Thursday, September 30, 2010

Depression, Christians, and Medicine Part 3

Yesterday, I outlined my presuppositions in discussing Depression, Christians, and Medicine.  My presupposition can be explained in this compact sentence: We are whole people, that have been wholly effected by the Fall, but will be totally redeemed, through the gospel (with it’s ripple effects)—which is absolutely sufficient, though God still uses means to make the gospel shine.  If you are new to this discussion and that is confusing perhaps you should read the entire post. 

Today, I promised to explain why the Diabetes/Depression argument is unsatisfactory and overly simplistic.  The argument goes something like this.  We treat diabetes by giving insulin.  We treat an infection with penicillin.  We treat heart problems with beta blockers.  Physical problems are treated with medicine.  So why is a problem with the central nervous system (the brain) any different?  You don’t rebuke someone with Alzheimer’s and pump them full of Scripture so why should you do that with someone that is plagued with depression? 

That is a great point. I’ll show my cards and say that in some particular instances with the right counseling accompanying it, I totally agree.  But is it really that simple?  There are a few things that complicate the issue. 

The Vagueness of Depression

First, depression is such a vague term.  When somebody says, “I feel depressed” it does not necessarily mean they have depression.  It is possible that they are experiencing guilt from sin.  It is even possible that this guilt could be creating biological effects.  It is also possible that this depression has a situational or societal factor.  Of course even these things could have an impact on biology.  Remember, we are whole people. 

Depression can (though not always) be our bodies warning system that something is out of balance.  In this regard it is different than Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.  Certainly, depression can be an indicator light that something is wrong biologically.  It is possible that it could mean—you need to get some more serotonin dude.  Or it could mean that you need to repent.  Or it may even be a natural response to a societal wound. 

Be Transformed by the Renewing of Your…

Paul does not tell us to be transformed by the renewing of your pancreas.  God tells us in His Word that part of His work of redemption is to transform our minds.  Yes, God will also redeem your pancreas.  But in the here and now there is a special place and function of the mind.  This, at least for me, means that we should pause before accepting the diabetes/depression argument. 

Cautioning a Purely Naturalistic View

As believers we need to be cautious in embracing wholly naturalistic world view.  This does not mean that we cannot learn from the unregenerate, or that we should discard everything “secular”.  But this does mean that we should approach everything with caution that disregards God from the onset. 

A purely naturalistic view gives nothing but bio-psycho-social solutions.  Without acknowledging the sovereign action of God and the spiritual nature of our beings a significant (the most significant) part of our humanity is being neglected.  Therefore, any answer is going to be more simplistic than reality.  But so is any view that neglects any aspect of our humanity.

These views alone should cause us to pause and consider whether it is possible that the answer to this question is more complex than a simple God gave us medicine, depression is biological, use the medicine type of approach. 

Tomorrow we will look at the other overly simplistic view…

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