Faith and mental illness

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By Michael Horton

According to a 2013 survey by LifeWay Research, one-third of Americans agree that “prayer and Bible study alone can overcome serious mental illness.” Nearly half (48 percent) of evangelicals agree. (1)

Why on earth would Modern Reformation imagine that it had something important to say, from a distinctly Reformation perspective, on mental illness? That was a big question we discussed in our editorial meeting. By the end, though, after sharing our own experiences, the answer became clear. To the extent that evangelical attitudes reflect theological imbalances—and even errors—we think we have something indeed to contribute.

Like their neighbors, Christians acknowledge that people suffering from cancer, AIDS, migraines, or cerebral palsy are still responsible for their actions. Their suffering does not entitle them to hatred, self-loathing, or the mistreatment of others. And yet, we allow room. With even a modicum of sympathy, we recognize they are miserable in ways that are not just limited to their physical distress. First, we want to relieve their immediate pain and, as much as possible, the effects of their disease; we seek every possible medical treatment for them. If a brother or sister has cancer, diabetes, or a stroke, we pray that God will give the doctors and nurses wisdom and skill to relieve their suffering. We realize there is an important place for caring for their bodies and souls, for their medical needs—which are beyond the church’s competence—and for their relationship with God.

And yet, when it comes to mental illness, we still don’t really believe that it is a medical problem. Many of us were raised in an era when “it’s all in your head” meant that mental illnesses weren’t real—at least not as real as a broken arm. This tendency reflects not only a lack of appreciation for the rapid growth in medical diagnosis and treatment of such disorders, but a cluster of theological misunderstandings. So here are a few introductory theses to consider.

For the rest of the essay, please go here.

Christianity and culture conference

Christianity & Culture Conference
Featuring Rev. Dr. David VanDrunen
22-23 August 2014
Hosted by Reformed Church Southern Suburbs (RCSS)

~ Would you consider spreading the word about this conference?  A flyer for distribution can be found here ~


Struggle to relate your faith to popular culture?
Should we be concerned about an increasingly secularised SA?
Should Scripture inform politics?
Should we Christianise our vocations?
Was the church correct in standing up against apartheid?
What is the mission of the church?
Is all of life worship? – ministry? – sacred?

Conference_VanDrunen  “The Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Paradigm for Christianity and culture
Speaker: David VanDrunen
Date: Friday, August 22
Time: 19h00
Place: St. Thomas’ Hall (off Campground Rd; next to Bishops HS)

  “God’s Pilgrims in Contemporary Society
Speaker: David VanDrunen
Date: Saturday, August 23
Time: 10h00
Place: 2nd Scout Hall, Rondebosch (6 Lea Road)

David VanDrunen’s other speaking engagements while in South Africa in 2014:

August 13-14 – Seminars at Faculty of Theology, North West University, Potchefstroom
August 17 – Preaching at RCSS morning and evening services
August 19 – Colloquium at Department of Religion, University of Western Cape (13h00)
August 19 – Colloquium at Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University (15h00)
August 22 – RCSS conference (see above)
August 23 – RCSS conference (see above)
August 24 – Preaching at RCSS morning and evening services
August 25 – Combined GWC & BISA post-graduate seminar at GWC (14h00)

David VanDrunen bio:

(For sample sermons, essays and interviews by David VanDrunen, go here (and scroll to the bottom of the page.))

Robert B. Strimple Professor of systematic theology and ethics, Westminster Seminary, CA
Ordained minister, Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Doctor of Philosophy, Loyola University in Chicago
Licensed attorney, state of Illinois

Select book titles:
Divine Covenants and Natural Order: A Biblical Theology of Natural Law (Eerdmans, 2014)
Law and the Bible: Justice, Mercy and Legal Institutions (IVP, 2013)
Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture (Crossway, 2010)
Natural Law & the Two Kingdoms: A Study in the Development of Reformed Social Thought (Eerdmans, 2009)
Bioethics and the Christian Life: A Guide to Making Difficult Decisions (Crossway, 2009)

  ** For an attempt to introduce David’s work into the South African context, see Simon Jooste’s PHD thesis from Stellenbosch here.

Contact: Rev. Simon Jooste :: simonjooste@gmail.com :: 083-973-5818