Is it ethical for a Christian to treat depression with anti-depressants?

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Christians suffer in this life, not only because they live in a fallen world, but also because of their cross-bearing identity with Jesus Christ. Depression is one way that disciples of Christ suffer. With the advancement of medical technology, there is an ever-increasing range of psychotropic drugs available for treating the symptoms of depression. Arguably the most advanced are the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), of which Prozac is the most well known (and will be used as representative of this class of drug for the purposes of this essay). Since its release in 1986, Prozac has become the “most widely prescribed antidepressant in medical history.”  It has been known to elevate mood and even make some feel more than well. The medical community has been divided over biochemical changes in the brain relative to depression and Prozac. These facts have led many to raise concerns over whether laws, knowledge, and ethical practices are lagging behind in this new medical technology.

Is it ethical for a Christian to take Prozac for depression? In this essay I argue that, in specific circumstances, it is appropriate to incorporate Prozac into a holistic approach to treating depression, provided that sacred means inform the secular. In navigating the ethical path that advocates a cautious use of antidepressants in treating depression, this essay is divided into four parts. In the first place, depression is contextualized in light of the Fall. Secondly, the Christian is called to and benefits from a life of suffering. Thirdly, the Christian must guard against the therapeutic narcissism of our age. Finally, it is argued that godly wisdom for restoration can draw upon both sacred and secular means.

For the rest of the essay, go here.

Centrality of the means of grace

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In Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 65 we confess:

65. Since, then, we are made partakers of Christ and all His benefits by faith only, where does this faith come from?

The Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts1 by the preaching of the Holy Gospel,2 and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments.3

1 Jn 3:5; Rom 10:17; 1 Cor 2:10-14; Eph 2:8; Php 1:29; 2 Rom 10:17; 1 Pt 1:23-25; 3 Mt 28:19-20; Rom 4:11; 1 Cor 10:16

 

In the words of Reformed church planter Rev. Danny Hyde in his helpful book, Welcome to a Reformed Church (I believe this book can be downloaded for free as an “ePub” for those more tech savvy than me; just “google” it):

By the means of the preached Word and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, our gracious God meets with us in public worship.  By these means, God the Father stoops down to our level as little children in order to communicate to us as well as to bring us into intimate fellowship with Himself.  Although these means are not outwardly flashy, exciting, or even seemingly powerful to accomplish what we say they do, they are God’s chosen means to sustain His weary pilgrims in the wilderness and to strengthen their faith.

The best of the Reformed tradition has believed in the centrality of the means of grace in the life of the church.  When we try and be wiser than God in replacing this missional thrust of Christ’s church with home groups, programs and social justice, we have no guarantee of God’s ongoing blessing.  Indeed, there is a place for private means of grace like solitary meditation and prayer, family worship and group Bible study, but these are secondary in the life of the Christian.  They flow out of and depend upon the public means of grace administered by an ordained minister.