal with have themselves had despicable attitudes towards those they care for. It's appalling.

The good news is that after a deep depression was sparked by a Vitamin B-12 deficiency after emergency surgery (be sure to have your elderly parents checked for this!) and she spent four years in and out of psychiatric facilities, enduring terrible reactions to medication after medication and attempting suicide once, our dear mother is back to her sweet peace- and faith-filled self. She has lost many memories from years past due to the ECT that finally turned the tide, but it's a small price to pay to have her back and joyful again.

Believe me, she has been in hell on earth (and my dad and siblings and I in its outer courts), but praise God, He brought her back!

chopstickschan said...

Grammamack, I think that article would not have addressed you and your dear mother. I think (I sincerely hope, as has been mentioned)that it was dealing with those who attempt to use the name of some mental disorder as an excuse to continue in selfish sinful behaviour. Certainly, there are far too many doctors and such who need a reprimand for insensitivity to those who truly suffer as your family has. I am thankful the Lord has brought your mother through her difficult state. And thanks for mentioning about the B12 deficiency.

Aaron said...

I was more convicted by the fact that I too probably would have waved and driven on. Shame on me.

Nothing to do with depression, of course. In my profession I don't doubt that some people need medication. The things they do defy logic otherwise.

Susan said...

I recommend a book called Spiritual Comfort by John Colquhoun. This book was written nearly 200 years ago, but it is still very relevant today. Colquhoun goes through the ways through which believers lose spiritual comfort, the consequences of such loss, and the means of recovering spiritual comfort. He also devotes a single chapter on "melancholy" (19th cent. equivalent of depression, perhaps?), and his first advice for those wanting to comfort those who are melancholy is (almost exactly the same as Dan's): "I would counsel you to regard them, at all times,with the most tender compassion" (p. 175).

The reason I purchased this book was because I wanted to give it to a pastor friend for Christmas. Not having read it myself, however, I didn't know if it would be a good idea. So I ended up reading it first--and am glad that such a book exists! (I sure need it myself--am melancholy by nature, I'm afraid. When things depress me, they depress me for a looooooooooong time--longer than others can possibly conceive.)

jmb said...

As someone who has experienced depression over a long period, I find Adams' article to be remarkably ignorant and offensive.

Not having suffered from depression himself does not excuse him from comparing depression to a "bad mood." His assertion that a leading cause of depression is "self-centered conduct" is laughable. But what is one to expect from someone who lumps "real" depression with "perceived" depression?

Yes, some people falsely use depression as an excuse. This is not breakthrough thinking.

He should read something like William Styron's "Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness" in order to get a clue.

Jay said...

It has really been interesting reading the comments on Adams' articles, both here and elsewhere. Many people are rightly scolding him for speaking about an issue that he doesn't seem to know all that much about, and not being sympathetic enough with folks who are going through really difficult times.

I don't think he meant anything offensive towards people who genuinely struggle with depression and mental illness, but his speaking without thinking has caused quite a backlash from those who have struggled with that particular issue.

Not to use a cliche here, but I guess people do need to be more careful to put themselves in another guy's shoes before they speak. I know that, with my particular struggles with homosexuality, some people have made some well-meaning but totally ignorant (and thus, offensive) statements, akin to what Adams has wrongly said about depression.

I'm sure I'm just as capable of making unhelpful, flippant comments about the very deep and complex struggles of others, though, so this is a good reminder to try to see things from their perspective before I open my mouth.

Rachael Starke said...

I've also experienced the second-hand pain and upheaval having a family member with BPD and other mental illnesses can cause. I think Allen's mistake is taking the case of one self-indulgent person, like his tardy student, and using it to make gross generalizations about a very large category of people. On top of that, there's the question of whether every person ever put in that large category should actually be there.

Dan, you called out a huge piece of the issue when you described how identical symptoms can have very different causes. Two other factors are the way those symptoms are perceived and described by the sufferer, and the conclusions the doctor, psychiatrist or pastor draws based on their own presuppositions and experience.

Take depression and/or mood swings, which many here have referenced. I also had a good dose of that during pregnancy, and it's recently been starting up again in regular intervals of, ahem, 28 days or so.

In my family member's case, she describes her symptoms in excruciating detail to her psychiatrist. He doesn't believe in the Fall, sin, or even the existence of the soul. He just knows what the DSM-IV and her case file say - that she's bipolar, manic depressive and all the rest. Nevermind that she's undergoing significant stress from some difficult relationships, a recent move and money challenges. Never mind that she seems to find her identity primarily in what her latest case file notes are, rather than who she is in Christ. Just push the meds.

OTOH, I have similar symptoms, but I'm also concerned about how those symptoms promote sinful feelings of bitterness, self-pity, etc., and how those sins affect my husband and children. I'm also conscious of how some of those feelings might be caused partially by deep-rooted sins like pride and selfishness. So I also visit a doctor, and he talks to me about doing things like cutting back on salt and caffeine, but what he really recommends is anti-depressants. Knowing that every single one comes with its' own set of potentially dangerous, and even sin-promoting, side-effects, I say no thanks.

Instead, I download iPeriod on my iPhone to remind myself when to cut back on the salt, carbs and caffeine (that's no joke, it really exists and it's a huge help), and I mentally stock my mind with all kinds of truth about who I am apart from and in Christ. (Like, BTW, the excellent post you did at Pyro on whether I really want to be healed. It nailed me right in the middle of this very issue.)

The symptoms don't go away, but they are dialled down. And in the process, like chopstickschan, I see God's hand in using all this to sanctify me. I'm learning to fight the lies my feelings tell me with the truth of God's Word.

My heart breaks for those whose battle with these things stretches on for much longer than a paltry 36hours once a month or so. I know from experience that Jesus is the only One who has the ultimate victory and the weapons to fight until He comes back. But His church could do with a lot of improvement on this issue in the meantime.

CR said...

I wanted to say I really appreciate you and your readers opening up to some real personal issues. Very informative and courageous of all of you.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I echo CR. Also, if I recall correctly, Spurgeon, Luther, and Calvin were given to deep melancholy as well.

As a side note, I haven't read Mike Adams in a while, but I have liked his columns tremendously in the past on Townhall.

Also, I would have never guessed that DJP and Stan McCullars wrestled with depression in the past. I have read their comments for a long time now and their writing has confidence and assurance.

Al said...

I enjoyed both pieces, yours and Dr. Adams'. I sent him a note to see if he would interact with your piece a bit.

al sends

Chris Anderson said...


I had this (and several other things) all figured out when I finished seminary. People with emotional issues needed to pray. Duh. It's not chemical, it's spiritual. Amen?!


Life is rarely that clean-cut. We can't excuse sin, obviously, but the fall affected humanity in so many ways, all of them inter-related. In other words, it's complicated.

Does a guy with undiagnosed diabetes need to "get right" because he's sluggish and depressed? Or does he need to watch his diet and get on insulin?

Does a guy (like me) with Celiac Disease need to repent of laziness, or does he need to get off gluten so he's not malnourished?

How about thyroid issues? You can apply the same principles, I think, to cases of post-partum, menopause, even PMS. None of these biological/medical/chemical issues excuse sinful thinking and behavior, but ignoring them as at least partial explanations is foolish.

So God sometimes prescribes sleep or nourishment to a rebellious prophet before (but not instead of) addressing his spiritual need.

I'm not suggesting that we give out pills like candy or deny people's spiritual needs. Many so-called ADHD children need affection, instruction, and discipline rather than Ritalin. No doubt. But, again, it's complicated. More complicated than I initially wanted to admit.

(Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. Nor are pastors and counselors who poo-poo these things, however.)

Anonymous said...

Chris, My Celiac Disease brother! We celiacs have to stick together.

I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. Nor are pastors and counselors who poo-poo these things, however.

Excellent point.

Michael said...

Subjective experience should never be set above the clear statements of the Word of God. God does promise joy and self-control to every one of His children in the Bible. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace...self-control. Gal. 5 When we fail in our experience to partake of God's gracious provision, we should not seek to claim special status, or invent disorders to justify our experience. Since there are no scientifically verifiable tests to identify these disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar and ADHD. We should no set up faulty human experience against the clear statements of God's word. Peter said, "Though we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." Don't tell me, "yes, but I tried that and it didn't work." Forgive me, but I will trust the word of God over your interpretation of your experience. I know this sounds harsh to many of you, but it is actually far more compassionate than the alternatives, and provides hope that God can make a real difference in the lives of all of us. Keep in mind that the human heart is deceitful above all things. It is not worthy of your trust, but God's word is!

Anonymous said...

Michael, Keep in mind that the human heart is deceitful above all things.

Yet you trust your heart's understanding of schizophrenia, bipolar, ADHD and Scripture.

I suppose that goes for alzheimer's disease as well. What do you do with mental retardation, autism, down's syndrome, brain injuries, drug reactions, sleep deprivation, comatose patients, etc...?

What do you do with Celiac Disease? The Lord's Supper has bread. The vast majority of churches in the U.S. serve bread with wheat in it. Celiacs cannot eat wheat (rye or barley either). Is Celiac Disease just another faulty human experience?

Or is only brain related injuries/illnesses that are faulty human experience?

Where were you when God made...?

Deb_B said...

Michael said:
"Since there are no scientifically verifiable tests to identify these disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar and ADHD."

Michael, as both a clinical and [primarily] a research psychologist (very small percentage of clinical work, overall), I'm curious about something. On the heels of some of your bold assertions in your comments:

Have you thoroughly researched relevant data after the medical model to substantiate your assertions here? Or might this be based on either/or/and what you may have read or heard from another source, or, simply presumption on your part?

My query as to how you reached your bold conclusions shouldn't necessarily be construed as more than it is. Meaning, I've not [yet] opted to express my opinion on these matters from either a personal or a professional scientific view.

Kay said...

So what's your biblically-mandated fixit for a hallucination of a dead person attacking you, Michael? I'm presuming there's a clear biblical statment that will make anti-psychotics unnecessary, as you seem so confident.

Anonymous said...

Libbie, I don't know if I've ever told you but I love that picture!

DJP said...

Michael, I hope you're a very young man full of bright shiny theories — and in no position to actually impose these potentially-devastating notions on real, suffering people.

It's your position that is both unbiblical and a-historical. You isolate one thread of teaching from a very large Bible. When Jesus said He was so surrounded with grief (perilupos) that He was at the verge of death from it (Mark 14:34), would you say (I speak as a fool) that He was sinful, or merely unbelieving? And all the psalms and prophets who speak of grief, sorrow, distance from God, through no necessary immediate personal sin... what did the Holy Spirit leave out, in your view? Why did He give what you seem to be suggesting was a false impression?

You underestimate the fallenness of the world, the unity of the human being, the devastation of the remaining corruptions of sin in "this body of death" (Romans 7:24). You have facile answers the Bible does not bear out.

Years ago I met a woman who spent years in deep depression, packed on a ton of weight. Were she a Christian, I suppose you would have told her to repent and pray, and then reproached her if that didn't do it. And you would have been 100% wrong. Thank God a doctor found a thyroid deficiency, prescribed a supplement, and turned her life on a dime.

My readers and I could go on and on. When you read that whole Bible, think about it, take it to the field, read about consecrated and faithful Christians in other eras, and seek God's grace to be humble enough to learn, your theories get revised.

Michael said...

Beloved brothers and sisters,

Test this thesis. Think on it hard. Am I choosing the subjective interpretations of people over the clear statements of God's word? How has is it become controversial to claim that God promises joy to every one of His children? "The fruit of the Spirit is.... joy... and self-control." This is a wonderful gift from God to every one of His children. None are exempt. Would God exclude some of His children from these blessings of the Spirit? NO!! Of course not.

Men are deceitful liars. Satan is trying to rob you of this greatest of resources by distracting you with "the wisdom of men" which is "foolishness before God".

Realize we live in a culture were science is deified, and sophisticated explanations are like wool pulled over the eyes of a gullible populace trying to escape from responsibility for their guilt and sins. Again you have the Christian community which is far too intertwined with the culture, expecting instant relief from suffering.

And yet a brief review of the facts reveals that there are no scientifically verified tests which prove the afore mentioned "diseases". Deb, one would think that an expert like you would have furnished such an indisputable list of tests, if one existed.

Take a look at this list

White Bld Cell count 5-10,000 indicating infection.

Blood Glucose 70-110. Indicator for diabetes, etc.

Similar parameters exist for Thyroid related levels. TSH, etc.

Dopamine levels (long claimed to cause Schizophrenia) IMPOSSIBLE TO MEASURE in the brain.

Serotonin levels (claimed to cause almost every behavior problem including depression) IMPOSSIBLE TO MEASURE in the brain.

Do not be fooled by the modern day push to make our emotional and spiritual problems biological in origin! It is a sham. A fraud. A huge opportunity for drug comapanies, and as mentioned earlier, a great excuse.

Deb, What is the normal serotonin level in the brain?

There will be no answer to the above question. Guaranteed!

Then why prescribe so many serotonin re-uptake inhibitors?

Subjective human experience--a really awful, awful guide.

Blessing to you in Christ.

DJP said...

Only partly responsive.

Anonymous said...

Michael, Men are deceitful liars.

And why exactly do you keep typing?

I'm thinking you're a troll.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Would anyone like to share their thoughts with regards to secular psychology or secular psychotherapy in "solving" the mental/psychological/emotional problems of Christians?

I think that this has been an item of controversy within Christendom. If I recall correctly, Pastor John MacArthur has concerns about secular psychology, and perhaps even about some Christian psychologists, with regards to treatment for mental health problems.

DJP said...

This feels like you wanting to do your favorite thing, TUAD: name some names, and start people arguing.

My position's (in essence) very simple:

Physical issues may need physical remedies

Spiritual issues do need spiritual remedies

A physical issue can keep you from addressing a spiritual remedy

Man's one

God owns it all

Michael said...


First of all. The suggestion that God can lift a depressed person's mood is really not as horrible of a proposition as you seem to suggest. True, it may not 'validate' their experience, and might suggest to them that there may be some deficiency in them, that requires that they learn something, or change their outlook in some respect. However, in the context of a loving relationship, these are not really mean things, they are actually loving things that loving people do for one another. Sometimes it is called character growth, or biblically ..."sanctification" or "renewing of the mind"- Renewing the mind...letting go of previous ideas, and adopting the truths of God's word (which by the way are far superior to our foolish ideas).

In our society, it is far more acceptable to accept everything everyone else is experiencing, and offer no suggestions or exhortations for a change of view.

However, My comments would have been more complete if I had included the truth that you mentioned, that God's people do suffer periods of depression at times. For example, Paul wrote; "we were burdened excessively beyond our strength so that we despaired even of life, and this happened that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead. Who delivered us from so great a peril of death and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope, who will yet deliver us."

Notice the purpose statement..."that we should not trust in ourselves". Not aimless, uncontrolled melancholy. God-ordained, purposeful learning material. And hence, and I know this is going to hurt, but also- transitory. Trusting in God who raises the dead is a good thing that produces powerful results, like "joy unspeakable and full of glory". I am not saying I have mastered receiving or being joyful. I am saying, I know God has promised it to me and provides it to me, and every Christian.

Can I get an AMEN????


Deb_B said...

Michael wrote, in part:
"Deb, one would think that an expert like you would have furnished such an indisputable list of tests, if one existed."

Michael, my brother, I made no assertions one way or the other. However, you did.

How is it the onus falls on me as a research professional to refute (or, whichever the case may be, substantiate) your assertions? Assertions for which you have cited no clinical studies after the medical model in support thereof.

Moreover, where Dan wants this meta to run off to is up to his discretion.

FTR, in this marvelous grace in which we stand, Michael, I view the contextual, accumulative evidences of the whole counsel of Scripture to be inerrant and infallible in its original texts.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...


No. Don't assume the worst. It's one of your besetting sins.

Simply this: To simply pre-empt questions about who believes what.

It's just like if someone cited Calvin or Luther on an issue.


DJP said...

"Amen"? To the unopposed proposition that God can lift the spirits of depressed people?

I'll give you a "duh," if you like.

To the implication that all depression is one and has the same cause and the same treatment, of course not, for all the reasons you've ignored.

Before you write more, please answer these:

How old are you, Michael?

Do you attend a church?

Have you told your pastor your "Michael's Quick'N'Easy Answers to All Problems"?

What does he say?

Anonymous said...

Michael, You stated: Realize we live in a culture were(sic) science is deified

You later asserted: And yet a brief review of the facts reveals that there are no scientifically verified tests which prove the afore mentioned "diseases".

Are we to assume that you, along with the culture, deify science?

DJP said...

Tell you what, TUAD. You run your blog your way, I'll run mine my way.

Wait, you don't actually have a blog.

Start one, put yourself forward, let people interact, then show us all how to "chill."

Next: show what I "assumed." I commented on facts in evidence, and reported what it felt like to me. An "assumption" would have been announcing it to be the case.

Anonymous said...

TUAD, After nearly two years with your blogger account why the continued anonymity?

Deb_B said...

"Would anyone like to share their thoughts with regards to secular psychology or secular psychotherapy in "solving" the mental/psychological/emotional problems of Christians?"

Omygosh, I just knew this question would present itself.

Yes, I will, albeit briefly (at least in the context of my usual virtual verbosity).

Methinks marrying a wholly man-centered approach to psychotherapy with a wholly Christ-centered approach to psychotherapy would be somewhat akin to Deuteronomy 10:10 ... trying to plow a field with an ox and a donkey unequally yoked together.

The different natures, temperaments, physical attributes, etc., of these two creatures, at best, ensures you have the most crooked set of rows the farming industry has ever beheld. At worst, the two polar opposite creatures will pull against each other and alternately kick against the goads ... leaving very little, if any, productive end result.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...


The answer runs similar to this one:

"You run your blog your way, I'll run mine my way."

I found this article (via Google) by John MacArthur titled THE PSYCHOLOGY EPIDEMIC AND ITS CURE.

It's worth reading and considering.

Michael said...

Deb, God bless you for your faith in the Bible. Although I am not sure what "accumulated evidences" means in your statement??

Isn't it kind of hard for me to prove something that has not happened and to experts minds cannot happen, e.g. the Serotonin level be measured in the brain.
Here, if I were to try I would leave a couple of blank lines and state here are the tests that show that these recently created mental illnesses are really biological. Can I offer proof for something that hasn't happened. Nothing is my proof. There is nothing. Here is my proof

That was nothing in case you missed it. I could cite quotes from researchers, claiming that the serotonin theory has never been scientifically proven. However, you must know that. The PLOS Journal article about a Disconnect between the scientific literature and the advertising provides quotes from several leading experts in the field in a neat table. It will be easy to find in a search. They also talk about how the Irish equivalent of the FDA banned one of the big drug companies from stating that the SSRIs correct a serotonin imbalance.

Stan do a study on the concept of "perpescuity". Are you suggesting that 1. All men are not liars. (a quote from Romans 1 or 2), or 2. That no one can say anything?
Be a noble Berean.

Grace and peace,
I cannot respond more today, work to do. No outward celebrations please.


Anonymous said...

TUAD, That sounded snarky.

Anonymous said...

Michael, Did you miss Dan's request: Before you write more...

Stan do a study on the concept of "perpescuity". Are you suggesting that 1. All men are not liars. (a quote from Romans 1 or 2), or 2. That no one can say anything?

And that is related to anything I have said how?

It would seem you are somewhat incapable of following a conversation.

Before you respond, try answering Dan.

DJP said...

A study on "perpescuity" would be difficult, what with there being no such thing.

Perhaps you mean "perspicuity"?

Tell you what "perspicuity" (insofar as it is Biblically derived) doesn't mean.

It doesn't mean that God's world is off-limits for investigation unless there's a Bible verse on it.

So yeah, no more from you Michael until you answer my questions (which I assume you simply hadn't seen when you posted).

Deb_B said...

Michael wrote:
"Deb, God bless you for your faith in the Bible. Although I am not sure what "accumulated evidences" means in your statement??"

I mean I view all of the canon of Scripture to be inerrant and infallible in its original texts. I also adhere to maintaining contextual integrity in study of Scripture: always keeping individual passages/groups of passages in context of the whole.

Michael, you've yet to provide any viable research source[s]. Science is not anathema to Scripture. Quite the contrary, real science cannot but be congruent with God and His written Word.

jmb said...

Michael, I don't know the scientific literature concerning whether or not serotonin can be measured in the brain. However, when I began taking Prozac in 1989, I remember thinking, "Oh, so THIS is probably what the average person feels like." Not "high," just not "low" out of all proportion to my circumstances. I became a believer a couple months later (not suggesting a connection between the two).

BTW, Dan, good response to the Adams article.

In the chapter "When the Darkness Does Not Lift," from his book "When I Don't Desire God," John Piper has, I think a Biblically balanced view of this whole issue. It may still be available as a free download from his website.

Aaron said...

So vinegar on soda is a bad thing right ?

DJP said...

Maybe you'd have to do science to know. Which is... bad.

Deb_B said...

"Maybe you'd have to do science to know. Which is... bad."

Nah, if it were me, I wouldn't approach science except through the lens of, well, you know, the whole counsel of Scripture.

Besides, while I make a vinegar based grill marinade, my taste buds tell me I wouldn't want a splash of it in my ever-present Diet Cola. But that's just me. ;-)

Aaron said...

well having put vinegar on baking soda many times (as a kid I used to put vinegar in films canisters with a tin foil cup of baking soda to make the caps burst off). But effervescent in our culture is usually considered good and uplifting. But the verse you gave made it sound like its bad...

Susan said...

1. Rachael, as a chronic (not habitual--chronic) tea drinker and occasional coffee imbiber, I find avoiding these beverages difficult. I don't drink them for the caffeine, believe it or not--I love the taste! (No milk/sugar/lemon needed in my tea, either.) After hearing what you said, however, I am wondering whether my own mood swings are partly affected by caffeine. If that were true, then it certainly doesn't help my sometimes volatile and mostly melancholy nature. (I'll think about reducing my intake of tea--but probably not right away....)

2. Dan, I was not surprised by your account of being depressed in the past (even though I didn't know until you shared it here). Why not? I don't know exactly, but perhaps it has to do with the empathetic tone you exhibit in your writing? (And I don't really mean this post, either. It's just a general impression...can't really put my finger on it...yet.)

Aaron said...

When I hear of men like Luther, spurgeon, and Dan having battles with depression, I wonder if I'm doing something wrong. Honestly, I wonder if I'm just not as spiritually in touch as j should be.

jmb said...

Depression as an indication of mature spirituality. I'm for it!

CR said...

Sir Aaron,

You only need to be concerned if you're not suffering in this life. If you're not going through trials and tribulations in this life, then that's something to be concerned about it, because the Lord promised we would enter the kingdom through trials and tribulations.

Does it have to be clinical depression, not necessarily.

CR said...

You know, it's funny, as an aside, a number of times, I've wondered, when one goes through trials and tribulations and the Bible says rejoice, I've thought, okay, maybe it means something other than, you know, rejoice. I've looked up a couple of lexicons and there it is, it means to be happy. It really gives meaning to fruit of the Spirit, because the natural man generally speaking, cannot rejoice in his tribulations.

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

Michael, not meaning to be impolite, but the blog-title is not "Michael's Soapbox," and the host is not Michael.

The host asked you some questions: see July 23, 2009 12:10:00 PM PDT.

Your next comment should be an answer to those questions.

Your deleted comment was a repetition of your main (false) point, with no interaction with critical, challenging responses you've gotten so far.

So, please, answer. Then let's move on.


Michael said...



I guess that is one way to win an argument. I thought I shared some good thoughts that would have stimulated good discussion. Isn't it rude to demand to publicly know someone's age. Weren't your comments more of a personal attack? Aimed at smearing me. Do I need to share such personal info to comment on this blog? Why just me? I challenge you to post my previous comments. My heart truly goes out to you. I also sincerely apologize for treating you so condescendingly in my previous comments about sanctification etc. as well. I honestly did not know that you were such an advanced Bible Student, and have posted on Pyro, etc. Please forgive me, and please post my last comments.


DJP said...

No need to apologize, and no, I won't post your repetition of your position.

I've never pretended that the purpose of this blog is to stage a free-for-all. Far from it.

You posted a sub-Biblical and harmful thought. You were challenged. Mostly, you've not responded to the challenges. If you think those questions were too personal, I'm quite surprised, but you're free not to respond. However, in that case, you're done.

Your position-statement is still up. I simply won't allow you to keep repeating it.

Michael said...


It is an incorrect statement that my previous post was a mere repetition of my previous comments. There was definite expansion and clarification and new material, such as the Biblical references. Dan, you should recognize that you are very biased against my position, probably from your use of psych meds, or support for others who use them. No one will be able to judge the accuracy of this contention, because you will either delete it, or continue to refuse to post my previous post. Dan, even if my post reflects badly on a path you have chosen, you should be willing to post it for consideration from others, now you are not only, not following a better path that I have laid out for you and your readers, but you are preventing others from considering it, or, no doubt, being confirmed in their agreement with it- a thought which unsettles, or even scares you.

Simply deleting my comments, shows an unhealthy desire for self-preservation and exaltation at the expense of the truth, or even simply honest and open dialogue. It is perhaps better to be done so quickly with such a blog. God is certainly not pleased with such a practice.

Farewell, and if your conscience is spurred, or you are enlightened to leave the drugs, do it slowly, very slowly, so as not to have rebound/ withdrawal problems.


JSA said...

@DJP - Right on. A strong comment moderation policy makes a tremendous amount of difference in the quality of discussion on blogs. It's free and easy for people to get their own blogs to carry on their "free speech", and it's best for people to post to their own blogs with a single link back when things start to rathole. In fact, it's good practice to post longer-winded if not controversial responses to one's own blog, with a link back, simply out of respect for the other blog readers.

DJP said...

Mike — LOL. Clearly you find the invisible verses (thou shalt not treat hallucinations with medicine) more compelling than the visible ones (i.e. Matthew 7:1 actually in context, for a switch).

Joshua — I've seen what happens on unmoderated, or barely-moderated blogs. Never going to happen here.

Chris Anderson said...

Fellas, this thread is gonna drive me to Vicodin. Ugh.

Deb_B said...

Michael wrote, in part:
"...or you are enlightened to leave the drugs, do it slowly, very slowly, so as not to have rebound/withdrawal problems."

Oh dear! Mercy, nay, mercy twice ... and then some.

No one should ever deign to offer such advice to any individual on legally prescribed medication unless they have a thorough medical history of said individual and an M.D. behind their name.

Nor can I fathom any pastor (or elder) engaged in pastoral counseling would ever advise any congregant to do so unless in conjunction with and at the behest of a qualified physician.

DJP said...

Deb, you say that as if it's the first wildly-irresponsible thing Michael has emitted on this thread.

Deb_B said...

DJP wrote:
"Deb, you say that as if it's the first wildly-irresponsible thing Michael has emitted on this thread."

Goodness, no! That's hardly the first of Michael's assertions I found irresponsible. He boldly makes grossly irresponsible assertions using the same unsubstantiated [by specific reference data/sources] generalities I've often seen and heard misguided folks in the Church make countless times before ... almost always by those who have never had their lives dramatically and quite personally affected by the ravages of that which they flippantly discount as mere lack of faith in and/or unbelief of Scripture.

To be absolutely clear, I find Michael's assertions about depression, etc., no less "wildly inappropriate" than I would had he held forth that some lack of faith and belief in God and His written word were behind the pair of thalamic blood clots [strokes] I had a few years ago!

Caught me, Dan. ;-)

DJP said...

And that is why what Michael took offense at was actually meant charitably.

The nicest thing I can think about Michael, and my fondest hope for him, is that he is (A) very young, (B) full of fresh-from-the-drawing-board theories, (C) in NO POSITION to harm people, and (D) under the watchful care of a pastor who will eventually help him mature and wise up Biblically before he can do real harm.

Deb_B said...

I echo all of that as well, Dan. Such ill-formed ruminations all too often are redolent of a type of "I thank God I am not a sinful cretin such as that Publican yonder" mindset.

Doug Hibbard said...

Old thread, but I was catching up---

Thanks Jay for the correction. I thought I had read something from him about going or formerly going to an Episcopal church. Maybe he was just expressing his frustration with them.


Anonymous said...

Having lived with bi-polar disorder since th early 1970's but being undiagnosed until 1985 and having been on and off medication ever since I know a 'tad' about the subject.

I'd also really, really like to have a say but I am quite sure it would be wasted. I have not once had a conversation with a fellow Christian who understood or was even willing to understand.

One pastor visted me in a psychiatric ward where I was a stark, raving nutter and told me I was sinning my taking the medication.

Another told me all I needed was faith and I would be cured.

Yeah, half the world says they are bipolar these days. Everyone is depressed and needs a jolt of prozac.

You want to learn how to seperate the wheat from the chaff? Go visit a psychiatric ward at your local hospital. You'll learn real fast.

Anyone who says psychiatric medication is useless or harmful or is not needed is criminally irresponsible.

Awe, forget it. None of you will ever understand. Thankfully most of you will ever experience it.

Rachael Starke said...

Ken - In God's sovereignty, you posted on a day when my family is once again wrestling with the challenges of this disorder and how to manage them. I'd been asking God this morning to help me see something of His purpose in where my family is here yet again. Perhaps this is His answer.

You and I both have a particular reason to pray for and long for Jesus to come and make all things new. He has promised it. It will happen. When it does, we'll meet and have a little celebration together. In the meantime, I know how to pray for you, and you know how to pray for me.

God bless you brother.